Q&A with Terra Weiss: Featured in AWC eQuill

The Atlanta Writers Club Spring Conference will be held on Friday and Saturday, May 4th and 5th and if you're still deciding whether or not to sign up for the Spring Conference, maybe thinking your work wouldn't benefit from the comments you'll receive, then read this short interview with AWC member, Terra Weiss, who sat down on the computer to talk with me about her own experience.

How long have you been seriously writing?

November 2017 marked the five-year anniversary of my novel writing journey. The path from writing to publishing a book is not a wee jaunt for most, that’s for sure. It certainly hasn’t been for me, and I’ve started to take pride in my collection of rejection letters. I have some frame-worthy doozies!

The novel you submitted at the Fall Conference, was it your first?

Yes, WINGMOM is technically my first and only completed novel, but I feel compelled to mention that I’ve done over 20 rounds of major revisions and six complete rewrites of the dang thing.

What did your agents/editors like about your work?

It was unanimous: they all thought I had a talent for dialogue. Perhaps from a lifetime of talking too much? My elementary teachers always told my parents that I constantly distracted other students with “the gift of gab.” It’s nice to finally turn my um, superpower? into something positive.

Did you agree with their comments, or will you be keeping what you strongly feel are some better, more valuable parts of your story?

I actually took every single piece of advice I received at the 2017 AWC conference because it was all invaluable. Actually, I’ve taken most of the advice I’ve received from editors and agents over the years. As hard-working professionals in the book-selling trenches every day, they know their stuff. The only time I haven’t implemented feedback was when an agent or editor didn’t seem to grasp what I was trying to do with my humor or understand my genre. Humorous writing is very subjective (as with all writing), and sometimes you come across folks who just don’t like your work. That’s okay, and once you realize that it’s normal and expected, it becomes easier to let it roll off your shoulders and move along. You’re never going to please everyone all the time. The important thing is to find those who appreciate your work and “get” what you’re doing. As long as you’re getting positive responses overall, you’re headed in the right direction.

What’s your background in writing?

I have an MBA from Arizona State University, which I used in writing WINGMOM because my main character, Sophie, is a business executive. I did technology marketing and copywriting in San Francisco for several years, which I also used in the story. I was a senior writer for the YMCA, a ghostwriter for CEO’s of several technology companies, and have written for several humorous websites and professional blogs.

Would you like to give a shout out to the critique group you belong to?  Or DO you belong to one?

Yes and yes! I would be nowhere without my writing partners, Grace Wynter, Katina Ferguson, Cristina Crayn, Curt Shannon, Jill Cobb, Kay Heath, Roger Johns, Deena Short, Brenda Lowder, Jake Miller and the many members of the amazing Atlanta Writes group. I could go on for days, as writing a book truly does take a village, but a very special thank you to all my wonderful beta readers, “tea but really wine” group members, and editors too.

Is there already a second work in progress?  How does it differ from the one you submitted in November?

I do have a second novel in progress, WINGMOM GOES HOLLYWOOD. It’s different from WINGMOM in that the stakes are higher, the romance is hotter, and the humor is more risqué. Skye is even nuttier (in a good way, of course), and the new heroine, Riley Glenn, gets entangled in a dangerous love triangle with her ex and the elite Hollywood Director, Maddox Winter. The unyielding paparazzi ensure their struggles are on display for the world to see.

What writers do you admire most?

My favorite writers are Liane Moriarty, Sophie Kinsella, Jojo Moyes, and Robin York. Since I love them all, I try to mix my favorite elements of theirs into my books, although I write a flavor of crazy that’s all my own.

Are there any points you’d like to make to encourage other writers?

There are so many, but I’ll keep it short and sweet: always keep writing. If you do that, everything else will fall into place. The rejections sting. The harsh critiques stink. And losing contests: that just plain sucks too. But it’s all part of deal. Even on the most craptastic days, peel yourself out of bed, get that coffee and Visine, and peck along on that trusty keyboard of yours. Join a Twitter support group if you have to. (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience.) Okay, I lied: I’m going to make this response a bit longer with a short story. After the 2017 AWC Fall Conference, someone came up to me and asked me what my secret was. I wanted to laugh because I’d been pitching WINGMOM for over four years. I’d had some success before, but nothing like that day. My secret was that I’d waited long enough for people to care. The book had always been there, but I’d found the right words at the right time: Comedic Women’s Fiction was back en vogue, baby. So my “secret” was working my tail off and hanging on like faux fur lint until I’d finally snagged that pesky stroke of luck.

We uh, have a little more time, Terra. Anything else?

I can’t emphasize this enough to new writers: don’t put all your eggs into one novel basket. I know it’s so tempting, but once that first book is written and edited, you need to start working on other things while you’re pitching that book. There are several reasons for this: the first is that it keeps you writing. The second is that you learn something new with each new piece, so don’t deny yourself an opportunity to grow. Lastly and most importantly: man, it feels great to say “yes” when an agent or editor asks you if you’re working on something else!

I believe you were given recognition by three different agents/editors at the 2017 Fall Conference. Who were they and what were the awards you were recognized for?

Yes, and it was one of the happiest and most shocking moments of my life! Good thing I’d worn my favorite pair of boots.
~ Best Manuscript Award: Jennie Conway, Editorial Assistant, St. Martin’s Press.
~ Best Manuscript Award: Melissa Danaczko, Agent, Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency.
~ Best Pitch Award: Patricia Nelson, Agent, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Is this the first time you’ve achieved awards for your writing?

No. Wingmom is a two-time Georgia Romance Writer’s Maggie Award finalist, a Pitch Madness finalist, a six-time Atlanta Writer’s Conference (AWC) Best Manuscript Award winner, and a two-time AWC Best Pitch Award winner. My other novels, WINGMOM GOES HOLLYWOOD, is a Maggie Award finalist, and LABOR OF LIES is a Maggie Award finalist and AWC Best Manuscript Award winner.

Sounds like everything is moving right to publication. Have you decided who’ll be writing blurbs for you?

No, but I have a wishlist of authors I want to write blurbs for my published book and I’m not above tears and begging.

Maybe someone in the club would write something pithy. I don't think you'd even have to look very far.

(No comment)

Terra? Are you still there?

(Still no comment)

Terra? Okay, let me know if I can do anything for you.

*****

Look for Terra at one of our next meetings. The first hour or so is always a social get-together to discuss any projects in progress, or find out how your fells writers find time to work. Terra will certainly stand out from the crowd. Just look for the most enthusiastic woman in the room, and she probably knows Terra and will introduce you to her. Maybe she'll ask you for a blurb!

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