Renée, writer, poet, playwright and teacher answers this week’s five quick questions. She’s going to be one of the seven teaching writers at the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat in January 2016. She blogs at Wednesday Busk
1. What drew you to writing and if writing has a purpose what would you say it is?
I was an avid reader from the time I learned to read and I could read before I went to school. I began writing as a way to earn extra money. I wrote newspaper articles, book reviews, humorous articles. Then I did BA extra-murally so wrote essays. Had worked in theatre for 20 years and done every job you could do around a theatre except writing plays so when I finished my degree I decided to write plays. Then I wrote short stories, then novels, then nonfiction.
Earlier I had got breast cancer and after I’d finished radiation I was approached by the coordinator at the Wellington Branch of the Cancer Society and asked if I would create and teach a workshop for people with cancer. So I did. They were very popular. I am a teacher as well as a writer so had already been teaching workshops on writing. I still do.
2. You’ve written in varied genres and both fiction and non-fiction and have your own blog. What is it about blogging that you enjoy and how does the online and immediate nature of a blog affect your writing? & 3. You’ve been writing a book on your blog too. I’m really curious about the process, do you write the book in advance or is it evolving as you publish each chapter?
The blog and novels. By this time I wanted to try out different genre. I decided on three kinds. The first was chic lit but chic lit with some literary allusions and a literate, irritable and impatient heroine. I thought Charles Dickens put up his novels a chapter a week in the newspapers of the time so I should set up a blog and do the same. So I did. I wrote the novel first. I don’t have the nerve to do it a chapter a week as I go. Besides I’m always changing things so it wouldn’t work.
4. You have had a long successful career as a writer, playwright and teacher. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their writing journey?
My mother taught me to read and she taught me to work hard and those skills have stood me in great stead. So I would tell aspiring writers to read and work hard and just do it. Don’t muck around talking about it, do it. Of course lots of time it won’t work and at first it won’t anyway. Just remember those books you love are probably the 20th rewrite at least and we all start off staring at a blank page or screen. Just do it.
5. Can you tell us a little about what participants should expect from your workshop?
Participants can expect a variety of things, writing on set topics, working towards a particular goal, much discussion about the three Rs: Reading, Writing and Research. Planning the journey. And lots more.