1. Share the events that led to the birth of Shewolf. In what way is Shewolf different to you? How does she liberate and guide your creativity?
I had originally found Soul Food Café several years ago, one snowy Spring Break when I was surfing the internet because we were literally snowed in. I bookmarked it, and began visiting it periodically. When I had a good job change about a year ago and suddenly had more time and energy to put into creativity, I began hanging around the edges quite a bit more. Now, you have to understand that up until this point most of my writing had been done in my head to amuse myself while I worked at jobs that required more physical labor than brains to accomplish. I was very unsure of letting anyone - even my husband - read anything that I wrote, but the ideas were getting pushier and pushier and starting to demand to be expressed in writing. So I gathered up my courage and sent off an email to inquire about joining Soul Food. Less than a week later, Shewolf was born. (I took the name from my last name and from the image a shewolf has for me - strong.) I was installed at Riversleigh and was setting up my blog and starting to write - actually put things down on the virtual paper of my computer. I made myself write a serial (inspired by a Soul Food prompt about the personality of a door), because I knew I would have to finish it, and would have to write multiple parts, not just dump one story and then run away and hide. Then came the hardest part, the part where I told the community to come and have a look at what I wrote. Shewolf was born.
Shewolf is my bolder part. She isn’t afraid to toss a piece of writing or art out there and say, “Read this! Look at this! I created it, and I think you’ll like it!” She is the confident part of me that has the courage to explore, write, create and then present it to the world. As she has success in doing this, the rest of me is following suit, and slowly Shewolf is being integrated into the rest of me - or perhaps the rest of me is being integrated into Shewolf.
2. How has Soul Food and blogging in particular impacted on your writing? What do you perceive to be the benefits of writing within an artistic community?
Soul Food has fed me inspiration after inspiration, and some of the exercises have taught me how to look inside myself for the wellspring of ideas that is always there. Blogging has given me a platform upon which to present these ideas. The benefits of writing within an artistic community? Where do I start? The audience is understanding. They, too, give birth to ideas and then hold up their offspring for public scrutiny. I think this makes them a more accepting audience. Then there is the inspiration. Ideas feed off of ideas and inspire new projects. A photo by one can make a story pop into the mind of another. There is support, too, when it is needed, and help overcoming obstacles. Another benefit is learning from one another. Without the tutorial on Corel Painter X that one of our members offered, I’d be nowhere nearly as proficient with digital art.
3. Over a period of time it has become evident that your preferred genre is fantasy for children and adolescents. Tell us about the primary source of your inspiration and what special requirements are crucial if you are to engage your audience.
I’m not really sure quite how I fell into part of this. The genre preference I understand. I have loved fantasy since I first read L. Frank Baum’s Oz books the summer after second grade. I didn’t read a lot of fantasy for a few years - the fantasy I read was mostly fairy tales - but then I found it again in college in the 1970’s, when there was a huge influx of new fantasy on the market. I have found a true love in modern urban fantasy. I also really enjoy mysteries, but I’m not finding these as easy to write.
As far as the age group goes, I suppose there are several influences. For the most part, I don’t intentionally set out to write stories for any particular age group. I do have a degree in elementary education, and I have raised four children so I know how children act and react to things. I still read a great deal of young adult fantasy, largely because it is fun to read; the ideas are good, and the protagonists are usually people I can root for. I studied folklore quite a bit in college, and I like to think that also influences my work. I have been writing a lot of short stories and I think that the same things that make a short story appealing also make a story appealing for children and adolescents. You need a quick draw into the story and a likeable main character that people can identify with. You need an interesting problem to be resolved. The action needs to move forward at a good pace, and you need to include enough details to keep things interesting. If this results in fiction that is suitable for children and young adults, then so be it. I hope adults will read my work too, because I usually try to write for the broader audience.
As for myself, I see myself as a story teller, a wandering spinner of tales. She Wolf tromps through the countryside in knee-high leather boots, and a blue wool cloak carrying a staff with a carved wolf’s head on the top, stopping to share tales by a hearth fire in the evenings. Oh - and let’s not forget her knitting needles and sock wool poking out of the top of her bag!
4. Everyone wants to feel special! How does blogging help a writer feel appreciated and special? Share a moment when you felt the glow that comes when you know you have ‘nailed it.’
Blogging provides a quick audience. You don’t have to wait through a year of revisions, rewrites and publishing red tape to get your work out there to your audience. The comments people leave are instant dialogue about your work. Even with those readers who don’t leave comments, (and you know who you are) there is the tell-tale sign of blog hits. When I put up something new and check the blog hits the next day, I can see that people have come to read my story and that really makes me feel appreciated. As I watch the overall number of hits grow from month to month, I can see immediately that my readership is growing and that is truly gratifying.
I have felt that happy feeling of “YES! They like it!” quite a few times since I began blogging. With that very first serialized story, I received comments asking for the next installment and that was the just first time I felt that glow. Lately, I have felt the glow when I have received comments that express the wish that more people be able to read what I write. I get a great deal of enjoyment from writing my stories and I want to share them with as many people as possible.
5. Can you tell me what Lemuria actually looks like and where I can find the portal to this mysterious realm?
Lemuria is Oz, Wonderland, Middle Earth, Faraway and countless other places all rolled up into one. It is wherever your imagination takes you, whatever worlds populate your heart. It is peaceful and soothing, wild and filled with adventure all at the same time. There is inspiration waiting on the underside of every leaf, beneath every stone and at the top of every tree and all you have to do is open your eyes to see it and open your heart to drink it in. The very air sparkles with ideas. Is it safe? Sometimes. But what is there that is worthwhile in life that is always and forever safe? There is certainly a danger of finding more there than you bargained for and forgetting to come home in time for supper. It is as tame or fierce as you let it be. In addition, Lemuria has a cyber community; there is a group of artists and writers who adventure in this world together via the Soul Food Cafe. They support one another, point out the inspirations glowing under the leaves and stones to each other, and generally help one another create things. Where is the portal to this fabulous place? The portal is inside yourself. Just open up your mind and look deep inside to that place where all the ideas flow from. For me the portal was an arched and carved green door with a great deal of personality of its own. For you it might be a rabbit hole, a worm-hole through space and time, or a hatch on a pirate ship. Everyone’s portal is different. Have fun finding yours. Then open it, jump or climb or crawl through and join us. Lemuria is always waiting.
6. Trace your foot and use your toes and sole to express the footprint you hope to leave. Ah, Pris, you just like to have us do these things so you can chuckle at us! Now I have a ring of blue permanent marker around the edge of my foot! Lucky for you I got my scanner working again!
7. I have been admiring your digital artwork and progress with designing your own site Jane. Would you have become a digital artist if you had not worked in a virtual community? What is a wacom? Show me the piece you are most proud of and tell us you learned from the challenge?
Given the influences in my household (my husband is a web designer and I have four mostly grown children to convince that I’m technologically savvy) I would probably have gone down that road eventually, but not nearly as soon as I did thanks to working in a digital community. It seems like one thing leads to another. Getting a blog led to wanting to change the look, so I learned to upload a header. Then I began playing with the header images in Photoshop. Then came the wacom tablet. Then I wanted to change my blog design still more, so I began playing with CSS to customize things. It just snowballed. Sometimes I look at where I was last winter, trying to figure out how to get my first post up, and I marvel at how much I’ve learned.
What is a wacom? It is a magic scroll, an amazing device of limitless possibilities. Seriously though, my wacom tablet is my new friend. I was intrigued by the idea of being able to draw with something other than a mouse, which as we all know can be very hard to control. The wacom tablet makes that control possible. It is a digital tablet with a specific writing surface on it, and you use a special stylus, or pen, to draw on it. The marks you make show up on your computer screen in programs such as Photoshop or Corel Painter. Within the program you are using, you can choose to have the marks appear as different media, brush strokes and colors. Once you get used to using it, the wacom can be used to create digital art whose only limitations are the ones you bring to it yourself. The piece I am currently most proud of is my snail shell. I did one version when I first got my tablet. Then, after doing some work with Genece’s tutorial on Corel Painter X, I did another one. The difference between the two, with just a little bit more knowledge and practice, amazed me.
8. Can you help me set up a Facebook account Jane? Enchanteur wants me to create an avatar and find out about the benefits of social networking. She wants you to help put together something for the AdventURE Calendar. Such a slave driver that woman! Why do you think social networking is important for a writer? Is this really something worth doing?
Priscilla had the help of Shewolf and joined Facebook after hearing about social networking. However, because of the sheer size of the place she doubts she will spend a lot of time there. She thinks she will take Jane's advice and concentrate on her room at Riversleigh. The important thing is that she now knows how to put on those cyber boots and knock on doors.
Pris, your Facebook account is set up. There are no links to it yet for your friends, but that can be added. Priscilla Cyberqueen is the name on the account. You also have your very own avatar. Some of the other folks at Soul Food were discussing their avatars, so I decided that one of the cute little animal ones would be nice. I settled on Fluff friends. Choosing the individual animal was hard - there was a dragon which I would probably pick for myself, a wallaby and a baby wallaby which would be nice because you’re from Australia, but when I read the description of the raccoon, named Lecoon, the decision was made. His bio read, “Unlike his humble brethren who forage in trash cans for food, Lecoon is an adventurous friend who forages the world for culture, knowledge, and international cuisine.” I thought this was perfect for you, Priscilla the world traveler and Web 2.0 advocate. I named him Webby. His conversation balloon reads, “Let’s learn Web 2.0.”
I do think that social networking is important for a writer. Before I joined Soul Food, I might have answered that differently, but now, I know how important it is. Having a like-minded audience to share your work and ideas with, to brainstorm with, to support one another’s’ efforts, and to just visit with, can really help the creative process. And let’s face it, we’re in good company by having a group like this; authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were part of a writer’s group in Oxford named the Inklings. If it was good enough for writers of their caliber, then I think it is certainly a good idea! We at Soul Food also have the benefit of living in far different places and communicating in cyberspace - this certainly adds some interest to it all.
I would personally prefer to be a part of a group like Soul Food, but a group set up within Facebook or a similar area would work, too. However you can fit it in, a social network for writers is a good idea as long as your group is a supportive one.
Well, Pris, you really do ask good questions. Thank you for the visit and thanks for the interview and the chance to put in my two cents’ worth - I’m always glad for an opportunity to talk!