Shepherd & the Professor springs from my interest in how we’ll be remembered after we’re gone. So I created a protagonist with a terminal illness who isn’t afraid of dying as much as being forgotten.”
How did you discover that you were a writer?
I came to writing as a broadcast journalist at NPR / WNIJ, learning how to use “the fewest, most powerful words” to tell stories. In recent years, I began interviewing authors for WNIJ’s “Read With Me” series and found myself in a master class. It didn’t matter whether I spoke with an internationally-known writer (Robert Hellenga, Amy Newman, James McManus) or a self-published author — I learned their tricks about the craft of storytelling. So I took those lessons and wrote my own novel, Shepherd & the Professor.
Describe your writing process.
I write on weekends and when I’m on vacation. I tend to write best in the morning and edit best after a mid-day walk. And I never outline. I like to start with two characters in dialogue. After that scene resolves, I create another scene with two characters, resolve that, and then find a way to connect these scenes to form a basic plot.
What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?
Shepherd & the Professor springs from my interest in how we’ll be remembered after we’re gone. So I created a protagonist with a terminal illness who isn’t afraid of dying as much as being forgotten. Susan Shepherd lived a life of service — as a Gulf War vet, cop and single mom — and she’s trying to publish her memoir. After dozens of rejections, she’s down to her last publisher. For this submission, she converts her memoir into one long letter to the editor who will decide whether to forward her manuscript. The first excerpt I’ll read is Susan’s initial query to this editor, which reveals much about her emotional state — and her feelings about the publishing industry.
What are you working on now?
Keeping with the legacy theme, I wrote a story called “The Caretaker” that appears in the journal Crack the Spine (#209). This is about a man who’s retiring after decades of working for a vampire. The story is a memoir/confessional but also a guide to the person who will succeed him in the caretaker role. I hope to expand this into a novel. The story that serves as Chapter 2, “The Interview,” is under consideration by a handful of journals.