1.What is your earliest memory of writing?

I remember the first time I took my number two pencil to paper. It was a writing assignment about an animal on the endangered species list. I was in grade school and chose to write about the Florida Black Panther. I distinctly selected the black panther because it reminded me of my neighbor’s cat, the one they called Heathcliff. Unsurprisingly, Heathcliff used to make a big mess by tearing through our trash. My dad got angry every time he had to clean it up. I was not necessarily writing from experience, but I wanted to save Heathcliff from being extinct by my father.

2. What do you think makes a good story, and what kinds of stories are you drawn to?

I think a certain level of realism and intimate life experiences, regardless of how small the experiences are, make the best stories. I like writing stories to entertain and offer a temporary escape into another life. Because I enjoy creating interesting environments of escapism, I try to focus on living environments, ones riddled with emotional images of life. I once arranged a porcelain figurine on his desk to create characters for a short story. My goal is in creating environments where readers learn to examine their lives. Whether motivations relate to fear, happiness, or hurts, finding an outlet and courage to change is key.

3.Tell us about your writing process.

My writing process starts with an idea. Ideas are all around you, to help keep track of them, I keep a small notepad. I also draw my inspiration from specific life experiences. Sometimes my inspiration comes from childhood, other times it comes from journeys of being deployed in a warzone. I also engage in self-care by journaling every day, this allows me to write whatever comes to my mind. Often, some of the pieces in my journal have been developed into longer pieces. Your imagination is only limited to finding your source of inspiration.

4.What are some of your favorite books, tv shows, movies?

I am an avid gardener who enjoys the living world of plants. I seem to gravitate toward the heartbreaking coming-of-age stories, ones that are spiritual and embrace the natural world for emotional healing. The Language of Flowers and We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens are three books that I recently enjoyed.

5. What is the most surprising thing you have learned from writing?

The most surprising thing I have learned from writing is that you get better the more you do it. Something as simple as writing in a journal will help spark inspiration.

6. How did participation in a WGI (Writers Guild Initiative) workshop help your writing?

I first became involved with the Writers Guild Initiative because of the Wounded Warrior Project. At that time, I believed that I didn’t have any writings that were worthy of being presented to such an esteemed organization. Let’s face it, I would be in the presence of playwrights and award-winning writers and I believed my writing was nowhere near up to par. I have since learned that WGI is an extremely supportive and judgment-free environment. Participating in a session was perhaps one of the best decisions I have ever made. Because WGI has made writing part of my self-care routine. I garden, exercise and journal because of the self-awareness that WGI has created for me.

7. How do you make time for writing?
It no secret that writing thoughts and feelings down in a journal fosters personal strength, self-understanding, and self-awareness. I see writing and taking time for oneself as one and the same. I personally have created a greenspace within my home for writing. My writing space is filled with plants that I grow and take care of. The mindfulness of writing and taking care of my plants is essential for my mental health so I see it as a priority. Sometimes I wake up early to get an hour of writing in.

8. Do you have a “writing quirk,” if so, what is it?

Writing quirk number one: I cannot write about my military experiences in my pajamas and take the subject matter seriously. Most of the time I am dressed and ready to start my day.
Writing quirk number two: I really like to have all my stuff around me when I write. I watch my plants and military awards that surround my desk. The bird ornament that my sister brought back from her first overseas tour of duty in the Air Force, the decorative box that holds the letter my mother wrote me during my deployment, and even the flag that draped over my father’s casket.
Writing quirk number three: I drink mint tea from the mint that I grow in my indoor herb garden. I pluck a couple of leaves and drop them into the hot water and take a deep breath of mint.

 9. Any advice or tips you’d like to offer?

Commit yourself to find the joy within your writing, even if that means looking in uncomfortable places. It may sound strange, but put printed slogans nearby as they work, something that serves as a source of inspiration or a barricade against gloom.

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