Wednesday, February 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo Spotlight: Cathy St.Onge aka Delia Tracy




Introducing Cathy or Delia Tracy as she's known on the forum. She falls into the category of fellow NaNoers who I failed to meet with though I'd love to have met her at a write-in. See below for her very interesting story behind her pseudonym/forum name. Isn't it neat?




Who are you? 

You can refer to me as Cathy St.Onge or as Delia Tacy (my pseudonym). There are two interesting stories behind the second name: one is that it's actually a great-great grandmother's name that I discovered in the eighth grade when researching my family tree for a school project. The other is that an elementary school teacher once told us that authors tend to pick pseudonyms with the same initials as their own. I don't know how true that is, but I was determined not to make the same "mistake." I eventually noticed, however, that the initials are one letter over from my real initials.

On the resume level, I'm a high school English teacher originally from Massachusetts. I've lived all over North Carolina -- and briefly in Hungary -- and moved to Charlotte seven years ago. I am also the pet human to two rescued cats -- the youngest rescued by my students -- and do a lot of knitting, so I like to say I'm living the stereotype. :)

Why did you pick NaNoWriMo to consume your November?

I did NaNoWriMo in 2011 for the first time and couldn't/didn't "win" or finish. (Never try to write a novel and your Boards at the same time.) I wasn't planning on doing it in 2012 when it suddenly hit me that "someday" wouldn't arrive without some effort. I'd also been working on taking back my life from my job, and doing something so intensely personal seemed to fit the bill.

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

This year, my novel was a work of historical fiction set in the Civil War. It deals with two people who end up working together in the radical branch of the Anti-Slavery Society (the society was real, but the search-and-rescue branch of it is fictional) and end up on the run together for several years. It's a story that's been with me in some form or another since I was nine, and I felt confident that it had far more than 50,000 words in it.

What is your typical writing process like?

My Wrimoing process is different from any process I use for my work writing. I start by picking a scene I want to work on that day -- or finishing a scene I started the previous day -- and write from there. I sometimes stop in the middle and look something up, though if it's too time-consuming I'll just add a virtual sticky note to the manuscript and do the best I can with the facts I'm unsure of. Often I'd break my word goals into three or four chunks and do some cleaning and/or correcting in between. Tackling it in small bits helped me stay disciplined and motivated.

How did your month go? 

I won but didn't finish. Teachers have a negligible social life in November anyway, so that part wasn't affected. My friends were super-supportive and let me ramble on about things that didn't interest them whenever we talked. My mom -- a published author -- had fun listening to my weekly progress reports on Sunday nights. And, surprisingly, it helped me bond with one of my advanced classes. I was telling them that I personally understand how hard writing can be because I was trying to writing 50,000 words in 30 days, and of course they grilled me until I ended up telling them the whole story. After feeling like a bad teacher keeping a shameful secret (so much class time wasted!), a colleague pointed out that that showed the students a real-world application of the writing process as well as the fact that writing is actually used beyond school. They also got to see that teachers sometimes struggle, even with a subject they know.

That class, by the way, gave me a great idea for the story when they said that one of the slaves who helped the secret society should be a witch. When I acknowledged that that would work and was a great plot point, they immediately began drafting my acknowledgements page for me. I have to admit that it was a shot in the arm to have sixteen teenagers listen to the outline as if they were enraptured kindergartners at story time.

What did you learn from NaNoWriMo this year?

I wrote down so many snippets from the pep talk emails, but most come down to these lessons: you have to let yourself have fun, you have to give yourself permission to write, and you have to take your work seriously, because no one else will if you don't. I also learned that I have lived at both ends of what was, at the time of the Civil War, the longest continuous stretch of railroad in the world.

Where else can we find you online?

I don't have a blog, and I'm sure my teaching wiki is of no interest to anyone!

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