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Writers@Work: An Interview with Author Dasha Kelly

12 May 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m celebrating my birthday this week! In honor of it, I’m offering a special discounted price for my Jumpstart Your Writing coaching package. This package has helped clients start books, finish books, overcome writer’s block and set up a social media profile that works. If you need to move forward fast, contact me for a phone consultation.

Today’s tip is a Writers@Work interview with Milwaukee-area author Dasha Kelly, who launches her new novel tonight at 7:00 at Boswell Book Company.

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach


Tell us about your new novel.

Almost Crimson is about a young woman named CeCe who grows up with a severely depressed mother and how her adult life has been shaped by her mother’s “present void.”  When CeCe is presented with an opportunity to alter her experience, she realizes the heavy anchors of co-dependency.

Can you talk a bit about your MFA and how it helped prepare you for writing professionally? 

A number of my peers had started pursuing MFA degrees, but most of them are poets.  I wasn’t convinced the path was me until I missed an opportunity to teach creative writing at a local community college.  While my initial interest was to earn the pedigree I needed to teach on a collegiate level, I am astounded at how much the program refined my writing.  I did the low-res program at Antioch University in Los Angeles and resonated with the culture, the faculty and the program’s approach to workshops. I’m glad that I waited to find the right program. I have a pedagogical appreciation for edits and stylistic choices that I’d been making on sheer gut, and now have the rigor and context to stop most of the bad editing and stylistic habits for which I just didn’t know any better.


What’s your writing process like? 

For fiction, a story will start with an exchange or a glimpse of a scenario.  After writing that, I’ll start to unfold why my character was there, who they are and what they want.  A plot will eventually emerge from there.  In a practical sense, I prefer starting on paper, then transcribing my draft into a digital file.  With poems and essays, I definitely start long hand.  With fiction, I try to move to the computer sooner than later.  Transcribing in volumes is tedious and my scribbling is rather epic.  I relish the editing process, so I tend to make a mess of several printed drafts before I’m comfortable editing on screen.

It seems like you wear a lot of professional hats. How do you juggle work and writing? (And stay sane!)

I don’t write nearly as consistently as I’d like, largely because of all those hats. It’s difficult to lose myself in a story when there’s another meeting in an hour, a workshop to invoice for, event notices to send out or dishes stacked in the sink.  Difficult but essential,is what I remind myself.  I’ve started carrying around multiple notebooks to capture different projects. I used to have one notebook, but it became a catch-all for poems, dialogue ideas, email addresses, meeting notes, supply lists, sleepover reminders for my daughters, everything.  Having with me a notebook for work and a notebook for writing was a tiny change with enormous results.  Not only are my notes clean but, inexplicably, the systems has helped me write more.  Another helpful move has been to give myself writing projects of varying intensity.  My blog, for instance, is enjoyable but intimidating.  I approach it like a column, which means I want to present writing that is thoughtful, well-crafted, accessible and poignant.  I might not have such an inspiration every week. Recently, I started crafting micro blogs as well, giving myself a target of exactly 100 words.  I send these out nearly every day. Poems happen anywhere and everywhere, and new fiction is taking shape in the writing notebook. Right now, though, there are dishes in the sink! So, I’m still working on the writing+work formula, but I’m glad to finally be writing more often than not.

What advice do you give to young writers?

Read what you like and write what you love. My poetry is most inspired by prose. My prose is inspired by essays. My essays are inspired by magazines. When reading becomes strictly a comparative study of styles you like and authors you don’t, we wrinkle the joy that got us all here in the first place. Write stories and poems that make you wonder what’s going on and what might happen next.  Worrying about agents and publishers and six-book deals in the middle of your second draft will show up in the work; by that, I mean the work might not be as strong. Figure out what excites you about the act of writing and lose yourself in those places.  The other pieces –the business of it all– will happen when and as they should.  Until then, writers should nurture a relationship with their words.

What are you reading right now?

Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman


10550075_10152296518320108_3655338528085023362_o-236x365Dasha Kelly is a nationally-respected writer, artist, and social entrepreneur. As a spoken word artist, Dasha has performed throughout the U.S., in Canada, and appeared on the final season of HBO presents Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam. Dasha holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. She is an alum of the iconic Squaw Valley Writers Community, the former writer-in-residence for the historic Pfister Hotel, and founder of Still Waters Collective, an arts education and community-building initiative. In 2014, Dasha was selected as a U.S. Embassy Arts Envoy to teach and perform in Botswana, Africa. She is the author of one chapbook, Hither, and three books: All Fall Down, Hershey Eats Peanuts, and Call It Forth. She lives in Milwaukee, WI.

Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at



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