Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Interview with Joan Gelfand, award-winning writer, Women's National Book Association representative and member of the National Book Critics Circle

Interview with Joan Gelfand by Carol Smallwood (see Carol's bio following the interview):

Joan Gelfand is one of the New Chapter Development national representatives for the Women's National Book Association, the Co-Poetry Liaison for the San Francisco Writers Conference, a contributing Poetry Editor to the “J” and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She blogs regularly for the Huffington Post and teaches writing for Poetry Inside Out in addition to coaching writers in San Francisco. One of her current roles is serving as Co-Editor of the anthology Women and the Web:  How The Internet Creates Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Women

Joan's work has appeared in over eighty national magazines, anthologies and literary journals around the world.  Her work has been nominated for both Pushcart and Carver Prizes. Publications include Vanity Fair, Poets & Writers, The New York Times Magazine, The Huffington Post, Rattle, The Toronto Quarterly, Kalliope, Eclipse and Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry.  Her poetry collections include A Dreamer's Guide to Cities and Streams and Seeking Center. Her collection of short stories, Here and Abroad, is the Winner of the 2010 Cervená Barva Press Fiction Contest, judged by Dorothy Freudenthal.  Transported is a spoken word CD with original music by Marty Castleberg.   

She served as the President of the Women's National Book Association from 2008 to 2010.

For more information, visit:  http://joangelfand.com/main/

1) How has your business background of over 20 years advanced your writing?

I've tried to take a similar approach in my writing as I did in my business career. I use the same persistence in my writing that made me successful in business. I try to be pragmatic and not take rejection, criticism or editorial suggestions personally.

I have also tried to find mentors and coaches and align myself with writers who are 'further down the line.' I am an enthusiastic cheerleader and supporter of other writers.

The truth is, that while writing is solitary, it is still a business. I've gotten involved in the community of writers, volunteered to further literacy and have helped other writers get started. I've also used my experience with goal-setting and planning to plan my writing.

2) You are active in associations. How have they helped your career?

I've learned so much from groups like the Women's National Book Association. I learned about 'the path to publication,' and I've been offered opportunities that I would never have gotten if I hadn't been involved as a volunteer.

For example, I am the Co-Poetry Liaison for the San Francisco Writer's Conference. I met the organizers through WNBA. I also started blogging for the Huffington Post through WNBA. I've been offered readings, interviews, and even publication opportunities through WNBA and PEN Oakland.

3) What is your writing and teaching schedule?

I teach part-time; about 2-3 days per week. As a rule, I write in the mornings. If I have class, then I have to change that around, but in general, I'm writing about 15 hours per week.

4) What are you working on now?

I just finished a novel and am in discussions with an agent. I have just sent out my third full-length poetry manuscript for consideration and I'm working on a few different blog posts. I'm also the Poetry Editor for the "J", a Northern California newspaper with a circulation of approx. 30,000.

5) What writing mistakes do you see students make the most?

They call the work finished too soon. Most writing needs to be drafted, allowed to sit, be reviewed, revised. Repeat. Unless I've worked on something 5-8 times, I won't let it go. I try to encourage my students not to rush, and to educate them that writing is a process.

6) How have you managed to become an accomplished public speaker?

Once I was published, people considered me an authority. I started speaking to writers on my experience of navigating the publishing world- how I got started, what works, what doesn't. I guess people like what I have to say because I've been invited to many panels on writing.

7) How do you make the most of websites, blogs, e-newsletters?

I try to spend some time 'on-line' every day. Through Twitter and Facebook, I learn about different websites of interest to writers. I send my own e-newsletter out about once a month to update my friends, family and colleagues on new developments in my career. I always include a section about 'friends' and also a section on 'opportunities.' That way it isn't all about 'me' but more of a community experience.

Interviewer Bio- Carol Smallwood co-edited Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching (McFarland, 2012) on the list of "Best Books for Writers" by Poets & Writers Magazine; Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing (Key Publishing House, 2012); Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity, and Other Realms (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011) received a Pushcart nomination. Carol has founded, supports humane societies.