Category Archives: technique

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.


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.


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 You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Goodreads.

Playwright Interview: Arthur French III

I have the honor of introducing you to a dear friend and playwright, Arthur W. French III. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him since high school. I had the opportunity of  working on one of his short film projects which was a lot of fun. This was back when I was pursuing acting as a career. It’s wonderful that we maintained our friendship since then as we both share  much in common.

Without further ado, Arthur W. French III.


1) When was the first time you wanted to write?

Probably as a kid, I used to make up stories when I read nursery rhymes.

The first time I really wanted to write, was when I was in high school, and a lot of the usual High School drama was going on at the time, that I didn’t have an outlet to channel it to.

Writing became an outlet for me. I picked up a pen and paper, and started writing how I felt about things.

Within a year, I had written “Teens Today” at sixteen years old, and that was the beginning of my writing career.

2) Who are you influences?

I have quite a few. Woody Allen. I love his early slapstick movies, and he writes about human behavior.

Richard Pryor, because he was an amazing storyteller.

Director Stanley Kubrick, who always directed fascinating works about humanity (Paths of Glory), and then could direct biting satire (Dr. Strangelove). He ran the gamut, that you couldn’t put him in a box.

3) Who are your favorite authors, playwrights and why?

David Mamet playwright is one. Mamet has a way with dialogue that is so real, that you feel you are intruding on a conversation that’s going on, and the fact that he reels you in with his characters.

August Wilson, Playwright. For me, August Wilson is a great storyteller who weaves spirituality and poetry, and it works.

Neil Labute because he shows characters that are messy and unapologetic, and flawed. He shows people at their worst which isn’t bad, but the fact that they make you so uncomfortable is great.

Charles Bukowski is my favorite fiction writer. His book Hollywood was about his experiences when the film studios made his film “Barfly”, and his insider’s look at how the film got made, and the politics, is hysterical. He wrote about Los Angeles in all it’s gritty reality. He’s my favorite fiction writer. he’s also a great poet, and prose writer.

William Shakesphere, because all of his plays are timeless.

4) What inspires you?

I’d say first and foremost it’s anger. If something really bothers me, I’ll jot it down, look at it, and then work on the play.

Nowadays, it’s really anything. If it’s something that’s affected me personally good or bad, or something I’ll see on the street, or on the subway, or if I’m on vacation, I will say to myself. “Hey, I gotta get home and write this down.”.

There is no such thing as a bad idea.

5) What is your writing process?

What I’ll do, I’ll get an idea, jot it down in my writing journal. Once I get home, write out the characters, and then type them out, look at it, and if the idea still flows, I’ll continue with it until the play is finished.

6) When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?

It was Fall 2001. The story on how that happened was for years my father and friends had told me I needed to take a writing class (which I never did.)

Finally, one day I decided I was going to take a writing class.

Then 9/11 happened, and I was shaken. I didn’t know if I wanted to write. I thought about going in another direction. My father told me “look, just go to the orientation. If you still don’t want to writer, okay.”

So, I went up to Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center, and heard my future teacher, Leslie Lee say “Don’t let 9/11 stop you from finding your voice. Now is the time to write.” After he said that, I pulled out my checkbook, paid for the eight weeks, I haven’t looked back since.

7) Can you explain the differences between a playwright and a screenwriter?

For screenwriting, you have to add the interior and exteriors of the scene, and then have a shot sheet. It’s more technical stuff you have to put in.

Where with a play, it’s basically the words, dialogue, and action.

Screenwriting, is adding more technical things to the script that needs to be done.

8) If you were to name one play you love, which one would it be?

It would be “Blues For Mister Charlie” by James Baldwin.

It was the first play I studied when I started taking play writing seriously.

I loved how the play deals with racism, and how those themes still resonate in our society today.

9) What has shaped you to be the successful and prolific playwright that you are today?

For me, success is doing what I love which is writing plays, and when you love something, it’s all great.

What I wanted to do, even when I was a teenager, was to create great work for African American Actors, and tell universal stories, and I am definitely achieving that.

10) Last, but not least, what advice would you give to aspiring writers and playwrights?

If you come up with any idea, write it down quick!

I would say if you really want to be a playwright/writer is to definitely take a playwriting class, so you know the basics of character, plot, story.

To see a lot of plays, and get a sense of them, and see why they are good, or bad.

Love what you do, and enjoy what you do.


Thank you so much, Mr. French.


Arthur W. French III has been writing plays since he was a teenager. His first play “Teens Today” was produced at Maxwell Glanville’s American Community Theater in Harlem at age 16.

The play then was a winner at the New York Annual Young Playwrights Festival at Circle Repertory Company.

Mr. French’s play “Circuit Breakers” produced by RCL Writer’s Workshop was a winner in the Annual Samuel French One-Act play competition, and was published.

Mr. French’s other play “Bitter Apples” was a winner in the Annual Strawberry one act festival in New York City, and also was published.

His short one act play “He Gives Good Fonts” was a winner at John Chatterton’s short play lab.

Mr. French’s other plays this year have been part of in the Los Angeles NAACP Theater Festival, The Hollywood Fringe Festival, Legros Cultural Arts Festival, and Love Creek Productions.

Mr. French recently competed in this years 31 plays in 31 days series.

He has a new play “I Read Your Facebook Post” coming up at the short play lab in New York City.

Mr. French has studied with Leslie Lee, Steve Carter, and Henry Miller, and is a founding member of the Fusion Gumbo Writers Workshop (which has been held in NY and LA).