Hello Diane. Can you introduce yourself?
I am Diane Lawton, currently residing in Echuca, Victoria, Australia.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve had a patchy affair with the pen for most of my life until ten years ago when I decided to ramp up my output by attending writing courses, workshops, and joining a writing group.
What first got you interested in writing?
It was about timing. At aged eight my parents divorced. An Aunt gave me a lockable diary the same year and writing letters to family was my only form of communication with them outside holidays. When I started high school an enlightened English teacher nurtured my self-expression. Much of my pubescent writing was dark poetry.
I think we all have that dark phase. You mentioned earlier that you joined a writing group; which group do you go to?
Campaspe-Murray Writers Group was born from local scribes who bonded at a Tafe creative non-fiction writing course in 2000. We needed continued stimulation on a regular basis and met on the last Tuesday of every month from 7.30pm-9.30pm at local pubs until a permanent base was secured with a room in the local Neighbourhood House.
Why do you attend a writing group?
CMWG has become my ‘writing family’. My attendance has waned over the last two years, with life getting in the way of art, but the door is always open for support. No matter what your passion, you do need to touch base with others of the same ilk and retain a network in your chosen sphere of interest.
What is the most valuable thing you have taken away from your writing group?
Kindred friends have encouraged me to give my writing ‘voice’ – to read aloud.
What genre(s) do you write?
Fiction is my thing. I find challenge in keeping a bended truth believable.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
While research fascinates me, the writing of non-fiction taxes me much like understanding advanced mathematics.
I don't even understand basic mathematics! What types of things do you write?
I’m very much a mood writer. Prose provides the escapism I enjoy creating and verse is an emotive purge.
Have you ever had anything published?
For three years I contributed flash fiction and poetry, weekly, to a space reserved for CMWG in the Riverine Herald Newspaper. In 2007 my short story ‘Ironclad’ was published in an anthology of stories and poems, Short and Twisted. ‘Heavy Duty’, a poem, was published in Owner/Driver.
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?
Only through competition avenues when I have always requested feedback. The advice has been helpful.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
In 2004, I collaborated CMWG members’ work and we self-published our first anthology, In So Many Words. Never say never to anything untried, particularly when it comes to new writing formats in a resource-stretched world.
Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
All facets of life, people and experiences inspire my writing; everything is absorbed to be recalled when I’m scribbling.
Life is fascinating, and everyone could learn something from it to help with their writing. How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
Characters’ names, personalities and dialogue are generation and time-set typical.
Do you have a writing routine?
Keeping a diary is about as routine as it gets for me and that’s not every day. When I write creatively I tend to exclude much of what is going on around me until I’ve finished the first draft. Then I continue to punch away over time until I am completely satisfied the manuscript is finished. A short story of 2,000 words can take up to a month to write depending on how much spare time I have, day or night.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I have tried free-fall and it is a process which often spins good ideas. Mostly I begin writing to an outline which does flex with telling.
Do you have an editing process? Do you have someone else read over your work? Do you read your work aloud to yourself in front of the mirror?
A few years back I did a proofreading and editing course purely to help me diagnose my own writing. I draft and pare and re-draft work until I am satisfied it is worth reading by another. A good tip is to let the work go cold. Walk away from it, leave it overnight or longer then re-read with critical fresh eyes. It works. No, I don’t read aloud. I mutter. And, I only use mirrors for grooming.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
There’s not much point to doing anything you don’t enjoy. While you have to stretch your imagination it shouldn’t be forced or obvious cracks will appear in the writing. If you’re not in the right frame of mind for a challenge you’ll miss out on the surprises that only come from extending yourself.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
It’s the golden rule: Show, don’t tell.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Be observant, sensitive, open to everything and avoid tautology.
A bit like mental Pilates! How important is it for you to share your writing?
What’s the point in being selfish? It isn’t about being an egotist. Writing is about communication and entertainment.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions? Have you ever won?
Yes and yes. ‘Ironclad’ won a competition as a short story and was published. I re-worked it as a ten minute play and it was performed locally. My play, Liquid Gold, won a competition held by the Shepparton Arts Council and was performed by their theatre group in four shows in regional Victoria. Having to fill a brief interview with ABC radio about the play had me rattled.
Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
Yes, as an audience member.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Motorcycling, gardening, knitting and walking the dog.
What types of things do you read? Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
You know, I should read more. I buy books and have so many unread ones on the shelves just waiting for rainy days I spend writing. My thesaurus is a tattered mess and my dictionaries are well thumbed so I guess word choices influence my style.
You're not the only one there. I buy books but don't always read them. But at least I know they're there waiting to be read. Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
‘A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought…’ ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1918.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your writing?
Short & SnappyI’ve got this addictionI just can’t stopIf I don’t write it downMy mind will popGive me some paperGive me a penLeave me aloneI’m off to the den
© Diane Lawton
Thank you very much, Diane.