Monday, February 13, 2017

Meet Pikes Peak Writers Member Shannon Lawrence

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Horrors! It is one of Shannon Lawrence’s favorite words. She has been writing horror for a long time and has a lot of fun with it. She also dabbles in fantasy and elsewhere. Shannon is a short story expert, and has two novels in the editing phase. There is a third novel in the works about killer squirrels. A horror comedy. As a short story author, she is constantly juggling rejections, acceptances, resubmissions, and releases. She shares some of her tools of the trade with us.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  Do you set daily, weekly, or monthly writing goals? If yes, what are they? What do you do to insure you meet these goals?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: I don't, because I've found I'm naturally a sprinter. I can go days without writing, then knock out a ton of progress in one day or a succession of days. Forcing it just stresses me out and lowers the quality of what I'm trying to write. I used to have some guilt over this, feeling like a failure, but I've finally realized I'm getting things done my way, and that's okay.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  If you have a completed manuscript/story/poem/flash have you submitted it yet? What have the results been? How do you get past the "No's"? What do your reject letters say? What best advice, or lessons learned, have you gotten from them?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: I'm not currently submitting any novels, but I have a bunch of short story submissions out right now. My goal is to have twenty out at one time, but, of course, I'd rather they get placed. I get more rejections than acceptances, but that's the world of short stories. I keep track of them on a spreadsheet and keep every rejection I get. The more I submit, the easier "no" gets, unless it's a publication I really wanted into or thought I had a good chance of getting into. Rejection letters are usually form letters due to the sheer number of rejections, but one thing I've collectively learned from rejections is not to hold back in your submissions. And if you have a strong opening, make sure the rest of the story follows.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  What does success mean to you?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: Success is always morphing for me. I kept saying "When I'm a multi-published author, I'll…" until a friend corrected and me and said, "You realize you ARE a multi-published author, right?" Originally, success to me was getting a novel published, and nothing else counted. But every step of the way is a success. I keep mini-goals along the way, such as having twenty stories on submission at once, getting a story into one of Ellen Datlow's anthologies, and more. Each one of these mini-goals met means another success. However, I would also like to be a published novelist, so that will be another type of success.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  Does success scare or motivate you?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: Both. I go through ups and downs. Sometimes the thought of having deadlines and having more expected from me is terrifying. As a short story author, I set my own pace. No one gets to require anything of me. But once I get into Novel World, there will be deadlines, possibly multi-book contracts where they have to be delivered by a specific time. And that will change the game. At the same time, I WANT to be there. It's just a scary concept.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  What do you do when procrastination is winning over writing?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: I try to figure out why. What is it that's distracting me. What do I need. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and those are most often the cause of my procrastination. Maybe I'm doubting my work. Or maybe it's just an off week for me, period, not just in writing, and I need to take a step back and focus on something else for a while.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR: Writing conferences, workshops, and critique groups are an important part of the new writer's experiences (and more experienced writers too!). How have they helped you?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: I'm not sure where I'd be if I hadn't found both Pikes Peak Pen Women and Pikes Peak Writers. Plus, my critique groups. Pikes Peak Pen Women was the first writer's group I joined. They were also the first ones to give me the opportunity to be a presenter, giving me the confidence to keep doing that and to branch out. It was far less scary having them reach out to me and say, "Hey, can you speak on this topic?" than to suck it up and submit a workshop proposal without ever having given a workshop. Pikes Peak Writers helped me join the writing community at large, making it a place of comfort instead of fear. They were the second ones to give me the opportunity to speak, which was at AuthorFest in Manitou Springs. And the workshops, both at conference and in the Write Brains, are what gave me the encouragement and knowledge I needed to go forward and improve my writing. As far as critique groups, my first in-person one taught me a lot about critique, and helped me learn what needed to be changed in my writing.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  How long have you been a member of Pikes Peak Writers?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: I believe I've been a member for five or six years now.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  Do you attend the events, and, if so, which ones are your favorites?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: I attend PPWC each year, and have held some manner of conference position every one of those years. There's a lot of energy to be soaked up at PPWC, and so many opportunities. I also ran the non-conference events, including Write Brains for about two years, so I'm taking a bit of a break from attending, but I still go to one occasionally. I've only attended one Open Critique, but it was a great program, and I go to Writer's Nights when I can. I would attend more of these if I just had more time, but I have to balance my evenings like I'm sure everyone does.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  Do you have any "self-help for writers" books that you use regularly? How do they help? Please share your list of your top 2 or 3.

SHANNON LAWRENCE: King's "On Writing" is an excellent craft book for authors, whether they write horror or something else. It's often cited as a favorite by other folks I've spoken with. I don't use any regularly, but a couple other good ones I've read are "The Art of Character," by David Corbett, "Writing with Emotion, Tension, & Conflict," by Cheryl St. John, and Stuart Horwitz's "Book Architecture" series.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  Does your reading influence your writing? How?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: I'm sure it does, but I don't know to what extent. I read a lot; I write a lot. I try to read in all different genres. There is no genre I can say I have not read in some way, shape, or form. I want to read all different types of stories and voices.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  If you met someone who was thinking about writing, what advice would you give them?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: I'd tell them to write. Don't think about starting, just write. Until you do, you're not a writer. Figure out what works for you and do it. Set a schedule or don't. Set goals or don't. Just write.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  What is one (or a few) of the most important lessons you have learned so far?

SHANNON LAWRENCE: Be resilient. Understand a rejection is not about you, and isn't even typically a judgment of your work. It's simply saying that particular story didn't jive with one particular editor or agent. Turn around and resubmit. Take in any and all feedback, mull it over, and then decide what you'll listen to and what you'll dismiss. If you don't believe what they said, you won't be true to your writing if you change it to what they want. So don't change something just because someone told you to. Change it because what they said struck a chord with you. Weather the lows so you can move forward and find the success you want for yourself.

KATHIE SCRIMGEOUR:  What expertise in your background do you draw on in your writing? (ie were you a photographer, chef, court reporter, FBI agent?)

SHANNON LAWRENCE: I wouldn't say I have job expertise I bring to my writing, but knowing kids has come into play, and personal experiences have informed my writing.

About the Author:  A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes in her dungeon when her minions allow, often accompanied by her familiars. She writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her stories can be found in several anthologies and magazines, including Once Upon a Scream, The Literary Hatchet, and Dark Moon Digest. She serves on the board of Pikes Peak Writers as treasurer. When she's not writing or volunteering, she's hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings. Though she often misses the ocean, the majestic and rugged Rockies are a sight she could never part with. Besides, in Colorado there's always a place to hide a body or birth a monster. What more could she ask for?

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  1. I love King's book On Writing. Great interview, Kathie and Shannon. I agree, resilience is a writer's best friend. Thanks for sharing Shannon's interview. Very inspiring.

    1. Thanks, Joylene! I've read it a few times when I need inspiration.

  2. Loved what you said about reading outside of your genre. I've found that helps me when I stuck. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Shannon!


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