Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Linda Osmundson. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Linda. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Linda: When in my early 50s, I approached my husband about taking a writing class. His answer, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” After serving as a teacher, “professional” volunteer, crafter, golfer, museum docent, wife, mother, and writing for newsletters, rhyming invitations, and Christmas letters, I understood his question. As his job transfers relocated us every few years, I experimented with new horizons to keep me challenged, including writing to be published. Once we returned to Colorado and retired in Fort Collins, I completely concentrated on writing. A wonderful critique group walked me through the process I’d begun a few years earlier and helped me get my first “real” publication. Now I devote some of each day to writing.
Morgen: You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Linda: After teaching and raising a family, I turned to volunteering in art museums. I have been a docent in four major art museums – Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver and Seattle and two galleries, Hearst Gallery, Moraga, CA and Loveland Museum / Gallery where I currently serve. I love all art but particularly like western art beginning with Charles Russell. When living in Phoenix, I met the foremost authority at that time on Russell – Frederic Renner. His wife, a fellow docent, invited me to their home and shared some of their Russell collection. I was hooked. Besides that, the Phoenix Art Museum held the annual Cowboy Artists of America exhibit. My love of western art, and how the Old West looked as well as the more recent West, grew. I decided to take all those experiences and write a book on Russell that served as a one-on-one tour of his art for a reader. A natural progression led to the Remington book. Hopefully, my third and final book in the series, Women Who Painted the West, will be accepted by my publisher.
Morgen: Good luck with that but they’re gorgeous books. He or she would be mad to turn you down. You mentioned three books. What have you had published to-date?
Linda: The two books in the How the West Was Drawn series are my only book publications. I’ve written hundreds of articles for teacher, parenting, art, travel, senior, children, and religious publications, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, Family Circle, Transitions Abroad, and Arts and Activities, to name a few. I also write travel articles for a local newspaper. I’ve finished several picture books and children’s chapter books / novels, yet unpublished.
Morgen: Yet… Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Linda: My books are available as eBooks on Android. However, since the books are art appreciation, I find it hard to imagine children or adults answering the questions posed in the books in the eBook format. I read some eBooks but prefer paper books I can share with friends or give to Friends of the Library. Even a couple of my grandchildren have said they prefer a book in hand.
Morgen: Most people I’ve spoken to still do. Did you have any say in the titles / (stunning) covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Linda: Debbie Dadey, author of the Bailey School Kids series and approximately 150 titles, suggested the title of my series – How the West Was Drawn. I added the subtitles Cowboy Charlie’s Art and Frederic Remington’s Art. Pelican Publishing accepted my cover choices for the Russell book. Since those were loaned at no cost from collectors, it saved me some money. For Remington, the free image did not fit the cover layout. I suggested another front cover image and Pelican suggested the back. Both came from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art so required I pay an additional amount for cover use. I believe the cover art draws a reader into the book.
Morgen: And why wouldn’t they with your covers? I’ve had the pleasure of chatting to Debbie – I interviewed her on the 22nd January. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Linda: Right now I’m using my research to write a fictionalized, but based on fact, chapter book about Charles Russell. I actually have picture books, chapter books and a children’s novel I haven’t found publishers for as yet. Some say it is time I get an agent. I’m considering that search.
Morgen: It does usually help having something already published as it gives you a track record. You mentioned earlier that you write every day, do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Linda: My assignments keep me writing every day, yet I also include daily time to write on my own projects. Sometimes a writing assignment presents a sort of writer’s block in deciding on a subject. So far ideas have come from out of the blue! I hope that continues. I write a bi-monthly travel column for a local newspaper and three or four articles for a quarterly Senior magazine.
Morgen: My favourite aspect is something coming out of nothing, which is usually the easy part. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Linda: I do a lot of rewriting / editing. Also I have a wonderful critique group who helps me improve. Occasionally, they have no suggestions so I must be getting better. I’ve even ventured to submit without their hearing a piece first.
Morgen: I run or belong to four writing groups and they’re great. I think every writer needs a second opinion, although with my flash fiction I tend to put it online without anyone else seeing it, but then I write one a day for my 5pm fiction slot so no time to run it past anyone else. Do you have to do much research?
Linda: Non-fiction requires a lot of research. I tend to prefer doing the research at home so often purchase a large number of books from which to study. My shelves runneth over!
Morgen: 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Linda: I believe every writer has pieces of work which will never get published. I’ve worked for about 15 years on an autobiographical children’s book about my parents’ divorce and my father keeping me for a year against my will. I’ve rewritten so many times I wonder if I’ve ruined it. Rejections still arrive when I take the time to submit it, which isn’t often. Guess I haven’t hit the right market or I need to revise some more. Hopefully, I’ll find markets for the other books sitting in my computer.
Morgen: Maybe giving your autobiographical book some space will help you see it clearer when you do go back to it. Do you pitch for submissions and / or are you commissioned to write?
Linda: I do a little of both. For articles, I prefer to write the article first rather than query. I realize that is against the norm. I do whatever a publisher requests. Several local publications assign me articles. Those are seldom creative writing but may be more “where to do what and when”. In one publication, the Senior Moment and Generation articles are more creative. For books I follow the publisher’s guidelines – send complete picture book manuscripts, query, send synopsis and three chapters, or whatever they suggest.
Morgen: Presumably you’ve had some rejections over the years? How do you deal with them?
Linda: I’ve certainly received my fair share of rejections or “returns” as my critique group prefers to call them. I know of few authors who haven’t. Even best-selling authors get rejections. At first they hurt as if my writing were no good. Then, I discovered rejections are seldom personal. The market may have just published something similar that I missed or I didn’t research the magazine enough and the article doesn’t fit the market. Sometimes an author sees other books that she doesn’t think compare to hers and they got published. One must learn to accept that fact.
Morgen: I have had some rejection-less authors, but not many. Do you enter any non-fiction competitions?
Linda: The publisher entered my books in several non-fiction competitions of which they were aware or that I suggested. The Russell book was named a finalist award in the Western Writer’s of America competition. I entered Grandpa’s Violin in a magazine contest and won first prize.
Morgen: Congratulations. 🙂 You mentioned looking for an agent – do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Linda: No, I am not sure if they are vital to an author’s success. That said, many publishers now will only accept manuscripts from agents so submitting without one gets harder and harder. It may be time for me to find one. However, searching for an agent requires the same procedure as searching for a publisher. Not easy.
Morgen: It isn’t and I think securing an agent is harder, certainly vs smaller publishers. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Linda: I market my books and myself continually in addition to what the publisher does. I contact whatever groups might hire or search for speakers such as book clubs, Rotary, Newcomers. I search for schools that accept author visits. I’ve discovered some school districts do not allow sales and won’t even pay for a visit. Most people think authors get rich. Little do they know that if an author makes $5,000 a year, she is in the top 5% of writers.
Morgen: I’ve heard the average here in the UK is around £6,000, certainly less than the minimum wage given all the hours we put, but we do it for the love of it anyway, don’t we? 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Linda: I suppose rejection is the least favourite part of writing. My favourite aspect is getting a message across. I understand articles reach more people than books. But, I appreciate the fact I’ve published two books and hope to publish more. I was surprised to learn, as the author, it was my responsibility to pay for image use. I expected the publisher to pay.
Morgen: That is surprising. If self-published I’d expect you to. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Linda: If a writer is serious, I suggest she take classes, attend conferences, network, join a good critique group, read, read, read her genre, write, write, write, and keep submitting.
Morgen: All the things I should be doing. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Linda: That is a hard question. I might invite favourite artists such as Russell, Remington, Renoir, Monet, and Michelangelo. Or, writers like Willa Cather, Margaret Mitchell, Gene Stratton-Porter, or those from today like Linda Sue Park and other Newbery winners. Actually, I know a number of popular children’s authors right here in Fort Collins and have dined with them at conferences. Debbie Dadey is a personal friend who returns to Fort Collins occasionally and stays with me. I have no idea what I’d serve as a meal but it would probably be something from my favourite list of menus – beef brisket or porketta (a Slovenian dish), twice-baked potatoes or broccoli soufflé and an ice cream dessert my children / grandchildren love.
Morgen: If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Linda: Besides special family days like holding my newborn children and grandchildren, I probably would choose the day the first book (Cowboy Charlie’s Art) was delivered. Twenty years after attempting to write, I opened the box of books, pulled one out, saw my name on the cover, and immediately began to cry. That day fulfilled my dream to publish a book.
Morgen: Ah, how thrilling. Like a paper baby. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Linda: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Morgen: Every author’s motto. 🙂 You also write fiction – are there any differences or similarities between writing non-fiction and fiction?
Linda: I do write fiction but it is usually based on real events or some research I’ve done. In non-fiction, I have facts I can creatively present, while in fiction, I must generate the creativity. Fiction requires research also, of characters, emotions, places, events, and plot. It isn’t easy.
Morgen: Speaking of plot, do you plot your stories before you start or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Linda: I’ve plotted as well as run with a story. The “run with” stories seem easier to write. I lay them out with chapter titles and they seem to flow.
Morgen: That works for me. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Linda: I pick names from current favourite name lists or names I particularly like from real people or stories / movies. Giving a character real person traits makes him believable. I study character traits of friends and acquaintances, in classrooms, or other venues, then, make a character study so I know how my character would respond to a certain situation and how he / she looks.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Linda: I’ve tried both first and third person. I like either.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Linda: I am a reader, crafter, and golfer. I volunteer as a docent at the Loveland Museum / Gallery. I enjoy decorating my home, especially for Christmas. As a crafter I tole-paint, flower arrange, crochet, sew, and knit. I love Dixieland Jazz music, dancing, and cruising. I glean article ideas from all my extracurricular activities, especially the travelling.
Morgen: ‘tole-paint’ Not heard of that <goes off to Google it> Tole painting is the folk art of decorative painting on tin and wooden utensils, objects and furniture http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tole_painting thank you Wikipedia. I should have known, I have a former neighbour who owns a narrow boat. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Linda: I participate in Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter social media occasionally. I don’t find they increase sales or attendance at book signings. Perhaps it is because social media requires a lot of time to be successful and I don’t give that much time away from writing.
Morgen: Very sensible. I have my proportions all wrong. (Note to self: must try harder!) Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Linda: You can visit my website, www.LindaOsmundson.com.
Morgen: Thank you, Linda.
I then invited Linda to include a synopsis of her book…
My How the West Was Drawn series acts like an interactive one-on-one tour for each artist’s work. Questions require the reader to look and see things in thirteen images for each book that casual viewers miss, like a hidden snake or how many horse’s legs support a sculpture. Tidbits of information follow informing readers about the artist and/or the image. The Introduction includes ways to incorporate the books into classroom curricula as does my website, www.LindaOsmundson.com. Although billed as a children’s book for ages 7-12, readers insist the ages range from 7-107. The image reproductions turn the books into wonderful coffee table books.
Linda Osmundson, originally from Texas, left home to teach in Colorado. She became a stay-at-home mom once she married and the children arrived. Osmundson turned to writing after teaching, volunteering in museums, and searching for a new challenge to fill the empty nest syndrome. She and her husband spent years moving around the west because of her husband’s job transfers. She returned to Colorado in 1996 when he retired. With her husband, she enjoys travel, golf, theatre of all kinds, and dancing to Dixieland Jazz Music on cruises. Osmundson writes articles for over 50 publications of travel, religious, art, parenting, senior, children, and newspapers such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, Arts and Activities, Family Circle, Transitions Abroad, and Religious Teacher’s Journal. Her interactive classroom programs receive rave reviews. Contact her at Linda@LindaOsmundson.com.
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