Bright Lights #16 - dSavannah George-Jones


dSavannah George is another bright talent I bumped into during my involvement with the Orange Karen project. (
#teamORANGE) She's a writer, poet, editor, artist, singer, photographer and designer, with years of marketing & public relations experience. And because that doesn't fill up her day enough she's also a teacher! 

I'm exhausted just thinking about all that.

Luckily, I was able to persuade her to stop by and answer a few questions before she had to run off and do ALL OF THE THINGS. :)


dSavannah George

Q - Hi dSavannah, tell me a little about your new story/book

Well, it’s not new. I’ve been working on my novel since 1996. The main character, Jessie, is snarky, smart, sad, hopeful, searching, funny, and it’s basically the story of her trying to find her way in the world and ending up right where she started.

Gareth and I had a Facebook convo the other day, and he has agreed to be my accountability partner to make sure I write a little bit each day. Jessie’s story NEEDS to be told. And I’m gonna do my best to get it down. Finally.

I’m also, at any given time, writing poetry and short stories, not to mention blog posts. I’m working on a series of silly poems that I hope to someday turn into illustrated books for children. The first (finished) one is titled “Fidgety Farmington”, about a little boy who can’t sit still.


Q - Does being a writer and an editor give you an extra step up the publishing ladder?

I don’t really think so; at least, it hasn’t really so far. It may hurt me when I go to shop my finished novel around – they may think I won’t take edits of my work. But I will, and gladly!

Honestly, the saddest day of my life was when I realized I’m actually a better editor than a writer. (I’m a good writer, but I’m a damn fantastic editor.)

As an editor, I get to work with some amazing writers and help hone their artistic voice and tell the story that they need to tell. Which is wonderful, and very rewarding, and the feedback I get from my writers is amazing. I feel that their work is as much my baby as it is theirs. And they get that. It’s a partnership.

But being an editor also means that I have a hard time just writing. I can’t even write a freaking tweet without editing it ten times. I keep thinking of everything wrong with my WIP, and instead of just writing, I’m trying to fix it. (Gareth has promised to help keep me in line with that too, so that I just write, and edit later.)


Q - You have a strong artistic side, aside from the writing, and yet you say you consider yourself a writer first and foremost. What is it that brings your focus back to writing rather than photography, for example?

I guess because I have literally always identified myself as a writer, for as far back as I remember. I still have poetry I wrote when I was seven years old. And little stories I wrote and illustrated as a kid. I didn’t really believe that I’m an artist until much later… even tho I created all kinds of art as a child (and my mother still has most of it, lord help me).

I didn’t start painting until 2003, and only then because a friend took me to the art store and held my hand and picked out paints and canvas and brushes with me. I was scared shitless doing my first painting, even with him there, a little guardian angel. I owe him a debt I will never be able to repay.

I’ve been taking photographs forever, but really only got serious about it when my dear sweet hubby bought me a good camera for my 38th birthday. (The second best birthday present EVER!) I took lots of photos before, but they didn’t turn out well because of the poor quality of the camera.

In addition to doing it the longest, here’s another reason I go back to writing: I know how to write. I know the technical part of it. The way to use grammar, etc. I trained to be a journalist, and I did marketing for 20 years, primarily doing writing. I’ve also taught writing at the college level.

Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t know what the heck I’m doing when I create art. It’s all intuitive. I have no idea how to change an f-stop, or why the paint dries how it does, or anything technical. Hell, for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why my loops for jewelry weren’t perfectly round. Turns out I just needed round-nose pliers. Duh.

Now obviously, there is intuition involved in writing as well, such as knowing when a story or poem is finished, but I’m knowledgeable about form and meter and varying sentence length and the other tools of the writing trade. The tools of the artist’s trade? I’m kinda making it up as I go along.


Q - Since you also paint, have you considered doing a story in a graphic novel format? (I had to ask since I'm a comic nerd)

No, I haven’t. And here’s why. I have great respect for the art form, but it’s not one that I’ve ever been really drawn to (pun intended). Also my art is either very whimsical or very abstract, which I don’t think would loan itself every well to a graphic novel. I plan to partner with an illustrator for my children’s book series. I kinda see in my head what I want, but I know actually creating it is outside my skill level.

Q - How do you make the time to write?

To be honest, I don’t make enough time to write. And to be a writer, you have to make the time. No one will do it for you. And you can’t wait for inspiration to strike, but when it does, you damn well better sit down and write. Which I do.

Also, I have so many other things that I create, it’s hard to know where to focus and which art form to do at any given time. I sometimes feel schizophrenic because of it…

Unfortunately, I’m motivated by deadlines, and I don’t have one for my WIP. Even if I made one up, I’d know it wasn’t “real”, and I’d ignore it.

When I was working on A Spicy Secret, my first published book (for a series with the same characters but lots of different authors), I came up with an elaborate schedule of how many words per day I needed to write to meet the deadline. I kinda stuck with it. And then I didn’t. Then I’d redo the schedule. Repeat. I literally wrote the last 6,000 words on the day before it was due to the publisher. The words flew out of my head and fingers.


Q - Where do you get the most inspiration for all your artistic endeavors?

Everything inspires me. Old photos. Random news stories I read. History. Nature. Creating something beautiful out of pain, out of things most people would consider ugly. Re-purposing things others would throw away. Knowing that what I’m doing inspires others. Knowing that sharing my struggles helps other people with their own. Music. Art. Antiques. People who persevere through enormous problems. People who try to make the world a better place.

Q - What kind of story do you like to read and are those the same ones you want to write?

My reading tastes – and my musical tastes – are all over the board. I enjoy YA. Memoir. Literary fiction. Poetry. I’m particularly drawn to fantasy and sci-fi, and have been since high school. Before high school, I tended to read books about the American Indian, so much so I wanted to be one. I like reading books by authors from other countries. I like historical novels. I like old books, with their particular ways of phrasing things. I like humor. I like women’s literary fiction.

I mostly write women’s literary fiction and poetry. I’ve written some fantasy and sci-fi. I am contemplating writing a family memoir. I will probably never write a historical novel, because I’m too lazy to do that much research, and I’d want the details to be right. I’m not sure I’d write YA, only because my thoughts seem too grown up (if that even makes sense). I’ve actually been asked by two friends to help them write their memoirs, and I plan to. And obviously, one day my books will be old. :)


Q - When you're writing, how much do you feel you have to adhere to certain limitations based on the genre you're writing in?

You know, I’ve never even thought about limitations based on my genre. I just…write.

Q - Even though you're an editor, do you use Beta Readers? If so, could you explain what you're looking for from them?

I have actually never used beta readers in the traditional sense. Which is not to say I won’t in the future… first I have to finish that novel!

For years, I belonged to a writers’ critique group, which was basically like having a whole bunch of beta readers, except each of us would read our piece in the group and then get feedback. I had to stop going there when I moved to Arkansas, and since no writers’ group existed, I created one. It was also great. Now that I’m back in Atlanta, I’m hoping to join a group with a friend of mine.

What I look for is honest, but kind comments on what works, and what doesn’t. Where I’ve derailed, where I need to do more. A guy in the Arkansas group would tell every reader “This is the best thing I’ve ever read! Can I get your autograph?” NOT helpful. Us real writers wanted to smack him.

You can read about my editing philosophy – which applies to beta readers as well – on my site: https://dsavannah.com/readable/editing.html


Q - Art is always subjective - "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". How does it feel putting your art, and in particular your writing, out there to be judged?

Okay. I learned a LONG time ago to not be offended by people wanting to change my work ~ part of my journalism training. And I’m well aware that not everyone will like my writing or my art. Some do, some don’t. No big deal. I’m pleased when they do, but not depressed when they don’t. I’m bummed that the first reviewer of my book on amazon gave it 2 stars, but hey – the reader didn’t like my humor. Not everyone does.

Where I get offended is when someone tells me I’m doing my art wrong. Which actually happened to me – a gallery owner told me I did a painting wrong. My immediate thought was “SCREW YOU!” I don’t care that he didn’t like it, I just care that he tried to put limitations on how I create my art.


Q - What do you think are your particular strengths as a writer? Dialog, action, description...what are you most comfortable with?

Imagery. Character building. Humor.

Q - What is the reaction to those around you, family and close friends, about your writing?

My birthday twin (and very good friend) bought lots of copies of my book to give to her reader friends as gifts. My mom has read my book a number of times and tells me often how much she loves it. My aunt bought copies to give to other people in our family… and she bought a copy of the Orange Karen anthology. She told me she liked my #OrangeKaren story better than the book, which made me happy, because that story features Jessie, my character referenced above. One close friend said she planned to store my book in a safe – apparently she thinks I’m going to be a super-famous author someday and so that first book will be worth lots of money. (Not sure that’s gonna happen…) My hubby is very proud of me, and supports my writing habit, but has not yet read my book.

Q - What are your thoughts on the uses of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter etc) for writers. Has it helped in your development as an author?

Absolutely. I originally got on FB to connect with old friends I’d lost track of over the years – a hazard of moving around a lot. I got on twitter and started a blog because other writers urged me to do so as a way to engage readers and build my brand. And it’s something you have to do continuously, which means even if I’m not actually working on my book, I am writing.

Twitter is a fun challenge for me – write a complete sentence/thought, including any links, in 140 characters. I try for exactly that many, but it doesn’t always work. :) The only shortcut I allow myself is an ampersand for the word and. Otherwise, no abbreviations.

My blog has also been a good exercise in that it forces me to be more succinct. (You’d think the journalism training woulda done that too… but no… Plus, I never actually worked as a journalist, beyond my high school and college newspapers.) And it’s such a fun way for me to get to know other creative types through my The Questions series.

Social media introduced me to other writers and artists (like you!). Writing ~ and creating art ~ is very solitary, and thanks to Facebook, especially, I have a community of writers that makes me laugh, makes me cry, supports me when I’m down, and encourages me. And their successes are motivation for me to be a better writer. Reading their work gives me new ideas on phrasing and plot development and character.

The only downside is that social media can be a HUGE distraction. There are some very talented people in my group, and I could spend every minute of every day reading their books, blogs, etc, and still never get caught up. Not to mention all the articles that people post and cute pics of puppies and kitties.


Q - Do you have any current favorite authors/books?

My very very favorite authors of all time are Charles de Lint (urban fantasy) and Terry Pratchett (fantasy). I’ve been reading both of them since high school.

Choosing a favorite book is like trying to choose a favorite child. Impossible!

Currently I’m reading Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende. I first read her work in college when I minored in Spanish, and I read her work en español. She has such a magical way with words.

I just finished reading The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson. It’s targeted to grades 5 and up, but it’s really smart and a great sci-fi. In fact, I think it should be targeted to adults. (I hate the cover, because it looks like it’s a book for little kids. Which it’s not.)


Q - Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to?

No. I get too distracted. If I do listen to music when working, it’s always classical. And not Bach with all the annoying singing.

If I’m painting or making jewelry, I listen to music. I just turn on iTunes and go with whatever it gives me. Again, my musical tastes are all over the board, so I could go from Will Smith (rap) to Linkin Park (metal) to Griffin House (sort of coffee house feel) to Ingrid Michaelson (pop) to Janis Joplin (old rock) to Jim Lauderdale (country) to Death Cab for Cutie (alternative) to Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn (blues).


Q - Do you have any advice for newbie writers? Those who are yet to start on their journey?

Yes! And in fact I plan to write a whole series of posts on this topic for my blog.

The main one is: WRITE. WRITE. WRITE. Write every day. Write even if you don’t feel like it. Write even if you think your work would be better off as the paper under the rat’s cage. Write even if your work gets rejected 1,000 times. And remember that it’s not YOU getting rejected. Just WRITE.

Surround yourself with other writers. Learn from them.

Be willing to listen to feedback. Learn to take criticism. It will make you a stronger writer. Don’t take it personally. Learn from it. Know your work can always, always be improved. But trust your inner voice, too. If someone tells you your character shouldn’t have purple hair, but it’s a very important part of that character’s personality, let him/her have purple hair.

Learn the mechanics of writing. Learn grammar. Learn punctuation. It’s important.

Know that becoming a writer and getting published is not going to make you rich and famous. If that’s your motivation, stop writing this very second and become a stockbroker.

Persevere.

Be kind to yourself.

And write.


Q - What are you looking for from your writing, satisfaction? success? adulation?

All of those would be nice, but I just want to tell stories.

Q - At what point would you consider yourself a successful writer?

Honestly, I don’t know that I ever will. It’s a journey. There’s no destination for a writer. You just keep writing. You just keep making art.

And finally - You're going to be stranded on a desert island (for a wee while) but I'm going to allow you to take 1 book, 1 piece of music, 1 movie, a bowl of your favorite dessert and 1 person you'd like to share the island with for a while (alive, dead, fictional or real...it matters not) What are your choices...and if you want to elaborate...tell me WHY?

Wow. You’re kind of mean. Only *one*? That’s cruel and unusual punishment. 
1 book: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, specifically my copy of the 1913 edition. Why? I lllllooooooovvveee words. And at 2,026 pages, with additional reference materials and photos, I’d never get bored. If I needed to, even though it would be painful to take it apart, I could use some of the pages for fire-starting. Or toilet paper. Or drawing on with charcoal from my fire. You get the idea. :)
1 piece of music: I’m going to assume that means a full album, and that you would also provide something for me to play it on. I would take Flight Of The Conchords’ self-titled album, because it is hilarious and also makes me dance.
1 movie: I know this is cliché, but The Princess Bride. It has everything: kissing, humor, true love, sword fights, chases, intrigue, and a billion wonderful lines. And again, I assume there would be a way to watch it, and I wouldn’t be forced to just stare at the DVD.
1 bowl of my favorite desert: tiramisu from the restaurant Tony’s across the street from my house. That stuff is to die for. I’d want to add some chocolate chips, cuz I’m a chocoholic, but otherwise… perfect.


1 person: my hubby. (Cue the ‘aaawwws’.) He’s a boy, and sometimes he annoys me to no end, and when he snores, I just want to smother him with a pillow, but he also loves me unconditionally, and would enjoy all of the above that I’d be bringing, and he makes me laugh, and he makes a quite comfortable pillow. He also has a staggering amount of knowledge about random stuff, so he could fix anything that got broken, and he can make fire (which I cannot, to save my life). And, I just adore him and love him too, and can’t imagine my life without him. (For the record, the first best birthday gift ever was my engagement ring from him.)

Whew. Are you sorry you asked all those questions now?


LOL. Not at all! Thank you dSavannah for giving up some of your valuable time for my blog. :)

The rest of you, go check out these links ~~>Web: www.dsavannah.com

Blog: www.dsavannah.com/blog/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dsavannahcreative

Twitter: www.twitter.com/dsavannahcreate

Online art store: www.dsavannahcreative.artfire.com

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/6883909.D_Savannah_George

Google+: https://plus.google.com/111272466270520008492/posts


BIO

D. Savannah George is a multi-disciplinary artist – she writes, paints, crochets, takes photographs, and makes beaded jewelry, bookmarks, and notecards. She has published several short stories and a number of poems, as well as numerous articles in various newspapers and magazines. She has won several awards for her writing. Her first book, A Spicy Secret, #22 in the Annie’s Attic Mystery Series, was released in December 2012. She also serves as a book editor for authors and several small publishers. She worked in corporate marketing for over 20 years, and is happy to finally be who she is supposed to be – an artist and writer. D. Savannah lives in Atlanta or on the coast of Georgia (depending on her mood) with her husband, dog, turtle, two cats, and a truck-load of books and art supplies.



Comments

  1. Awesome interview! A bit jealous - wish I could paint. And I personally think The Princess Bride is an awesome choice. Infinitely quotable when you're busy foraging for coconuts and building a raft to get the heck off that island.

    ReplyDelete
  2. She is a wonderful talent and a "special" person. Just give her a canvas and turn her loose! Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, you are a busy lady! Great post! I'm the same way with the tweets...Gots to read 'em a ton of times before letting them fly! :P Also good to know I'm not alone with not listening to music while writing. I get waaay too distr-- Ooo, shiny thing! Enjoyed your interview, dSavannah :D

    ReplyDelete

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