Chatting with Linda O’Connell
by Diana Davis, Walrus Contributor
After hearing local writer Linda O’Connell read her essay “The Rise and Fall of a Famous Name” from St. Louis Reflections: An Anthology by the St. Louis Writers Guild at the December 13 release party, I was eager to check out her website, Write from the Heart. I learned that Linda has been published in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul books, two Patchwork Paths, as well as the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Chicago Tribune, the Suburban Journal, the Reader’s Digest, and Parent’s Magazine, among others. She also is the recipient of numerous writing awards and was named a member of distinction of the Missouri Writers Guild. I recently chatted with Linda about her background, her process and her success.Your family moved frequently during your formative years. How did those moves affect you?
My free-spirited parents didn’t put down roots. Many people my age who have had similar life experiences ended up in the creative arts. I think being the new kid on the block and in the school makes one resilient.
Were you an avid reader?
I did frequent libraries and enjoyed reading adventure stories, but I played with my brother more than I read. As children we had wonderful outdoor adventures, planned great escapes, plotted revenge against one another, and tattled constantly. We devised our own games and fun. I was always the bossy big sister. We are close supportive siblings now.
What kind of books do you like to read now?
I read up to three books at one time. I am diverse. I like humorous period pieces set in the fifties by authors such as Fannie Flagg or Elizabeth Berg, but I also read Toni Morrison and Anne Lamott, who write with such impact and are able to touch a nerve with their words.
By profession, you are a teacher. What led you there?
I always wanted to be a teacher. I coerced neighborhood kids to play school during summer vacations. When I won a piece of fat, yellow teacher chalk at bingo, I used my dad’s car as my chalk board. Not good!
How did you meet your current husband?
We met in a neighborhood bar. Neither of us drank, but we followed the same well-known band and enjoyed dancing to old time rock-and-roll songs.
I hear you and your husband also share a love of the seashore.
The ocean tugs on my soul the way the moon pulls the tide. I love walking the beach. I am energized and can walk for hours lost in thought, thrilled by a seashell, fascinated with people watching. My husband and I usually go to the Florida Panhandle, but we recently discovered cruising. I have fallen in love with the Bahamas and Caribbean.
As a couple in a blended family, you have four children and nine grandchildren, plus you teach full-time. When do you have time to write and blog?
I am an early riser, wide awake by 5:00 a.m. and write or search markets until about 8:00 a.m. The most time-consuming part of writing is searching for multi-genre submission opportunities. I also blog in the morning, mostly for creative and personal satisfaction. It is a fifteen or twenty minute commitment owed to my readers. I write from the heart, which is the name of my blog, Write From the Heart. Everyone has busy lives and the same twenty-four hours to prioritize. If writing is important to you, invest the time
You are not only a prolific writer, but you are extremely successful at getting published as well. I heard that you send out at least 20 pieces per month for consideration–an exaggeration?
I have submitted as many as 20 pieces or more per month, but I believe in the rule of seven: keep seven things circulating. Lately I have been submitting about 10 things a month, a personal challenge.
What’s your process?
I edit as I write and edit again upon completion. I leave it for a day or an hour, come back and edit it again, and then, submit. When I hit the send button I “write and release.” A writer can go crazy wondering and waiting for a response. A rejection is not necessarily a reflection of one’s writing ability. It is a reflection of editorial needs. Do not sabotage yourself with negative thoughts about your abilities as a writer.
Linda, you are an enigma. I think I’m close when I describe you as an idealistic, pragmatic, spiritual, irreverent, sentimental, funny, introspective individual. What other adjectives would you add?
I am helpful. I think it is important for writers who have found success to help other writers. I do believe that we should aid one another.
What’s your helpful advice for writers?
- Write fearlessly and don’t give up when you feel discouraged.
- Learn all you can about the craft of writing. (I am mostly self-taught.)
- Believe in yourself and know that your work has the ability to impact others.