GUTGAA Meet and Greet

GUTGAA (Gearing Up To Get An Agent)

My Meet and Greet Intro and Question Responses:

Deana Barnhart

The Intro:
I’m a retired educator, and I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I wrote creative stuff as early as third grade (a play based on Helen of Troy so I could cast myself as Paris and Linda Leonard as Helen – she had great freckles), an illustrated story in sixth grade, called My Journey to Mars in a Time Machine (apologies to both Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells, two of my early literary favorites), and a variety of other stabs at plays, poetry and short stories all through high school and college.

Much of my creative impulse was pushed aside after that for work-related writing (reports, grant-writing, etc.), but ten years ago, I realized I had a few novels in me that didn’t want to stay buried. I have a complete first draft of one (a thriller, The Jagged Man – I’ll start revising it sometime this fall); and finished a major fourth revision of the novel that will probably either kill me or (hopefully) make me famous. It’s huge (I know – big problem), but my last revision trimmed it down from 280,000 words to 240,000 (about 130 less pages). Also, I just participated in the 3-Day Novel Contest, finishing (in three days, of course) a very short novella or a very long short story (an eighty-six page, 20,300 word supernatural medical mystery) called Everything’s Okay at Restful Pines. Plus, I have a partial first draft of a third book that will likely become a several-part series. Enough to keep me from playing in traffic.

My wife and I live just north of Houston, Texas. We have been married for thirty years. She’s a quilter, but we were both actors back in the 1980’s, and we met each other at an audition. We were both cast in the play, started dating a month into rehearsals, and were married six months later. It’s a testimony to her strength of character that she’s managed to put up with my weirdness all these years.

The Questions:
Where do I write?  I have created a corner space in our study, no windows near the corner to distract me (see pic below). I built bookshelves which surround most of three sides of the room, plus one shelf which juts out from the wall, partially closing my space off from the rest of the room, giving me some privacy and surrounding me with my writing and reference books, and my novels. I attached a series of angled shelves to the bookshelves to hold my monitor and keyboard and to be my desk.

My Writing Space

My little corner writing area (yes, everything has a purpose, especially the coffee mug on the right)

Look to my left at my writing space. What do I see? I see my laptop. I like to be able to go portable sometimes, but at home, I use a 22” monitor, and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, so I can have a larger screen (to give me room for a browser window and notes on one side of the screen, and for my manuscript on the other side).

Favorite time to write? None in particular. Maybe early morning, with a fresh cup of coffee, before anyone else is up.

Drink of choice while writing? The above mentioned coffee, blended two parts decaf, one part high octane, a tiny bit of sugar, and slug of milk or cream. I also like my tea the same way (cream and a sprinkle of sugar).

When writing, do I listen to music, or do I need complete silence? Both. No music when I’m alone in the room. When I’m in a coffee shop (ie., any noisy space) or when my wife is reading political blogs across the room (she has very vocal opinions sometimes), my headphones go on and I play some music I like (Sigur Rós, Dave Matthews, Yo-Yo Ma – Bach’s Cello Suites, Radiohead, Seryn, Fanfarlo, Elbow, etc.), often just to create white noise to counter the room ambiance.

What was my inspiration for my latest manuscript, and where did I find it? Two weeks before the 3-Day Novel Contest, I didn’t know what I was going to do. We got a call, at 3:00 in the morning, from the assisted living facility where my wife’s parents (both in their nineties) are living. My wife’s mother was wandering at night, and grabbed a china hutch in their apartment to steady herself. It came crashing down on her and knocked her to the carpet. The china hutch hit the opposite wall (fortunately, it was in a narrow passageway) so she was unharmed, just slightly bruised. My mind went into overdrive. What if someone had rigged the hutch to fall, but it failed? Would they try again? How? That became the plot of the Restful Pines story.

What’s my most valuable writing tip? Don’t give up. If you have to write, you’ll write, so don’t talk yourself out of it. Oh, and plant your butt in the chair and stay there, fingers to the keyboard.

That’s my Intro. I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.



About michaelsirois

Just a retired educator taking a stab at the Great American Novel.
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6 Responses to GUTGAA Meet and Greet

  1. Suzi says:

    Good to hear that your mother in law was okay. You never know when an idea’s going to pop into your head.

    I haven’t heard of the 3 day novel contest. I’ll have to check that out.

  2. Hi, Suzy–

    The 3-Day novel Contest is mind-bendingly exhausting, but exciting and rewarding at the same time. Write a “novel” (roughly 100-150 pages, really a short novella) in three days (mine was a little over 20,000 words, 86 pages). It’s held during the Labor Day weekend every year. I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times, and it seems extremely laid back in comparison.


  3. Lily Cate says:

    I second that I’m glad your mother in law was alright! Yikes!
    And double yikes for the three day novel idea. I thought NaNo was rough. I’ve never been an official participant, but I have drafted a short novel in under 30 days. November is always too dang busy for me. Late winter is my novel drafting season.

    Also, nice to meet you! Congrats on 30 years of married life 🙂 I did a bit of acting through college, and every play started some relationships, and ended others. The same principle seems to apply to films, I’ve noticed as well 😉

  4. Cam says:

    Gotta love the inspiration that comes from deadlines and what if scenarios!

    Good luck with GUTGAA!

  5. I use the laptop with a second monitor set up as well. It makes it so much easier to access research or notes – or sometimes I have a picture of the location I’m writing about to help me describe it.

  6. Talynn Lynn says:

    Nice to meet you! I love your writing space. If I ever get brave enough, I’ll post a picture of mine!

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