Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the two hundred and ninety-sixth, is of non-fiction historical author and interviewee Feather Schwarz Foster. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
She has also been an independent writer of Presidential and First Ladies history for more than a decade, with a personal library of more than 1,500 president and president-related volumes collected over the last forty years.
Her first book, LADIES: A Conjecture of Personalities was published in 2003, followed by Garfield’s Train, A Novel. Her latest book “The First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Mamie Eisenhower, An Intimate Portrait of the Women Who Shaped America” was published in 2011. She has also contributed articles on presidential and first-lady history to various online magazines.
She has made more than 300 personal appearances, including dozens of radio and television interviews. This includes lectures at the New Jersey State Historical Society, various city and state historical organizations in both NJ and Virginia, several Daughters of the American Revolution chapters, library organizations and private groups. She has been interviewed on several nationwide NPR stations, and dozens of online sites, as well as repeated interviews on Virginia Currents (PBS). She has recently been featured on C-SPAN’s new First Ladies Series, and Virginia PBS Radio’s Virginia Conversations.
After moving to Williamsburg, Virginia in 2008, she began lecturing about the “old” First Ladies at the prestigious Christopher Wren Society, the adult education venue associated with the College of William and Mary’s Christopher Wren Society and offers similar programs at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA.
She is a former founding member of the New Jersey Writers Society, and is currently a member of the Chesapeake Bay Writers Club and the Virginia Writers Assn.
And now from the author herself:
Thoughts on lonely writing…
Writing is a very lonely occupation. OK, maybe not like a lighthouse keeper, but it is a solitary activity. It doesn’t matter what your write, fiction, non-fiction, how-to, how-not-to, even cookbooks and knitting instructions. It is you versus the thought-into-word process.
If you write fiction, it is your characters who become your constant companions, whether they are Scarlett O’Hara or Yoda the Hutt. You have breathed life into them, and most fiction writers will agree, they frequently take that life into their own hands, and it is they who sometimes direct the action, not the author.
For non-fiction writers, including historical biographers (albeit in a lighter mode) like myself, my “old gals,” American First Ladies up to 1960, are my dear friends and companions. They come and go in and out of my life depending on “who I am working on.” They join me on my walks, work out with me at the gym, and mostly chatter away at two a.m., telling me what they want me to say about them.
But since I am not a complete recluse or nutcase, I find human company to be a welcome part of my life, and in the “writing part,” it is essential.
There are, of course, hundreds of writer groups to provide support, information, feedback and even a good laugh. Virtual online sites are available in just about every language and every genre of writing. Online publishers create bulletin boards or chat groups to support their authors. You could probably find a writers group devoted to writing Chinese cookbooks in Hungarian.
Do I belong to any online groups? Yes and no. I have joined a couple, but most of them tend to be “attaboy / attagirl” in nature. “I’ll like your site if you like mine.” “I’ll friend you if you friend me.” I am an old person. Well, at least I am not young anymore. I think older. I do not believe that “likes” and “clicks” are particularly valuable, and certainly not for the kind of books I write.
There are a couple of sites I check into every so not-so-often. Sometimes there are interesting discussions – particularly if they are web-related, since I am a complete ninny in that regard.
Then there are real-people, show-up-and-have-coffee groups. Again, one needs to be choosy. A large group like the Virginia Writers or the Chesapeake Bay Writers (which I belong to), are fine for specific purposes. It is a nice web-platform. It provides some good pass-along information. It meets quarterly in reasonably convenient locations for a) fellowship, and b) an interesting program, and, on occasion, will sponsor a writing workshop or book signing venue. For the $20 annual dues, it is a fine investment. And, like anything you do, you get out of it what you put into it. I have made some nice friends. I feel that I can pick up the phone, or send off an email to any of the members asking for whatever it is I need to ask, and feel confident of a cordial reply. This alone is worth the dues.
The smaller groups, however, whether a critique group or a writer-business group (I belong to one of each), are the most valuable, at least to me. While we all write differently, and are at different stages in our writing abilities and efforts, we are all fairly close in age, which gives us similar points of reference and maturity. It works very well.
Critique groups are so difficult for me, not that I mind the input. My problem is that I wear two hats: writer and historian (albeit light historian). My “critics” can handle the writing part just fine, but I find that they don’t know my subject matter very well, and sometimes their comments lack value. On the other hand, because of my two hats, I seldom “read” their genres, i.e. science fiction, horror stories, romance novels or murder mysteries. It has literally been decades since I have ventured between those covers, and I am uncomfortable passing any judgment. Sometimes I think I have forgotten how to read a novel! But nevertheless, my little critique group (about eight members) are all very very good writers, and our discussions are worthwhile, no matter what genre we write in. The best part is that we get to hear other voices than our own.
The group I like the best is the business group. I learn the most from them. We exchange not only information, but resources. They are all very helpful, and I like to think I am helpful too.
But more than anything, I value the companionship. It is good to talk writing with other writers. Golfers, bridge players, fishermen, gourmet cooks and volunteers at the local charities are all wonderful people, but I still want to talk shop. I am not cut out to be J.D. Salinger.
You can find more about Feather and her writing via…
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.