Interview Transcripts

Dr. Evelyn Kelly: Writing Nonfiction 8/11/05

Event start time:

Thu Aug 11 19:00:04 2005

Event end time:

Thu Aug 11 21:05:03 2005



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Welcome to our Professional Connection live interview.

 

Today we're chatting with Evelyn B. Kelly, Ph.D., is a writer, educator, and community activist living in Ocala, Florida. She specializes in writing about the diseases and disorders of the nervous and endocrine systems and enjoys tackling cutting edge research.

 

Throughout her years as a writer, she has written 10 books and over 400 articles on many topics. Recently, she completed Obesity Matters: Issues in an Expanding Epidemic, a reference book for Greenwood Press and has two new projects, one on stem cell research and the other on gene therapy.

 

She is an international speaker at writers' conferences and works hard to apply business principles to writing. She has been an instructor for Long Ridge Writers Group for four years.

 

Evelyn lives on a farm in Ocala, Florida with her husband Charles, a hunting enthusiast. She has four children and four grandchildren. She is a professor of education at Saint Leo University in Florida.

 

Evelyn, I have been looking forward to chatting with you. Welcome!

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I have too...I had a college class tonight- that I let go early to do this interview....they were so sad of course.

Mary Rosenblum

That's right. :-) I'm sure they were devastated! What kind of class?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

It is a class in Introduction to Education... we talk about all kinds of issues.

Mary Rosenblum

So I'm curious. Did the writing come first, or did you get into writing after you got into the sciences and education?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I was a biology teacher...love human anatomy and cutting edge research.... then I got a doctorate in education and have been teaching methods to college students...the writing complemented my teaching...I began about 20 years ago.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, you may get a request from me for sources yet, considering I write near future tech science fiction, and do a lot in the bio-medical field. :-)

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I look forward to hearing from you about that

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, I'm sure you will. :-) So you got started writing through your job in education?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Yes, and I still wear these two hats

redraven

I came in a few minutes late. What do you write?

Mary Rosenblum

Why don't you give us an overview?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I am a generalist with a specialty- medical writing. But I like to write on many topics...I tend to get bored just staying in one area.

Mary Rosenblum

So you write on topics that are outside your immediate area of expertise?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Yes- I do travel articles, articles for children and young adults...one of my books was a biography of Katarina Witt, the ice skater...Now I am an ole Southern girl who has never been ice skating... I learned about it rapidly.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm glad you say that. :-) I know that many novice nonfiction writers are intimidated by topics that they know little or nothing about.

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Yes, it involves research and some courage.... but they can do it.

 

 

gwanny

So, it's true that you don't need to know anything about a certain subject, but spend time researching it and can write a saleable article?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Yes, that is what writing is about...getting an idea or angle...then researching it...I use lots of interviews

Mary Rosenblum

And that's what nonfiction editors are looking for isn't it? Original information...and if you are not an expert, you can find one and interview her, yes?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

absolutely

tory

How did you choose a biography of Katarina Witt? Did you interview her?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Chelsea Press called me and gave me a choice of ice skaters...I chose her...I did not get to interview her, but I tried my best...I got to her press people.

Mary Rosenblum

Had you worked with Chelsea Press before? Is this how you got the assignment?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

No, I  don't even know how they got my name...I am on several lists and directories.

Mary Rosenblum

Are these lists of established freelance writers?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I am a member of Cassel Network at writers-editors.com (has a lot of requests for writers), the National Association of Science Writers, American Medical Writers Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors...plus I try to meet people at conferences...most of my work comes from people who call me...but it was not always so...I still go through the query process if I find an idea that excites me

Mary Rosenblum

Aha, and that probably answers Lorib's question, but I'll add 'how often?" to what she asked.

lorib

Do you always work by assignment or do you sometimes come up with your own ideas?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Both- but usually the assignments take a lot of my time...I really would like to be more creative...but there is security in assignments...it takes a while to get to that point

Mary Rosenblum

And I'd like to address that last statement before we move on, because I do have students who sell in nonfiction

 

but get discouraged by their slow progress. How long did it take you to really get a lot of assignments? Many years? A couple?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

No-about 10...there is hope. I started small-...sold my first article in 1982 ...to a religious publication...called Chills Can Kill on frostbite and hypothermia...got paid 35$.  To  me it could have been 2000$!

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, sigh, patience is a virtue in the publishing world. Glad to hear it's no better in nonfiction than fiction, LOL.

wolf122

Many of the journal articles used as sources deal with minute substrates, specific enzymes, etc. How do you find pertinent source articles to inspire your writing?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

You have to learn to read journal articles and understand the main idea of what it is saying...read the abstract, conclusions, and testing procedures...but do not get hung up with the details.... you do have to have some knowledge of enzymes etc...I do not carry it all in my head, but when I am studying a topic, I do become an expert in that field

janp

Do you ever consider controversial topics, not politics?

Mary Rosenblum

Well, you write about stem cell research. I'd call that controversial these days. :-)

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

My books for Greenwood Press presents controversies but both sides. For example, in my book on obesity, I investigated and presented 8 issues that have two or three sides. I present them all...Although I do write in politically correct terms....I must see all sides of an issues.

wolf122

Do your writings come more from reading several articles, doing an interview or two, combining all of the information, and then synthesizing it all into one piece?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Yes.

tory

Do you do a lot of interviews face-to-face? Phone?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I use phone interviews...where I live there are not many scientists...interviews are important...if you look at any article in a major magazine, you see interviews...they are usually so subtle that you do not know they are there.

gwanny

I realize that one on one is probably the best way to interview, but sometimes you just can't. Do you find that email interviews are more challenging than telephone? or vise versa

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

E-mail is fine because you have a written record, but most of my people do not want just this...they like an e-mailed list of questions, but want to talk...I record the conversation using a device that I purchased from RadioShack that fits into the telephone. I really think face-to-face is more threatening for the interviewee. With the recording, you have a record in case you are challenged... keep the tapes for a long time- they are cheap.

Mary Rosenblum

That's interesting, Evelyn. Myself, I prefer phone or live interviews

 

because the conversation can reveal a new line of exploration

 

that I wouldn't have thought of when I wrote out a list of static questions.

 

Do you encounter resistance to being recorded ever?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I never have encountered resistance-...I may in the future but I find scientists excited to talk...other people like to help...if they don't go to someone else...there are a lot of fish out there.

wolf122

Do you interview patients also? How easy is it to find interviewees for any given topic?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Again, there are directories and lists of experts. I have not done patients- but may in the future.

 

Wolf, have you heard of ProfNet? It is a source of experts...you can put out a call and will get answers of people interested

gail

How long should a writer hang onto interviews which have been quoted in one or more articles?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Just file the tapes...they are cheap...I don't get rid of them...maybe I should after couple of years

info

Do you ever worry about getting in trouble for content? Ex: If you are doing an article or story that describes different types of explosions where one type leaves things in a piles whereas another type of explosion would blow things out in one direction or another. If you were to try to get information regarding such things, could a person become an innocent suspect?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I would not worry a lot about that...just quote experts...keep to the angle of your topic...I assume that an editor has approved it.

starr r

Re: "getting in trouble" for content: say you present one view, and then, six months later, all the research proves it wrong. What then?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I do not mean present one view-...stick to the point of the focus...if there is a problem that arises...trust your editor.

Mary Rosenblum

Your editor will let you know what focus or slant he/she wants for the article, correct?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Absolutely...trust me...they are conservative...they do not want to get into trouble.

Mary Rosenblum

Evelyn, I think a lot of novice writers don't understand the relationship between writer and editor. Want to describe how it works in your field?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Yes, the editor is king or queen. While you have the idea, the magazine is theirs to print...they must abide by space, advertisers, and budget. ...but if they want to add, delete, or change, that is their privilege...if they have questions, consider that as strengthening the manuscript...put personal feelings here behind you.

 

My goal is to make their job easier. I do that by pleasing them and making them happy.

Mary Rosenblum

I’ve received a couple of interesting questions from Starr and info about research, and post 9/11, I think they are pertinent.

 

What they are asking is, if you begin researching something that might be of interest to a terrorist, say,

 

such as bomb making, or start asking police about a crime...can you fall under suspicion? What do you think?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I guess you could...I would avoid the topic... find another...my only area related to this has been looking at bio-terrorism...I interviewed experts or people who were working in the field...I had no opinion...and it was an assignment from an editor for a trade magazine.

Mary Rosenblum

This is actually something that I and other SF writers do and have faced

 

and I probably do have an FBI file because I've visited some radical Islamist sites

 

researching a new novel. BUT...it's going to be pretty clear to the FBI that I'm a writer, not affiliated with any Islamist groups

 

so if I have an FBI file, so be it. J

 

If there's no other reason to suspect you, you should be fine.

gail

How can a novice writer "sell" an editor on a (NF) story idea (they are ambitious to write,) if they have little or no "expertise" on the subject?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

My advice: start small and get your expertise. I started with small religious publications and got clips...I also had a newspaper column on health that gave me clips...However, do not be afraid to send to high end publications...I hear of people all the time that have a great story or great idea that get published in high end magazines.

sailor

In the article you wrote for Dream Jobs to Go, you said you write op ed pieces. Do you follow normal submission guidelines when submitting those or do you skip the query? Do you state in your cover letter that this is a op ed piece?

justme

Op ed ?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Op eds to your local newspapers are fine just to send in; if you are going to NY Times of LA Times, you might was to find their guidelines and include a note or letter...Be sure to follow the word count.

Mary Rosenblum

Op-ed means for the opinion/editorial page, justme.

whistlin_smithy

Hi Evelyn. Do you rely much on web research sites like Questia or do you have another source that you like?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I just use google, medscape for medical articles, or anything that I can think of...I follow links.

sallyk

What was your biggest challenge getting started writing?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

My biggest challenge was getting over the fear of rejection. No one likes it...but you have to realize that rejection for writers never ends...you must be resilient...I was fortunate that my first five articles were accepted by the religious magazines...however, I have had and still get a share of rejections for queries.  May I give you an acronym for a response to rejections?  SORRY s-for sob; o for observe; r for rant and rave; r for renew; y for yearn

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, and I get my share of rejections, too. They never DO end! :-)  Great acronym!

starr r

So you suggest religious magazines for beginners?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Religious magazines are a great source; but they too are competitive and expect good writing.

starr r

Do you prefer writing books or articles?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I like both; I have three book contracts right now which are due at different times...however, I will be writing articles along...if I get inspired or get assignments

Mary Rosenblum

Can you give our writers here some tips on the dreaded query letter and book proposal? These seem to be major stumbling blocks for many novices.

 

What makes 'em good?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Query letters: begin with your best writing using an anecdote...write your lead that you have in mind...that way the editor can get your style... then outline the points remember the topic and focus...give a working title...tell the experts that you wish to interview...then last give your credentials for why you should write the article...if you don't have credentials... don't worry...if the editor likes the idea he or she may tell you to send it on spec...meaning that you will not get a contract until you have sent the manuscript in.

Mary Rosenblum

Book proposals are more complicated, yes?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Mary, may I add the book proposal: Here I suggest that you get a book that give the details....this is more complex than a query and has specific parts...I suggest How to Write a Book Proposal published by Writers Digest or try  Terry Whalin's book: Book Proposals That Sell....An important part of a book proposal is the research of similar books that are out there.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, thank you, Evelyn. :-)

jrvr31

What's your writing schedule like?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

My writing schedule: I get up at 4:30 and write at least an hour on my current book...I find that doing this I get something each day. I then write or this or another project until 10:00 when I check my e-mail. At 11:00 I get ready to go to town to exercise...I eat lunch and rest then until about 3:00---then I get involved in another project...I do my lessons for Long Ridge...or maybe I have a class at night.

Mary Rosenblum

That's a very orderly schedule. :-)

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I do try...sometimes things go awry...but I always try to return to at least an hour on the book each day.

jrvr31

What are some business principles you apply to writing?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Business principles: I have a writing or business plan...not to make so much money each month but to make contacts with people for writing...I lapse occasionally like going to Eastern Europe and then I had company for a week when I got nothing done...but now I am back in the swing...I try to practice good time management

Mary Rosenblum

So you focus more on projects accomplished than income earned?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Yes, I find that more realistic...I figure that the marketing will pay off if I make the contacts.

whistlin_smithy

Do you experience situations where an article's research costs way more than the expected revenue it generates? If so, how do you cope with that?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I usually do not worry about the cost if I am to get an article that I consider to be correct....I can write off business expenses...that is part of the game...I probably could make more money but I do projects that I enjoy...and if it means going overboard, I do...not that I expect everyone will agree with me on that.

Mary Rosenblum

But it's also worth figuring your reputation. If it is a strong clip, then it may well be worth the extra expense, just for that.

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Yes, that is correct...I live a comfortable life...probably will never be wealthy...but this is the way that I like it.

gail

Have you had any experience with freelance boards or exchanges -- membership allows freelancers to bid on various writing-related jobs -- and, if so, what advice can you offer novices about such venues?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Gail, I have heard of these but no experiences...sorry here.

redraven

I'm working on a book on selecting, moving to, and living in a retirement community, in particular, a continuing care community. Any ideas for how I can find a publisher?

Mary Rosenblum

What are some good ways to find publishers if you have an article idea?

 

Or a book for that matter!

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

What a question. Finding a publisher- I suggest looking in Writers Market and try to determine what is best suited...I have done this and it is discouraging...finding an agent is another way...I have never used an agent...best suggestion is networking...joining groups and going to conferences...I went to my first conference in 1982- the Florida Freelance Writers Conference...you get ideas from conferences...a big one is the American Society of Journalists and Authors in New York...I know conferences are not cheap...but I consider them worth their investment..

Mary Rosenblum

Well, we're almost out of time. Let me send you one more question and then please do tell us what you have coming out soon!

babbles

When approaching a prospective person for an interview how should a novice start the introduction of oneself?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

I suggest writing out...Hello...my name is and I have an assignment for Genetic Engineering News on Food Enzymes. I have a list of questions...then proceed.

Mary Rosenblum

So what do you have coming out?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

My book Obesity Matters: Issues in an Expanding Epidemic was sent in July 1...it will go through the copywriters...a devastating experience... you think you are a good writer until these guys get hold of your manuscript...then I will have to do the index...will be out this spring or summer.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah yes, copyeditors. :-) What publisher?

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Greenwood Press

Mary Rosenblum

Evelyn, any last words of advice for our audience before we let you escape? :-)

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Think- manage your time and know yourself...what you have to do in life...remember there are 24 hours in a day...write something each day...and never, never fear rejection...sob, say oh well and get on with it. A writer never arrives- he or she is always in the process of becoming.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, now that last is really important!

 

Thank you Evelyn! We have enjoyed chatting with you tonight.

janp

Thank you Evelyn and Mary for the non fic focus tonite

starr r

Thank you for your help and advice.

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

Thanks for having me...I have enjoyed every minute...I loved the interesting questions.

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, thank you very much.

 

And thanks for the great answers!

 

I'd definitely like to invite you back another time.

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

goodbye-

Mary Rosenblum

Meanwhile, we'll let you go.

 

Goodbye and good night!

Dr. Evelyn Kelly

To all a good night.

Mary Rosenblum

And to you, too, Evelyn!

 

Thank you all for coming tonight!

 

Good night all!

 

Write well.

 

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