Today we get to learn about writer, novelist, ghostwriter, teacher, and blogger Charlotte Rains Dixon. For anyone looking to move forward in the writing field, Charlotte can tell you how! Check out her blog at www.charlotterainsdixon.com. On to the interview:
What can you share about your journey into the writing world, what were the crucial steps that brought you to where you are today?
I’ve been writing since I was a small child, when I wrote and illustrated my own poems. I was a girl who loved nothing more than being assigned a report in school. The year we studied South America, I remember waiting with anticipation to find out what country I would be writing about, anxious to get started on the research! In college I went into journalism, halfway amazed that there was an actual practical major that had to do with writing. That was a crucial step because I learned me so many basic skills. After school, I free-lanced for a long time and also dabbled in fiction, dabbled being the operative word. And then I got very sick, which was weird, because I never get sick. This turned out to be another crucial step, because when I recovered I did one of those life assessments: what is truly important to me? The answer was fiction and creative writing. From there I decided to take those loves seriously and return to school to get my MFA, which I received from Spalding in 2003. At Spalding, I met a fellow student who hired me to be a mentor in a new writing program he was starting at Middle Tennessee State University, which I continue to be affiliated with today. That was a huge turning point because it allowed me to begin my teaching and coaching career—which I love almost as much as writing. Looking back, some of these steps were purposeful on my part, and just as much of it was unexpected magic. But here’s the deal: the magic seems to only happen after you start being purposeful. Synchronicity follows action.
Tell us about your philosophy of falling in love with your writing.
With luck, every one of us has fallen deeply, truly, madly in love at some point in our lives. Think about that feeling—after you’ve been with your beloved, you feel giddy with joy. The colors on the tree leaves are brighter and the robin outside your window is singing the most amazing music you’ve ever heard. You are more in the moment and alive than ever before and life is wonderful. That is the exact same feeling I get when I’ve had a good writing session. I go back out into the world and I’m in love with it all, because I’ve brought it into my self through writing. I want to feel like that all the time because I think it is how we are meant to feel as we go through life. The best way I’ve found to perpetuate that feeling is to write.
As a ghostwriter what topics attract you most, what has been your most difficult project?
The best thing about ghostwriting is that I get to write on such a wide variety of topics. It is somewhat like being an actor, taking on different roles, because each time I ghostwrite I do my best to inhabit my client and write in his or her voice. I’m really excited about a new project that will be on organic, local, and homemade food, and I’ve got another client in the wings who is quite glamorous so that should be fun. I’m not sure there’s a topic that attracts me the most—what really appeals to me is an enthusiastic client, someone passionate about his or her work but who simply doesn’t have the time to write about it.
I know exactly what my most difficult project was. I’m fudging a bit here, because it wasn’t a ghostwriting book, it was ghostwriting for a website. I was assigned to write a series of articles about car carriers. You know, those things you load equipment into on the top of your car. Let me tell you, after writing the first article, it was extremely difficult to find anything interesting or unique to say about car carriers.
Tell us about the E-book available at your blog.
Thanks for asking! During my first residency at Spalding, my mentor Melissa Pritchard encouraged me to create a vision board for the novel I wanted to write. I not only loved doing it, but the vision board became my north star and guiding light for the next two years as I wrote. I realized there is lots of information out about creating vision boards in general, but nothing about creating them as a springboard for a book—so I wrote one. Readers can download it for free, and they also get a subscription to my newsletter, The Abundant Writer.
What is your favorite part about teaching writing?
Watching my students blossom from hesitant beginners to confident, happy writers.
What advice would you give writers starting out?
Two things: write and read. Both are crucial. Write every day if you can, or at least establish a regular writing practice several times a week. Know that all writing counts, even scribbling in your journal (I mention this because I had a client light up with joy when I told her that journal writing counted). Write as much as you can about anything that comes to mind and if you can’t come up with ideas for things to write about, find yourself some prompts and write to them. (You’ll find prompts in books and all over the web, including my site.)
Read. Every spare moment you get, read. If I ask a student what he is writing and he says, “I don’t really like to read,” there’s trouble ahead. Reading is how most of us first get the idea that we’d like to write and it helps you internalize flow, structure, dialogue, description, characterization—everything. Words in, words out. Sometimes when I’m deeply into a long writing project, I read even more than usual. It is as if I literally need to fill myself up with words in order to have enough to send back out into the world.
What books currently inhabit your nightstand?
I am inhaling Young Adult fiction! I know several people who are writing it and started to get curious. I’m loving it. YA is great to read not only because it includes some of the best writing around today, but also it is good to study plotting. YA fiction must be written clearly and cleanly, and because of this it is easy to recognize plot. Some titles I’ve enjoyed are the Hunger Games series, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and Before I Fall and Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I also am constantly reading non-fiction, currently The Bond by Lynne McTaggart, who I just heard speak, and returning to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, for the new ghostwriting job.
Are you involved in any upcoming events that might interest our readers?
Again, thanks for asking. I would love to have the chance to tell your readers about my upcoming book proposal teleclass. It starts on June 7th and will run six weeks. Over the course of the class you’ll write a book proposal and can even be done with it in time for the summer writing conference season.
Why a book proposal? It is how non-fiction is sold these days. Even if you think you want to self-publish, as so many writers are, a book proposal is a great thing to put together because it is like a long outline for your book, with information on the market and your biography thrown in. This is all vital information for any publisher, even you! The proposal becomes like a business plan for your book. It also gives you confidence that you can actually write a whole book—and it’s a lot of fun. Here’s the link where you can find out more: http://www.wordstrumpet.com/book-proposals-that-succeed-teleclass.html
About today’s guest:
Charlotte Rains Dixon helps people to prosper in their lives and careers through writing. As a writing mentor and coach, she is passionate about helping writers, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals to be the best they can be. She is a free-lance journalist, ghostwriter, and author and also director emeritus and mentor at the Writer’s Loft at Middle Tennessee State University. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Spalding University and is the author of a dozen books, including The Complete Guide to Writing Successful Fundraising Letters, and Beautiful America’s Oregon Coast. Her fiction has appeared in The Trunk, Santa Fe Writer’s Project, Nameless Grace, and Somerset Studios and her articles have been published in Vogue Knitting, the Oregonian, and Pology, to name a few. She has just finished her novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. Visit her blog at www.charlotterainsdixon.com.
A big thanks to Charlotte for sharing with us today! As always, readers are welcome to leave questions and comments for her below in the comments.
Thank you for this interview with Charlotte! I’m a big fan of hers, and it’s great to read more of her story.
Charlotte, I was particularly intrigued by your discussion of ghostwriting, how it’s like acting. I’ve done some short-length ghostwriting (from op-eds to 20-30 page academic papers) and I too enjoy capturing a person’s voice on page. The possibility of ghosting book-length works was pitched to me last week, and I’m reflecting on that. Can I be impertinent and suggest a sharing of your ghostwriting experience as a future blog post? 🙂
Jodi, thanks for much for posting the interview. I loved answering your questions!
Patrick, thanks for reading the interview. You are never impertinent, and I love your suggestion re: writing about my ghostwriting experience. There does seem to be a lot of interest in it, so I’ll take up the challenge!
I enjoyed your interview. My favorite YA writer is Ellen Hopkins. I had the good fortune to join SCBWI in Reno, NV, and learn from Ellen before she became a New York Times best selling author.
My favorite contacts from my author website are from girls who want to become writers. It’s interesting that boys haven’t contacted me about becoming a writer.
Glad you enjoyed the interview, Corey. I haven’t yet read Ellen Hopkins, but I love having a new author to add to my list, so thanks! That’s very interesting about girls reaching out to but not boys, hmmm….
Thank you to Patrick and Corey for stopping by and supporting Charlotte, she made a terrific candidate for an interview and I’m glad she was willing to be a part of my blog. Hope to see you around for future discussions!
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