Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a writer, mother, and wife living in Houston, Texas. I’m best known as the seeing-eye-person for my little blind dog named Cricket. I self-publish under my business, Twenty-Eight Creative, and I launched my first children’s picture book, “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car,” in November 2015. After taking a few years off to raise four children, I started freelance writing again in 2012 when I was hired by the Institute for Spirituality and Health to research the history of this Houston non-profit organization. “Uniting Faith, Medicine and Healthcare: A 60-Year History of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center” was published in 2015. The book is used as a marketing and communications tool, and all financial proceeds benefit the Institute (not me). Now I’m spending my days marketing and publicizing my children’s book about art cars! I graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Journalism in 1985; I earned a Master of Arts from Louisiana State University-Shreveport in 2013.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is a children’s picture book called, “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car.” I’m inspired by experiences that have happened in my life. For instance, when I first moved to Houston 18 years ago, I had never seen an art car. But now, I love art cars, and I enjoy snapping photos of them around Houston. One day while carpooling my son to school, I thought of the idea for “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car.” I couldn’t waste a minute, and I rushed home to write that story. Over the next few months I explored my options and chose to self-publish. That took me on a two-year journey that, when I hold my beautiful book in hand, I don’t regret. Houston is home to the first and largest Art Car Parade, and we also boast the country’s first Art Car Museum. My book, “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car,” is the first book written and published for kids that explains about art cars!
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
For the most part, I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. That being said, I often have a very brief outline to follow. This might be just a few phrases jotted down in my journal that I keep with me at all times. I like to think about a character before I start to write. ie, what’s his or her favorite color, what do they want to be when they grow up, (or if an older character, what was he/she before retirement?), who is their best friend, what’s their favorite food, do they get along with their parents, etc. … things like that. I think it’s critical to know those things before you begin to write. When I write, the story is created in Microsoft Word on my Mac Air laptop. I take it with me and find a quiet place to write. Sometimes that means sitting in a big fluffy chair of my home, but I’ve even been known to sit in my car and write, simply because I have a moment to myself. I think writing is very personal, and I don’t think you can “teach” someone how to find time to write. If you want to write, you just do it. There’s really no stopping a writer – it’s a part of how they live and breathe.
I talk to myself in my car (or in the shower) all the time! I frequently pull into a parking lot so that I can stop and text myself a phrase or character trait that I might want to add to my story. I try to keep my journal with me, so I often write the idea there. Ideas just pop in my head, and if I don’t write them down immediately, I’m apt to forget. I get extremely attached to my characters, and I “feel” for them as I write. I have a soft spot in my heart for them, and I often want the best for them. My characters tend to end up with happiness in their lives. Perhaps that will change if I switch to a different genre, but for now, I’m writing children’s books and I like wholesome characters.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I recently read Stephen King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” and it was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I’m also reading Liz Gilbert’s “Big Magic” right now, and I love it. Memoirs are some of my favorites, such as: Jeannette Walls’ “The Glass Castle,” and Carole Radziwill’s “What Remains.” I’m a sucker for a great page-turner novel such as those by Gillian Flynn, Maria Semple, Paula Hawkins, Kathryn Stockett, etc. I’m also a huge Young Adult fan! I have read every book that John Green has written (“Looking For Alaska” is a favorite); I recently discovered Robyn Schneider (“The Beginning of Everything” and “Extraordinary Means”); and Rainbow Rowell (“Carry On”) was a fun read as well. Finally, you cannot replace the beautiful classics by Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcott, L.M. Montgomery, and all those amazing writers, and I re-read those books over and over. The books I do not read are self-help and poetry — I just cannot get into those genres and probably never will.
What are you working on now?
An important life experience occurred when I broke my femur (thigh bone) at the age of nine! Ouch! That influence my next book, and I have written a middle-grade chapter book called, “At Last, A Cast!” It’s current in a major re-write mode so that I can add new dialogue and length to the manuscript. Perhaps I will self-publish this book next, unless I change my mind and go the route of finding an agent and/or traditional publisher.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I use Facebook quite a bit. I also like Amazon and Goodreads. I also recently discovered Book Goodies, and I appreciated that they allowed me to fill out an “Author’s Interview.”
Do you have any advice for new authors?
I’ve learned that I cannot stop writing. It’s how I express myself creatively, and I can’t help myself. Interestingly, I don’t feel afraid to show people my work. Some people tell me they write, but then they never show me anything they’ve written. That’s not me — I show trusted individuals and invite critique and feedback. I think that’s important, so take the risk and show someone. I think that Stephen King, in his memoir, referred to this “Ideal Reader” or “Trusted Reader” … Collaboration is important! Get feedback. You might be surprised to see what your trusted reader points out that you probably never considered.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
1. First: Write the best book you can write.
2. Next: Get feeback.
3. Finally: Don’t be afraid to put your work out there into the world. Don’t worry about what others think, just be happy with your product.
What are you reading now?
1. “Big Magic” by Liz Gilbert.
2. “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan.
3. Just read: “The Grownup” by Gillian Flynn.
4. Also just read: “Black Eyed Susans: A Novel of Suspense” by Julia Heaberlin.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I am currently working as hard as I can to market and self-publish my first children’s picture book, “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car.” I have a long, varied career background in publications work. I started off as a journalist/reporter, but then moved into Public Relations work. In that field, I worked with printing companies for many years to produce newsletters, brochures, etc. That gave me the confidence to self-publish my own book(s). I have also self-published a book for a non-profit organization that hired me to write their history; I also helped an acquaintance self-publish her book of poetry, and those books are for sale on Amazon, which makes me proud. My own book, “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car,” has sold 490 copies in the first two month, so I don’t regret my decision to self-publish. I think I made the right choice.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Probably Stephen King’s, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” … but there are SO many, how could I possibly choose? I also loved “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett — what a beautiful book for a first-time novelist to create. I was also very moved while reading, “What Remains,” a memoir by Carole Radziwill. And literally anything by John Green — his YA books are so fun to read.