Ann McCauley’s Interview with Carol Smallwood

A.M. Tell us a little about yourself…what is your earliest memory with books?

C.S. I remember the first word with more than one syllable was exciting to me in my school reading book: the word “Suddenly” after so many like See Spot Run. That words one could read and write would have rhythm to them was a great discovery.

A.M. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? When did you know you’d be a  writer?

C.S. My first job desire was to work in a flower shop. I never knew I’d be a poet until I retired from public schools and figured it was now or never. And not knowing if I would survive breast cancer was great motivation.

A.M. Who are your favorite five writers?  What is your favorite genre?

C.S. John Galsworthy, Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Jane Austin, are the ones that stand out the most. My favorite genre to read is the fiction of John Galsworthy. The genre to write myself is poetry: I taught myself how to do pantoums, triolets, villanelles, and other formal styles which I really enjoy and the validation came with acceptances and awards.

A.M. Where do you get your inspiration/ideas for your writing?

C.S. Driving, washing dishes, eating lunch. Juxtaposition, the rubbing of conflicting things, produces sparks/ideas.

A.M. How many books have you written? Which of your books was the easiest/hardest to write? Which of your books is your favorite?

C.S. Over four dozen mostly edited for the American Library Association, Rowman & Littlefield, McFarland Publishers. I’ve written 3 poetry collections and hopefully will have my 4th out shortly; one novel; many short stories, essays, poems, in hundreds of national and international magazines. The easiest are the anthologies if the contributors you are looking for can be found. My most recent is one about writing after retirement
The hardest to write was my novel. My favorite is probably Michigan Authors that I edited because it was fascinating to hear from so many writers. The third edition I did was the last as it was taken over by the Library of Michigan as a database online. My latest poetry collection is from Lamar University Press

A.M. What do you consider the hardest part of writing?

C.S.  Concepts, coming up with something that is different and presenting it.

A.M. Have you written anything that you thought would be controversial and found it wasn’t? OR something you thought was not controversial, and it was perceived by your readers as controversial?

C.S. My novel, Lily’s Odyssey, is on the unpopular topic of child abuse which many publishers won’t touch. Even though the statistics show domestic violence, incest, and related issues are huge, there is a shying away from such largely women centered topics. The first chapter was selected to appear in Best New Writing 2010 but the novel never became popular.

A.M. How personal is your writing?

C.S. We filter everything even when editing so in that sense it is all personal.

A.M. Do you outline? What do you think makes a good story?

C.S. It is easier working in segments which I think of like carriages of a train all linked together. Even with poetry, a few words start things going. A good story is how true to human nature it is, if it is unmasks glimpses into the human condition. People are complicated creatures with many contradicting strands.

A.M. What is your writing routine? How long does it take you to write a book?

C.S. I write soon as I start the day until early afternoon and go out for lunch, work till dinner. It takes about a year to do most anthologies. It is hard to tell about poetry collections because most of the composing is not actually writing time: it is the thinking, brooding, the endless revision. Things come together in their own good time.

A.M. If you were to start your career as an author again, what would you do differently? Why?

C.S. Probably nothing. I believe John Galsworthy is correct when he wrote: “Live first, write afterwards.”

A.M. Do you have any suggestions to help beginning writers become better writers? If so, what are they?

C.S. Follow the advice on one of my children’s clothes rack: Stop, Look, Listen. It had a picture of a red train climbing a hill. In other words, be observant and be willing to work hard. If you are a woman, it will be harder climbing that hill.

A.M. What do you do to relax when you are not writing?

C.S. Watch TV series like NYPD Blue; The Rockford Files, while making patchwork quilts with my cat on my lap—programs where good wins out.

Ann McCauley is the author of Runaway Grandma, (2007), and Mother Love, (Revised-2012). She’s also a contributor to the anthologies, Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing, (2012), Writing After Retirement, (2014). She does freelance writing; her work has been published in magazines, journals and newspapers.  Ann has degrees in Nursing, Psychology, and a Master’s in Creative Writing.  Learn more about Ann at and follow her on Facebook