childrens books

Don M. Winn Student Interview Part 2

Here’s the continuation of Austin Community College student Christi Esquivel’s interview of me.

Christi: Where do you find inspiration to keep writing?

Don: Inspiration is everywhere, even in movies.

One movie that I really like is Julie and Julia. I would recommend watching that. In the movie, Julie lives in a big city, working at one of those phone-support type jobs. Just the normal, frustrating, daily grind, but she loved cooking and she loved Julia Child. She had a big recipe book and she had the idea that she would make a recipe regularly, and then post about her experiences. She started her own blog and shared all her frustrations, all her successes, all her experiences with cooking. People started following her. She ended up with such a huge following that her blog ended up becoming a book and a movie. The movie was enjoyable because it went from her life, flashing back to Julia Child and how she started. Meryl Streep played Julia Child and gave her usual stunning performance. The movie is very inspiring because it reminds us that you can start off small, do what you love, and end up being successful.

BnN-Reading1Another movie I like is based on Beatrix Potter. It’s called Miss Potter. It showed how she just had to write and illustrate her stories. No one took her seriously. Even the publisher she went to said her work was just okay, almost to humor her. But the publishing house was a family business and the younger brother wanted to be a part of it. The older brothers ended up giving him Beatrix Potter’s project to work on because the younger brother had been nagging at them to let him be a part of the family business. Well, what was funny about it was that when he saw her work he thought it was great. He worked with her to get it published, and, of course, we saw what happened. The books are classics and still enjoyed today. It was another very inspiring story. Stories like that show that sometimes we may have a lot of negative responses from people, but don’t pay any attention to that. If you enjoy it, just do it. Get it out there, keep working on it, and eventually something good will happen.

Christi: What kind of secondary skills are most useful?

Don: You’ve probably always heard the expression write what you know. Well, if you don’t know a lot, it’s kind of hard. You may know a little about a lot of things, but it’s really hard to write something meaningful if you don’t know the subject you’re writing about very well. I think it’s great if there’s a certain genre you want to write, or even blog about. It’s great to spend as much time learning everything you can about it. If you want to write about travel, it’s kind of hard if all you do is watch the Travel Channel on TV. To be a good travel writer, you actually have to be out there traveling. If you want to write about photography you need to be out there doing it and learning everything you can about it.

I think that in itself will give you what you need to really do a good job producing something meaningful for people, something that goes beyond just regurgitating something someone else wrote. Writing is kind of secondary; you have to have something to write about. The first thing to do is to figure out what sort of things you are passionate about. Then work on excelling in those things. Then learn how to express what you want to about it through writing.

Christi: What kinds of contacts would you say are necessary for success?

Don in a scene from The Higgledy-Piggledy Pigeon

Don: It’s good to network with others that enjoy writing as well. However there’s a funny thing that happens with a lot of people who want to be writers, they end up feeling like they’re in competition. They should never feel that way, because writers can help each other. Some of the really good writers are very good about networking and helping and encouraging other writers. It’s possible that some authors might feel that if they help another author then they’re just adding to their competition, but usually it’s the opposite that’s true. A person doesn’t want to just read one book from one author.

Network with others that have the same passion and that are willing to share that with you, help you, and encourage you and vice versa. It’s kind of a mutual thing. I think that’s great. As far as the things you want to write about, it’s good to network with people who have an interest in that. That way, you gain a rapport with your core audience and you’re also learning a lot more about your passion. You’re learning what other people enjoy about it and you’re sharing that with them. That’s what I would suggest.


Many thanks to Christi for allowing me to share her interview with my readers!

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