Spotlight: Holly Hughes -- Every Journey is Different



Once upon a time, Holly was a television and film producer who worked with tons of important people before they were so important. She is much happier being a writer. Her writing appears in,, Expressing Motherhood, and Glitterbomb. She's an active member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and is currently working on her debut novel, DEAR DEAD DRUNK GIRL. 

You write on your website about the long twists and turns to finding your agent. What advice would you give authors just starting this process?

I want to be clever and optimistic here, but the truth is, every journey is different. Don’t compare yourself to others. That’s a one-way ticket to feeling like crap, and feeling like crap sucks. 

Here’s my truth:

I wasn’t as good a writer as I wanted to be. I took classes where I could, at schools, with mentors, online, and at Free Expressions workshops. I worked really hard and slowly got better. More and more ideas flooded my mind, and I wrote most of them down.

Not everyone likes my stories or my writing. They probably won’t like everything you do, either. So what!

Tell the stories you want to write. Tell them the best way you know how, and then learn how to tell them better. Get your stories critiqued then submit. I’m a big fan of Twitter contests because of the friends I've made and the doors those contests opened.

When you get a rejection, it’s okay to feel sad, mad, pissed, upset, disappointed, foolish, confused, and whatever other emotion comes up for you, but don’t let temporary setbacks stop you.

1. Keep writing and write better.

2. Submit, submit, submit.

3. Repeat 1 & 2.


"Every journey is different. Don’t compare yourself to others. That’s a one-way ticket to feeling like crap, and feeling like crap sucks."


How important is your writing community to you? How did you find your community?

If I didn’t have my writing community it would be impossible for me to write. I met friends at workshops and writing classes. Others came into my life online and via Twitter. Some were made at conferences like SCBWI.

Some friendships last. Others become virtual support. A few fade completely. My community is my sanity and buoy.

It’s not humanly possible for my husband to offer the understanding and constant support I've needed over the years to continue. My community cheers me on and holds my hand. They’ve helped me through depression, illness, and rejection. They’ve cheered for each one of my publishing victories. They’re my critique partners and Beta readers. 

Friendship isn’t a one-way street, and I do all I can to support friends in all stages of writing and publishing.


"My community cheers me on and holds my hand."


What challenges or fears do you face in your writing routine and what steps have you taken--or do you take--to overcome them?

My writing routine is deadline driven. I know many, if not most, agents and editors will tell the unagented writer to enjoy life without deadlines. But not having a deadline is like hiking without a destination for me--annoying.

I set a goal and work toward it. Before I opened my healing practice (, I had my ass in my chair writing practically five days/week. Now with clients and freelance work, I’ve had to become more flexible about the hours I work, but I haven’t given up the deadlines.

One summer I calculated how many words I needed to write to have a first draft done and worked toward a daily and weekly word count. Other times, like now for instance, I have a deadline to get through editorial notes, two essays due, and twenty to forty pages for a workshop I still need to write. Not sure I’ll manage all of it, but I’m going to try.

There were periods when depression overcame me, and writing was impossible. Of course, I never realize I’m depressed at first, so I usually get annoyed at myself for my lack of creativity. During hard times, I slow way down. I don’t enjoy it, but it’s necessary.

During the creatively barren times I talk to my writer friends, read, watch movies, and look for something to inspire me.


If you could go back ten years and give your future writing-self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Talk to Lorin the first time Tracey Adams suggests it!


"Be kind to yourself if family or paid work take time away from your writing. Life happens. Just promise to never give up and never stop trying to be better."


What advice do you have for writers who are juggling work, their personal lives, and writing?

Advice? Don’t beat yourself up if your writing journey isn’t going the way you want it to. And be kind to yourself if family or paid work take time away from your writing. Life happens. Just promise to never give up and never stop trying to be better.


What outside hobbies or interests feed your writing?

If I only fed my writing I’d still be hungry. It’s important to feed my whole artistic self. For me, that includes being around creative, smart people. I love being around those who challenge my ideas, listening to conversations, and learning.

It’s nearly impossible for me to be creative without also being physical. If I’m not dancing and doing yoga a few times a week I don’t feel right in my body, and neither does my brain.

When I feel a lack of creativity, looking at art and listening to music often inspire me. And writing workshops are the best way to ignite a creative fire.



What are you currently reading? 
There are four books on my night stand: THE HATE YOU GIVE by Angie Thomas, GOOD BEHAVIOR by Blake Crouch, REFUGEE by Alan Gratz, and THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF CAVALIER CLAY by Michael Chabon.

If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be? 
That’s an impossible question for me. I love historical fiction, but don’t think I’d like to live in a world without good hygiene or clean water. I love the thought of seeing angels and other creatures, but I couldn’t limit myself to one book of creatures so I’ll stick to the worlds I create. :)

Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence? 
I write to music, but it has to be music only. No lyrics. I have a tendency to hum as I type, and if I hear lyrics it takes my creative voices away and fills my mind with other people’s stories. The music I listen to changes with each story I write, they all deserve their own soundtrack.

Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing? 
Ahhh, a cup of coffee in the morning for sure. Green tea in the afternoons after I’m done writing to help quiet my mind and shift back into parenting. Booze, not so much. The first cup of coffee is the most important beverage for me of the day.


You can find out more about Holly at her website, Her blog has a page with a list of all her writing credits and links to them all. She's also on twitter as hgirlla

Spotlight: Susan Clayton Goldner -- Write the Very Best Novel You Can Write


Susan Clayton-Goldner is a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest.

Susan won the National Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

REDEMPTION LAKE, released earlier this year, is the first book in a series of three books using the same detective. The second book, WHEN TIME IS A RIVER, was just released this month. She's working on the third book, RIVER OF SILENCE, and hopes to have it to the publisher in October. 

When she isn’t writing, Susan spends her time making stained-glass windows and quilts. She says those two activities are similar to writing—telling stories through glass and fabric.


"Be tenacious. Write the very best novel you can write, get it edited and critiqued by other writers before you attempt to publish or do an agent search."


What is one of the most surprising things you've learned about yourself or your writing?

I’ve learned that I must be obsessed with the reinvention of self, of finding a way back to something lost, and the process of forgiveness and redemption. These are the recurrent themes in my work.

Aside from the release of REDEMPTION LAKE, what do you consider your biggest writing success right now, at this very moment? 

I'm trying to write faster now that I have a publisher for my work. I set a goal of at least two-thousand words per day. 
I've discovered if I take a few moments to think about the scene I'm going to write, jot down the scene goal and how it moves the story forward as well as the characters involved and what they want, that everything comes together. If I make their “wants” opposing, then conflict becomes the natural outcome.

What challenges or fears do you face with writing and what steps have you taken--or do you take--to overcome them? 

I’m retired and so I have time to write, but often the business of life gets in the way. Giving myself the 2,000 a day word goal has helped tremendously. 

If you could go back ten, twenty, thirty years and give your future writing-self one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Be tenacious. Write the very best novel you can write, get it edited and critiqued by other writers before you attempt to publish or do an agent search.

What were the highlights of your editorial work with Free Expressions or attendance at a workshop? How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory?

I attended two BONI workshops at Hood River and hope to attend more. They were fabulous and changed the way I approached my stories in so many ways.

I worked on A BEND IN THE WILLOW and REDEMPTION LAKE with Don and his staff and I sincerely believe they are published today because of the many things I learned at the BONI. It’s expensive, but well worth the money.


"Writing involves rejection. It is inevitable. And the only way to deal with it, is to rewrite and try again."


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that's helped you as a writer?

It wasn’t really a piece of advice so much as it was his example.

A grenade blew up in my father’s hand during the war. It left him without most of his right hand and with a very crippled leg that required him to wear a brace from ankle to high thigh. He was a carpenter and I watched him struggle to get work, being rejected again and again. But eventually he overcame his many obstacles and became a pretty damn good one-handed carpenter.

If he could succeed by not giving up, I could do the same. Writing involves rejection. It is inevitable. And the only way to deal with it, is to rewrite and try again.

What outside hobbies or interests feed your writing?

I make stained glass windows and quilts. In many ways they are similar to writing in that they tell stories through fabric and glass.


What are you currently reading? 
I'm currently reading Kristin Hannah's THE NIGHTINGALE

If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be? 
The world of Atticus Finch in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence? 
I prefer to write in silence

Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing? 
I often get so engaged in the process of writing that I forget to eat.

You can find out more about Susan at her website, and her Facebook page. Her books are available from Amazon

Twenty-Two Years (and One Month)!

In this edition

  • Resources for Writers
  • Twenty-Two Years (and One Month)!
  • Veronica's Words of Wisdom
  • Free Expressions Baby Pictures 



Do you know that Free Expressions can help you on every step of your writing journey? From concept to story development to deep editing, workshops, and more, we're here to help you succeed.

One-on-One Story Mastermind Sessions
Editorial Services

Breakout Novel Intensive - Tampa FL, Hood River OR
Emotional Craft of Fiction - Seattle WA, Irvine CA, Jersey City NY


TWENTY-TWO YEARS (and One Month)!

Last month, Free Expressions celebrated its twenty-second year in existence. Which seems incredible to me, particularly since *I* have not aged at all in that time. 

Publishing sure has, though. Or rather, it’s evolved. Twenty-two years ago, only a handful of legitimate independent editors plied their trade; very few people self-published—and only through “vanity presses;” young adult fiction barely existed; and writers generally connected through small local writing groups and the pages of Writer’s Digest magazine.

In that time, I’ve been witness to many waves of industry panic -> recovery -> growth as conglomerates bought out and consolidated publishing houses, imprints expanded and contracted, and, of course, eBooks made their appearance. Every time, the pot-stirrers rang alarm bells and brought out the big shovels to bury books as an art form, to lament publishing’s inevitable slide into the abyss.

Me? I just kept plugging away.

I practiced my own writing craft in a variety of genres (and have been lucky to get paid for it), and I helped my clients and students most by focusing on the work. Not industry gyrations. Not predictions of success or failure or the next big thing. But on helping writers create great big beautiful books. 

I’ve grown the company by working with people who share my values and who operate from a place of generosity, skill, adaptability, and optimism. I am so lucky to have such wonderful partners in the journey. We treat our clients the way we wish to be treated as writers. We put on the workshops we’d want to attend. And we try to stay nimble enough to keep creating new offerings, to tune in to what the writing community most needs to help them succeed. 

Twenty-two years later, we’ve seen hundreds of clients and students reach--and exceed--their publishing goals. We’ve helped people to bestselling success in both independent and traditional publishing. We’ve been privy to a galaxy of starred reviews. And it’s been an absolute honor—and super humbling privilege—all the way through.

Of course, there are bumps in the road. And of course, the path of authorship is not for the faint of heart. It can be grueling and heartbreaking and tedious--and also transcendent and beautiful and rewarding. It can load you up with riches and then pull the rug out from under you. It’s not easy. It’s not guaranteed. But that one-on-one connection between an author and a reader just can’t be beat in my mind. Books are life-savers. Our brainwaves and heartbeats operate on the frequency of story.     

So, here we are, twenty-two years later. Publishing is still a multi-billion-dollar industry. Books still break out and become runaway bestsellers. People love their print books and their e-readers. Storytelling is valued more than ever. 

My first writing mentor, Gary Provost, used to say, “It might as well be you.” Meaning that no matter what industry upheavals occur, no matter what platforms become most popular, no matter how many slots remain on the lists of editors, someone’s book will be published to huge success. So why not yours? 

That has been our guiding principle for more than two decades. And for us, it works. We can’t thank you enough for allowing us to do what we do. We look forward to your success, to nurturing your dreams, and to celebrating the magic of story with you for years to come. 

- Lorin 



(From Lorin: Thanks to the amazing Veronica Rossi for allowing us to share this excellent series of tweets. Such important points, beautifully expressed.)

Things I tell myself over and over and over...

  1. I will write the best book *I* possibly can.
  2. I will take the time I need to do it right.
  3. I will not compare my work/career to anyone else's.
  4. I will always strive to be better.
  5. I will not beat myself up over my mistakes/shortcomings.
  6. I will trust my instincts.
  7. I will not seek approval through my art.
  8. I will be as honest as I can be in my work.
  9. I will never take for granted how lucky I am to 1) have a passion, and 2) be able to call it work.
  10. And I will never quit. The Journey is the Point.



Over the years, Free Expressions has grown and changed a lot. From an infant website and a smattering of offerings in the late 1990's to the robust website with the workshops and services we offer today. Enjoy the journey!