Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine their light on Trisha J. Wooldridge, who will be the featured reader for the August Worcester Storytellers Open Mic and Featured Reader event on Friday, August 25, from 7:00 – 8:30 PM.
Besides also coordinating events and managing consignment at our 65 James Street store, Trisha J. Wooldridge writes short stories, novellas, novels, news articles, and poetry about bad-ass faeries, carnivorous horses, social justice witches, capricious deities, Tarot cards, vengeful spirits—and mundane stuff like food, hay-eating horses, social justice debates, Goth bands, writer advice, and alcoholic spirits. As child-friendly T.J. Wooldridge, she’s published three scary children’s books. She’s a freelance editor of over fifty novels and two anthologies. For 2017, she’s been part of the Blackstone Valley Artists Association Artist and Poet Pairing featured at the Worcester Public Library in May. Her fiction and poetry are also in four other anthologies for 2017, Supernatural Horror; Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a benefit anthology for the Jimmy Fund; Dark Luminous Wings (coming October 2017); and Wicked Haunted, a Journal of the New England Horror Writers anthology (coming October 2017).
Thanks for joining us, Trish! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing?
I like writing about the darker, scarier corners of life because I believe you can’t really appreciate the good, joyful, and light things without also knowing and appreciating the full spectrum of life, the choices people make, and the world around us. I also am a firm believer that children can handle the darkness better than adults—and can learn from it better than most adults too.
I’ve been writing since I could run home with vocabulary sentences in grade school, and I’ve been writing stories since about twelve. Most of them will never be shared at this point, but in doing all that writing, I learned how to write better. I also have been helping others write since grade school, through high school, and through college as a tutor or teaching assistant. Helping others also is one of the best ways to learn how to write.
There’s magic in wordsmithing and being a bard, and I like living in a world where magic exists.
What are some of the inspirations for your writing? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished piece?
I get inspiration from all over the place.
With the project I did with the Blackstone Artists Association over the winter and spring, I was paired with an artist, photographer Mike Zeis, who does amazing work. The idea of this project was that we were to inspire each other to create—we’d each create an initial piece, and then we’d trade and create a piece inspired by that initial piece. We decided to meet for coffee, and the conversation with Mike just filled me with inspiration—I wrote the rough draft of my first poem “Unfinished; perfect” that same day. When I received his first piece, a photo of a distorted negative of a church, several things attacked me at once and the piece I decided to finish was “Photographic Salvation,” which is a picture of a dystopian future where all faiths, including Christianity, are persecuted—and the lengths an individual will go for their faith.
With “Manipulation,” which came out in June in the Supernatural Horror anthology, I’d written a flash version of that story some years ago as a way of dealing with a very painful experience with a once-close friend who had borderline personality disorder and was abusing our relationship. I sold the flash (1000-word) version, but one of the critiques I’d gotten suggested I flesh it out more. I did so and sent a 4000-word version to the anthology call, and they chose it!
In Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, which came out in July and is an anthology where 100% of the proceeds go to the Jimmy Fund, I sent in the poem “The Circus Under the Bed,” which is actually part of a new children’s book I’m working on of the same title that includes poetry interspersed between chapters of a story about the Dream Figment that live under people’s beds—born from the moment one wakes up from a scary dream. I play with fears and how fears become real monsters in people’s lives without love and support to balance things out.
My short story, “Cemetery Angels,” which is coming out in Dark Luminous Wings in October was written a few years after my father passed away and is set in the cemetery he and my grandparents are in—St. Stanislaus in Holyoke, MA—and is based on an old news story I remember my mom reading to me when I was young about some young guys robbing people who were didn’t lock their cars while they were paying respects to their deceased family.
Also coming out in October is a story-poem that might or might not have broken my brain, but is very dear to me. “Ghosts in Their Eyes” is 5000 words of a rhymed and metered piece about everything that scares and hurts me about nursing homes…as I’ve recently spent a fair amount of time in them with now-deceased friends and family members.
What is the biggest challenge in writing and putting out your work? How did you overcome that challenge?
All of the pieces that have come out this year originate from painful experiences or things that frighten me or disturb me—and it is hard to go into that place in your mind and heart and explore those things you’d rather run away and hide from.
On top of that, I find poetry especially difficult. It’s so much harder than prose, yet it’s so loud in my head when it is demanding I write it. I hadn’t intended poetry while I was writing The Circus Under the Bed (last year’s NaNoWriMo novel project), but it just kept running in my head and wouldn’t let me focus on the prose until it came out. Writing my world building in poetry form helped me get a feel for the people and cultures I was creating for my Under the Bed folk.
For “Ghosts…”—that was brutal writing. I was working a minimum of an hour a day, sometimes two or three, and getting out squirts of maybe 200 or 300 words at a time. Normally, I can average around 700-1000 words of prose written in an hour. I begged for two extensions while I beat this poem into a full plot, into stanzas, arranged the stanzas and the chorus, and then did a polishing proofread. For those last two weeks, when it was most intense, I found myself even sending texts and email with unintended rhyme and meter!
I overcame them by pushing through, by listening to my heart, and by a lot of work.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Don’t rush to be published. Make sure what you submit to others or what you finally publish (for those who self-pub) is your very best. It takes a lot of editing, it takes listening to critiques, and it takes a lot of practice to make sure your work has the most impact. I see a lot of writers rushing to submit things or self-publish things that aren’t ready, that still have plot holes, that are not well edited… And I hear these people say, “I just want it done. I just want it out there.”
Writers are selling themselves short, and selling their readers short, if they don’t take the time to make sure they are putting out quality work. None of the things I got published this year took less than several months—if not years, a fair amount of feedback, and a LOT of rereading and fixing before it got to where it is.
Work on several projects, put the effort and time into making them as perfect as possible, and then give them to the world.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
Dark Luminous Wings and Wicked Haunted both come out in October. I’ll be at Rock & Shock in Worcester, the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, and in Salem with the New England Horror writers promoting those in October.
In the less near future…
Besides cleaning up and getting The Circus Under the Bed ready to send out to agents, I’ve got three different novellas that I’m cleaning up to send out to markets—all more in the realm of science fiction and science fantasy rather than straight horror or dark fantasy. I’m regularly sending out poetry, so hopefully I’ll have more of that out next year too… and a few secret projects.
Oh, and I’m finally working on a mailing list… so keep an eye out for that!
What are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
Animals! I adore animals. I used to volunteer at the Bay State Equine Rescue—until I rescued my own horse, Calico Silver. So, I am officially a “Crazy Horse Girl.” I also have developed a fondness for chickens at the barn where Calico lives… so I do hang out with them too.
I also read Tarot and lead a monthly Tarot Study Group at Generations Herbal Apothecary in Oxford, MA.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
Besides my horse, Calico, I also have a ginormous black bunny, Vash, who—with his siblings—was dropped off at the barn a few years ago. He is about 11 lbs and nightmare black. He is also the most people-loving of all my furry friends. When he’s wandering around the house, he’ll grab pant legs and tug until you pet him. If it’s been too long between pets while he’s in his indoor bunny condo (the thing is a too-floor monstrosity the height of a small bookcase and three times the depth), he will start throwing things around and pushing up the top door and until someone comes and loves him. Vash “helps” by making me take breaks from staring at the computer for hours.
Nylis the Cat is another rescue. My brother originally got her from a shelter as a baby, but then he moved—so she moved in with me. She likes her adoration in short five minute spurts and she will meow when the assigned petting time comes due. Usually right when I’m in the middle of an intense scene or difficult part. Because that is what cats do.
My special barn friend, who is not my animal companion in particular, but who I’ve formed a bond with is the mini-rooster, Chickaletto,” who lives in the chicken coop across the hall from Calico at the barn. He comes when I call and allows me to pet him. I am one of very few people he lets walk into the coop without having their ankles attacked.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
I am a big supporter of writers joining groups, clubs, and professional organizations. I wouldn’t be where I am today as an author without the support, the information, and the friendships I’ve found through a variety of places:
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, which has my novels as well as many of the anthologies I’ve been in over the years, you are likely to find my novels, as well as many of the anthologies I’m part of, in libraries and other independent bookstores around the New England area. You can also check the usual online suspects. A quick Google search will bring up me and my work and where to buy it!
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
My website: www.anovelfriend.com
My Facebook: www.facebook.com/TrishaJWooldridge
I’m also very Google-able as Trisha J. Wooldridge, T.J. Wooldridge, and A Novel Friend