Friday, September 2, 2011

Interview With Tiffany Colter

Today I’m talking with Tiffany Colter who is a writer, speaker, and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers.

JO: Please tell us a little about yourself other than your career as a writing coach.

TIFFANY: I have four daughters, three dogs, two sheep, one husband, twenty chickens, about six ducks [when they come around], and ten cats all on one acre. It is a hobby farm that is growing.

I grew up in the city and now I’m proud to be a 4-H mom. I loved the fair rides and carnivals as a kid, now I go to cake and cross stitch judging and carry on lengthy conversations about the proper light for laying hens.

This is quite a contrast to fifteen years ago when I was in the Honors College at University of Toledo studying international relations with an eye to being a political analyst for the CIA. I spoke three languages fluently by the time I was sixteen and was on my way to a fourth. I have studied in Grenoble, France on scholarship. Was accepted to the American University of Paris but turned it down [for stupid 17-year-old girl reasons] and my best friend in the whole world is my husband.

I love playing board games with my kids and hanging out with my husband.

If given the opportunity I would readily spend a year simply learning things. If I weren’t a writer [or CIA political analyst], I would likely be a college professor because I’d rather watch a documentary than a comedy. So, I’m kind of boring. Laugh!!

JO: How long have you been a writing coach? Did you always want this kind of career?

TIFFANY: I've been a writing career coach for about four years full-time.  Prior to that, I've kind of mentored some writers but it was informally.  From the time I was six and I wrote my first short-story, all I ever wanted to be was a writer when I grew up.  Writing career coach grew out of my desire to learn how to create a market for my fiction writing.  I'm an award-winning fiction writer.  I won the Daphne Du Maurier Award in 2007 and I really thought my career was on the way up.  I secured an agent, who I still have.  He's a great, great agent.  I was just working on building my platform.  I had had some requested fulls (entire manuscript) and things were going great.  Then the floor fell out of publishing in 2008, right after things started looking up for me. I had five projects with my agent and I got a single email that listed five rejections.

So, I was really trying to find out new ways to market myself, and develop my platform for my fiction. I realized I loved that part of writing, so I started trying to find ways to help people and that's where becoming a writing coach was born.

JO: As a writing coach are you available to work with nonfiction or fiction writers?

TIFFANY: I work with both.  In fact, I help speakers, I help ghost write their books—taking their message and their transcripts and working with them to turn it into books.  I have worked with some really great fiction authors, like Jody Hedlund, among others, Tana Adams; and I know if I start listing a bunch of names that I'll forget people and feelings will be hurt—but I have to tell you, I've worked with some great authors.  But in non-fiction, I do a lot of marketing copy for businesses.  I've published a number of books on business and marketing and business development through my publishing house, Writing Career Coach Press.  I also go and teach courses and judge writing contests which allows me to work with a wide range of authors. Finally, I've written for a number of publications including Charisma, Today's Christian, and monthly columns for Suspense Magazine.  So, if it has to do with writing, I've done it myself and I've helped other people do it too.

JO: What advice would you give a beginning writer to jump start their writing journey?

TIFFANY: Believe in your writing, but recognize that this is a business.  Again, that's not a bad thing.  It just means that you need to be willing to understand that you are trying to communicate with your target market. You are rewarded for that with money and opportunities. You are solving a problem [the desire for entertainment and/or growth].

Publishing is changing and a lot of people are trying to figure out what that's going to look like in the next couple of years.  I've been writing full-time for eight years and just in that little bit, things have radically changed from people talking about "electronic books," to now people knowing what a Kindle is.  So, just recognize it.

I would also say don't be afraid to fail. That was the hardest thing for me in the beginning and I felt like I had to have things absolutely perfect before they go out. You want them to be great. You want the writing to be tight, but don't get so trapped in the sphere of perfection that you never submit because you are going to be rejected. Rejection is part of this business at all levels. Don’t fear it, just work hard to be the best you can and don’t internalize the rejection.

JO: What is the single most important thing you want writers to do to help them succeed?

TIFFANY: Continue to learn!

Recognize that there are three parts to your writing career (and I thank Chip MacGregor for this piece of information). You have to have a great idea with great writing and a strong platform. Work on building two of those three areas at all times.

JO: Once a writer reaches “success,” what should they do to stop celebrating and stay grounded?

TIFFANY: The number one thing is keep writing. I cannot tell you how many clients I encounter that write one book and they just keep revising this book before they write the next thing. The role of a writer is to write. You need to be constantly working on different books. You need to be writing something while you're researching something else, while you're scratching notes on a third thing, while you're revising something else. Always continue learning. Always stay connected with people who are in the area where you want to be. Always work to provide positive information to the industry. Just keep moving forward. Recognize success is not a destination; it's a journey. And that's the main thing that I've learned about success. You never arrive. The challenges just change in shape and style.

JO: Staying focused is required when writing. How do you encourage writers to stay focused when almost all of us are pushed to multitask these days?

TIFFANY: Stay focused by deciding what you're going to do each week and do that one thing. There is so much to do, but you can do little bits of each thing. Decide how you define success each day. Maybe it is a particular word count or the amount of time you spend on something. Then focus on that one thing above all else.

I get into my office between 7:00 and 7:30 in the morning. My office is actually not in my home anymore. It's about 15 minutes away in town. I get there between 7:00 and 7:30 in the morning and I sit down and from 7:00 to noon and make that my prime writing time. That is where I work on the major edits and writing and things like that. Then I start working on correspondence in the afternoon. That way I'm completely focused on what needs to be done and I get the things on my to-do list done first.

The key to staying focused is turn off your phone, don't turn on the Internet, know what you're going to do the night before and write it down so that you don't have to open your e-mail and just get that one thing done. After you've done that one thing, then you can work on the other stuff. That's the only way you can possibly be focused these days. Do not open your e-mail first thing in the morning. Do something productive first.

JO: Where can our readers find you?

TIFFANY: I love to meet people in person whenever possible. They can find me a number of places. I will be at live events in Atlanta, GA; Dayton, OH; and Zanesville, OH during September and October. Online they can find me at www.Writingcareercoach.com or my teaching site www.writingcareercoach.net/tiffany. I also can be reached at my office. I do consultations. The cost is $35 for 50 minutes and we go through and we strategize and coach and then determine what would be the best next step for the person. To schedule an appointment to do that for an initial consult, they can reach me east coast time, 517-936-5896. Tell my assistant you want to sign up for the $35 consultation.  For many years $2 was a stretch with my writing, so I offer MANY things completely free on my website. I encourage people to come and read the articles and apply the resources.

TIFFANY: You publish a newsletter and blog. Where can our readers sign up for them?
They can sign up at www.WritingCareerCoach.com

JO: Thank you for spending time with me for this interesting interview.

TIFFANY: Thank you for having me.

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