Ghosts In the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Andi Newton



Andi is a writer of spooky and unnatural things. She enjoys many things including geocaching and fountain pens. She can be found at and on Twitter as @AndiMN


Minerva Zimmerman: I’ve been looking forward to talking to you because you’re also a fountain pen person!

Andi Newton: Same here! I love meeting new pen peeps!

MZ: And you’re a different kind of fountain pen person than me, so I get to pick your brain about stuff I don’t know hardly anything about.

AN: Different in what way?

MZ: you go to pen shows and get classic pens, which I don’t know hardly anything about

AN: Ah! If you ever get to go to a pen show, you should. It’s great fun, you get to see some really cool pens, and you get to chat with lots of people who really get how much we all love pens.

MZ: It sounds awesome. I just never seem to be anywhere near one

AN: Yeah, I’m lucky that we have one a couple of hours from me in Raleigh each year. And one of these days I’m going to make it to the DC show, which I hear is fantastic.

MZ: I keep looking at antique stores, but they don’t seem to turn up much around here.

AN: I know the feeling. My husband and I used to hit the antique stores a lot looking for pens, but we rarely find any in this area. BTW, I’ve really been enjoying your blog posts about your fountain pens.

MZ: I don’t even know what to look for in classic pens. Thank you, I’m enjoying sharing a writer perspective on using the easily available pens.

AN: It depends on why you’re getting them and what you like. If you’re getting them to collect, you’ll look for a specific type or brand that you like. If you’re getting them to use, you’ll eventually settle on a nib/body/filling system that you like. A good classic pen to try is an Esterbrook. Real workhorses, and not too expensive. You can find them for $15-20 on ebay. If you need to restore it, that’s really easy with an Estie and only takes a little time and about $4 in supplies.

MZ: Cool. I’ll have to look for one. That sounds like a fun project

AN: One of the really cool things about Esties is that the nibs are interchangeable. The Esterbrook company made about 34 different nibs for their pens. To change nibs, you just unscrew the one in the pen and screw in the new one. Fine, medium, even flex! Pretty cool!

MZ: Do you handwrite your first drafts of stories? That’s normally when I use my pens.

AN: Yes, I do. That’s why I started using fountain pens. I was going through a pen or two a week, and I felt bad about tossing so much plastic into landfills. I needed something refillable, so fountain pens it was!

MZ: I like using non-standard ink colors

AN: I’m weird that way. I can only write fiction in black ink. Anything else distracts me. But I love different colors for writing lists or notes or letters. And of course I mark my edits in red ink.

MZ: I use black and blue ink at work a lot, so I like using colors to delineate fiction writing as a different beast

AN: That makes sense.

MZ: I even tend to write different POV in different colors in the same story

AN: BTW, if I’ve never said it before, it is ultra cool that you work in a museum. I’m jealous!

MZ: It has its moments. There’s a lot of unglamorous paperwork I don’t talk much about. 🙂

AN: Like any job.

MZ: Just my inbox is weirder

AN: One person’s weird is another person’s interesting.  Bear in mind that my husband has a bachelor’s in archaeology and a master’s in history. We’re big museum people.

MZ: I bet you visit all the museums when you go on vacation. I know I do.

AN: We make a list of the ones in the area before we hit the road, and try to schedule our days so we can get to all of them.

MZ: Mondays are bad for most museums. I’m almost always trying to visit a closed museum on a Monday, it’s cosmic irony.

AN: Yeah, I’ve noticed that. Why are most museums closed on Mondays?

MZ: I dunno. I think they have to be closed one day a week and Monday got nominated?

AN: Could be. Especially since they have to be open on the weekend.

MZ: Also lots of museums have relatively small staffs.

AN: True. There’s a historical building in my town, and I think most of their staff is volunteers. So their hours sometimes get reduced when they don’t have many volunteers.

MZ: Our weekday front desk staff is 100% volunteer in fact we only have 1 full-time employee. The rest of us are part-time including the director

AN: Wow. I’m officially adding museums to my list of things that should get far more funding — along with schools and libraries.

MZ: absolutely, but museums have found lots of creative ways to keep going with less. It helps that people feel very strongly about history. I suppose we should talk a little about writing too 🙂

AN: Sure!

MZ: Are you working on anything right now?

AN: I am. A novel. Which is tough for me because I’m primarily a short fiction writer.

MZ: I’ve been focusing on short fiction lately but think of myself as a longer fiction writer.

AN: Do you find it tough to write short fiction?

MZ: I do because I am a very dialog-heavy writer and that takes space to do a lot of character and world building, which you don’t always get in short fiction.

AN: I know exactly what you mean — because I’m having the opposite problem. I’m so used to writing tight, keeping everything lean because you have such limited word count in short fiction, that expanding it out to novel length without everything falling apart or becoming a contrived, convoluted mess is… UGH!

MZ: I tend to outline longer projects at the half-way or 2/3rds point so I can see where all the dangling threads that need to be fleshed out or built on I don’t like outlining before I write though

AN: I’m definitely a plotter. I like to start with a basic summary, then do a rough outline, and then a step outline. Then write the story. Kind of like building it up into more detail little by little.

In fact, the novel I’m working on right now was originally a short story, so I guess that could be part of the planning stage, too.

MZ: Oooo. Did the story just get away and become bigger?

AN: No,some of my beta readers weren’t really sure what was going on in the story. In trying to figure out how to fix that, I realized that there was a lot more that I wanted to show in that world. And it worked really well as the opening for another story idea I’d been toying with. Plus, NaNoWriMo was coming up, so… For all the headaches this book is giving me, it’s a really fun world to play in. Carnivals, magic, a boy who helps the dead, a little girl who’s a prison. And a female sheriff who isn’t who she thinks she is.

MZ: I’m intrigued.

AN: (And, yes, that’s a little girl who IS a prison, not in a prison. Her name is Oubliette.)

MZ: I’m VERY intrigued.

AN: Cool! Now if I could just get the darn thing to behave itself so I could get it written! LOL

MZ: Wiley stories.

AN: It’s like they don’t even care that we’re supposed to be in charge.

MZ:*shakes tiny impotent fist*

AN:*threatens manuscript with red pen*