Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Matthew MacNish

Welcome to another round of Friday interviews! I've been off my game for a while--life got busy, and it was all I could manage to keep writing. But these interviews are my favorite type of blogging.

So, I'm back, and here with a fantastic writer. I can't remember when I first came across Matthew, but I do remember my first impression. I was encouraged by how honest he was, and how willing he was to share his past mistakes to help other writers. And I find that still to be the case. 

He has an amazing community over at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment, and if you haven't been over yet, then GO. :) Join in. Follow. It's fun! Among other things, Matthew helps dissect query letters on his blog. For example--here's the post where he and Elana (queen of queries) focus on Elana's POSSESSION query.

Matthew--Thanks so much for being here today! I appreciate you kicking off another round of interviews. Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself.   

Thanks for having me, Heather. I'm the father of two beautiful young ladies, three lazy cats and one adorable German Shepard. Together we live in the mountains of north Georgia amidst my endless collection of vinyl records, Star Wars memorabilia, and special edition Lord of the Rings maps, DVDs, and books.

Cats and dogs. I hope they all get along. What has your writing journey been like? What made you start writing seriously? What kind of supports keep you going?

Well in many ways it has been hard. I used to write a lot when I was young, but I stopped for over a decade in my twenties when … life got in the way. Then I started up again a few years ago when I decided to write a novel. I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t know a single person in my life who was a writer. That’s what made it hard. I wrote a first draft that was about 4 times to long (word count) then barely revised it and started trying to query. I obviously had very little luck, though did get few words of encouragement, and eventually nearly gave up.

Then I discovered Nathan Bransford’s blog, and forums, saw the movie Julie and Julia, and decided to start a blog. The rest is history.
I love Nathan's community. And that you are willing to share your early mistakes with others. In your writing life, what has surprised you so far?

The biggest surprise for me has been how helpful other writers are. I am especially amazed by all the support I get from published authors. I can’t imagine how they find the time.

I agree--I have found the kidlit world to be amazing. Matthew--what has been your most important writing resource?

Well as I already mentioned, Nathan’s blog and the people I met in the forums were the catalyst, especially my mentor Bryan Russell, but I think the biggest thing that has made a difference in my own writing has been critiquing other people’s work. Mostly I do queries, but I have helped with some novels and short fiction too, and nothing improves your writing more than giving a critical eye to someone else’s. 

Honestly, I feel the same way. I've learned the most from being a critter. So, how do you do social media? Blog? Twitter? Facebook? Tumblr? Something else? What has been your purpose, and how have you driven toward that purpose?

Well my blog is obviously the biggest outlet I have for connecting with people, especially writers. I do use Facebook a lot, Twitter somewhat less, and I don’t do Tumblr. I’m still figuring out how to rock Twitter, so I don’t have time for another time-suck yet.

What kind of writing schedule do you keep? What does a balanced life look like for you?

None. I know this is bad but I don’t have the time to write every single day. I usually manage to write every weekday, or at least revise/re-write, but I don’t often write on weekends unless the inspiration really strikes. I’m a dad of two daughters, and mom works nights and weekends, so my S days are often rather filled.

I hope writing every day is overrated. LOL. What advice do you have for other writers out there?

Just write, and read everything you can get your hands on.

Awesome. What are your biggest distractions?

Besides my family? And blogging? And reading? And my day job? After those I guess it would be video games and movies.

Do you prefer coffee or tea? Or something else…?

I only drink one cup of coffee a day, first thing when I get to work. I only drink tea if I’m sick, and then with lemon and locally produced honey. My preference for writing (when I do it at home) or just relaxing is a medium beer like Yuengling Lager, or Hot Sake.

Hot Sake, hmm. I'd like to see the writing that produces! Thank you so much, for the awesome interview.

Everyone, please leave a question or comment for Matthew, and he'll be by to answer. 

And don't forget to head over to his blog, join in his community, and follow him on twitter (@MatthewMacNish). 


  1. I have a question. First, I think that you had a picture with your daughter and have 2 daughters make you very likeable. I don't know why. It just does. Esp. in a blogger world of writing females.

    What's your favorite way to spend time with your daughters?

  2. So glad you interviewed Matt. I love his blog.

    Matt, I'm glad I'm not alone in starting out with a way too long manuscript. I had to learn the hard way too that it needed cutting. I write like you too--when I can.

    I'm amazed that you only drink one cup of coffee a day. Not me. Good luck with your writing.

  3. Interesting point, Laura! Thanks for asking. I DO have two daughters. That little guy in the photo above is my nephew. He's pretty much the only masculinity in my life. Except for me, and one of our cats.

    My older daughter is Kylie, and she's a writer too. Mostly she writes fan fiction, but she also reviews books, and has been featured on blogs like Lisa and Laura Write, Elana Johnson YA Author, and ... shoot. I forgot the exact name but it's Lisa Desrocher's blog. You can find her reviews on my blog, under the Kylie's reviews page.

    Madison is almost 10. She loves to read and sing and dance. She will be doing a book review for Shannon Whitney Messenger sometime soon.

    Yes, I exploit my children for blog traffic, but they really enjoy it.

    We love to do all sorts of things together. I love to make them go hiking, and they do tolerate me, but I'm pretty sure their love of the mountains and the woods is slightly less than mine. We love to watch episode after episode of The Office together. It's all over NetFlix so we can kill whole days just doing that.

    Other than that we just like to be together. With technology the way it is today the three of us can be in the same room for hours, each doing their own thing.

  4. Great interview! I absolutely agree about learning from critiquing other people's work. Matthew, can you tell us a little about the kind of writing you do?

  5. BTW if you don't already know Bryan Russell (my mentor and the moderator of Nathan's forums) you'll have to make sure to search for him with two Ls at the end of his last name. I can't believe I spelled it wrong in the interview, sorry Heather (and Bryan)!

  6. Oh, how I adore this man. Julia and

  7. Certainly Anna. The novel I'm writing is a YA book that I like to call YA Rural Fantasy (which is a play on Urban Fantasy). Technically it's kind of magical realism, but the genre is a little hard to nail down.

    I also write a lot short fiction. Two of my flash fiction pieces were published in the Static Movement anthology Literary Foray last year, but you can also see some of my creative writing short pieces linked to on my blog:

  8. Matthew--Thanks again for being here! I added an 'L' to Bryan's last name in the post. Let me know if that's correct.

    I'm impressed with the energy you bring to blogging and forming community on-line. I'd love to know if your (novel) writing habits changed when you began blogging.

  9. Oh absolutely Heather. I've learned a lot more about writing since I started blogging than I ever imagined existed, but mostly I've learned to just be honest with myself, and keep a thick skin.

    When I started out I thought everything I wrote was brilliant. I've since learned it takes a lot of work, and a willingness to really scrutinize your own work, to make your writing the best it can be. You have to be ready to separate the wheat from the chaff, even if it means cutting some of your most treasured passages.

    Everything has to serve the story, not your ego, not your pride, not your writing. If that makes sense.

  10. You only drink one cup of coffee a day??? You totally kick my butt on that one. It's great getting to know you better, Matt. I could hear your voice in this piece. I wish I had something comical or poignant to add, but the freaking bull frogs kept us up all night serenading us. My eyes are droopy. :)

  11. Great interview!

    So true, writers are super helpful -- Matthew being one of them! His blog is brilliant.

  12. Hello Heather Kelly, hello Matthew MacNish/Rush/Yoda/QEE!!

    Yay for this fab interview!! It's great to know more of this very helpful man with the many surnames! LOL!!

    Take care

  13. How did you ever survive playing D&D without the awesomeness that is a 30-sided die?

  14. I'll be back to read and comment! I promise.

  15. Matt's blog is terrific and his query critique posts are great. Not only are his critiques spot on but the writers in the comment section (both published and unpublished) give valuable feedback as well. He's also a talented writer and a short fiction piece was recently featured on Bryan's blog.

    I really struggle with finding the time to write with family, work, and house responsibilities. I love to blog but admit that it's suffering because something's got to give. How have you built such a great blog while juggling life and your writing?

  16. Matt, now I know where you get your powers. Hot sake!

    You are truly an amazing, helpful, community-building dude.

  17. Guys! So sorry, I got pulled away from my desk this morning, to train a new hire here at work, so I won't be able to come back and comment as much as I would like, but keep the questions coming, I will definitely check back when I get home, around 3:30 EDT.

    And Bryan, we had d20, and even a d100, but we never needed to use the huge one.

  18. Ha...a man who loves Julie & Julia! Now another reason to like you. Great interview.

  19. Yay, I love Matt's blog! Thanks for interviewing him.

    And Matt, I have no idea how you juggle everything, even though you told us. I have a hard time and I don't have children. Also, I couldn't agree more - I've learned THE MOST critting someone else's work. It's also forced an edit just shy of a re-write...

  20. Great interview, Heather and Matt!

    Matt is spot-on about the amount of help and advice out there. I am relatively new to the blogosphere, but that was the first thing that really impressed me.

    This, of course, is just another example. Thanks for all you do, Matt. Really.

    And Heather, consider me a follower. (once Blogger gets its act together.)

  21. Fun interview, you two!
    You mentioned Twitter, and I think you are rocking the Twitter with your hashtag games that you and Simon do!
    And totally agreed on the wonderful support of the kidlit world. Awesome!

  22. Okay. Just stopping back on my lunch break here.

    @Suzie F. - to be perfectly honest I am extremely lucky that my day job allows me to write and blog in between my duties. What I do is a little hard to explain but I have enough down time (most days, not today) that I am able to write, blog, read blogs, and even get a little critiquing in. If that was not the case I don't know how I would do it. Time at home is spent cooking, taxiing children around, walking the dog, repairing our home, or reading. I don't clean and I rarely write at home.

    @Em-musing - the Julie and Julia thing is funny. My aunt is even in that movie, she plays the third writer they kick out of the book deal. But she's really mean and we don't like her. LOL.

    @Barbara - Totally agree. Critiquing is the best teacher.

    @Bryce - being new doesn't mean you can't be awesome.

    @Kelly - thanks! We'll need to come up with a funny new one this weekend.

  23. Matt really made a big difference for me in the blogosphere. I was just a blogging writer, but he helped make it all much more interactive, and I've met so many more writers because of him. Matt's one of the great guys of the blogging world.

  24. Nice to meet you, Matt. I'm glad Heather interviewed you. I'll follow you on Twitter and check out your blog and that link for writing queries. That's something I need to work on.

    I agree that we learn by critiquing. Listening to others in my critique group over the years and adding my own input for their work has taught me so much.

    I think it's cool that your daughters are writing reviews and make appearances on your blog. That's wonderful. Sounds like you're doing a great job of balancing it all.

  25. Nice to read a bit more about Mathew. Definitely one of the blogs I go back to consistently. :)

  26. Matt's got a great blog. This was a great interview. Thanks Matthew for sharing your journey with us!

  27. The support of other writers online has been a big help to me. And we share the same distractions, Matthew. Think you knew that, though.

  28. Wait, let me clarify - the games and movies part.

  29. Yes, Alex and I enjoy many of the same things. Now if only we can get rich we can enjoy traveling to the same places!

  30. (((hugs Matt))). I also like Yuengling and didnt realize you lived in the mountains. But ONE cup of coffee (as if...)!!!!

    Hi Heather!!!

  31. Technically I'm 25 miles south or so of the Smokies, Christina, but I can see them from my house, and I'm from Seattle originally, so I love to pretend I'm in the mountains.

  32. Thanks for this look at my favorite Hot Sake.

    And speaking of "Julie and Julia," here's a quote from Julia Child: "Sooner or later the public will forget you, the memory of you will fade. What's important are the individuals you've influenced along the way."

    And Matt's a pro at that.

  33. Just stopping by to say hi, Matt! Awesome interview :) My hubby is from Pennsylvania (where they brew Yuengling), so he loves the same beer as you!

  34. Another interview that proves what I have already known for a while now: Matthew is a literary rock star in the making, and already a friendship rock star!

  35. Great interview! It's nice to hear about someone else who barely has time :-) Yay for Yuengling!

  36. Nice interview!And is that the cutest picture or what??


  37. Great interview Matt (love the picture, lol!). And nice to meet you Heather!

  38. Matthew, I love how you describe what you live with. There's something special about Lord of the Rings memorabilia, pets, and of course, sweet daughters.

    And I am so with you on learning from critiquing and on how supportive writers are to each other. I'm constantly awed at the writing community!

  39. I was intrigued by your title - "Edited within an inch of my life".

    I also wrote a too long novel - over 30 years ago! In spite of its length, it won a National Writers Club prize, plus quite a few favorable comments -- none of which were sufficient to interest publishers in an overlong novel by an unknown writer. (Those were the days when self-publishing was frowned upon as a vanity solution.)

    So I joined a critique group, listened to all the suggestions, and tried to employ them without veering too far away from my novel's intent. Well, the result was I edited the life out of my story. . . and eventually lost the incentive to drag it out again and start all over, IN MY OWN VOICE.

    It's wonderful to have so many other writers interested in your work, but it can be disastrous to take their suggestions TOO seriously.

  40. Such a great interview! So great to learn more about Matt! What a great journey thus far. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the publishing industry.

    Heather, you do the best interviews!

  41. *waving* Thanks, everyone for stopping by and leaving a big hello for Matt!

    Anonymous--I agree--you have to be careful what you do with feedback.
    I think it was Gaiman who said, "when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."
    Luckily, my blog title has been humorous so far. But I am in danger as is any writer, in editing the pizzazz out of it!

    Carol--I feel like I have the best interviewees!!