Wednesday, May 29, 2024

42 Stories Anthology Presents: Sandra Simmer Interview

Sandra D. Simmer won the Runner Up Award in the Fairy Tale Chapter for

BAM: Sandra, please tell readers about your other works in the anthology.

Sandra: In addition to the Fairy Tale 42-word story, I have another 3 stories accepted for the book under separate names. For the story about the couch-surfing clown in the Clown section, I used the name Dandelion, for the binge-eating monster story, I used S. D. Simmer, and for the story in the Morbid section, I used the name Duncan Simmer.

BAM: Where are you located?
Sandra: I live in the San Francisco Bay Area

BAM: Where is your writing space?
Sandra: I write in my home at my desk or dining room table, depending on which view inspires me that day. I also venture out to my favorite coffee shop when I want a creative boost.

BAM: It's good for creativity to move around. Could you tell everyone a few books or authors you like?
Sandra: I love the beautiful prose in the following books:
Possession by A. S. Byatt
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
And also, Jane Austen novels because she is so good with character development and her characters all have a role and purpose in her stories.
BAM: Okay. How about something unrelated to writing? What are your favorite food and drinks?
Sandra: My favorite food is a grilled fish taco with a side of guacamole because I’m a Californian after all. My favorite drink is a White Mocha Latte ½ decaf because it’s delicious and goes so well with writing in my favorite coffee shop. Note: NEVER consume the two items above at the same time.
BAM: What are some movies and shows you love?
Sandra: I’m a big fan of science fiction movies and television series, way back to the original Star Trek, Lost in Space, and the Twilight Zone. I liked watching Star Wars and the X Files with my children, and enjoy the latest recreations of all my favorites. The newly released Dune movies are amazing, and the Resident Alien series is fun.
BAM: Star Trek, the original series, was a fun show to watch. Regarding your writing, which of your novels would a reader like the most?
Sandra: My novel The Reclamation: Earth Under Siege.

BAM: Could you tell me why?
Sandra: A reader who likes dystopian/science fiction novels with a strong female protagonist, i.e. The Hunger Games or The Divergent series, would like my novel Earth Under Siege the first book in my Reclamation trilogy. I am currently writing the second book, to be out later this year. Information on my book and other creative activities can be found on my website,

BAM: I’m one of those people. Would love to read about your protagonist saving the day and busting heads. Strong females make for great characters. They're not easy to write. On that note, what’s your outline process like when you write characters and stories?
My process has evolved over the past eight years I have been on my writing journey. When I moved to the Bay Area in 2016, my life circumstances provided me with the time and energy to pursue my interest in creative writing. I saw an announcement in a community newsletter about an informal writing group called “Finding Your Voice”. It met two Saturdays a month at a local library. The group was started by a retired school principal, but members took turns providing writing prompts.

BAM: Tell me more.

Sandra: As the weeks went by I received praise and positive critique for my writing and I gained confidence to join other writing classes. I participated in short story and memoir writing classes through local recreation centers.  The library hosted an Independent Authors Day panel on how to get your writing published. I met a panel member from the Northern California Publishers and Author’s (NCPA) organization, who encouraged me to join their group. With their assistance, I was able to have my first short story published in their anthology. I was on my way!
Then the pandemic hit in 2020. There was no more library group meetings, but we continued to send weekly prompts to each other and emailed our written responses each Friday. The in-person memoir group was cancelled, but we continued to meet on Zoom each week. Having to produce stories or poems on a weekly basis really honed my writing skills.

BAM: Wow. So, you invested time in the backbone aspects of the novel process. What happened next?

Sandra: To gain more formal experience, I signed up for a 10-week on-line course in 2021 called Do It Yourself Master’s in Fine Art (DIYMFA) with Gabriela Pereira. Her practical and well-developed approach to writing a book boosted my confidence to write a novel based on one of my short stories. Gabriela’s course taught me about “Pantcers and Plotters”. I started out as a “Pantcer” or someone who writes a story by the seat of their pants. That will get you only so far in your writing process. The DIYMFA course taught me about story arc and plot points and the value of having an outline. I realized I needed to be a Plotter, someone who works out the plot in advance.

BAM: Could you elaborate?

Sandra: I continued to work on my novel and got to about the halfway point when I got stuck. Doubts about my writing skills began to set in, and I realized I needed more help. The summer of 2022 I signed up for NCPA president M.L Hamilton’s course, “Plot to Print”.  This course provided additional lessons on outline and plot development, but also introduced me to classmates that formed a critique group. We gave and received critical reviews of our chapters as they were created. The valuable input and accountability of being in a critique group helped me finish my book by the end of 2022. I self-published my first novel in January 2023.
Note: For book two, I headed to my favorite coffee shop to create an outline before I started Chapter one. I wrote a couple of paragraphs for each chapter to give me a “road map” to follow.
BAM: You have a lot of experience in the world of writing. Not just when it comes to stories, but everything in between. As an experienced writer, how do you overcome distractions?

SandraOne might think the second book would be easier than the first, but I’ve found that isn’t the case. I was excited to write and publish my first book. The novelty of the experience helped keep me motivated to keep learning new skills and to continue to write. Book two has been a different process. Yes, I have a detailed plot, but I’ve had a lot of distractions in my personal life as well as distractions with other creative activities. I also like to write poetry and participate in several local poetry groups.  But while I enjoy the social aspect of poetry groups, they can take time away from the real work of writing my book.
I joined a second critique group to help sustain my focus on writing my manuscript. That did help over the long winter months. However, sometimes critique groups can also become a distraction. I found myself writing to please the group members, not necessarily moving my book in the direction it needed to go. Keep a finger on the pulse of your process and change it up if needed.

BAM: What about writer's block?

Sandra: How do I overcome writer’s block? I don’t use one method or technique.  If I need help, I ask for it. If I need more space to be creative, I make the space.  If I get tired of writing, I take a break and use a different part of my brain to do an art project. I’ve also been taking workshops on marketing, (another job for the independently published author) so I am ready to promote my next book when it’s finished. My latest workshop is on positive self-talk and keeping self-doubt at bay.
So, I guess my advice to others is keep yourself flexible and look for resources in person and on-line to keep your creative juices flowing.  And when all else fails, head to your local coffee shop!
Sandra Simmer writes short stories, memoirs, and poems about her colorful life, both real and imagined.  A science fiction fan since childhood, Sandra ventured into the “outer limits” to write her first novel. The Reclamation: Earth Under Siege is available on Amazon.

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