Q&A with English professor and published author Traci Borum

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Hannah Horton

Editor-in-Chief

Q:What classes do you teach?

A: I teach writing, literature, and creative writing.

Q: Were there creative writing classes available at TJC before you
started teaching them?

A: There was a creative writing class offered in the past, but it hadn’t been taught for a few
years. I remember seeing the course listed in the catalogue, then asking my supervisor if
I could resurrect the course and teach it. Thankfully, he said “Yes,” and I’ve been
teaching it ever since, for the past thirteen years.

Q: Have you always been interested in writing?

A: My interest in writing started quite early, when I was twelve. Our English teacher in
sixth grade gave an assignment to write a short story. While all my friends groaned and
frowned about it, I was excited for the chance to write a story. I knew then that I’d gotten
“the bug” to write, and it hasn’t left me in all these years. It’s always there, that
eagerness and urgency to write.

Q: What about teaching?

A: In college, I majored in English and loved it. As I neared my junior year and realized I’d
need to make a career out of it, teaching seemed like the next natural step. If I’m being
truthful, watching a viewing of “Dead Poet’s Society” probably had some special influence
on me, as well. That movie made teaching seem like such an amazing, important
profession.

Q: Where did you go to college?

A: I studied at both Angelo State University and Dallas Baptist University for my
bachelor’s. Years later, I graduated from Mary-Hardin Baylor with my master’s.

Q: Can you tell me about your books?

A: I write women’s fiction/romance, and my current series is set in a fictional Cotswold
village in England. Each book is set inside that village, but I focus on a new main
character each time (which keeps things interesting for me—I like to explore new stories
with new characters). I also start each chapter with a quote of some sort, that hints at the
contents inside that chapter. With two books, I made up the quotes on my own, but the
other two books have quotes by Dickens and Austen. I’m currently working on book five
in this series.

Q: How did you get them published?

A: I spent years trying to get a literary agent (and did get one, for a year, but things went
south and we parted ways). Finally, I decided to find a publisher on my own, without an agent, and queried various publishers. In 2013, I got the acceptance letter from Red
Adept Publishing, and they’ve published each book in the series (four, in all).

Q: Has being a published writer helped you teach?

A: I think it’s mostly helped my confidence level as a teacher. Before I got published, I was
still a very active writer, always working on a new book, always learning more about the
process. But getting rejected can do a little damage to one’s ego. So after I got the “yes”
from a publisher, I do think it legitimized my writing a bit (in other people’s eyes, at
least), which probably built my confidence up more, as I taught creative writing.
However, as I tell my students, being published doesn’t “make” someone a writer. As
long as you’re writing—even if you’re not published—you’re still very much a writer.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: In real life, I’m constantly fascinated with relationships—siblings, friends, romances,
families, etc. This fascination blends into my fiction, as I try to explore various character
relationships and all the messy dynamics involved. Also, the English setting (in my
series) has been a real inspiration. I’ve always had an affinity for England and its culture,
music, history, literature, etc. And the research is quite entertaining! (Fun fact: Did you
know that a baby’s “pacifier” in America is called a “dummy” in England?).

Q: What’s your motivation for writing?

A: I’m really not sure where it comes from, this desire and drive to write. Some days, it can be tough—I try and eke out time in my busy schedule to write, and it can feel like
drudgery. But on a good day, it’s the best feeling in the world—creating another world,
telling characters what to do, figuring out the dynamics of an emotional scene, immersing
myself into another time and place. Writing can be the ultimate escape, and that’s the
biggest appeal, I think.

Q: How do you get over writer’s block?

A: Usually I’ll get up and take a walk, focus on my characters or the story, and ask myself
questions about where the plot is going. Another trick is to re-read the past couple of
chapters. That usually gets me back into the story, and my fingers continue on where the
story stops. But if I’m really having trouble, or I’m just not in a writing mood, I’ll quit
for the day and go do something else. I do try to push through writer’s block, but I won’t
force it. Some days I feel like writing, some days I don’t. That’s just the nature of it.

Q: Who are your favorite authors?

A: Rosamunde Pilcher, Elin Hilderbrand, Elizabeth Berg, Anne Tyler, and Colleen
McCullough (all contemporary women’s fiction authors). Their prose is gorgeous, and
their writing always inspires me. I learn so much from reading—I study the style, the
structure, the plot devices. This reminds me of a wonderful quote by William Faulkner:

“Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll
absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”

Q: What do you like to see in your students?

A: Eagerness and curiosity. These traits will always take students far, especially in creative
writing. If they’re interested in the subject matter, whether it’s poetry or short stories or
journaling, they will care about the class. And then, they will want to do their best and to
keep learning. This will make them excellent writers—the desire to learn and the drive to
continue writing for the rest of their lives.

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