Joan Scott is a British-born writer. Her literary career began when she penned her first novel at ten, won first prize for an essay on Paris at fifteen, and believed she was a novelist.
When reality set in, and the rent was due, she honed her writing skills with UK advertising agencies. Inspired to succeed in the creative world, she headed for corporate America and dove into international marketing communications. Advanced strategic marketing courses from Harvard’s extension program, led her to develop promotion workshops in eight countries. Paid to travel the world on sampans, helicopters and high-speed trains, she published industrial and tourism articles and focused on completing her first novel, Who is Maxine Ash? It features two flat-mates trying to survive during London's turbulent Swinging Sixties, and how an imposter changes their ordinary lives.
Joan lives near Boston and summers on Block Island, R.I., with her brilliant husband who, as a design engineer, knows that two creative minds need space, that it’s always his turn to do dishes, and never to complain when it’s crunch time to edit early drafts. He is a reluctant star in her future blog book and her star partner.
You can read why relinquishing paper can be devastating to a writer, in her essay THE PAPER ROOM in Letting Go: An Anthology of Attempts – editor M.E. Hughes.
She can be contacted at email@example.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.
"Ideas are everywhere in my daily life from snow shoveling, to computer frustrations, bra buying with teenagers, women’s restrooms, bottle caps, and warning labels. Social changes, unrealistic expectations, life and death situations, childhood experiences, news stories, and exploring hope, love, dependency, obsession, and fear, are fuel that fire my creativity."
As a writer of fiction, did you find it harder to write nonfiction?
Not for me, because I wrote nonfiction marketing copy during my corporate life. Once I picked the subject of “paper” for my essay on the topic of “letting go,” I analyzed what it meant to me and ran with it to tell a story to which writers and readers could relate. What I hadn’t realized, or admitted to myself, was that hoarding paper had become an obsession. Everyone else could see it, except for me. Paper became my safety net instead of trusting the computer memory, so my attempt to let go of paper is an ongoing predicament.
Fiction is a much bigger canvas. You have to plot a whole world around an incident or passion for the chosen genre and develop detailed and conflicted characters to show the story you want to tell. I’ve yanked characters back into the novel when they’ve wandered off and dumped a hundred pages of brilliant text, which is hard. You agonize for years over those characters, breathe life into them and become their friend. In my current novel, they are a part of my daily life, to the extent I find myself buying gifts for them which is why it is necessary to switch to nonfiction occasionally!
What do you enjoy most about writing?
The luxury of indulging in the craft. As a child, I couldn’t wait to go to bed early every night to create lives for the characters featured on my wallpaper. Those vignettes became my favorite dreams and stories.
Writing is difficult, painful and an emotional journey but so joyful for me there is nothing I prefer more. I am always writing in my head and scribbling on pieces of paper!
For me, the anticipation of writing is like opening a box of decadent treats to discover what is delicious. Releasing the first draft, line-by-line editing, word-by-word changes and finding the perfect word. Then there’s the second draft, revisions and tweaking, and so on until the ultimate satisfaction is that you’ve done the best you can in creating a piece of literary art for yourself with hope of sharing it with others when you are published. If you are not, you have had enormous pleasure on the journey of the craft.
Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are everywhere in my daily life from snow shoveling, to computer frustrations, bra buying with teenagers, women’s restrooms, bottle caps, and warning labels. Social changes, unrealistic expectations, life and death situations, childhood experiences, news stories, and exploring hope, love, dependency, obsession, and fear, are fuel that fire my creativity.
What are you working on?
I am currently abandoning my “little darlings” (phrases I love) and cutting chapters to reduce my psychological suspense novel, Who Is Maxine Ash? It has been a long process and I am stuck as it is so hard to let go. Martha Hughes, Maureen Brady and a UK editor have spent hours editing and doctoring the entire manuscript but I need another pair of eyes to reduce it for publication. For light relief, I turn to creating blogs for my blog book.
Other darlings in my life are toddlers to teens who have inspired me to create a non-fiction project for parents, grandparents and child-minders on feeding children’s daily lives with a total creative experience. We Don’t Just Go Places, We Experience Them, is the working title. I mentioned the project at a workshop recently and a new grandmother wanted to know where she could buy the book, now! I have other readers who’ve been patiently waiting in the wings so I am focused on completion before the new grandmother’s two-year-old grandchild goes to college!
What has been the most surprising about learning your craft?
That writing is adaptable, the avenues are endless and the big surprise is that Americans seem to love my subtle British humor. It flavors my novel and my blogs in “When Life Gets in the Way of Writing the Great British Novel.” Whenever I am frustrated or faced with life-threatening situations, and wherever I am (even in an ICU), I put pen to paper and use humor as a release. The test is when strangers tell me “you crease me up” or that I am “hilarious.” That is the best applause for my ears.
Do you think workshops have helped you become a better writer?
Yes, definitely. One writes in a vacuum and even if one belongs to a writing group; workshops bring a fresh perspective when one’s work is reviewed by strangers. I find the exercises, new techniques and feedback are amazing tools for learning, editing and improving my writing. What I love about Martha Hughes and Maureen Brady’s Peripatetic Workshops is the assembled wealth of talent, and that I get to travel with writers from different cultures in pursuit of the craft. What could be better? It makes me feel part of a great supportive network when I escape from the isolation of writing, especially when I am back home and online, and able to keep in contact with the wonderful writer friends I have met.
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