Tag Archives: Coach

Interview with Andi Cumbo-Floyd

Once again, I am excited to be interviewing one of my mentors, Andi Cumbo-Floyd. It’s been five years since I’ve last interviewed her. I first connected with Andi on Twitter in 2012, and have had the pleasure of following her ever since. She is an amazing writer, editor, coach and much more. If you have not read her blog posts or any of her books, I would highly recommend that you do.

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1) What are the things you wished you had known when you were finding your way as a writer?

I wish I had known that the better part of a writer’s life is about discipline and perseverance and much less about talent or inspiration or affirmation. I wish I had known that showing up at the page and doing the work would be reward in and of itself and that avoiding that work would weigh far more heavily than the weight of actually doing it.

2) Could you describe your writing process?

Sure. On the days when mothering and editing allow me time to write, I sit down with a book of poetry and a journal. I read one or two poems, and I watch for the line that most stands out to me for whatever reason. Then, I copy over that line into my journal and start writing with that line. Sometimes I write about what the line brings up, and sometimes, I begin working on my work in progress.  Either way, these few handwritten pages help me drop into the place of creativity and leave the rest of my world behind for a bit.

Then, I transition over to the computer and write 1,000 words on my work in progress.

3) Has becoming a mother changed the way you write?

The most obvious change is that I have far less time to futz around before getting to work. Since I am my son’s primary caregiver and since I also work full-time, I have to get right down to work when I have time to do the writing, which isn’t every day anymore.

But it’s also made me a little less precious with my words, a little less willing to stay on the surface. I go deep and quickly. Sometimes that means my writing is more raw. Sometimes, it means it takes me more time to find what I really need to say.

4) What is “voice” and how do you develop it? How did you find yours?

Voice is, as I see it, just a fancy way of saying the way a writer sounds on the page. It’s a combination of the way a writer says things – sentence structure, vocabulary, dialect – and also what they say about what topics. I found mine – as I think all writers do – through practice. I wrote, read what I wrote (often out loud), and felt what read as most genuine to who I am. Then, I just kept practicing until more of what I wrote sounded like more of me.

5) How does a writer arrive at knowing what they should write (i.e., non-fiction, fiction) and what genre?

I don’t like the word “should” about most things in life, but particularly about writing.  There is no “should” about what a writer writes. It’s all about preference and about what we have to say about things. But there is nothing that any one person should or should not write. There’s only what we want – maybe sometimes need – to write.

6) In your experience, what is the most important aspect in becoming a professional writer?

Discipline and perseverance.  Doing the work.  That’s it.

7) I find most great authors, which includes you, hold Master’s degrees. Do you believe a writer needs a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree to succeed in writing good stories? If not, why do most great authors go through the process of a college education? What do you believe is the key to becoming a successful writer or author when someone doesn’t have a college degree?

Thanks, Pilar. I got a degree in writing because I needed a credential to teach writing, and I got that credential. . . but more, I learned discipline and to write to a deadline. I learned about critique and writing regularly. I learned how to give and receive criticism. I learned some things about craft, too.  But none of those things require a degree. Anyone can learn all of them through writing groups or online communities, through partnerships with other writers, or through a solid, self-imposed discipline toward writing.

And I would say that I don’t know that most authors do get a degree, at least not a degree in writing. Some of us do, but many, many writers I know have no college degree in writing and almost none have graduate degrees in writing. I know a writer who has a chemistry degree and another who works by day as a software developer. A degree isn’t necessary at all. It’s just a construct that helps us learn discipline and some of the tools in a concentrated way.

8) When you mentor and encourage others to write a thousand pages a day, what does that look like? Does journaling count? Or does the writing have to be something specific like working on a short story, novel or memoir?

A 1,000 words a day.  (Not a thousand pages. 🙂 )  Shawn Smucker suggested I try that, and it works well for me. For me, 1,000 words is pretty much all I have time for these days. So sometimes those words go toward a blog post, sometimes toward an interview like this one, sometimes toward my work in progress. Billy Coffey suggested that – the discipline of writing 1,000 words of anything a day is key, not necessarily what you write.

9) Do you consider listening to audiobooks reading? Do you believe there is a difference between reading physical books versus electronic or audiobooks for a writer?

I do think listening to audiobooks is reading, a different form of reading but reading nonetheless. The difference is in how we take in the story, but both are really valid ways of accessing stories. In audio, we listen to the way the sentences move on the page, to the trip of language, and while we do some of that when we read on the page, we are also more focused on the visual layout – paragraph length, the shape of the words visually (or via touch if we read in Braille.)  Neither is better or worse. They are just different ways of spending time with story.

10) You are an author, blogger, vlogger, editor, farmer, mother, etc. You have successfully achieved and attained so much in your life. What’s next? What are your goals now?

I have been given a lot of gifts in life, and one of my main goals is to steward them well. So that means making my family a priority in a new way now that Milo is with us. But it also means figuring out how to do that and still be responsible to my clients and readers . . . and to myself. I would not be a healthy person if I didn’t write, so one of my main goals is to figure out how to mother and still write.

11) I finished reading your latest book, Love Letters To Writersand I am now reading Discover Your Writing SelfBoth books are wonderful and encouraging. Are you working on anything new?

I am, but I’m not talking about it publicly yet. I’ve found that I need to let my books have some silence around them, especially at the beginning, so I’ll be saying more about that around my spaces in the coming months.

12) What do you enjoy writing more fiction or nonfiction and why?

Oh, I enjoy both, but my heartbeat is in creative nonfiction. There’s just something about wrapping words around an experience or bit of history that gives me energy and flexes my mental and creative muscles. I love that.

Thank you for a great interview, Andi.

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Andi is a writer, editor, and farmer who lives at the edge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband and son, four dogs, three cats, six goats, and thirty-two chickens. She writes regularly about the writing life at andilit.com. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Goodreads.

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