Friday, August 29, 2014

Interview Friday with Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Howard-Johnson has been an instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program. She is an author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books including the second edition honored by USA Book News.
She was the youngest person ever hired as a staff writer for the Salt Lake Tribune—“A Great Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper”—where she wrote features for the society page and a column under the name of Debra Paige. 

Later, in New York, she was an editorial assistant at Good Housekeeping Magazine. She also handled accounts for fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert who instituted the first Ten Best Dressed List. She has also worked as columnist, reviewer, and staff writer for the Pasadena Star-News, Home D├ęcor Buyer, the Glendale News-Press (an affiliate of the LA Times),, and others and has appeared in commercials and on dozens of TV and radio shows. 

Carolyn’s experience in journalism and as a poet and author of fiction and nonfiction helped the multi award-winning author understand how different genres can be marketed more effectively.

I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. To get things started, Carolyn, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

I'm probably in a different position than many of your Writing Mamas but the essentials don't change much. My kids are grown and my grandkids don't live near, but family first. I will add a disclaimer I learned over the years, though. Family with logically examined boundaries. Because each of us must learn to take care of ourselves. If we don't do that, we have nothing to give others, including our writing. So, finding time for that is essential. When we follow our stars, everyone is the better for it.

How long have you been writing?

I trace my avid and intense interest in writing to my high school years when I was on the staff of Olympus High School's (Salt Lake City) Thunderbolt staff. Only a couple short years later I was at the Salt Lake Tribune honing my profession.

What inspired you to write your book (if this is a personal story about you, please share about the decision to open up about your life)?

Inspiration for my book started to gel with a high school class in literature. It occurred to me how many great novels there were set in the American South, in England, in Russia and on and on. I thought someone who really knew firsthand about Utah's unique culture and position in the history of the American West needed to be told.
What is a typical writing day like for you?

Eat breakfast. Pick up e-mail. Walk my dogs. Writing (and marketing my books). And an afternoon movie with my husband.
Is your family supportive of your writing?

Thankfully. Because the years of hiatus from writing convinced me that they had no choice. That was my boundary.
If this isn’t your first publication, what was the first thing you ever had published?

First things, articles and essays for newspapers. Hundreds of them. I was very proud of an article I sold to Ingenue, a New York magazine that was Seventeen Magazine's major competitor.
Can you share with us a little about your current book(s)?

My meat and potatoes are my nonfiction how-to books for writers, but I continue to write and publish poetry nonstop and my agent (Terrie Wolf at AKA Literary) is shopping my second novel set in Utah. It is called This Land Divided. She also has a memoir called Here's How I Don't Cook based on many Utah experiences inspired by food.
What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book(s)?

Not finding time. That is something one just does. But finding lumps of time suitable for writing novels. It's one reason I've been more active as a poet in recent years.

What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Don't forget to spend some time with contests and other platform building ventures. Doing so will help you or your agent sell your work more easily.

What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?

My own children say that they always knew I thought they could do anything and that we would support them in whatever they chose to do. But I also think that setting an example—modeling a life of service to both oneself and one's family is important.
Have you received any awards for your writing?
Many, many. Both for books and for smaller works like poetry and short stories. I believe contests are an important part of building a writing career. In fact, there is a section in The Frugal Book Promoter that helps other writers do the same thing.
Readers will find more on me at my Web site,, but they'll also find lots of helps for their own careers in the Writers Resources section of that Web site.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?

One of the techniques that works well when children want attention and it's your writing time is to take ten minutes and get them started on a writing or craft project of their own. It's magic!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson will be one of the many Featured Guest Authors at the St. George Book Festival during the week of October 20-25, 2014! Learn more about this week long festival and all the different events at


  1. This was an interesting Q & A with Carolyn. I'll be sure to check out the provided links.

  2. You might want to double check the links. I just tried them and some of them were giving me error or inactive link messages.