Greetings! Last year during Penned Con I did a few impromptu interviews with fellow authors. It was such a big hit that many authors signed up this year. Sadly, between not feeling great and a tighter schedule, I didn’t manage to catch everyone in person. However, most of the authors have agreed to an online interview to make up for it.
Penned Con 2017 was an amazing time! I made assumptions based on last year, which I should not have. For one, my name is a little better known now and I had a lot more traffic to my table – YAY! For another thing, between the residual effects of cancer treatment and a tighter schedule overall at Penned, it was harder to connect with other authors. I was able to catch up with a few. I didn’t even get a chance to peruse other author tables! That part I didn’t like. The hubby was happy though, I didn’t break the bank buying books this time. I have a meager selection of books that I purchased and traded for.
My guest today is one of those authors I was looking forward to chatting with because she resides in a town in Arkansas that holds special meaning to my family and me. Please give a warm welcome to Meg Welch Dendler!
Tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are from.
I was born in Houston, but my family soon moved to Champaign, Illinois. From there we spent over 20 years in the Detroit, Michigan, area, where I was married and had two daughters. My family moved back to Houston in 2008 and then we came to Arkansas in 2012. I was a preschool, elementary, and middle-school teacher for many years and am certified in Arkansas, though I’m officially retired as a teacher. I’ve been writing for many, many years, and I loved doing interview pieces and movie reviews. Along with my writing, I work as an editor for Pen-L Publishing and for other indie authors. Just a couple of weeks ago, we moved to Springdale, Arkansas, with our four cats and dog, Max.
- I’ll have to pick your brain on that aspect, how to juggle the editing and writing. It seems if I get enough editing jobs to cover the costs for publishing books, then I don’t have the time I’d like to publish the books! We may have to skype over coffee! What genre do you write?
I have written for magazines and websites for over 20 years and done non-fiction and informational writing and interviews, but nearly all of my published books—the Cats in the Mirror series and two companion dog books, along with the new “Bianca” series—are for middle-grade readers. “At the Corner of Magnetic and Main” is a women’s fiction novel, but I’m afraid it gets lost in the shuffle at book events. That makes me sad because I really love that book. I’m currently working on two more books in the alien rescue cat series, a second book in the new “Bianca” series, and a memoir of our time running a guesthouse in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. For me, it’s more about the story. I follow it where it goes and figure out what audience it is for, but I do have a love for writing for kids.
- That is so cool! It’s amazing how similar our paths have been. I used to write an opinion column and have written several personal experience pieces as well as humor for magazines. I for one would love to read “At the Corner of Magnetic and Main”! What genre do you read? Which do you read the most?
I read all kinds of books, both indie and big best-sellers. I try to read some award winners every year and the ones that everyone is talking about (or making movies of), but I also read other kidlit writers and love to support indie authors who take their publishing seriously. Connecting with them on Facebook and at live events helps me to learn about their books and goals. Currently, I am reading the Outlander series. This is an epic task to take on! Each book is massive and fantastic and amazing. I tend to take a break between them with something lighter. The library is my friend! Overall, I’m also a big fan of Anne McCaffrey, Sharon Creech, and now Liane Moriarty. “Big Little Lies” kept me up way past my bedtime, and I’d already watched the mini-series and knew how it all turned out. Amazing writing. That’s what I look for the most. It helps me be a better writer, though admittedly sometimes makes me wonder why I bother at all when such fabulousness is already out there.
- OMG! My Soul Sister! I loved, loved, LOVED Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Yes, they are massive. I’ve read every one! Also a big fan of Anne McCaffrey! And in answer to that last statement – because the world needs the stories that are inside of YOU! Are you a pantser or plotter, or a plontser?
I guess I’ll have to go with plonster. I usually know that A, F, J, L, Q, and Z are going to happen when I really sit down to write a book or story, but I don’t know how one will lead to the other. I definitely don’t have it all planned out from A-Z before I start. What I normally do is write the parts I know, then I fill in the rest. Things will morph and change along the way, you have to allow for that, but Z (the end of the book) usually stays the same.
- That’s kind of how I do it, kind of. I’ve tried my hand at pantsing – NANOWRIMO 2011 and ended up with an unfinished book of 130K. Won NANO, but didn’t finish the book. So I went back to work on it, ended up somewhere near 250K, and decided that this should be a series. BTW this is my Dragon series, The NANO book was Kiss of the Dragon and will eventually come up again on the todo list. OVer the years, I’ve gone over to the other ditch and back to somewhere between the ditches. What is your work area like? (desk or work at table or on sofa, tidy or untidy, OCD organized, chaos, perfectly decorated, a niche carved out in a closet, etc.)
I work at my desktop computer at my grandfather’s wood desk. It is very old and massive and antique and has all these nifty pull-out shelves and cool things they used to design desks with. It is tidy-ish. There are usually piles and folders and such, but I know what it all is. I’m big on slips of paper that I make notes on and tuck into manila folders. I collect small Disney plush toys, and there are over 100 of them watching me work. Since we just moved, my office is currently a mess of boxes and clutter. It is about half the size of what I had before, but I like the cozy feel. My Disney friends are getting anxious about being in attic mode and want me to get things together quickly. My husband thinks it is weird that I want my back to the window since my old office was in a basement with no window at all, but I know I’ll just be distracted if I can see the neighbors or birds and such. I need a blank wall in front of me. No music. No distraction. I could never write in a public space like I know other writers love to do. The cats and dog are happy to sleep scattered around the office and not disrupt much, so they are allowed to hang out. I edit in the same space, so I’m there several hours a day. You have to make that area one that makes you happy and comfortable. You need to want to be there.
- I am envying your office and the description of the antique desk requires a photo. Do you ever use real people as a basis for your characters?
Absolutely and unabashedly. My cat/dog books are full of my own family and pets, though as it has evolved I have added fictional characters as well. I’m even in there. “At the Corner of Magnetic and Main” is 99% fiction, but some of the characters were inspired by real people in the real town and I own up to it. That is going to get trickier as I work on the guesthouse memoir because a lot of it is not flattering to the people involved. I’m still working through how I’ll handle that. Sounds like a task for NaNoWriMo this year. Just start getting those words down and see what comes of it.
- OOH! Sounds like the memoir piece could be a scandalous tell all! Reminiscent of ‘Murder She Wrote!’ Do you snack while you write or is food off limits in the office area?
When I really need to pound things out for a deadline, either writing or editing, I do use little treats to keep me going. M&Ms are great for that. Reward yourself with one every 15 minutes or X amount of words. Whatever the goal is. Sometimes I’ll work through lunch, so there’s that. Otherwise, no food. Some hot tea or a glass of water is about it. Maybe a Coke if I need bolstering around 3:00 pm. I can’t stand coffee (gasp, I know), so I have to figure out alternatives for the writer life. M&Ms work well, but they are hard on what little waistline I have. Mostly, no food in the office area.
- I won’t hold it against you for not liking coffee. I have all sorts of friends and believe it or not, some of them don’t drink coffee. So I guess my invite above should be to skype over a Coke, not coffee! What’s next for you?
The next few months are mostly focused on the release of my next book, “Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess,” on December 1. This book is very special to me since it started out as a picture book in 5th grade. It has gone round and round and taken different forms over the years. Picture books have changed a great deal in the last decade and it became clear that Bianca had more to say as a middle-grade novel than in picture book format. After extensive rewrites, I love how it all developed. For the last several months, my writing critique group has gone over every page of it, five pages at a time, and I’m so grateful for that resource. Even though I hire an editor, she mostly just does line edits for me. Having a critique group of honest (HONEST!) beta readers is invaluable. I’m kicking it up a notch with this one and doing the full pre-release gauntlet of Kirkus and magazine reviews and the whole nine yards. New England Children’s Book Review was very generous with their kind words and listed “Bianca” as a favorite, and Kirkus used lovely phrases like “spry and charming” and praised my “exquisitely characterized animals,” so I am over the moon so far. I still have to figure out formatting a hardcover version with Ingram Spark, a whole new enterprise, and start setting up reviewers and bloggers. That should keep me more than busy.
Well, anytime you need a blogger to promote, give me a holler! I work for books! Thank you for taking time to answer my questions today and I may have questions for you about middle-grade books!
Be sure to check out Meg’s books below and follow the links!
- Why Kimba Saved The World
- Vacation Hiro
- Miss Fatty Cat’s Revenge
- Slinky Steps Out
- and the companion books
- Max’s Wild Night
- Dottie’s Daring Day
- From Serenity Mountain Publishing
Meg and her family (including four cats and her dog, Max) live in Arkansas. Visit her at www.megdendler.com for more information about upcoming books and events and all of Meg’s social media links. You can also follow Kimba on Facebook and Twitter.”
Web site: Megdendler
Newsletter Sign Up: megdendler newsletter
Goodreads: Meg Welch Dendler
Amazon Author Page: Meg Dendler
LinkedIn: Meg Dendler
“Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess” (pre-order link)
“At the Corner of Magnetic and Main”