Here’s what you need to know about author Grace Phillips!
Welcome to my interview with Grace Phillips where we talk about her writing journey and amazing accomplishments.
Hi Grace Phillips, please introduce yourself and share 5 fun facts!
Hello! My name is Grace Phillips. I’m twenty-one years old and from Danville, Indiana in the US. I have two younger brothers who frequently show up in my writing, my favourite authors are Billie Tadros, Margaret Atwood, and Ilya Kaminsky. I was born without a right ear. Sometimes I write under the pseudonym Grace Vincent, as a nod to Vincent Van Gogh!
What was your experience like when you first started writing?
I can’t remember a time where I didn’t love to write. As a kid I’d write little songs and then sing them for my family. I have very vivid memories of filling an entire notebook full of short stories in the sixth grade. Then, giving them to my teacher to read. I started writing professionally when I was nineteen. It was amazing to see my name in print for the first time!
What can you tell us about the poems and short stories you’ve written?
I draw most of my inspiration from my family, be it good stories or not so good ones. I have a close relationship with my brothers in particular. A lot of my poetry stems from the relationship an older sister has with her younger siblings. One of the best short stories I’ve ever written was about my brother, and how in a blink of an eye he was suddenly taller than me and could carry me around. There’s a feeling there you can’t quite place, when the older sibling suddenly becomes the smaller sibling. Watching my brothers grow up has been the subject of most of my writing these days.
What are the greatest challenges for you as a writer?
I’m very critical of my own work. It’s hard for me to ever “finish” things because I never want to show it to the world until it’s perfect and exactly what I want it to be. Because of that, there’s a lot of unfinished drafts and unpublished work. It’s frustrating, because the only thing holding me back is my own inner voice. I’m slowly overcoming my fear of rough drafts, haha!
What have been your most notable victories?
The first time I was ever professionally published was in the literary journal Belle Ombre, based out of the United Kingdom. It felt AMAZING to be internationally published at a young age. After a sea of rejection letters, it was incredible to finally get an acceptance.
One of my college professors, Dr. Saul Lemerond, actually sat down with me for a few hours and walked me through the submission process and how to send my writing to literary journals. Probably the biggest victory I have had so far in my career as a writer was that first publication, and being able to proudly show Saul, my family, and my peers that my work paid off. Getting texts and emails from friends and former teachers telling me they loved my work really empowered me to keep submitting work and putting myself out there more.
I honestly owe a lot of my success to Saul and Dr. Kay Stokes. Both of them helped me through the process of querying publishers and submitting my writing. They have never stopped cheering me on, reading my work, and celebrating the victories – regardless of how big or small they may be. I don’t think I would have ever gotten off the bench and started actually trying to publish my writing if it wasn’t for them.
What are your favourite genres to write in?
Science fiction and narrative nonfiction are my sweet spots! Science fiction has endless possibility, the chance to create entirely new worlds and futures, while narrative nonfiction lets me take ordinary days and experiences and make them something beautiful. I’ve been focusing on poetry lately, however, and I’ve been experimenting with some new formatting. I recently wrote a poem that was written in the form of text messages, for example.
What inspires you when you’re looking for something to write about?
Anything. Though my influences primarily come from my family and nature, some other subjects of my writing have been my goldfish, a random homeless guy I saw outside a movie theatre once, and all the different things that have sat in a passenger seat of a car. I draw inspiration from anywhere. If I’m on my phone and it looks like I’m texting, about 75% of the time I’m actually in my notes app, feverishly jotting down a random idea I just had.
What do you hope people will gain from reading your work?
I want my writing to change the way people look at things. One person told me they could never look at a cardinal without thinking about their mother after they read a short story I wrote about my own mother where I compared her to cardinals. One of the highest compliments I can receive is that my words left them thinking. If a person reads my writing, and the words sit with them awhile even after they’ve turned the page, closed the book, or walked away, I’d consider my mission accomplished.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
You are never too young to be a writer, and you are never too old to start. I worried a lot that I was “too young” to be considered a professional writer, and that I wouldn’t be taken seriously, or I wasn’t experienced enough to be successful. That’s all crap. If you have a story to tell, then tell it. Nothing’s stopping you but you.
Another thing: Don’t throw out your old writing, no matter how terrible you may think it is. It’s nice to be able to look back and see how far you’ve come in your work, and sometimes there are a few diamonds in the rough that you can salvage from old writing and use in new pieces. There have been some really good lines of poetry that came out of my cringe-worthy eighth grade ramblings. Thank you for your service, me of the past.
What are your goals for the future as a writer?
As of now, I’ve had a short story and a handful of poems published in various literary journals and online sites, plus I worked as a journalist, so I have a hefty portfolio of articles from that. That being said, my current goal is to publish something more substantial. I’m hoping to publish a full-length novel or poetry chapbook before I graduate college in 2021. I have a first draft of a novel finished, and I’m plowing through the editing stage and having some beta-readers take a look at it right now. The poetry chapbook is almost complete, and I can’t wait to start the editing and publishing process on that!
How have your life experiences influenced your writing?
Being an older sister has definitely influenced my writing more than anything else. You learn a lot from looking after younger siblings, but I’ve certainly learned a lot from my brothers too. Like I mentioned in the beginning, I’m missing my right ear due to a genetic condition I was born with, Oculo-Auriculo-Vertebral Syndrome. I have significant hearing loss, and navigating the world as an individual who has grown up literally missing a piece of herself has led to some awesome stories. It was a blessing in disguise.
What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned as a writer?
Once when I was working on a new project and was stressed because I felt like my idea was unoriginal, my roommate Jenny told me, “Just because somebody else already had that idea doesn’t mean you don’t have a great story to tell.” It’s been kind of hard to reconcile that little voice in my head that’s always saying “this looks an awful lot like X” or “you’re starting to sound like Y,” but people have been telling stories for thousands of years, and yet we’re still here coming up with brand new things.
My worth as a writer is not defined by the success of others, and perhaps the greatest lesson I learned was to not compare myself to people who have been doing this for years. It doesn’t matter what the story is, or even who likes it or not. I’ve learned to be content in the fact that even if my story is read by nobody but me, I still told that story. That’s a victory all on its own.
What does your typical writing process look like?
Things usually start off in a notebook or in the notes app on my phone. That’s where I jot down any random passing ideas or gather my thoughts together before I start to put them in a more cohesive narrative on my laptop. My laptop home screen is an absolute sea of sticky notes. I keep a little notebook next to my bed because sometimes I’ll wake up in the dead of night and jot down things from a dream I’ve had that gave me ideas.
I have a terrible habit of wanting to edit while I’m still in the “rough draft” phase. I’ll write a big chunk, and then spend hours meticulously going through it and rewriting it over and over and over again until I think it’s perfect. I’m very bad at rough drafts! I hate moving on when I know something needs work. Perfectionist tendencies and writing don’t mesh well. One of my professors has gotten me in the habit of doing hard writing bursts where I just sit down and crank out writing nonstop for an hour or two, and then I walk away and refuse to touch it.
Sometimes I tape a piece of paper across my computer screen so I can’t see what I’ve already written. That way I’m not tempted to stop everything and go fix what I just wrote down. It’s getting me in the habit of leaving my drafts alone. I have so many half-finished rough drafts because I’ll start editing them before I even finish writing it all down and get frustrated. It’s a vicious cycle, haha!
Any last thoughts to share with Grace Phillips readers about you or your work?
I’ve come so far in just the one and a half years since I was first professionally published. I owe so much of that to the constant support of my friends, family, and mentors who helped and encouraged me along the way. I draw inspiration from so many people, places, and things, but if you’re reading this and you’ve read my work, supported me in any way, or even shown up in my writing: Thank you for making my life something worth writing about.
Thank you Grace Phillips for sharing your expertise and awesome advice! I relate to a lot of what you said about being a perfectionist and editing before the draft is done. Keep writing and making amazing stories! Stay in touch with Grace on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!
Do you want to take part in your OWN author interview? Contact me through my website form or hit me up on social media.
Thanks for reading about Grace Phillips. Join me next time for fun blog posts! What did you think of the interview? Please comment below.
Are you looking for someone to create beautifully crafted content for you? Hire my talents: Hire Kirsten!