For writers out there who are afraid or frustrated with Twitter, let me say once again that it is a truly amazing resource. Not only can you find interview subjects, information, and support, you can meet fabulous, interesting people like Maria Santoferraro. That’s where I “met” her (virtually, of course) through a tweet she posted. I checked her site, followed her some more, and then discovered I wanted to interview her here because she had a unique and cool concept for bringing one of her stories to life. I think the writers out there will learn a thing or two and become inspired, while the readers who check out this blog will have one more resource for original work. Enjoy this interview.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?
I grew up in northeast Ohio, and except for a brief three-year stint in Los Angeles, I’ve been a buckeye all my life. I’m one of the rare people who really love living in Ohio, and most of the year, you’ll find me enjoying the shores of Lake Erie while searching for seaglass.
I’ve always been a little afraid of writing, ever since I got an F on a term paper in high school and almost didn’t graduate. Seriously, that can scar you for life, but thankfully, I got some redemption in college when they let me write stories for the college news stations. I spent the past 20 years working in the glamorous field of advertising, so I got paid to help my clients sell lots of soft drinks, diapers, hamburgers, and steaks, which eventually led to me becoming a vegetarian. Advertising is hard work and doesn’t leave much time to write the fun stuff you’ve always dreamed of.
I love the idea behind MariaMedia. (As an aside, the picture on your site of you with red hair and pigtails is priceless.) Tell us about MariaMedia.
Well, last year I was at a point where I needed to reinvent myself. I was coming off a really long ride on the corporate roller coaster and was burned out to a crisp. After I recharged, I realized there was no way I could go back to a regular nine-to-five existence. It was time to find a new career, but this time around I wanted to mash up my passions with my creativity and find something that would allow me to work in my pajamas wherever (I’m hoping for a beach someday) and whenever I wanted. I’ve always wanted to further explore my passions, make people laugh, and help support other women, so the idea for MariaMedia was born. I’m writing about women who rock, the passions in my life, like yoga, travel, books, and food, and the importance of mentoring and building self-esteem in young women.
My husband thinks I’m crazy—and he’s right—but I’m really enjoying the work and hopeful that I can continue to do it for a long time.
Thanks for the comment on the pigtails. I was pretty cute as I kid, not quite sure what happened as I grew up. Too bad pigtails and freckles are hard to pull off in middle age.
I love it when authors think of new and exciting ways to bring stories to life, so I was happy to hear about No Songs for Men. Can you tell us more about it?
I’ve had the idea for No Songs for Men for a really long time. I originally wanted to write a screenplay and try to get it produced in a weekly video Web series-type format, like The Guild. I even attended a film making boot camp last summer. Unfortunately, the lack of funds in my checking account nixed the video idea, and I started to look for other ways to bring the story to life. I love what you can do today with the Internet and I saw what other authors like Scott Sigler were able to accomplish. I wasn’t really interested in writing something and then hoping someone would publish it. I just wanted to share my stories, attract a few fans, make people laugh, and hopefully pick up enough advertising sponsors along the way to keep me in yoga classes and red wine, so I started writing No Songs for Men. And because I couldn’t afford to put it in video format, I hired amazing designers—Jody Stroup and Renee Lethbridge—to collaborate on the book design and character illustrations to bring to life an interactive online musical picture book for women. I’m a fan of Sex and the City, so there’s a touch of that genre, weaved into the stories of the five women that make up the indy rock band Code Cherry.
No Songs for Men is delivered in bi-weekly episodes, so I spend one week writing and editing and the next week is really a load of fun coming up with all the illustrations, story links, musical themes, and song lyrics. There’s a rock ’n’ roll accompaniment to the story that I’d like to record with a group of female musicians, if I can raise the funds from interested fans, and eventually I’d like to record each episode as podcasts as well.
Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
The writing for MariaMedia is taking more time than I ever thought it would, so one of my goals is to get more organized and set up a better schedule for releasing material. (Wish me luck on that one!) I’m always trying to read and learn as much as I can about writing, so I get better at it. I’m really appreciative of resources like Working Writers that provide relevant writing tips and articles on the craft.
I have an active imagination that runs rampant, so I keep a pen and paper with me at all times to record my thoughts and the funny things that happen to me. Half the time I can’t read my writing, so I’ve got to upgrade my phone to one with a voice recorder so I can leave messages for myself. I use all of these notes to write a daily page every morning to capture my thoughts and ideas, so I’ve got a pretty long list of potential writing projects.
In terms of what’s next, I’m going to have a hard time deciding what to write when No Songs for Men has run its course. I have an idea for a young adult book about a crazy, fun aunt who helps open up the world for her niece. The working title is the Adventures of Aunt Reechy Roo Roo, and my well-read 10-year-old niece is collaborating with me on it.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
Wow, that’s hard. If I really went back through my entire reading life, I’d have to pick Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume. What twelve–year-old girl wouldn’t find it interesting to know there were other girls out there like them who worried about their breast size, religion and how to talk to cute guys? It was the first book I really enjoyed reading, and it made me laugh. I’ve been a big fan of Judy ever since. I was really disgusted recently when I read that they might ban this book from some school libraries because it was too promiscuous.
Thankfully, I’m in a great book club, so I get to read many types of books, which I really appreciate, because it gets me reading outside of my box. I would have to say that when I do pick up a book on my own, I’ll go for something that is going to make me laugh. I like reading contemporary novels with smart, funny heroines who deal with the struggles of being a woman today. I’m a big fan of Helen Fielding and Audrey Niffenegger, but I like to read the male point of view as well and really like Nick Hornby’s work. I just recently read This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, and it’s a really funny read about a man struggling with his broken relationship with his wife, fatherhood, and an extremely dysfunctional family.
In your opinion what’s the measure of a successful writer?
Someone who can tell a story that you can’t put down. I know I’ve found a great writer when I get so enthralled with a story that I stay up all night reading. It’s been a long time since I’ve been totally engrossed in a book like that, but I love that feeling. Writers who can make me laugh are up there on my list too.
Advice for other writers?
I think most writers face two challenges: fear and finding the time. If you have a story and feel compelled to put it to paper, don’t be afraid that you can’t do it. Give it a try, join a writers group, and get the encouragement and input you need to get writing. In terms of finding the time, you just gotta do it, even if it’s just a few minutes every day. Set aside some time each week—it could be during your lunch break or after everyone is in bed—but just do it.
Where can we learn more about you?
Hopefully not on a bathroom wall anywhere!
I’m putting my experiences out there on a daily basis at http://www.mariamedia.net. Well, not on the weekends. I’m really trying to live a more balanced stress-free life, so I never post on the weekend, but Monday through Friday there’s always a new quote courtesy of Women Who Rock, and I’m keeping a digest of my yoga journey that is chronicled in the Daily Downward Dog.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This is probably going to sound cheesy, but fall in love with your writing. Write about your passions and follow your dreams. I’ll check back with you in a year and let you know how that’s working out for me! [Editor’s note: please do!]