Saturday, May 14, 2011

Interview Friday with SFC Assistant Fiction Editor Roxanne Werner

Roxanne Werner lives in New York State with her family and two cats. She is a member of SCBWI and Cliff House Writers. A winner of the Highlights Fiction contest, her magazine credits include Highlights, Know and Turtle, as well as many crafts, articles, and stories published online. Her adult works include two short stories, published in the Adams Media ‘Hero’ anthologies and writers articles for the Institute of Children’s Literature website. In her spare time she loves gardening, reading and writing. You can reach her at her website and

VS: I want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be my guest here on The Writing Mama today Roxanne. I know we both have been writing for the past few years, but to start  and to let my readers get to you a bit better, here is the first question…
How many children do you have and what are their ages?

Roxanne: I have one son, James and he is going to be nineteen this summer.

VS: I can’t believe he’s that old already. Wow, how the time flies. Now as a mom, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life? I know your son and family are always first on your list.

Roxanne: I really didn’t have to do much juggling because I started writing for publication when Jim was fourteen. We had always read together and he was a supportive yet critical audience for me. He has a great ‘ear’ for writing. I’ve often told him he should think about becoming an editor or writer himself.

VS: Maybe one day he will follow in your footsteps. Okay, I know the answer to this one already, but for my readers…how long have you been writing?

Roxanne: I’ve written since I was in elementary school. I’ve always loved writing stories, but I didn’t try to write for publication until about five years ago.

VS: You know after all the years I’ve known you and manuscripts we’re shared, I’ve never really asked you what inspired you to write?

Roxanne: I actually started writing again as a hobby. I knew my son was growing up and I didn’t want to have ‘empty nest syndrome.’ I decided to take a writing course and chose the ICL correspondence course to get my feet wet.

VS: And I’m really glad you did since that is where we connected. Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do?

Roxanne: As the assistant fiction editor for SFC, I get the first look at all the fiction submissions. I look forward to seeing mail in the inbox. I’ve seen some very imaginative story ideas come in. Some are not quite ready for publication. I pick out the ones that I feel will fit SFC and work with the authors on a first set of revisions. Many of these revisions are broad ‘big picture’ changes. I know once I am done working with the author that the piece will go through two more stages for final ‘line edits.’ Although I do sometimes suggest ‘line edits,’ I work more on strengthening plots, noting inconsistencies, character development and pacing. 

VS: Which you are very good at. I can speak from experience as a past critique partner and fellow ICL Grad. Roxanne, what is a typical writing day like for you?

Roxanne: I don’t have a ‘typical’ writing day. Until recently, I worked a full time job along with my family responsibilities. Writing was usually tucked into the evening hours, but I learned to grab writing time whenever and wherever I could. I’ve written during lunch breaks at work and planned stories in my head while stuck in commuter traffic. I’m one of those people who writes everything in their head first anyway.

VS: I’m a lot like that as well. Okay, so would you say your family is very supportive of your writing?

Roxanne: Yes, my son has been very supportive. He’s been a sounding board for all of my work. And as I mentioned earlier, he has a good critical ear. He won’t say something is good just because ‘mom’ wrote it.

VS: My son is like as well. Actually, he likes telling me for change with something isn’t good enough. I guess turnabout is fair play. Now, have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Roxanne: I do get writer’s block. I’m too much of a perfectionist when I write. I find it very hard to get a rough draft out. I’m constantly revising as I go along. This makes me a very slow writer. My writer’s block is caused by the need to ‘polish’ everything before moving on. I have to force myself to let go and ‘write’ first, ‘revise’ later. I have to give myself permission to have a ‘lousy’ first draft.  

VS: Can you share with my readers what was the first thing you ever had published?

Roxanne: My first published story was The Blizzard. It was published online by Dragonfly Spirit magazine. I earned a whole nine dollars for it. The story was a twist on a bedtime story I made up for my son years earlier.

VS: Dragonfly Spirit was a great online magazine and an inspiration to me starting Stories for Children Magazine. Actually, Giselle worked with us for a short time before the hiatus. Okay, back to you Roxanne…what type of books do you mostly write?

Roxanne: I love writing fantasy stories because they are what I’ve always loved reading. I’ve done magazine stories, picture books, middle grade and YA. I find my voice is most suited for middle grade.

VS: Can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?

Roxanne: I think my love of writing is just another side of my love of reading. Books have always been magical to me. Every Christmas I asked Santa for a book. What could be better than creating one of my own?

VS: I totally agree with that. I don’t remember who first said it, but if you can’t find the story you’re looking for write it yourself. I think a lot of children’s writers feel that way. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Roxanne: My favorite part of writing is when I begin a new story and get to meet my characters for the first time.

VS: I like that and you’re the first to share this insight. Now, what is the most difficult part of writing?

Roxanne: The most difficult part of writing for me is the action arc of any story. I’m very character driven and love writing the emotional arcs. I do hate to torture my poor characters and give them problem after problem. I become attached to them and hate to see their lives go wrong. But without conflict, you don’t have a story.

VS: I’ve known many writers who have said this before. I totally understand how as a writer you can look at your characters just as you would your children and want to protect them. With that in mind, what is the best writing advice you ever received?

Roxanne: Write, revise and then put it away for a time. You see so much more after walking away from your work for a while. When you have a little distance from your manuscript, you can look at it again with fresh eyes and really see what you have right or wrong. It can be a real eye opener.

VS: Great advice that is never said too much. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other jobs?

Roxanne: I do find life expands to fill any free time if you let it. In order to get writing done, you need to allocate time for it. Set aside a dedicated block of time just for writing, even if it is only half an hour a day. Writing needs to be one of your priorities, it can’t be left for when you have extra time. If you do that, you’ll find you never get around to it.

VS: So true and I find that happens to me a lot. One reason why I started this blog was to help keep me moving forward with my own writing. Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Roxanne: I’ve just started working on a YA paranormal novel. The working title is The Pain Eater. Although it is a fantasy, it deals with a real emotional problem. If you try to relieve everyone else’s pain, the burden becomes too much and can destroy you.

VS: Sounds very interesting. Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?

Roxanne: I have entered several writing contests for magazine stories. Since there is usually a theme or topic, I find they work like writing prompts and help me to exercise my imagination. They’re especially useful if I am stuck on something in a longer work. I can take a break from a novel and create a shorter magazine story. I have won the Highlights fiction contest and recently was awarded author of the month from Highlights. 

VS: Roxanne, I thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama and SFC Team member. It’s been great working with you and knowing you all these years. I can’t wait to share more about what you are up and Stories for Children in the future.

 ISBN-10: 1598697943  My Dad Is My Hero

 ISBN-10: 9781598697926 My Teacher Is My Hero


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