by Sandra Budiansky
Welcome to Meet A Lofter—a new monthly(ish) column introducing some of the people you may see around The Writers’ Loft.
This month we are talking to Shannon Falkson. Shannon wears a lot of hats as a former attorney, a life coach, a mom, and, of course, a writer.
Q: Is writing something you’ve always done, or is it a new passion?
I have always been a huge reader, but writing is relatively new. About four years ago, I had an idea for a book which turned into a YA novel that is now just about ready to query.
Q: Because you’re a life coach, I have to ask: How do you manage your writing life with the rest of your responsibilities?
As a life coach, I’m always helping clients find ways to make time for what matters most to them. For me, writing feels like a treat. Not that I don’t take it seriously! But making the time to write is a gift I give to myself. The only goal I set for myself is to do something every single day, no matter how small, that improves my story or makes me a better writer.
Also, I’ve learned to be really flexible about how and when I write. I think I wrote half of Free Solo on my iPhone in the pickup line at school. I always have printed pages with me to revise. Even if I’m not feeling particularly inspired, I can always find some line edits to make or read a section that isn’t working and let it simmer in the back of my mind.
It’s also hugely helpful to be a part of a critique group. I’m in two critique groups that meet collectively three times a month. Having those dates on the calendar and traveling this road with truly talented writers is inspiring, motivating, and holds me accountable!
Q: What is some of the best writing advice you’ve gotten?
Fortunately, I’ve gotten lots of great advice along the way. The best writing advice I’ve received was from Elaine Dimopoulos, who said, “Getting published is all about winning the war of attrition.” Basically, she was saying that getting a book published is (very often) a long process filled with rejection and setbacks, but if an author is willing to put in the time and care to keep writing and improving her craft then she will, eventually, succeed.
Q: Do you want to tell us about what you’re working on?
Too many things! Right now I’m putting in a (final!) round of minor edits to my Cli-Fi (climate-change fiction) YA novel, Free Solo. I’m beginning a YA novel about a girl who’s estranged from her dad and his side of the family, who are Native American, but reconnects with them when her mom’s law firm works to gain rights for a controversial oil pipeline to go through her dad’s family’s native land. I’m also working on a self-help-ish book that uses the structure of writing a novel as an outline for how to set and achieve goals. Finally, I’m launching a blog (www.positiveplanethood.com) to highlight amazing people, products, and policies that offer solutions and opportunities to the threats created by climate change.
A favorite podcast of mine is How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black. I’m going to borrow from him and ask you five things you find amazing.
- Is there a book on writing or other non-fiction book that you find amazing? I love the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron—she breaks down why we love stories so much and how to write a story that people care about. It helped me understand why I absolutely loved some books that have been panned for poor writing and why I abandoned (or suffered through) other books that were acclaimed but I found boring.
- How about a work of fiction? The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is an absolute triumph, in my opinion. It’s a perfect example of no matter how important the subject matter of a book, the main character’s story needs to come first. It was the last book I read that I could not put down.
- TV show or movie? What can I say? I’m a sucker for an epic (and impossible) love story.
- Something to listen to/podcast or music? I’m a huge Audible fan. I listen to books every chance I get—in the car, getting ready in the morning, doing dishes, folding laundry. I recently loved the audio version of Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; there was something about the actor’s voice that made Ally’s vulnerability really come alive for me.
- Anything else you’d like to add? I don’t think the power of spending time in nature can be underestimated. Whenever I feel stuck, uninspired, or unmotivated, spending some time outside is always transformative.
Sandra Budiansky is a co-editor of Loftings. She is perpetually working on a YA novel while dabbling in picture books and essays. You can usually find her sitting at the big table at the Writers’ Loft.