Writing Advice from Local NM Authors

This spring in an Honors course here at UNM called “Meet the Authors,” I had the opportunity of meeting many of New Mexico’s finest—literally, I met the guy who wrote New Mexico’s Finest, historian Don Bullis.

Bullis, along with the other writers featured below, have set a high bar for New Mexico’s aspiring authors. From poetry to autobiography to crime fiction, these authors cover the genre bases. With such an eclectic assortment of writers, one would assume their experience is as diverse as their subject matter.

I’ve always been a fan of asking authors what advice they have for emerging writers. No doubt because they themselves have asked the same question before us, often times the response is the same, a distillation of what many of us have heard time and again: read, write and stay disciplined.

Warren Buffet once said, “Mistakes are the only way to learn, but they don’t have to be your mistakes.” Mentorship is an excellent way to achieve success, and advice-giving is very much a form of mentorship. When I asked that question this spring, I was often surprised by the generosity I found in the answers—encouraging, significant, and sometimes tough, their advice did not disappoint. Enjoy!

1) David Morell

“You have to give 100% of yourself.”—“Luck is an imponderable factor in everything we do.” — “All of us have dominant emotions, but since they aren’t always noble emotions we tend to suppress them. The only way to write is to tap into your dominant emotion.” — David Morrell

2) Suzy McKee Charnas

“It helps to know the best time of day you write. If you’re a distractible person, work around that and choose a time of day when you can be isolated, undisturbed.” — “Pay attention with your senses; keep notes.” — “Once the kid has learned words are magic, the kid must acquire a mentor.” — Suzy McKee Charnas

3) Don Bullis

“Write everyday. Read anything.” — “Keep your writing accessible.” — “Discipline is the key to writing well.” — Don Bullis

4) Alisa Valdes

“Everyone wants to the first to do something second.” — “How do you come up with your stories? You just sit there and be quiet and listen.” — “The best kind of writing comes when you least want to write.” — “You’re only as good as your last book.” — Alisa Valdes

5) Hakim Bellamy

“There’s a really balanced line between compromise and confidence. You have to know when to keep pushing something you’re working on, and when to let it go.” — “I call myself a working class poet. How do you connect to regular people if you don’t know what that means?” — “Do you need someone to call you a writer or recognize you, or can you get past this ‘ivory tower’ discussion? We don’t need to be told who’s the next great writer, we can tell that to ourselves. What is timeless and universal to one person is not to another.” — Hakim Bellamy

6) Virginia Swift

“The best way to become a good writer is to read good writing.” — “Go to the place in your head where you can’t hear the critics.” — “Be disciplined: Set the goals, establish the routine. Stick with it.” — “Finish the book.” — Virginia Swift

7) Bill Fitzhugh

“Don’t write what you know, write what you want to know.” — “You can’t write for everyone. Pick an audience and stick with them.” — “Don’t write over people’s heads, but don’t write under them either.” — Bill Fitzhugh

8) Steve Brewer

“Keep em’ laughing.” — On killing his characters: “The human body is a delicate machine, and it doesn’t take much to kill it.” — “For something to fall in the category of art, you need to make someone feelsomething. Work toward the emotions.” — Steve Brewer


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