In the Spotlight: An Interview with Author Patricia Bumpass

 by Suzanne Lieurance

Author Patricia Bumpass

Patricia Bumpass is one of the members of my group coaching program, The Monday Morning Shove, and she has been a subscriber of my newsletter, The Morning Nudge, for years. (See below for links.)

Lately, Pat has made some huge strides in her writing career, so I decided to interview her, so other writers can learn from Pat's experiences.

Suzanne Lieurance: Hey, Pat, how and when did you get started as a professional writer?

Patricia Bumpass:  Growing up, I loved to journal. 

I used my journal to write mini stories-known today as short stories-- and poems. 

I loved writing. 

This led me to become the editor of my high school newspaper and I also worked as a teen-columnist for our local newspaper. 

When I graduated, I worked as a reporter for another local newspaper. 

What I made from being a teen-columnist and from working as a reporter for this other newspaper wasn’t a lot, but I was paid to write, which is the definition of a professional writer, someone who is paid to write.

My son was diagnosed with autism and there was a 15-year period when I didn’t write anything other than academic papers – and that was only because they were required to pass a class.

I put everything aside to care for him. 

My love for writing was reawakened when I took an HR job where I oversaw writing the company blog and putting the company newsletter together. 

While I did that, I also picked up one off writing gigs along the way.

That’s when I began thinking of myself as a professional writer.

When I left that HR job, numerous people said to me, “I can’t believe you’re leaving a “good” job to write books.”

Of course, a good job meant one with benefits and what some would consider a decent salary.

I quickly informed them that I was not writing books.

I have done all types of writing – journaling, newsletters, blog posts, course creation.

Some paid. Some not.

In fact, you, Suzanne Lieurance, were instrumental in the development of my writing career.

You gave me my first columnist gig after my love for writing was reawakened, where I wrote a monthly column about journaling for writers. 

 SL:  You write both fiction and nonfiction. How is the process the same or different for each?


PB: Nonfiction lends itself more to planning, for me.


I’ve found I need to spend a few minutes jotting down areas I want to cover in the book I’m writing.


For instance, while I was writing my current book, Yellow Car Bingo, I found it helpful to jot down ideas of what I wanted to cover in that book and pieces of the stories I wanted to tell.


Then I started writing.


I didn’t write in chronological order, start to finish.


I wrote the high school years first, then whichever section spoke to me next, and so on, until the book was finished.


With fiction I am a die-hard pantser.


I don’t plan anything.


The germ of an idea for a story, pops into my head, and I am off.


Content to go wherever the story takes me.


Do I get stuck sometimes? Yes.


During times when the story or characters stop talking to me, I have a “come to Jesus” meeting with myself and them (yes characters are real) and start writing.


The words don’t have to make sense or even go with the story.


The act of putting words down on the page gets my juices flowing again.


Eventually, I pick up a thread that will continue to move my story forward.


Here’s a quick tip: anything you cut from a story during editing, can be used in another story, or article, or blog post - never throw anything away.


SL: Your new book, Yellow Car Bingo, is based on your son and the experiences you had with the education system as he was growing up. Why did you decide to write a book about this? What do you hope this book will do?


PB: My response to a question from a parent in a parenting group on Facebook prompted that parent to comment that I should write a book about my journey through special education with a child blessed with autism.


Even though I had no conscious intent to write this book or any book on this subject matter, if a memory came to me about that point in our journey, I’d jot it down and highlight it in my everyday notebook, which is simply a journal I use to record thoughts and notes, etc.


The tipping point came when I began to realize and remember that parents with special needs kids are overlooked and forgotten.


They tend not to be taken seriously but they also tend not to speak up either.


My experience has been that we, along with our kids, are often treated as if we are an inconvenience and don’t belong.


When my son, T.J., was in school, I didn’t see a lot of the parents of other kids with exceptionalities.


I remember his elementary school held a Fall Festival one year and out of all the other parents in attendance, I was the only parent there who had a child with a disability.


Many parents are happy to accept the placement the school system chooses for their child (i.e., self-contained classrooms, shipping their kid to a school out of their district, etc.)


I wasn’t.


Parenting is difficult all by itself, parenting a child with disabilities even more so.


Further, parenting an African American male on the spectrum adds an extra layer of difficulty.


I hope Yellow Car Bingo will inspire all parents to advocate for their kids with special needs, their typical kids, and themselves. 


Autism was new to me, and I often felt alone.


I knew no other parents who looked like me with children with any type of special needs – especially not autism.


I want parents to know they are not alone.


Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on several IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings and what I have consistently found is that parents tend to be afraid to speak up for what they feel is best for their child or children.


I hope my book will help them find their voice.

 


“While this is my journey into advocating for my child on the spectrum, I sincerely hope that any special needs parent will gain information, insight, and inspiration from my story. It is also my prayer that you will find hope and reassurance that as a parent it’s okay to speak up for your special needs child and yourself.” ~ Patricia Bumpass, Yellow Car Bingo, A Black Mam’s Journey Through Special Education

 

SL: Describe your process for writing Yellow Car Bingo? I’m assuming you didn’t plan the book from the start, when your son was a child, which means, in a way, the book took years to write (or at least, years until you were ready to write it).

 

PB: When T.J. was growing up, writing a book, or doing anything around special needs, especially autism, was the furthest thing from my mind.


I know parents who kept all their child’s records from the day they were diagnosed.


I kept his IEPs from year to year but keeping historical records beyond each year wasn’t my thing.


Although, there were times while I was writing this book that I wished I had at least kept a journal.


I tried to lean into my pantser side while writing Yellow Car Bingo but that didn’t work.


I found I needed to take some time to think about his story and what I wanted to include in the book.


Once I decided that, I opened a Google Doc and did a brief outline.


I already had an Introduction sketched out.


Then I decided the best way to cover material in this book would be chronological order from diagnosis to adulthood.


My rough outline consisted of:  

 

·      Explanation of title – why are you calling this book yellow car bingo?

·      He was a “Good Baby”

·      Diagnosis

·      Early Intervention

·      Elementary School

·      Middle School

·      High School

 

Under each heading of this outline, I began making notes of stories I remembered from that time.


My mom and sister filled in bits and pieces I didn’t remember or weren’t clear on.


In fact, my sister sent me several emails saying something along the lines of “Hey did you remember to include this story about the time T.J. attended the Charter School?”


Then she would literally tell me the story in her email.


If I had questions, we’d talk about it and make sure I had the story straight.


That’s how the section about the time he was in the Charter School came to be in the book.  


SL: Do you find it easier to write fiction or nonfiction? Please explain.


PB: I LOVE to write fiction.


When I have the germ of an idea, I get lost in the story.


I can go where my mind and imagination take me and they can take me to some interesting places.


I often tell my sister that if she ever needs to look at my computer history, she shouldn’t be shocked at what she might find there.


In my family, it’s always a given that if they know I am working on a story or anything writing-related they have to make sure I’m looking at them before they tell or ask me anything.


If they don’t, chances are I won’t hear a word they say.


Occasionally, my sister forgets and starts talking to me.


When I don’t respond, scrunched up paper towels or paper clips start flying across my desk - her way of getting my attention.


On the other hand, nonfiction takes more brainpower and planning.


More effort.


Facts need to kept straight and I like to have an inspirational story to go along with what I’m sharing.


I like to capture the points I want to cover as well as the stories in a separate document.


SL: What do you enjoy most about the writing process?  And what do you find most challenging about the writing process?


PB: There is nothing more exhilarating for me than sitting down and creating stories out of thin air.


Anything can serve as inspiration for a story—a news item, a person, a word, something some says, or even a quote.


It’s about taking something raw and rough (your first draft) and shaping it into a story that people will want to read (your published book).


The most challenging part for me is editing.


Once I’ve completed my first draft, I can do a first-round edit and tighten things up.


After that it becomes tedious for me.


A second-round edit or more is like eating leftovers.


It becomes repetitious, eating (reading) the same thing over and over, and the excitement wanes a bit.


Also, I didn’t realize writing is so business-oriented.


You don’t only write; you have to market, too.


There is so much that goes into the business of writing that if you’re not firmly rooted in becoming a writer or author, it would be easy to throw your hands up and give up.


Don’t.


SL: Tell us about some of your other books that are available for purchase on amazon. How did you come to write them? Are they all nonfiction?


PB: I have a book of quotes and affirmations out entitled: Jump into Positivity: 35 Quotes & Affirmations to Empower Women to Love Themselves.


What I found was that women are superheroes in this world.


They take care of the family, the home, the bills, and loved ones.


Rarely do they include space on their to-do lists for themselves.


Jump into Positivity shares quotes and affirmations that will help women reflect on who they are, who they want to be, and motivate them to “step into their own power.”


I have also participated in several Community Book Projects: 365 Days of Gratitude by Done for You Publishing.


These are a compilation of 200-word essays by a collection of authors celebrating things or people they are grateful for.


Some of the essays I’ve written include:


“Stick Girl”, where I show gratitude for the lessons a friend, who walked around with the help of arm braces.


“Deep Breath Mom” words my son said to me during an IEP meeting where I had become upset.  His way of calming me down.


“Love, Guidance, and Biscuits” where I talk about the special place my grandmother and her biscuits held in my life while I was growing up. 

 

“A Sister’s Loyalty” in honor of my sister for standing up for me in a situation where I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. 

 

“Goodbye, Toog” where I give thanks to my granddad for his unconditional love. (Toog was his nickname for me.)

 

Everything listed above is nonfiction.

 

For the TAF (Triangle Association of Freelancers) Omnibus I wrote a short fiction piece entitled “Splintered Heart” centered around a couple whose relationship has become stale.


The loss of their unborn child causes them to take stock of their relationship and where it goes from there.


SL: Tell us about your new romance series. I think the first book will be available soon. What is it about? And what will tie the series together from book to book?


PB: A Love Half-Baked Romance is a six-book series centered around the women who work at a bakery, Pound Cake Love (PCL). (My love of baking pound cakes inspired the name.)


Each book follows a different woman from PCL on her journey to find love, intertwined with the men associated with the neighboring restaurant, Sixty-Three (63).


This series serves up a delectable blend of romance, friendship, and captivating love. 


This series came about when I participated in NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month).


It originally started out as one novel focused on a fiercely independent bakery owner, a playboy restaurateur, and their love-hate relationship.


As I was writing, the five other books jumped out at me and instead of one book I now have a series.


Siobhan & Grayson: A Love Half-Baked Romance, Book is available as an e-book now.


SL: What other book plans do you have besides your romance series? Will you write other nonfiction books as well as fiction? Please explain.


PB: In my journey to become a BadA** Romance Novelist, I have several clean, wholesome romance novels planned.


Before the end of this year, I will have three of the six books in my Love Half-Baked romance series complete and published.


Book 2 is well underway, and I already have rough outlines for the remaining four installments.


After this series is published, I’ll work on a novel that revolves around a woman who becomes entangled in an abusive relationship with a man a few years older.


At first, he seems to have all the qualities she desires in a partner—caring, charismatic, and charming.


However, the story takes a dark turn when he begins to harm her physically and mentally.


This novel will follow her journey after she manages to break free from his control.


It explores her efforts to rebuild everything he destroyed, while finding the courage to trust herself again and open her heart to love once more.


There are other nonfiction books in the works for me as well.


I have one outlined that will take various life situations and explore them while living with a person (child) with autism.


I currently have Living with Positivity: 101 Quotes & Affirmations to Keep You Moving Forward with my editor.


This book is designed to be a companion piece to Jump into Positivity I mentioned earlier.


Quotes and affirmations have such a positive effect on your mind and psyche when you use them regularly.


My favorite quote is “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”

                                                                                                                      ~ Zig Ziglar.


My favorite affirmation is I deserve to love myself.


SL: What are your best writing and publishing tips for other writers?


PB:   I have several — 

 

1. Believe in yourself even when no one else does. 

 

There will be times when people who are closest to you will question your sanity. “I can’t believe you want to quit a good job to write books???” 

 

2.    Write anyway. 

 

Creatives, especially writers, work when the “muse” strikes. 

 

Anything can be your muse at any time. 

 

Your muse will desert you. 

 

When you catch yourself saying things like ‘I don’t feel like writing today,’ or ‘this is garbage,’ Write. Anyway. 

 

3.    Don’t be afraid of being messy.

 

Your first draft isn’t what will go to the publisher. 

 

Get those words out of your head onto the page. 

 

Don’t worry about spelling, typos, grammar, punctuation, etc. 


Once you have something rough to work with you can go into edit and rewrite mode to make it pretty enough to be published.

 

4.    Have on and offline backups of your current work-in-progress.

 

I live in an area where when there is the slightest atmospheric disturbance (thunderstorm, windstorm, tornado) our power might go out, especially during the summer months. 

 

This happened twice – once when I was on a deadline for the Community Book Project and again when I was on a deadline for the TAF Omnibus. 

 

Talk about scrambling to get those stories finished and submitted. Whew

 

Had I had those stories printed out or on a backup storage device, I could have gone elsewhere to work.

 

5.    There will be times when you want to give up.

 

Don’t.

 

There is no better feeling than holding a book with your name on the front as author in your hands. 

 

Someone out there needs to read your story as only you can tell it, no matter whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

 

6.    Take your writing seriously.

 

Whether you write full or part time, set a schedule and adhere to it. 

 

7.    Write between the noise.

 

Life will toss lots of distractions at you—care for a special needs child, or elderly parents or another loved one. 

 

A regular full-time job might be the noise in your life. 

 

If you’re serious about incorporating writing into your life, then there will be times when you will only have a five- or 10-minute window to get a few words on the page. 

 

If that’s all you have for today that is all you have. 

 

Don’t try to make up for lost time by doubling or tripling up your writing time tomorrow or the next day. 

 

That never works. 

 

Use the time you have. 

 

8.    Choose an editor and cover designer who is familiar with your genre or subject matter.

 

This will cut down on explanations on your part when they don’t understand something.

 

9.    Writer’s Block is resistance to either your story, yourself, or the writing process.

 

Change your focus. 

 

Write-in your journal or in a black document. 

 

Free write. 

 

Start another story. 

 

What you do doesn’t matter. 

 

Keep writing. 


SL: What time of day is your best writing time? 


PB: I may get up at 3 a.m. and crank out several thousand words, while the house is quiet.


But this isn’t a time I want to commit to every day.


5 p.m. to 7 p.m. is another time where I find I’m able to get in the zone and write.


This seems to be when things settle down in my household and I can focus as well as minimize distractions more effectively.


Figure out what works best for you and set it as an appointment in your calendar.


If you must reschedule this appointment, be sure you do so for a different time on that same day.


SL: What is your best writing tool?


PB: My best writing tool is my cell phone.


It’s always with me.


If my work-in-progress is saved in Google Docs, I have something to work on wherever I am.


I don’t have to stray too far from my bed when I have my phone either next to me or across the room.


I also use it to capture thoughts, ideas, and inspirations that strike when I’m away from my computer. 


Please note: This interview includes some affiliate links to Pat's books, which means I earn a commission if you purchase any of them using that link. This doesn't cost you anything more, however.




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Suzanne Lieurance is a writing coach and the author of over 40 published books. Get your free subscription to her newsletter, The Morning Nudge at writebythesea.com.

 

Don't forget to check out The Morning Shove and The Morning Nudge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 comments:

Terry Whalin said...

Suzanne,

Thank you for this article about Patricia. I'm always interested in the journey of other writers and loved reading the details about their process and how they make different decisions. It provides valuable insights and lessons for each of us.

Terry
author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition) [Follow the Link for a FREE copy]

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Hi, Terry,

I love reading about other authors, too. And, you're right, we can learn so much from each other's experiences.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Suzanne

Susie Kinslow Adams said...

Wow! Fantastic interview, Suzanne.
Thank you, Patricia, for sharing your heart; I gleaned much from your story to inspire and encourage my own writing hurdles. And thank you for helping each of us understand the importance of speaking up on issues we confront daily.
Blessings, Susie

Karen Cioffi said...

Suzanne, I agree with Terry; it's interesting to learn how other writers got started writing and that path they chose. Having a significant challenge in your life is often a catalyst. I love that she mentions to 'write anyway' and to back up your work!

Nina said...

Interesting interview, thank you. Very good advice to writers at the end!
Nina Pak

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Hooray for Patricia! I think her experience (and book!) will work for all kids whose needs require something different from that all-kids-learn-alike model. My kids had dyslexia problems so I, too, know those problems can be overturned!
Hugs,
Carolyn

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