Today I am very exited to welcome my new friend and fellow writer, Paloma A. Capanna to Creekside Café. Paloma and I will be presenters at the 2019 Pamlico Writers’ Conference April 6th. Welcome Paloma, this will be your first time presenting at the Pamlico Writers’ Conference?
Paloma: Hello, Sherri, it’s nice to be invited. Yes, it’s my first time presenting at a writers’ workshop, and I couldn’t be more excited that it will be with Pamlico Writers Group. I had a chance to meet a number of its members at the recent “Carnival of Books,” and found them to be welcoming and helpful.
Sherri: We became enamored of you during that event and I’ve had the privilege of spending time with you at the Carteret Writers Luncheons as well. It’s always such a pleasure. Now, tell us a little about your workshop.
Paloma: The title of my workshop comes from the theme of the conference, “Giving Voice to the Voiceless.” Writers are often called upon to write for or about “others” – other people, animals, environment, and causes. This workshop will offer the opportunity to debate and discuss questions around whether to limit your writing to “what you know,” how to get those who are reluctant to speak on their own behalf to speak to you, and how your life – and that of your subject – can change as a result.
I have asked attendees to watch the documentary “Booker’s Place” in advance of the conference.
Sherri: I watched several segments on YouTube, it was enlightening but devastating. Now this is an intermediate workshop for experienced writers?
Paloma: Its ideal for intermediate to advanced writers, whether fiction, non-fiction, or news media.
I have been a litigation attorney for more than twenty-five years, practicing in federal and state courts, and handling appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. I was writing hundreds of words per day, often seven days per week. And I was writing documents several times per year into the 20,000 to 40,000-word range.
My entire career has been focused on communicating people’s narratives to a congested court system with a goal of winning. The culture of litigation is both inherent and overt competition between lawyers within a system loaded with deadlines and traps.
There is a surprising amount of technique from my legal career that has bolstered my non-legal writing.
Sherri: You are as passionate about this year’s theme as I am, though we come at it from different perspectives. Where I use events and issues that I care about to write my fiction filtered through my own emotions or those I’ve witnessed to relate to my characters. You are more apt to write non-fiction, is that correct.
Paloma: Yes, I am passionate about the theme. I have written a lot in the context of my profession and I have found that more influential to the outcome of a given case than even the research was the writing. I took classes and workshops, especially at Writers & Books (Rochester, NY) in poetry, short stories, and essays. I hit the open mic scene with a vengeance. And what I learned was how not to get in the way of client narratives. My personal writing style and my PROFESSIONAL writing styles merged and blended to capture people as individuals in all the small, yet specific, ways that a person can be unique.
Sherri: You are relatively new to North Carolina. I believe when we met at the Carnival of Books, you told me you arrived just in time to battle a hurricane. That was a bit more excitement than you were hoping for I’m sure. Tell us where you’re from.
Paloma: I spent the past near thirty years in Upstate New York, in Webster, on Lake Ontario. I now reside in Beaufort, North Carolina, in the Southern Outer Banks. My partner, Kevin Sisson, and I are the proprietors of Downton Antiques (Beaufort, NC). We like to describe our shop as offering treasures for fellow treasure hunters. It’s an eclectic mix of elegant to quirk. We are able to combine traveling with treasure hunting. It’s not unlike living an episode of American Pickers meets Antiques Roadshow. You’d be surprised how many hours go into research once we find a piece we think might be something special.
Sherri: I love that description and I adore your shop. I want to go back when I can spend more time exploring. As an avid fan of both American Pickers and Antiques Roadshow, I envy your job. Does the new business allow you time to write?
Paloma: At some point this year, writing will actually become the primary push in the course of my day. Major career changes require a transition period, as does an interstate move, and the launch of a new business. It’s been a busy year. But, I have a new character I’m writing as a full-length YA fiction. Her name is “Alyce,” and I just love helping her tell her story of growing into one’s magic. Alyce motivates me to complete the move, so that I can finish writing her story and then share her with her future readers!
Sherri: It sounds to me you have written all of your adult life. Have you always been a writer?
Paloma: The first short story I wrote and illustrated was “Herman Steals Second Base.” I wrote it in Second Grade, and I still have it. I started journaling when I was nine years old, which I continue to this day. I have written as a lawyer. I have written as a journalist. I have ghost written, but won’t say for who! Words are the one constant in my life.
Sherri: You first book was “Nearly Fifty.” Tell us about your work. what kind of books do you write?
Paloma: I have written three novels (unpublished), dozens of short stories, and thousands of poems. Poems were simply the “easy” bit. I can fit them in between things. I can write them on grocery story receipts and scraps of paper and tape them into my journals. I can work and rework one to two pages and feel as though I’ve accomplished something.
What was surprising, even to me, was that my first published manuscript was a collection of essays, “Nearly Fifty.” I went through a two-week period right before my fiftieth birthday that was filled with so many unscheduled problems – one friend committed suicide and then another, I encountered a wolf in the wild, a dog bit me in the face. I did what I do when I get hit with stress, and that is to write. I call it “real time writing.” It not only got me through that period, it gave me a story of resilience to share with others.
Sherri: What is your latest project or future project? Is it a different genre?
Paloma: As for the future? It’s all “Alyce.” I am excited about her, her courage, and the magical world in which she lives. It’s my first YA fantasy, but it feels as though it’s releasing a lifetime of daydreams.
Sherri: I have used writing to get me through the difficult parts of my life. What is it about writing that makes you so passionate?
Paloma: The rhythm of language is so beautiful that it could qualify as “music.”
Sherri: Music is a big part of your life.
Paloma: Yes, I love classical piano. Deep, bass-filled works. Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Liszt. Writing words and playing the piano have gotten me this far, and just today the universe brought me the working typewriter of my dreams. I guess that means I should keep writing!
Sherri: What is it you despise about being a writer?
Paloma: My lack of publishing skills. There are so many publications, competitions, publishers, agents, and conferences. What’s great about Pamlico Writers Group and my local Carteret Writers is that it’s a place to start to develop an approach. Both are communities of writers devoted to helping each other succeed. It’s exactly the environment to ask questions and get solid advice. I’m so grateful!
Sherri: You have been writing for most of your life, do you ever run out of words?
Paloma: I have never suffered from writer’s block. I love to wordsmith and know that editing is what separates those who write from those who scribble.
Sherri: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Paloma: Sylvia Plath, Rachel Carson, Beatrix Potter. I am always looking for finely-crafted works in any genre.
Sherri: Who or what do you feel has been the greatest influence on your work?
Paloma: Sylvia Plath. She was honest. She was in touch with herself and how human dynamic influences how one feels and how one defines oneself. And she didn’t restrict herself to the lens of the Western world. Oh, Sherri… How on earth did I forget to list Wally Lamb and Jay McInerny? Those are the boys I love to hate and yearn to outdo.
Sherri: If you could change anything about your writing or publishing past, what would it be?
Paloma: I would have devoted my time to writing published works. I think that writing for twenty-five years with the strictest of confidentiality is odd for a writer. I have written poignant stories that will never see the light of day, and I find that sad. It was not easy for so many of my clients. There was much to overcome for them to be in my office and telling me their truth. I’ve met so many remarkable women and men, but only a few of the larger, civil rights cases in federal court are classified as “public record.” The rest remain hidden away.
Sherri: What words of wisdom would you offer to aspiring writers?
Paloma: Get out there and live. You can’t write without life experience. Then, roll up your selves and get down to work. Wear out your Chicago Manual of Style and your Roget’s. Definitely learn at least one if not two more languages because it will force you to develop a better command of English. Only write what really matters. If you wouldn’t cling to your manuscript during a hurricane, then don’t waste the paper.
Sherri: Well our time is nearly done, I think I’m ready for a latte.
Paloma: Just make mine decaf.
Sherri: For a chance to meet Paloma, sign up for the Pamlico Writers’ Conference. You can find more information on Paloma and the other presenters at https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.org .