20 October 2012

Caffeine Wishes and Postgraduate Dreams: A Short Palaver with Carrie Bailey

Carrie Bailey has a coffee problem.  Well, really, it's not a problem as long as she gets access to it.  UNLIMITED access.  This is Carrie's goal. 

Of course, Carrie's looking to attain that goal by being a writer, which usually requires unlimited access to coffee in order to function properly.  Don't worry: I, too, went cross-eyed trying to iron out the paradox in my head.  I'll give you a few seconds to recover...

Good!  Well, once I got my higher functions back, I was able to rattle off a few half-way intelligent and relevant-sounding questions to Peevish Penman's founder and caffeine enthusiast.  What I found was someone who was driven, ambitious, and very realistic about her vocation.

I'll just let the notes speak for themselves:

PPM: You’re a career librarian. How did you come to realize that writing was a more desirable career track?

CB: Maybe not through the traditional paths. I never considered writing even as a hobby until I was already doing it. I always loved having a few drinks with real writers and scratching out painfully vapid poetry on bar napkins when I was in college. I didn’t start my own creative writing endeavors until I was in my thirties.

While I was working as a librarian, a talented,but shy friend of mine allowed me to read a novel she was writing. By the second page, I was gripped by the imagery of an apple and the sensuality of its juices dripping down her character’s arm. The first thought I had was, “Hey, this reads just like a real novel.”

So, I went online and pretended to be an aspiring writer to make contacts with people and demonstrate how easy it would be for her to self-promote her writing. It didn’t quite work out as I thought it would, but the end result has been better than I imagined. In fact, I ran across this quote recently:
“Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be". (Kurt Vonnegut)

I soon found myself blogging, participating in Nanowrimo and taking on freelance work until it seemed feasible that I could someday abandon a library for a career as an author.

PPM:  There is a certain romanticized element to this type of career that, at the same time, contributes to our passion and desire for it as writers.  To you, what are some of the most helpful bits of advice you would give to those contemplating a career in writing? 

CB: Hmmm… First, just write and don’t apologize for wanting to do it. Writing has its own rewards even if a steady income is not the first of them.

Next, there is no shortage of great writers online and in print. In fact, there is probably a writer sleeping under your front porch right now, seriously they’re everywhere. Your challenge isn’t to be the best. Your challenge is to stand out. You’ll benefit immensely if you understand that difference. 

Carrie Bailey in Santiago, Chile
Finally, filter the advice you take. Filter. Filter. Filter. Remember you are at point A in your career trying to get to point B. Most advice you will stumble across is from authors at point M trying to get to point SUN FLOWER or point 75.7. Unless the person is standing on the platform at point B wearing a point A t-shirt and shouting directions to you by name, they probably aren’t offering the advice you need.

PPM: Is writing your “one thing” in life?  Do you have a second-level passion?

CB: If I’m passionate about something, the first thing I think is, “I should write a book about that!”
I used to like traveling, but then I got stuck in New Zealand and haven’t left for a few years. I paint and dabble in graphic design and I studied philosophy in college, and though I don’t have a favorite or even a preferred set of writers, simplifying outlandish theories within fiction is my passion. I enjoy making the complex and unusual more accessible while highlighting the absurdity in the mundane.

My masters thesis has consumed a lot of my free time. It dry and about as fun to read as sandpaper is to lick. Yes, I realized you asked about something other than writing, but...

For Nanorimo, I'm working on the novel I started two years ago, The Guards of Auck, which is the story of a young adult in a dystopian future who reluctantly helps free a slave and is driven into hiding among the nomadic outlanders of his island. Of course, in this story coffee has been genetically modified to make people immortal, house pets are a bit oversized and the ruling civilization has undergone a major project to translate ancient texts from the modern era (which ended in a fizzle with a meteor, wars and disease) and they’re debating between redeveloping a steam engine or trying to control weather patterns through stuff like human sacrifice.

That said, my real passion is drinking coffee and when I have to stop and eat something, I find pineapples are good. I hope to write a pineapple cookbook someday.   

If I was to sum up my life right now, I'd have to say: I drink coffee so I can write more, so that I can afford the coffee to write even more stuff that’ll bring in more money for coffee.


  1. Congratulations! And don't worry about coffee-it loves you too.

  2. Ah, being a slave to one's passions is sooo much fun, is it not? Welcome to my world! :D I'm literally dreaming about writing again, so I can relate to the obsession. :) I'm glad you are doing well. I worry about you sometimes. Write me more often and I will promise to try to do the same. :)

    1. I look forward to falling asleep, because I tend to plan the next few scenes of my book in my head. And as I fall asleep, the dream machine takes over.

  3. Really, my favorite thing about you is your coffee love. I mean, you're talented and what have you. But coffee.

    1. Thanks. As my sister often points out coffee and I are one.

  4. I have a Keurig! And I use pumpkin spice flavored milk as creamer... I still cent have more than one cup, or you know...hostages, etc.

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