We were thrilled to have the chance to ask July OUT LOUD reader Marcia Meier about her experience in writing and publishing, and get a glimpse into her recent attendance to the prestigious Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Marcia was generous in her reflections on the writing life, offering a treasure chest of wisdom and a robust list of books and resources for writers! Read on below...
First, tell us a little bit about your writing life and practice, things like: what is your writing style, philosophy, history, craft? What do you love to write about? What supports your creativity?
I’ve been a professional writer my entire life, since I graduated with a journalism degree from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. I worked for four daily newspapers before launching a freelance career that was punctuated by stints as marketing director for a liberal arts college, owner of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and, since getting my MFA in 2010, book editing and coaching. All along I have continued to write and publish in various venues—magazines, newspapers, literary magazines and more recently, online formats.
As for my writing style and philosophy, my primary focus has always been careful attention to voice, craft and clarity. I tend to be a spare writer, using only the words necessary to get across the images or information I want to share. When working with clients, my philosophy/goal is always to improve the work without changing the writer’s voice
I love writing essays and poetry, and especially enjoy fiction—short stories and, now, a novel in progress. I finished revisions on a memoir a year ago, which I’ve been submitting to literary publishers for the past year or so. I have another in mind, but the novel I mentioned above is generating more heat for me right now.
What supports my creativity? It’s HARD. I draw inspiration and encouragement from writer friends and the natural environment. I try to get to the beach for long walks as often as possible. I used to walk almost every day, but that has slackened since my elderly Australian Shepherd died in early 2018.
How have you crafted a life and a career around writing and creative expression? What have been the challenges of this, and what has been most rewarding?
What are the challenges of this life? Many! Since I left daily newspapering in the mid-’90s, the constant concern is making a living. I have always managed to do fine, but the lack of security sometimes wears. Creatively, I find it hard to find the hours I’d like to devote to my own writing because working on my client projects means income. Still, I try to find a few hours every week to write for myself. I’ve had a wonderful run of productivity in recent weeks, and that always feeds my soul.
You recently attended the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley—can you tell us a little bit about the highlights from the conference?
I was offered a scholarship to attend the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley this year in fiction, and I had an amazing experience. I received some wonderful feedback and encouragement on my novel, and also my latest memoir project. And I met many wonderful new friends there. I would go back in a heartbeat. Some of the highlights? Probably getting to listen to and meet some of my hero writers—Amy Tan, Janet Fitch and Joyce Carol Oates, just to name three. My workshop colleagues were exceptional and ranged from freshly spawned MFAs to thirtysomethings to older and more seasoned writers like me. Squaw is unusual in that the workshops consist of 10 writers who stay in the same group throughout the week, and a different workshop leader comes in each day. And that could be an author, an agent or a publishing house editor. It was a really different experience that I enjoyed a lot.
You founded a local publishing company, Weeping Willow Books. What was your journey into publishing like? What do you love about the work you do?
I like to call myself an accidental publisher, because Weeping Willow Books really was something I never expected to do. Two of my clients happened to be elderly and both decided about the same time to try to go the self-publishing route rather than devote several years to trying to get their memoirs published traditionally. In researching options, I decided to use BookBaby for their projects, which worked out well. But what I realized in the process is that I could do everything BookBaby offered, and I would have more control over quality. So I launched Weeping Willow Books. It definitely was a steep learning curve, and I’m still learning. But I’m proud of the result. We now have nine titles in fiction and nonfiction, including two photography and poetry books I wrote several years ago. One other thing I started almost a year ago is a podcast: Girl Talk, Women, Aging and Sexuality, which is an offshoot of our award-winning anthology, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. The podcast is available on all the major platforms—check it out.
How have you learned to deal with the discouragement of rejection that is an inevitable part of the writing life?
Wow. Rejection. To tell you the truth, it sucks. But I developed a very thick skin over almost 20 years of working for newspapers, so it’s probably a little easier for me. I get rejections all the time, and each one zings. But I try to shake it off. We have a commitment among my writing buddies. Whenever one of us gets a rejection, we boomerang that sucker out again to a new venue. I do believe it’s a bit of a numbers game. And it doesn’t hurt to know the editors of certain publications, which is why going to literary events—poetry readings, book launches, AWP (the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference), other writers conferences—is always a good idea if you can swing it.
What are you looking forward to most at this point in your writing life?
At this point in my writing career, I’d love to have more time to devote to my own projects, but I also love the editing and coaching work I do, and so I guess there isn’t much I would change. One of the things that I really look forward to are the writing retreats and conferences (like Squaw), which allow me unfettered focus on my own work. Besides Squaw, I went to Sea Ranch in June with a group of women I met at Ghost Ranch eight years ago. We have met every year since for a week of writing and community, and it’s one of the escapes I most look forward to each year. And one of the highlights of my year was taking 11 women to Tuscany in April and May for a 10-day writing and painting retreat. I taught writing and my colleague Helena Hill taught watercolor, and we had an amazing time. Next fall (Sept. 26-Oct. 3, 2020) I am taking a group of nine writers to the south of Spain for an intensive writing retreat (I still have a few spots, if anyone is interested). And Helena and I plan to repeat our retreat to Tuscany in fall 2021.
What would you recommend as being the most essential books for any writer?
There are so many good books on writing—the craft and the business. I have a list that I put together for my clients and I’ll happily share it with your readers! Click Here to read Marcia's List.
Any advice for writers thinking about submitting to Out Loud or other literary opportunities?
My advice is to submit! Don’t hesitate. Take risks. The worst that can happen is that you won’t get published. But if you don’t submit, not getting published is guaranteed. Out Loud is a wonderful series—warm and welcoming and fun. I highly recommend it.
Marcia Meier is an author, developmental book editor, writing coach, and publisher of Weeping Willow Books. She is the author of five books, wrote for newspapers for many years, and her freelance articles and poetry have been published in numerous magazines and journals. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MFA in creative writing, and continues to teach online writing workshops and college and university courses. Visit her websites at www.marciameier.com and www.weepingwillowbooks.com.