I’ve recently started writing for Examiner, and as soon as I got on the site I noticed that there was a very successful writer there who you will all meet today! Marci Stone has only been an online writer for a year, but she has taken on several topics and learned a lot about the craft of writing for the Web. She’s an interesting writer and I know you’re going to learn a lot from her. Enjoy this interview.
You have a master’s degree in education, and spent 20 years in adult education. How did you make the leap from education to writing?
My first column with Examiner was as the Salt Lake City (SLC) Lifelong Learning Examiner, and that covered my educational background but there wasn’t a lot to write about once I covered the basics. My next column was the SLC Headlines Examiner, and it allows me to write as much as I want.
I teach online college classes, so I already spend a great deal of my day online and Examiner seemed like a natural fit for me. But because writing about the news isn’t my background, it took a great deal of time to understand how online news works.
You’re one of the top News Examiners in the entire country. What do you enjoy about reporting the news?
I love watching a story unfold…sometimes it happens all at once and then it’s over, but other times it takes weeks or months for the whole truth to come out, and I love discovering all of the details.
And I have to say that people still surprise and fascinate me on a daily basis.
Writing online can be a challenge for some people. What do you like about it and what are some of the downsides?
Sometimes I may not move for several hours and my body gets stiff, but my mind is constantly being challenged. I like the fact that I can focus for 3-5 hours and then be done for the day. Or if I don’t feel like writing that day I may only spend an hour or two and come back tomorrow with added energy.
Writing for Examiner isn’t just about being a good writer, but it is also a delicate balance of understanding how to get page views and learning how to do that take a lot of time and effort.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
I have two and choosing between them would be impossible because I re-read each of them frequently.
Stephen King wrote a non-fiction book a few years ago called On Writing. He was an English teacher many years ago and has been writing fiction since he was a child. I find the book fascinating and interesting because it also tells his story about how a struggling teacher becomes the most popular author in the US.
The second book isClear Your Clutter With Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. This book explains how the clutter that we choose to keep around us rolls over into every area of our life. Kingston calls the excess junk stuck energy, and that translates into life patterns we don’t want or need. By clearing away the clutter we get rid of our old ways of thinking. This could translate into quitting a job that isn’t good for us, or losing weight, or doing away with old emotional wounds.
For example, Kingston says that if you try to clean out an area in your home and you are not emotionally ready to do it, you won’t be able to, no matter how hard you try. I had a spare bedroom once with boxes piled up to the ceiling and when I attempted to force myself to go through the boxes and get rid of stuff…I actually became quite dizzy and could not continue. Only when I was emotional ready (a few months later) to part with that stuff could I do it, and then it only took a few hours.
Book you’re currently reading?
Over the past few years, I tend to skim books more for information than enjoyment (unless I am on vacation). Today, I skimmed through Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet about making the move to a vegan diet. It was interesting and eye opening (especially the chapter on meat), I am not sure that I am ready for that, but Alicia gave three different options for people who are not ready to make the full commitment.
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
The first thing that comes to mind is someone who writes for Harper’s magazine. This magazine publishes very long articles from freelance writers who go all in for a story. I remember reading an article about a writer who knew nothing of the annual World Series of Poker event in Las Vegas, and for a month he was submerged in the story and the people who arrived at the final table on the last day. I knew nothing of the topic, but felt like I knew everything by the time I finished reading the story.
Advice for other writers?
Since I have been doing this only for about a year, I am not sure I should be giving advice. But I can say that during that year I have had other websites ask me to write for them, and I have done it for a few months here and there. And there is always something to learn from any new experience, whether it’s the way they do business or build their page views, or what my limits are in how much I can write in a day. I have been able to take that information and make my Examiner page stronger. Examiner does a great job of training people and taking advantage of that training has helped me to learn the entire process and what works for me. I have literally tried everything Examiner has suggested…some of it worked for me and some didn’t, but at least I know I tried it.
Consistent writing is also important. Write everyday if possible. There may be days when you don’t feel like it, but do something even if you only have an hour.
Where can we learn more about you?
I am on Facebook, and I have links on my Salt Lake City Headlines Examiner page to my other Examiner columns.