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World of Writing, interview

-- World of Writing --

* Joining us today we have Ellen Palestran, author of: "Have You Ever Had A Hunch? - The Importance of Creativity", which is now in its third edition. Ellen is a writer, artist, filmmaker, educator, game inventor, hydroponic farmer and creativity consultant.  You can find her @:

Q: Who inspired you to pursue a career in writing?

A: My brother was thirteen years older than me while my sister was ten years my senior. Each had their own bookcase loaded with books that, for some reason, seemed enticing to me, even before I had learned to read. I wanted to decipher for myself just what was in their books – just as they did. I wanted to be like them; they were my role models.

Early on, I developed a love for language, for the rhythms and sounds of words and for the information and stories contained in books. I started creating my own magazines as a kid but never considered myself a writer until my sister died when she was only thirty-nine years of age. It was a huge loss.

I experienced a need for something life-affirming and that was entering the creative life with more focus and commitment. I discussed this need with my late husband one night while we were driving home and he asked me: “Why don’t you write?" I remember saying “Me?” - because I had never thought of myself as a writer, despite having had a revue produced that I had written while a student in college in England. There and then - in the car - I created and recited the first verse of a poem that evolved into both a published book and DVD. As soon as we arrived home, I jotted it down on paper. Yes, I was a writer! So my husband, also, was my inspiration and catalyst. Now I have nine published books – and am still writing.

Q: How does writing help you make a difference in the world?

For me, writing is the way I learn and share my knowledge and experience with others – especially, if I feel it has significance and can, possibly, make a difference in people’s lives. I want to encourage people to be creative, independent thinkers and not simply accept unquestioningly, what they have been told is the only way. It might be but it might not. Through my writing, I want to encourage people to rely on their own instincts and be courageous enough to make their own decisions. What truly feels right, probably is and what doesn’t – isn’t.

Through my writing, I hope to instill sufficient confidence in people to examine the motivations and agendas of group leaders who might have cynical agendas. Yes, independent, positive thinkers can make a difference in the world. Maybe, by conveying this, my writing can make even a small difference in the world.

Q: Can you tell us what editors typically look for in a query letter or project proposal?

A: It is essential not to make the work of an editor even harder than it is, so let your query letter reflect the fact that you are truly professional in your writing. I have edited a number of books and so I can tell you what I look for and what I therefore think other editors would like to find in your query letter or proposal:

Diligence – the fact that the writer of the query letter has paid attention to grammar, spelling, and the clarity of their intention.

Knowledge – the writer has researched the topic and displays a deep and thoughtful understanding of it. 

Originality – there is something fairly new in what the writer is saying.

Cordiality – of course that is essential.

Suitability – the subject written about fits the publication.

So to those, who are passionate about writing, I would like to say: do your homework, and, whether it is an article or a book, make sure that what you are offering is as complete and polished as possible. There are so many different venues for publishing today. Your query letter must be indicative of your professionalism.

Q: What do you do when you are not writing?

A: Most of the time, I am involved in the creative process because creativity is home to me. I spend a lot of time painting in my studio, have made some movies, read a good deal and walk and exercise nearly every day. Family time is very important and I derive tremendous pleasure from my three grandchildren, constantly surprised by their concepts about the world around them, their unexpected questions, and their ever-growing language ability.

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Q: What gave you the idea (inspiration) for this book?

A: For many years, I had been creating a fantasy novel that required a lot of time and focus. I did not have sufficient time to work on this because the realities of life had intervened – just as they do for most other people. While I was teaching at college, I decided to devise a class exploring creativity for my humanity students.  This, I then took to broader audiences.

 Although, initially, I tried to pinpoint what stood in the way of my own creative potential, time being the biggest obstacle, my exploration became much broader and I examined the barriers that stood in the way of the creative potential of so many people. I identified psychological, sociological, educational and political obstacles.

I am fascinated with the subject of creativity. Writing and talking about it adds to my depth of understanding and my knowledge.

I feel that creativity is tremendously important not only for all individuals, but for society as a whole.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in writing your non-fiction books?

A: Research, of course, is always a challenge. Are the sources credible? Is what I am saying helpful? Because what I am writing about is relevant to me, will it be relevant to others?  I always over-research initially; I like to know just what I am talking about. This is very important to me but it does bring with it the later challenge of deciding what is really relevant and what is simply interesting to me.

The layout of a book is also extremely important to me and I like to actually see the whole book in a physical, tangible form and not just on my computer. I actually storyboard the complete book. And I edit and edit a lot. Writing takes a great deal of time but for me that is fine. I love the process.

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