Featured Writer on Wellness: Anne Sweazy Kulju

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on March 12, 2015 • views: 840

Anne Since my physical health is not typical, the obvious, typical answer for me would likely not apply to, or benefit, most authors and aspiring authors.

So, I will direct attention to another physical “matter,” which is sometimes a challenge and sometimes a blessing: Yes, I speak of the hours we keep.

Creativity and inspiration cannot be managed. You cannot make it happen whenever you want, just because you want (well, I can’t). If you ever awakened at 3 a.m.—on a night you didn’t have insomnia, that is—to write down a pearl of pure brilliance, you know what I am saying when I tell you, “that shit is gold.”

If you remember nothing else about this interview, remember that!

I consider such moments inspiration, a blessing. Did you know that “inspire” literally means, “God-breathed?”

On the other hand, if you reached for your journal and pen only to find they are not on your nightstand as they should be, and returned to sleep certain you would remember that brilliance in the morning, you also know (well, I do), it will be gone forever.

You will know to get out of bed the next time—these are the actual working hours that every author I know, keeps. They often have spouses who wake in the middle of the night with them—none too happy—and children who need mommy or daddy not to sleep all afternoon.

Throw in haphazard eating and exercise habits based on these crazy hours, and it can become a real challenge for many. Just remember, these flashes of brilliance don’t occur every night…well, not for me.

Tips to Take Care of Your Spine

I had four spine surgeries last year, eleven procedures overall. Each time, I flew to Tampa to have them performed at LaserSpine, by Dr. Z. He gave me three great cheap changes I could make to my writing environment to make my spine more comfortable and me far less fatigued:

  1. Get a cheap beach ball (Dollar Store, Walgreens), and blow about 5 or 6 good breaths into it. Now elongate the deflated ball and place it vertically between you and your chair. Lean back. Ahh….
  2. Get an exercise ball and use it as your chair while you write. Dr. Z says it improves posture, energizes the body from its core, and because it is hard not to want to rock and roll about on it, it offers low-impact exercise for physically-shredded spines like mine—mostly without me even realizing it.
  3. Dr. Z knows I will not take prescription painkillers, but I am in significant pain nearly 24//7. Meditation/prayer offer only so much relief. I got my medical marijuana card and I do use it. Honestly, it is difficult to “get into the writing zone” without it.

Writers are All Crazy

I was told by another writer friend some time ago that we writers are all crazy. Instead of being angry, I was relieved. It wasn’t only me!

I think we creative types tend to be A-type personalities, over-achievers, perfectionists, often OCD (well, I am)…some used to, indelicately, call us “anal.”

So, if we fail, if someone sends us a nasty rejection letter about our book—our “baby,”—we really feel it. The result is often depression, anxiety attacks, and the urge to quit.

It happens. I quit my first novel for fifteen years! I don’t recommend it. I also personally suffer anxiety attacks, off and on, and they’re hell. I think the only way through one is to realize what it is, then get to your keyboard before you waste that dreadful feeling.

Go ahead—write something dark, cold and eely. Do it while you’re really immersed in feeling it. I’m betting it turns out to be among the best prose you ever wrote.

Have You Tried Flash Fiction?

I recommend flash-fiction. The economy of words really hones our writing skills. It also occupies the mind, allows our wild emotional state to vent off, and may turn out to be some of our best writing.

One time when a bad day had me feeling pretty feisty, I wrote a piece of flash fiction and it won an award. Later, I expanded it into a scene and put it in my latest book, Grog Wars.

Can you guess what scene it is?

The Darkest Moment: When a Movie Deal Falls Apart

After I finished Bodie, I sent out a dozen or so ARCs to persons I trusted to critique the work honestly. One of them put the manuscript in the hands of a movie producer he played tennis with. The producer called me on Christmas Eve to tell me he wanted to option the book rights.

I was warned such deals fall apart all the time, but we had a leading lady signed, a location in eastern Oregon to shoot, and an initial budget of $3 million with which to begin filming. So, I got my hopes up.

Yeah, then my agent dragged his feet and the money guys got impatient. It fell apart. I was disgusted with the whole mess and put the book on a shelf…for fifteen years.

Obviously, that is a mistake for anyone to do. I had to grow thicker skin and so do you, if you want to be a real writer. And remember, this business is a numbers game. With 1.6 million new titles (many self-published), coming on the market every year, you need to work social media diligently and take advantage of every public appearance you can find to get your face, your name, and your book(s) in front of people.

Grit your teeth and hike your undies, people; this ain’t a life for the faint of heart.

The One Thing That Has Kept You On Your Path

I would have to say it is prayer. Although I am not a very good evangelist, I am spiritual, faithful, and give credit where credit is due.

I really feel I was called to write my first novel, The Thing with Feathers, a noir saga set in my hometown in the 1930’s. At the very least, I know I was haunted into into writing it by an old, unidentifiable photo,which I found in the attic of my 1906 Victorian mansion (we turned it into a B&B).

The tone and style of my first book is unlike anything else I have ever written. I am quite proud of “feathers.” The story is believable, not some romance happy-crap, and my characters were drawn dramatic and deep. I hope it offers a literary hero to young girls who find themselves in similar, awful situations.

A few months after the publisher released the novel, an elderly woman who has lived in my area her entire life approached me and said, “I was mentored by the man who built and lived in your house (B&B). I know quite a few things about the family that no one else knows…boy, I hope you don’t get sued.”

She said she recognized characters and events in my book that actually were, although she admitted there was no way I could have known. (Cue the Twilight Zone music.)

Advice for a Young Writer: Put Something on the Page

I have been asked this by people of all ages. Getting published is tough if you are not a celebrity of some sort. But pounding the pavement until somewhat takes notice comes after the creative process—that’s a matter of tenacity.

The hardest part of the writing process, for most, has to be the blank page. I admit I am a bit of a hardass about this topic, but here goes: Put something on the page! I don’t care what you put there, just type something—you can erase it later if you want to.

No more daunting blank screen and no more excuses. We all know Writer’s Block is just Procrastination (well, I do). Keep typing. Start with a 50-word story outline, then start inventing characters to tell your story. Give them personalities and faults and make them real. Maybe your leading lady is beautiful but ridiculously clumsy, and she goes nuts over Breyer horses.

Well look at you, you’re writing! You can erase it all later if you want, but you have a start. No more intimidating blank screen and blinking cursor.

And it wasn’t so bad, was it?

* * *

Anne Sweazy Kulju has won awards for editorials and honors for short stories; now she writes award-winning western adventures heavily-steeped in historical fiction.

Anne lives near Pacific City, Oregon, with an overworked husband and three rescued “Pibbles.” She is currently using her free time to study script continuity with her daughter. Both intend to elbow their way into the film industry later this year.

To learn more about Anne or to correspond with her, please see her website, her author page on Amazon, or on Goodreads and Twitter.


GrogWars 2Grog Wars: A young German brewer is forced into marriage and dispatched to America to grow the family business.

He endures a cross-Atlantic “coffin ship,” braves the savage-infested Oregon Trail & is threatened with Shanghai.

He becomes wealthy, but he would give it all for the love of his woman—while a lesser man would seek to take it all and be rid of the woman.

Available at Amazon and Tate Publishing.

BodieBodie: Lara and Lainy survived foster care and all its horrors, but the experience left them incomplete in that they had no knowledge of the people they came from.

Unknowingly, until now, each of them has had a reccurring dream for more years than they can remember. When the girls are regressed by a therapist anxious to publish their story, they learn shocking details about themselves; an unsolved murder in Bodie, California; and a massive cover-up.

Are the Bad Men From Bodie really dead? Join Lainy and Lara as they dig up shocking secrets. Based on a true story.

Available on Amazon.

Kulju-The Thing With Feathers-Final Cover.inddThe Thing with Feathers: When an itinerate Baptist preacher arrived in Cloverdale, Oregon with his baby daughter and a wife lost on the trail, there was no one prepared to suspect what lurid secrets and heartbreak he might be concealing.

As he sets his sights against those who might oppose him, the names and the lives of the good people of Cloverdale may not be spared.

Yet in the midst of the machinations of a mad man, virtue and valor can persist. Will the Marshall clan and the good people of Cloverdale find it in time?

Available on Amazon.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    Great article! I appreciate all of your advice. Those 3am moments of inspiration truly are gold sometimes! Well worth waking up for. And I agree, a horrible feeling of any kind can also produce writing gold. Depression works really well for my creativity! I have learned to be thankful for it.

    • Hi, Chere! I am so happy you liked the interview and found my replies to Colleen’s well-formed questions worthwhile. Sure it sounds weird, but I am (usually) grateful for my occasional bouts of depression, too. They may feel like black holes when you’re in one, but they are holes–the only holes, you can truly dig your way out of, and have some decent writing to show for it.

      Thank you for taking time to comment. God Bless you and keep you well!