Linda Leonard is a retired teacher/librarian. She is the mother of four, grandmother of six, and an educator who has taught for 30 years as an English/Speech teacher (including 15 years as a Speech/debate coach and 14 years as a yearbook adviser.) She also served 2 ½ years as a librarian, a total of 32 ½ years in public education. She holds a B.A. in English and M. Ed. in Speech. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, gardening, painting, crocheting, and crafts. All of her books are available on amazon.com or smashwords.com
1. Why do you write? Is it a hobby or do you plan to make a career from writing?
When I was younger, my constant reading produced a wild imagination as I visited places on this earth as well as beyond. In addition, I had always written poetry, short stories, and journal entries. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert; but after experiencing life, I never came across a book covering most of what I learned simply by living life and observing the lives of those around me.
The ABC’s of Success: 26 Keys to a Successful Life is the result of a challenge from one of my students. After presenting the ABC’s of Success in school by encouraging my students to make choices, set goals for their future, and find a purpose and motto for their lives, a student issued the challenge, “Well, Mrs. Leonard, what are you going to do in your future life – I mean after teaching, when you retire?”
I told her I had everything I wanted and actually enjoyed teaching – teaching was my dream.
Her reply, “Shouldn’t you model what you propose to your students?”
Others in the class looked at us, smiled, and said she was right. I told students I needed at least one day to consider her request. I could never picture retiring and stopping life. So after some thought, I decided a logical thing was to continue what I enjoyed all of those years in another format. Therefore, the decision to write a book addressing items (the basics) everyone needs to know to succeed in life. True to my word, I presented a plan to the class. I would write eight to nine chapters a summer and complete the project in three years.
Furthermore, I stated I would like to speak to students in high school, junior high, as well as civic organizations. I made a deal with her. Since she gave me the idea, the first time I speak to high school students in France, I will pay her transportation there and one week of room and board in a hotel of her choice. In return, the only obligation she has is to sign a contract promising to introduce me before I speak. She smiled and said, “Deal.” We shook hands, a binding contract in my eyes.
After retirement, I must admit, I was at a loss with nothing productive to do every day. I have always been very involved and needed something to fill my time. After a minor illness, I picked up the unfinished manuscript and completed it. Writing and speaking to groups has become my new career.
2. Do you use social media?
Facebook has allowed me to opportunity to greet readers with a daily tip from The ABC’s of Success. My Facebook author page can be found through a google search. (Facebook Linda Leonard author) Even if you don’t belong to Facebook, you can still view the page as often as you wish since it’s public. Simply drag the icon to the desktop and click periodically.
3. How does your manuscript develop? Do you complete an outline or do you just start typing?
The ABC’s of Success was the result of a challenge from students and a plan which drew on life’s experiences and knowledge acquired from teaching. Every chapter was outlined before I began the first chapter.
Frugal Times was the result of the challenge we faced when we retired. We had planned for retirement but needed to “cut back,” as my husband called it. When we both worked we ate out often and usually purchased anything we desired within our earnings. However, now we were faced with less income after retirement. My life began in a simpler time, and the knowledge gained from that time can easily be applied to life now. It is hoped this book serves as a springboard to help others overcome their financial difficulties by applying some of the principles from that earlier time. We live in a disposable society; retraining ourselves and learning to live with less might mean a more fruitful, rewarding, fulfilling life. Sometimes, less is more.
2016 Fiction Virtue Christian Book Award – My latest work, Avi, was the result of a challenge from a conference speaker who said someone should write a modern-day story of the woman at the well. The thought was intriguing. Sitting down at the computer, I stared at the blank page wondering what her name would be. Avi came to mind, short for Avigail, King David’s wife. Questions would come to mind and answers began to pour out as I typed. Every once in a while, I would think of a name, place or situation and would jot it down. There was no outline, no list. Avi’s story came to life on the page as I typed. I never planned on writing a novel or a sequel to her story, but there were so many unanswered questions by the end of that stage of her life left unanswered that another book must be written so I can discover the rest of her life.
4. What is your writing process like? Do you find more certain hours more productive, a routine, a set amount of time or number of pages? Do you make yourself write every day, etc.?
Devoting daily time at the computer in the morning seems to be the most productive. However, I really can’t claim a routine. I try to write a chapter per day. In order to do that, I need to make sure the house is in order and meals are in the freezer. I may sit and write for days then quit because something needs my attention. I have found it harder to sit at the computer once I walk away. Unfortunately, life happens and the flow is interrupted. If any amount of time passes, I read the entire manuscript up to that point before beginning to type again. Writing a specified number of words daily, a required number of pages, or specified amount of time never works for me. I write until I have to stop.
5. What do you do when you develop writer’s block?
When I hit a brick wall (my idea of writer’s block), I walk away, step outside, and pull weeds. It tends to clear my head. Sometimes I don’t even get to finish the project outside because the answer to get around or over the brick wall pops in my head. At other times, I can go days without knowing where to turn. I will usually wake up between midnight and three with the answer, smile, and go back to sleep.
6. How long does it take you to finish a manuscript?
Usually about two months, if you count the non-stop composition. Unfortunately, something interrupts the manuscript. I was still teaching when I began The ABC’s of Success and had actually written the first nine chapters the summer after the challenge. However, the following two summers were filled with preparations for the upcoming school years. After retirement, I picked up the manuscript again.
Avi, on the other hand, was interrupted when my husband battled melanoma (he’s fine now); and I became involved with crafts and replanting all of my day lilies for the last time (that involves way too much work and I resolve to never do that again because I have quite a few). Avi sat for over a year before I picked up the unfinished manuscript and read it. All of those questions came to mind and I had to sit at the computer again.
7. Which authors do you admire? Which genre do you enjoy?
I am an avid reader and have been since a young child. Once I begin a book, I will not put it down until I have turned the last page. I have to be careful not to pick up a book when something needs my attention or when I am working on any project because the project gets delayed. I guess my reading habits have influenced my writing process. I can’t really say I have a favorite author because my reading material fluctuates from one genre to another and I devour everything I start to read.
8. Are you part of a critique group or writer’s guild?
Bayou Writers Group meets on the first Saturday of the month at Carnegie Memorial Library in Lake Charles, LA (411 Pujo Street) from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm. We meet at Jason’s Deli on Ryan St. for lunch after the meeting. I encourage all who are interested in writing or simply want to associate with authors to join us as a guest and discover a wonderful group of writers who encourage each other. We have interesting guest speakers and lively discussions.
9. Who proofreads/edits your manuscript?
The ABC’s of Success was professionally proofread and edited, and I trusted the person who completed the project; however, after time I discovered many errors and had to republish. In addition, two author friends have had similar experiences with professional editing. One found additional errors years after publication and two professional edits; another pulled a book after publication and self-edited because the hired professional did very little. Both of those authors were educators and very knowledgeable. Because of my experience and those of my friends, I decided that I will complete the proofreading and editing myself.
Unfortunately, I learned that your mind will read what you think you wrote. How many of you have received a message with all of the vowels missing or numbers in their place and you can still easily read the message? I also recall an honor student, years ago, who accused me of changing her essay in front of a class. She loudly protested saying, “That’s not what I wrote. Someone changed my essay!” I assured her that I did not retype her essay in order to mess with her mind and no one else touched them. I barely had time to grade essays. Time between the flow (initial composition) and proofreading/editing should allow a clearer reading.
10. Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us?
Cole touched her arm. “Avi, wake up!”
Avi jerked and drew away from him, sweating and grasping for air.
“Avi, it’s me, Cole. What’s wrong?”
It took Avi a few seconds to recognize him in the dim light. “Oh, Cole, it was just a bad dream.”
“It was more like a nightmare. It sounds like the same one you had a couple of days ago. What’s going on?”