Paige Dillard is a 22 year old student majoring in English at San Diego State University. Though she’s been writing for a very long time and would love to write for a living, Dillard is planning to pursue a Masters in Library Science and Technology and is currently a Library Technician at the Poway Community Library. Despite being a student, Dillard has been writing and publishing since she was in high school and is always looking for ways to experiment with new styles and diverse characters.
Phenom: How have you balanced being a writer and an undergraduate in college? How do these two parts of your life coexist?
Paige Dillard: It’s very difficult for me. I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like, but luckily I have taken some great courses at SDSU that have allowed me to explore my writing creativity. If you want to do the same, check out the Writing of Fiction course and the Living Writers course. Other than for these classes, I write every chance I get, and sometimes that includes during breaks between classes, late at night when I’m supposed to be asleep, on the trolley on the way to and from school, and, like tonight, during my dinner. So, like I said, every spare moment. Since writing is my passion, I have to make some time to write, even if only for 5 minutes, or else I feel restless, uneasy, and sometimes depressed. These worlds coexist, but I’ve had to prioritize school over my writing, even if it is my greatest passion.
Phenom: What was the self-publishing process like for you? Would you advise others to do the same? Do you see it as a stepping stone to being published by a publishing house?
PD: I didn’t have a clue about self-publishing until I was 15 and entered into a writing challenge called Nanowrimo. That’s where my adventure began. I completed the challenge two years in a row and got two books published for free for completing the challenge through CreateSpace—a website for self-publishing. I definitely recommend it. My third book I published through a different publisher that was also self-publishing, but there was more communication between myself and the book designer. Unfortunately, as of this year, this self-publishing site has shut down, leaving my third book without a publisher. I will have to re-publish the book most likely through CreateSpace. I would definitely suggest looking into self-publishing if you are an aspiring author. It gets your name out there and, with the right about of advertising and fan-base, you could be well on your way to being published by a publishing house.
Phenom: You have a couple books published on Amazon. What projects are you working on now?
PD: Too many to count. My main two works in progress are a poetry chapbook (a small book of poetry usually no more than 40 pages) and also a longer poetry book, most likely going to be about 100 pages long. As for novels, I have a few that I form ideas for, but the process is slow-going since it demands a lot of free time to sit down and write out a segment of a novel…at least, for me. And I don’t have that time, so all I can do is jot down ideas. However, I am extremely excited for the Young Adult fantasy trilogy I have been working on as well as my first New Adult novel that focuses on college-aged characters and topics such as abuse, sexuality, depression, anxiety, faith, love, and hope.
Phenom: What inspires you most to write? How do you re-energize yourself when you fall into a slump or get writers block.
PD:I can’t say I’ve ever experienced writer’s block. Let me put it this way, I could always sit down and write something…if I had the time! When I’m in a “slump” it’s usually because I only have ten minutes to write and what I REALLY want to write is going to take me hours. However, I do have tips on re-energizing, or as I like to say, finding encouragement to focus on writing and to produce something. My favorite thing to do when I’m in a slump is read. I was reading Lydia Yuknavitch’s novel Dora: a Headcase last month and remember that every page I would have to stop and jot down a story idea or a technique on structure and style. I wasn’t copying Lydia’s content, I was being inspired by her writing to think about what messages I wanted to portray and how I wanted to portray it.
Phenom: What advice do you have to give to burgeoning authors?
PD: Don’t give up. Don’t stop writing. I’m serious. I have met way too many young writers who, when I ask why they haven’t continued their novel, they tell me “I don’t think it’s good enough” or “I just don’t see myself going anywhere with it” or “It kind of seems silly to me now” when I can tell that they are just without the guidance and encouragement to continue. Even if you don’t think you will get published or that your writing isn’t “good” please still keep writing. It is so nourishing to the mind and such a great skill to have and improve on, and who knows, you might get published after all.
Phenom: Our journal is uniquely interested in diversity within the fantasy genre. Where do you think diversity’s place is in contemporary literature?
PD: Unfortunately, I don’t read much contemporary literature at the moment. I’ve been reading British literature (modernism and romanticism) due to my current classes, which, as an English major, leaves me little time to write. However, with the few contemporary books I have read recently I have experienced sexual as well as racial diversity. But I will say that I think we can always include more diversity in our contemporary literature, young adult and adult.
Phenom: What do you do in your work to capture diversity?
PD: In my poetry I don’t focus on diversity as much as I focus on imagery and emotional content. Although, if you consider emotional content to be diverse as I do, then I include diversity by discussing abuse, sexuality, heart break, spirituality, and war in my poems. In my novels, however, I love to include diversity. In my Bites and Blood trilogy I have multiple characters with different racial backgrounds and a character that identifies as gay. In my novel Lone Wolves of Bohemia, I include different sexual identities such (i.e. lesbian, bisexual). I also include a Hispanic and a Black characters as secondary characters. I haven’t included any trans identities in my novels as of yet because I don’t know any personally and trying to write a character that I haven’t encountered personally is difficult for me.
You can check out all of Dillard’s published works here.
By: M. Aiken