The Hard Joy Of Writing With Sharon Fagan McDermott and M.C. Benner Dixon

How can we focus on the joy of the writing process itself, rather than the outcome? How can we embrace the positive side of being jealous of the success of other writers? How can we deepen our writing with metaphor and sense of place? Co-authors of writing book, Millions of Suns, Sharon and Christine share their tips.

In the intro, Findaway Terms of Service; Why Kickstarter is the Most Creative Way to Launch Your Book [Self-Publishing Advice]; Sell direct resources; Why writing books is a career like no other [Roz Morris]; You are not what you used to be [Johnny B. Truant]; OpenAI’s text to video tool, Sora; Google’s Gemini model; the Vesuvius Challenge;

Plus, my updated Author Blueprint; Spear of Destiny; and Pilgrimage is an award finalist for the Selfies [BookBrunch];

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors. 

Sharon Fagan McDermott is an award-winning poet, musician, and a teacher of literature. M. C. Benner Dixon is an-award winning author, freelance editor, and writing coach. Together, they are the co-authors of Millions of Suns: On Writing and Life.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Finding play and joy in the work of writing
  • How to find joy when writing alone
  • Using metaphor to elevate your writing
  • Bringing place alive on the page
  • Reframing jealousy in a positive way
  • The benefits and struggles of co-writing

You can find Sharon at and Christine at

Transcript of Interview with Sharon Fagan McDermott and M.C. Benner Dixon

Joanna: Sharon Fagan McDermott is an award-winning poet, musician, and a teacher of literature. M. C. Benner Dixon is an-award winning author, freelance editor, and writing coach. Together, they are the co-authors of Millions of Suns: On Writing and Life, which we’re talking about today. So welcome to the show, Sharon and Christine.

Christine: Thank you so much. We’re so glad to be here.

Sharon: We are so glad to be here. Thank you, Jo.

Joanna: So we’re going to get straight into the book. You talk about the power, the play, the joy of writing.

It’s interesting because sometimes I feel like that play and that joy are lost in the discussions around publishing and the business of books, and this show is as guilty as any around that. So I wondered if we could start by talking about—

What are your tips for finding play and joy in the work of writing itself? Especially if authors feel that it is lost.

Christine: Yes, absolutely. So this is Christine. Sharon and I actually met and became friends under very stressful circumstances. We’re both upper school English teachers at the same school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Teaching is one of those jobs, like publishing, that asks a lot of you.

There’s a lot of little details to keep track of. It’s emotionally intense. You’re facing months on end of relentless deadlines. Sound familiar? Many days, Sharon and I ended up side by side in our office, looking and feeling a bit like dish rags, just kind of like limp and dripping.

In those difficult moments, and this is part of why we became such good friends, we would play together. One of us would start a joke about like how we wished we were ambidextrous because then we could grade twice as fast. Then the other one would suggest like writing with our toes, and we’d consider a pen in the mouth.

We’d go on and on and laugh ourselves silly. We weren’t playing in those moments because we had lots of free time and light hearts, we were playing because we needed it. It was a way to name the absurdity of the situation and take a little bit of control back.

I think that’s very often the case with playfulness and joy. These things are a necessity, not a luxury.

The book was actually written in the early days of the pandemic. Both Sharon and I, for different health reasons, have to be very cautious about COVID, so we went into intense isolation.

The writing was a joy to us, it sustained us, but it was a deep, hard joy that we kind of had to mine out of ourselves.

Not because we were living the good life, but because we needed it to survive. I think joy is this kind of radical act of resistance, and play too.

You asked about the pressures of publishing, and I think that that fits right in here.

It can be incredibly hard to keep the joy and playfulness of writing front and center. Publishing takes time, it takes attention, it’s emotionally exhausting at times, and there’s periods when it can really take over your writing life.

I would say there are a couple of things to do to protect your joy in writing. One is to involve someone else, preferably someone who is committed to celebrating your work.

Having Sharon on the other side of the porch, reading her essay drafts to me, listening to mine, made it feel a lot more like play because we were tossing ideas back and forth. We were delighting in little turns of phrase and asking questions, being in it together. So I think finding someone who will play with you is really important.

The other one is to really put a value on your joy. It’s a harsh reality that time is finite. When you’re working on the business side of publishing, it does cut into your writing time, period.

Have some grace with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t hit your 1000 words a day, or whatever your goal is. Keep in mind that —

The joy that you have in your writing is perhaps the most important resource for your writing career. You have to nurture it, you have to prioritize it.

Even if it feels like you should be doing these other things, do the kinds and the parts of writing that you love. Not just because it’s good for your writing career, but it is. It’s also because it’s going to give you the tools to survive on the planet as a playful, joyful person.

If you want to talk in purely business terms, your writing career does depend on your willingness to keep writing. Feed the joy, and it will pay you back.

Sharon: I agree with Christine when she says pick the right person that you’re going to be working with. The two of us knew each other so well and knew each other’s sense of humor, and that sense of humor gets us through a lot of things.

I’m a poet, I usually write by myself. I’m not someone who can write out in coffee shops or other places with other people. I really need quiet and alone time to do that.

It’s a cliche, but it’s true, it can be very lonely to write sometimes, especially if you’re doing material that might be slightly darker or delving into things you haven’t delved into before. So this was a new occasion for me, working with Christine. The kind of joy that came from the spontaneity, that back and forth banter, knowing that somebody was on the other side of this.

I should say this, Jo, we made a pact with each other, we were not going to critique each other, which I know is unusual. We trusted each other’s writing process, we trusted each other’s skills. That’s why I asked Christine to do this project with me.

In so trusting, we felt like we could do our own revisions. We didn’t need to be each other’s editors. That wasn’t what we were there for. We were there to kind of inspire and support and uplift one another, and that’s exactly what happened. I don’t mean to sound pollyannaish, but it truly is what happened. It was probably my favorite writing experience of my life, to be honest with you.

Joanna: Well, that’s interesting. You mentioned that you do most of your creation alone, and that is going to be the reality for most people listening. So what are your thoughts on finding that hard joy, I guess, as Christine mentioned before?

How do we find the joy if we’re writing alone?

And we don’t have that person who we’re laughing with every day? How do you do it?

Sharon: I love that question, Jo. So sadly, I have just returned from a younger sister’s funeral, and that just was this past weekend. I know I will be writing about her, and I’m sure that doesn’t sound like anything that anybody would want to delve back into, going through grief and sorrow about losing someone you love.

For me—and this happened at a very young age, I think because I had an Irish grandfather who was always reciting poetry and was very playful about language. He would let me take a line, for instance, and let me kind of mimic it and then rhyme it, and he would laugh and support that kind of play with language. He didn’t treat it as precious stuff in that way.

I think writing alone and needing the silence, I’m still amusing myself on the one hand by the malleability of language, the flexibility of it, the play that I can do with my words.

Also, I think, and this is a little bit deeper, I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, but I think —

When you hit something like grief and something that feels chaotic and uncontrollable, there is something quite beautiful about being able to order something on a page, even if it’s just words.

Words can’t bring the dead back, they can’t bring the loved one to your door again, but maybe I can take some of that grief that can feel so chaotic sometimes and make a pure order of it on the page while working in this medium that I love so much. I actually really love words, and I think that brings me comfort no matter what.

Joanna: I think that’s great. I love this phrase that Christine used, I guess, this ‘hard joy.’ Talking there about the difficulty in writing, and I’m so sorry about your sister, Sharon, I have two younger sisters. So I feel some empathy there.

Part of the reason we are writers is because it’s the way we figure out things in our lives and on the page and try and communicate them to other people. I feel like sometimes people think, oh, if it’s not coming easy then I’m a bad writer, or I’m not in some magic flow state.

But this is hard work, and I like this idea of finding pleasure in the work. Understanding that it is work, and yet this is what we love to do. I think that’s what I was trying to get to in that.

Christine: I would say, I believe that it’s a misunderstanding to say that play is easy.

If you ever watch children play, they work at it. Like watch a baby sitting on the ground with its blocks, and it is thinking, and it is working, and it is trying, and it is going through multiple iterations of “can I build this tower and knock it down?” and “how does gravity work?” and all of these things. They are working hard at play.

I don’t think that the best kinds of play are simple and easy. They are the things that take work. The reward is profound when we surrender ourselves to that hard work of play, and the hard work of joy as well.

Joanna: Fantastic. Now in the book, you have a great chapter on metaphor. In fact, we had one earlier, you talked about being wrung out like a dish rag at the school, teaching. So there’s a metaphor that people can picture in their heads.

How can we use metaphor effectively to elevate or deepen our writing?

But also avoid hammering people over the head with it? And also, I guess, be more original with our metaphors?

Sharon: So last night, the Grammy Awards were shown on the television, and everybody throws around the word star. That’s where I want to begin because, of course, that’s also a metaphor.

One of the things I love about it is that we don’t think a lot about what we mean when we say ‘star.’ When we say star, we just think of whatever the musician is that we might be complementing at that point, but really, we’re evoking the cosmos.

We’re evoking things that are above us and out of our grasp and out of reach. They’re distant and mysterious, and they’re sparkly and shiny, right? All of this is embedded in that metaphor, star.

The deeper you dig into the metaphor you choose to use, the more layers get peeled back.

I find that process very exciting, I kind of love that. It allows us to invoke things in a short amount of time, and in poetry, in particular, it becomes very important to be concise.

That economy of language has to say a lot in a little space. Metaphor is one thing that allows that. It’s a vehicle that allows that.

I think also a good metaphor can concretize something. It can make that elusiveness of emotional experience a little bit more specific to the human being, as opposed to a Hallmark card, kind of up in the ether and talking in generalities. So the metaphor can kind of put a pinpoint on it, I guess, is what I want to say.

You know, our language is used for tax documents, and wills, and grocery lists, and all kinds of things. Also, there’s something about metaphor, I think that when used well, can elevate the language.

I like that too. I do like that the language is taken a little bit out of the normal and the every day. I know that goes against some of what is being written now. I think a lot of people embrace conversational language and everyday language, and I applaud that, and a lot of people do it very well.

I still like a really good metaphor that can show you the reach and the breadth of our world. A glass may be a glass, but it might also be a shining star, right? I like that it can push our imagination into new places.

I would say it does need to be used sparingly. Too many metaphors start feeling overwrought. That’s where that whole word pretentious starts being tossed around, if people find that they’re running into metaphor and not enough straightforward language.

So I would say, a good metaphor comes in most handy when you’re trying to make ground at the ineffable. You want to really share with somebody, “I really was feeling this thing. Boy, it’s hard to talk about. I really don’t know how to articulate it. It’s kind of like…” and then you go into your simile or metaphor to give it a little bit more body.

Finally, we have a prompt in that chapter you talked about in Millions of Suns in the metaphor chapter, which honestly gives us the step-by-step way of generating metaphor. It’s based on almost sitting wherever you are — and noticing.

A metaphor can be literally anything. I can say, “Love is the dusty old guitar sitting in my room right now.” And then I say that that out loud and my mind goes, well, what does that mean? What does it mean that love is a dusty old guitar?

Then I take it from there. You know, guitars have bridges, and they have frets. Then I start pulling apart both the concrete item and the possibilities inherent in what I just said. That’s a form of play too. We were talking about play earlier, and I kind of love that moment of play.

That’s, I think, where I get a lot of fresher metaphors from are just my everyday world. I look very closely at a doorknob, or a keyhole, or a jacket, and you call it some kind of more generalized thing.

“Anger is a purple velvet jacket.” Well, what the heck does that mean? At first, it makes no sense to us, but if you really tweak and work with a good metaphor, you can mine a lot from the language in that way.

Joanna: I love those examples. I love the dusty old guitar.

Actually, it’s really interesting because as soon as you say dusty old guitar, then I get a sense of place, and I use sense of place a lot in my fiction and my memoir. I appreciated that you have a chapter on place.

How can we bring a place alive in a reader’s mind?

Why is that so important?

Christine: The how of place is really interesting. I’m going to touch back to something I talk about in my essay on imagery. The temptation as writers when we have invested in a place and it has knit its way into us, or it’s an imagined place and we have invested all of this meaning in that place, the temptation, because we have the language resources to do so and the imaginative resources to do so, is to describe it in exhaustive detail.

I have it so firmly in my mind that I can describe every nitty gritty piece and element of it for you. I could tell you about the dust on your shoes as you walk up the gravel driveway. I can give you the itch of sweat on your shins. I can give you the killed ears nest and the sound of the katydids in the hay field.

I could crawl over that place, the smells and the sensations, until my reader, if they’re patient enough, is standing exactly where I am. They feel everything I feel.

That’s the kicker. We are always at the mercy of our reader’s patience.

So if a detail isn’t doing something, if it doesn’t carry some spark of energy that’s going to kind of move forward in the prose, then it is our obligation as the curators of our own words to weed it out.

We have to say, okay, everything that is here that helps to build this place has to be doing something, even if we cherish it, even if we find it moving and evocative. Now, doing something doesn’t just mean plot.

Establishing a sense of place is emotional work, it’s atmospheric, and that can be important.

So setting a tone is work. It doesn’t just have to be, okay, someone’s going to use this leaf. therefore, I’m going to talk about the leaf. It can come from the connotations of specific words you’re using, you know, the difference between sweltering heat and golden sunshine.

But once you’ve hit that tone, then move on so that you don’t depend upon the patience of your reader to give every detail.

Also keep in mind that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. I do think that place can be unveiled rather like a character, in glimpses that the reader pieces together into the whole.

So I do think that there is the impulse to have it all, to say it all, to give it all because I have it. That needs to be balanced and tempered somewhat with restraint so that we have some discovery of the place, as well as our characters and themes, everything else we’re trying to put into our writing.

Joanna: That ‘everything else’ is often difficult because there’s always so much. Also, I guess, the character point of view for that.

Coming back to Sharon’s dusty old guitar, the point of view of the character who is noticing that and who uses that metaphor is going to change so much about the story.

As in, is it a grandchild discovering the dusty old guitar of the dead grandfather, for example? Or who else could it be? That will change the description of the setting. So Sharon—Do you have any other sort of bits to add on setting?

Sharon: Place is really important to me, just as a person. I like to be grounded. I like to know where I am.

I believe very much in something Ralph Waldo Emerson talked about a long time ago. He said, “Why are we always going everywhere at such a pace? Why don’t we just learn to know our own backyards?”

I wasn’t deliberately doing this, but I kind of live that way. I’m very interested in the local. As an environmentalist, I think that also is influencing me because if I care about the local, I actually have the power to do something about the local. So that’s more just on a personal level.

When I talk to my students about place, I kind of joke with them, and I say, look, in your lovely story, you keep saying “city, city, city,” but London is not Pittsburgh, is not Singapore, is not San Francisco.

These are very specific, different cities with different histories, different neighborhoods, different ways of being, and it matters.

It matters if you’re shaping a character on the page. You know, how are they being shaped by the place in which they live? So I do push my students a lot in terms of naming things.

Give me a street name once in a while, if it’s important to the story. I don’t mean you have to name every single street the character is on, but if it’s a key moment, yes, names matter. I think they make a difference. I think they ground the reader. I think that they make us feel like we are a part of the larger neighborhood that’s been described there.

It also, just in real life, makes us have a stake in what’s happening there. It’s hard to care as much, it doesn’t mean we don’t, but about things that happen a zillion miles away. I know the internet demands that we care about everything in every part of the world at all times, but I don’t think humans are wired to be able to do that.

I think we are wired to love a place and to love the people in that place. Yes, have compassion for others, of course, but place I think allows us to empower ourselves to do something. So I didn’t talk as much about writing there maybe as you would like, Jo, but I think place is just a very personal thing to me. It matters.

I said to my students once, you would care about naming place if you had been standing where I was above the Mississippi River once where there was a big sign right in the grass that I was in that said, “Beware of poisonous snakes.” Boy, did I care about place at that moment. I screamed, and I ran, and that was that.

But I said place actually makes a big difference in how we feel, who we are, and how we’re shaped.

Joanna: I really love that, and I agree with you.

Obviously, the character of the person who sees the snake sign and runs away is different to the person who sees the snake sign and kind of goes, “Oooh, snakes!” I’m that person, actually. I really love snakes. I wrote a whole book End of Days, which is all about a lot of different snakes.

So I want to come back to the book, because as well as the craft side, you also have chapters on more of the writing life.

Christine, you have a wonderful section on jealousy and ambition, which I feel is so often glossed over because we’re like, “Oh, I would never feel that because that’s just not me.” Like it’s not acceptable to necessarily talk about jealousy. So I really appreciated that.

Can you talk about the kinds of jealousy that authors inevitably face?

And perhaps how we can admit it, but also spin it in a positive way.

Christine: This was a hard essay for me to write. I don’t want people to know how petty I am, but I did write it and I sent it out. I included it in this book because, as you say, I think this is something we need to talk about. Just denying it or asking people to just stop it, that’s not the way to get through.

I’ve always been a competitive person, but I really don’t like how it feels. I get very judgmental about myself and about other people. It’s always easier and somewhat more in keeping with my Mennonite upbringing to put aside ambition. So if I don’t try to win, then there’s no shame if I don’t.

As a young adult, I really did, I tried to convince myself that my calling was only to teach literature, not to write it. So the fact that my poems and stories were locked away on read, that wouldn’t be a failure.

That worked for a little while. I had a few flirtations with publication, but I really didn’t allow myself to hope for anything more than that until 2019, when I quit my job as a classroom teacher.

I didn’t have a real plan that I am going to go become a writer. It just bubbled up, and I realized that when I did that self-reflection and asked, what do I really want to do next? Yes, I wanted to publish. I wanted to write things that other people would read.

That’s when the jealousy came in, hand in hand with my ambition.

The more I was getting into publishing, I could see other people succeeding and doing the thing that I wanted to do. So I was constantly comparing myself to others and not very generously, either to myself or to my fellow writers.

Now, of course, I can pull myself out of that mindset. It’s not like I can only feel jealousy. I genuinely love to see other writers succeed, but that’s not mutually exclusive.

I can feel jealousy and feel joy at watching other people succeed. I just have to acknowledge that the jealousy and the ambition are my little companions along for the ride.

As far as like how to take a more positive spin, I think that’s something that I’m still working out. I can say that receiving affirmation from my writing has helped.

I don’t just mean like success, right? Having Millions of Suns published, of course, was hard evidence that I wasn’t shut out of this path. Then when I got the news that my novel The Height of Land, which is coming out this fall, had won a contest that I had entered it in, I couldn’t stop shaking with the joy of it.

As important as those achievements were, the affirmation that really settled some of that jealousy in me was hearing from readers, from people who had read my writing and were moved by it. That’s what I needed, and that’s because that’s why I wanted to publish in the first place.

Building that little bridge out of my mind to other people’s and hearing that readers had actually been able to cross that bridge, settled something inside of me like nothing else did.

Maybe that’s the lesson, right? That we can be that voice of affirmation for one another. You can’t do that for yourself, but we can listen to each other, we can respond to each other, and prove to each other that the writing is working.

Joanna: So in terms of pulling oneself out of this—because I love that we’re all admitting it that we all feel this sometimes. But Sharon, it’s interesting. I mean, poetry, you’re a poet.

I feel like even though sometimes poets might not necessarily be the top of the charts, that poets might find jealousy is just as bad as a poet as in the sort of bestselling thriller charts or whatever. So how do you deal with this?

How can we pull ourselves out of jealousy to reframe it in a more positive way?

Sharon: Well, you’re absolutely right about that. Actually, I think when I was in graduate school as a poet, I was a little bit shocked to find out how jealous and how petty sometimes poets could be, including myself, when somebody else had a success that we were sort of longing for.

The success ranged, of course. When you’re in graduate school, the success might be that I got a few poems taken in a known journal, right? Then it could build from there.

I think a couple of things happened for me. One is that I had some really good mentors. They kind of just put things in perspective for me. They said, “Yes, it’s true. This person just got this award/publication that you wanted. But first of all, ask yourself, how hard are you working for it?”

The truth was, there were times in graduate school, because I was a single mom, I wasn’t able to put all that much energy into kind of trying to produce and to get published. Then there were other times I could.

So that was helpful just to kind of sit back with myself and say, you know, this person just got that, but they send things out every week. You’re not doing that. That was one thing that was a little bit helpful, just to give me a perspective.

I think the other thing was, and it took me a long time to realize this, but there’s a million voices in the world.

There are so many writers out there, and there are so many poets out there, and there seems somehow to be room for all of us.

If we do the work, and we show up, and we continue to put effort out toward getting ourselves published, I do believe that sooner or later something will happen.

Like Mary Oliver was the goddess poet here in America, and I adore her too, but am I going to reach Mary Oliver status? No. I know that I won’t, and I’m okay with that.

I think growing older also helps. I’m older than Christine, and I think growing older has tempered some of that for me. When I was in the university, teaching at the University of Pittsburgh, it was very competitive there, so you were picking up on some of that too.

The competition was really the more books you had, the more likely you would get a tenure track position, was the going saying. Well, it turned out, I didn’t want a tenure track position.

I suddenly thought —

Just keep moving forward. The work makes you happy.

You love to write, you’ve always loved to write. In fact, I experimented for a year not writing, and I was miserable. I thought maybe I could walk away from it, that it was just more than I could do, and I was miserable without it.

So I’d say ask yourself, am I doing the work? I think that’s just a nice practical thing to ask yourself.

Like this person I’m jealous of, have they been working that much harder at it? Putting more out there? That was helpful for me, just from my point of view.

Just, kind of for me, it’s always about the work. Christine said something about publishing Millions of Suns. I was so thrilled when that book came out, when it was accepted and it came out. We loved our book launch. We had a great old time, packed house, lovely response from people.

But, you know, at this point, my brain just wants to move forward. It’s not that I’m dropping Millions of Suns, I adore that book and I’m proud of it, but I love to write. So my mind is already like, okay, what’s the next project? What are we doing next? Where are we digging in next?

That is not to say I don’t still get jealous sometimes. I absolutely do. I just think the older I’ve gotten that that’s kind of dimmed a little bit for me. Now I’m more about using your time wisely and get the work done.

Joanna: I love that you said the work makes you happy because that is the point. This is what I focus on too.

I was laughing because I’m the same as you, I always just want to move onto the next project. I’m like, yes, that one’s done, let’s just keep writing.

I love creating new things in the world, and the thing that’s already out there is not the new thing, so let’s just move onto the next project and write. So it’s lovely that we can all find solace in the work as such.

So we talked a lot about what’s in the book, but of course, many people listening are considering co-writing. I’ve co-written a few books myself, and I found it very, very hard. So I wondered if you could maybe talk about, from each of your perspectives—

What are the benefits of co-writing, as well as the challenges?

Sharon: I’m going to use a word that isn’t very popular, but the reason that I asked Christine to work with me came purely out of my intuition. I have very strong intuition about certain things regarding my writing.

I was leading a creative writing workshop during COVID, and Christine was one of the members of it. There was about 10 of us. It was wonderful, it went on for a year and a half. It was on Zoom, of course, we weren’t meeting in person.

One night, I just had this very strong feeling to ask Christine to write a book with me. I had no idea what I was asking. I didn’t know what the book was or what we were going to write, I just wanted to do it.

I asked her after Zoom that night. She stayed after and I asked her, and she said an immediate yes. Then we went from there.

I think I mentioned this earlier in the broadcast that I just knew she was the right person to do it with. I have worked with brilliant writers. Terrance Hayes was one of my friends in graduate school. He’s a superstar poet now and has won all kinds of major awards, including the National Book Award, and I never would have thought to ask him to do it with me.

There are certain personalities that you love, and they spark you, and they inspire you, but they might not be the right ones to get down into the nitty gritty with. Christine, I knew that we could make it through challenges, hard times, good times, because we had a good sense of humor. We listened well to each other, we respected each other.

I really respect her as a writer, and I really respect her insight into writing. Also, we have different personalities. Christine is much more patient than I am. Christine is much more practical-minded than I am.

I’m sort of a romantic. I’m up in the ether sometimes, and Christine has a fabulous way of grounding me. I think those kinds of differences in our personality became very useful as time went on.

Christine: So when it came time for us to promote the book, it was so helpful to have the both of us because we have different connections, we have different opinions, we have different skill sets.

So, you know, on social media some of our audiences do have overlap because we live in the same city, we taught in the same school. So we talked together about like how we would roll out our announcements so that people who only knew one of us got all the necessary information, but if they knew both of us it wouldn’t become this totally redundant message that they hear 500 times a day.

That encouraged us to go really personal in how we talked about the book, which is appropriate for this book because it was really personal in its content. So we got to talk about what it meant for us to publish it, what it meant for us to appear in this place, or this newsletter, whatever.

We could really talk about what it meant to us, and I think that that brings people into that process with us and into the relationship between us as well.

Then we have our different strengths. My husband’s a filmmaker, and I’ve learned some editing skills working with him. So he filmed a conversation with the two of us, and I edited it into two promo videos that shared the anticipation of the release.

We promote the book on both of our websites. Sharon was able to talk to the school where she and I met and talk about teaching the book in the Upper School. It’s really just so helpful to have two people when you see each other as allies.

I think that’s the thing. Of course there’s moments of conflict, we had different approaches to how we wanted to negotiate the contract, but we put the relationship first because we knew that’s where the gold was. That’s what was kind of paying our way forward was that we knew we wanted to do this together. So that became the first priority.

Joanna: Well, the book is fantastic. It is Millions of Suns: On Writing and Life. So tell us—

Where can people find you and your books online?

Christine: So you can find Sharon at I’m at You can sign up for email newsletters for upcoming releases and so forth. You can also look us up on Twitter. I’m on Bluesky and Instagram as well.

Millions of Suns can be found at book retailers like Bookshop and Amazon. If you want to get it straight from the University of Michigan Press website, it’s also orderable there, or request it at your library.

Joanna: Fantastic. Well, it’s been great to talk to you. Thank you so much for your time.

Christine: Thank you, Jo.

Sharon: Thank you, Jo.

The post The Hard Joy Of Writing With Sharon Fagan McDermott and M.C. Benner Dixon first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • February 21, 2024