Promotional Interview with Mayra Calvani
Tell us about yourself – where you are from, how you got started writing, what you do when you are not writing (or anything you want our readers to know)
I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but have lived in the US, the Middle East, and now live in Belgium. My traveling and learning all these different cultures have been an inspiration in my writing, as having a Hispanic heritage has been as well. I was an early avid reader and my first passion for books developed after I read the first Agatha Christie mystery. I was instantly drawn to the fantastic world of these imaginary stories. Then came the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. During my teens I was also an avid reader of romance novels, though I don’t read much romance anymore. I started writing in my early teens. I was always the quiet, shy type and preferred my escape world of imaginary places and characters instead of going to parties—so no, I was not one of the popular girls at school. But I didn’t care. I was happy and self motivated. My love for writing has continued all my life and I now write fulltime. It’s been an arduous road and there’s a lot of competition, but that’s fine with me because I enjoy the journey as well.
I have written eight books—two of these, Embraced by the Shadows and Dark Lullaby, have already been published, and the others will see publication later this year and some time during 2008-9.
How do you decide on their topic?
I don’t really ‘decide’. The topic, idea, or whatever it is, comes to me and tells me to put it down into words. I hardly ever plan ahead or do an outline. I mostly follow that voice in my head that tells me what to write. Think of it as taking dictation. That said, there are many things that may spark my inspiration and creativity—the ‘dark’ side of things, violin music, foreign settings and characters, science and philosophy, an unusual book or movie, etc.
Do you write to make money or for the love of writing?
If it were for the money, I would have quit a long time ago! LOL. Definitely for the love of writing. Of course, my goal is to make some real money as well. Every writer needs validation of some kind.
What are some traditional methods of marketing you have used to gain visibility for you and your book(s)?
I have two websites, one for my adult books and the other for my children’s books (www.mayracalvani.com and http://www.mayrassecretbookcase.com). I also have three blogs where I promote my work and feature other authors’ work as well:
What are some unique methods?
Since I write articles as well, I distribute them using various article directories like www.ezinearticles.com and www.associatedcontent.com. I always include a byline with links to my sites and blogs and this results in thousands of hits every month. I’m a member of www.gather.com, BookPlace, Facebook, and numerous authors and writing groups and forums, and I always make an announcement in these when I have a book coming out or have some other important news to share.
Virtual Book Tours is another new way of promotion which I have discovered, a way to reach thousands of readers without having to travel.
Do you sell through a website?
No. I let my publishers handle that.
Do you plan on writing additional books?
Definitely. I have several works in progress and enough ideas to keep me busy for at least the next two decades. 🙂
“Writing Between Diapers”
By: Mayra Calvani
“Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically on their environ-
ment and especially on their children
than the unlived life of the parent.”
–C. G. Jung
After a bad night of hardly any sleep, you’re sitting at the computer staring at the blank screen. You wonder if you’ll be able to do it–finish that article, short story or novel which you started months ago. The urge to write is overwhelming, yet you freeze. Not only are you exhausted, but the baby, who you put to sleep less than half hour ago, is whimpering in the crib. Your four-year old has just barged into the office and is tugging at your elbow begging for a snack, even though he had lunch an hour ago. This is hopeless, I may as well quit, you say to yourself while trying to suppress a scream. To your horror, you suddenly find yourself sympathizing with those animals that eat their young…
Don’t despair. Calm down. I’ve been there and know perfectly well what you’re going through.
The truth is, you can write, but you need to have four things:
The Right State of Mind
Before you plan a schedule, putting your mind in the right frame is the most important think you’ll do. Remember your kids will not stay small forever. Time passes quickly (I assure you it does!) and soon they’ll be old enough to go to school. Until that magical day arrives, though, you’ll have to “steal” time to work on your project. Wanting to finish a whole novel in one month at this point in your life is unrealistic. Don’t focus so much on the “end product” but on doing a little bit of that “end product” at a time. Little paragraphs are what articles, stories and novels are made of. The important thing is steady progress, and as long as you take steps to fulfil the road, you’re on the right track. These tiny bird steps, however small, will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you guilt-free to enjoy your life and family.
Good Physical Condition
You might think, “Good physical condition? I thought this was an article about writing.” Well, you’ll bet it is. Let’s face it, moms who care for small children are always tired. And tired people don’t’ particularly like to sit at the computer and write; they want to collapse on a bed. Moms urgently need to raise their energy levels! A good diet and a little exercise can do wonders to raise energy levels. Eat high-protein foods and lots of fruits and veggies. Stay away from white flour and sugar, as well as junk food. Go for three meals a day with one light healthy snack in the afternoon and one before you go to bed. Stay away from those high energy bars, though. They are so high in carbs your sugar levels will sky rocket and then pummel down, making you feel even more tired and hungry than before. Low fat cottage cheese and a couple of almonds, with a bit of fruit are a great choice for a snack. Drink plenty of water! Scientists have found that dehydration is one of the main factors in making a person feel tired.
Finding time to exercise may be difficult, that’s why it’s a good idea to do it with your child. If you have a stationary bicycle or other exercise machine, do 15 minutes while the toddler watches the Teletubbies. You don’t have to exercise a full hour. Even 10 minutes will do the trick. Take your baby for a walk in the stroller at least 3 times a week, preferably in the mornings when it’s fresh and quiet. It will calm your nerves, rejuvenate and even inspire you. Your baby will love it, too. Not only will he/she enjoy the “sights and sounds,” but it will probably make him/her tired and eager to take a longer nap later in the day–just what you’re after!
A Well-Planned Schedule
Okay, so you have the right state of mind and are eating well and exercising. What next? A well-planned schedule that fits your lifestyle and plays around your strengths and liabilities is a must. But keep an open mind and don’t be unrealistic. If your baby naps in the afternoon, don’t set your writing time in the mornings, or vice versa. How much time each writing session will last depends on your lifestyle and children’s habits. You may choose to write half an hour each day or one hour every other day. It’s up to you. The important thing here is to keep it approachable and to stick with it.
There’s one thing I strongly advice: If you can manage it, don’t take more than two nights off from your project. Not only will it stall your momentum, but it will give your brain to much time to come up with self-doubts and excuses for procrastination.
You may be asking yourself: But how do I get rid of my children!?
If your children are old enough to go to nursery school, your problems are solved. Just set your writing schedule during those hours. For those of you whose children are still at home, there are other possibilities:
Write early in the morning before your children awake, during their daytime naps and after they go to sleep at night. (See why you have to keep yourself in good physical condition?) I have a friend who wrote two books this way.
If you can afford a babysitter–maybe your neighbour’s teenaged daughter–to look after your child while you write on the next room (that way you can keep a close eye on them) then go for it!
Write while your toddler watches his favourite video movie. He wants to watch it again? Go ahead! This is not the right time to consider the effects of too much TV on children.
Go to the local library and write while your child listens to Story Time! Almost all libraries, and even bookstores, schedule story times for children. Take advantage of these.
If you have a writer friend who is also a mom, enlist her as your “writing partner,” take the kids to Mc Donald’s and write while your kids play in those weird game tunnels. “Hey, wait a minute!” you think. “You said to stay away from junk food.” Nice try, but even McDonald’s now offers a good selection of salads and fruit cocktails. Besides, I never said one hamburger once in a while will kill you. You might even reward yourself with a hamburger… AFTER you’ve fulfilled your minimum writing quota for that day.
Invite your writing-partner mom or moms for a “writing morning” at your home and write while your children play together. You may take turns with your homes. Also, as a group, you can consider hiring a sitter for these occasions. Writing with a support-group of people who are in the same situation as yourself is usually very rewarding and productive. Plus it’s a lot cheaper when each of you contribute to pay for the sitter. You may even want to start a club and meet once a week.
None of the above will prove helpful if you lack the determination to stick to a schedule. Think about it. Do you want to reach the age of seventy without having accomplished your goal–that masterpiece of a novel that will land you multiple contracts, fame and fortune? You’ll never know unless you take the first step. Family, and especially your children, should always come first, BUT don’t use your children as an excuse not to write. The truth is, life is so hectic there NEVER will be a “perfect” time to write. I assure you, if not children, later you’ll come up with something else as your procrastinator. It may be difficult to follow the schedule at first, and you may need to modify it, but eventually you’ll be glad you did. Otherwise you’ll live with self-guilt, self-loathing, disappointment and frustration.
Do it. Start today. Now.
Don’t forget: Frustrated writers are frustrated moms. Frustrated moms are unhappy moms. Artistically fulfilled moms are happy moms who can give themselves to their loved ones without reservations.
Copyright ©2004, 2007 by Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved. This article may not be copied nor printed in any form without permission from the author.