I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Insider Scoop - Interview with Josh Weed, Aspiring Writer

For The Insider Scoop today I’m pleased to introduce Josh Weed, otherwise known as The Weed.

Take it away Josh...

Question 1: What are the three most important things we should know about you.

Hmmmm. The three most important things. That's a tall order.

Well, I guess the first thing I'd like to communicate is how serious I am about writing. So, yeah, even though approximately 86% of what I talk about at The Weed could be represented symbolically by a monkey on a unicycle wearing a tuxedo and wielding a flame-thrower, I certainly don't want to mislead people into thinking that I'm just messing around and having a little fun. I really am attacking my writing career with great intensity, and with a tenacity known mainly to Olympic athletes and serial killers. (BTW, I refer in that comparison only to the really successful serial killers who kill plenty of people and don't get caught for a long time because they're so tenacious that they migrate into various legal jurisdictions and such. Like Ted Bundy. And Hannibal Lecter. Except I'm not sure if Lecter ever crossed state lines. And he's fictional. But I think you know what I mean. That's how seriously I take writing. As seriously as murder and death.)

In all honesty, I am proactively engaged in writing in as many ways as I can be. I am constantly doing something to improve. I just got back from a four hour meeting with a co-author of a screenplay I'm writing, for example. I love writing a lot and really believe in its potential to have positive impact.

Second important thing? I'm 30, have three kids, and plan to have even more. Not surprisingly, I'm Mormon.

(Did you see that slick move? That was like four important things about me right there in one. Man, I'm good.)

Third? I may or may not be insane.

Rach: LOL, I'm not going to comment on the insane part!

Question 2: Tell us about your writing style and your preferred genre.

The novel I'm currently pimping out is a mystery/suspense piece. It is very, very serious--nigh unto a heart attack or a funeral--and actually deals with some very sensitive issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a response to childhood sexual abuse. There is very little humor or silliness (which readers of my blog might be surprised by) though I do have one character who is my outlet for that stuff.

The truth is, I don't know what my preferred genre is mostly because I've only written one book. I taught junior high for several years and would love to write something for that age group. For having a degree in English and having taught it, I am disturbingly not-well-read. My ADHD (which is asked about later) prevented me from finishing most of the books I started in school. The books finished were written by authors that could grab my attention from page one and keep me hooked and reading quickly. I strive to be that kind of writer.

Rach: Congrats on finishing your first book, that's such an achievement!

Question 3: So what's the go with all the body deformity stuff on your blog?

Ha! I don't even know exactly why that started--one day I just got the urge to write about my legally blind eye which makes me look vaguely like a serial killer (wow, why is serial murder emerging as a theme for me during this interview? Is this a sign?) and then I started chronicling my other body aberrations (an arachnoid cyst in my brain, a polyp in my face). Then, one day, I noticed that someone got to my blog doing a Google search for "body deformities" and when I clicked on it, I was #4 for that random phrase. Becoming #1 immediately became imperative, because who WOULDN'T want an extra four readers a month going to their blog in search of pictures of deformed kittens? Since then I've become #4 and #5, but I haven't moved up the rankings yet. It's very distressing, but I have a lot of confidence moving forward. I did, however, get the only counselor in the world (according to her) who specializes in emetephobia (which is a phobia of throwing up) to visit and comment on my blog when I wrote a post about what a wussy I am in this regard. So, there's that.

Rach: Only a little bit strange :)

Question 4: Care to give us some deets on your current project(s)?

Sure. As I mentioned before, I'm working on a screenplay with my good friend Chad Perkins (of Lynda.com fame). He and I both have several other projects we're working on, but our movie together is coming together really nicely and I'm starting to write the actual screenplay (as opposed to beat sheet, etc.) this week. (Since I didn't do nanowrimo, I've considered making a nascrewrihalfmo for myself. You know, because there are quite enough variations of the concept just yet.) But yeah, that's one of the most prominent dishes at the moment.

Then, there's my novel which I avoid revising like gangbusters because I find it incredibly difficult to do so. First attempt at queries? 6 rejections and a partial request from Writer's House which ended in the agent never writing me back. Not a great feeling. In a subsequent question I talk more about revisions and crap like that if you're interested and are still reading by that point but I won't be offended if you're not because holy crap I'm waxing long-winded.

Then, there's poetry. I love poetry even though it's probably the nerdiest (except maybe fanfic?) and most pretentious (except maybe scholarly journals?) of all writing ventures. I've had several poems published and even won a Young Artist award. It's a completely different game than novels or screenplays, with different objectives, but it's something I really love.

Then, the blog in and of itself is one of my projects. Right now I spend many hours a week on it, trying to get each post perfect. It's probably the most enjoyable writing project I've ever engaged in. I hope to spend many more years with it.

Rach: Phew, you sound pretty busy. And nascrewrihalfmo sounds intriguing!

Question 5: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

For a minute I thought I was a pantser, but the reality is, before I ever sat down to write my book, I had already written down various plot sequences, had come up with many of the characters, had ideas for certain scenes, etc. At the same time, things (not surprisingly) ended up being way different (and cooler--at least to me) than I could have ever planned. I think both concepts are very important--or at least they are to me.

When it comes to screenwriting, I'm finding that plotting is a truly essential element.

Question 6: What's the best writing tip you've ever come across?

Maybe this is really famous or something, but I've always loved (and still need to apply in very strict way), this quote:

Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don't talk about doing it. Do it. Finish. E. L. Konigsburg

Question 7: You work as a mental health counsellor, and have been diagnosed with ADHD, how do these things influence your writing?

They each impact my writing in very different ways.

Working as a mental health counselor has given me access to a lot of amazing human beings and their stories, which is amazing.

While I will never, ever write about a client or anything a client tells me because of ethics laws and common decency, sitting in a room and listening to people talk about their deepest darkest family secrets (my degree is actually in marriage and family therapy), and then watching as healing takes place in relationships, or sometimes as things unravel so dramatically that they never come back to my office, gives me real insight into my own characters and some of the motivations that drive their most obscene and seemingly treacherous actions. I get to hear lots of people talk--the cadence and inflection of voice, and the way they share intimate and very personal things that they simply don't talk about outside of my office. It's really quite a privilege to see humanity in this way. Also, I now know family systems and multi-generational transmission (which is a theoretical construct developed by a boring science guy named Murray Bowen) all of which I think has direct translatability (made up word? Probably.) to writing about people and how they fit into families.

The ADHD is not quite as advantageous.

I have the inattentive subtype of ADHD which means that I can be in a room with no windows and no noise and basically no external distractions, and still not be able to focus on what I'm supposed to focus on. It also means I misplace crap A LOT, and that I'm late for lots and lots of meetings (though I work very hard not to let that be the case) and that things like paperwork or other organizational tasks are really, really, really, really hard for me. The disorder was actually the impetus to my blog--I started it as a place to track everything I did online because I was tired of not getting anything done. But instead I ended up writing a bunch of posts about my childhood and some of my experiences as a kid who was labeled as "the laziest student I have ever met" (I was actually kicked out of my school's gifted program, which I had gotten into through intelligence testing, because of that label).

After four months of talking about it on The Weed (which was then called My Inattentive Life), I finally got up the courage to get my official diagnosis and start Ritalin. In some ways this has revolutionized my life.

Anyway, the ADHD has had some really negative ramifications on my writing at times, even post-Ritalin. This is seen primarily in the revisions phase, which requires extreme amounts of focus and organization. Not easy to come by. I talk about all of this here.

Speaking of which:

Question 8: I understand you're neck-deep in revisions at the moment - what's your game plan?

A little bit a day. That's the game plan. You know, like when I'm not working full-time as a therapist, going to school half-time for my chemical dependency license, applying to PhD programs, raising my three little girls, being with my wife, running, writing in my blog, writing my screenplay, eating or sleeping. So, yeah. Should be a piece of cake!

No, the truth is I do all of those things because I function best when my schedule is cram-packed with stuff to do, and in all honesty I have a couple of hours every day reserved for writing. I need to be more stringent with that time, I suppose. It needs to be more sacred, and less infringed upon. But I often get my time in. So... goooooo revisions!

Wish me luck. (This is probably the most awkward end to an interview in history. But thanks so much Rachael for the opportunity to blather on. I really appreciate it!)

Rach: Good luck with it all, I'm right there with you!

+++

Well, that wraps up this interview with The Weed. It's been most fun (and only a teensy bit surreal) getting to know him a bit better.

A final word from Josh (and I take no responsibility for any potential serial killer references)…

If you want to be writing friends for life with me you can follow me on Twitter, or contact me at joshua(dot)weed(at)gmail(dot) com. If you want to read my funny but only-sometimes-writing-related posts that deal occasionally with body deformities, follow me up at The Weed. (You won't be sorry, I promise. Unless I do become a serial killer after all and then murder you.)

10 comments:

kangaroobee said...

Wow this is a long post and I made it to the end. I am curious Josh, does having ADHD make it difficult for you to focus on a long blog post and also do you find it difficult to write one long post on one subject rather than flitting from one thing to another. I bet I gives you an advantage sometimes as a writer (not that I'd have a clue)I enjoy your blog Josh, nice interview Rach!

The Weed said...

@Kangaroobee--The truth is, I don't have much trouble reading blog posts, mainly because I'm genuinely interested in what I'm reading. (What can I say? I find you all fascinating.) Writing on topic isn't necessarily difficult for me either, though my stream of conscience stuff (which is often how I approach blog-posts) is very tangential. Writing, though, seems to be one of the main places my thoughts can be organized systematically, so it gives me a sense of order. (I'm guessing a lot of people feel this way, but could be wrong.) Thanks for the great question!

And Rach, thanks so much to you for asking such awesome questions and getting me to really think about my craft. It was very illuminating, and I got a lot out of it! (And thanks again to all the fellow crusaders--getting to do this was such a pleasant surprise. Y'all are awesome, and I really do love reading all your posts.)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Yay, a writer who is always trying to grow. The best kind there is.

I have ADHD, but not as bad. I tend to be fidgety if I sit for long periods of time (anything over 5 mins). But watch out when I'm really focused--just don't try to interupt me.

Jenny Beattie said...

Excellent interview. Thanks for sharing. The ADHD thing is really interesting and must be incredibly challenging for a writer.

Rachel Morgan said...

I found this interview very interesting, especially since you've spoken about some things that I've been thinking about recently.

I've been wondering about writers whose "blog voice" is different from the voice in their novels, and whether readers would find this a good/bad thing or not really care at all. You mentioned that your novel is far more serious than your blog writing, which is how I feel about my novel vs blog, so that's encouraging!

And secondly, someone asked me yesterday what I thought of studying psychology as a way of learning more about people so that I could write better characters. So I thought of that as soon as you spoke about how working in counselling has given you great insight into people and relationships. Something for me to think about...

Thanks :-)

Julie Hedlund said...

Great interview, Josh! Thanks for the peek into your world and your writing. Glad to have you on the crusade!

L'Aussie said...

Josh, you are an interesting character. With the reading thing, having a couple of books on the go at one time might help - when you get bored of one, hit the other. You'll eventually get them all read that way. I speak as an English teacher, too, who has had quite a bit of experience with ADHD.

Good luck with your projects Josh.

Thanks for hosting, Rach..:)

Mary Mary said...

Great interview! It's always great to see how a writer expounds upon what drives them to write and why. BTW, You have some very adorable little girls ☺.

Thanks for the interview, Rach!

Lisa Potts said...

Great interview! I love Josh's blog posts, they always brighten my day. Following you on Twitter now too.

erica and christy said...

Josh, you have a fun blog, even when you talk about vomit (as a preschool teacher, sometimes vomit strikes me as funny, what can I say).

And thanks for the goooo revisions! peptalk. If I were to talk about mine this week, it would be decidedly less optimistic!
erica

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