Pepper Hume is an artist who deals in pictures and words; do not trust her with numbers. Being a refugee from the gypsy life of professional theatre design (BFA – University of Kansas, MFA – University of Oklahoma), she thinks in three, often four, dimensions. This couples with her compulsive people-watching to provide the foundation of her writing. Reading continues to be an addictive hobby. Thanks to a music teacher uncle, she is also addicted to the verbal/conversational dynamics of classical music and plans to someday write a story that exactly matches Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand.
How long have you been writing and what got you started?
I’ve been a designer of theatre costumes and scenery all my life. Maybe twenty years ago I decided to try children’s book illustration so I thought I’d write one to illustrate. Exposing children to good art enriches their entire lives. I know it did mine. But first I had to learn to design in words, so I ventured into short story. I must get back to that picture book project one of these days!
What is the best piece of advice you have for new writers?
READ!!! Associate with people who read. And I don’t mean just a book club that gushes over the latest NY Best Seller. I once lived with a family that went to the library together once a week. We each left with the limit of ten books and shared them! Weekly!! Read different genres. Read classics. Read how-to books. Read, read, read.
If you could go back and find yourself five years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
Writing is only the first step. Learn how to get it published. Being a voice in the wilderness don’t cut it.
What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
I am a sci-fi/fantasy junkie. When they are struggling to save civilization, a planet, a galaxy, it sorta puts my problems in perspective. Asimov, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams, Spider Robinson, but also Maeve Binchy, Agatha Christie and Harlan Ellison. In my early teens I gobbled up Lovecraft, Saki, Bradbury, Poe and “Animal Farm”.
Are you an outliner or discovery writer? Or somewhere in between?
My approach is more discovery, but not where the outcome is concerned. Set up comes fairly easily and I know my destination. It’s that yawning gulf in between that must be traversed. Even the snowflake model doesn’t fit. My model is more building a bridge across a gulf. I may manage a solid tower or two out in the middle and then close the gaps building in both directions as I discover the story details. Clearly, I write to find out HOW these people get from A to Z.
Have you attended any conferences or writing retreats? What was the experience like and do you have any to recommend?
YES, go to any conferences you can! Enter their contests. I have not managed to attend the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. conferences yet, but I have entered their writing contests diligently. The detailed score sheets you get back are well worth the minimal fee of $30 for all 34 categories! I entered 14 this year, won a first and a third. I attended the conferences at Woodlands Writers Guild in Texas when I lived there. Lectures, classes, interviews with publishing and writing professionals are invaluable, but the camaraderie with other writers at every level of development is invigorating beyond belief.
How do you deal with rejections?
“Many are called but few are chosen.” “Run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes it.” Rejection is a fact of life in theatre. Actors audition for many roles they don’t get. Same with design bids. A writer can submit something several times and get such varied response, you can hardly believe they’ve read the same piece! Bottom line: Rejection doesn’t mean the piece is no good. It just means that wasn’t the right place for it.
In your opinion, how important is a writing degree or MFA when it comes to achieving success in writing fiction?
How many submission guidelines ask about degrees? True, strong training in the basics of any art form is a great advantage. However, all the classes and degrees won’t matter unless you can produce good work. I believe my degrees (MFA included) in theatre art help me more in writing than a writing degree would. If the mechanics of writing is all you have studied, what are you going to write ABOUT?
Do you participate in any online or in-person critique or writing groups?
Absolutely!! I cannot function without an in-person critique group. Alone, I’m stumbling around in the dark bumping into trees. Non-writers are no help because they don’t know about dodging trees. Writers can see each other’s forests. A surprising side benefit to such group therapy is that we learn from each other’s mistakes as well as our own. And we talk about WHY. I’m sure there’s a mathematical formula in there somewhere.
What are your writing goals for the next five years?
Okay, I’ve totally retired from theatre. I’ve learned to write. No more excuses. I have three quite reasonable non-fiction books roughed out, calling upon my life experience that I have been asked to share. I have a novel I put aside twenty years ago because I didn’t know how to proceed with it. I have an assortment of short stories that are too assorted to assemble into a collection. I need to get these things finished and published because I doubt the old folks’ home will allow me a computer.