By day, Charity Tahmaseb is a writer of technical documentation, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. By night, she writes fiction, mostly young adult and children stories.
Q & A
Iulian: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Charity Tahmaseb? How/where did you grow up, any particular influences in your life? Did you live up to your high-school yearbook quote?
Charity: I grew up in southern Minnesota. I spent twelve years as a Girl Scout and six on active duty in the Army. I think these two things explain a lot about me. As for the yearbook quote, my school didn’t do that, so I have nothing to live up to (or regret).
I know your regular job involves technical writing. How did you get into that and how did you make the leap to fiction?
For part of my time in the Army, I worked as an intelligence analyst, which involves combining pieces of information so they make sense to someone else. The same is essentially true for technical writing, although the end result is (with any luck) installed software.
As for making the leap into fiction, it was simply a matter of realizing that I could write down the running narratives I had going in my head and that other people might want to read them. It took me a long time to figure this out.
Did you take part in any workshops, critique groups, or otherwise writing communities, and if so, how did that process help your writing career?
I did, and still do on occasion, although nowadays I tend toward more self-study. The best workshops/classes are the ones that get you writing and get you trying something new.
What do you consider to be the defining moment in your writing career, the moment when you knew this is what you will do for the rest of your life? What story, market, or anthology had a part in that?
After The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading was published, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. For a while after, I wasn’t sure I would be able to write, and things got dark. It’s really hard to write with major brain fog.
In 2012, I returned to writing short stories again (a form I’ve always loved). Then I started submitting those stories. The first pro-paying market I sold to was the first volume of Unidentified Funny Objects, and the story was The Secret Life of Sleeping Beauty. In 2013, I joined Write 1/Sub 1 and really got my writing mojo back.
I sometimes feel as though I’ve had to retrain myself to write again. I’m grateful to the Write 1/Sub 1 community for providing a way back into the writing life.
You have published quite a number of short stories, some of them in difficult markets. What was your experience of working with editors?
I enjoy seeing how someone else perceives what I’ve written, and the editors I’ve worked with have been great at conveying how something did—or didn’t—work, but also why. I use that “why” when I revise.
You write speculative fiction, mostly young adult and children stories. What drives you to the genre and have you tried writing anything else?
Until I started Write 1/Sub 1 last year, I never realized how many speculative fiction stories I had stored up in my mind. I’ve always read in the genre, so I’m not sure why I was so surprised to start writing in it.
I think what draws me to both speculative and young adult fiction is the sense of discovery. Everything is new, or at least, viewed through new eyes.
In this E-World, how do you see the day to day life of a writer, outside of writing? Do you use social networking and do you feel it is helpful for your writer’s platform?
I like social networks for their social aspects and tend not to fret about my writer platform (which I’m sure is fairly obvious). I’ve always used the rule that when it comes to marketing and/or social networks, do what you enjoy and don’t worry about the rest.
For people who haven’t read your works yet, what would it be a good place to start? What is the favorite piece you wrote so far?
For young adult contemporary reads, either The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading or just released this past June, The Fine Art of Keeping Quiet. As far as speculative fiction goes, I think one of my favorite pieces is the (very) short Straying from the Path in the March 2014 issue of Flash Fiction Online. I’m also partial to Ghost in the Coffee Machine, which appeared in Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic from UFO Publishing.
I am almost always trying to put this question in any interview, because I believe advice from writers to writers is very important. What is your advice for writers?
Brace for the collective groan—I highly recommend writing on a regular basis. I won’t say every day, because I don’t always reach that goal. But what has made a tremendous difference in both my life and writing life is weaving in the writing.
I think when writers hear “write every day,” they imagine they must carve out a four-hour block of time—no one has a four-hour block of time. What is beyond helpful is grabbing twenty minutes. This is doable, and once you start doing it, the power of the approach really sinks in.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I spent last year writing a lot of short stories, many of them speculative fiction stories. I’d like to try my hand at longer pieces, with more complicated world building.
Charity, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us. I personally wish you good luck in your career and I hope we can read a lot more amazing stories from you soon.
To Follow Charity Tahmaseb, see the links on Charity’s author page.
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