Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Writing Life with Author Sylvia Dickey Smith

A fifth generation Texan, Sylvia Dickey Smith was born in Orange, Texas and grew up in a colorful Scots-Irish family living in the midst of a Cajun culture. At 34, Sylvia’s curiosity about the world took on a whole new dimension when she moved to the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad & Tobago. Awed by the differences in customs and cultures, particularly as they related to West Indian women, Sylvia began a journey of study and self-discovery. Back in the U.S. at 40, she started college and didn’t stop until achieving a B.A. in sociology with a concentration in women’s studies and a master’s in counseling. For the next twenty years, Sylvia worked in the field of human services and taught as an adjunct professor at the graduate level. Sylvia Dickey Smith lives in Texas.

Connect with the Author 

What’s inside the mind of a Contemporary author?

LIFE! In all its glory and pain. REALITY. Current topics that affect us, change our lives, improve our lives, challenge us, and make us ask questions we previously thought we had answered. We watch people, read human-interest stories or true crime in newspapers, we look at our own lives and delve into family secrets to mine.

What is so great about being an author?

Being an author helps us say and do things we might never do in real life—like force characters to remove masks they have worn so long there is nothing left behind the mask. We authors sometimes ‘get even’ with someone by visualizing him or her inside one of our characters. Being an author has helped me find my voice. When I can write a character saying or doing something I have been reluctant to say or do—that helps me find the courage to do the same.

When do you hate it?

I hate it when I get stuck in a plot and don’t know where to go. I have literally stopped in the middle of a first draft and written the last chapter next because I knew how I wanted the story to end. Then, I went back and picked up where I left off and figured out how to get to that ending.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

There is no regular writing day for me lately. I grab as grab can. Right now I am in the middle of selling my home in Arkansas and moving back to Texas so it is a challenge to even check email. However, once I get relocated I will make up for lost time. Plus, even when a writer isn’t putting words on virtual paper, we are always writing—in our minds. For instance, my novel-in-progress deals with spirits/ghost energies. After a day packing, when I go to bed I read up on such. Of course this doesn’t improve my dreams—but it certainly makes them lively.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

I cannot speak about the ego of other authors, but I do know for me, being an author is one of the most humbling things I do. If my writing doesn’t challenge and humble me, and pull out those parts of me that I would rather stay secret, then I haven’t dug deeply enough. When I read my work I always think I could have said it better. Then, again, seeing my name on the cover of a book is exhilarating and satisfying. Then again, my writing does not define me.

How do you handle negative reviews?

First, I sit down and bawl—no, just kidding—but I won’t deny that negative reviews smart. I put my heart and soul into my writing and of course I want everyone to think it is the next New York Times Bestseller. However, I know everyone has their own opinion of what is good and what isn’t—to them. In truth, I do not expect everyone to like my books. My writing is meant to challenge one’s thinking. Not everyone likes that.

How do you handle positive reviews?

After my heart stops racing, I share it with my husband, then copy and paste it to my files to use in marketing and publicity.  Of course I love positive reviews. They help build my self-confidence and spur me onwards.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

I rarely tell a new acquaintance that I am an author. Sometimes it comes out as we talk and they ask me what I do, how I spend my time or some such. If or when they learn I am, they become interested, sometimes impressed, usually ask what I write and where they can get my books.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

Some days I force it and others, I take a break. Having a set time to write every day best approaches the discipline of writing. That worked for me for many years—I arose at 4:00 a.m. to write while my husband slept. Then, over time, he started getting up earlier so he could spend time with me. This, of course, did not help me accomplish my writing goals, so I gave that up.

Authors are told to shut out the world when they write. I find that difficult to do when my thoughtful husband slips into the room with a hot cup of coffee for me—thereby breaking the focused world I worked so hard to create. I have learned to grab time in shorter increments and give thanks for a few dedicated minutes.

Any writing quirks?

The only quirk I can think of is I need total silence. No music, no cat in my lap, no interruptions. Break my concentration and I have a difficult time getting back into the story.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

Some don’t take it seriously. Do I wish they did? Of course I do—but I remind myself I write for me—not for them. Makes me think of the prophet without honor in his own country.  Those in my life who are the most important to me do take my writing seriously, even when they disturb my writing time with a cup of coffee. <smile>

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 

Oh yes. Writing takes much out of me—like blood, sweat and at times, tears, frustration, disappointment, exhilaration, joy, power. The hate enters when I can’t make the words say what I am trying to say. The love comes in when I can take a group of words and rearrange them in such a way that the whole becomes so much more powerful than the parts.

Do you think success, as an author must be linked to money?

If it does, then I am not a successful author. Money does not define me. I evaluate my success as an author when someone who has read one of my books tells me how much it meant to them. Of course I would like to make a living selling my books—and that may happen one day. I hope it does.

What has writing taught you?

Writing has taught me the power and the importance of story; that stories heal, expand, challenge, convict, inspire, educate, and entertain. They also give us something to hang onto while we find our way through this world. It has also taught me that story is everywhere.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Oh boy, words of wisdom, you ask.  Okay, here goes. The rules I choose to live by every day are to show up, to pay attention, to tell the truth, and to stay unattached to the outcome. And yes, the last one is the most difficult.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for allowing me to be a guest on your super fantastic blog. Eccentricity is a word I resonate with--and often, reflect.