Tag Archives: #interviews

Writing Life: A Unique Writing Voice

©2015 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee   [caption id="attachment_708" align="aligncenter" width="300"]The Writer The Writer[/caption]

Should you Fight to Develop and Keep YOUR Writing Voice Unique?

 " If it doesn't resonate from someplace deep inside of you, there's no way to fake it and ultimately the writing will be bad."                                         Rosemary Roberts    
The curious and eternal subject of 'writing voice' came up a short time ago when I was fortunate enough to be personally  interviewed by Christy D Birmingham  (Poetic Parfait,  Talk time With Raymond Alexander Kukkee Feb 2015.)  That's for the record.   I have always believed that every writer should speak for themselves, be themselves, and  fight to develop and keep their own writing voice. Keep it unique.  If you're just starting out, a writing newbie, don't copy the style and voice of other writers, blah blah... develop your own, learn by reading, watching professionals, etc,   Another 'rule'.  ( It has always seemed to me there are more rules than thoughts about writing properly if one is to become successful, some are questionable and arbitrary, but if you follow any rules, this is likely one of the better ones.) In our discussion and interview,  Christyb  asked me for "advice for newbies".   As writers we instinctively know there's nothing more entertaining than a clever interviewer asking (a scribbler and doodler) a writer to  offer  advice to newbies, is there ? Everybody loves giving advice, it's a sure-fire interview question, and we rose to the bait challenge. We're always full of advice even if we don't follow it ourselves at times.                        (er... No smartassed comments required ) Not to be outdone, and in return for an extra ice cream sandwich,  I offered some advice, this and that.  Part of it, if I recall correctly,  was that 'it’s important to learn to accept criticism, and to  not allow anyone to destroy your writing voice by suggestion, inference or  disparaging remarks. That’s really important."      I 'll repeat that... Among other things, I told her "  I think it’s important to learn to accept criticism, and do not allow anyone to destroy your writing voice by suggestion, inference or  disparaging remarks. That’s really important."  Uh, huh...haha I found it. And quoted it. Accurately.  For the record.  Christyb smiled and  wrote it down, and surprisingly,  some of it, the part about 'writing voice'   seemed to hit a chord with at least one of my loyal readers, one Rosemary Roberts, a California writer and published author.   Rosemary commented kindly on my interview and had a lot to  say about 'writer's voice' —and imagine that, her words rang a bell.  The following comments are her own words:

Raymond, this was a great interview. I love that you encourage people to find their own voice and not abandon it. Far too often new writers try to follow someone's successful or recognized style ...more so thinking, "Oh, they write correctly" and then find out it's not only impossible, but an incredibly empty feat emotionally. If it doesn't resonate from someplace deep inside of you, there's no way to fake it and ultimately the writing will be bad.

  I learned this with the first piece I ever had published -- began after a long and devastating day in the ER I worked as a thank you to my co-workers for helping each other (and me) survive it. At some point it turned more so into an essay and the hospital wanted to print it in their newsletter instead of me just pinning it up in the ER. I got busy writing to put it on a floppy disc (remember those, lol ), and mind you, I never thought I could actually take my writing anywhere professionally because I lacked the formal education.

 I had my best friend come that evening to proof read it for any errors (I was a nervous wreck) and she literally red-lined almost all of it. I was devastated. "This is too deep ...nope, too sad ...nope, don't think the doc will want you to mention him." She gutted every emotional aspect, every picture created of the atmosphere and actions, telling me ...again, "Remember, I've got college English. I know these things and you simply don't." She finally left me to rewrite the piece minus anything actually 'me' found in it.

 As tears just flooded my face onto the keyboard I finally said,                " F*** it. This is NOT how I write and anyone who doesn't like how I write can just not read it. This isn't me and is nothing close to what I had to say." I rewrote the entire piece as it was and turned it in.

Several days later it was not only published at my large hospital, but regionally for 7 hospitals. It was read that day at the President's monthly meeting that just happened to be at our hospital that month. Suddenly all the nurses I worked with had copies and thanked me profusely for capturing the emotion of that day. The ER doc showed me his briefcase, filled with about 2 doz copies and also thanked me for being the first to ever recognize how it feels to be the physician in such circumstances. He was very touched by the whole thing. And lastly, that day and for the next week, CEO's of all the hospitals, not just mine, came to my ER, along with top nuns in Catholic Healthcare West and of course, many of the physician department heads that knew me, all to thank me and praise the piece.

 Everyone had their favorite bits and of course, they were all the parts that my best friend -- the college English grad -- had told me to remove. Every CEO, physician and other admin heads, as well as all my co-workers asked me the same thing, "What are you doing here? You're a writer!"  

Then the head of Chaplin Services came by one day. She told me that her husband, now passed, was the head of the English Dept at Sacramento State University (same school my friend attended) and that in fact, the English Wing bears his name. Each year she, along with other board members, read submitted essays and choose 3 for the English Masters Degree program. She told me my essay rivaled any she had ever read for that program. It was on this day that I decided:  1) I AM a writer, and 2) nobody would ever dictate my style or voice again. Never.  

* *

Surprise!  If you write at all, like Rosemary Roberts—you ARE a writer regardless of your experience, skill level, education, or the opinion of others. Yes, you may have to work harder for success,  but  you are  a unique individual who deserves a unique writing voice,  one worth fighting for —like Rosemary's. Dear readers,  Wow!!  See what happens?  A defining moment that changed  a writer's life forever.  If Rosemary's story doesn't convince you that YOUR writing voice may be worth developing and fighting for, nothing will.  Thank you, Rosemary!  # Is that Incoming I hear?  

About Rosemary Roberts:

*An in-depth Interview, coming soon!  : [caption id="attachment_3193" align="alignleft" width="135"]Rosemary Roberts Rosemary Roberts[/caption]   A freelance writer first published in 1993, the self-proclaimed "Queen of all things slightly sassy" Rosemary Roberts, thrives from the northern California foothills, is a published book author and the founder of Girl On Point, Inc., a creative services firm specializing in custom content for educational, advertising/marketing and public relations efforts.        
Posted in Interviews & People, Reflections, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Interviews: Amanda Dcosta, Rising CEO

by Raymond Alexander Kukkee In  the  blogosphere and writing business we occasionally  run into extraordinary individuals that thrive on challenge and provide inspiration for the rest of us.  One  such individual is Amanda Dcosta.   Recently I had the opportunity to have a heart-to-heart chat with her.   Please join me in welcoming Amanda Dcosta,  writer, published author,  founder and CEO of Mandy's Pages. Amanda Dcosta RAK:         Amanda Dcosta, Welcome!   Thanks for agreeing to take time out to talk to us.   I know you're really busy these days  as the founder, Chief editor  and CEO of  Mandy'sPages . MD :     First, thank you for interviewing me today, Raymond.  It is an honor to be here. RAK:    Mandy, the honor is mine. How about giving our readers a sense of who you are? MD:     I am Amanda … but prefer to go by the name Mandy. ‘Amanda’ sounds too formal and makes me feel as though I am in school; pulled up for mischief. AMANDA!!!!   LOL… Well, yes, there might be some truth in the mischief part, but then…  Mandy has become my signature name. RAK:     Mandy it is then;   Let’s start out with who is the real Mandy Dcosta? MD:       I love the Lord, am very friendly, easy-going, and extremely patient. I am highly creative and indulge in hobbies from crafts to music and tailoring to painting. However, writing defines both my work and me. Apart from that, hmmm, I relish sweet corn chicken soup, coffee at least once a day and love to travel. And, I adore children! RAK:      A friendly, patient easy-going woman who is creative, loves the Lord, children,  and coffee too.  The ideal woman!    And you’re a writer! We’ll give you that one, it must come in handy.  (Laughter).    Mandy, you live in Oman, on the other side of the world at this point,  -- but where did you grow up and go to school?  Where did you learn to write? MD:      I am currently in Oman but have been here only since 2008.  Prior to this, I lived in India.  I spent most of my childhood and my teen years in Vypeen, an idyllic island off the coast of Cochin in the state of Kerala.  I did my studies in Cochin, at three different locations around the Cochin channel, which made it necessary to travel by boat every day. As far as writing is concerned, I think I always had a flair for writing and enjoyed my competitive streak in school, when I realized I could write. In addition, my dad and grandma helped me from time to time. RAK:     That’s wonderful.  You are a prolific writer—and I might just add here, an excellent one!    What event in your life made you realize that writing was your future?    When did you actually start writing? MD:      Thank you, Raymond. I think the first memory of something I wrote was a letter to my dad when he was in the Navy.  I was around 3 or 4 and wrote him an entire page with just three words repeated over and over again, column-wise.  Take a wild guess what they were  (cat… rat … mat ).  (Grins widely). Even as a young kid, I had dreams of being a writer. Wanting to write has been an ongoing, life-long desire.  In school, I wrote poetry and essays.  They were not great, but enough to allow me to win and be selected for inter-school and college competitions. RAK:       It is amazing to start writing so early in life. I think it's pretty exciting for anyone  to discover they are  a writer at heart.  Tell us about the defining revelation that made you say to yourself ,  "Eureka!..."I am a writer". MD:     It was not until I started writing online in December 2005 that I took to a ‘career’ in writing.  Prior to this, I was a science and management student and part of the retail industry. The dream of being a writer was always there …but I could actually see it take effect when I signed up at Poemranker.com in 2005 to write poetry. I received feedback and guidance that changed my whole outlook and scope of writing. RAK:          Have you kept any samples of your early writing for perpetuity, as an example of what not to do, perhaps?  (I know I didn't --my early writing was terrible!) MD:      (Laughing)   I've never really given this much thought.  I usually save and file my work, but I’ve also been traveling a lot and relocating every few years --for the past 14 years, --so I’m not sure if there are any old files intact. RAK:   .....Okay-- that was then, this is now......so let's fast-forward to the present, 2013, The ‘Year of the Writer’ ;  ---you are already an experienced, published author; you're a blogger, you’ve written hundreds, if not thousands of articles, and have published a couple of eBooks!  That's quite an accomplishment. I understand your first two books are  business-oriented . Can you tell us about those?  Where can our readers buy them? MD:   To date, I have published two management books in eBook format.  They are part of a Project Management series which I hope to expand. My books are ‘Project Management for the Beginner – Part 1’,  and ‘Project Management for the Beginner – Part 2’.   http://www.mandys-pages.com/book-sale/view_document/3-project-management-for-the-beginner-part-1-initiation-planning http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008H2714G/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B008H2714G&linkCode=as2&tag=manspag-20 RAK:   That’s great! Thank you for those links.  I hope our readers will check them out and buy them!  Will you be taking the existing books to print? MD:    About putting them in print,-- I have never really given it much thought. My focus with them was just to get my feet wet in the world of publishing. RAK:     That’s understandable.  Give us the compressed version of the jacket backs we may see on them, and...how many books do you have in mind for the series? MD:       As the title implies, these books are intended for the beginner-- and for managers who have to deal with new projects, --but initially lack theoretical and systematic training in carrying out such projects. The first two books cover the all-important initial phases and processes of a project;   namely, initiation, planning and risk management, based on working experience.  The next books will deal with the actual execution of  projects. RAK:     Mandy,  next question,   I have a secret… I know you were working on an epic children's novel  in November.  You know, the NaNoWriMo challenge and all that—which we did not  join. We held our own challenge instead. Head to head. Tortoise and Hare.  The big questions are,  did you try the story line on the kids, and did they approve it for publishing?   “Is it finished yet?” MD      (Laughing happily). Publishing is down the road, I'm undecided at this point.   This is the first epic novel that I have ever attempted to write.   The story line is intact, but each time I try to edit, I seem to delete chunks of description and replace it with fresh material --or I cannot seem to decide what to retain and what to throw away.  I think the edit phase is more annoying than writing the story.  Seriously!--How did you ever manage to complete your book, Raymond?    Although my book is not complete, what I can share with you is the title of the story.  Initially, the working title of my book was Simply Evergreen’.  But now that I see the book in its entirety, I have named itTambalacoque’.            ' Tambalacoque' is actually the name of a tree, also called the Calvaria Tree or the Dodo Tree Dodos used to feed on the fruit of this tree.  The Calvaria is now an endemic species with only 13-recorded specimens  living today, and  it  has been facing extinction ever since Dodos disappeared. RAK:     That’s amazing!  So you’re following the wise old writer adage, “write about  what you know” with a little bit of modern environmental awareness added. It’s not a bad idea to make that information public, your book could help. That’s great ---and---  no,  my own challenge novel is expanded to 70K words now,  not finished yet either, --but technically we both finished our 50k challenge, didn't we.... (Laughing)     Mandy, do  you have any other big writing projects in progress? MD:      I had started a Children’s Book series called ‘Terry’s Pet’.  I have completed the first part of this series and have kept it aside for want of good illustration.  I had planned on writing the next part and brain-stormed ideas at one point of time, but never quite got down to it. There is another book that I have written in part, which is also a children’s book  titled ‘Princess Ruru’.  Both of these books have been inspired by my children. RAK:      That’s wonderful…children do inspire, don’t they? …..So what are the other driving forces behind Amanda Dcosta the writer?  What keeps you ticking?   --How about Amanda Dcosta the CEO?  What vision drives her? MD:      I would say that the constant desire to write is what keeps me writing.  If I am not writing or spending  time doing something or the other-- since I must keep myself occupied all the time, I dream. -- Yes, I am a dreamer at heart.   I have big plans and never settle for less.  If I plan to do something, I do not like to do it just for the sake of doing it. I need to excel. I constantly tell myself that ‘if others can do it, so can I’. A big part of my writing is based on faith.  To me, if I use my talent profitably, God will bless me with more. If I do not, even what I have will be taken away from me.  It is as simple as that.  So essentially, when I write, I see this as a gift from God and HIS way of being part of me or making me part of Him. After all, He is the ultimate author and we follow what he inspires us through His Word. RAK:     How about Amanda Dcosta the CEO?  What vision drives her? MD:      Writing, and  the desire to showcase writing the way I want to.   The need to get interactive with writers made me start my website Mandy’s Pages.  From the start, it was a serious step.  I started my blog under this name and the response was so overwhelming from readers that I knew I had to take it a step further. Once I started Mandy’s Pages as an online content publisher officially, and I was sure about my decision, being CEO was just part of the process.  If you want business, you have to show people that you mean ‘business’.  There is no fooling around as in, ”I’m just trying this for fun.  Let’s see where this goes.”  --so  I took up the role of CEO and editor-in-chief. RAK:      Wow…you are driven. Okay, let's cut to the chase and talk about your pet project now.   Tell us about  Mandy's Pages.com , --which is, --for the record, a beautiful  general interest website with great  content.  You started the site  a year ago, ---in fact on February 29th, which was a  leap year.   What was the bottom line reason you decided to start your own privately-hosted website? MD:      When my blog ‘Mandy’s Pages’ received a lot of support,  I could tell  my readers were happy with what I presented.  I knew that I had something unique to offer, whether It was my writing voice, or the fact that I caught the attention of readers by giving them something they wanted.      Eight months after I started blogging, and being quite frustrated with content word mills that seem to swallow up our work for next to nothing, I was of the mindset to start a website exclusively for my own content. -- However, when I got down to it, and kept staring at some of these sites, I was like… ‘Hey, what if I started something new with Mandy’s Pages for everyone? What if …  what if? ”  LOL…. Once that idea started playing on my mind I could see a whole lot of possibilities.    Discussions at various writing groups seemed to encourage the idea even more. Writers were unhappy.  Writers needed a break from the cheap word mills, and it was time to recognize each writer’s worth. When I put the idea across to Mike Williams, he supported me wholeheartedly. Creating a fully functional website is not only expensive but also laborious and requires persistence.  When he said he was willing to work with me, I was beyond thrilled.  If I could have, I would have hugged Mike that day.  From then on there was no turning back. (Happily smiling) RAK:       Most experienced writers and freelancers are now aware there are major changes in the writing market, and not necessarily better for the experienced freelancer or the neophyte just starting out.    As you know, with the decline and  blatant failures  of   'word mills'  and that business model,  writers seldom get paid up front for an article. Then they may, or may not only receive 'revenue share'  --perhaps a few cents per thousand views.  What makes Mandy's Pages unique and different? MD:      Mandy’s Pages, first and foremost, was started with the writer in mind;  if the writer is not part of it,  there is no Mandy’s Pages. With this concept in place, payment structures began to formulate What is unique about Mandy’s Pages is that writers may submit content to the site. This content, with exclusive rights given to Mandy’s Pages, is displayed for a period of six months, with additional display time beyond this period as an option.  Writers are free to request  deletion of the article from the site after a six-month period -where all rights will be transferred back to the writer.     Unlike  other sites, Mandy’s Pages will retain neither the work nor the rights to these articles. The writers are in full control of their work. RAK:      So for six months articles are exclusive to Mandy's, and even offered for sale--with the approval of the writer, and then can be removed entirely from MP  if the writer so wishes.  Excellent!  ......How have you solved that eternal problem of writers being paid only pennies, you know, the poor writer sitting up in the attic, living on breadcrumbs and water? MD:      At Mandy’s Market, when a writer sells an article, there is a fixed payment structure in place; (65:15:20).  For all sales, 65% of the sale goes to the writer, 15% to the editor and 20% to Mandy’s Pages. Everything is transparent. There  is no guessing whether MP is paying the writer in a fair manner or not.  Before a writer accepts an assignment, or sells an article,  he /she is totally aware of the potential earnings of that title. If clients add a bonus amount to the sale, --which amazingly, does happen upon occasion, --MP again divides the bonus in the same ratio 65:15:20. RAK:      Excellent. So the old speculation about publishers selling an article  for $150.00 and paying  the starving writer only a buck-- never has to become an issue or a question.  And paying your editors results in superior quality work. That’s encouraging! Does MP offer  publicity angles for writers? MD:       Apart from the main content sections and Mandy’s Market, MP also reviews new books by ‘promising’ authors and showcases them in the Author Spotlight section.Newbies, amateur and seasoned writers may also find encouragement in our new feature  Friday’s Stars, which again, was created with the writer in mind. RAK:      You certainly seem to have the interests of writers at heart.  --What is the official mission statement,  --what is the main goal of Mandy's Pages at this point? MD:      The motto or tagline of Mandy’s Pages is ‘Uniting Writers.  Encouraging Dreams.’ If writers were to unite, and speak up for a single cause, --imagine how effectively convincing our collective ‘voice’ could be. This is the power of the word. This is the power that exists in the writing community. RAK:      I can see that --with you as CEO,  ethics and integrity--and fair treatment of the writer --are cornerstones of Mandy's Pages.  What is the fourth corner-post? What holds Mandys platform  up? MD:      The fourth corner-post is undoubtedly my friend and business partner, Mike Williams, owner of 21st Century Web.  Mandy’s Pages as a functional web site would not exist without him.  I am ever so grateful he is part of this venture. I would in fact call him the first corner post. (Grinning)   I thank him. In addition, I have very strong pillars in my editors and writers. My writers have been exceptionally supportive and are skilled in their respective fields. I know so, because clients have purchased almost all content they have submitted via Mandy’s Market.  Many satisfied clients have even offered bonus payments. RAK:      So your clients are happy campers.  Paying a bonus spontaneously  is amazing, rare at best!    So Mandys Pages really  is getting a very positive response out there  in the custom writing market and from writers themselves.

--How do you feel about the fact that you may be setting a new precedent, a new business model to be emulated  here?

MD:      I reserve my comments for now, Raymond. . Don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather not be carried away by it. Mandy’s Pages has been receiving a lot of support and encouragement.  However, fine-tuning what we have, and what we would like to have at the site, is a laborious task. I should hope that in the end, readers,  writers and clients all find satisfaction in interacting with Mandy’s Pages.   Ultimately I want writers to share their success stories from being part of Mandy’s Pages, -either actively or indirectly. RAK:      Fair enough. You’re a savvy and humble lady. (grinning) Success speaks for itself, I think that’s a given.  Ethics and integrity are always so important, and often overlooked. Mandy, let's look at the bigger picture now….  Other than collecting and writing beautiful content on MP.  Recently you went one step further and started Mandy's Market for the sale of articles specifically tailored to meet the needs of  publishers. Custom articles. Written to order.  That's a big step, how is that project going? MD:       Mandy’s Market is your one-stop shop for unique, excellent and custom content. 601206_4099970549641_963621721_s RAK:      Wow…that’s quite a statement. MD:      Although originally  there was no specific promotion for tailored, custom-ordered work  at the site initially, we have been working hard to get clients. There have been times when I’ve not seen a single client request in my inbox, and equally, there are times when demand for content has been phenomenal, --considering MP itself is a newbie. RAK:      Got any more huge plans for expansion of MandysMarket? New products?  New web sites,  divisions?  A conglomerate?    Any definite plans to develop new web sites?      Psst..I won’t tell if you don’t tell me. MD:       (Laughing) That is like diving into the ocean to search for something, Raymond. I’m always full of plans.  I either want to sell something, write something new, or put up a new section for a particular ‘plan’ I have formulated- and  the possibilities are endless. However, being realistickeeping up with these ideas is not as easy as I would like it to be. Either it is the lack of time, --or an idea is not yet practical at this point of time, --or simply because we do not yet have sponsors or advertisers. Whatever the plan, it HAS to be a win-win for all those involved, especially for my writers and editors. RAK      You have all bases covered, it seems.  Tell me, does living in Oman cause any difficulty for you or Mandy's Pages?  Does living in Oman create limitations for your proposed business model? MB:      Even if someone is an  excellent English writer, opportunities may be very limited in a country where English is not the official language.. When I apply for writing positions I may get blocked or receive a reply in my inbox saying I do not fall under the required demographic. When sites do allow me to sign up, they ultimately want a US Social Security Number, which I cannot provide. Finally, word mills pay nothing more than a few cents per thousand page views;  they are all circumstances that encouraged the start of Mandy’s Pages. RAK      What advice would Amanda Dcosta offer to a neophyte writer? MB:      Writing is akin to faith.  All you need is a little mustard seed in you,  the desire or dream to write. Keep at it and you will see your dream turn to talent and skill.  Do NOT let others tell you otherwise.  If you desire to be a writer, you WILL find a way to express it.  Like my grandma used to say, “Where there is a will, there is a way!” RAK      That is great universal advice.  What's in the future for Amanda Dcosta ? MB       Amanda is led by dreams and is constantly researching  ways to improve herself as a writer, entrepreneur and publisher. But first, her goal is to get her current projects and books completed satisfactorily.   At Mandy’s Pages, she is ever conscious of the needs of writers and wants to build on this.  Without her writers, Mandy’s Pages would be just another cheap word mill. RAK    Behind every author is ___ ?  MD:     The dream that got you started in the first place. RAK      Thank you, Amanda Dcosta !    and--Mandy, it’s been such a pleasure talking to you. I sincerely  wish you the very  best of luck with  all of your endeavours in the future,--including your books, Mandys Pages, Mandy's Market and any new SECRET projects on the horizon. Thanks again!  Have a wonderful day!   ## Is that Incoming I hear?
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