Judi Calhoun lives with ferocious black bears and wild wolves that howl at the moon every night in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire. She is both an artist and an author. Her artwork can be found on more than a few e-zine magazine covers, and well over two-dozen articles. Judi’s short stories have appeared in many fiction anthologies such as; Love Free Or Die, NH Pulp Fiction, Snowbound and Zombies, John Greenleaf Whittier Inspired life work, Tales of The Supernatural, Murder Ink, New England Newsroom Crimes, Canopic Jars: Tales of Mummies & Mummification, Bugs Anthology, Tales that Slither, Creep and Crawl, Green Gecko’s The Passion of Cat Anthology, and featured in many other genre, such as Horror, Sci-fi and Fantasy, and literary short story publications.
How long have you been writing and what got you started?
All my life I have been interested in characters and plots. As a child, I used to integrate my artwork into my writing. With crayons and paper, I created characters using paper dolls. I would build elaborate sets for my characters, and then act out my stories. I still have many of them. Furthermore, I would convince my mother to allow me to stay up late so that I could watch old movies or TV shows. With pen and paper in hand, I would rewrite them, giving them all better endings. Not necessarily happy endings––just better. Although I’ve been writing for a long while, it has only been in the past four years that I’ve actively started submitting and getting published. Prior to this, I’ve only been published in newspapers, and have won some contests. I kick myself for waiting so long.
What is the best piece of advice you have for new writers?
Best advice is to read. Read your favorite authors. And by all means, read to study the craft, to hone your skills and understand what publishers are buying. The first time you do get published, well, in the words of Hans Solo, “Great, Kid. Don’t get cocky!” Published writers tend to acquire larger than life egos. The rejections should keep you humble and keep you writing. Write every day. Give yourself a daily word goal. It will help you to improve.
Are there any writing resources, such as books or websites, you’d like to recommend?
I don’t know it all. Nobody does, really. I have read a thousand books on the subject of Characterization, Plotting, and Subtext, novel writing, short stories, etc.. However, I only own 100 specialized books on the craft. There are so many excellent resources and books on the market today. Here is my short list: anything by Dwight Swain, like Master Writing Teacher, James Scott Bell’s, The Art of War and Writing, Stephen King’s, On Writing, and Natalie Goldberg’s, Writing Down the Bones. These should be in every library. For beginners, I suggest Laura Whitcomb’s books. Just keep reading, writing and working at crafting your original story.
What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
I write speculative fiction. I don’t really have a favorite genre, although, I don’t care for fan fiction very much. I will never write it. And just recently I’ve been called upon to write a cozy murder mystery––ugh, not my thing! However, I am a writer and writers can write anything––just give us a prompt, and we can come up with a story. My favorite writers––I have too many too list: Cassandra Claire, Marjorie M. Liu, Christine Warren, Gregory L. Norris, Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Becca Fitzpatrick.
What tips do you have for finding time to write?
Schedule writing like you do any job. I do this full time, so I come into the office at 5 o’clock a.m., and begin to write immediately. I have my TV time after dinner. However, later I grab my notebook and retire to the bedroom, shut the door and slip into my character’s world. For a while, some mornings I used to get lost on social media—and before I knew it, an unproductive hour had vanished! When I was working a regular full-time job, I would schedule a time, often late at night when the world was quiet. Carry your laptop or notebook and pen with you, find a quiet place that serves coffee, and get lost in your story.
Do you prefer to outline a story in advance or write on the fly? Why?
I think both are important. I start out on the fly, just to get the juices flowing in the direction I want to go; defining protagonist and antagonists, world building, and story plot on paper. Then I outline using index cards. I outline by scenes, not chapter-by-chapter; that way I can move them around if I have to rearrange them or cut certain scenes––I find it’s easier to keep track that way.
How do you deal with rejections?
When my story receives a form rejection, I move on and send it off to another market. If my story receives a personal rejection, then I look at it differently. I might analyze what the editor is telling me, looking hard at my work to see if there might be a way to make my story better. It’s painful to cut your babies, but sometimes you have to do it to make your story stronger and more marketable. Many publishers reject good stories. There are many factors that might have nothing to do with your work. As an award winning published writer friend of mine once said, “You need to grow rhino hide.” Even the best have their work rejected.
What are your writing goals for the next twelve months?
On average, I am working on 5 different stories all at once. Yeah, I’m a little crazy. I’d like to finish everything I’ve started, and send them all off. I have 25 or 30 stories sent off to the dance to find a partner (submitted to markets). My goal for this year is to find an agent for my novel, Dragon Girl, and to reach at least 50 or more short stories published, this year. I am well on my way. However, even if I don’t reach my goal, I’m not going to stop trying.
For the next five years?
My goal is to find an agent for one of my YA novels Dragon Girl, Andralorian Bloodstone, and Leaving Holland Glen.
Is there anything you’d like to plug? Feel free to share a link
Murder Ink, by Plaidswede Publishers, is an excellent book if you love murder mystery set in New England, available in most bookstores Also, Ghosts, An Anthology of Horror from the Beyond is another excellent compilation book found on Amazon. Ancient Fire, The Chronicles of Shonna Wells, the Kindle Edition is also available on Amazon. My favorite short story, Hungry Coyote can be read on Crimson Street webzine. If you love old books and journals, then you should probably check out my unique one-of-a-kind, repurposed writing journals at Sleepy Mouse Design on ETSY. https://www.etsy.com/shop/SleepyMouseDesign. My artwork can be viewed on: http://judiartist2.wix.com/judisartwork