Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan is a writing mom on the run. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA where things come in threes, like rivers, kids and sports like triathlons. She writes fiction and non-fiction for adults but her favorite readers are children. Her stories and articles have appeared in Highlights for Children, AppleSeeds, Odyssey and Faces. She is the 2016-2017 Fellow for Pen Parentis and a 2015 “Promising Writer” in the Western PA SCBWI chapter. Her self-published books, My Food Notebook & The Bumpy, Grumpy Road, are available on Amazon. She is actively submitting her first middle grade novel to agents and working on her second. When she’s not training for triathlons or testing her fears, she hosts school and community workshops. Chat about writing with her on Twitter @OneSweetWriter, Facebook or her blog Just Desserts. Keep up with her training on Instagram or her family adventures on her blog Try It and You May.
Read her entry Sargassum and then come back here to learn more about how Elizabeth juggles writing with athletic training, motherhood, travel, and much more.
WOW: Elizabeth, welcome! I loved reading your story with its beautiful imagery and can't wait to learn more about you and where your ideas come from. Could you tell us the story behind the first piece of writing you ever had published as an adult?
Elizabeth: My first non-fiction published piece as an adult was an essay for FamilyFun magazine about my secret tips for managing a grumpy kid. My tip centered around – of course- telling my son a story about him being in the driver’s seat of his actions and feelings. After the essay, I self-published this story as a children’s book. My first fiction piece of published writing as an adult was a sci-fi retelling of Jane Eyre called “Jane D.O.E.” where Jane is actually a robotic governess with a fatal flaw.
WOW: In your bio you mention that you train for triathlons. I know how time-consuming a training schedule can be when added to everything else going on in an athlete's life. Do you have any tips on how your juggle it all–the training, the writing, your kids' and family activities, etc.?
Elizabeth: Multi-tasking is the key to juggling it all. I do a lot of pre-writing in my head during workouts. I’ll plan out scenes, write dialogue, sketch outlines and setting. I’m also incredibly lucky that my kids love to read, because I use them as free labor during revision! My oldest prefers to check punctuation and grammar while my youngest checks for plot holes and emotional engagement. He tells me a story is good when he forgets he’s reading. The youngest is my go-to audience when I want to inject some laughter.
WOW: I love that you kids help your stories. I use mine as beta readers but you've given me some ideas here. You also speak of “testing your fears.” We'd love to hear more about that if you're willing to share!
Elizabeth: This is inspired by my middle grade novel “Dare Club,” a story about three middle schoolers who learn what it means to be brave. Being brave doesn’t mean not being scared, it means doing things even when you’re scared. That could be sending your novel to an agent and risking rejection. It could mean doing an open water swim when you can’t stop picturing the lake monster coming to get you. It could mean trying a new restaurant where their arancini appetizer is served with a cricket and mealworm crust. I learn so much about myself when I’m doing something that scares me or worries me or freaks me out. I learn how to talk myself through tough situations, how to find humor when I’m most worried, and I learn how tough I am. This isn’t just for me, I also hope my kids realize they can do the things they dream of, even if they are scared.
WOW: You travel extensively with your family and have been to 31 out of the 50 states. What are five states you think every family should visit at least once and why?
Elizabeth: Maryland, my home state for the history and the seafood. Washington DC isn’t a state, but I feel it’s a must-visit again because of history and the present. Hawaii, for the beauty and multiculturalism. New York for sheer variety of experience from upstate to Manhattan. And I’ll never forget seeing the rough beauty of Idaho for the first time. It’s worth the effort.
WOW: Also, more congratulations is in order! You received the 2016-2017 Fellow for Pen Parentis with the story “Cernunnos and Me.” What is the piece about?
Elizabeth: Thank you. I was so honored to be named Fellow by Pen Parentis. “Cernunnos and Me” is a short piece of fiction about a young man who learns to live with his new roommate, the prehistoric deity Cernunnos, also known as the Horned God.
WOW: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We can't wait to see where your writing takes you.
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