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.
Here is our interview with Matt Snyder who joined our group within the past year. He has some great advice for writers and for people who are on the fence about joining one of our groups. To read Matt’s blog, click here.
DMWW: What genre(s) do you write?
Matt: I write thrillers and some speculative fiction. I just finished an international thriller.
DMWW: Where are you at in your writing journey? (just starting out, been writing for several years, querying, published?)
Matt: I’ve been writing for years, but I finally completed my first novel this year. I’ve started querying for a literary agent, and preparing myself for the rejections. Most writers know this is part of the process, so I keep at it.
DMWW: What are your goals as a writer?
Matt: I want my novel published. That’s the easiest thing to say and the hardest thing to do. I’m in the thick of it right now, trying to land an agent. Each step along the way is a new challenge and a new test of will and patience. Then I want to do it all over again. Something in me hates the idea that I could only do this once, even though that’d be one of the greatest achievements of my life.
DMWW: How long have you been a member of the Des Moines Writers’ Workshop?
Matt: I joined just last year. It seems like longer, but it’s been a welcoming group to find.
DMWW: Why did you join?
Matt: I needed those voices outside of my head saying I wasn’t crazy. Writers are crazy. We do ridiculous things, and when we’re done with that, we think ridiculous things about how awful it was to have done it.
DMWW: Do you remember what your very first group was like (the first time you submitted something to be critiqued)? Were you anxious, excited, nauseous, etc? How did you feel after your critique?
Matt: To be honest, I wasn’t too worked up about it. For a start, I was familiar with critique groups and workshopping fiction. I had most of my novel completed by then, so it helped to have confidence in the story.
But hearing others who write appreciate what you’ve done feels fantastic. It’s energizing. People put their enthusiasm into my work, whether for the great elements or the flawed parts that need work. That’s contagious. The camaraderie matters when you’re in the thick of creating. I don’t know anyone who can do this alone.
DMWW: Do you feel like you’ve grown as a writer? How?
Matt: Without question, I’ve grown in countless ways. The easiest things to notice are the craft itself, the maturation of my prose or the better realized characters I create on the page. My language has tightened up considerably. I realize now what elements of an early draft need to go, and which need to stay. Figuring out what matters in a story, where things weigh heavy or where light things must remain, that’s a skill that comes to me only through working with other people and hearing their input.
DMWW: What’s your favorite thing about being part of the Des Moines Writers’ Workshop?
Matt: The best thing about the group is the mutualism. Everyone’s at his or her own point in the craft. Everyone has his or her own style or genre or aims. The group embraces these on their own terms and finds a way to help. We have some remarkable writers, some young writers, some people just starting out, all of that. What matters is the attention we give each other.
DMWW: What’s your advice for people who are scared/nervous to join a critique group?
Matt: I’m a hard-nosed son of a gun on this, I admit. I waited too long in life to start really writing and having something to show for it. Life’s too short to let your fears keep you from moving to that next step in being writer. Being a writer means writing, and you can’t get better alone.
I don’t mean to diminish or belittle anyone. It takes real guts to do this, no doubt. But here you won’t find those scary reactions you have haunting your head in this group. Join in.
DMWW: Is there any particular piece of writing advice you’ve found helpful and would like to share with other writers?
Matt: Writing advice is so fickle. Everyone’s different. Here’s a new piece of advice: If you read some writer advice and it sounds beyond impossible to you, that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Everyone does this differently. You’re not crazy, but you do need to figure it out for yourself. The only thing that matters is that you write. That’s it.
So, with that, here’s my only other advice. Start before you’re ready. That’s advice from writer Steven Pressfield, who has some fabulous advice on the subject of writing.
DMWW: The Des Moines Writers’ Workshop is continuing to grow. Are there certain things you’d like to see happen with the workshop in the future—things we aren’t offering yet?
Matt: I’d love to see us work with other writers, authors, and teachers to help out everyone’s craft. I’m thinking about one day or maybe even two day workshops with visiting authors or creative writing pros who really hone in on the craft.
I’d also love to see us celebrate successes and raise up local awareness of our members’ accomplishments. I missed participating in the Wonder of Words Festival this summer, but what a wonderful example.