Sheila Webster Boneham writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, much of it focused on nature, environment, and travel. When her second mystery, The Money Bird, was released this fall, Sheila teamed up with Pomegranate Books in Wilmington for their “second annual” cooperative benefit book launch. Six of Sheila’s nineteen books have won major awards, and her short work has appeared in literary and commercial publications. She has worked as an editor for a variety of publishers and freelance writers, and has judged fiction and nonfiction for international writing contests. Sheila holds a Ph.D. in folklore/cultural anthropology from Indiana University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Stonecoast/University of Southern Maine, and she has taught writing at Indiana University, University of Maryland, American University, and universities abroad. Learn more about Sheila, her writing, and her classes and workshops at http://www.sheilaboneham.com.
Sheila will lead a workshop at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2013 Fall Conference titled "Cooperative Book Promotion." Promotion can be about more than simply selling books! Learn how you can work with independent booksellers and other retail outlets and with not-for-profit organizations whose work you believe in to extend your publicity reach, support the cause, promote local businesses, and sell more books. We’ll discuss my experience working with a local bookseller and local and national NFPs, and work through some brainstorming and other exercises to get your cooperative promotion started.
Where’s your favorite place in North Carolina?
The northern end of Wrightsville Beach/Shell Island, where you can see the salt marsh and the ocean. I can spend hours there just quietly watching, listening, waiting.
Why do you write?
To learn, to assemble the pieces, to bear witness.
What book would you take with you to a desert island, if you could take only one?
The biggest dictionary I could tote, one that includes etymologies. With that, we have the fundamental tools of all books: words, meanings, relationships.
What advice would you give someone just about to go on stage to read their work for the first time?
Three things. First, unless you're a very odd sort of writer, your audience wants to hear you and they want to like your work. Second, slow yourself down and remember to breathe. Third, enjoy your moment. You worked for it!
What is the ideal time limit when someone is reading from their work?
I guess that depends on the work, the reader, the setting, and the audience, but generally I would say fifteen to twenty minutes is about right.
Do you write to discover, or do you write point-to-point (for example, from an outline)?
Mostly I write to discover. When I write fiction, I work from very loose sketches that keep me on track in terms of plot points and story arc, but I don't plot in a conventional sense. With lyric nonfiction—my true love—I keep notes on what I want to include, but then I like to immerse myself in the work until the layers open and reveal the real subject.
Do you think some books should be banned from schools?
No. I think that the subject matter of some books requires readers to have reached a certain level of intellectual and emotional maturity so that they can process the ideas, so books appropriate for high school students may not be appropriate for fourth graders. Some books are better understood when their meanings and nuances are discussed. I do think that some books have more merit than others. The point of education is to enable people to distinguish what is good and useful, in books and in life, and we cannot do that by presenting only part of the world.
What was the first thing you ever published?
A poem, "Snow," in a city-wide junior high school literary magazine.
If you could be a different author, living or dead, who would you be?
I admire many authors, but I would prefer to be myself, but slightly different. I would focus earlier on my "real" work, which is what I consider my lyric and narrative essays and fiction, rather than on my commercial nonfiction (seventeen books and many features).
Do you read literary journals? What are some of your favorites?
I do, and I love many journals, so I'm going to list the first five that pop into my head, knowing that I'm leaving out many other favorites. But here goes—Gulf Coast, Flyway, Ecotone, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth River.
Are you scheduled in the time you set aside to write, or is your writing time more flexible than that?
I write every morning, and have done so for many years. Depending on what I'm working on, deadlines, and what else is going on in my life and community, I sometimes write in the afternoon or evening as well.
If you could have a torrid but guilt-free affair with a fictional character, which one would it be?
Richard Sharpe from Bernard Cornwell's series. But of course I picture him as Sean Bean!
Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2013 Fall Conference is now open.