Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Writers Wednesday


Today's featured writer, Dagny McKinley, shares her love of nature through both her writing and photography. She is passionate about spending quality time outside with her special four-legged friend. Those interests found expression in this book from her new Adventures series: THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL & HER DOG: In The Mountains. This series will find fans who appreciate her joyful and entertaining style and the subtle message about the rejuvenating power of nature. 

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think I have always known I wanted to be a writer. As a child there was a feeling I had when I wrote a story that could only be described as contentment. As an adult I was so insecure about my writing that I wouldn’t tell people I was a writer. I didn’t think I was worthy of that title. I had a teacher and mentor who introduced me to people as a writer. From her I gained confidence in myself and my path in life.

What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing?
I have learned that I have the ability to bring joy to others through my writing as long as it is authentic and genuine. I have also realized that the words I write affect others, sometimes in positive ways and, depending on the topic I’m working on, sometimes in painful ways. As a writer, I don’t think we should censure what we write, but perhaps be aware of the effect our writing can have on people.

How does your career as a writer influence other areas of your life and vice versa?
I would like to say that writing creates balance between my times hiking with my dog, but I tend to be an all or nothing type person and when I’m writing I often feel I have to be fully immersed in my work so other parts of my life suffer. But on a positive note having the courage to pursue writing has also given me the courage to pursue other artistic ventures such as photography, teaching and oral storytelling.

What other books have you written and published?
‘The Springs of Steamboat: healing waters, sparkling soda and mysterious caves.’
‘Wild Hearts: Dog Sledding the Rockies.’
‘Lessons My Mother Taught Me: the good, the bad and the questionable.’
‘The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog: in the snow’ (the first in the series)

Briefly, what's your book about?   
‘The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog: in the mountains’ is a celebration of nature, an invitation to go out and explore with your best friend and truly be yourself.

What led you to write the book? 
I wrote ‘The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog: in the mountains’ when I was in a difficult place in life. I was single, didn’t have a job and was living with my sister until I could find work. I had my dog with me and the hikes we took each day brought me so much happiness I wanted to share that feeling with other people. I wanted girls to know that they have a home in nature, that nature is a safe place to explore and learn about yourself without the judgments of family and friends.

What would you like readers to take from it? 
 That going on adventures with your dog every day will bring more rewards that you can imagine and will help you see the world through new eyes, if you allow yourself to be present with your dog. If you are afraid of going hiking alone, sit in the backyard and play with your dog or go to a safe place (if parks near you are safe) where you can breathe fresh air and feel the elements and let your dog be a dog while you get to be exactly who you are meant to be.

What are your current/future projects?
I’m working on the next three books in the series ‘The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog,’ which include ‘in the canyons,’ ‘by the ocean,’ and ‘on the plains.’

I’m also working on a history of Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School & Camp, the longest continually running performing arts camp in the country.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Currently my ideas stem from things that bring me joy. I look for themes that deal with nature, adventure, dreaming and possibilities.

What book(s)/author(s) have influenced your writing and how?
There are only two books that I have read more than once in my adult life, ‘Ask the Dust’ by John Fante because the emotional tension between the characters and the poetry of the writing still haunt me and ‘Stones of Summer,’ by Dow Mossman. Mossman’s descriptions of landscape and emotion are so striking I want to consume that book again and again.

What are the most important elements of good writing for you?
Having passion for your subject and being able to describe the world in a way no one else has done before.

What's your biggest challenge in writing a book?
Having the courage to sit down and actually write. I have such anxiety that I will prove myself to be a failure that I have a hard time making myself sit and write on a regular basis. Yet when I do, I feel completely at peace.

What's one piece of advice about writing or publishing you'd like to pass on to readers and writers?
If you believe in yourself and you believe in your writing, don’t give up no matter how many rejections you get. Today there are so many submissions that agents are fielding that you may end up with hundreds of ‘no’s’ before you get a ‘yes.’ Just keep believing and trying and you will succeed.

If you self-publish and find there are areas of publicity or marketing that you aren’t good at, hire someone to take care of those. As an author you shouldn’t be expected to be good at every part of the process that comes after the writing is done. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or your book? 

My hope is that if people have a dog they remember that dogs have very few needs, which are fairly basic: they need food, water, exercise, shelter, and love. If we can remember to give our dogs each of those every day, and teach our children to do the same the world will be a better place! From my dog I have learned unconditional love and watching my dog enjoy the world the way she does makes me smile each and every day.

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