Annie On Writing

October 15, 2014

An interview with Ron Estrada – Writer in the Spotlight

Filed under: Interview with Author — Annie Evett @ 12:01 am


Ron Estrada is a writer from Elmhurst, Illinois, just west of Chicago.  A husband to one woman and a father to two boys, 3 and 1, he’ll say yes to garlic, the Oxford comma and bebop but no to glitter, dark chocolate and water snakes.


“Reborn” is my novel-in-progress.  

What was the initial motivation for this work? 

I became interested in the processing of tragedy, I don’t know when this happened.  Maybe it was small deaths of people close to me and then, the biggest to date, my grandmother in 2004.  My father was, is, a musician and I often spent weekends with my grandmother playing poker and cooking bread, sausage and peppers, spaghetti “gravy,” as we, my family, and many other local Italians, call it.  Anyhow, my grandmother and I were awfully close, always.  She smoked and died from cancer and it all happened pretty quickly.  It was a big acceptance and still is at times.  Even young I thought about the approach of death when it wasn’t necessarily immediate and I missed people before they were gone.  My new story explores the taking of tragedy and the then handling of it.

Is your main character a recurring one in your writing?

No.  Though it sometimes feels like it because I’ve been thinking about this character for quite a long time, this man dealing with the death of his wife. (There’s no mystery she’s dead; it’s introduced right away in the story.)  I feel that way with a lot of my characters because I think they’ve been living in cubby holes in my psyche, like recipes we pick up along the way and don’t know the full taste of until we put the saucepan on the stove and add coriander.  I don’t think my protagonist will live on in any other stories.  I like to let them live on in their own privacy after we part.

What message or feeling did you want to leave with your audience?

I don’t really know.  I don’t like the cliched sound of “life is fragile” and “live for today” but I can see that being a message that might come across, even though I have no interest in this book being a motivational poster.  Though maybe it will be to some.  And that’s fine, of course.  I’m interested in the story that becomes the story for the reader.  I do hope for an emotional dive.  I hope the sad parts come across as sad.  I hope the joyous parts come across as so.  I mostly want to introduce the reader to a character who is meeting life, a part of life that he doesn’t really want though, if he wants to live, has to face.  I think that happens all the time.  Perhaps it’ll be insightful watching someone else, a different one of us, experience it.  

What sorts of challenges or insights have you had writing this?

My writing is very stream-of-conscience.  My wife says it’s “left-branching,” though tells me that suggest something negative.  (She doesn’t think so.)  Anyhow, there’s a glide to it that I need to balance well with the story I want to tell and not just in how I want to tell it.  This is a general challenge.  It’s something I give my attention to, maybe mostly in the editing or rewriting process.  With this book, with what my main character is working through, there are times when he’s absent from his own world, pedestrian in his own life.  The story needs these moments but the flow thickens at these times.  It can be a challenge to make things interesting when things aren’t interesting to your characters.  

What sort of research might you do before you begin writing?

I’ve revisited writers who’ve written about loss (C.S. Lewis, Joan Didion, etc.) and talked to everyday folk about their being widows or widowers, not interviewing them but, more, just listening to the things they chose to share.  But we’ve all lost and will continue to lose those we love.  Because of that I think that readers will find much that feels familiar, even if it’s on a different scale.  It can be hard writing all of this, to face it; my heart often hurts.  

What sort of stories do you normally write? (Is this story a break from your norm?)

I’ve always written much shorter pieces than I’m writing now.  When I first started writing seriously, and probably reading seriously, much of what I read and wrote was short fiction.  For me there was no surprise that once reflected the other.  Raymond Carver was a big influence stylistically.  I love many of his stories.  He wrote about being a short story writer, “Get in, get out.  Don’t linger.”  That was comforting to me.  Something much longer felt impossible to scale as a young writer.  I feel more comfortable with it now.  It feels more necessary.

Are you a member of a writing group – either online or a physical one?

I’m not part of anything formally organized right now.  Well, I contribute to Today’s Author and there is shared advice and tips and that’s well organized so maybe I am.  But nothing like a workshop or specific meeting date with a specific group of writers.  I have before signed up for workshop classes at a local college, which I think is a good thing.  Like-minded folks and structure can be helpful.  And often there’s a class at night, which plays well with anyone who has a regular, straight job like me.  I think it’s important to have a community to call on, writer friends or reader friends you trust.  Someone you can lump a manuscript on their laps without much pushback.  I’m not really a genre writer but I know there are many genre-specific groups around.  

What advice or tips do you have for writers who feel they are stuck or have “writers block”?

Well, we suffer over our writing; that’s natural and fine and, hopefully, part of being a serious writer.  I think that once a writer starts to focus on the “block” then they lose focus on the writing.  It’s okay if things aren’t gushing out.  Be patient and allow yourself some grace.  Pay attention to how you write/read/think and how that results in a complete story/novel/poem.  If that means you’re stuck with where a story wants to go, let it simmer, but continuously be a part of it.  If you get frustrated and words aren’t coming, maybe go on to something else where the words are, write something different.  

How can others follow your journey? 

I started a blog a few years ago to have a forum to publish some short, reflective essays on all sorts of topics that grab me.  They’re usually about 600 words, I think.  Not very long.  I don’t talk about my novel on my site.  I guess I feel it may prompt an interaction that I’m not ready to have yet.  I want the relationship right now to just be between me and story.  Who knows, though.  Maybe a shared novel journal will sound pleasing in the future.  Or I’ll just share some bites, a teaser trailer of sorts.  I’m going to think about that. 

My website, by the way, is: 8.187  and I can be followed on Twitter

October 13, 2014

Demystifying Proofreading

Filed under: Articles from Today's Author,Writing Tools — Annie Evett @ 6:21 am

Getting a story or document “proofread” holds a certain mystery as the lines between beta reading, proofing and editing are often blurred and misunderstood. There are several stages a manuscript enters on its way towards submission or publication. After the author has acted upon suggestions of their beta readers and self edited, sending the work to a proofreader to review before it is handed to their editor will ensure that their editor can focus on structure and elements without being distracted by grammatical errors. With editors fees normally being charged per hour, minimising lower level, time wasting tasks will maximise the skills the editor has to offer. A proofreader’s fees are generally less than an editor, due to the type of checks and tasks required and is often a fixed fee, rather than an hourly rate.

Proofreading can be defined as identifying and correcting typographical and grammatical errors. A professional proofreader will check the work a few times, looking for different aspects each sweep. These include checks in:

  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar.
  • Name, word and term consistency. A proofreader will ensure that a characters name is spelt the same way each time, that the author has consistently capitalised specific words or terms.
  • Layout. Proofreaders check that font choice and size along with the page layout remains the same across the entire document.
  • Style guides. Often submissions to literary agents or competitions have very strict style guides to adhere to. A proofreader can ensure that these have been followed.
  • Dependant upon the length of the document, checking the table of contents match with page numbers.   

Its difficult for an an author to do a thorough proofread of their own work as often they are too close to the text, story and characters and will overlook errors without realising they have. A fresh pair of eyes will spot inconstancies and mistakes quickly.

It is important for the author to have clear communication with their proofreader to outline the expectations they have for proofing the manuscript. Generally, a proofreader will read the document quickly and jot down questions and queries they may have arising from the first sweep.  Often these notes are inserted into the document as comments using Word Track Changes.  It is up to the author to address these queries and to accept or reject any alterations made to the original manuscript.   

A quick google search will turn up pages of proofreaders with varying fees. Personal recommendations through your writers groups, or the writing professional body in your state are better methods of sourcing a reliable proofreader than choosing a random service based on an attractive website. Most countries have a society of editors and proofreaders which can be contacted for qualified professionals.

 Many authors believe that proofreaders only check for grammatical errors.  Whilst this is a basic element of the role, a good proofreader has a grasp on a wide range of topics, has an extensive vocabulary and the ability to express ideas and images concisely. Not only do they need to be both tactful and confident in order to challenge an author on word choices, a proofreader needs to disciplined with their time and be able to deliver their skills with a quick turnaround.

First Published over at Todays Author

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