Monday, February 4, 2013

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Author/blogger, Dana Sitar

Dana Sitar, Author

Author and blogger Dana Sitar joins us today to discuss her new book A WRITER’S BUCKET LIST—just released.  Reviewers tout her book as  “THE guide for people exploring the idea of being a writer or creator of any kind.”  Dana’s goal is to “movitvate writers.” She offers tips and resources to writers on DIY Writing.

Dana is one of the few authors who responds “yes” when I ask if she’s ever done standup comedy.

Q:  What made you decide to write A WRITER’S BUCKET LIST?

Dana Sitar: I started writing the list one day last Spring, just gathering ideas, because my wireless was down and I was bored. I eventually built the list up to about 107, but just let it sit on my computer for a few months, unsure whether to publish a list post at my blog, create a Tumblr of the list items, or just forget about it. Around early summer, I was antsy to write a new ebook for writers, bouncing a few ideas around, and I landed back on the list. I wasn’t interested in writing any of the how-to books that came to mind, but this one -- a bucket list, with simple, inspirational blurbs and spunky graphics -- was something I could wrap my mind around.

I wanted something to give my readers that was broader than the mini e-guides I’d created previously, which focused on specific tasks for the writer. I wanted to create something that enveloped the life of a writer, because I’ve dabbled in a lot of it in my short time writing professionally -- from creative writing, to journalism, to copywriting, to blogging. Focusing on one area -- say, “how to write a novel” -- wasn’t the right fit for me.

Q:  Why “bucket list”?

Dana Sitar: My goal is to motivate writers. I didn’t build my writing career based on advice from anyone. I was just writing, and I quit my other job one day and had to figure out how to replace my income with writing. I did that pretty much by checking items off a bucket list -- I dabbled in various industries and writing styles and cobbled together the career that fit me best.

A WRITER’S BUCKET LIST is a combination of things I’ve done on that path, as well as the things I’d still like to try. I love lists myself -- it’s how I organize everything in my life and career. They're easy to digest, simple to implement, and innately rewarding as you cross items off. That's exactly what I wanted to give other writers. For those who don’t know where to start -- as I didn’t -- here are some things you can try to inspire your writing and move your career in a unique direction.

Q:  How is your book different from “how to” writing books?

Dan Sitar: What a lot of people do with how-to books is buy them, read them front to back, put them down, and move on. They never take action. You can read that and feel somehow accomplished, because you’ve gained the knowledge -- but you haven’t actually taken any steps forward. You find some excuse for not getting started on Step 1, so you can never move onto the other steps.

A WRITER’S BUCKET LIST is a grab bag. You can close your eyes and point to any task and get started. Not completing one is no excuse for not trying another, so there’s no reason not to get started right now.

Additionally, in order to be thorough, many how-to books pigeonhole the reader. They offer only one right way to do something, so everyone who reads them ends up following the same beaten path.

A WRITER’S BUCKET LIST doesn’t explain how to complete the tasks included. It offers the tasks as a “Why not try this?” and explains the benefits. A writer has to find the motivation within herself to master the skills to complete each task. That’s why I call it a “launching point”. Take this book, choose a task, and set off on the path to achieving it, whatever that means for you.

Q: I know that your book offers 99 “things to do,” but, if you had to choose, what do you believe is the most important tip for potential or existing writers?

Dana Sitar: Always do something. Writing is such a vast art; if you’re driven to write, you can find a style to fit your passions. It just might not reveal itself right away. I hear too many artists say, “If I don’t find success in 5 years, I’ll know this isn’t the right choice, and I’ll quit.” But there’s always something new you can try. If you don’t sign a book deal within 5 years, try blogging or copywriting -- maybe that’s your style! Don’t ever quit, and don’t ever sit stagnant because success isn’t coming to you. Keep writing and searching.

Q: Why do you write? What would you do if you weren’t a writer?

Dana Sitar: I write, in general, because it’s what I’ve always been compelled to do, regardless of where my life has been focused. As most writers usually say, I’d be writing whether I was doing it professionally or not, even if that just meant keeping a journal. I write professionally because I hate working for other people’s goals and around other people’s schedules. I have a skill that’s in demand, and I can use it to shape a career wholly focused on what I want to achieve. I write what I write -- tips and inspiration for writers and dreamers -- because I’ve met so many people who don’t think they can do what I’ve done. A lot of creatives think they’re stuck in their day jobs until a miracle comes along, and I’m determined to tell every one of them they can follow their dreams.

I was studying Community and Non-profit Leadership at the University of Wisconsin before I moved to the West Coast to write full-time. I’m still passionate about service and enjoy organizational management, so I imagine I’d be in Wisconsin leading volunteers in a non-profit somewhere. Probably still questioning the authority of the org’s leaders and scheming up my own organization on the side ;)

Q: What’s your favorite genre? Why?

Dana Sitar: I’m trying not to be picky, because I have so much to learn in fiction! For a good chunk of my adult life, I read memoirs and non-fiction almost exclusively. I love reading memoirs (or autobiographical fiction) by writers who’ve gone before me, because their lives, experiences, and successes are inspirational.

Over the past year, I’ve fallen back in love with fiction (thanks to winning a Kindle and all the free fiction authors so generously share on Amazon!) I prefer (non-SFF) YA or NA, because 1) They’re short and simple. My blogger/journalist mind prefers a story that gets right to the point, and 2) Because authors are especially creative and experimental in these genres. KidLit, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, horror -- these all have formulas that make them work (and sell). Authors are smart to stick to the formula in those genres. But you can get a little weirder with YA/NA -- I don’t know why. A more knowledgeable mind can probably explain that. You can flip the traditional novel format on its head and take the reader on a unique ride. My favorite example is Amy Reed, an Oakland, CA author who writes YA with Simon & Schuster. Check out her novel CLEAN, which is like a collage of writing styles that carries you through a continuous story; or CRAZY, which is written entirely as emails and chats between two characters. I can’t see that sort of thing working the same way with traditional genres.

Q: What’s next? Another “Bucket List?” Or is there a novel in your future?

Dana Sitar: I’m overwhelmed with possibilities after connecting with bloggers, other writers, and readers in the build up to launching this book. There’s more I’d like to do with the Bucket List theme, and I’m going to let readers help drive the direction of the series. Maybe a College edition? A self-publishing edition? I’m in contact with a lot of readers now, and I’m going to work with them to see what they want/need.

I am committed to completing and publishing a novel or novella this year—it’s on my bucket list! Two projects are in the works, with clear outlines, timelines, and goals, so I will cross that one off before 2013 comes to an end!

Q:  Tell us something about yourself, e.g., do you do stand up comedy? What are some of your favorites – books, movies, plays etc.?  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a muse? What's your favorite charity?

Dana Sitar: I don’t do stand-up, but I have done it a few times. I’ve been covering comedy news and reviews for various publications for about two years, my boyfriend is a comedian, and I live and travel with him and a group of three other comics. I had to try it. I’m alright—okay, no, I’m not. But the experience was invaluable to my understanding of the subjects I write about.

I write (or market or pitch my writing) constantly. I stop to go to comedy shows at night or travel to a comedy show somewhere in the country. I’m poor and insist on living in big cities, so those free shows are my only entertainment and nightlife.

I tend to prefer service- and action-oriented organizations over charitable ones, and connect better with local than national or international organizations. Among my favorites is Harmony Cafe in Green Bay and Appleton, Wisconsin. While their scope is small—focused on those local communities—I  think the model is brilliant for non-profits. The service they provide is more accessible and their effect on the community more tangible than a lot of broader volunteer and charity organizations I’ve seen.

'A WRITER’S BUCKET LIST: 99 things to do for inspiration, education, and experience before your writing kicks the bucket ' is an inspirational and educational ebook for budding writers. The book is a launching point for all of the possibilities of being a writer, a kick-in-the-butt for those who don’t know what to do next, and a simple guide to help writers forge their own unique career/life paths.

Add  A WRITER’S BUCKET LIST to your bookshelves on Goodreads, watch the trailer at my YouTube channel, buy the book from my e-junkie store, and learn more at

About Dana Sitar

Dana Sitar is a freelance blogger and indie author of  A WRITER’S BUCKET LIST: 99 things to do for inspiration, education, and experience before your writing kicks the bucket.” She shares resources, tips, and tools for writers in search of a path at DIY Writing. Connect and say hello on Twitter @danasitar, and join the community of DIY Writers on Facebook.


Twitter: @danasitar

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