My special guests today are a co-author team. I met Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz and Christine Petersen Streed at a Library Author Faire this past October.
Co-authorship is rare. I’m impressed they’ve remained friends and continue to co-author novels. I asked them to come and share how they do it.
First off, tell us how you met?
The answer to this question spans distance and time because before we knew each other, we were both members of the same writing organization—SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), but Chris lived in Illinois and Patty in New Jersey. When Patty moved to Illinois in 2006, she joined the SCBWI critique group that Chris had been attending.
So what made you decide to co-author?
In 2009 we branched off on our own and began sharing and critiquing our individual writing projects. Realizing that our writing styles dovetailed nicely, we began writing together, eventually shifting from children’s literature to literary fiction. Writing vignettes is one of Patty’s strengths while Chris has a gift for big picture ideas that tie the story together. Crafting stories as a team keeps us motivated and allows us to play off of each other’s strengths.
We find inspiration in life’s milestones, drawing from those experiences to develop our stories. Our first novel, Relative Disenchantment, took seven years to complete as we worked around life events—children’s weddings, the births of grandchildren, the care of, and then, loss of parents. However, all the while our need to meet regularly and create characters on paper remained strong.
What kind of personality do you feel is needed to team write?
For us, as introspective observers who like to play with the written word, our similar personalities and interests mesh together nicely. We strive to be open minded and respectful of each other’s contributions. We often use a “Yes and…” approach—a technique often used in improvisation—in that our storylines build on each other’s ideas. Neither of us feels individual ownership of our writing but see it as a collaborative and combined effort. Additionally, we are faithfully committed to our weekly writing time.
While not necessarily a personality trait, we made a conscience decision to flip our names on every other book, thus giving neither of us continual top billing. Relative Disenchantment is by Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz and Christine Petersen Streed; while the authors of Things I Don’t Talk About are Christine Petersen Streed and Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz.
Talk us through the day to day of co-authoring long distance.
Our collaboration recently took on an interesting dimension—writing together, but apart. Our first novel, Relative Disenchantment, was written while drinking tea in person at one or the other’s kitchen table. Early in the process of writing our second novel, Things I Don’t Talk About, Patty and her husband relocated to the Boston area. However, even with the new distance between us, we didn’t miss a beat. We jumped online and now hold our writing sessions via video conference calls.
As we write our novels, our process starts with discussing ideas and scenarios together online. Next, each of us writes short pieces based on our brainstorming. Sometimes these little essays make their way into our final manuscript but only after we spend time together reading through and reworking them.
Share the pros and cons of the working as a team
- We have a built-in support system since we share an interest in our combined work.
- Our weekly time together motivates us to keep our writing on track.
- Technology makes it really easy to interact across long distances.
- On the other hand, with technology, connectivity isn’t always reliable.
- We have to remember our time difference (Eastern time vs. Central time).
- We miss sharing a pot of tea.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?
Chris: I would tell my young self to be patient and remember that writing is about the long game. It takes time to develop good ideas, time to write, time to edit and rewrite, and time to get the word out about your writing through marketing. Pick good company for the journey of being a writer, and enjoy the ride!
Patty: Take more writing classes. Don’t be afraid to share what you write. Writing is a process, and as good as you think your first draft is, it can always be better, so share, edit, take critique as guidance, and keep writing, always.
Do you have any individual WIP that you hope to get published or are you two only working as a team?
Our collaborative work takes precedence right now. While we each have individual work, it is “in the drawer” because our combined approach to writing is so fulfilling to both of us.
Tell us about your books and your upcoming projects.
Joanna—the main character in Relative Disenchantment, our first novel (2017)—finds herself amid family turmoil and feels on edge. When her mother suddenly decides that beloved Grandma Ruth must move into a nursing home, Joanna leaves college under the guise of caring for her injured grandmother. Barely able to manage her own life, Joanna tries to intervene on Grandma Ruth’s behalf. Relative Disenchantment is a tale about growing up and seeing life and family in a new, and not always expected, light.
In September 2018, we self-published our second novel, Things I Don’t Talk About. It is the story of, Fern who’s not much of a talker, and Anita who can’t stop talking. The two friends have an unlikely bond that has sustained them through many life events. But when Fern begins to have medical concerns, and Anita considers moving far away, their relationship faces new challenges. In a quest for one last grab at independence, they set out on a road trip that will test their patience, their morals, and their friendship. Things I Don’t Talk About is a story about making difficult decisions amidst life changes.
Currently, we are collaborating on our third book. We can’t wait to see where our writing adventures take us this time.
Both of our books Relative Disenchantment and Things I Don’t Talk About are available on Amazon. Click on the links below to order.
Novels by Wojtowicz and Streed:
About these co-authors:
Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz is a retired college professor currently working as a stained glass artist in the Boston area. Patricia’s past experiences with her remarkable grandmothers and her current relationships with her amazing grandsons influence her as a writer.
Christine Petersen Streed is twice retired—first as a physical therapist and then as a communications director. She started writing while working in her professions and has been published in national trade journals and in local magazines.
Wojtowicz and Streed have been writing together since 2009. While both living in Illinois, they coauthored their first novel, Relative Disenchantment. Their collaboration took on an interesting dimension in 2017—writing together, but apart. Christine still lives in the Chicago area, but Patricia now resides in Boston. Despite the distance, they co-wrote their second novel, Things I Don’t Talk About, via video conference calls. Both authors find inspiration in the milestones of life, drawing from those experiences to develop their novels.
Visit them on social media:
Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz
Facebook: Relative Disenchantment
Amazon author page: Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz
Goodreads author pages: Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz
Christine Petersen Streed
Facebook: Relative Disenchantment
Amazon author page: Christine Petersen Streed
Goodreads author page: Christine Petersen Streed
If you have a question for these two lovely ladies about co-authoring that I didn’t ask post it in the comments. They’ll get back with an answer.
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