We are posting a series of interviews with some of our members so people can learn a little about our members and see what their experience in the Des Moines Writers’ Workshop is like.
The first interview is with member, Francis Sparks. To learn more about Francis, you can check out his website here.
DMWW: What genre(s) do you write?
Francis: I have a complete Mystery/Crime/Thriller novel called Made Safe set to be released in January 2017 by Pandamoon Publishing. My WIP (work in progress) is a high fantasy novel. I also write short stories that are in a broad range of genres.
DMWW: Where are you at in your writing journey: just starting out, writing for several years, querying, published?
Francis: My novel Made Safe signed with indie publisher Pandamoon Publishing based in Austin, TX last October and will be released in January. That being said, I consider myself at the beginning stages of my career. Joining the Des Moines Writer’s Workshop has definitely been a huge benefit to my writing and I hope to continue to grow as a writer and continue publishing novels.
DMWW: What are your goals as a writer?
Francis: My ultimate goal is to have writing be my full-time pay-the-bills job. The competitive nature of the business will make that a difficult goal to achieve.
DMWW: How long have you been a member of the Des Moines Writers’ Workshop?
Francis: I joined last year in October. I’d just signed with Pandamoon Publishing and wanted to find a group that would help me continue to grow as a writer. A google search later I’d found the website and contacted Beth to audit a group.
DMWW: Why did you join?
Francis: I joined DMWW because I’d reached the point where I needed to elevate my writing and I wasn’t getting the feedback on a consistent basis. I knew I needed to do that.
DMWW: Do you remember what your very first group was like? Were you anxious, excited, nauseous, etc? How did you feel after your critique?
Francis: I do remember my first time. I audited the month prior and was blown away by the talented writers in the group so I really wanted to impress the group. I submitted a short story called Twenty Steps. I was really nervous but I knew that the piece was in decent shape because I’d spent a lot of time on it and done a lot of revisions. I got a lot of great feedback and support from the group and now the piece is published in a horror anthology. The second time I submitted was much more nerve-wracking because I submitted the first chapter of my WIP, which had zero polish because I wasn’t done with the whole novel yet and I don’t revise or edit until I’m done. The group was really supportive again but in a different way. The first story needed a few tweaks but was in a polished form. This chapter was rough and the group had a ton of great insight into how to make it better and how to improve the story.
DMWW: Do you feel like you’ve grown as a writer? How?
Francis: I definitely have grown as a writer both from getting my own work critiqued and giving feedback to other writers in my group. The great thing about the group I’m in is that we write all along the spectrum of genres from literary, women’s fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, short story, historical fiction, you name it. Actually that might describe one writer in our group (Rachel). You learn from writing and reading and also focused critiquing. Having the opportunity to do that on a monthly basis has elevated my writing substantially over last year.
DMWW: What’s your favorite thing about being part of the Des Moines Writers’ Workshop?
Francis: My favorite part is getting all the stories from Dropbox and seeing what my friends in group have written this month. I want to know what happens next.
DMWW: What’s your advice for people who are scared/nervous to join a critique group?
Francis: My advice this. As a writer, you reach a stage where you can no longer advance your writing without getting outside feedback. Des Moines Writers’ Workshop is a really supportive and helpful place to get that feedback. It is scary, but we as group members are on your side and want you to succeed. I have only ever received helpful and insightful critiques in group.
DMWW: The Des Moines Writers’ Workshop is continuing to grow. Are there certain things you’d like to see happen in the future—things we aren’t offering yet?
Francis: I think it would be fun to hold reading events at local venues from time to time.