Could You be Addicted to Feedback?


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What are the signs?

I have this mentor/friend who thinks I have a problem. She’s traditionally published over a dozen novels and teaches a wildly successful fiction workshop in a major city.

Twice, she has told me to just finish my current draft without getting more feedback.

What kind of feedback am I talking about? Not just your garden variety writing or critique group comments that take place in a workshop setting. (But I partake in that, too!)

After my second full draft, I realized my beginning needed work. I rewrote the first forty pages then got an assessment from a professional editor.

I rewrote those pages again incorporating the changes suggested by the editor (also a well-known novelist).

Next, I took part in a story workshop with an award-winning playwright and realized I hadn’t quite nailed my “what’s this about.”

Most authors, whether they’re screenwriters or novelists, eventually have to distill their project to the infamous log-line.

So, I spent some time on that. Then rewrote my outline making sure I was faithful to the gist of my story.

Then I rewrote the first few chapters to more faithfully follow the outline, and—yep, you guessed it—submitted those for feedback.

All of the feedback I received was spot-on and useful.

So, what makes me think I might need a 12-step program for writers seeking feedback?

Last week, the first mentor I mentioned above asked how my project was going. I was all positive: “Great, still working on it. Incorporating feedback on a new beginning, etc.”

And she asked: “Haven’t you already done that?”

Yes. Three times.

She was confused. She told me to knock it off. That it was just procrastination masquerading as “improving my craft.” She told me to just finish the draft using everything I know how to do. On my own. Like, without a guide. Alone. Solo.


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I know, pushy, right? So, I said I ok. I committed. No more feedback.

Then I texted her and asked if going cold turkey included getting comments from my writing group.

Her exact response: “OMG. Yes, that counts.”

I’ve had limited time to work on my draft over the last two weeks. I have a post-op son at home that requires twice-daily “wound-care.” And, yes, that’s as disgusting as it sounds.

A dear relative is in the ICU.

I have a day job. I have laundry and meals to prepare and groceries to procure.

(Einstein ought to have tackled that job. The most inefficient system in the modern age: take item off shelf, put item in cart, take item out of cart, place item on conveyor, place item into bag, place bag into cart, take bag out of cart, place bag into car, take bag out of car, take bag into house, take item out of bag, place item onto shelf. Seriously—473 steps for groceries. Aaaaaaggggghhhhhh!)

I’m supposed to find time to exfoliate and floss and meditate and correspond with family. And when do I squeeze in watching VEEP or Silicon Valley on TV?

On my lunch hour today, I sat in my car and read my first two chapters out loud. I listened for the cadence of my sentences. I made notes about two pages of dialogue with almost no exposition or setting. I made notes on two page of exposition and setting with no action or dialogue.

Such is the life of a writer on her first book. I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one who has attempted this while also having to figure out how to pick a ripe, juicy cantaloupe from the produce section.

Sometimes knowing you’re not alone helps. Sometimes it doesn’t.

To further suck time from editing my novel, I signed up months ago for an online workshop. Our current module is “Unhooking from Praise and Criticism.”

This dovetails with my feedback obsession for my work in progress.

One of the common pitfalls of first-time novelists is starting over, never getting to the end of the first draft.

But I avoided that trap! I outwitted my newbie-ness and made sure I got to The End on that first draft. And on the second.

The remaining drafts? You guessed it. I keep going back and working on the beginning. Sometimes, this is important if you still don’t know what your story is. And, yes, there’s no right way and blah, blah, blah.

But by sending out the first twenty pages, or the first five chapters or  just this one section for editorial assessments and feedback, I’m avoiding the inevitable.

I have to finish the f$#king draft I’m working on. Not the next one. This one.

Epiphany-ish, no?

And I know how to make it better. I don’t know if anyone will want to publish it, but I do know how to make it better.

There should be a drive-thru service where workers (trained editors of course) scan your latest output of words and hand you a printout that declares Congratulations, these four pages are working. Carry on!


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I just don’t know if I’m doing it right. Four nights ago, I was sure it sucked. I decided to just race through the draft maniacally so I could put it in a trunk under my bed and get on with the next, better book.

Several months ago, I was trying to decide if I should send a current draft out for feedback and I asked my wise mentor person if she thought it was a good idea.

She replied, “Have you already done everything to it that you know how to do?”

The answer was an easy No.

What a question! What’s she hinting at?

You guessed it—she suspected my feedback addiction back then. But I had to be ready to quit.

So, I’m taking it one day at a time. Not sharing pages with anyone. Just working away. In my writing room. At my writing desk. In my car. In the coffee shop.


In one of my favorite books about the experience of writing a book (Yes, there is such a thing, and it’s fabulous. How’s that for book-y geekdom?), many pitfalls and stages are explained. Writing a book is a journey.

It’s possible I’m making it harder than it has to be. It’s possible I’m doing it all wrong. It’s possible that I’ll relapse. But for now. I’m just writing. And most days, I don’t want to stop.





4 Thoughts on “Could You be Addicted to Feedback?

  1. Tracey Curzon-Manners on June 7, 2016 at 3:39 am said:

    Suzanne! Your words come alive and I relate to every single sentence… and I agree with your mentor. Trust yourself and silence the inner critic. I understand the need to feedback, I’ve even been tempted myself but deep down I also know what I really want is approval and only I can give me that.

    Leave the feedback to your readers – they’re going to love you as much as I loved reading this.

  2. Tracey Curzon-Manners on June 7, 2016 at 3:40 am said:

    ‘ the need to seek feedback’ Tch

Why I Write – Confessions of an Attention Whore

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” 
― Bertrand Russell


Chuck Wendig of Terribleminds fame proposed a contest where writers squeeze their reasons for their life calling into 1000 words. By the way, if you are not reading The Terribleminds Blog occasionally, stop reading this and head over there. The guy is freaking hilarious and smart. The two usually go together when the hilarity is intentional.

My usual answer to this question is:

1. It’s the only thing I was consistently good at growing up.

2. I love attention for doing something good (see #1). My best friend once told me I was an attention whore.

Digging a little deeper, I realize these are lazy answers. The real core of writing is thinking. I think a LOT. According to my husband, I think way too much.

When tragedy strikes on the national news, or the neighbor’s dog craps on my lawn, or I’m in love with a new book, or pretty much any other thought in any other category presents itself for examination in my mind, a letter forms in my head.

I don’t remember when this started, and I don’t remember a time before it started.

I was always writing actual letters growing up. At 11, I wrote fan letter to Johnny Carson, I corresponded with my great-uncle until he died at 94. After putting my two kids to bed at night, I sat at my garage sale kitchen table with an old typewriter, composing letters in old English to my girlfriend 1200 miles away, begging to be released from the bondage of indentured servitude.

As my kids grew more independent, I pursued writing with intent. I joined a writing group at the local library, read books about famous writers and the writing craft. I never grew bored with the topic, though my family grew tired of hearing about it.

It’s a world that fascinates, entertains and teaches me things. It’s my home planet.

The nearest comparison I can think of is my son, Jeremy. He’s a big guy 6’5″ and 300 lbs, and was recruited for both football and wrestling. We went on many official visits for both sports his junior and senior year in high school. As you can imagine, the two sports are treated very differently at most colleges, with football getting the massive majority of funding and attention.

Jeremy Brazil Football

On one such visit, we’d just left 100 uniformed football players and a pyramid of cheerleaders on a sparkling green field to go out to dinner and discuss the D1 University as a possibility for our son. He stopped us before our cheeseburgers arrived saying, “I want to wrestle.”

Jeremy Brazil Wrestling

We cautioned him to really think about it. Football was so much more popular, there was no constant weight maintenance, the sport took less of a toll physically, etc. He just shook his head and said “I love playing in the football games, but the rest of it is boring to me. I love every second that I’m in a wrestling room.”

He’d found his people. He’d found his tribe.

I love every minute spent talking about books, reading books, talking about writing, reading someone’s writing, and actually writing.

Fiction does not come as naturally. I worry that I’m not creative enough, original enough. It scares me. I’m doing it anyway.

I’m working on the second draft of my first novel. I’ve read approximately 873,364 novels in my life. Writing a novel is incredibly difficult and time-consuming. But sitting with a pen and notebook and scribbling down made-up people in made up situations, and then having them come to life in my head, is alchemy.

Taking 20 pages of boring information dumps and exposition, and turning that into 10 pages of compelling scenes with characters that seem real makes me feel like I’ve figured something out.

When a free writing exercise turns into 500 words about a wedding gone bad on a Greek Isle, it’s the closest thing to real magic that I can think of.

The truth is, I enjoy getting a laugh out of friends and family, or seeing someone moved by the words I’ve placed on the page. One morning I checked my email and read a note from a woman in Saudi Arabia. No, she wasn’t asking for money for Prince George. She wrote to say she’d read an essay I’d written about my mother in a volume of Chicken Soup for the Soul, and it touched her. She wrote to say thanks.

I wish I had some altruistic motive: I write to provide fresh water for villagers in Rwanda or to ease suffering of the mentally ill. Mostly, I think I write to free up space in my head for new thoughts, new questions, new answers.  And seeing my name on a byline does satisfy the attention whore in me.

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What We Can’t Wait to Read This Summer

open books Chicago

Open-Books author event

Wine and Books, Books and Wine. Beautiful words together or apart. I’m thrilled to be part of

“What We Can’t Wait to Read this Summer”

wine & books night @Open Books

Think of an “Ultimate” book club where four Chicago authors (Suzanne Brazil, Sara Connell, James Kennedy, Ross Ritchell) will share their “Top List” for summer reading followed by wine, light snacks and discussion/mingling with the authors.  The event is being hosted by Open Books (Awesome new West Loop Space).

open books Chicago

Bring a friend or group and join us for an inspiring and entertaining evening celebrating books, summer reading and our obsession with a great story!

The event is open to the public, to register, call or email:

tel  312.475.1355 

Event is free. Wednesday July 1st6:00-8:00PM

2 Thoughts on “What We Can’t Wait to Read This Summer

  1. Sounds fun!! Sadly Chicago is too far for my little stumpy legs to manage. 😉 Good luck with it though, Suzanne! <3

    Lazy Hedgehog x

Have Courage and Be Kind



I’m busy trying to “think big” and organize a book signing for my first book. It takes some guts to call coffee shops and bars and tell them you’re a “writer” and you have a “book” and you’d like to take up their valuable space to sign some books and donate some money to charity. My inner critic is a bully and I’m ignoring her while telling myself “someone will come.” More on that later…

A writer friend from cyberspace suggested I do a soup-to-nuts breakdown of how I got my story published in Chicken Soup. I was going to post that today but got busy finalizing another interview with a New York Times best-selling author! Stay tuned for that too!

Lastly, I spent a lovely Sunday with a family birthday breakfast for my daughter, dinner with friends and managed to see Cinderella at the movies. Highly recommend the latest live action version. And in the words of Cinderella and her mother,

“Have courage and be kind.”

2 Thoughts on “Have Courage and Be Kind

  1. Well done Suzanne for staying strong against that internal critic, what a bully it is. I empathise heartily. Good luck with everything and celebrate all that you have achieved.

World Book Day Announcement – Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

indie book store

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom: Thanks to My Mom







It’s World Book Day! To celebrate, I’m officially announcing my first published story in a book! Even more than books, my mom, Barb Armstrong, has been the biggest influence in my life. I miss seeing her every day but I’m grateful for the visits and our daily chats. Our story, “An Ordinary Life” is included in this anthology co-authored by Amy Newmark and Jo Dee Messina of country music fame.

Books go on sale March 17 and are available through pre-order on Amazon and many local bookstores.

The Chicken Soup for the Soul family continues to provide positive, uplifting stories.  I think we can use more of those! More details to come!

Press Release Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Mom and 5 kids

“An Ordinary Life” My mom, Barb, and her 5 kids

Side note: Beautiful cover–Purple is my favorite color and daisies just happen to be my mom’s favorite flower!

indie book store amazon logo

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Author Interview with Lani V. Cox

Lani V. Cox

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

Aloha Lani!

Lani V. Cox

I was born in a pink hospital on the beautiful Hawaiian Island of O’ahu, a week after my mom landed from Thailand (‘cause she’s crazy). And even though I was lucky to be raised there, we moved to the middle of the Mojave Desert when I was 12 years old and did not return to Hawaii until about 2 years later.

Lani V. Cox

At the time, I felt isolated and cursed because it was the first time I was a minority and had no friends. But now I can see it as a pivotal time in my life because it was when I started to read and write. I fell in love with reading and magically an old-fashioned green typewriter appeared in the kitchen one day – probably right around the time I decided I could write, too.

I’ve lived a rather nomadic life and I want to say this was not by choice, but on some level, it must have been. For my adult life, I’ve lived in Chico and Oceanside California, Durango Colorado, Eugene and Portland Oregon, Huntsville Alabama, Cuenca Ecuador and Chiang Mai Thailand. Currently, I teach English in Chiang Rai and have lived abroad for about 5 years.

And despite all of this wandering, I’m proud to say I just finished publishing my first book, the missing teacher.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

When I was about 13 years old, I remember buying a diary with a lock and key. On the cover it said “Crusin’” and it had a 1950s car, like a Studebaker on it, too. It was pink and silver and I loved the idea that I could lock it from prying parents or siblings.

For my first entry, I wrote about a family road trip we took from Barstow, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. I wrote about the passing desert landscape and my thoughts on the journey. I was writing from the backseat of the car.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

What a question! Can I say my favorite aspect is writing? I suppose not. Hmmm. I like how writing forces me to be clear and creative in my thoughts.  I love how I get lost in the act of writing. I even like the challenges, but what I don’t like is all the other stuff that surrounds writers these days. The self-promotions, research on how to publish, or agents to pitch to, or the endless publications that you can submit your work to. It’s just a lot and I don’t think I’m the only person who wishes it was easier.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

No, I don’t.  I believe in making a writer’s mess though. Regardless, I do think that many problems can be solved by a good night’s sleep, and a willingness to fail, make mistakes and do everything over again. I believe we can learn a lot through the process or act of creating and sometimes it’s not as smooth as we’d like it to be and that’s okay. It’s going to be alright.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

As I mentioned, I just finished self-publishing my first book the missing teacher. It was an incredibly challenging task from start to finish for many reasons. First, I didn’t really know how I wanted to outline or write my memoir. I tried different things and so I have very different versions and directions I tried out. Secondly, I carried this book with me for about 10 years. I lost motivation at times, but I stuck with it because I knew finishing this would be important. And lastly, getting the book ready for print, e-format and audio was a lot of work. I also had no idea creating a book cover would take so much trial and error, or that proofing for Amazon was going to be a test in patience and sanity.

What supports you in your writing?

I believe blogging supports my writing because it is through blogging that I can write what I want and attempt to reach an audience. I’ve also met people for coffee through my blog and it has been an interesting conversation starter at work or when I’m out being social. I’ve been surprised by how many people tell me, “I read your blog.” And for about a year, I did a learning Thai podcast with someone who upon first meeting me, gushed, “I love your blog.”

What are you currently reading?

I read a great deal online these days. But ever since I got my Kindle, I’ve been enjoying the free books available through great sites like Open Culture. So, I’m re-reading classic fairy tales and finally cracking into Jane Austin’s Emma.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

If you are interested in continuing the conversation, I blog at Life, the Universe and Lani and my indie child the missing teacher can be found here. Thank you, Kate and Kate!  

the missing teacher

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Author Interview with David Powning

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

Today we meet David! Hopefully, you’re enjoying getting to know all these folks as much as I am.

David Powning

I live in the south of England, not far from London. Last year I published my first novel, The Ground Will Catch You. I’m now working on a second.

Before writing The Ground Will Catch You I completed another novel, which I submitted to agents but got nowhere. Looking back, I think they were right – even I suspected that it wasn’t good enough. This time I sent the manuscript only to ten agents, and even as I pressed the stamps onto the envelopes I knew I was wasting my time. I received plenty of positive feedback, but nothing concrete. No one called me in for a cappuccino, but I genuinely didn’t care. Self-publishing has been so liberating, a truly fantastic thing. There are plenty of people out there (designers, proofreaders etc.) who can help you get your novel into great shape if you’re willing to invest some time and money and are truly committed to doing yourself credit by making your book as good as it can be. And there are also many indie authors who are only too happy to offer their advice, and from whose experience you can benefit if and when you lose your way.

Finally, I’m a writer – I have two cats. That’s a given.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

As a teenager I kept diaries for a long time, which I think I still have in a drawer somewhere, although I haven’t looked at them since. That’s probably for the best. Later on I was always committing ideas to paper, writing down ideas scenes, dabbling in a bit of terrible poetry. I even did some songwriting. Most, if not all, of what I wrote was probably awful, but they don’t call it a learning curve for nothing.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

Like every creative person, I imagine, writing is an outlet for something within. It chooses you, and it’s both a blessing and a curse. I’m sometimes envious of people who can go through life happily without this compulsion. But then, when I hit my stride and write a great scene, or even just a good piece of dialogue, it all feels completely worthwhile. It’s a rush, creating something out of nothing. And getting a novel out into the world was enormously satisfying, precisely because it was such hard work.

On a practical level, it would be so nice to release standalone chapters one at a time, like a musician releasing a couple of songs before an album comes out. But writing a novel isn’t like that, it’s all or nothing, so in those moments when you’re riven with self-doubt, it can be overwhelming. All those months or years spent committing words to the page, in the hope that something good comes of it – that’s tough.

Also, having to work to pay the bills and then writing in my spare time often leads to a lack of time left for reading. Ironic, really.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I’m not convinced that writer’s block exists, although there are plenty of times when the words don’t flow in the way I’d like them to. And that’s the point really: if the drain outside your house were blocked, nothing would get through at all, whereas I think this thing they call writer’s block is different. The words are coming out, they’re just in the wrong order. Or they’re the wrong words.

The key, I think, is to not edit yourself as you write, to rid yourself of that self-critical way of thinking. Just let everything flow. No one’s watching you, no one’s going to judge your work unless you ask them to. There have been many times when I’ve written pages of prose, only to read them back and be embarrassed for myself. But so often when I go back and read them again, weeks or even months later, I spot a phrase or an idea that has something, a little spark. And it’s nearly always something that didn’t occur to me at the time, something I wasn’t aware of at all. So that’s why I’m not sure about writer’s block – nothing stops you from writing, it’s a question of attitude. You’re not digging dirt in an East African diamond mine for 16 hours at a time – you have the luxury of sitting at a keyboard when it suits and putting pretty words together. A sense of perspective is needed.

One more thing: lose the internet. It’s amazing how unplugging that cable for a few hours can send productivity soaring. Who knew?

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

My new novel is going to be a real challenge, because it’s in a genre that I don’t normally read. But I had this idea for a story a while back, and it won’t let me go. I think it might be a dystopian-style novel, in that it’s either going to be set on an island or in a very remote place where an experiment is taking place. However, the rest of the world is carrying on as normal, so I’m not sure whether that’s dystopian or not. Imagine trying to sell that idea to an agent…

However, I’m excited, which is vitally important. And depending on how the book goes, there’s a possibility for a sequel, which I gather is a good thing.

What supports you in your writing?

Fear and belief. Fear because with The Ground Will Catch You I was terrified of making a fool of myself, which is why it had a structural edit, copy-edit, beta readers, a proofread and professionally designed cover. It went through four drafts, and I read the final one over and over trying to find mistakes. I was so paranoid. But the reviews have been excellent, so now I feel a lot happier. I don’t care if I sell a hundred or a hundred thousand – the book is out there, people are reading it and enjoying it. That’s what counts.

And that has led to belief. I’ve done it once, I can do it again. Although no doubt I will still obsess over tiny details in the middle of the night.

What are you currently reading?

I have Stories by TC Boyle next to my bed – big fan – but at the moment I’m mainly reading books that are in a similar area to the novel I’m working on, such as Wool; The Island of Dr Moreau; The Handmaid’s Tale; The Passage. This is not so that I can copy them; in fact, it’s the opposite. I want to avoid plot elements that might have appeared elsewhere.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

I blog at and people are welcome to email me with any queries or points of view. If I can help, I will. If not, I may know of someone who can. You can also find me on Goodreads.

Amazon would be the place for The Ground Will Catch You in ebook or paperback format. I’ve just unpublished it from Smashwords because I’m thinking of trying Kindle Unlimited to see how that goes. And ten per cent of the profits from the novel in any format will be donated to breast cancer charities.

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Author Interview Renee N. Meland

Renee Meland

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

Get to know Renee!

Renee N. Meland 

Renee N. Meland lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs. Her favorite obsessions are Rome, learning new recipes, and exploring the world around her. She is an avid reader of speculative fiction, and believes that telling stories isRenee Meland the best job in the world.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

I remember writing a fantasy piece, that we used cardboard and wallpaper to make into a book. It was called Yendor (my dad’s name spelled backwards)

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

I get paid to play pretend. Least favorite part? It’s very hard to stand out when there are millions of other books out there.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I believe in it but I don’t usually experience it. It’s more a block of motivation than ideas. Especially in the middle of a third or fourth draft, I’m ready to be done even though the story isn’t ready.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

I am working on the third installment of The Extraction List Series, titled Leave me Lost. The challenge is I have to make people fall in love on paper, which I’m discovering is very difficult.

What supports you in your writing?

My husband and my parents.

What are you currently reading?

A dystopian called Station Eleven.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

Available on Amazon

The Extraction List


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Laura Munson: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat, Now What?

Haven Retreat Muse

Last September, I flew to Montana where I spent several days with total strangers at Walking Lightly Ranch in the gorgeous mountain valley of Whitefish. I left with friends and inspiration.  Laura Munson, Haven Host and New York Times Bestselling Author of This is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, shared my essay and those of other retreaters on her personal blog.  If you’ve thought of attending a retreat, hers is one of the best in the country! Find out why here. This isn’t so much an advertisement as it is an invitation to say “why not?” If you’ve dreamed of treating yourself or testing yourself or just spending time with yourself, don’t wait!

Haven Retreat Muse

Flowers from a fellow writer and our Muse


Haven retreat - lake view with benches

One of many gathering spots of Haven Retreat at Walking Lightly Ranch


Haven Retreat - Checking in

Beautiful Guest Rooms at Walking Lightly Ranch – Peace and quiet at Haven Retreat


Haven Retreat - Garden

Abundant gardens of Walking Lightly Ranch Provided Most of Our Food While at Haven Retreat

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Story Club Founder Dana Norris Chats About Writing, Performing and Chicago’s Live Lit Scene

story club

Dana Norris is a writer and performer living in Chicago. She is the founder of the Story Club Franchise and editor-in-chief of Story Club Magazine. I enrolled in a writing workshop this summer at Story Studio Chicago called Live Lit Bootcamp. Dana was my teacher. I was terrified but she was encouraging, enthusiastic and specific.

She’s a new mom and agreed to talk with me – during baby’s nap time when she could have been napping herself – and share some insight on what it takes to be a published writer, performer, editor, teacher and all around phenom in Chicago’s vibrant storytelling scene.

Click on the audio player below for the full interview and/or scroll down for highlights.

Note: Depending on your browser, you may see ‘download’ instead of a play button. Clicking on download will give you the option to play the file online (without actually downloading the file).

story club     dana head shot              scmheader2


Dana Norris on becoming a writer and starting Story Club

I kept waiting to be chosen. I kept waiting for someone to notice how brilliant I was and be like ‘let me give you a book deal.’ I was waiting to be discovered. It didn’t occur to me that I could just make the thing that I wish existed.

Why she loves Live Lit

After a night of listening to true stories, people generally feel more connected. I believe the show does make lives better. The best thing is they’re like I want to come back and I want to tell now. It’s like a virus…a good virus!

On writing nonfiction and live storytelling

I had all these tools from short stories and I realized I could apply them to actual events.

Everyone has a story. You need to show people your world very clearly and cleanly so they want to go in.

It’s an argument. Stay here with me and go with me. I have to give you reasons to stay.

Advice on getting published

Submit. Send things away. Do it. There is no reason you should not be published. If you’re saying what you came to say and you’re doing it in a way that’s interesting, people want to publish it. So get published. You just have to keep trying and eventually you will be.

Search for editors that are going to push you and try to make you better.

Nonfiction craft and the personal essay

The most important thing…is to answer the question ‘what’s the big fucking deal?’ An essay needs reflection. Why does it interest me? Why should a stranger care? Sometimes you don’t know the answer to that question yet. You’re trying to drill down to some previously unspoken truth about the subject that only you can relate to the reader through your own experiences or through what you’ve thought about.

The word essay means to think on the page. You need to think.

On handling rejection and submitting

I have a current goal of 100 rejections this year. I’ve submitted 75 essays (same essay sometimes, multiple times) and at last count, I’ve had 8 acceptances. I’ve received 11 soft no’s…which are very important! I need to tell writers if you get a soft no – that is not a rejection. It’s considered an almost yes. I’ve received 60-some no’s.

Don’t take no as an answer. Take it as an opening to negotiations.

Best advice I’ve gotten is it’s paperwork. Treat it like paying your bills.

Her writing routine

I am deadline motivated. I like to write for a thing that is due on a day.

I hate the cult of busyness. A thing I heard recently is you have exactly as many hours in the day as Beyonce.

On making a living writing

I don’t want to belittle the dream but I don’t quite understand it. You love it so you’re going to do it anyway, so just do it anyway.

Paying writers is incredibly important. Writers should work more on ‘you should be so lucky to have me and you need to pay me.’

On writing programs and the MFA

They need to change to accommodate the real world of submissions. Editors have no time and are mostly volunteers. You have one paragraph. You need to make your piece more interesting than their lives in the first paragraph.

You don’t need to go to an MFA program to become a writer. If you want to write a book, write the book. What it is [an MFA] is just immersion and you can immerse yourself.

One thing beginners should know

Write the check and then make your ass cash it. Don’t wait for permission.


For more on Dana, her upcoming performances and links to her work in the The Rumpus, McSweeney’s, Role Reboot and others, checkout her website at









5 Thoughts on “Story Club Founder Dana Norris Chats About Writing, Performing and Chicago’s Live Lit Scene

  1. I like what Dana said about submitting just being paperwork. I’ve made 67 submissions this year.

    • Wow, 67?! That’s impressive! A worthwhile goal – do you track and if so do you mind sharing how? Thanks for tuning in – I think she has some great tips for beginners and pros too!

  2. A large binder contains:
    -a list of submissions (date, title of story and publisher)
    (After I hear from the publisher, I add a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, as well as the date)
    -rejection letters received
    -plans for future submissions

  3. Thank you for your interest, Suzanne. And best wishes for your continued success.

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