Today we’d like to introduce you to Carol Test.
Carol, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in central Phoenix, *irrigated* Phoenix, where yards were heavy with citrus and sun-ripened grapefruit fell from trees and rotted along sidewalks.
My hobby was stealing books from the Scholastic Book Fair and reading them aloud to my grandmother, skipping endings that were too sad or flat-out rewriting them. My siblings and I weren’t allowed to watch television, so reading became my window into the outside world (and I always found the most inappropriate novels, so that window had a somewhat blurry pane).
Today, I’m an award-winning short fiction writer who has taught college creative writing for a decade. I credit this to a passion for stories, good teachers, and a willingness to study the craft.
Yet my fiction has always drawn from my own experiences.
My collection, THE WEST IN YOU, explores childhood themes of connection and alienation, tying them to the vast spaces of the American West. The stories follow an AZ family over the first decade of the 21st century as social and technological changes reshape the way they see themselves globally.
Currently, I’m at work on a novel inspired by my experience as a young adult cancer survivor.
TOMORROWLAND opens with Elle’s “rebirthday”. She’s bought herself a new chance at life — now what will she do with it? Young people today are under tremendous pressure to achieve something significant with their lives, so Elle’s journey to find love and purpose, impress her family, and savor every day, though it shares roots with my own, will resonate with many.
Over the course of my life, in addition to teaching, I’ve worked as an editor of both literary and commercial publications. Ultimately, I used this experience to found The Writing Cycle, a consultancy that helps writers get novels, memoirs, and short stories publication-ready.
I love helping authors find their voice and connect with the larger questions about the human experience their writing explores. After all, I like to remind them, the world doesn’t need more stories exactly like the ones we already have. What might the world need? Your story. Because there is no one exactly like you. And the more of your personality you call forth, the more distinctive your work.
Your personhood is your greatest strength as a writer. That’s been the lesson of my journey.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As a writer, I’ve been rejected more times than I’d like to admit. Creative efforts are rife with uncertainty. There’s no guarantee of success. (This sucks for control freaks like myself.)
I’m a blood cancer survivor, a trauma survivor, a survivor of homelessness, a child abuse survivor, a person who lives with chronic illness . . . and while I’d like to pretend this dramatic background puts rejection into perspective, it does not. (No more than “just being glad to be alive” makes anyone all that mellow in traffic.)
What does help is to see writing as a part of life, not life itself.
Hardship has forced me to make joy and meaning out of daily living more often than chasing grand goals. One way I do this is by identifying a sense of purpose. I believe my purpose is to connect with others via compassion and communicating authentic experience. Writing is just one of many ways to achieve this. It takes the pressure off.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Writing Cycle – what should we know?
In an age when it’s increasingly easy to publish quickly, it’s more important than ever to publish well.
The Writing Cycle evolved out of my desire to help writers of all levels get works-in-progress genuinely publication-ready. Our services include manuscript critiques, editing packages, and one-on-one coaching — all designed to encourage author success, whether writers query traditional agents or print on demand. I bring the same careful eye to client writing as I do my own work, elevating details while asking, “What larger message does this writer yearn to convey?”
Visit our blog for inspiration, or sign up on the site to receive a free PDF of tips to immediately improve the artistry and craft of your current writing project.
So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well positioned for?
Barriers to success in writing are not wholly gendered. Many people suffer from fear of failure, anxiety regarding making a living, or the belief we have to possess rare genius rather than raw persistence in order to turn a rough draft into a realized dream.
I have noticed an encouraging trend to call out when female writers are praised for writing in a style associated with historically male writers or on traditionally male topics. These days, there’s less focus in workshops on “muscular prose” and “action-based narratives” and more interest in taking young women’s love stories seriously as negotiations of power, exploring trauma victims’ attempts to find power in passivity, and noticing style choices writers from marginalized groups employ to claim their identities.
Who we are and how we live impacts not only the stories we tell but the ways in which we tell them. I’m hoping as more and more voices get heard, the very tools we use broaden.
- Query Letter Rx / Exceptional Openings: $120
- Excerpt / Story Critique + Editing: $250
- One-on-One Coaching (4 sessions): $500
- Full-book Critique + Editing $2,000
- Website: http://www.writingcycle.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carolelizabethtest/