NORMA O. HINES
- Writer, Painter & Educator -
Welcome to an interview conducted with a writer, painter and educator from Canada. Norma O. Hines is an educator and artist who has been teaching art, training teacher-candidates, painting pictures and writing award-winning literary pieces in Jamaica for the past fifteen years.
Welcome, Norma ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I recently retired from my job as an educator. For the last fourteen years before I retired I taught Visual Arts and trained teacher-candidates. I am also a painter and some of my works may be viewed on www.normahinesart.com. I wrote ‘To Hurt and To Hold’ seven years ago but did not decide to publish it until five years later. The book was personal; it was for my own catharsis and so it took me a while to get to a point where I was willing to share that story.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
It depends on your definition of ‘writer.’ I loved writing as a child because of the attention it brought me at school. This pattern followed me all the way to university. My writing would be read to my peers as an example of how the particular topic should be handled. I liked it when I was small but it made me self-conscious at university and so I stopped trying to write well. It was not until fifteen years ago that I started entering my writing in the Literary Arts Competition of Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. I have been fortunate to receive awards for essays, short story, poetry and a novel.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
All my work so far has been based on true life accounts. I still make an outline because I never write without one. I then fill out the script, just writing as I remember, whether I was told or it was personal experience. After that I begin the difficult process of really writing and re-writing until I get to whatever deadline I have to meet. But I never come to a point where it is for me complete
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I enjoy how the process consumes me. When I write I feel as if someone else is putting those words together and I am only a vehicle through which they flow and so I have to write down the thoughts quickly or else I lose them. Even if it is a story I know well, the way it flows when I write sometimes feel strange to me.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The uncertainty of not knowing whether I can make a career of it.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
A teacher, a banker, I dabbled in real estate; I was a wife, mother and home maker. Then I became an educator and an artist.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Publishing my first book, ‘To Hurt and To Hold.’ When it won an award under another title in 2007 and toured all the libraries of Jamaica I felt a sense of achievement but on Sunday (Aug. 3, 2014) when it was recommended in Jamaica as a summer read in The Observer magazine Bookends (not on line) I again felt a sense of achievement.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I am trying to market my book. The sequel is about ready for publication but I will hold it for a while then take another look at it, and work on it some more before I publish it.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Suffering caused by humans and the need to expose it and alleviate it. I am also inspired by both the beauty and the upheavals of nature.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I am just embarking on a career in writing and so am still undecided at present. The first two books fall under memoirs, but I have also written an art text which is still being edited. I have a number of short stories essays and poems which I need to collect together with a view to publishing. My long term goal is to write and illustrate children’s books.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
I am a new writer. My tip would be for them to write for the joy of writing. Make writing be its own reward and if success of fame follows, view those as bonuses.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Yes. Late nights, between ten and two.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Yes. Currently I have abandoned my desk for an easy chair by my bedroom window which allows for a peaceful view.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
That I can awaken various emotions in my readers. Some say that at one minute they feel like crying and the next minute they are laughing hilariously.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
W. Somerset Maugham. Years after I read his stories and long after I forget the names of the stories themselves or of his characters I am still able to remember episodes from his writing that make me want to find the books and read about them all over again.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I could not put down your book. I have already finished it, underlined parts and made notes and have started reading it again, slowly this time.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I got the impression you were hurt and just had a need to spew.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Painting, teaching and fashion designing.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
No, but I had an editorial evaluation. It was also adjudicated by more than one panel.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
My perfect day is when I am productive and I can see or reflect with satisfaction, on what I accomplished over the past hours.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
My son. At last, maybe, he would be able to tell me all the fascinating things he has read about since he discovered books and the internet as a kid and he would have the time to finish all the IT lessons he has been trying to cement in my head. We would be able to edit all the pictures of me and my art which are on his computer instead of up on my website where they belong. We never seem to have enough time.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
I know that some of you have good intentions. But as long as poverty coexists alongside riches, as long as each nation is looking out for itself first, as long as each has to protect its sovereignty, there can be no justice. And without justice there can be no peace, therefore in order for mankind’s problems to be solved, there must come a world government to which all yield sovereignty. And I think there is no one that is willing to give more than lip service to a new world order so we are all going to die and leave a legacy of a larger mess than the one we inherited as a world leader.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
To make writing a career.
26. WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
I have no intention of leaving earth. I am not going to heaven.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Yes. My book was with a publisher for 18 months before I retrieved it and took a different route.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
An essay on Jamaica Independence Day 1962. I enjoyed leaving most of the political history out and I focussed on what was happening in a typical rural village at the time.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
Success is not measured in dollars but in getting readers to look at things in a new way; getting them to ponder over fresh ideas and come to new conclusions. Dollars are nice too.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Never surrender your power. You can overcome any obstacle if you set your mind to it.
33. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
Much. Because I am an artist I know what I want and I choose my own picture. I paint it and control where it is cropped, and where texts are placed.
34. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
To be happy.
35. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Had I known how difficult it would be I would have left it with the first publisher who was going to do all that work. I have to see marketing as just another of life’s challenges that has to be overcome. I am grateful that no one alerted me to how difficult it would be. Now that I have fallen into the deep end I guess I will just have to learn how to swim because I have no intention to drown.
36. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Determined, strong, courageous, honest, loyal
38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
A New Earth by Tolle (umpteenth re-reading Does that tell you something?)
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
It is finished.
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
Do not care to share because I am really not sure.
42. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I went on your blog. I like your work, Clancy.
Clancy's comment: Well done, Norma. Yes, being a serious writer is an all-consuming business. Good luck. Keep going.
Think about this!