Talent Q&A: Writer Miranda B.
Miranda B., a librarian practitioner with a passion for travel and trucking.
“I can always switch gears if I feel like my writing is stagnant. The last thing I want is to write when bored because then the content reflects that mindset.”
Q: It looks like you have experience in many different areas. How has this variety helped you as a freelancer?
A: One of the reasons I love freelancing so much is there is very little opportunity for boredom. Thanks to my experience in writing about everything from truck driving and international travel to community building and chiropractors, I can always switch gears if I feel like my writing is stagnant. The last thing I want is to write when bored because then the content reflects that mindset. So while I have been freelancing for eight years, I never get bored because there’s always a new topic right around the bend.
Q: Being as invested in libraries as you are, do you think this age of digital information endangers their existence in our communities?
A: When working at a very small town library—I’m talking about a community of 1,200 with no other town within a 50-mile radius—this was a major topic of interest. How do libraries, especially those in such a library desert, stay relevant? We aren’t going to reverse the age of digital information, so libraries of all sizes have to change their concept of community. The physical community that required a reading room and print books has evolved to include an online social community and access to digital information in the form of e-books and web research. This changes the way libraries function and look as they go from quiet reading rooms with sofas and lamps to rooms filled with computers and high-speed wifi access.
As long as libraries and their librarians can evolve along with the digital age, they will remain relevant and can even thrive. It’s all a matter of moving away from total dependence on print media to accepting that there are other ways to educate and enlighten. People still want to learn. It’s just the way in which people are doing their research and asking questions that is changing, thanks to the internet and access to digital information. One example here is the use of e-readers. When I worked at the library, we had so many patrons come by just to ask how to work these devices. How did they upload e-books? Why wasn’t their password working? How did they make the letters bigger/smaller/brighter/easier to read? So by incorporating digital device workshops and offering e-book lending, our library maintained a valuable source of information for our community.
Q: Are you ever faced with requests to write about something you don’t agree with or support? If so, how do you handle that?
A: Fortunately, these situations are as rare as a hummingbird in a rainstorm. The majority of writing requests I’ve received or taken on have been straight-forward in style or content needs. Sometimes I’ve taken work from new clients who may not be straight up with their requests in the beginning, and as I dig in, I discover they may want something shady, such as academic work. In that case, I ask them outright what their intentions are for the content. This happened quite recently, and the client was able to explain their needs and we could proceed with the project.
Now if I see work available that is something I don’t agree with or support, I take the same stance as if I were asked to write about something that is totally out of my wheelhouse, like comedy writing. It turns out I’m horrible at coming up with jokes. If I’m not experienced in that area, I don’t take on the work.
“When I write, it’s a form of meditation for me. I focus on the topic, and everything else melts away. It’s very therapeutic, which is a saving grace and probably why I love my job so much.”
Q: What is your strategy in overcoming writer’s block?
A: First let me define my personal writer’s block. If I am at my end creatively and just don’t want to write anymore, my brain is fogged and my fingers ache, or I haven’t written all day and it’s time to start a new piece of content at 8 pm, that’s when I have writer’s block. I don’t have the luxury of not writing at all, as I’m a single mom with a roof and food to pay for. Plus, when I write, it’s a form of meditation for me. I focus on the topic, and everything else melts away. It’s very therapeutic, which is a saving grace and probably why I love my job so much.
For those times when it’s a struggle, here’s what I do:
I open up 750Words and pound on the keys to release anything that is on my mind and preventing me from work. It’s also wonderful for getting my fingers moving, and it gives me the space to write creatively so I’ve accomplished something. Once I accomplish that first thing in writing for the day, I’m ready to accomplish the next because I know I can do it; my mind’s in the right place. Music also helps, as does strong coffee and having a home office filled with house plants, ceramic owls, and tea candles. Oh, and my white LED birch tree. If I’m feeling blasé about going to work, I light that baby up and it brightens my tree-loving spirit.
Q: Where are your favorite places to travel? Why?
A: I am very passionate about traveling to Mexico. First of all, there is so much negativity about visiting Mexico these days—ahem, second highest per capita murder rate—that we Americans have a difficult time picturing anything positive about that part of the world. And it’s a shame. I went twice last year and traveled from big cities to small towns as a white woman without the accompaniment of a big strong male, note the sarcasm from my feminist wiles. I feel as long as you are a smart traveler who does your research and heeds the US Embassy warnings about certain areas, such as don’t go to the border towns where the majority of the violence is taking place and avoid shady dealings, then there’s little to fear and far more to appreciate culturally.
There are so many astounding places to experience in Mexico, our Southern neighbor, from the pyramids of Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza to the globalized urban centers of Mexico City and Guadalajara. The beaches from Puerto Vallarta over to Cancun, they remain some of the most popular tourist destinations for Americans. It’s a shame to be afraid of all things Mexico, and I see a lot of this coming from the media, which is the only link that the majority of Americans have to Mexico. I personally think that the media here plays a big part in terrifying us about Mexico as a way of holding social power over Mexican immigrants. After all, if you come from a country that is the murder capital, then must you be dangerous yourself? It makes it easier to push away these hardworking immigrants who come here for a better life if we think they are bringing their horrors and terrors with them.
I’m also in love with European travel. I’ve been to London, Paris, and Brussels, as well as across the northwestern part of the Netherlands from Noordwijk to Amsterdam. I can’t wait to go back to anywhere in Europe, but especially to England where one part of my ancestry hails. I’m also slightly obsessed with Scandinavian culture. I spend way too much time watching Borgen, the Danish political series, catching my favorite Swedes, The Mustards, on YouTube, and reading about the Nordic way of life. Hygge is also my new favorite thing.
Q: What does your current workspace look like?
A: I finally have a room of my own for work. The majority of the magic happens on my 27-inch iMac, which after going through a new PC a year and dealing with umpteen viruses and blue screens is as safe and secure as I can be. I keep my moleskin work planner next to my keyboard, and this is where I write down each project I take on and complete. I’ve used the same planner for the past five years; each year I choose a different color cover and it is turning into quite the rainbow on my bookshelf. On the table next to my desk is an Audio Technica turntable where I play all sorts of crazy sounds from classical to the blues to indie rock—even the Bob’s Burgers album finds its spin here. Next to it is the white birch tree that glows, and a bookshelf filled with books by writers on how to write better. I need to read more of those, but for now I’m just reading the spines.
Q: What are some of your favorite books, and what are you reading now?
A: Speaking of bookshelves! Ah, this is a question that you should watch out for when asking a writer and a librarian. Let’s start with the faves. I’m hugely interested in the Holocaust; it’s the most horrific type of story you can find. I’ve loved The Book Thief since I read it, and it remains a favorite read. The movie, I’ll pass, but then again I pass on most movies made from books. That is with exception for the Harry Potter books. Those are my all-time favorites. I’ve read them all cover to cover, and I’ve restarted them again by reading to my eight-year-old.
Other favorites are anything scary. Stephen King was my go-to ruler of scream, but I feel I’ve read everything wonderful he’s ever written, and I think my horror palette has evolved as well. I was joyfully terrified by Song of Kali by Dan Simmons, and I’m still working on NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, King’s son. It’s such a scary book that I haven’t been able to finish it, yet. Other than horror, I’m always looking for mind-bending books like The Vegetarian by Han King and Slade House by David Mitchell. Love me some D.M., and Black Swan Green is some of the finest writing I’ve ever read.
My all-time top picks include … ahem, let me go to my Goodreads library for a second … The Association of Small Bombs, The Hidden Life of Trees, Fahrenheit 451, Ravensbruck, North American Lake Monsters, All the Light We Cannot See, The Library at Mount Char, The Andy Warhol Diaries, Einstein, Fear and Loathing in America, A Separate Peace, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Chronicles of Narnia, East of Eden, From the Dust Returned, and of course, The Shining.
“If you really want to be a freelance writer, then go for it! Just jump. You’ll learn everything you need to know with practical application, and you’ll get better by the act of writing.”
Q: Any go-to advice for beginning freelancers?
A: If you really want to be a freelance writer, then go for it! Just jump. You’ll learn everything you need to know with practical application, and you’ll get better by the act of writing. You also need to spend as much time as possible reading, but then again if you want to be a writer, then that shouldn’t be a problem. You’re likely already doing that. And write. Write, write, write! You can’t be a writer if you aren’t doing the deed. And you will get better the more you do it: trust in the process.
6-star writer Miranda B. joined WriterAccess in 2011 and has completed nearly 6,000 projects. She specializes in travel writing with a focus on cultural aspects including green living, religion, food, fashion, education, and interior design. She uses her sociological background to delve into the world’s cultures whether she is backpacking solo across Europe or road tripping through the United States.
Miranda has a Masters in Sociology and is a certified Library Practitioner.