Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writers Talk with PJ Kaiser

Happy Thursday, folks, & welcome to another edition of Writers Talk.  Before I introduce this week’s interviewee, I’d just like to acknowledge the fact that this post is the 1000th on Robert Frost’s Banjo!  I think it’s fitting that we’re hosting a guest for the 1000th post, because from the very beginning I hoped that the blog could feature the words & music of others, & I’ve been gratified that it’s been able to do that indeed. 

Today’s writer is PJ Kaiser, a real presence in the Twitter & blogging writing communities & a wonderfully supportive person as well as a talented writer.  It's been my observation that Ms Kaiser has a good grasp of how to utilize social media in her career as an independent writer, & I believe she has a lot to teach others who are looking to make a mark in fiction or poetry outside the traditional publishing model.

P.J. Kaiser stays at home with her two young children and finds time to write – generally in thirty-second increments. She writes mostly flash fiction and serial stories in a variety of genres. Several of her stories have appeared in print and electronic publications. Two of her stories - “The Request” and “The Foot of the Bridge” have appeared at Soft Whispers. Her story “The Turtle Dove” appeared in the anthology 12 Days 2009. “Halloween Guests” was selected for the Best of Friday Flash Volume 1 anthology. Her micro-fiction “Ditz Alert” was selected for the chapbook Dog Days of Summer 2010 – Not From Here, Are You?. She also assisted with editing the anthology 50 Stories for Pakistan, which includes her story “Arthur’s Emptiness.” In early 2010, she won the February writing challenge at Write On! Online with her story “Waiting for Spring.” She also has stories forthcoming in 100 Stories for Queensland and in Nothing but Flowers:  Tales of Post-Apocalyptic Love,  a publication of Emergent Publishing.  She can be found hanging around at her blog Inspired by Real Life.  P.J. is also the co-moderator of Tuesday Serial, a weekly collection of links to the latest installments of some of the web’s best online serials. P.J. is working on publishing a collection of her stories and is working on her first novel. P.J. lives with her family in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Don’t forget to check out PJ Kaiser’s story “Nine Ladies Dancing” on The Writers Talk blog!

When did you first realize your identity as a writer?

In high school I had an assignment to write a short story.  So I wrote the story, but I wasn’t sure of the ending.  So I kept writing.  And writing.  It was, of course, complete drivel, but I had great fun writing it and I began to think that maybe one day I would like to learn how to write “for real.”  I’ve always been an avid reader and I think most avid readers harbor dreams of being a writer.

We lived in Mexico for several years and while we were there I met a woman originally from Germany.  She told us the most fascinating stories about her life and I told her she should write her memoir.  She dismissed the idea since she had no interest in writing.  So I decided to take up the challenge.  I spent a summer interviewing her and gathering information for the book and then unfortunately we lost touch.  So the book will be fiction but very loosely based on a real story. 

I decided that I had to learn how to write properly in order to do her story justice and it’s been a fascinating journey for me.  This first novel is in very rough draft stages right now (I won NaNoWriMo 2009 with it) but in the meantime I have enjoyed learning how to write short stories and serial fiction.  I’ve experimented with a wide variety of genres, but haven’t yet found one with which I want to be monogamous. 

Describe the creative process involved in any one piece you’ve written—this could be book, a story, a poem, an essay, etc.

My most recent serial story “Rainy Rendezvous” was inspired by a friend’s Facebook update.  He commented that he enjoyed going kayaking alone because it was so peaceful.  I commented that would be a great inspiration for a story…and no sooner had I made the comment than my mind began churning on an idea and within a week I had drafted five installments of a serial story. 

Recent short stories have been inspired by seeing a woman fall on a street corner next to a crossing guard, getting a pedicure, and going swimming (not all at once ;-).  And several stories have been inspired by dreams.  Nearly all of my stories are inspired by something from my real life, even if it’s just a tiny nugget of real life.  Hence the name of my blog “Inspired by Real Life.”

Could you describe your relationship to the publishing process? (this can be publishing in any form, from traditional book publishing to blogging, etc)

My main publishing activity at the moment is blogging, apart from a few short stories that have been published.  I began writing in the summer of 2009 and my main focus at the moment is on improving my craft rather than publishing.  I am, however, beginning to pull together and polish some of my stories in hopes of publishing an e-book collection.

My blog recently crashed and I am in the process of reconstructing it.  So, because it’s fresh in my mind, I can tell you that I have written 71 stories – including flash fiction and serial installments.  Twenty-four of these, by the way, will not be carried over to the new blog (or anywhere else); they are being “retired.”

How has being a writer affected your relationships?

Most of my family thinks I’ve been pursuing a strange little pastime.  That might have changed a bit when I gave each of them a copy of “50 Stories for Pakistan” which includes one of my stories. ;-)

How would you describe the community of writers you belong to—if any?  This may be a “real” or “virtual” (in more than one sense) community.

I don’t have a “real” writing community because I can never seem to leave the house without my two children.  But my virtual community more than makes up for its absence.  I got the bug to write originally from people I encountered on Twitter and my writing community has grown organically through Twitter.  I participate off and on in various Twitter chats such as #writechat and #litchat and my main writing communities come from #fridayflash and #tuesdayserial.  I can’t even begin to describe the friendships that I’ve made and the things I’ve learned from my friends in my virtual writing community – they’ve been indispensible. 

What are your future goals in terms of writing?

At the moment, my goals are very loose.  I want to keep writing short stories and serial fiction as I have bits of time here and there.  I want to continue to improve my writing by taking classes and working with editors.  Eventually I want to finish my novel.  I find that if I put too many deadlines or milestones on my plans, then I get too stressed out and I turn away from writing.  So, keeping things low-key allows me to continue to enjoy it and stay with it.

Bonus Question: If your writing were a musical instrument, what would it be?
Hmmm, I’m going to say a piano.  When it works, the sound is fantastic.  Every now and then, though, I strike a clunker that sticks out like a sore thumb.  I am just trying to work on striking clunkers with less frequency.


  1. Great interview, PJ and John! It's always nice to learn new tidbits about online friends. Fridayflash has been a wonderful connection for writers, which is where PJ and I met.

  2. "I’ve experimented with a wide variety of genres, but haven’t yet found one with which I want to be monogamous. "

    LOVED that line PJ. Really nice Q&A guys. Thank you for sharing.

    Congratulations on 1,000 posts and still keeping it fresh John! *looks REALLY impressed*

  3. Wonderful post! I like how PJ was inspired to write about the German woman's life. I'm always interested in finding out why others are inspired to write. I really enjoyed the post.


  4. Hi Laura, Karen & Dustin

    Laura: Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Karen: So glad you enjoyed the interview, & thanks for the kind words about RFBanjo!

    Dustin: Very glad that you enjoyed it, & thanks for taking the time to comment!

  5. Laura, Karen, & Dustin - Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out the interview and John, thanks so much for the invite :-D

  6. "Most of my family thinks I’ve been pursuing a strange little pastime."

    I really enjoy your strange little pastime, PJ.

  7. Sorry I missed this yesterday, but I'm glad I came back to read today!

    I commend you on finding time to write so many short stories! I find writing poetry is all I can accommodate, but admire anyone who can actually make a story work well. I look forward to exploring your updated blog.

    Oh, and I know well that "strange little pastime" phenomenon.

    Hope to connect with you on Twitter too, although my visits there are intermittent at the moment.


  8. Thanks to Kat and Tim for stopping by :-) Tim, I always enjoy your work and I thank you for being so supportive of mine! Nice to meet you, Kat - I look forward to learning more about your poetry. The only poetry I can seem to manage is a limerick or haiku :-)

  9. Hi Tim, Kat & PJ

    Tim: Thanks for stopping by & commenting!

    Kat: Glad you had a chance to see this--yes, I think it would be great for you to connect with PJ!

    PJ: Thanks so much for participating in the series--much appreciated!

  10. I find that if I put too many deadlines or milestones on my plans, then I get too stressed out and I turn away from writing.
    This is very insightful.

    I enjoyed the interview (including the clunkers on the piano keys - great way to capture those bad days/stories/drafts)

  11. Another absorbing interview, Dave and PJ. So interesting to learn about process and product from other writers.

  12. Hi HKatz & Dick: My apologies for missing these! Thanks for taking the time to comment, & so glad you both liked the interview.


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