How does it feel to be an ANA nominee?
This competition has proven to be very unpredictable so I was honestly in shock when I saw that I had won the Week 5 nomination! It was such a relief. I’m a bit nervous about the final round – I’ve read the other stories and there is some serious talent in this competition!
How did you manage to stay so high in the rankings each week?
I was completely obsessed with winning a nomination and just kept trying to reach out to people in every possible way. I joined every social network I could, got the local university to do a story about me, and even sent an email out to my entire inbox (including ex-boyfriends I hadn’t talked to in years – one of them actually left a review!). It’s funny but the week I won I had started it off by saying I was going to ease off the promotion a bit – it just goes to show you never know when your lucky break will be!
Have you ever come up with a story idea while flying through the air?
Aerial dancing requires a lot of focus and concentration so I try not to think about anything else when I’m flying through the air. But sometimes after a class I will hang around in the studio and feel an idea brewing. Or I’ll tie the fabric into a knot and crawl into what’s known as the “cocoon” – it’s like a little safe bubble away from the rest of the world. I have definitely dreamed up a few characters while hanging out in the cocoon but have yet to write a story in there (it’s a bit too tight to squeeze a laptop in there!).
Now that you can relax until the finals, what will you do with all that free time?
I’m the kind of person that never seems to have “free time” as I’m always adding more things to my life! I’m the director of an aerial dance program and I belong to a writing group that meets regularly. I’ve also just gone back to school this fall to finish a bachelor degree I started 12 years ago (originally in dance, looking to expand more into dance education/dance therapy). My final exams are going to be at the same time as the ANA finals so I’m trying to rest up for what’s going to be one crazy week!!!
What is the best writing advice you've ever heard?
My dad always told me to keep writing lots of different things. “If you get stuck, try something different,” he would say. When I finished my first novel, I was obsessed with getting it published. I sent it out to a ton of agents and had a few people interested in it but in the end nobody went with it. I was so bummed and continued to put all my energy into editing and reworking it. A close friend also had the same philosophy as my dad and told me that maybe my novel was just a warm-up. He suggested that I keep writing, trying different styles, and that eventually something would take. Thanks to this advice I now have a wide collection of pieces I’ve written!
What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome in regards to writing?
I would have to say finding time to write and balancing life’s many distractions! I have wanted to be an author since I was a little kid – it’s been my biggest dream! Although I have written a lot I haven’t made a living from it yet. I have pursued many dreams, including running a non-profit dance company, traveling to remote places, learning to juggle, trying to find love and self-publishing a raw dessert cookbook. But I really want to carve out more time to write, publish my work and establish myself as a well-known writer.
What is the best way to deal with writing criticism?
Sometimes criticism can be very overwhelming. I’ve been a part of writing groups for years and it’s amazing how some people will really love something while others will totally not get it. Like in this competition - I had many say they liked Ella’s equations while others said that the equations broke up the flow of the story. It’s hard to know what to do with contradicting feedback. I try to be open to everything I hear and to avoid immediately defending my piece. Over the years I have really grown as a writer because of the honest criticism I have received so I’m always grateful for it!
Who is your favorite author of all time?
I have so many authors I love and admire! I guess the one that really stands out for me is Judy Blume. As a kid I totally LOVED her books and wanted nothing more than to be just like her! I think she really captured the young adult voice and wrote about life with complete honesty and authenticity. I know that her books really changed me and I would love to have that sort of impact on my readers!
If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?
I really love the character Ayla in the Clan of the Cave Bear series. She is so incredibly strong, brave and independent in a time when women were supposed to be completely submissive. I really admire her guts to just go out there and brave the world all on her own. She is definitely a character who is full of passion and a lust for life!