It’s my great pleasure to welcome Alexandra Coulter to my blog. Alexandra has been in a critique group with Aud Supplee and me for many years.
Tell me a bit about your writing history. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? And what led to that?
Alexandra: I had written most of my life and always enjoyed it. My earliest memory was of a story about lions I wrote in 3rd grade. I penned several collections of stories about a group of characters in spiral notebooks. From time to time I’d write stories or essays on a topic. However, no one ever said I could be a writer.
Gemma: Was that discouraging? Or was it simply not something that you thought about?Alexandra: I wasn’t discouraged. I wrote because I enjoyed doing it. As the years went by, I did several writing assignments and a few articles for friends and relatives, but it still hadn’t occurred to me that I might be a writer.
Gemma: Wow, even after doing significant writing… So, how did you come to that realization?Alexandra: During a time when I didn’t have to work, faced with many hours alone at home, I knew it was time for me to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had spent my working career chasing the music business the only way I knew how, through my administrative, typing and organizing skills. A series of unsatisfactory jobs leading up to my semi early retirement left me wondering what to do with myself. Was I going to give up and do nothing, looking for the same old job or make a commitment to become a writer? When it dawned on me that I had already done a lot of writing and I really enjoyed it and found it easy, the decision was made.
Gemma: Excellent! To find something that you enjoy and that comes easily is really a gift.
What came next?
Alexandra: That prompted me to take a writing class, get a lot of library books and learn everything I could about it. Despite a difficult teacher, I produced in that class, writing 2 and a half short stories, while most of the class only managed 1 over the 6 weeks. After a short set back, I came out swinging.
Gemma: Good for you for overcoming that setback. Was it the teacher?
Alexandra: Yes it was. He criticized everything I did, including commenting on knowledge he didn’t have, on the content. The rest of the class liked what I did. So, I eventually realized he was a jerk and that shouldn’t stop me from moving toward becoming a writer.
Gemma: Excellent. That’s not an easy realization to come to. Where did you go from there?
Alexandra: I had read somewhere that you can call yourself a writer when you’ve written 100,000 words. I was determined to do it! I remember the day I realized I’d reached that point. When I had reduced the number of words in my novel from 180,000 to 100,000. I figured I must have written much more than 100,000 words, maybe pushing 300 or 400,000! That was the moment I felt I could call myself a writer.
Gemma: I had never heard that definition – but that’s an excellent goal to achieve. And it’s quite cool that you came to it not by struggling to reach that number, but by cutting down to it.
Gemma: Tell me a bit more about your writing history.
Alexandra: My first published writing came in college where I maintained a monthly column called “Stick this in Your Ear,” which featured my thoughts on contemporary music and local musicians. I had been writing love stories and essays. And even a few pieces for local small-town publications. From the first writing class, I developed my stories into novels and worked with them. The first novel, The Easy Road, was published on Amazon as an e-book in 2012.
Alexandra: When I found myself out of work again, I decided to give professional freelance writing a try. I had moderate and sporadic success which had me running back to the safety of a “real” job time and time again. I gave up the idea of freelance writing in 2014 and have never looked back. I continue to play with my second novel and am developing a book for teenage girls, through my critique group, that I hope to publish in the next few years. Writing continues to be a practice for me, striving for 3 pages a day and 10 pages a month.
Gemma: 10 pages a month is my goal, too – perhaps not coincidentally the page limit for our critique group!
Gemma: what’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of?
Alexandra: I think the initial short story of Easy Road was maybe my first truly organized and me-inspired work I’d done. For the class I wrote a sci-fi story that I do still like, but The Easy Road has come to be a much bigger piece of work and more integral to my growth as a writer. I haven’t read it in a long time, but I feel proud of putting it together and publishing it.
Gemma: that really is an accomplishment! Tell a little of what it’s about.
Alexandra: It’s about a 30-something accountant with aging parents, a girlfriend and an impending partnership in the accounting firm who’s offered a record deal. He struggles with taking what he always thought of as the easy road of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.
Gemma: I’ve read drafts of that novel in our critique group, and it was quite a ride! It’s so satisfying that now it’s a book.
Gemma: What do you feel is your mission as a writer?
Alexandra: My mission has always been to say what I feel compelled to say. I wish to be a conduit for words. I believe I have stories to tell and messages to communicate. I’m not sure I can say what writing means to me. It’s always been my solace. I have been journaling steadily for many, many years now. It has allowed me to find my voice and my inner core, to learn more about myself and how I tick. Writing has allowed me to express the visions in my head. Written words have, at times, allowed me to express thoughts and feelings I couldn’t any other way.
Gemma: So much of that rings true for me, and I bet it resonates with many other writers, too.
Gemma: What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Alexandra: Well, that has changed over the years. I think, these days, the hardest part is finding the time and energy to give to it.
Gemma: What’s the part of writing you like best?
Alexandra: I’d like to say that it is when I get it right on paper. When I say exactly what it is I wanted to say. That is a wonderful part of it. But I also really like praise. When someone appreciates what I’ve said to them. That I have somehow eased or lightened their burden, lifted their hearts, opened their eyes.
Gemma: That’s the most wonderful kind of feedback, I think. Your writing has certainly opened my eyes in some new ways!
Gemma: What kind of experiences have most influenced your writing?
Alexandra: My experiences in the music business have certainly had an influence on my fiction writings. I find what inspires me more than anything is live music. Live performances. I do like to write with music on. I am quite sure that influences me on many levels. My other impactful influences are other people and their words.
Gemma: And your writing often has music and musicians in it – that influence really shines through.
Gemma: What other kinds of things have an effect on your writing?
Alexandra: Maybe movies like Help and Spinal Tap had an effect on my writing. Certainly, it was the people I met. As for my non-fiction writing, I have been influenced by Susan Jeffers, SARK, Marianne Williamson, and Libby Gill. Writing teachers Brenda Ueland, Natalie Goldberg, and Anne Lamott. I’d have to say too, that I have been heavily influenced by my writer’s group who have kept me committed, guided me back to the path and showed me a new way month by month.
Gemma: Me, too, Alexandra, me too!
Gemma: What kind of things do you read?
Alexandra: I don’t have a lot of time to read these days. Most of what I read are my colleagues’ work. I read selected works of the spiritual authors I most like and I read health and healthy eating publications.
Gemma: I’m touched and honored our pieces are a lot of what you read – but also sad you don’t have time for more!
Gemma: What are you reading presently?
Alexandra: I am reading Ask and it is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks. An Abraham book. There are quite a few business books in my stack and I always have an inspirational writing book. At the moment it’s If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland.
Gemma: I’m glad you take time to read these!
Gemma: What are you working on now?
Alexandra: My focus continues to be How to Create an Awesome Life – A curriculum for girls. A book of classes for girls 14 to 18 to help them find themselves and build lives they can love. I am working on 2-pages per day writing practice on a topic and trying to complete an essay every month (or 2). I am also working on developing my writing at work to be able to grow my career.
Gemma: What is the next project you hope to work on?
Alexandra: I have a good draft of my second novel, Lucky Day. When I complete the Awesome Life, I hope to do a final draft of the novel.
Gemma: Tell us a little bit about Lucky Day.
Alexandra: This one is about a girl drummer who dreams of recording her songs, but her bad luck continually keeps her from realizing her dream.
Gemma: I’ve read that in its earlier drafts, and I’d love to see it published.
Alexandra: My first novel, The Easy Road, will be published as a physical book this year.
Gemma: that’s very cool!
Alexandra: And I want to work on my publishing company, UpWrite Words, including a physical book from author Paulette Terrels-Clarke. Other projects bubbling under the surface are to revive my blog and develop some of the material I have in my files.
Gemma: that sounds like a lot of great projects to look forward to.
Gemma: Readers, check out the e-book of The Easy Road here. And be sure to check back for Alexandra’s future projects.
Alexandra: Thanks, Gemma, for talking with me. It’s been a real pleasure!
Gemma: The pleasure is mutual! Thanks for being part of my blog, and part of our critique group!