The Real Story -
Cinda Williams Chima in her Own Words
I come from a long line of fortune-tellers, barn dancers, musicians,
tavern brawlers, and spinners of tales.
HOW I STARTED WRITING: When I was little, I always
provided voices for pets who couldn’t speak for themselves:
English bulldogs, mostly, and tropical fish. I still do that, for
birds, guinea pigs, and even my sons’ old stuffed animals.
(My sons are a lot older now, but the bears still drop in ocasionally.) They all have different names and personalities. Brown Bear is neurotic
and anxiety-ridden. Icy has the heart of a lion; he’s a risk-taker,
a daredevil, even though he’s a rather small polar bear. Snowy
is the Garfield of teddy bears; constantly ordering pizza, driving
the car without permission, turning down the thermostat, and throwing
parties when we’re away.
Brown Bear and Icy at my monitor
FIRST SUCCESS: When
I was in fifth grade, my poem, “Science is a Wonderful Thing,”
was displayed at the Elementary Science Fair. I was hooked by the
notoriety. I wrote a lot of poems after that. Most of them bad.
FIRST CRITIC: I ran into my
first snag as a writer in 9th grade. I wrote romance novels
starring me and my friends. My English teacher used to confiscate
them. But my mother stuck up for me at the parent-teacher
conference. My teacher said, “Does Cinda write those…(gasp)
stories at home?” And my mother said, “I would
think that any English teacher would encourage that kind of
MY HERO: Which is one reason my mother is
my hero. Another is the fact that she always had books in
the house. My choices in reading material were limited only
by my interest and ability. She never saw danger between the
covers of a book, only gateways into new worlds.
MY NAME: In fact, my name comes from a novel.
When my mother was expecting me, she was reading a book called House
Divided, about the Civil War. The heroine’s name was
Cinda, and my mother liked both the character and the name, so she
decided to name me after her.
BACK TO WRITING: After I left high school, I didn’t
write for a long time. I worked my way through college; it seemed
like I was always working and going to school. I came back to writing
after my children were born. I started out writing about them. Like
every other mother, I thought my children were the most fascinating
beings on earth. When they got older, they were totally embarrassed.
“You’re not going to put that in the paper, are you?”
Then one day, I sat down and started writing a novel. After lots
of revisions, it became The Warrior Heir.
HOW DO YOU WRITE? I write headlong. Then I go
back and clean up the mess. I follow my characters around to see
what they’ll do. Sometimes they surprise me. This can lead
to trouble and lots of revising, but that’s my method. No
outlining, although I do like to have things roughed out in my head.
GREATEST WRITING CHALLENGES: Sometimes I become
enthralled with a minor character and spend way too much time on
her when she really deserves her own book.
I also have this problem with commas.
PEN OR KEYBOARD: I write on the computer. I can’t
write by hand fast enough to keep up with my characters. I can type
very fast, though. I used to type for a living. Sometimes I write
dialogue in the car, speaking it aloud. That kind of thing can get
you into trouble. I also write while lying in bed, imagining scenes
on the insides of my eyelids.
FAMILY: I have two sons, Eric, now graduated from
college and gainfully employed, and Keith, who is in graduate school. I
am married to Rod, a rocket scientist.
PETS: We had an African Gray
parrot named Apollo for 19 years. He could say lots of words and mimic lots
of sounds, like a cabinet closing, zippers being zipped, and
sirens on TV. Apollo died in May, 2011.
EDUCATION: In college, I changed
majors a lot. Most of my majors had little chance of resulting
in employment. So it took me a long time. I ended up with
a degree in Philosophy. Later I went back for a Master’s
PROFESSIONAL: I worked in advertising
for a long time, typing ad copy. That’s how I became
a fast typist. After I went back to school, I worked as a
dietitian for a long time, then taught nutrition and dietetics
at the University of Akron. I also wrote a nutrition
column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
OTHER INTERESTS: I write constantly. When I have
time, I like to garden and cook. I am a handweaver and spinner,
and I have a large loom in the loft. I used to do a lot of genealogy,
but my writing has kind of shoved that aside.
Food: I love popcorn, fresh Ohio sweet corn and
tomatoes, homemade cookies, ice cream, grilled vegetables with basil,
Vacations: I love relaxing beach vacations. Give
me a view of the water and I’m there.
Holidays: I love Christmas and the Fourth of July
Graveyards: I love graveyards. They are full of
stories. One time I went to Boston for a meeting and I made my friend
go to the Granary Graveyard with me. I was oohing and aahing over
the grave markers, and she said, “Wow, Cinda, put you in a
cemetery and you’re ecstatic.”
Linda and Cinda Williams
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW:
I have a twin sister, Linda. We used to be in a folk music
ONE THING I WOULD LIKE TO CHANGE ABOUT MYSELF IS:
I would like to be taller. And I would like to be better at
remembering names (that’s two things.)
I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR: chips and salsa and
ADVICE FOR WRITERS: Don’t be a writer unless
you have to. That’s how you know.