Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NaNoWriMo Spotlight: Sherry Rentschler aka poetphoenix

Interviewee #2 is Sherry Rentschler, aka poetphoenix on the NaNo site. As much as I would have liked to, I never had the opportunity to meet Sherry in person during November. However, I have enjoyed talking with her on the forum. I was delighted when she agreed to an interview. Her novel is titled "The Flood of All Bones".

Who are you? 

I'm a retired US Air Force veteran who has been writing since she was 5. When I was 13 yrs old, I was paid $5 for an article published in a local newspaper. That started my journey. During my time in service, I had my own byline in a base paper, did commission poetry work, won a few writing contests. After I retired, I've had a serial story published as well as poetry, spent several years as a contributing writer and photojournalist for a local town newspaper, and was a contributing writer/Asst Poetry Editor for online magazine Amateur Poetry Journal. I ran a highly successful web site designed for live action story-telling, breaking new ground in how writers developed role playing worlds, recognized in its day by Writers' Digest Online.
The last several years I have decided to devote to novel work, collaborating on one novel (currently in a drawer), and actively working on a murder mystery novel, while preparing to self publish a poetry collection. I'm happily married and when not writing, am a domestic goddess who likes vampires, dragons, cooking and old movies.

Why did you pick NaNoWriMo to consume your November? 

I've spent years doing research, planning, preparing. I was stuck in the perpetual research mode. I needed the shove over the cliff to get me going and remind me how much I believed in this project. For over five years I've "built" on the novel's premise with a family tree, lots of photos to help me with visual suggestions and an outline. But I was getting so far from the actual writing that I nearly lost who my murderer was supposed to be. I'd tried NaNo twice before and I hate that I quit once and failed to finish the second time. I needed NaNo to show me I could do the work and that my work was doable.

What was your novel about this year? And why did you pick that?

The Flood of All Bones is a murder mystery spanning across 16 generations. It begins in France moving from the Huguenots migration to this country, to my core family's settling in western NC around the mid 1700's. The tale involves incorporating historical facts into the tale including the local Cherokee Indians and creation of the railroad. But I wouldn't say it is historical fiction because history isn't important to the story. My town is completely fictional.

I can't say I picked this subject. I actually dreamed it. The matriarch of my story came to me in a dream several years ago. She's been whispering in my ear on and off for years and she's really miffed this story is taking so long. Haha But I have always loved a good mystery and love and murder are like good chocolate. Sometimes you just can't get enough. There's also a huge market for good stories like this.

What is your typical writing process like?

I can be a bit of a mood writer. Depending on what I want to work on, I select certain kinds of music. However, lately I seem to prefer quiet. I turn on my fake fireplace (a DVD fire on my portable player), set up a pot of good hot tea, lay out my materials, settle into a firm but comfortable chair and think of where I am in the story. I've been known to use my digital recorder while I pace and try out various conversations. Recording and playing them back allows me to hear whether or not the convos sound believable or stilted. A digital recorder is also invaluable in the car and next to my bed. I never ever want to miss a possible magic moment. A passing phrase can end up being a scene's major gem later.

I also set goals for myself. When I sit down to write it can be to finish a conversation, complete a chapter, develop a new opening in a new chapter or editing. Then I determine a word goal in my head. However, I've found that if I don't put too much pressure on myself, I can accomplish a lot more. I think we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to word goals. I just try to let the words flow out and worry about counting them later. What I do hold myself to is a time frame. Never less than 2 hours.

How did your month go?

I won! I went over 51,000 words and amazed myself. I must confess I had many initial worries and during the month I was worried I would run out of ideas before finishing the month. But several people, especially you, kept the encouragement coming. The writing got easier as the month went on and I found I liked the daily habit I had established for myself. My husband was very supportive of my mood swings and my fretting. He was also very encouraging, asking me every day how I was doing and what was my word count. Having people to be accountable to was also motivating.

What did you learn from NaNoWriMo this year?

NaNo showed me I was more capable than I thought I was. It proved to me that I do know how to write. It showed me that practice makes better and good habits make better writers. I also learned that giving yourself a goal is important and sticking to it until completion is the best personal reward. The hardest lesson is just write. Don't write and edit as I have done for years because you'll get lost, your story will falter, your momentum will die. Just write. So, ok, you'll do multiple edits later. That's the price we pay as writers. First just say what you need to say. Those are the words that matter. Get them out. Write with abandon. You'll feel so much better.

Finally, let others in. I used to worry about people hearing and stealing my works. I guess I thought I was so good or so important that anyone could say better than I could what my original story might be. Sure, there may be some unscrupulous types out there but the majority of writers are selfishly bound up in their own work. Share your work with others and listen to their thoughts. Find beta readers who are specialized in certain areas too like grammar, plot and punctuation. And let others help you keep your story straight. Usually you are rewarded for giving them your trust because you will learn and your work will be better.

Where else can we find you online?

my blog:
Twitter: poetphoenix
Klout: poetphoenix


  1. I am honored to be included here, Anna. Thank you. This is a wonderful program, highlighting the writers from NaNo. You really are the inspiration I said you were!

  2. Sherry, you certainly ARE a writer, and a marvelously engaging one at that. Your characters, their backgrounds and dilemmas, captured my interest at once, and I'm waiting for the next installment to see what happens next! While my literary mode is much more slap-dash, I can admire and respect your goal-setting and adherence to it. My rough drafts (and plenty of them) were never as polished as yours, especially in the early days before I learned to trust the voices in my head. Bravo on your accomplishments!

    1. Thank you, RLB. High praise coming from you, multi-published author. I'll remind you of how polished you think I am when you do one of those beta reads for me and red pen me to death. haha. Seriously, I can only say I learned from people like you. It will be what lets me see my name on a spine one day (soon, I hope).

  3. Oh, what a wonderful interview! I like the premise of your tale, and look forward to finding and reading it! The Cherokee Indians were my protagonists, too, so I really admire that from you! Lastly, I love... no adore the hat! Few accessories accentuate a woman's beauty like a gorgeous hat, and you wear it well!

    1. Thank you Jim. I confess I do enjoy hats; and you are very kind. The Cherokee Indians are a part of my story, and form a very strong background to my story.

      And thank you for your generous words on the interview. Anna made it very easy.


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