Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview with Aggie Villanueva

For decades peers have described Aggie Villanueva as a whirlwind who draws others into her vortex. And no wonder. She was a published author at Thomas Nelson before she was 30, and has founded many local writers’ groups including the Mid-America Fellowship of Christian Writers three–day conference. She has also taught at nationwide writing conferences and published numerous writing newsletters for various organizations.

Writing since the late 70s, bestselling author Aggie Villanueva’s first novel, Chase the Wind, was published by Thomas Nelson 1983; Rightfully Mine, also Thomas Nelson, was published in 1986. She is also a critically acclaimed photographic artist represented by galleries nationwide, including Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. Aggie freelanced throughout the 80s and 90s, also writing three craft columns and three software review columns for national magazines, and was featured on the cover of The Christian Writer Magazine in October 1983.

Aggie founded Visual Arts Junction blog February 2009 and by the end of the same year it was voted #5 at Predators & Editors in the category “Writers’ Resource, Information & News Source” for 2009.

Her non-fiction writing includes the handbook The Rewritten Word: Sculpting Literary Art No Matter The Genre, numerous marketing white paper reports, and professional blogging at Visual Arts Junction. She is a regular writer at the BookBuzzr Blog and Orange Soda, a prestigious SEO marketing company. Authors called on her so often for marketing guidance that in the summer of 2010 she founded her own company, Promotion a la Carte.

Aggie is generously offering a free ebook of her latest release, The Rewritten Word, which we discuss later in this interview. To enter the contest, all you have to do is comment on this post! 

Welcome, Aggie! What a treat for us to have you here today sharing your wisdom! What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?

Thanks so much for having me, Dallas. I'm excited to be here. Let's see. I've always taken tons of photos of things I love. Most of my adult life that was my beloved children. Now they live states away so it's become my beloved mountains. I guess that's why I became a professional photographer, so I could share the beauty.

And I recently served as wedding photographer for my daughter’s wedding. But I’m a landscapist—I don’t even own any indoor lighting equipment, proper filters, etc. I was honored beyond words that she asked me, but talk about one nervous photographer!

Tell us about The Rewritten Word. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book?

Wanting to share what I’ve discovered, but I have to laugh because I didn't write it because I'm an Editor or English professor or any such expected reason. I wrote it because I'm a terrible writer. I had already figured that out by looking at any first draft. I'm just an average Joe who had to figure out what rewriting is all about in order to produce quality writing, whether fact or fiction.

When I first started writing I learned the admonishment "write, write and rewrite." And I obeyed, but my fourth drafts were no better than my first. The reason was simply that I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't understand what rewriting meant.

So then I read books on editing your work, but they were lofty, using grammar terms that college level grammar students would have a hard time following.

So I did exactly what I do with the examples in The Rewritten Word--I took the sentences and paragraphs that were unclear and clarified and simplified and shortened.

I rewrote each sentence and word, translating into ones I could understand and eliminating what didn’t relate. At times that meant searching grammar books to find out what the heck the author had said. What I didn't realize at the time was that I was inadvertently learning the craft of rewriting, and with advanced applications.

Here’s an example from the book:

Have you ever read a sentence like this?

Humanity is conceived here exclusively in terms of ritual function—man is made in order to offer sacrifices to the gods—and so the highly differentiated realms of history and moral action are not intimated in the account of man’s creation.

Wouldn’t it make more sense like this?

According to this account of man’s creation, our only function is to sacrifice to the gods. The many facets of our purpose, such as our varied history and morality, are not even hinted at.

My edit may not impress the intelligentsia, but I understood it.

What have you learned through writing this book?

I think I re-learned what I've noticed most writers seem to automatically do. We like to share what we've learned. And writing it into books and articles comes natural for us. We seem to all share a love of learning and then sharing that knowledge.

What is your writing routine? Do you write every day? Do you have a certain time or place you write?

I always write on my laptop, and write continually. It takes daily writing for everything: my blog teaching authors to promote their own work, Visual Arts Junction, my job as an author publicist at Promotion a la Carte, being a regular contributor for the SEO marketing blog Orange Soda and BookBuzzr Blog, and then always there are industry reports we sell at Promotion a la Carte and free reports for our clients, not to mention ongoing book projects. Unfortunately I haven't time for fiction nowadays. Hopefully someday soon.

How did you first begin writing? What was your path to publication?

Like most writers I wrote from the time I could create stories and get them from my head into words on paper, which was about five years old.

But I started writing for publication at about 27, a biblical novel that I asked a friend, Deborah Lawrence, to co-author with me. It was published by Thomas Nelson when I was 28 or 29 and I was hooked. My next historical novel was written solo, and Thomas Nelson published it too.

That was Rightfully Mine which I re-published myself July of 2009 as Rightfully Mine: God's Equal Rights Amendment. With lots of hard promotional work it became a top-ten best seller about 8 months later in three small categories on Amazon. I was so thrilled I took screen shots to prove it!

You are not only a successful writer, you are also an acclaimed photographic artist. How does art enrich your writing, and visa versa?

Photography helped my rewriting tremendously. With a photographed picture you create a story, but that story is set in stone once it’s finished just as a published manuscript. You can’t allow too little or too much into it, ONLY that which clearly communicates.

You don't show too much by allowing an overhead electric line to detract from the story your scene tells (verbosity). You may allow some objects to remain in shadow if they advance the whole of the story (nuances). You can’t allow colors or textures that unintentionally infer things opposite to your message. Composition is everything to a photograph, just as it is to writing.

With writing (as is evident in The Rewritten Word) you must create not only clear and concise written images that communicate ONLY what you wish, but every aspect of your words and sentences and structure must tell that same story, and no other story.

To obtain that you carefully compose your written image, distill each kernel, matching the rhythm and nuances of each word with the scene’s essence. Unless you are utterly engrossed with your composition it won't emerge as a relevant whole. You would include things in the written picture that actually take away from it, or use words with nuances that are opposite to your message/scene.

The similarities of the arts are amazing. That's why Visual Arts Junction (my teaching blog) has a subtitle, The Invisible Visual Arts, because that's exactly how I see writing.

What is your biggest advice for aspiring writers?

Give it your all. Invest your heart and soul, but don't forget the mind. It’s important to study our craft, to understand the depths as well as the finished heights.

In your opinion, why is REwriting such an important part of the writing process?

I talked about that quite a bit above in my comparison to photography. I honestly don't know a writer whose first draft isn't horrible. But the first step is just to get our thoughts on paper. That's when the true writing craft begins.

Rewriting allows us to correct the composition errors of the first draft. In the rewrites we can carve away those aspects that are irrelevant, smooth out the curves that segue ideas together, gouge areas of light and shadow where all aspects infer ONLY what we wish to convey.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you so much for having me Dallas. I'd like to offer a free ebook version of The Rewritten Word to your readers, the winner to be your choice in the drawing. My way of saying thanks to everyone for allowing me to ramble on about the things I love.

Thank you so much! To enter the contest to win a free ebook of The Rewritten Word, all you need to do is write a comment on this post. 

Contact Aggie!

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Promotion a la Carte:


Mayra Calvani said...

Terrific interview, Ladies!
I plan to use promotionalacarte pretty soon.
Dallas, I'm your new follower, I hope you'll follow back. :-)

T. Forehand said...

I am thrilled to be introduced to Dallas, what a fabulous career and talent.