Q&A with Lynda Rutledge

The WLT is happy to bring you another Q&A with the very talented Lynda Rutledge, who is teaching a class with us this fall titled, Your Manuscript’s Finished. Now What? Click on the title to learn more about this class, and if you’re interested, click here to register!

What are you reading right now?

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, a fellow Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam author.

When you’re not reading or writing, what do you like to do with your time? 

Play with my new puppy, have actual conversations with my spouse, sneak in some yoga, watch movies.  The usual!

What’s your favorite opening line of a book?

 I just taught a craft course on first lines for the latest WLT agent conference, so I have a dozen of them. But the one that always come to mind first is the opening phrase of the paragraph-long sentence of Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities:  “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…” That’s classic because of its universal truth, graceful beauty, and catchy syntax. You can’t beat that; no one has for over 150 years.  And I’m perpetually jealous.

What life lesson did your last book or project teach you?  

Persevere. Persevere. Quit when you must.  Start over. Persevere some more.

What word do you love?


What word do you detest?

“Impact” as a verb, as in “impacted.” Am I the only one that thinks of the dentist when I hear that?

What is a little known fact about yourself?  

I was a central Texas Class A racquetball champion in my 30s.  Oh yeah!

How do you deal with ups and downs of the publishing business? 

Besides valium? Just kidding. I abide by that famous Hunter Thompson quote:  “Keep moving.”  I exercise as much as I can. Being active may not be great for my knees, but it’s great for my soul, my spirits, and, interestingly, my creative juices. 

How do you balance writing with work and family? 

Not sure I ever do. Sometimes work wins; sometimes family wins.  But it all works out.  Balance is the dream.

What is your writing routine and where do you write? 

Anywhere/everywhere.  Laptops are godsends.

Do you outline or just start writing?

There’s a good question. For me, the process usually starts as a jotted idea, then a rough summary, as if I were writing a preface.  And if it’s got “legs,” it suddenly erupts into characters’ talking right there in the middle of all the jotting.  And I’m off.

Do you have trusted readers you turn to as you write, and if so, who and what stage?

If a writer wants to keep her friends, she learns the “first reader” rule.  It goes like this:  There can only be one “first read.”  So it should be saved until the very last moment.  (Subset of rule: Be kind enough to create a set of questions to guide your brave reader’s responses.) After that, foisting your every revision onto friends is a good way to not have friends; it’s also counterproductive, unless you happen to be blessed with a trusted reader who is also a professional editor and owns a publishing house. I laugh at myself thinking about how patient my friends and family were until I “got a clue” about this. Workshops are the best place to find “trusted readers” for the long haul, and a great way to meet other writers for whom you can also be one.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Not in grammar school. As a kid, I wanted to be the first girl New York Yankee. Then in high school, I wanted to be an artist. But in college I found that I was better at being a failed artist. That’s when it hit me that all those books I was reading for my English lit courses were written by real people, not literary gods. I took a creative writing course and was hooked. There’s more than one way to be an artist; we paint with words, don’t we?

The Fast Five


1. What are three things in your office/writing space that would surprise someone who popped in?

A photo of me hanggliding off a Swiss Mountain. A rebounder trampoline thingy.  And a stand-up desk.

2. What book first influenced you as a child?

The entire Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew series shelves of my small town’s Carnegie Public Library. 

3. What time of day do you write?

I love late nights even though I always pay for it the next day. I hate mornings and the feeling is mutual. (For what happens when I try crack of dawn writing, see my website’s Writer’s Morning timeline for a laugh: http://www.lyndarutledge.com/blog.htm?post=808544)  Mostly I write whenever I can. Somehow it works.


4. If you could have a beer or coffee with a writer living or dead, who would it be and why?

 Flannery O’Connor.  That woman must have been a hoot.

5. Beer or coffee?

Coffee (with maybe a little Bailey’s if she’s having a beer.)

Liked this Q&A? Check out another great Q&A with Lynda here!

Lynda Rutledge is a freelance journalist with national and international publishing credits in nonfiction, fiction, and narrative nonfiction. Her debut novel Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale is forthcoming in 2012 from Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, and she’s a past winner of the WLT’s Narrative Nonfiction Manuscript Competition. While living and working in Chicago, she developed the course as an adjunct professor for Columbia College’s Fiction Writing Department while honing her own publishing skills.

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