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Day 16 Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway: Heather Sharfeddin

I interviewed Heather for a feature profile in The Oregonian after she wrote her first novel Blackbelly. Today, she has four novels published and has recently earned an MFA in fiction, which she pursued after she was already published. You gotta love that willingness to learn, and you gotta love Heather Sharfeddin. Please help me welcome her.

Heather Sharfeddin (Sharf-a-deen) started her career as a storyteller in the first grade, though her teacher preferred the term “liar.” Confused, she went on to become an auctioneer’s assistant, carhop, billing clerk, motel maid, technical writer, knowledge management director, web usability analyst, and finally, novelist. So, you can get paid to make things up!

Author of four novels, each set in the Northwest, her work has earned starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, and has been honored at the New York and San Francisco Book Festivals. Her first novel, Blackbelly, was named one of the top five novels of 2005 by the Portsmouth Herald.

Sharfeddin lives in McMinnville, Oregon, nestled midway between Portland and the Pacific coast in Oregon’s wine country. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

In Damaged Goods, Sharfeddin introduces us to Hershel Swift, a successful auctioneer living amidst the forests and hazelnut farms of small-town Oregon. A car accident leaves him a broken man—confused, angry, and unable to do the one thing he’s always been expert at—looking at anything and instantly determining its value.

His past is suddenly blank to him, and the only evidence he has of the man he once was is in the accusing eyes of the people he’s hurt. This is when Silvie comes into his life, fleeing from a man who made her ashamed of her own past and desperate to escape it. She seeks Hershel out as shelter in a storm, and Hershel finds in Silvie a shot at redemption. He can’t remember who he was, but she can help guide him to what he can become.

• • •

Let’s talk about a willingness to learn. What areas of your writing career could use improvement? Consider craft, selling your work, zooming in on a specialty, self-promotion or any part of your writing career that you feel could serve you better if you kept working at it and tell us how you plan to grow.

Answer in the comments in 50-200 words (no less and no more to qualify to win one of today’s books). Please read the complete rules at least once!

Thanks for participating in the Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway! Please bring some friends back with you next time. :)

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  • Suzanne Kamata May 16, 2011, 8:48 am

    Where do I start?! I feel that I have SO MUCH to learn. I would like to become better at plotting, better at creating *sympathetic* characters, better at novel-writing in general. I exchange work with other writers, and in the near future I hope to attend a writing workshop or to work with a mentor. 

  • Mindi Anderson May 16, 2011, 2:13 pm

    Areas of mine that could use improvement would include sharpening my fiction writing, learning to craft a novel from zilch, and discovering the ins-and-outs of the industry.  After reading your book, Christina, I did learn how to zoom in on my specialty.   Time management is another issue with which I am currently struggling – too many loves and too little time.

  • Renee May 16, 2011, 2:14 pm


    There are so many areas of my writing life that could
    use improvement! For starters, I need to learn to be more patient with the
    revision process. I have my first novel completed and had 100 pages of it
    edited professionally more than six months ago. Have I made the revisions yet?
    No! I’m not sure why. I guess I’m just flighty. I have another novel idea and
    want to get started on it too, but I know I need to go back and work on fixing
    and selling the first book. I guess you could say my attitude needs improvement
    more than anything!

  • Brit St.Clair May 16, 2011, 4:12 pm

     My writing always pulls me into new areas of learning. Lately I’ve been focusing on publishing freelance articles and publishing in general. Eventually, I’m planning to seek an MFA to further explore my craft. At some point, I plan to learn more about finishing book-length projects…hopefully by finishing a book-length project :).

  • Malia Jacobson May 16, 2011, 4:39 pm

    I would love to learn more about fiction writing–pacing,
    plot, character development, the whole nine yards. I loved writing short
    stories when I was young and it still intrigues me. For now, I’m focused on
    non-fiction, but my hope is that “someday” when the kids are in
    school, I’ll have time to explore other forms.

  • Tania Dakka May 16, 2011, 4:44 pm


    Where can I improve? 
    EVERYWHERE.  Just in the embryonic
    stages of my writing development, there is lots of room to grow my fiction.  At this point in my wip, my inability to use
    telling details well is killing me.  I
    have the story in my head, but transposing it to paper is proving more
    difficult that I had imagined.  Secondly,
    the query has reached big, green monster status and I have no idea how I am
    going to beat him when we face off.  I
    have been searching for affordable (read: free) education to no avail…thus, I
    am trying to educate myself as best I can.  

  • Diane J. May 16, 2011, 4:52 pm

    Oh my,  you cap this at 200 words, right? First, I love to learn and will use the learning to hide from the writing. Yes, I’ve grown and can share my writing, but it still scares the bejeebus out of me when I hit send. So, if I can spend a month on researching a topic to death, I’m happy.

    I want to learn to push past that wall of fear and just send an article without researching and revising it to death. 

    I have been working on passive voice. That has been an issue in my writing and I believe I’m finally making progress, YAY!

    I do anything I can for learning: Books, workshops, author talks, anything I can locate.

  • Ann Goldberg May 16, 2011, 4:55 pm

    I want to start  writing fiction which is completely new to me and so I’m going to have to start learning from scratch. But I’m fine with that as I try and  participate in at least one  new workshop or course every year  to help learn new skills and hone old ones.
    I also could do with some help marketing my current  work.

  • Heather Sharfeddin May 16, 2011, 6:53 pm

    Hi Everyone,

    The learning process never stops, but that’s what I love about writing; it’s like conducting a symphony. I focus on character development, then realize I need finer prose to fully illustrate those characters, then realize I need to build better subplots, then… yeah. It never stops. We will never be perfect, and if we were we’d lose interest. It’s a worthy endeavor. Keep at it.


  • Sybilla May 16, 2011, 7:16 pm

    Self Promotion! I grew up with the idea that self-effacement was my proper role. It used to work–I am a published writer with many good credits–but today’s world is a “Show Me” and much more demanding. I am happhiding behins my writing, but it is very hard  to be verbal: to ask for help or make phone calls to  complete strangers. I have 3 important phone calls I have been putting off for months: my goal is to make one each day this week. Not much, but  it will be a start to going thru the doors that have been opened for me. Sybilla Cook

  • Sara May 16, 2011, 9:01 pm

     I feel like I have everything to learn!  I’m trying to start my first novel, but I’m really taking time to understand the process and story structure.  I’m currently reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks which is great.  I have a habit of getting over excited and jumping into things, so right now I’m really trying to learn all I can and get my creative bearings.  

  • Laura Ackerman May 16, 2011, 9:25 pm

    As I am new to the world of freelance writing, I have a lot to learn.  I learn by research, by doing, and unfortunately – a lot by my mistakes.  I have learned a lot from my friend and fellow writer, Melissa, and from the stack of books on writing I have borrowed from the library or purchased.  Writer Mama is one of those book.  Thanks Christina.   Hopefully the learning curve will become less steep and I can minimize my mistakes from all the great advise and tips I am gleaning from other writers.  I am first trying to find my specialty and gain a knowledge of writer terminology.  Then I will work on self promotion.

  • Heather Spiva May 16, 2011, 9:30 pm

    Sheesh, just making myself get past the writer’s block, or more like daily road block, is something I have to get past. Perhaps it’s my busy life, kids, marriage, home, work, that makes it so much harder to focus on my imaginary world.
    However, I do know that just making myself sit down and write ANYTHING, gets me out of my slump… kind of like writing right here! I just want to learn that I am responsible for my own success. Thanks!

  • Heather May 17, 2011, 12:49 am

    As others have said before there are many areas that I could improve my writing.  I  have recently become interested in writing poetry and would like to search out some classes to extend my knowledge of poetry and the imaging that catches peoples imagination.

  • Michele Thornton May 17, 2011, 1:58 am

     At this particular moment, the area that needs improvement is really simple, and yet alludes me. Time. Basic, butt-in-chair time churning away at the work, the middle-middle of a novel that I love, but is not getting nurtured. What fixes this? Self discipline, passion and drive. I’m not sure why these basic elements are eluding me. My puritan work ethic is not engaged! And only I can make it happen. 

  • patricia May 17, 2011, 2:52 am

    SELLING, Selling, Selling… to get motivated, I hate the business end of things.  If I could profit share and have someone market, oh the life I could lead.  Getting started is the first step always , right, so one foot in front off the other and we are off to a running start.  I keep telliling my self that ONE day I will find the time to get it all together, and then there is that other thing that keeps me from starting.  Working away from home for months, not taking the time to go through files and organize when I am home, Things just always get in the way and get complicated and time marches on.  I guess I should take a lesson there.

  • Angie A May 17, 2011, 3:33 am

    I would like to work on writing fiction, but where I need real work is on selling my work and structuring an organized effort to get my work to a variety of publications or other outlets. I always say I don’t have time, but it’s more about not making it enough of a priority. 

  • Mar Junge May 17, 2011, 3:47 am

    The more I learn about the craft of writing fiction, the more I realize there is to learn. Plot. Character development. Story arcs. Dialogue. When time permits, I take fiction writing classes through the local community college. Attend weekend publishing seminars. Read how-to books. Visit the blogs of my favorite writer. And work on my novel, although I haven’t looked at it in six months. I could complain there’s no time – I’m too busy writing marketing stuff and web content and managing other writers to write fiction. Besides, fiction won’t pay the bills – at least not at first. That said, if I want to write fiction, I have to MAKE time. Have a realistic goal. Break down the steps to reach that goal into doable chunks. In 2011, for the third year in a row, I’ll try to finish NaNoWriMo. Maybe this will finally be the year.

  • KindredHeartWriters May 17, 2011, 4:34 am

     I am working on Platform right now and to me it has been the most difficult part of the business. I am willing to learn and have learned so much in the past few years; however, it is an ever changing market and thus platform must change.  I am hoping to improve in this are in the coming year. I have been using your suggestions and some of your methods. thanks clella

  • Rebecca Cherba May 17, 2011, 6:44 am

    Right now, I’m focusing on improving my craft in fiction writing. I’ve spent years working on characterizations and descriptions, and am only now learning the ins and outs of tightly structuring a story arc (especially one with multiple layers of subplot). It’s actually been exhilarating to engross myself in a wholly new area of craft, despite how frequently I’m frustrated and overwhelmed by structure. What’s really fascinating to me is the realization that my weaknesses in novel structure actually carry throughout other areas of my life that involve the implementation of a structure (like exercising regularly, creating menus for the week and sticking with them, that sort of thing). By working to improve the way I handle structure in my current WIP, it’s also helping me try and tackle other areas of my life that lack the structure I need.