The List on Maggie
Seven countries of publication
One love of tutoring newer writers at a local Community College
Two part-time volunteer gigs
A couple of successful sexy stories
Four great children
Eighty plus miles of cycling every week
An office chair she still fits into (due to eighty plus miles of cycling every week)
A writing career started in 2007 with no formal writing background (go girl)
One well-known Australian poet-type cousin
Three married/divorced scenarios (you go girl)
A thrilling sense of irony
A killer style of writing
Maggie’s style is fresh and quirky with knock-your-socks-off detail and plenty off pzazz. Her story, ‘Princess and the Puppy Thief’ won 'The Emerald Award' and was published in this year’s Gem Street anthology.
1. What brilliant bit of scribble are you working on now?
I have at least two stories in progress at any time, which means if I hit the wall with one I’m able to jump across to another and not lose too much momentum. One of the stories I’m currently working on explores the time-warp/amnesia theme. I don’t have a title yet. I consider the right title to be as important as any other part of the story, and finding a good title is often hard work.
2. Any interesting, odd or captivating writing rituals?
I wanted to tell a wee lie here and say I couldn’t write unless I had a purple clothes peg pinching my left eyelid or something interesting like that. Alas, all I need to do is reduce the clutter around my keyboard. Clutter does my head in.
3. Is writing a tonic or a terror for you?
No matter how slow or frustrating, for me, writing is a joy. And if I manage to grab a decent block of time to write, say a whole day, it feels like a guilty pleasure.
4. What does your writing process look like?
There’s not much method about it, and I’m a slow writer. One minute I look like I’m daydreaming and the next like I’m in the dentist’s chair having a tooth pulled. Most of my stories spring from scribbling a few evocative words. In time a character will materialize who seems to belong to those words. A situation or some action will follow. When these things come together it’s like I’m watching a scene from a movie on the big screen.
5. Writing schedule: whip-cracker or easy does it?
By necessity, my schedule remains flexible. Each week I find time to write around assorted part-time positions and commitments. Besides some tutoring, I have two volunteer jobs, an elderly mother nearby whose dog needs regular walks, and I’m a recreational distance cyclist. Oh, and I have a crazy mate who is profoundly deaf and would like some extra attention thank you very much!
6. If given the chance, would you want to play any of your characters in a film? Who and why?
This is a great question and one I’ve never been asked. A few years back I wrote a venomous flash piece which was published by a university press. My protagonist got to punish the man who’d molested and terrified her as a child. I had her go shopping for ball-bearings, rope, a hammer, and drugs. This story was inspired by events from my own life and was delicious to write! I’ll play her.
7. Are you a conscious or unconscious plotter?
Did you say plodder? Plot reveals itself to me slowly. I guess there must be a percentage of unconscious plotting going on because I’ll occasionally wake in the morning with a neat way to move a stalled story along.
8. Do you peddle (your bike) for ideas?
For safety reasons, whenever I catch myself ‘story-dreaming’ while peddling I force myself to refocus on the immediate terrain. Truth is, I’ve had my share of broken ribs and stitches! Ouch!
9. What’s more important to you, character or plot?
Creating an interesting character is important, but a great character will be wasted without an interesting plot. The same can be said for having a dynamite plot and weak characters. I have to work hard on both.
10. What’s the toughest criticism you ever received?
After inviting my husband (at the time) to read one of my stories he took a pen to the manuscript and filled the margins with grammatical corrections. I don’t think he even noticed the story. I was crestfallen. Normally, a relative or friend will tell you your story is fantastic because they love you. All you budding authors please write down the following: Never ask family members or friends to read a draft of your work! But on a high note, one of my better critiques came from the late Bryce Courtenay. After attending a week-long class with this extraordinary man he read an early draft of one of my stories and sent me a lovely email. Unfortunately, due to its discomforting theme, this piece has yet to be accepted for publication even though it’s a personal favourite.
11. Three words you love.
What? Only three? I love the way words can evoke a physical response: aquamarine, serendipity, peccadillo, laborious, halitosis, exhilarating, luminous, lilting …
12. Three words you overuse.
What? Only three? HAHAHA: Then, Suddenly, I …
13. Favorite bit of cake?
The one I’m just about to eat!
14. Do you ever misplace your writing Mojo? If so, where does it usually turn up?
I begin losing my Mojo if circumstances prevent me from writing for a few consecutive days. What usually works for me is editing and re-drafting, and of course, reading some of the great fiction available in my genre.
15. I know you began writing in 2007. Why?
With only one teenager left at home and my husband working overseas for weeks at a time, I resigned from my part-time nursing job and looked for a hobby. I happened upon an ad for a short ‘life story’ writing course at a local College. Although writing a memoir doesn’t interest me, attending that course inspired me to join a writers group. I immediately fell in love with writing short fiction. Within one year I’d had competition success plus my first publication. I became obsessed with learning the craft, often working until two or three in the morning. Three years later I began casual work as a tutor of fiction writing at that very College, and in 2010 served as President of my writers group. I encourage everyone wishing to improve their writing skills to join a writers group.
16. What were you doing before you glued yourself to your office chair full-time?
I was busy working part-time whilst raising four children—single mothering much of the time. I have a Nursing and Welfare work background.
17. Inspiration comes from?
It helps to have mad friends. People inspire me. I’m curious about what makes them tick. Like many writers, I hang around cafés and train stations and airports eavesdropping!
18. Cream chiffon. Glazed chicken wings. Streisand and a powder room cubicle. Your story ‘Princess and the Puppy Thief’, published in this year’s Gem Street: Collector’s Edition has all this and more - why, where, how did you decide to write it?
My protagonist was obsessed with a handsome Spanish artist, and I know that his distinct accent/voice was easy for me to write thanks to my rapport with a delightful Spanish family who’d rented my home for twelve months. I have no idea why or how the theme evolved.
19. I know that you tutor newer writers. What’s the best thing about being able to do that?
To ignite that same passion I have for story writing in another person is the best thing about tutoring newer writers. All the information I struggled to gather in the early years of my own writer’s journey, I’ve been able to include in my copious handouts.
20. Its a few years down the road, what are you doing?
The year is 2034. It’s ten a.m. and I’m sitting at an outdoor beachside café with a cappuccino and a slab of chocolate fudge cake beside my trusty laptop. My pushbike (or hotted up mobility scooter) is parked nearby with tonight’s good bottle of red wine in the shopping basket. From where I sit I can see my mate happily catching the fish we’ll be cooking for dinner. Tomorrow, the great grandkids will be coming to visit, but right now I’m writing this story about …