2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
Question: You are an amazing writer and editor! In addition to your 14 nonfiction books, you have written over 400 articles. You also run an editing service for authors. How do you manage your time?
Arlene Uslander: I get up early in the morning so that I can work when the house is very quiet and my mind feels rested and fresh. I only take on assignments in which there is not a close deadline that will put me under a lot of pressure. When I used to write weekly newspaper columns, for example, I would be up half the night, because I was also teaching school during the day, raising two children and feeding my husband. J However, I no longer have young children in the house, my husband has taken over most of the cooking (bless him!) and I am retired from teaching, so I have a lot more time for writing and editing than I did during different stages in my life.
Q: With over 20 years of editing experience, it goes without saying that you are extremely qualified to help authors get their work into publishable form. How should we contact you to learn more?
Uslander: Visit my Web site at http://www.uslander.net, where you can read about my credentials, my services and my references.
Q: After promoting 14 books, including the popular book you co-edited with Brenda Warneka, The Simple Touch of Fate, you must have many marketing secrets. What are your favorite promotional tips?
Q: With all of your accomplishments, what do you consider your greatest achievement as a writer? Did it give you satisfaction, monetary compensation or status?
Uslander: Putting together The Simple Touch of Fate: Real People; Real Stories, which is an anthology of true inspirational stories from all over the world about people's personal brushes with fate, is what I consider my greatest literary achievement. It took five years to collect all the stories, verify the factual information (fortunately, my co-editor, Brenda Warneka, is a lawyer, so that was her job) and to edit each story. Although the book is selling very well, I would not say that I am getting rich from it in monetary terms, but I got rich from it in other ways. I have established a wonderful relationship with many of the people who contributed stories, whom I now consider good friends, and my co-editor and I have become the best of friends, as have our husbands, which is an added bonus. So, I feel rich from the friendships I have made. And, I feel great satisfaction from the very positive reviews and comments we have about the book. Therefore, without a doubt, I feel that The Simple Touch of Fate has been my greatest achievement as a writer/editor. Oh, by the way, I did write several stories for the book, as did Brenda Warneka.
Q: What or who inspires you the most?
Uslander: My three grandchildren, ages 13, 12 and 11. They are wise, witty and wonderful!
Q: What changes would you most like to see for you and other writers? Will you use your experience to affect those changes?
Uslander: Because of the fact that so many book publishers have merged, and so many publishers will not look at un-agented manuscripts, and many agents will not look at manuscripts from authors who have not been published (a vicious circle, if I ever heard one!) and because of the fact that even if you are fortunate enough to find an agent, there is no guarantee that she or he will find you a publisher—or even stay in business—it can take a very long time to have a book published by a traditional publisher—unless, of course, you are a celebrity, have killed your husband's lover, or have been involved in some other kind of scandal. Therefore, self-publishing is becoming more and more popular, but it is often extremely costly.
The latest trend is POD books (publish on demand), which can be considerably less costly than other types of self-publishing; however, most bookstores will not carry POD books because at the present time, most POD companies do not have a return policy, and they give bookstores a smaller discount than traditional publishers do. Also, the media is not author-friendly to POD books. So, the biggest change I would like to see for writers is for POD companies to become more accepted by bookstores and the media. Yes, I will use my experience to try to affect a change by writing about the many advantages of POD publishing for anyone who will read about it. The Simple Touch of Fate was published by a POD company and I have nothing but good things to say about the book and the experience—except for being given the cold shoulder by bookstores and the national press.
Q: Your 25 years as an elementary teacher must have given you lots of inspiration for your books and articles. After being a writer for so long, how do you keep your writing fresh and exciting?
Uslander: My main interest in writing has always been human interest articles and essays. Although it is true that I probably got more inspiration for books and articles from my students than anyone or anywhere else, my inspiration for writing comes from life—the joys, the sorrows, the absurdities. I am not the kind of writer who sits down and thinks, "Well now, what shall I write about?" I write when the ideas come to me and when they do come, I am as excited as a child opening her birthday presents, and I go over every single word in my head over and over again before I sit down and start writing.
The idea for the Fate book came to me when a young editing client of mine gave his manuscript which told about how his sister saved his life because she had a premonition that her brother needed her. The idea for a particular essay came to me when a homeless man handed me a piece of paper on which he had scrawled a poem that just happened to express how I was feeling at that moment. The idea for my book, That's What Grandparents Are For came to me when my two-year-old grandson and his parents moved very far away and I poured out my love for the child in poems that subsequently became a whole book. I guess I am what one would call an emotional writer. I have never written fiction, though I wish I could.
Q: Do you have a favorite type or genre of writing? Why or why not?
Uslander: Not really. I read all different types of books, and love good writing, with poetic imagery. One of the problems I have, though, is that since I am also a professional editor, when I read a book, I can't just read and enjoy it like normal people do. I am constantly aware of incorrect punctuation, grammar, typos, etc. I tend to be obsessive about it. But if asked who my favorite authors are, I would have to say John Irving and Ann Rivers Siddons.
Q: After working hard all day, what is your idea of a perfect evening?
Uslander: A relaxing evening in a quiet restaurant with my husband, and/or with my husband and good friends; going to the theater to see a play, watching an absorbing movie on TV, reading a good book, and e-mailing my friends, especially my Fate co-editor. Brenda and I met on the Internet when she responded to my announcement for "fate" stories. That was about six years ago, and we haven't missed a day of e-mailing in all that time, unless one of us is out of town, which happens most often when she and her husband, and my husband and I, are out of town together. I live in Chicago and Brenda lives in Arizona.
Q: Do you have any additional thoughts or comments, Arlene?
Uslander: Just that I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to be interviewed, and to tell you that I think your newsletter is terrific. Also, if anyone is interested in reading my latest book, The Simple Touch of Fate, please log on to the fate Web site, or order it from Amazon.com or iUniverse at 1-800-288-4677.
Shaunna Privratsky has authored over 200 articles, including pieces in The Writer, FundsForWriters, Write Success and Absolute Write. Her new book "Pump Up Your Prose" was released November 15th. Check out her acclaimed writer's e-book series and FREE newsletter at The Writer Within at http://shaunna67.tripod.com Learn her money-saving secrets at The Discount Diva while you're visiting.