Sunday, June 21, 2015

Writers4Higher features Nic Stoltzfus

Hi Nic! Welcome to Writers4Higher

1.     Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

So, to start off with my name is Nic Stoltzfus, and I am a newly-minted author. This is a title that I have dreamed about being able to put on my nametag since I was a little kid, and I am very honored to say that I wrote my first book that was released last month. The name of the book is Coastal Dune Lakes: Jewels of Florida’s Emerald Coast, and it was published as part of a multimedia project on the coastal dune lakes found in Northwest Florida. My dad, Elam Stoltzfus, took most of the pictures for the book, and I did the layout and writing and some additional photography. There was a local composer from Panama City, Eric Schrotenboer, who did the music for a companion documentary for public television, I wrote the script for the documentary, and my dad did most of the cinematography and directed the film. It was a great project to be a part of!

So, a bit about myself—I was born in Tallahassee and grew up in Blountstown (a small town close to Chattahoochee—you understand what that’s like Rhett!). When I am explaining what it is like to people who have never visited there I say it is a “small one stoplight sleepy southern town.” The Whistle-Stop CafĂ© could have easily been built in Blountstown, Chattahoochee, Grand Ridge or any of these little municipalities scattered around the Florida Panhandle. It was a great place to grow up, and I am grateful that I was surrounded by nature and family.

My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Probably one of my biggest inspirations is my grandparents—Monroe and Naomi Yoder. They traveled from Delaware to Blountstown to found a small Mennonite church. Even though they are no longer alive, they still have a large impact on my life. Their mission in life was to make a difference in the community through the example of their lives. No, they weren’t perfect, but they were good and honest people who truly cared about the people of Calhoun County and saw this place as their mission field. I hope to continue that legacy and be kind and compassionate with everyone who crosses my path no matter who they are or where they're from.

2.     Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

Well, I hope to continue to write about environmental issues in the State of Florida. I think that this is an important time to be telling stories of Florida’s natural environment, and so I want to be able to communicate stories that are well-told, inspiring, and exciting. I hope that I did that with the coastal dune lakes project—in the documentary we tell the story of a group of people who worked hard to preserve what is now Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, a beautiful state park that contains around 6 miles of preserved beachfront—a rarity in today’s landscape. I hope to show people now that true change can take place, and it starts with citizens coming together to help save and protect something they believe in. That’s a story of hope, and I think that these are the sorts of tales that need to be told. The media is filled with things that get us down and depressed and upset—if I can add to that mix a story of hope, healing, and redemption—then that brings my life a lot of meaning.

Along with this I have some short stories, sci-fi, and auto-fiction that I am working on, but it is still in the early stages and they will come to fruition when the time is right.

I hope that writing can take me around the world—it is the skill that I have decided to dedicate my life to, and I write every day and try to read as many books as possible! So, that’s my goal. J

3.     How do you use your talents/time to help others?

I think I answered some of this question in responses given above, but to say specifically the way that I use my talents/time to help others is by showing people a new perspective to look at the world. We all have a unique way of looking at the world and when anyone reads a work (regardless if it is fiction or nonfiction), they enter into that writer’s perspective. And I think this fosters a sense of empathy by seeing the world through a new lens, a different body that is unfamiliar and new to them. This is broadly speaking, but I think it is important nonetheless.

I am still in the early stages of this, but I am working on doing a series of workshops with my local library on writing/photography for school-aged kids. This is something that I am really looking forward to working on!

Since I am still in the early stages as a writer, I am still looking for ways to give back so if other writers read this and have ideas, I am open to them!

More info on Coastal Dune Lakes project:

Thanks for joining us, Nic!

Rhett DeVane
Southern fiction author and blogmaster

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Writers4Higher features Andrea Brunais, editor and author

Welcome, Andrea!

1. Tell me about yourself, your business, and the connection with the writing world.

As communications director for a large division at Virginia Tech, I operate as a sort of "backpack journalist," doing everything from writing communications plans to crafting news releases, shooting and editing short video stories and mentoring more junior writers. My early career was in journalism – I was a columnist and editor with Media General and, later, Knight-Ridder, and my journalism awards include a Robert Kennedy Journalism Award for investigative reporting and a first-place award from the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. After daily newspapers began their decline, I also edited an alternative weekly in Sarasota with the Creative Loafing chain.

My latest novel, Mercedes Wore Black, published by Yellow Southern Pine Publishing, tells the story of a "real" backpack journalist covering the Florida governor's race. Reviews have been glowing, and my publisher has submitted it as her nominee for the best Florida adult fiction category in this year's Florida Authors and Publishers Association contest.

Meanwhile, I have discovered that I love making the work of other writers shine just as much as I like to edit and improve my own!

2. How do you work with authors?

As a book editor, I work with authors in two ways: I do general content editing, and I also do line edits. Many editors specialize in one type of editing or the other. Because of my newspaper training, I can do the character-by-character copy editing that upholds the highest standards of consistency and proper grammar. I can also take a step back from a manuscript and judge things such as: Does it sing? Is it well organized? Does it fulfill me as a reader? Are there big pieces missing?

I've been a voracious reader since childhood. My standards are high. I expect a writer to entertain and inspire me. I want character development and I also want that page-turning quality.

Also, as through the years, I've done book reviews for various publications. That has given me many opportunities to think through what makes a book work. When it doesn't, I've got to figure out a way to articulate what went wrong.

Lately I've read a couple of books where the main character doesn't pass the "who cares?" test. If I don't care about a character, I have little interest in reading about him or her – and I know legions of readers feel the same way! So that's the first hurdle for many authors. They need to find a way to make the reader love their characters or at least like them enough to want to live in their skins for a while!

3. Do you write as well as contribute through your business? Please share!

I continue to write as well as edit – and probably always will. Most recently, I edited a book of essays written by my mother during the last 20 years of her life. She co-founded a Write Focus writing group in her community in Michigan, and her fellow writers encouraged her to write more about her childhood growing up in small town in the 1930s and 1940s. I wish she had lived to see the wonderful reception the book has gotten! It's called On the Drop Side of Yonder, and it's available inexpensively via Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle. Soon I'll have a different form of the book available absolutely free (and with no ads) on YouTube. The reading will be done by my dear friend and fellow author Saundra Kelley, who's a Jonesborough-trained storyteller par excellence.


Contact info: ANDREA BRUNAIS / 540.808.0864 /

Thank you for joining us on Writers4Higher.

Rhett DeVane
author and blogmaster


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