To borrow a baseball phrase (the season is upon us, you know, and the Yankees AND the Mets are winning!) Jill Dearman is the “triple threat” of the literary world – acclaimed author, innovative editor and dynamic writing coach. Oh, she also can see into the future! KGB sat down recently with Jill to learn more about her diverse and many talents.
KGB: In addition to your own writing, you are a great mentor to writers – part sage, part editor, part coach. How did you develop an affinity for helping writers of different genres succeed, and could you explain how you developed such an eclectic teaching style?
JILL: My office for many years was at The Writer’s Room (an urban writer’s colony) in Manhattan. I found myself listening to the woes of my fellow scribes and I couldn’t help but notice that no matter what the level of experience or success, writers had the same issues: confidence, time management, and the ability to tolerate the hazy muddled, messy months and often years before their projects are complete. I soon started a small workshop and began seeing private clients. I guess you could call me a writer’s confidante. As for my eclecticism, I love the mad scientist approach to life – I imagine myself stepping downstairs into my secret lab-OR-a-tory, and mixing up a wild potion that would shock the townspeople if they knew, but ultimately becomes the magical elixir you need. In other words, I’ll try anything, and try to make everything fun...and (hopefully) smart.
KGB: Your book “Bang the Keys, Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice,” (Penguin) has been praised for its ability to help new writers “get started” and seasoned writers “get better.” Why do you think this book is so effective at helping writers achieve their goals, no matter their level or experience?
JILL: I just saw a documentary called “Bill W” about Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was amazed how well his twelve steps have stood up after all these years. I envisioned “Bang the Keys” as a book based on eternal principles for writers: Begin, Arrange, Nurture and then let it GO out into the world.
KGB: In reading your book, I love the fabulous writing exercises and prompts you provide. Do you have a favorite one or one you often use yourself? Is it true you also have a “Bang the Keys app”?
JILL: The one I keep coming back to is less an exercise than a mantra. Whether I am going through a particular season or cycle when I can’t seem to work up the brain power or inspiration I need or whether I am having a foggy or anxious day, I ask myself “What do I WANT to write?” I try and connect to that pure desire. In the former situation, I may then get the answer to what my next project REALLY should be, not what I think it should be. And in the latter I may come up with a scene I am jonesin’ to write, even if it means working out of order or in an “impractical” way. I do have an App. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bang-the-keys/id412669850?mt=8 If any of your readers use it I hope they’ll email me at JillDearman@gmail.com to let me know what they think!
KGB: Word on the street is that you are working on a new novel that is set in the late 1940’s. Tell us about the work and why did you choose this time period to explore?
JILL: I was born noir, baby. I connect deeply with the films and books of that era. There’s a desperate, passionate, amoral quality to the popular art that emerged during that period and despite living in the 21st century I feel that that is truly “my time.”
KGB: You are also renowned for your “psychic gifts” and have helped many people through your side work as an astrologist, and through readings. How does this part of you mesh with your writing self?
JILL: It happens pretty organically. Like someone who is a chef and uses her sense of smell and taste a little bit more than the average person. I always like to come back around to how my experience and ideas can help writers, so here’s something I do that I hope other writers will try. Basically, it all comes down to techniques for accessing your intuition. I invite writers to use hypnagogia to get the answers they need. I suggest writers ask a key question like “how do I make this character less superficial?” or “how can I get past my fear of failure?” while they are in that highly “tapped in” state between falling asleep and waking or vice versa. I’ve always had pets who wake me up in the night, and now I have a baby who occasionally wakes up in need of a change or a bottle. I have learned how to use that magic time to get the answers I need, the ones that elude me during waking life.
And yes, several years ago I wrote two astrology books published by St. Martins. They were written for a gay audience but I’ve been told by straight friends and fans that they had no trouble figuring out whether they should read the book for gay men or for lesbians to get a handle on their own psyches and sex lives!
For more on Jill check out her website: www.bangthekeys.com
And buy the book (which by the way is super Kindle-friendly):