December’s blog post is another author interview because you need to know about this fabulous person and writer, Mackenzie Littledale, right now! She’s a Women’s Fiction writer with TWO short story collection books out, including Explorations of Freedom and Testing the Ties that Bind. I had the honor of reading the short story The Names that Survived, where she touches on family history and pride, the search for identity, racial privileges, and the beauty that comes from closure. I enjoyed every culturally rich bit of her main character’s journey and found it inspiring. I know you would too!
Not only is Ms. Littledale an author, but she hosts a blog promoting Women’s Fiction writers and mental health advocates (she was kind enough to feature me on her July post). With her upcoming novel, The Darkness is Mine, and her outstanding accomplishments (see her answers!), she’s sure to keep reaching the stars. Read about her writing world thoughts and exciting plans below.
How do you cope with disappointment or setbacks?
I acknowledge that disappointment is a natural and inevitable fact of life, so I don’t circle around the rim for too long in disappointment or any counterproductive emotion. It helps if I have another idea or project to act on, so I can dust my shoulders off and move on to the next thing. It’s like traveling cross-country in a way. If I start off on the east coast, there are mountains and deserts between here and California, as a metaphor for a long-term project. The weather may not be perfect the whole journey. My vehicle may malfunction and need fixing somewhere along the way. By this, I mean, prepare mentally, emotionally, and physically for whatever it is I want to achieve. Even with the best preparation, something may go wrong or stand in the way. As a real example, a friend referred me to a literary journal editor. Their publication wanted 1400 words of creative nonfiction and other categories. I read a couple stories to get a feel for what they like, wrote something, and submitted it. About two months prior, I had also pitched an idea to Psychology Today to host my series of BIPOC mental health advocate interviews. The idea behind that was to build a reading audience and name recognition for when This Darkness is Mine launches. One fine morning, I got an email from Psychology Today saying they loved my idea and wanted to host my interviews. Literally two minutes later, the literary journal emailed to reject my submission. Having something much bigger and closer to my heart in the hopper made the other rejection sting less. I had another route to keep going forward.
What works best for you with time management?
I hope you don’t laugh too hard at my answer. On days I work, I just go to work. On my days off, I have a notebook and write down whatever I need to do. As I do them, I check them off. Sometimes, I have to write down to eat breakfast, because in my mind, that counts as something done. It’s not prioritized or anything formal. If I write a blog post, there are steps, so I write down each step. If I interview a women’s fiction author, there are several steps, so I write those steps down and check them off as I go. I completed a writing class through the Center for Fiction in New York via Zoom on November 2nd, and every assignment went into my notebook. If I feel sleepy, I’ll take a nap for however long my body needs to recuperate. Some things in my week are key so they’re in my electronic calendar with reminders and I never miss them unless something urgent comes up.
What gives you energy and joy?
I feel pure joy and pleasure from checking things off my to do list because every single step I take in the direction of my choosing puts me closer to realizing my dream. It also paces me to accept any level of name recognition that may be part of the author’s life. I can’t guarantee success, but doing nothing is doom. I don’t plan to fail because I don’t fail to plan. Energy and joy combined come with eating great food. Now that I’ve identified that a lot of my body pains come from inflammation, I add ginger and turmeric tea to my routine, as well as ibuprofen. Minimizing or eliminating chronic pain is a game changer. I can feel as young as I look and press on.
How do you quiet your inner critic? (the voice of internal negativity)
The inner critic is hardwired into the human brain, so the only strategies available are to listen and give in and quit; ask the critic to clarify why an idea might fail and then plan to avoid those scenarios and press on; thank the critic for continually looking out for my safety and assure that voice that I’ve got this and press on; ignore the critic and press on; tell the critic to STFU and press on. I think of Jon Acuff’s book START!: Punch Fear in the Face and remember that the inner critic has a script and can’t depart from saying the exact same thing no matter the circumstance. Once I recognize that truth, I can uncover, reveal, explore, and create my own preferred truth. That I can do something I set out to do. We also have a built in coach and cheerleading squad. We get to choose which internal dialogue we want to listen to. If the voice we’d prefer to hear in our head is too soft or is silent or isn’t convincing, then we can turn to motivational speakers on YouTube. Before I sat down to start writing This Darkness is Mine, I woke up early every morning and watched motivational speeches on YouTube until I felt more confident. Confidence is NOT a personality trait. It’s a skill that we can learn and develop.
What is your next project or goal? If it is a book, tell us about it and when you hope to publish it.
Rhodes to Hell is my NaNoWriMo 2021 project. It’s a domestic suspense novel, so it’s a bit of a genre departure for me. But I love reading suspense, so I feel like it’s possible. That will swallow up a decent portion of November. I’m still reworking This Darkness is Mine for my agent at Serendipity, who’s totally working at my pace on the project. I love them! I’m seeking mental health advocates to interview for From Margin to Mainstream, which is my blog on Psychology Today’s website, and that’s exciting. The first interview is live, I’m working on the second, and seeking people doing interesting things going forward. Also, I’m writing new material for a paperback collection of short stories. I’m self-publishing that and hope to have it ready for Christmas shopping time.
This has been delightful, C. Thank you so much for asking these probing questions. Be well.
Thank YOU! I am grateful for our friendship that started on Twitter and has grown over the years. Yay Women’s Fiction writers!
More ways to connect with Ms. Littledale:
Psychology Today Blogger – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/margin-mainstream
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