Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A 1/2 Dozen for Ernessa T. Carter

A 1/2 Dozen
for novelist
(and brilliant blogger
the fierce & nerdy
Ernessa T. Carter
who gives great advice

on love
and criticism
and the honest truth
about bullying.

Some writers hate to write. Other writers love being engaged in the creative process. How wo
uld you describe your relationship with the page?

I used to love to write. I used to produce pages upon pages in one sitting like a writer in a movie montage. But that's because I wasn't very disciplined back then. Now I have formal writing hours: I write when I want to write, I write when I don't want to write, I write when I feel indifferent to writing in general. The point is to write no matter what. It feels very much like a long marriage. I've come to accept both the highs and the lows of the relationship, and even when we get in terrible arguments, I know writing and I are going to be together forever.

What’s your advice to someone who’s fallen in love with a writer?

Don't. I'm really not kidding about that. I often wonder why anyone would marry a writer. But I've also noticed that many of the women writers I know have truly wonderful husbands. It's funny because writers are way more mercurial then we tend to let on, I think. We're happy and confident sometimes, but then we're a complete mess at others. We can be weirdly arrogant. We tend to think we're right a lot. We need lots and lots and lots of reassurance -- seriously, don't be afraid to just pour it on. I, myself, would never, ever marry a writer. But God bless the people who do, especially my saintly husband, who I love very much.

What's your advice to a writer who's looking for a lifelong partner? Any particularly useful traits to suggest in said partner? (Do you want to tell us a brief love story here?)

Look for someone who is genuinely nice, who likes being supportive. Look for someone who likes to read and who likes watching the same kind of movies and television that you do -- this doesn't seem like an important detail at first, but trust me, you don't want to retire with someone who doesn't like the same TV programs you like. It'll definitely come up later in the relationship, especially after you have kids and less time for grown-up entertainment options. If you are funny, marry someone who laughs at your jokes -- especially if you're a woman. Don't marry anyone who you can't write in front of. Make sure you test this out before things get too serious. Drag out your laptop and write with him in the same room. Can you still concentrate with him there? Does he interrupt you with questions? Clip his toenails in your eyeline? Then dump him. Also, if there are qualities that you feel you are missing, then marry someone with those qualities, someone who has something to teach you. My husband is the king of follow-through and he's exceedingly patient and kind. But he can't spell or write formally. So yeah, we complete each other.

Writing Tip #17 for Aspiring Writers – or #47 or #2. Your pick.

#47 Stay well-hydrated. Seriously, drink your 8 glasses of water a day. It keeps your writing mind sharp(er).
Criticism. It’s part of the territory. How do you handle it? Is this the way you’ve always handled it?

In the early months of publication, I would read all of my reviews. Some were great, a few were bad. I tend to forget about the bad ones over time and the good ones all sort of run together. Also, I'm not a fan of having my ego surging up or down when I read a good or bad review, so I decided to just not read any reviews anymore. In general, I'm pretty good about criticism. I used to be a critic on the side and still do book reports for my own blog, so karma-wise, I've probably earned any unkind words I've received. But at the end of the day, it's just someone's opinion. I don't take mine all that seriously, so it easy to shrug off both the good and the bad from others ... eventually.

What kind of child were you, inside of what kind of childhood, and how did it shape you as a writer?

Oh, I was a horrible kid. I got bullied a lot for being dark-skinned, and I responded to this by becoming a verbal bully to others, questioning their intelligence and trying to make them feel as bad on the inside as others made me feel about my outside. I'm a much better person now. Most of my current friends are from my post-high school years. And I always tell people that they wouldn't have wanted to know me before the age of nineteen. I find it a bit disingenuous when grown folks complain today about being bullied when they were children. I mean if tales are to be believed, the vast majority of us were bullied, but that also means most of us must have taken part in bullying someone else. But for whatever reason we choose not to remember what we said and did to others, only what was done to us.

Have you learned to strike a balance between your writing life and the other aspects of your life?

No, and to be frank I don't want to. I'm very Hollywood, baby. I don't even like to work with people who I suspect might have a good work/life balance. It's really goes against my moral values.

Find out more about Ernessa's debut novel at

Follow Ernessa on Twitter:!/ErnessaTCarter

Ernessa T. Carter has worked as an ESL teacher in Japan, a music journalist in Pittsburgh, a payroll administrator in Burbank, and a radio writer for American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest in Hollywood. Carter's also a retired L.A. Derby Doll (roller derby). A graduate of Smith College and Carnegie Mellon University’s MFA program, she now lives in Los Angeles. 32 Candles is her first novel. She blogs at