I hope you enjoyed Dee’s interview last week (link above). Well, she was not the only person recognized in the 2011 Page Turner Fiction contest. Read below as you learn a bit more about one of two highly commended winners – Sydney Avey. And heeere’s Sydney!
SYDNEY: I began writing poetry in the third grade. My teacher sent my poems into the Palo Alto Times and several of them were published.
JOANNE: Is writing a hobby or potential career for you?
SYDNEY: My writing life has some of the qualities of a hobby. It entertains me, but it’s not what I do in my spare time. It has some qualities of a career. It requires knowledge, discipline and growth but it likely won’t support me in the financial sense. It is more like a monastic calling.
JOANNE: Congratulations on placing as a runner-up in the Page Turner contest. Tell us about your reaction when you found out.
SYDNEY: I was on an internet fast in the Caribbean. When I got back to the United States I had a phone message from my sister Cheryl von Drehle, also a member of FaithWriters, telling me I was a runner up. I was shocked. I didn’t expect to place at all. This is hugely encouraging to me.
JOANNE: Share a bit about The Sheepwalker. Where did you get the idea for it? What’s it about? How far along in it are you?
SYDNEY: I wrote The Sheepwalker for women who have lost their generational cover and never had their questions answered about their identity. The generation Tom Brokaw labeled “The Greatest Generation” kept a lot of family secrets and that was true in my family. In The Sheepwalker I explore the effect of rootlessness on the lives, loves and faith of three generations of women.
I drafted The Sheepwalker in NaNoWriMo in 2010. After that, I took a class at Stanford called Gripping Reads and learned the process of revision. I revised it, edited it, gave it to four people I carefully selected for their ability to be brutally honest, revised it again and then sent it to a professional editor. With his help, I now have a manuscript I feel confident about. The next step is to pitch it to agents and publishing houses. Every step of this process has been scary but I have learned so much. I love to learn!
SYDNEY: A friend in the Sonora Writers Group, Calder Lowe, told me about FaithWriters. I started to do the Writing Challenge as a discipline and got addicted. The Writing Challenge gives me an opportunity to test audiences and see what works and what doesn’t work. Also, I live in a small rural town in the California gold country and I need a network of writer friends. I’ve found that at FaithWriters.
JOANNE: What kinds of books or genres to you prefer to read and/or write?
SYDNEY: I love classic English and American literature and newer fictional works that explore universal themes or take me to interesting places. I like literary fiction but I try not to write it! I like spiritual works that are well written (C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas a Kempis).
I like to write in as a broad a genre as possible, general fiction or women’s fiction, for two reasons: I enjoy exploring the complexities of relationships and I want to connect with an audience. That said it might be fun to explore some of the newer genres, like magical realism. Also, I’m encouraged by the trends in Young Adult fiction. Where some genres seem too formulaic to me, the YA market seems wide open to creative approaches.
JOANNE: Tell us about your family.
SYDNEY: My son and daughter-in-law live in Santa Cruz, CA and he is a teacher, musician and surfer. My daughter and son-in-law and my two grandchildren live on an island off the coast of Seattle and she is a grant writer and an author. My husband is a private pilot and has many hobbies. I encourage that because it gives me time to write! We are both active in our church and our community.
JOANNE: What are your other passions besides writing?
SYDNEY: I try not to indulge too many passions besides writing, but I have many other interests. I sing in our church choir, enjoy travel, practice yoga and Zumba, knit (badly), and go to movies and stage plays. I’ve pretty much given up on the domestic arts.
JOANNE: Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? If so, what do you hope to accomplish in 2012?
SYDNEY: Oh yes. I’m a big goal setter. In 2012 I’m resolved to publish The Sheepwalker and start my next novel. I want to exercise my flabby prayer muscles so I’ve given myself four prayer categories: world, work, community and clan. My constant prayer is for a pure heart. Writers are subject to some pretty nasty spiritual conditions.
JOANNE: Where can folks connect with you?
I’m sure you will do great, Sydney! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Praying your resolution gets fulfilled!
Watch for an interview with Ann Grover, the other highly commended winner of the 2011 Page Turner, soon!