Hi, welcome to another episode of "As the
Writers Juggle," in which we ask writers to
share their tips on balancing work, family, and the writing life. This week's featured writer is Rosanne Parry. Rosanne is a member of the Class of 2k9 and author of the middle-grade novel Heart of a Shepherd (Random House, Jan 2009) and the picture book Daddy's Home! (Candy Cane Press, Mar 2009).
Q: Hi Rosanne! Thanks for joining us and congratulations on your upcoming releases! Tell us a bit about all of your responsibilities and how you keep them straight.
Rosanne: I’m going to telescope these questions into one answer. My principal and favorite occupation is raising my four school aged kids. I have aging parents near by. Sometimes they help me. Sometimes I help them. It’s a pretty even give-and-take at the moment, but that balance will shift my way eventually. I have a part-time teaching job that is flexible. If I want more hours, I contract to teach more classes. If I need more time to write and less money, I can scale back. In addition to the novels and picture books, I sometimes write curriculum and do parenting articles for magazines. I do volunteer work every week in a variety of places. I need exercise every day or I get little else accomplished, and my husband and I have a long-standing habit of a date every Friday night.
I wake up at 6:30 and go to sleep well past midnight most nights, so I’m working at one of the above mentioned jobs 18 hours a day. I don’t have a regular writing schedule. I might work 12-15 hours a day for a few weeks when I’m revising, or six hours a day when I’m plodding along with a first draft, but when I’m in between projects I may only write short practice pieces and work on promotion. I seldom write less than three hours in a day.
Q: I'm impressed that you still have time to write in between everything else. Sounds like LATE to bed and EARLY to rise is part of the secret. I like the idea of a date night to keep your relationship fresh. It's easy to neglect spouses when you're so busy (just ask mine!).
What are your best times and places for writing?
Rosanne:I love to work outside, especially in my tree house, but I’ve learned to write anywhere and any time I have available.
Q: What a gorgeous spot! No wonder you're inspired. I think I have tree house envy.
How do you keep from losing your momentum?
Rosanne: I try to set an attainable goal for the project at hand. For example, I just finished a first draft of a new novel. I did about a chapter a week or 700-1000 words a day for five months. I also try to do things that keep the character in mind even when I’m not writing. I’m working on a character that plays the violin, so I practice mine every day, just to keep my head in that character.
Q: Wait a minute! You play the violin, too? That's amazing!
What do you do when you get blocked? (Or do you get blocked?)
Rosanne: I don’t think of it as being blocked. If I don’t know what to write next I put a note in the text—“more about what she is thinking here,” or “characters run from the Sorbonne to the Montmartre train station, describe scenery here.” That way I can do the research or reflection later and stick it in.
Q: That's a good trick. I'll have to remember it when I get stuck.
Do you find it difficult to make the transition between your non-writing responsibilities and writing? How do you handle it?
Rosanne: Transitions are pretty easy for me. I tend not to think of inspiration or mood as having anything to do with the actual nitty-gritty of writing, so I don’t have to psyche myself up in order to write.
Q: What helps motivate you and keep you on track?
Rosanne: Need of money is motivation aplenty, and I really like to write so it’s not hard to make time for that. Housecleaning is a whole other story.
Q: Ah-ha! More ammo for the "Successful writers don't do housework" thesis!
How do you deal with distractions—either outside or inner procrastinatorial/avoidance issues?
Rosanne: I’ve learned to trust my memory. If a scene is strong enough I’ll remember where I was going with it if I get called away in the middle. If I can’t pick up the thread of a scene after I’ve been called away, my reader won’t be able to either, so I might as well let it go and start over with a stronger scene.
Q: Do you feel you have enough time for non-writing hobbies or activities you’d like to pursue?
Rosanne: Nope, I don’t have any hobbies. I genuinely enjoy the things I do for exercise and I love to write, so I don’t feel a pressing need for other hobbies
Q: Outside of playing the violin, that is... ;)
What advice would you give to others struggling with writing/job/time management issues?
Rosanne:I’m not sure I have any sage advice here. Writing is hard. If I didn’t love it I would have given up ages ago.
I think you're speaking for all of us writers there! It's definitely a labor of love.
Thanks so much, Rosanne. You need to have a balanced life when you're writing in a tree house!