Interview: Cyndi Allison

I had absolute blast doing this interview with Cyndi Allison! I’d sit down and have a piece of pecan pie with this “food nerd” any day! How about you?

Enjoy this interview.


Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

I’m from North Carolina, but my family roots are in the Virginia mountains. That may ‘splain a lot. I packed a wicked pen (or pencil) from pre-school on up, but I didn’t get any glory or pay until age 12 when I nailed a “My Hero” contest in the local newspaper and earned $5 cash. All the other winners were adults. I guess they were looking for a fresh voice. In any case, I got a taste for the freelancing life. But, I was too busy mastering strawberry lip gloss and blue eye shadow to think much about it until years later.

What types of writing do you do?

I’m easy. I will write most anything as long as it’s gospel true. My portfolio ranges from tech pieces on RFID (radio frequency identification) to teen relationship pieces and alternative health remedies as well as a lot of down-home Southern cooking and barbecue articles.

I do shift voices for various projects, so I may be in tech voice one day, academic the next, and then back to my roots with the dialect in full tilt. I can also ghost write and capture other voices like older white males when needed. It’s rather like being an actor but on a different stage.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Writing (when it’s great) is like scoring a touchdown. It’s like really great sex. It’s like chocolate fudge cake at Shoney’s. It’s the first ripe peach on the tree in the front yard. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t come often. When it does, it is to be savored.

Share some of your writing goals.

I want to capture stories that have not been told. I want to save memories that would likely get lost. While I do a lot of mainstream writing, I really care most about the person next door and why Grandma lined the cake pan with wax paper and how the local farmer gets his tomatoes to grow bigger and sweeter than others in the area.

Is there a specific time of day you like to write?

I’d write from sun up to sun down, but my boys like to eat, and the health department might condemn the place if I didn’t hit the high spots. Also, I’d not have much to write about if I didn’t get out there and see, hear, and feel the stories. Some people may be able to write in a void, but I need concrete inspiration.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

If we’re talking “interesting,” then that would be Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage. Don’t take that to mean that I liked the book. He had pages with a single word on a page or words written horizontally as well as some in mirror image. It was like modern art. I thought he had a good thing going with getting paid to go random with words. His book ranked up there with the solid white painting I saw at the L.A. museum of modern art. I’ll bet he laughed all the way to the bank, and the book became a cult classic. Go figure.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I got serious, it was not about “want,” it was about “need.” As a military wife with two small kids, employment options were very limited. I cut a deal with the now separated husband for two hours, two nights a week. He watched the kids. I cranked content. The first check came in about 30 days later, so he decided it was probably worth two nights per week.

This did cause a stir at school when my young son told the teacher that his Dad worked for the Navy, and his Mom worked in the bedroom. We did not have any extra space, so the computer was in the bedroom. Fortunately, the teacher mentioned that, and I was able to explain my income stream.

Favorite authors?

It’s hard to pick favorites when there are so many fabulous writers out there, but I’d say that the ones who have had the most influence were Richard Wright, Harper Lee, Poe, and Rick Bragg.

On the flip side, I really suffered through Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. It ranks as one of the most boring books I’ve ever read. Rich boys ought not go out in the woods and then talk about spending 11 ½ cents on rice and being worried about running out. Some people live like that and not by choice.

Book you’re currently reading.

I’ve been reading The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky. It’s not even out on the stands yet. I have an advance copy. It’s a history book on food. I guess I’m not a foodie. I’m a food nerd. Let’s coin that new term and rejoice and be glad in it.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

Mostly I just sit down and bang it out. If I have an idea in the middle of the night, I have to get up, write it down on a stick’em note and put it on the refrigerator. Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll forget the idea that will make me famous and rich. Then, I can’t go back to sleep until I capture it. The next morning I get up, and some of the ideas work and some don’t. I call that 3 a.m. idea poker. One of these days, I know I’m going to hit the royal flush.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

I’ve never had time for that. If I can’t muster up the muse for one project, I can hit another one that requires less creative juice. My motto is, “Just do it.” No. Wait. That’s Nike’s motto. I guess mine is, “You write, you eat. You don’t write, you don’t eat.” Simple enough.

What’s the measure of a successful writer?

I threw my scales out long ago. I know when my jeans are too tight to zip. I also know when I’m writing good stuff. That’s doesn’t always mean it always sells. But, it makes it much more likely. I set my own standards, and I’m my own toughest critic.

Advice for other writers?

Find another job or do it as a hobby, unless you feel it with every bone in your body. It’s a brutal business. There are much easier ways to make a living. Unless you can’t help it, don’t do it other than for fun.

Where can we learn more about you?

I guess you could come over and have a piece of pecan pie, but it’s probably easier to check me out at Yes You Can Grill or at Suite 101.

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