Surly Questions: Angela Goff

Today’s post kicks off a series of interviews I have planned for the Surly Muse blog. Christening this new feature is fellow writer and founder of #WritingEmpire, Angela Goff. Thanks, Angela!

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Second grade was the turning point, when my teacher helped me assemble my first book, filled with the stories and poems I made up in class when I had finished my work early. It wasn’t a class project – she did it just for me. After such encouragement, and seeing my own work in a “real book”, I was smitten with a passion for writing. Thankfully, it’s been a lifelong malady.

2. What made you decide to start Anonymous Legacy?

My decision to abandon Facebook triggered that decision. I realized my best writing energy had siphoned off into witty status lines and photo comments. Then I read multiple blogs by editors, agents and published authors about how to establish a writer’s platform and/or “presence” online. Considering how the internet is integral in all industries now, I saw Anonymous Legacy as an investment, an ongoing resume for my future publisher – but one that had to be built gradually, over an extended period of time. That’s when I shut down my Facebook, set boundaries for myself in regards to texting and social internet time, and really got to work.

3. What was the inspiration behind the #WritingEmpire hashtag on Twitter?

I hear a lot of talk, in person and online, about how there is so much (insert favorite euphemism here) in books today. People enjoy trends and fun reads, but I hear more from writers – and readers – who wish to see new life breathed into the overall quality of fiction writing today. The #WritingEmpire mantra is, at heart, a reminder that if we want to see change in the books we read, then we are the ones who must go out and build it.

4. You have a daily presence on Twitter. What has been the most rewarding thing about connecting with other writers through social media?

O goodness. Where do I begin? Coming onto Twitter just before NaNoWriMo was bewildering – there were so many amazing writers that just came out of the woodwork. Nor were they snooty or overbearing, touting their own spiffy writing skills or stealing ideas. They were real. Transparent. They told on themselves. They smacked each other into line. They were there for each other when the frustration hit.

Moreover, I found these are not “fair weather writers” but people in the trenches for the long haul, wet feet and dysentery be hanged. NaNoWriMo is gone, and people are still having word sprints. Asking questions and getting answers. Needing encouragement and finding it. To find an online community of like-minded, dedicated writers who are willing to heckle or word-sprint with you at the drop of a hat (whatever it takes to get it done, y’know?) – that was an amazing blessing. Still is.

5. You’re a teacher as well as a writer. What lessons have your students taught you over the years?

When students – or any writing newbie, actually – ask you to read their work-in-progress, for heavens’ sake – TURN OFF YOUR INNER GRAMMAR TEACHER. Grammar, I’ve learned, is best left for someone else to criticize – or at least should not be a first step – when proofing a budding writer’s creative work. Go for the soul of their creative vision, and help them from there. The rest will fall into place.

6. What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

That readers are like a cider jug – narrow necked, but capable of holding vast amounts of information. This has helped me tremendously in terms of pacing, and learning to drizzle in information so that my readers can swallow whatever complexities I serve them.

7. Who are the most inspirational people in your life when it comes to your writing?

My second, ninth, and twelfth grade English teachers were key. So were my parents (they still are), and my local writer’s group that has been meeting now for about three years. As for authors, the list is endless, but I would say my earliest and most long-reaching inspirations have been Lewis Carroll, C S Lewis and the Brothers Grimm.

8. I see from your web site that you have several projects in the works, including Castle 8. Can you tell us a little about it?

The Underground has been quarantined for centuries, running on the impersonal laws and mechanical system of a “big brother” tyranny that dissolved long ago. Crippled by earthquakes, mired in darkness, victimized by gangs, the Underground is on a path to self-destruction. But the Swackhammer brothers – math genius Greg, illiterate poet Errol, cannibal safe-cracker Finn and the illegally-born March – know there is something more beyond the Underground, that life hasn’t always been this way.

Severed from all history, literature, music and culture for so many generations, no one in the Underground has the least idea how to save, let alone rebuild, their world. The Swackhammers are thrown headlong into that mystery, as they scramble to escape the Underground and recover what was lost – at whatever cost to themselves.

9. Castle 8 seems to tie in your idea of “Anonymous Legacy.” What is the nature of the legacy the characters of Castle 8 must pass on, and how does it relate to your own “Anonymous Legacy”?

My characters must recover a legacy – one that was stolen away by earlier generations, leaving their descendants in perpetuated ignorance. Even those who think themselves in power only have access to fragments, and none in such quantity or coherence that they can easily reconstruct what came before. Whether the Swackhammers will recover that Anonymous Legacy is the journey I intend to present. As a history teacher, I consider these ideas – of recovering what was lost, to not forget your roots and know what has shaped your world – to be critical. We must all come to terms with our past. If we dismiss it, we do so at our own peril.

10. How close is it to completion?

I finished the first hard edit just last week, and plan to go back to it in mid-January. A couple more layers of edits and beta readers are needed before I begin the querying process, but I am certainly a matter of months from doing so – definitely before the next NaNoWriMo. Ideally? I would like to begin querying this summer. We shall see.

11. And now, the cliched question: your top five “desert island” books?

  • Bible
  • The Oxford Book of English Verse
  • Silverlock, by John Myers Myers
  • The Chronicles of Narnia, by C S Lewis
  • A blank journal for writing

A special education teacher by trade, Angela currently has multiple manuscripts in various stages of readiness, and plans to begin querying Castle 8 in the spring. Angela is also part of a close-knit writer’s group known as the Y5, which consistently plans out dignified meetings, only to have them devolve into food fights, hysterical laughter, and plans for world domination. In her spare time she meets with other aspiring authors at various coffeehouses, so as to encourage other kindred spirits while maintaining a quasi-respectable appearance to society. She can be found on Twitter as @Angela_Goff or at her blog: http://anonymouslegacy.blogspot.com/.

  • Anonymous

    “I realized my best writing energy had siphoned off into witty status lines and photo comments.”

    *gulp*

    • Yeah….that was my response too….. 🙂

    • *double gulp*

      Yeah I made the ol’ shifty eyes at that one too.

    • Every time I go off social media, watching that energy re-materialize is both amazing and horrifying. I almost can’t stand to bear the realization of just how much time and energy I waste, and so I end up falling back off the wagon.

  • Thanks for your time and your expertise, Angela. I’m looking forward to seeing Castle 8!

    • Thanks! It’s great to have all this wonderful support from other writers. 🙂

  • Daniel, I love that you featured Angela. You’re both so talented and I’m so excited to have you in our Tribe!

    I have nominated you for a Versatile Blogger award for your magnificent blog. Please come check it out here: http://yearningforwonderland.blogspot.com/2012/01/awards-of-versatility-15-magnificent.html

    • Thank you so much, Anna! This made my day — and a miserable, sick day it was until I read this! I cannot thank you enough for the lovely honor. 🙂

  • This was such a great interview! So glad to have met Angela. Can’t wait to check out her blog and follow her on twitter.