Monday, April 9, 2012

Author Spotlight--Claudette J. Young

I first met Claudette (affectionately known as Clauds) on the Institute for Children's Literature forum, back in 2009. I was a scared, shy, (no, really, I am!) beginner looking for a critique group to help me hone my new writing skills. Clauds invited me to join her, Christine, Peg, and Deb, and they welcomed me with open arms. We became a tight-knit little group--full of ideas, great advice, and plenty of support.

Eventually, illnesses and lack of time caused our little group to disband, but I'll always consider that critique group, and especially Claudette, as one of the biggest influences of my writing life. I'm so lucky to have the honor of interviewing this wonderful woman.

Claudette J. Young began life very early, sucking in information and experience like her mother’s vacuum inhaled grass stems and dandelion fluff after a day in the sun. She’s lived in many areas of the country, preferring to experience places for longer than vacations allow. Along the way, she’s collected characters, dialects, and impressions, that get translated into poems, essays, and stories. Claudette began sharing those translations in 2009 and continues to write with passion and determination. Her success is defined by her own criteria and satisfaction.

A sampling of Claudette's published works:
Yahoo News/Associated Content (Travel, op-ed, children’s story, Yahoo Writer Style Book)
SuperTeacher Worksheets (Math Word Problems and quizzes,incorporating reading comprehension with problem solving and logic skills)
Sea Giraffe Magazine [online] (Poetry pending release date)
Soft Whispers Magazine [online] (Poetry)
The River Literary Journal [online] (Poetry)
Small River Stones Journal [online] (Poetry)
Prompted: An International Collection of Poems (Poetry Anthology)
My Friend, Smories and other online magazines(Children’s stories)
ICL Newsletter (Articles for children’s writers)

~ Hi Claudsy! So nice of you to visit with us today. Your bio says that your success is defined by your own criteria and satisfaction. That sentence exudes confidence and contentment. Too often, we writers have a hard time reaching that state. How long did it take you to reach that level?

How long? Well, I’d say about 50 years sounds about right. For me, writing was a dream that few believed in and fewer encouraged. I needed to get old enough that I no longer cared what anyone thought about my activities. I came to a place where I could own my own life without having to seek approval from someone else. Of course, going through “TheArtist’s Way” by Julia Cameron didn't hurt any, either.

~"The Artist's Way" sounds interesting. I just had to put that book on my Amazon Wishlist!
You’ve lived in many places and your life is quite eventful. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?

I’ve survived to be sitting here,f or one. I’ve been a teacher, a corporate systems test engineer, successfully owned and operated my own business, taken advanced degrees, worked jobs few would believe, and on and on. In all that adult life, I think the greatest accomplishment I’ve made is arriving to senior status without totally losing my mind or going postal.

I am stunned when I look back on all that’s happened during my lifetime. It’s enough to dislodge anyone’s reality base. I figure so long as I can function to a decent degree each day without falling into a constant fantasy of living on another world, I’m doing okay and accomplishing a small miracle. That’s difficult for a writer to do some days, I know, but possible. So long as I can keep myself from reading out loud in public, I’m okay. Oops, that’s another writer’s habit to be wary of.

~You have three blogs. (Claudsy’sCalliope) (Trailing Inspirations) (Claudsy’sBlog [wordpress])

Three blogs!! And they are all informative, energetic, and current. You also have an impressive list of published works--poetry, articles, worksheets, novels, and short stories. What a broad spectrum! Where are you most comfortable? What do you find the most challenging?

Three blogs? Let’s make that an active four blogs. I snuck one in on you over at BlogHer that I’m doing daily right now, due to challenges that I’m pushing to meet. And let’s hold off on celebrating the novels for a bit. The three that I’m working on aren’t with a publisher quite yet. They’ll get there before too long, I hope.

As for where I’m most comfortable, I don’t know that I can give you a definitive answer. At least, not a concrete one. I tend to begin any project with the belief that with enough study and time I’ll be able to conquer it, regardless of what it is. Believe me, that leads to frustration—big time. I’ve always worked with a personal expectation of my doing it perfectly and quickly in my first shot. Such expectations aren’t easy to live with. It’s taken me years to accept that no one but God performs such feats.

The understanding doesn’t prevent backsliding, though. Take travel writing, for instance. I love reading and writing travel articles. Some that I write are much better than others. My sister’s and my travel book has been a nightmare to work on. Why? Because I can envision too many angles to take the book and its information. We finally settled on an inspirational book, with a couple of extended sequels, that speak to only that one aspect of our experiences.

Whenever I sit down to work on the manuscript, I must force my thoughts as a laser beam focused on that specific vein and not allow my thoughts to wander off the path. That is difficult for me on this book. My earlier training of extrapolative thought processes has programmed me to use a different type of thought. Changing focus for only this one project makes for challenging writing sessions.

Writing essays, memoir, etc. allows me to stretch my skillsets, which also keeps me interested in writing. My biggest challenge is confining a wandering/questioning interest pattern. I’m very comfortable with research. I can get lost and totally absorbed when doing research and find dozens of paths to take with articles on whatever subject I’ve delved into. Alas, that can lead to its other problems. (Note: please reference the above two paragraphs.)

My biggest daily challenge is getting as much of my work finished in the least amount of time. That’s ongoing; to which, I’m sure, most writers can agree. My nemesis is learning fast enough to keep current with the demands of the writing business and the technical knowledge necessary to navigate my marketing needs.

I take writing courses constantly--always learning something new so that if, for whatever reason, I can’t do one type of work, I’ll have another to fall back on. That’s critical for me. I’ve just begun another this weekend, while finished one at the same time. Of course, this does eat into my writing time, but it pays for itself later, especially when a course is free.

~Do you have a secret talent?

If I do, it’s still very much a secret--seriously. Those who know me know that I’ll try most things at least once, just to see if I can do them. Once I conquer them—I don’t have to become a master—I move on to something else.

When I lost most of my sight in my late twenties, every gear I had moved into experimental mode. There was so much to learn, so many demands, so much adjustment. My brain got reprogrammed to take in so many tiny variants of my surroundings that I can’t even fathom now how I navigate in the material world.

I used a dog guide for a long time, all through university and then through corporate life. My second dog was with me through my teaching years. After that I used either cane or sighted guide. I know that any day could be my last day of having any kind of usable sight. My subconscious sweats the small stuff most of the time and adjusts to accept new sensory data that I’m not consciously aware of.

Concentration is my best friend. Distraction causes me great distress. Crowds disorient me and the noise level gives me a headache. I’ve been in hypersensitive mode for so long that I’m wound like a spring most of the time.

My training in so many fields, with and without sight, has set up a unique way for my brain to process information. Extraneous info zips in and out without making an impact, unless it concerns me, personally. But more than that, I’ve learned to associate across so many genres and subjects that I blend information constantly. I take one detail from this, add it to two details from that, and create something we can call new. It’s automatic for me. It also creates that problem we spoke of earlier. It creates so many angles on a subject that focusing on one can turn painful.

~In February, you took on a blog challenge themed, “Relative.” Once a week, I’d grab a cup of coffee and settle in to read your posts about the special people in your life. I laughed, I cried, and reminisced about some of my own family members. Tell me, will you turn those posts into a memoir?

One of my writer friends asked that question while we were doing the challenge. I had told her about the challenge and she took it up and ran with it, as well. And that’s exactly what she intended to do with her posts later.

For me, though, I had to be terribly selective about what I chose to tell and what to leave alone. We all, I think, have those types of memories that are much too painful to relive, even for ourselves. That challenge was one of the hardest writing exercises I’ve ever done. I cried through each post, for different reasons each day.

Someone asked me if those posts were cathartic. I don’t think so, not really. I feel things deeply. I think in pictures and emotion. Going back through the memories I used for Claudsy’s Blog brought back all of the associative memories, too, which weren’t all sweetness and light. So much of the time I hurt for the people I remember, not for myself. I know what they endured, aspired to and failed, found and lost.

Besides, I have too many other projects in the works right now. Ten years down the road, I’ll think about it...

~Finish this sentence:  I’d love to make over _________, but I’d never change________.

I’d love to make over _America_, but I’d never change_the Constitution_.

~Thank you so very much for stopping by and sharing with us. Keep writing!