Exclusive Interview with
R. Janet Walraven
When did you start writing?
I began writing in high school--poetry mostly.
What makes writing your passion?
My passion differs with each writing project. I wrote my teacher-mentor book after 35 years of being in K-12 classrooms. Many new teachers leave the profession after 3 to 5 years because they haven't been taught how to manage a classroom, how to communicate with parents, administrators, and staff, work too many hours with not enough pay, and mostly because they do not have a master teacher to mentor them. I am passionate about helping teachers.
My second book was a tribute to my parents. Their love story during World War II was a joy to write as a legacy for my family.
My third book is a children's book inspired by my Uncle Ken, an artist who wanted to illustrate the book but passed suddenly. I felt that I needed to continue the project to honor him.
Other stories and books are piling up in my head. I am passionate about getting all those ideas published, including a "hope" book for students and parents who feel marginalized.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing seriously for the past twelve years. I was prompted to do that after forming a writing group. That's an important part of my decision to self-publish.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Ecstatic. Holding it in my hands was very gratifying, even moreso when I did my first public book reading and signing.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Both of my first books and most of my short stories include real people whom I know. The children's book is about two little hedgehogs because my Uncle Ken had a passion for Albrecht Durer's art and created a woodcut with Durer holding a hedgehog. That was the stimulus for writing the story of two hedgehogs sneaking into the Louvre in Paris.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
I feel great JOY when I'm in the writing zone. Marketing takes away a lot of writing time. It's also deflating and disappointing when people promise a review but don't follow through. It's taken some time for me to ignore those kinds of responses and just let it go.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I've never experienced writer's block. When I sit down to write, the characters speak to me, and the story flows.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
Don't worry about what others say. Don't worry about grammar, spelling, formatting...any of that. Get it out of your head and onto paper. The rest can come later. Don't second-guess yourself. Everyone has a story to tell; your stories are as important and interesting as anyone else's. It does help to take some writing classes, and those abound on the internet.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Start writing and publishing at a much younger age. Have confidence in myself. Don't compare myself to other writers. Be diligent!
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Of course, I read every book review. I print them off and put them in a notebook. I haven't had any bad reviews--just a couple who wrote some unnecessary spoilers. I've decided to learn what I can from anyone's review and let go of any negative responses.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
Hurray! Thank you to those who are willing to take the time to write a response to the reading!
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
All of my books are definitely part of my real life--teaching, my parents' love story, and visiting the Louvre. Even my short stories are ones that I based on people I know. Poetry is definitely about happenings in my life. Write what you know!
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
The teacher-mentor book shows how I managed students and all the other education players, so, yes, I'm the major character. Otherwise, I have not based other characters in my books or short stories on myself. That may come at some time in the future.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Most people really do judge a book by its cover. No cover is as important as the story. A cover may appeal to the reader, but the story may be disappointing or not edited well. Good readers usually read reviews and the blurb on the back, as well as leafing through the book.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I express myself better in writing than verbally. However, I've done several podcasts and book readings that I enjoy very much. I'm happy to share my email if readers want to reach out with comments and questions.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I've never been recognized in public, and I have no desire to become famous or rich due to being an author. When people respond about my books in writing or personally, that's very gratifying.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
That's a difficult question. There are too many to list. My most inspirational writer is Wallace Stegner. Every time I read one of his books, I gain confidence. I wish I could have taken a writing class from him at Stanford, but his life was unfortunately cut short in an accident. He still inspires me.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I have no dream of becoming a famous author. I have all this stuff in my head that I want to get out on paper, get it published, and if anyone reads it, that's great!
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
I always think of more I could have written. So far, I do not feel the need to rewrite anything already published. As an English teacher, I told my students: rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. But that's before publishing. An author is never really finished with their manuscript. At some point, after rewriting and editing well, you have to say "Done."
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
Barbara Kingsolver. I love her attitude toward life, her exciting adventures, her love of family, and the way she writes. She's amazing!
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
Yes, I've found several internet trolls, especially on Goodreads. Reviewers don't have to give their real names there, and it's too bad some don't own their own thoughts. My attitude toward writing reviews is, If I don't have something nice to say, I don't write one. If I can say what I liked and say something constructive, that's okay.
What would you say to your readers?
Thank you for reading my books. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did writing them.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I grew up moving around the USA. My parents were an excellent team. My dad built grain elevators and cement plants. My mother loved moving to new places, new adventures, new cultures. I attended 26 schools; graduated with a BA from the University of South Florida, and earned my Masters from the University of Washington. I now live in New Mexico, Land of Enchantment. I love the culture, the adventures, the landscapes. I was married for many years until a tragedy ended that for me. life throws us curves, but sometimes a serendipity comes along and makes life even better. I'm grateful for that. I don't have my own children, but I do have family and a whole lot of students who are now my adult friends. My partner now is an amazing man who supports and encourages me in all that I do. He's also very helpful in reading, editing, and cheering me on in my writing. I love to read, write, garden, and my partner and I love to travel. We have much to get grateful for in our lives.
What is your day job if you have one?
I'm retired. My day job is writing and marketing. I love the first part; not the second so much.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I enjoy researching for my writing. I also love dead-heading flowers in my garden, reading books that are edited well, and finding adventures nearby as well as learning about different cultures in our travels to Europe, Canada, and Mexico. I am passionate about sharing with others the only reading program that really does work with everyone. If I win the Lottery, I'll put www.readright.com in every school in America. That is my dream!
Did you have a happy childhood?
My parents loved me and my siblings unconditionally. They treated us lovingly, kindly, and were excellent role models for us. They were logical, pragmatic, and fun. My childhood was challenging moving an average of every eight months, but we had a lot of adventures wherever we lived. My parents set expectations high and let us know that we could accomplish anything we wanted in life. I am grateful every day for their love.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
My psychology teacher in high school took our class on a field trip to a mental institution. Back in the day, those were terrible, scary places. We toured the rooms where people stood or sat staring out into space. I was devastated to see people who seemed without hope. On the way home, I wrote my first published poem called "Ice and Embers."
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
My work-in-progress is about a student I had who saw the world upside down. I'm almost finished with it and will publish it to give hope to parents and students. I also have an anthology in mind of short stories and poems, many of which are already written.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
Eighty-five percent of people in the USA do not read correctly. I searched for 16 years to find a reading program that would work for everyone. that would rewire their brains to read excellently. I finally found it, learned it, and used it in my teaching. READING correctly is what needs to be taught correctly. Everyone can learn to read as well as they can speak. Some learn how automatically at an early age. Our general, old-fashioned way of teaching reading is appalling. It doesn't work! Why do educators continually put the cart before the horse? Why give students assignments when they cannot read? Why aren't school districts willing to put the money where it counts? The answer is www.readright.com It's a researched program developed by Dee Tadlock, Ph.D. I call it the magic bullet for education. READ RIGHT is the horse before the cart.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
1. Put READ RIGHT in every school in America.
2. Cure cancer.
3. Make sure every child in the world has food, medicine, education, and love.
What is your favorite music?
I love classical, rock-and-roll, easy listening, New Orleans jazz, gospel hymns, and most everything else except RAP and hard rock.
Share a secret with us 🙂
No thanks. I'm the only person I know who can take a secret to my grave.