Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Anita Miller

Anita's cat (seen here tuning a guitar) is currently editing Anita's book.

Welcome everyone, to another Friday Feature interview. Please check out the previous interviews, listed above my blog roll. And, please give a hearty welcome to Anita Miller. I love her blog, which is a mixture of professionalism, quirky fun, and intelligence. And, Anita's comments on other blogs get me laughing every time.

In her own words: Anita Miller is a freelance writer, mother of four and wife of one in Colorado Springs. She writes a book recommendation column for her local paper, and is working on her first middle grade mystery.

Anita, Welcome! What are you currently working on?

I am a freelance writer, and so I'm constantly working on freelance projects. My biggest projects right now are CURRENT, INC. greeting cards and my book recommendation column for the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE. I am also working my booty off on revisions to my middle grade mystery.

What made you start to write seriously?

I have no freaking idea. I've had entire dinner parties at my home that I do not remember, so there's no way I can remember how I started writing. I do know that I've read some really horrible books and thought, "I can do that." Of course there are also books that make me want to stick to writing my signature.

What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication? And--how is that going for you? Has anything surprised you about this stage?

I have one complete manuscript (a cozy mystery) that I shopped to agents and a publisher for about a year. I had a couple of big bites, including with the publisher, but now the book is under the bed. I'm glad it didn't sell. Seriously. And I'm surprised I feel that way. But, really, the book just wasn't what I want to start my career with, you know? Anyway, I should be ready to query my MG by the end of February.

If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

Murphblog, but don't tell him.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

I posted something short once about Medal of Honor Winner Lt. Michael P. Murphy. Murphy won the medal after dying in Afghanistan. He and the three members of his SEAL team were in a battle with about 100 Taliban. Murphy left his position of cover and went right out in the open so he could have reception to make a call for support. While he was being shot, he calmly communicated the team's situation and location. When the communication was complete, he went back to his cover position and continued fighting until succumbing to his wounds. After I wrote the post about Murphy, his dad emailed me. That's why it's my favorite post.

What online resource have you found most helpful?


What has been your biggest trial in writing?

The television. When I finally get my kiddos to bed, I just want to veg in front of the tube. And then I ask myself, "Do you want to be entertained, or be the entertainer?" So maybe it's that question that's really my trial.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

I've never missed a deadline with my freelance work, so with the fiction writing, I give myself a deadline.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

I admire books with great voice...DENNIS LEHANE, BARBARA PARKS, CORMAC MCCARTHY, JANET EVANOVICH (a strange assortment of authors) all have great voice. But the really horrible books are the ones which have had the most impact on my writing; they convince me I can get published. Yay, you stinky books!

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

I love reading and writing so much. I want to be published, so that I can have more cred and be able to offer classes, workshops, etc., about reading and writing.

So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

Hmmm. I like pay checks. Also, I like interviewing authors. I've interviewed JOHN GREEN, DAVID BALDACCI, JODI PICOULT, HARLAN COBEN, JANET EVANOVICH and a bunch of others. With my fiction writing, I love seeing how practice (actually sitting there and typing away) improves my writing. I'm getting better and that's very cool.

If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

Have you ever read ARE YOU MY MOTHER? The mother bird feels her egg cracking and she LEAVES the nest. Then the poor baby hatches and can't find his mother. What's up with that? I'd like to be the mother bird in the book and stay in the freakin nest. Also, SCOUT and HARRY POTTER.

What are the other distractions in your life?

Husband, kiddos, food, want of sleep, blogs and television. Also, I love long walks. Hard to write when you're walking.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

I start and end my days with tea. In the middle, I drink coffee. We sleep very few hours in our house. We will spend twice as many waking hours on this earth as the average person, and we will drink three times as many caffeinated beverages.

Anita, Thanks so much for the fantastic interview. I'm still laughing about "stinky" books, and staying "in the freakin nest". It's that kind of honesty that I find so appealing about your blog and comments! Everyone, please make Anita feel at home, and leave a question in the comments, Anita will stop by to answer them. And, make sure to stop by her blog on the way out!


  1. Anita, you lived up to my expectations!

    "Do you want to be entertained, or be the entertainer?" Multiple personality disorder, best of both worlds.

    You still haven't produced the JG interview, I'm tempted to email his end and ask.

    Long walks help me write I mentally draft, and floss, as I go along. Of course, I forget most of it by the time I get back home.

    ARE YOU MY MOTHER has stuck with me my whole life too, I think it's awesome that you'd choose to be the mother and prevent the rest of the story from happening, you do this with your own writing or do you make your characters go through the whole rigmarole? Well, you did choose HP and he...and Didn't want to spoil that for those that have been to lazy to pick up the books.

    Have you considered, once in your success, offering online writing workshops?

    Okay, so if you somehow manage to answer in the less than the agreed upon 14 words, I'll be wildly impressed and mildly annoyed.

  2. Gross, TOO* I am so sorry Mrs. Miller.

  3. Let's get this party started! Oh, Jon already did. Anita-- how many projects do you end up working on at once, and how strict are you with your fiction writing deadlines? And--favorite TV shows?

    Thanks for doing the interview. Love the answers.

  4. Hey Jon! Thanks for starting us off with some great questions. Can't wait to hear the answers.

  5. JONATHON: The problem with ARE YOU MY MOTHER is that it's not believable...I never left my children as they were being born, I assure you. BTW, did you ever read the post where I describe the birth of Middle Daughter? It was a PAINLESS birth (believe me, mothers, I've had three other kids so I know a painless birth does not seem possible, but it is)...anyway, firefighter delivered the little nipper in my bedroom. It was quite beautiful. So, yes, I make my characters go through the whole "rigmorole," as long as it's believable.

    I don't think I'd do online workshops.

    I will find the John Green interview!

    HEATHER: I'm pretty strict with fiction writing and all other's just the way I roll.

    I'm into reality shows...SURVIVOR, AMERICAN IDOL. I used to watch THE BACHELOR, but the dudes have gotten way too wimpy (again, believability...I mean, who would fight for those guys??? Even with their perfectly cut biceps, I still have the impression I can beat them up).

  6. Fab interview as I knew it would be! Love the "Are you my Mother?" comment. Though unfortunately as a teacher I've seen parents that aren't there for their child, and I want to shake them (the parent, not the child. I want to hug the child).
    I would love to hear more about the contributions to Current, Anita!

  7. Anita--do you temp out your cat? I could use some extra paws on my revision. Survivor and the Amazing Race are big at my house.

    How is the querying process treating you?

  8. "Do you want to be entertained, or be the entertainer?"

    I love that question! Next time I'm feeling lazy, I'll use that to chide myself to get away from the television and start writing!

  9. KELLY: Current has a bunch of social expression lines (paper, wrapping, etc.), including greeting cards. Several years ago, I started writing greeting cards for them on a freelance basis (I honestly can't remember how that started) and every couple years, I go in and consult with them about their line. I used to write in-house for Marcel Schurman (a hoity-toity line of cards) and freelance for Portal. My friend Wendy Burt-Thomas is a great go-to sorce about freelance writing. I think she has blog...maybe it's called Ask Wendy???

    HEATHER: I asked Ozzy and he said he's too busy, what with his sleeping and driving us crazy cycle. Yesterday evening he escaped into this wilderness area near our home. We were all crying and he wouldn't come out of the "coyote/fox/snake-filled swamp" and all the kids were calling Husband on the phone as Husband's parking an airplane and finally Husband comes in our front door, walks through the house, goes out the back door and comes in just two minutes later with a repentant cat.

    Querying takes soooo long. I understand why, but it still stinks. I have a full out to an agency I love, but it could take months before I find out anything.

    ANNA: Sometimes I choose "be entertained."

  10. To be an entertainer, one must be entertained first and see how it works. Just like JG said in the fantastically awesome and life-changingly profound comment you just posted on my blog: to be a writer you have to be a read, but not just any reader, read between the lines, read all of the lines, and read them all over again until you get them and why they are there. Did that make any sense? Did to me.

    Seriously thanks for doing that, forgive the pestering, please, because you're awesome.

  11. Oh what an entertaining interview. I enjoyed it thoroughly (interview sometimes can be a humdrum). Great questions set for great answers. Congratulations to you both.

  12. JONATHON: Glad you found the GREEN interview. I wasn't sure you'd notice it. It was no problem finidng it...I should've looked earlier.

    OCEAN GIRL: Youngest Daughter was studying superlatives the other day and I thought of you!

  13. Ocean Girl--thanks! I actually feel as though my questions are a bit humdrum--that the awesome interviewees are the ones who spice it up around here! I like the questions to be a bit open ended, so people can go off on whatever tangent that they want.

  14. It's amazing when we are on our 3rd or 4th manuscript and look back at our first that we were sure was the one - and think - THANK GOD!

    Great interview. It was fun to learn a little bit more about the person behind the blog. And this Friday, I actually have power. Yay!

    Do you find it hard to balance free lance work and fiction writing?

    Do you love the waiting for responses from queries or do you dread it?

  15. What a great interview! I always love Anita's replies to my blog. Good luck with that MG story, Anita!

  16. LAURA: Ah, balance. Balancing is difficult mostly concerning family...I wake up very early to write the column, because once the kids are awake, forget about it. Fiction writing takes a back seat to everything but cleaning.

    When I have queries out, I check my email a lot more. I love the few minutes after I send a query, and then I'm sort of mixed emotionally afterward.

    RENA: Thank you!!!

  17. Hooray! What a great interview, Anita. I can't wait to know more (and someday pull off a shelf) your middle grade novel. Okay, that was a really clunky sentence. but you get what I'm saying. And, I really relate to knowing that a novel is good but not the one you want to lead with. I had a very similar experience. I might put that novel out there someday..maybe. But, it wasn't right for number 1 so I'm glad it got close (to give me encouragement) but eventually fell through (to make me keep writing the next one).

  18. Great interview, you guys. Anita, I just read your comment about the joy after sending a query, then mixed feelings. I so relate to that. Querying is an emotional roller-coaster. Good luck querying your middle grade.

  19. Anita and Heather. Great interview!!

    I really enjoyed learning a little more about Anita. Your Michael P. Murphy story was intense. What an amazing person he was.

    Good luck with the querying! I hope you get an offer soon.

  20. Wow! If your "voice" in your novels is anything like what came through here - you're going to strike gold my friend. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview! Best of luck!

  21. MG: I just want something about the process to be easy and quick. Actually, I want someone to tell me that the story kept them up all night and that they have ideas of five editors who'll bid on it at auction, fer sure. I want a kid to drag her mom to the store to buy the book and then, when the kid's done with it (she loves it, of course), the book will be lying in the van and the mom will see it while she's waiting to pick up the kid at karate, and the mom will read it and she'll love it, too.

  22. PAUL: I love Lt. Murphy. His family got a book written about him. It comes out in May. It was weird, because I couldn't figure out why I hadn't been following the story as it was happening (back in 2005), because the SEAL team was missing for days. Then I realized it was during the time of my son's birth. And that just tore me up. I would love to raise my son to have as much courage and faith as Lt. Murphy.

    LISA: Thank you! If the book is ever published, you will receive at least 50 emails with info on where to buy it. :)

  23. PAUL: I've also heard from the father of Matthew Axelson, another SEAL who was killed that day. I've done a lot of reading about him...very cool dude. LONE SURVIVOR is one of my favorite books ever, because it's a story I carry in my heart every day, has made me a better person.

  24. TESS: Thank you!! I love your ()s.

  25. I love how your interview was so simple, but said so much, you did a great job, just as Heather has done with you! You're my own personal JG. I think I've said that to one other person, so you can be my Maureen Johnson 'The Real John Green'.

  26. Oh, the 1st interview I was referring to was your int of JG.

  27. JONATHON: There are lots of things I like about GREEN, but my favorite is the fact that he's paving the way...he's really shown publishers that there is a niche of folks they can't avoid. Dude is breaking some barriers, I think. Smart older kids like books.

  28. Anita, yay! Your voice is so familiar up there. I agree with Lisa. It is going to take you far. And when you are legit and you are teaching classes will you give me a special blogger friend discount so I can come learn from you?

  29. TINA: We might as well dream big...I will have an all-expenses paid spot for you at the Anita Miller Writing Spa...we will spend a week eating, hiking through beautiful (remarkably flat) mountain areas, and talking about our writing pursuits. It will be heavenly.

  30. I'd like to reserve my spot at the Anita Miller Writing Spa now. How long can I stay?

  31. HEATHER & JONATHON: One week long, date TBD.

  32. I'm there in Colorado with you all, too! I mean, seriously, wouldn't that be an awesome week!
    Hurray on your full, Anita! I hope you get some positive news soon! For some reason I thought agents would respond more quickly (compared to when I was in the slush pile at publishing houses), but the waiting is hard!

  33. KELLY: It would be great! Even if I never get published, we should totally get together!

  34. Damn. I'm late to the party. Nice job on the interview, you two. I have a question for Anita: Could you please name the crappy books that have inspired you? I want to see if I also think they're crappy.

  35. Paul--I don't know if you've been keeping track, but Murphblog gets quite a bit of love from my friday features!

  36. PMM: I'll put together a list an email it to you. I am a coward.

    HEATHER: I asked you not to tell him! :)

  37. Oh, I'm so jealous of anyone that has their own book review column in an actual newspaper! Color me impressed. Great interview ladies.

  38. LISA & LAURA: The column is pretty awesome...I love books!!!

  39. Fun interview! I just stopped by her great blog, too. It *is* hilarious. Thanks for the link.

  40. Lori--You're welcome. I love connecting people to awesome things!