An Interview with Author Terry Petersen
Terry Petersen considers herself first a grandmother, and second a writer of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and song. She was content with an upside down TV stand as a bookcase for years -- until it almost fell apart -- as long as it protected her books. Obviously she isn't a materialistic kind of girl. She does value friendship, however. She wishes everyone deep friendships and sustaining joy.
(Excerpt from her website: https://terrypetersen.wordpress.com/ )
1. If you were to introduce yourself to a group of strangers, what would you say?
If the strangers happen to be writers, no problem. We have something in common: an addiction to words. I may not drink, smoke, or curse out loud, but my waking thoughts turn to stories before I become aware my bladder needs to be emptied. In a group of writers, I would ask about their work, and then respond with a word or two about mine. However, in a random crowd, chances are I would be the short, quiet individual on the sidelines. The poster-child introvert, albeit the senior citizen version. I would first discern the common interests of the crowd by watching body language and listening. If they want to talk about themselves, I listen. The experiences of other people can be fascinating. If they are willing to hear funny grandchildren stories I'm ready. I'm not enthusiastic about telling someone about my writing history, and then hear, "Oh, I only read sports magazines," or "Let me tell you about my flatulent dog."
I have met folk in a water aerobics class who later read my blog and liked it. These people became precious to me because I am less interested in finding fans than I am in making friends.
2. How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first 52-page story in a spiral stenographer notebook when I was in the eighth grade. I was thirteen. "Every Tom, Dick, and Harry" was followed by "Ice Cream Sodas," an incredibly amateur sequel. Several years later I found the penciled pages and donated them to the family's weekly trash. I excelled at self-criticism. Yes, the plot needed a lot of work. However, in my early teens I thought stories flowed from a pen as easily as they appeared on the page. I had to grow up a bit before I started writing again.
3. What do you write?
My middle grade fantasy, The Curse Under the Freckles, was published by Post Mortem Press in August of 2015. I have signed the contract for its sequel, Stinky, Rotten Threats. It should appear sometime in 2017. Of course, I also am a regular contributor to the esteemed Piker Press, and I maintain a weekly blog on positive thinking at TERRY PETERSEN. My original songs are strictly amateur. I perform them locally.
4. Did you always believe you were meant to be a writer? Or was this some accidental discovery?
I grew up in a don't-EVER-compliment-yourself family. Perhaps on some level I still fear I'll go blind if I do. At the age of four or five I was imitating the style of a vocalist on the radio. My mother interrupted me with a stern, "So who do you think you are?" Of course there could be no answer. And when I first became interested in creating stories I had to keep the notion secret. I was, however, an avid reader.
In the seventh grade my teacher asked the class to write one scene in the form of a play, based on a book by a Catholic author. I chose Cardinal Wiseman's Fabiola. My teacher accused me of plagiarism. The book was thicker than the class's dictionary. I proved my teacher wrong. She sent my one-act play into a local contest. I won first prize -- a book below my reading level. Go figure.
5. What are you currently working on?
I am working on a middle-grade book from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old girl with a disability. Her special needs are not the story's focus. My heroine simply has a different way of solving the problems she faces. She uses unique strengths and weaknesses.
6. What is the one advice you would offer to a new writer?
Writer Anne Lamott has said, "Almost all good writing starts with terrible first efforts ..." So, don't worry if parts of your work make you groan. I once gave a chapter to my son to critique. The first line read: Mama has a corncob pipe. My son added: and a button nose and two eyes made out of coal. Needlessly said, I changed the sentence. By the way, my son, Gregory Petersen is the author of Open Mike. He has also done stand-up comedy. So, I should never be surprised by his responses.
Most of my work has a positive tone. If you are looking for ugliness, watch the evening
news. Sure, every good story needs conflict. Without it, you may as well read the phone
book while chewing lumps of hardened flour. I write about the awful and don't minimize
it. But, hope surfaces -- in some form. And I suspect that's where the beauty lives, too.