Friday, June 25, 2010

Interview Friday with multi-genre author, Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is multi-genre author, reviewer and freelance writer. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on multiple publications both in print and online. Her nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing (co-authored with Anne K. Edwards) was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award Winner. She has several novels and picture books out and is awaiting the release of several more titles later this year and the next.

VS: Mayra, I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. You and I have known each other via the internet for a few years now, but I am sure there is more to learn about you, as I have found out with others. Now I know you have a daughter who also writes, so my first question is do you have any other children and what are their ages?

Mayra: First, I want to say thanks for having me on your blog, Virginia. I do have two kids: a girl (who is the writers) age 12 and a boy age 18 (he still counts as a kid for me!).

VS: Wow, I did not know you had an older son. You seem too young to have an 18 year old. But I know what you mean about your son still being a kid to you. I know I am the same way with my son. Since your children are a bit older I’m sure finding writing time is a little easier, however, you still have to find ways to help balance your writing life with your family life. What works for you?

Mayra: It used to be a lot harder when my kids were younger. I could only write when they were at school. Now it’s easier because they do their own stuff and I’m able to work while they’re at home. When you have young kids, this isn’t possible. Mostly you have to be running after them, checking what they’re up to. Still, nowadays I prefer to work while they’re away at school. I like to spend time with my family in the late afternoon and evenings. That means I schedule my writing sessions in the mornings. This works well because I’m an early bird and I’m at my most creative mode at that time of the day. If I go to the computer at all on evenings, that’s for social networking and promoting, not for writing. I usually feel too tired to write at night. I’d rather read or watch TV. Mostly I read.

VS: You sound a lot like me. I tend to do all my social marketing in the evenings as well before bed. I also like to curl up with a good book, if I have one on hand. For those who want some great tips with younger children in the house, Mayra was kind enough a few weeks ago to share some tips on Article Wednesday. You can find it here. So Mayra, I am wondering with all that you do, do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

Mayra: I do. From an early age, it became obvious to me, from my parents and teachers, that I was a ‘good’ writer. My writing was what made me stand out, what made me popular. I loved to create stories and live through my characters. I would be miserable if I couldn’t write—and in fact, I am miserable on those days I can’t write. I always say a happy writer is a happy mama.

VS: I like that saying. I think I will have to paint it on my office wall right above my desk. Maybe it will even help to read it if I ever get a case of writer’s block. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Mayra: Writer’s block is an elusive and even controversial term. Some writers swear by it; others claim such a thing doesn’t exist. I have suffered from writer’s block in the past, but over time, I’ve learned to control it. Every time I face the blank page, I experience a little bit of writer’s block. I know because I’ll immediately become nervous and feel the urge to get up and inspect the fridge. It is a bit like a dog turning this way, then that way, trying to find the perfect spot to sit down. I have learned there is no such a thing as a perfect moment to write. I just have to dive into it, like closing my eyes and jumping over a cliff. I tell myself, “Jump and the net will appear.” Most of the times, it is true. But you can’t expect to feel the net right away, after a sentence or two. You have to insist and persist, and keep writing for a little sustained period of time. That’s when everything starts getting easier, when the waters start to calm down. It’s like first diving in a feral sea, then, as you keep swimming, you reach a place where the waters are calm and peaceful. You just keep swimming, one lap after another.

It’s at times like these when I reach the ‘zone’, that marvelous place where you lose sense of place and time, and you’re totally immersed in the world of your characters. That’s the best place to be as a writer.

VS: I know what you mean. I love when I hit the ‘zone’, but for some reason my kids always know when it happens. It’s like a siren goes off and next thing I know, “MOMMY!” But that’s okay, I love them. So what type of books do you mostly write? Do your children inspire any of them? If so, can you share what part of the storyline, character, etc?

Mayra: I write fiction and nonfiction for children and adults, but lately my big love is writing picture books.

I’m blessed: my children are always praising my work. I can always count on them when I’m feeling down with writer blues.

Yes, my children have inspired some of my characters. My son was my inspiration for the little boy in my picture book, Crash! My daughter was my inspiration for the protagonist in The Luthier’s Apprentice (an MG novel currently doing the agent/editor roundup). When I’m short for ideas, I always turn to my kids. Children can be very original!

VS: Children are a great way to come up with original ideas. I’ve read Crash!, I’ll have to read it again now I know your son helped inspire it. Now I’m curious, what type of book promotion works for you? I’m currently working on promoting a picture book so are there any special strategies you’d like to share?

Mayra: Doing interviews like this one and getting reviews can be quite effective. The secret is keep at it month after month and not only for a short period of time. I’d rather do it this way than going on virtual book tours. I find virtual tours to be very stressful. I’ve done a few and would think it twice before doing another one again.

VS: Interesting . . . I’ve had some say they love virtual tours and would do them every time. I guess the say is true, “Not all marketing works for every writer or book.” You really do have to find what works for you with all the different ideas out there. I guess trying each one once is best to find your niche. Can you tell me Mayra, what do you enjoy most about writing?

Mayra: Working in my pajamas or worn sweats and not having to worry about putting on makeup or be fashionable to go to work.

VS: Amen to that! PJ’s all the way for me, too. Okay, we know you love writing because you can were your PJ’s and work, so what is the most difficult part of writing?

Mayra: Having to stare at the screen and actually hit that first key every time I sit down to write.

VS: I love your honesty. Being a writer can be tough at times. Besides being an author, you do book reviews and freelance writing for blogs, too. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your freelance jobs?

Mayra: I do. I have to plan my writing sessions in advance, otherwise I go crazy. Each Sunday I plan my writing workweek, so I know what I’ll be working on each day. But, I try to keep article writing to a minimum these days. My love is fiction and I really want to finish a young adult novel I’m working on at the moment. I’ve also cut down on writing reviews for the same reason.

VS: Well I’m glad you haven’t stopped writing reviews. You do such a great job same with your articles. But, I understand wanting to focus on your passion. Do you have any works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Mayra: I have several works in progress, probably too many to mention them all. My main WIPs at the moment are a YA supernatural thriller, a nonfiction middle-grade book on how to write book reviews, and two picture book biographies; one about Mozart and the other about Antonio Stradivari.

VS: Your books all sound interesting. Can’t wait for them to be published. Now your daughter has also published a book. What tips can you give writing parents with writing children at home to help them both see publication?

Mayra: A few years ago, when my daughter was 7, I turned our kitchen into a workshop one summer and she wrote and illustrated Angel in a Bubble (http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Bubble-Melisa-Eyuboglu/dp/1933090480). The book was accepted by Guardian Angel Publishing under their special imprint of books written by children. The publication of this book has had a tremendous effect on my daughter’s self-esteem.

This summer she’s working on a middle grade novel. I’m guiding her through every step.

Here are some tips:

· Make each writing session a mother-daughter bonding time. Go write at a café together, then reward yourselves with a nice lunch.

· Keep the writing sessions short. I would say no more than 30-40 minutes at a time. The moment it starts feeling like too much hard work, children tend to be discouraged and quit.

· Don’t make your child feel as if he or she is completing a ‘task.’ Again, this is a big turn off. Keep your writing sessions lively and positive. No negative criticism of any kind! There’s a big difference between constructive advice and criticism.

· Constantly praise your child on her ideas, creativity and willingness to write a book. That takes commitment and courage!

· Writing a novel isn’t easy, so you’ll have to break the project in small parts. For example, first, my daughter did the protagonist’s profile; another day the antagonist’s; another day, she wrote the back cover blurb. Today she finally started plotting up the story chapter by chapter, using index cards. We went to a café and she planned chapters 1 and 2. Tomorrow it’ll be chapters 3 and 4. You have to move in small steps and keep each day’s goal doable and realistic. I want her to plan in advance because the more the story becomes real in her mind, the more she knows her characters, the easier it’ll be for her to write the first draft. It is working wonders so far. She’s incredibly excited about writing her first novel.

· Encourage your child to ask questions about writing—plot, characterization, pace, etc.

· It’s okay to offer ideas but also encourage your child to have confidence in her own creativity and originality.

· Don’t just sit there and watch your kid write. You have to write, too! There is a sense of companionship and bonding when you both do the same thing.

· Reward your child with what she loves to do. My daughter and I walk in the mornings. Then we write. But once we’re done, I let her play a few hours with the GameCube or watch TV if that’s what she wants. I know some moms may not agree with this, but if my child exercises each day outdoors and does something creative and reads before going to bed, I’m okay with her doing computer, video games, TV, etc. for a more than ‘normal’ amount of time during the summer months. Naturally, it’s different during school time.

VS: Wow, these are great tips even for adult writers. Thanks for sharing what you’re doing with your daughter to help bring her muse to publication. Mayra, is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?

Mayra: We all love our kids and, of course, they come above everything else; but it’s crucial for mothers to have their own personal goals and dreams, and to allocate some time for themselves each day. Even if only for fifteen minutes. A frustrated writer is a frustrated mom. I happy writer is a happy mom.

VS: I thank you, Mayra for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama. You have shared some great tips and have inspired me to keep going.

Mayra: Thank you, Virginia!

VS: Anytime Mayra. It is always a pleasure talking with you.

Additional Information: Mayra also translates picture books (English-Spanish) and offers an Interview Promotion Package for authors where she places their interview on 7-10 high-exposure sites. For details, contact Mayra at mayra.calvani@gmail.com.

Visit her websites at www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com and www.MayraCalvani.com.

18 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Virginia! I enjoyed sharing my ideas and tips with you and I hope your readers will find them helpful.

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  2. Hi, Mayra and Virginia.

    My children are all in their 40's, and they are still kids to me, always will be, even when their children have children.

    Mayra,your daughter being a writer is wonderful.

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  3. What a nice interview, Virginia. I learned more good things about Mayra.

    Mayra, I especially like your tips for overcoming writers block. Best of luck with all your work.

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  4. Thanks so much for letting us get to know this talented author better. Wishing you lots of success, Mayra and your daughter too! PS, my daughter at 37 is still my child and always will be, just as we'll always be moms!

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  5. Very helpful tips on helping boost your child's creativity. Good interview!

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  6. Terrific interview and tips! I too got to know Mayra even better through this insightful interview.

    Best wishes to you both for your continued successes,
    Donna

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  7. Fascinating interview Virginia. You are a very multi-talented lady Mayra. Loved learning more about you and your children.

    Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques
    http://www.margotfinke.com

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  8. Wow, I leave five minutes and come back to see all these comments! Thanks so much for taking the time to read the interview, Ladies! It is much appreciated. :-)

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  9. This is a great interview Mayra. Congratulations on all of your success.

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  10. Awesome interview Mayra, It was great learning about you and your many talents.
    Nicole Weaver
    http://outskirtspress.com/nicoleweaver

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  11. I really enjoy doing these interviews on Fridays. I not only get to meet new writers, but I also get to know writers I've know for sometime.

    You are all so wonderful to come, leave comments, let me interview you, and share my blog with others. Thank you all so much.

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  12. Mayra,
    It sounds like your daughter and you have a great relationship. I luv your tips for writing with children. I plan to keep them for use in writing workshops for kids.
    Blessings,
    J. Aday Kennedy
    The Differently-Abled Writer
    Children's Book Author & Inspirational Spokesperson
    Klutzy Kantor & Marta Gargantuan Wings

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  13. Wonderful interview. Thanks for the encouragement working through 'writers block' and working with your children. Dennise Sleeper

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  14. Again, Virginia, it was a pleasure being your guest.

    I'm so glad my tips were helpful.

    Yes, I'm blessed in that my daughter and I are very close. We're like the Gilmore Girls (we're both avid fans, too!). I hope this won't ever change.

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  15. Thanks, ladies for a terrific interview. I will use some of your tips with my granddaughter who loves to write.

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  16. Great interview with tips for writing with children and also tibits about yourself and your success. Thanks for sharing.

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  17. I appreciate the helpful suggestions and getting to know Mayra better.

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  18. Wonderful interview, Virginia. And, Mayra what a great step-by-step guide for writing with your child/ren.

    I think instilling in children, not only a love for reading, but a love for writing is a fantastic idea.

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