Keeping An Open Mind With Leslie Tall Manning

Keeping An Open Mind With Leslie Tall Manning

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About Leslie Tall Manning

* I grew up in Western Maryland in a big old haunted farmhouse.
* My imagination was (and still is) one of my best friends.
* My family was immersed in music–I play violin and loved performing in the orchestra pit as well as an actress onstage.
* At nineteen I moved from Maryland to California to find my fortune in Hollywood.
* I was involved in the film industry for about ten years–lots of B movies and a few game shows!
* By twenty-three I had become an award-winning waitress.
* I received my BA in Theatre from California State Long Beach (at the age of 34!), the primary focus on play-writing and directing.
* I taught high school and college English for nine years and currently work as a private tutor so I have plenty of time to write.
* I pound the keys four days a week without fail.
* I have never EVER had writer’s block.
* I am blessed to have an amazing literary agent.
* I’m happily married to an adorable artist.
* I am a lover of all that is newsworthy, historic, musical, heart-warming, kitty-catish, or super-duper weird.
* We moved to the sleepy Southeast for creative inspiration.
* My adult novel, Knock on Wood (2019), has just been adapted into a stage musical.
* I am currently writing a Middle Grade historical fiction novel for boys.
* My edgy new YA, RULES OF FALLING, comes out in mid-November, 2021.
* I am busier than anyone I know…and love it!

See their work:

How And When Did You Get Started Writing?

I began reading at an early age, and writing followed shortly after. I LOVED making up stories and sharing them with neighborhood kids, as well as playing “house” with my little sister and some friends. In high school I landed in the theatre department, never understanding that it wasn’t an actress I wanted to be, but a writer. Even though I was a theatre major in college, it wasn’t until I took a playwriting class, and a subsequent novel writing class that I knew I had found my true calling. I have now been writing for over 20 years! And counting…

What Does Literary Success Look Like To You?

If you ask some writers, they’d tell you that “success” is when one of the BIG publishers (Simon & Schuster, Penguin/Random House, etc.) signs an author for a two or three-book deal, followed by a Netflix option. I won’t disagree, as this would be awesome. But let’s be realistic. Those tales of over night successes are few and far between. However, while there are some days that feel a bit hopeless, there are other days when sales are steady and reviews are good, or I meet a teenager who loved one of my books, or I get invited to speak on a really cool podcast, that I feel I’m successful. It doesn’t matter anyway, because no matter what happens, I will keep writing until my brain fizzles. I suppose success means getting to do our life’s work while on this short journey, and sharing part of that journey with others.

What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Writers That They Can Apply Now On Their Journey As Budding Writers?

Wow. This is a loaded question because there are so many! And every artist’s journey is different. But if I had to choose a few, here they are:
1. Write at least three days a week, and at the same time each session.
2. Read read read. Everything. Not just the genre in which you write.
3. Keep an open mind because you never know what life has in store for you!
4. Take writing courses, whether in person or online. Even the best singers take singing lessons. There is always something more we can learn to add to our writing arsenal.
5. Take a deep breath and understand that this “writing thing” can take a long time. Years, even decades. If you don’t find the patience now to deal with the waiting process–writing the book, editing the book, finding an agent, finding a publisher–then you should probably find another career. Doctors study and train for fifteen years before going into private practice. Why should a writer be any different?
6. Find a balance. While creatives are often called to their passions daily, make time for family, friends, pets, working out, hanging out, sleeping well, whatever it is that keeps you sane. Writing is one of the most important things in my life. But I am a multi-faceted human, and so are you. Balance will keep you mentally and physically healthy as you move forward on your writing journey.

What Are Common Traps For Aspiring Writers?

One of the most important (and overlooked) areas that can be a trap for aspiring writers is plagiarism. And I don’t mean deliberate theft of others’ works; I mean a subconscious pilfering of another’s idea, sentence structure, book cover, layout, etc. Be original. This is the power that writing gives you. Take the power you have to be unique. Share this part of you in your writing.

A secondary trap is listening to everything everyone tells you regarding your writing journey and the writing itself. This is YOUR life. It is YOUR journey. Nothing you write or do or say will be quite like anyone else’s. So enjoy the creative that is YOU, not some other person’s version of you.

If You Could Tell Your Younger Writing Self Anything, What Would It Be?

Yikes. I’d tell my younger writing self to strap in and hold on tight, because the writer’s journey is wild and messy, has unpredictable ups and downs, and the ride can sometimes feel long and tedious. Back in the late nineties, I had just graduated college and at the buffet table afterward, my novel writing professor congratulated me. “What are you going to do now?” he asked. I told him, “Oh, I’m going to finish the novel I started in your class.” I beamed and added, “And then I’m going to publish it.” He didn’t respond. Instead, he looked at me as if I was joking. Then he started to say something and stopped. After a moment, he patted my arm and said, “Oh. Well. Good for you.” My professor wasn’t being deliberately condescending. He just knew what I didn’t: that all good things take time. He saw the rutted road ahead, though at the time I did not. I’ve written fourteen novels (five published) since that first one–which, by the way, is still buried in a box in my closet somewhere. ; )

What Are Your Favorite Books? Fiction And/ Or Non-Fiction?

As a private English and Literature tutor, I read A LOT. I re-read classics over and over, as well as dig into newer work, even stories I’d somehow missed before. There are so many–too many– to choose from. But if I had to pick any, I’d say my two faves are Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. I tend to enjoy books that show the quirky and often darker side of life. I also use them as a bar for my own writing, as these authors have not only created amazing stories but can turn sentences into works of art. I am always working hard to make a sentence dazzling, while finding the simplicity within the words.

Anything You’d Like To Plug?

My YA novel (14 and up) UPSIDE DOWN IN A LAURA INGALLS TOWN has won three literary awards, and for this I am very proud. Feel free to download a kindle copy, purchase from Amazon or another online bookstore, or locate it through you local library system. This book is incredibly close to my heart, and I hope you will find it close to yours. If you read it, let me know what you think by leaving a review either on Goodreads, Amazon, or wherever you deem fit. And ear to the rail: It just may be adapted into a musical someday…
And reach out to me directly through my website: www.leslietallmanning.com

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