Author Name: Sheila M. Cronin
Books: The Gift Counselor, Best of All Gifts, Heart Shaped (out of print), Heart Shaped II, a collection of short stories.
Brief bio: I was born and raised in Chicago, the third eldest of ten. After earning my graduate degree in Philadelphia, I taught and practiced art therapy there until relocating to Los Angeles to pursue my talents in art, music, writing plays and screenplays. Upon returning to Chicago, I adapted one of my screenplays into a novel and named the characters in the story for the streets of the neighborhood where I grew up.
What got you started as a writer? For as long as I can remember I have been writing. My first poem was published in childhood and I remember the thrill of seeing it in print. I began to keep a diary in grade school. My mother was a non-fiction writer and her disciplined approach to her work influenced me steadily as I was growing up. In college, I transferred to journaling. Though an art major, I found that some things were better expressed through words.
What difficult experience has helped you as a writer? Being laid off from my last job and not finding another job quickly made me finally stop looking and take up a novel I had begun writing years earlier. Reading The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron further convinced me that if I didn’t do it, no one else would.
One of my novel’s earliest and strongest fans was my youngest sister, Ellyn. After I told her the plot, whenever we got together, she always, always asked me how the book was coming along. She loved it and encouraged me to keep going when I had doubts. Ellyn’s son inspired certain aspects of the ten-year-old character in my book. We lost Ellyn to cancer before the book was published. It’s hard to put into words how much her courage inspired me. No doubt, many readers here will be able to imagine the effect her loss had on me and how it made me want to persevere.
Have you ever participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? If so, how many times and what was your experience? No.
What advice would you give a new indie author hoping to publish a book?
- Get started and have fun. There’s no right or wrong way to write. There’s your way. Trust it.
- If you find writing too lonely, join a good writing group or class.
- If you can’t find a writing group, sign up one or two beta readers.
- Read other books while you write, for encouragement and suggestions on how to solve plot problems and to expand your vocabulary.
- Get a short story or two published before you publish your book. Check out the short story guidelines in Woman’s World Magazine, for example. That’s where I started and became a paid writer.
- Learn how to use social media for marketing, promoting and networking.
- Prepare to wait. Waiting is Job One when your goal is to get published.
- Believe that you will be given the things you need to achieve your goal.
What has been the biggest challenge for you during Covid? The isolation! My writing group used to meet in person at a restaurant. While I am grateful that we can continue to meet online, nothing takes the place of live gatherings. At first, I kept working on my third novel and other projects with no disruption. But as time wore on, I found it harder and harder to work. So, instead I read and, because books never let me down, I eventually found my drive again.
What are you reading right now? This is Happiness by Niall Williams.
Would you rather laugh or cry over a book? I enjoy books that move me either way. Since my own writing is most often described as heartwarming, I savor the stories that make me cry. The books that make me stop and catch my breath—those are the gems.
Have you ever climbed a tree to read a book? Though I loved climbing trees as a child, I never read a book in one.
Have you ever dropped a book in the tub, in a pool or in the ocean? Not that I recall. However, one time I did buy the same book twice. It was a prayer book that I had misplaced at church. About a year after I lost it, I went back to the same bookstore and bought another copy—or so I thought. Later at home, I found a mark I had made in it when I first owned it!
Could you live in a tiny house? I already do. I live in a studio apartment. If I had a choice, I’d prefer to have a studio as well as a house!
What are the small things that make you happy? I am delighted when I go to the store for a specific item and find only one on the shelf, like it was waiting there just for me. I am grateful for the miracle of sound recording. Whether via voice mail, or YouTube or radio or television or streaming, to be able to hear a beloved voice when the person is far away or unavailable is to me one of the greatest gifts of living in modern times. I never take for granted clean, accessible running water.
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