Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Marisa Hopkins

Welcome to another fantastic Friday feature.  Today, Marisa, (aka Elegant Bloggery) has been kind enough to hang out with us, and answer my probing questions. (And yours, too!) You may not recognize Marisa (pronounced Mareesa) without her yellow jersey.  Yes--she's the ultimate front writer in the ultimate competitive writing contest, the Tour de Writing. Here are the current standings (I posted them late yesterday) in case you missed them.  Let's give Marisa a round of applause (or at least a virtual fist bump) for her writing stick-to-a-tive-ness.  

Marisa has a beautiful blog which showcases her artwork (and beautiful girls).  While you're there, make sure to check out her fun and well executed short story--it's awesome. I've always been very impressed by Marisa's poise, grace, humor and creativity, and now I'm impressed by her writing ability. She's the total package!  Marisa and I are going to chat a bit here, and then we'll continue in the comments, so make sure to leave her a question or a comment.  I'm excited to find out more about Marisa's writing journey.  So, here we go!

Welcome Marisa--thanks for doing this interview.  Why don't you start by telling us a bit about yourself.

Hi, and thanks Heather!  I'm Marisa, a displaced California girl living in West Texas and pining for the ocean. You'll usually find me at home, finger-painting with my two preschool-aged daughters, blogging about anything and everything that pops into my head, running Elegant Snobbery, my illustration business on, or hacking away at the thing I call my book.

Marisa--you sound extremely busy--what are you currently working on?

My current project is a YA urban fantasy retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale. I've been a fairy tale junkie my entire life and it is so much fun to take a tale I have always known and loved and turn it into something recognizable yet entirely my own.

I love retellings. Marisa--what made you start to write seriously?

I was about nine years old when I started writing "seriously." Every day after school I used to run home and scribble stories in my notebooks or pound them out on our first computer - black screen, green text. I couldn't get enough of it. I still have files full of stories going back to 5th and 6th grade. They are completely awful, but so much fun to go back and read. Once I discovered my love for writing, it never went away, and I've been writing steadily ever since. 

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 am currently writing the very. last. chapter. of the first draft of the book I have devoted the last 9 months of my life to. I feel like I'm about to give birth. It will be such a relief when I am done with this draft and can begin the next stage of my writing life with my newborn book: Revising!

Wow, you're in the homestretch! I know you've gotten a lot out of the online community. If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

Does The Practice Room, hosted by the fantabulous Tina Laurel Lee count? Because if so, then THAT one without question. And if I have to choose one in which a person actually writes something readable, rather than post writing goals for an hour and then reconvening to chat - only 30% of it even about writing - then I'll have to go with The World According to Maggie Stiefvater, because she's one of my favorite writers, is hilariously funny, is a brilliant colored pencil artist, and shares her writing life along with a whole lot of great music on her blog.

The Practice Room always counts.  I love Maggie's blog as well. What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

My blog was started as a place to share my life as an at-home-artist with two high-energy bundles of adorableness (aka, my kids who drive me insane, regularly), so while I rarely write about my life as a writer, I have a lot of posts about my life as an artist. My muse is the same sneaky little she-devil across all my creative mediums... and this post, My Muse Hates Me, shows our relationship well.

Marisa, what online resource have you found most helpful?

Angela's The Bookshelf Muse is pretty darned awesome.I always forget to add in setting details while writing, and when I go back to add them in, I love having The Bookshelf Muse whispering little reminders of what certain places look, smell, and sound like. Actually, I think Angela is a much more supportive muse than my own muse. Angela, can I adopt you, please?

LOL.  What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Writing has always been my passion, but when it comes to appreciating my writing, I fall short. Self-confidence as a writer is something I'm working on. Only recently did I begin to share it with anyone, beta readers and critique partners, and its hard to do. I have such a huge urge to stand behind them while they're reading, breathing down their necks, and pointing out every single sentence I've written, telling them how much even I think it sucks. That's the reason I've been writing steadily for the last 20+ years, and have never queried an agent or attempted to be published anywhere. Sad, but I know now that it's time for me to put on my big girl pants and suck up some courage if I really want this dream of being a published writer to happen. 

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

When I don't feel up to writing, I cross my fingers and hope to find something I can at least revise. But if there isn't, then I always pull out my notebook and try hand-writing my scenes or snips of dialogue for awhile. I find that my notebooks are always filled with the best parts of my book.  Ideas and words seem to flow out of my head better when I'm hand-writing. 

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

Two books. The first - How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore, because it's a quick, entertaining read that always makes me want to write, write, write and never stop. The second - Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within, which is a great reminder that sometimes we only get 15 minutes a day - and we have to take them were we can get them and use every minute as best we can if this is what we're serious about.

Other than winning the Tour de Writing, :) what is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

My practical goal would be to get better and better the more I write. Only then will I hit my reach-for-the-stars goal of being a published author. And maybe one day reach my ultimate dream of being a career author. 

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

Until a few months ago, I've always been a solitary writer, without any writing friends or support group other than my non-writer friends and family saying, "You go girl! Write that book of yours because I want to read it!" Of course, I'm always grateful, and love the encouragement I get, but sitting alone at my computer with only the voices in my head keeping me company is a lonely life. Once I discovered the awesome community of writing bloggers this past January, my world opened up and it has been amazing. Especially once the fantabulous Tina Laurel Lee opened up The Practice Room, where writers root each other on, all writing together and chatting about our experiences. I'm amazed by the friendships I've made in only a few months. And though my writer friends and I are still on opposite sides of the computer screen, I never feel like a solitary writer anymore. I always have friends typing along with me, sharing my same goals and dreams. It's VERY motivating!

I love that! Marisa, if you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like?

If I could write anywhere, I would choose a library. Tables tucked into quiet corners with nothing but books, books and more books all around... Swoon! The library has always been my favorite place and is definitely my ideal writing spot. 

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

Sign me up for Hermione Granger, please! I wanna go to Hogwarts and be BFFs with Harry and Ron!

What other distractions are in your life?

My life seems to be nothing but distractions... my kids, ages 3 and 5, are amazing when it comes to giving me time to "work," but sometimes fetching endless cups of juice, breaking up cat-fights over who had which Barbie first, and dealing with the joy of potty-training keeps me from making much progress on my book. 

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

Coffee. Pots and pots of coffee.

Marisa--thanks so much for the insight into your writing life!  And for being here today!  Everyone make sure to leave Marisa a great comment or question--she'll be stopping by to answer them.  


  1. Marisa, thanks again for the great interview! I'm wondering about your process--are you a pantser or a plotter?

  2. Thanks Heather and Marisa for this interview. I loved the part about never feeling like a solitary writer anymore. I've had the same experience since meeting my writing partner Marissa and starting our blog. It's incredible and energizing to realize how much support and encouragement is out there online.

    Have a great weekend,


  3. Yay. The Practice Room is so lucky to have you. That place is only as good as the folks who show up and let me tell you, we are all grateful you show up!!!!

    I can't wait to see what kind of parent you are to that newborn. You have been such an inspiration as a drafter that I can only imagine what kind of reviser you will be. Go last chapter!!!

    I know so much about your process from TPR I find I don't have a lot of questions for you. Except I guess about revision, what do you think it will be like. Will it change your schedule? Will you be able to work on two projects at once??

    Yay, you two. Thanks, as always, H!!!

  4. Congrats on being almost finished! It's been great getting to know you. I hope to rejoin the practice room in September!

  5. Oh YAY! Thanks for having me here, Heather!! Had a great time with the interview!

    And lets see - Pantser or plotter. I'll have to say PLOTTER. But with a fair share of pantsing thrown in. I always have a loose outline and know what direction I need to go with my story... but love happy surprises along the way. However, if I stray from my outline, I always find I end up with thousands and thousands of deleted words, scenes, chapters... always have to keep my outline in mind as I write!

  6. Martina - thanks so much for reading :) Glad you have a motivating and encouraging writing partner!!

    Tina - Thanks you!! Couldn't have gotten so far with my book without you and your TPR brilliance and encouragement!!

    As for my newborn and how I'll revise... whooo boy, I don't know. It seems like I write new words best in the morning, but when it comes to revising, I usually have to wait until my kids are in bed, so my schedule will probably change. However, I'm really eager to begin my next book, so I'm sure I'll revise and start a new project at the same time.

  7. Laura - Thank you very much! Great getting to know you, too! Hope to see more of you in TPR!

  8. Marisa - Do you realize that your first child and our child together will be very close in age? Does this frighten you or is it more of a challenge?

  9. Great interview. It sounds like you are really coming into your own and taking all the right steps to reach success, so huge kudos. You have a great attitude and I have no doubt you'll make it.

    Thanks for the kind words about the Bookshelf Muse. It always makes me feel good when I hear that my blog is helping other writers on their journey. It's all I could ever ask for.

    All the best,

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  10. Great interview Marissa & Heather. I too suffer from lack of confidence. If you find the solution, please let me know. I'm impressed you jumped into blogging. Good luck with your manuscipt.

  11. Great Interview! I am always amazed at people who write consistently from childhood onward. Good luck with your manuscript!! Happy writing!!

  12. Just stopping by to give Marisa some love. Not that she needs it :) Loved the interview and of course, I can't wait to see her first novel move to the next level. I have my red pen ready for it :P

  13. Great interview! Marisa, I hear you about going back to your notebook when you're feeling really stuck. I only do that when I'm absolutely stumped, but it sure does help!

  14. Marisa, It's so nice to meet you (so to speak) since we've been running into each other at The Practice Room!

    I can really relate to what you said about being a solitary writer until recently. This really is a fabulous community of writers!

    Thanks for the interview!

  15. Fabulous interview with the fabulous Marisa!
    I'll have to check out those books you recommended!!

  16. Angela - My muse! Thank you for your super sweet words!

    Natalie - Haha, I'll be sure to let you know... but I'm not getting closer to the solution myself :)

    Paul - Thanks so much!! :D

    Alyssa - Love you back! And look forward to that red pen!

    Anna - Thanks! :) gotta have that notebook!

    Dianne - Nice to see you outside TPR! And yes, it really is a fab community!!

  17. Oh Jon! How did I miss your comment? I don't know.

    But my answer - No sirree, it does not frighten me. I'm used to have two babies close in age, and they usually play nicely together. :) I think our babies will benefit from being close in age. Especially as the father of one is a brilliant writer such as YOU!


  18. Marisa,
    Yours IS a beautiful blog, the kind that makes me want to take mine down and start over.:) Not fishing for sympathy there, but rather trying to say that I appreciate seeing how other bloggers design theirs, what they choose to write about, etc. Yours is really well done. Enjoyed the short story, too.

    Best wishes on the birth of that manuscript!

  19. Great interview Kelly, and Marisa, your re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty tale sounds interesting; I love re-tellings of Fairy Tales. I suppose you've read Spindle's End and Snow White and Rose Red. These are two of my favorite re-tellings. And congrats on finishing your first :)

  20. Marisa - I really enjoyed this interview. I especially appreciated the books and links you suggested. It's always nice to see what's working for someone else.

    The most amazing part of these interviews is how many of us have kids and are trying to write or query. The kids really up the game don't they? Overall, I think the kids make us better writers though.

    Keep up the good work. And Heather, keep up the great interviews. Very inspirational.

  21. Heather, I'm so glad you do these posts. It makes me feel like I'm not a total nut, trying to balance writing with life (or at least if I am, there's a whole can's worth of nuts here with me). I always want people to succeed when I read these posts, and this one is no differnt. Best of luck to Marisa!

  22. Lori - Wow, awesome compliment! Thank you so much!!

    MsHatch - I haven't heard of Spindles End... will definitely add that to my books to read list! Thanks!

    Patricia - Yes, kids make it tougher, but we definitely have a better appreciation for those rare moments of free time!! Thanks so much for your comment!

    Anita - Yes, so nice to know that there are other people balancing it all, too. We'll all be nuts together ;)

  23. Great interview, Marisa. And I'm so totally with you about Hermione. Ron. ::swoon::