We were already totally in love with Maria Rahming. First, she wowed us during her reading at the GCLS conference in Las Vegas. Second, she has literally the cutest love story with her fiancee Laura. Third, hello? She’s gorgeous.
But when Beth sat down to interview Maria for the Writing Academy blog, we found out she’s even more amazing than we thought.
Thank you for agreeing to chat with me today. Let’s start with a completely selfish question. What inspired you to sign up for the GCLS Writing Academy?
I’ve wanted to write a novel since I was in 5th grade. I had always done really well in my English classes in high school and college but thought that bucking down to write a novel was out of my reach. After I attended my first GCLS Conference in Chicago, I listened in on a presentation about the Writing Academy, and I thought that this was a fantastic opportunity. I remember mustering up enough courage to talk to you, Beth, for the first time because I was interested but terrified. You were very warm and welcoming and said a few important words to me: “We start from day one, page one.” Georgia Beers was the person that inspired me to follow through with my interest, and Kimberly Cooper Griffin cheered me on to work on and submit ten pages of my work for the application process. I was elated (and floored!) when I received the acceptance letter.
I mean, with a tag team like that, how could you fail? So what did you choose to work on during your time in the academy?
I began working on a short story, Or Forever Hold Her Peace, that was accepted into the anthology, Written Dreams that was curated by the amazing Beth Burnett (Ed. Note. We didn’t pay her to say that) and published by Brisk Press. That was such an amazing experience where I and several of my fellow Writing Academy peers got to add Published Author to our repertoire of accomplishments for the first time.
That was such a fun experience and it was so great that you got to share your story process with your mentor. Who was your mentor?
My mentor was the incredible D. Jordan Redhawk.
And what was that process like?
She was—well—amazing! I had the perfectly paired mentor. I can tell you that I am a wimp when it comes to having my work criticized. I cry at everything. However, Redhawk was such a pro at providing the right kind of guidance and she made the whole mentoring experience one that I won’t soon forget. I learned so much from the Writing Academy. However, having such a revered professional writer take the time to help me with my own writing was so inspiring, helpful, and provided me with so much more than what I was expecting out of the Academy.
I adore her on so many levels! After a mentoring experience like that, you switched tacks, right? Are you still writing?
I am still writing, but in a different way. I get to have the fantastic joy of writing a dissertation for my doctorate program that has me on a strict timeline. Once that is complete next year, I’ll be on my way to living out my dream of finishing my first novel.
Yes. I can’t imagine trying to write a novel, or anything else, while doing your dissertation. Does that mean the academy is still good for someone who doesn’t necessarily want to publish a novel right away? Or ever?
Absolutely, yes, it’s still good. I was thoroughly impressed with how well the program was put together and presented. When I first started, I was concerned that my classmates would know so much more than I did or that I’d say something weird or embarrassing and show that I didn’t belong in this group. However, those fears were useless and silly. Everyone, from my classmates to the wonderful authors who took the time to teach us each week, made me feel so welcome and helped give me the confidence that I could really do this. Although I wasn’t ready to publish then, as a class, we learned so much about the publishing process that will be useful when the time is right for each of us.
Also, when you’re in a class with Kimberly Cooper-Griffin, you know you don’t have to worry about being the weirdest person.
You’re saying you never felt pressured to get out a novel in nine months.
Yes. Some of the best advice I received during one of our classes was from Karelia Stetz-Waters who told us that if we didn’t finish a novel in this time frame then that was normal. That one word took so much stress away from me, and I was able to relax, not be so hard on myself, and take to heart all that I had learned.
That is the best advice! Some of the best novels take years to produce. And besides, didn’t your time at the academy lead to you being on the board of GCLS? What’s that all about?
I am still in awe that I received votes of confidence from GCLS members to become a Director of Membership. Being on the Board has been such a great learning experience and inspiring (there I go using that word again). Inspiration seems to be contagious throughout this organization. I get to see and be a part of the myriad of intricate details that keep the GCLS working for its members. When members voice their concerns, the board members truly listen and work hard to make changes and improvements. I love working with these talented, intelligent and passionate women who really believe in what the GCLS is about.
With everything going on in your life, you still find time to write fiction. Do you have any writing rituals or a plan for getting down words?
I find that I write best in the morning or at least getting up early with the full intention of conquering the day, even if that conquered object happens to be a doughnut or bacon. I do have to have my favorite pens around for note taking (Bic Medium Cristal Ball Point Blue). I’m not happy writing anything without them nearby. I know they’re inexpensive, but they write so smooth and I love them. Sometimes, I’ll hand write beginnings to get my thoughts working right to the point (see what I did there) that things begin to make sense and I can move to the laptop screen.
What about reading? Anything good currently on your nightstand?
I’m finishing up The Do-Over by Georgia Beers, though I admit that I usually have a
Georgia Beers book on my nightstand, or dresser, table, err…generally any flat surface. (Ed. Note. We all know about your crush on Georgia Beers.) I’m eagerly awaiting Melissa Brayden’s next book. And I carry around Karen Richard’s Woman of the Year around in my purse.
I’m totally going to name-drop here. Georgia and Melissa are both mentors and guest instructors for the academy. And Karen Richard is an academy graduate. Woman of the Year won a Goldie the year before last!
They are all amazing authors.
Speaking of amazing authors, what writing advice would you give aspiring authors?
My advice would be to remember that if you take the time to put your words and stories on paper (or on in digital format), then you are already a writer. I value the importance of being an expert of one’s craft. To do so, enrolling in a class such as the GCLS Writing Academy is a wonderful start. Surrounding yourself with positive people who believe in you can be so helpful as well. Therefore, I highly recommend going to the GCLS Conference, joining literary groups on Facebook, or finding these kinds of groups in your own hometown. Finally, I think it’s so important to read. Read lots of books, different authors and genres that interest you. There’s so much talent out there that aspiring authors can learn from while also keeping themselves entertained and supporting other authors.
We loved having you in class. Are you still friends with your classmates?
Yes, I am. We keep in touch, cheer each other on, and congratulate each other’s accomplishments.
You mentioned earlier your story in the anthology Written Dreams. You stunned people with your incredible reading from it at the GCLS conference in Vegas. Do you have any advice on how to wow people at an author reading?
Thank you so much for the compliment! I still blush from it. My advice, first and foremost, is to listen to Melissa Brayden during her class on giving an author reading. She gave the best advice and tips which are evidenced by her own spectacular and talented author reads.
I would say to think of the time limits given in an author reading event. Time limits for each reading really do help to ensure all authors get equal time and provides space for audience questions. Practice, practice, practice your reading out loud. And then. Go listen to Melissa Brayden again.
Melissa really is amazing. And so are you! Is there anything you want us to know that we haven’t asked yet?
I really like cookies. (Ed. Note. So do we. Bring us some when you come to the GCLS conference in Pittsburgh.)
The GCLS Writing Academy is a yearlong intensive program for new or relatively new writers who have written at least part of a novel. In this course, students will learn the critical components of quality writing. The Writing Academy goes beyond craft of writing and takes students through all aspects of writing and publishing a novel.