Tuesday, May 18, 2021

# 20 Questions

📚 20 Questions with Lucy Adkins & Becky Breed Authors of The Fire Inside: A Companion for the Creative Life @lucyadkins8 @breedbecky #20Questions


Today's guests are Lucy Adkins & Becky Breed, authors of the self-help book, THE FIRE INSIDE: A COMPANION FOR THE CREATIVE LIFE. Lucy and Becky are here today to answer 20 questions about their lives, writing and goals.


1. Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Lucy Adkins: I like to write in the morning, though giving me a deadline inspires me to write well into the night.

Becky Breed: Neither. I write when the impulse comes. I’ve awakened at 2:00       AM and added a few lines and taken a late lunch when an idea pops in my mind.

2. Do you outline or are you a pantster?

Lucy Adkins: I am a pantster, though I like to have a few bullet points of up- coming events sketched out. E.L. Doctorow said that “Writing is like driving at night…you can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” That’s how I work, writing as the “headlights” illuminate, going on like that until I come to the end.

Becky Breed: Initially, I would be a pantster and write whatever arises, sort of like a stream of consciousness. Then, during my editing process, I formalize my writing using outlining or web-based processes to refine my story and add anything missing. The process continues to spiral, first letting inspiration do its work and writing quickly for a while, then when I don’t know where to go or confused with my next step, hitch up with a process that provides more structure.

3. Which comes first – plot or character?

Lucy Adkins: I like to begin with the basic plot or situation. “What if” questions work for me, questions such as “What if a crotchety old man must take in a young child, the grandson he has never met?” Or “What if a young woman in the 1900’s, recently married and disillusioned, meets a suffragette?” With the situation fairly clearly in mind, next comes the delight of creating characters.

Becky Breed: Plot comes first. I need to know what and where my story is going before I create characters. “If you’re not giving your reader a clear cause-and-effect progression,” according to Lisa Cron author of Story Genius,”…then you’re not giving them a story they can follow or care about.” Beginning with a plot, a story to tell, is primary because it explains why something happened, giving readers a reason to pay attention. Characters are created as part of the action forward.

4. Noise or quiet when working on your manuscript?

Lucy Adkins: I prefer quiet in my study where I write, with music drifting in from the next room. The music fades into the background, but I know it’s there, and I feel like I have company as I write. Pre-pandemic, for a change of environment, I also enjoyed writing in coffeehouses amidst the clink of coffee cups and quiet chatter, somehow able to “drop into” writing and write well.

Becky Breed: When I asked a friend why she played loud music when she wrote, she explained that it had to do with how she focuses. She said the loud sound of the music actually works to keep her mind from wandering. For me, a quiet environment works best because any large background noise, no matter how beautiful, distracts my focus and interrupts writing.  

5. Favorite TV show?

Lucy Adkins: I like “This is Us” and “Masterpiece Theater.” Always it is the “story” I am after. That and traveling to another world for a time.

Becky Breed: I watch PBS primarily. Any programming streaming on PBS is worthwhile.

6. Favorite type of music?

Lucy Adkins: My husband is a bluegrass musician, and I love that music, also folk and rock. At times my husband and I collaborate on writing songs, he providing the music, me the lyrics.

Becky Breed: I’m eclectic in my music choices. I like a variety: pop, rock, classical, hip hop and country. It depends upon my mood and frame of mind. And what I want to dance that day!

7. Favorite craft besides writing?

Lucy Adkins: I’m a gardener to the bone. I love my hands in the soil, going out every day to see what green sprouts are emerging, what has blossomed since the day before. I love making a garden plan, a design, and carrying it through. My garden is never perfect, but I like to keep trying.

Becky Breed: I like to add color and splash to the inside of my home. Mixing and matching patterned or striped decorative pillows on my couches and chairs and adding new pieces of artwork, paintings, metalwork, vases of all sizes, brings me great joy. The design choices I create make me feel intimate with my home.

8. Do you play a musical instrument?

Lucy Adkins: No, the musical genes went to my sisters. I cannot sing or play an instrument, but I feel that music is part of me, tunes going through my head, moving me. But I cannot make music, at least any you’d care to hear!

Becky Breed: I played the piano when I was a child. Still when I see an old upright piano, I feel the urge to run my fingers over its ivories, and the memories float by.

9. Single or married?

Lucy Adkins: Married and still in love. My husband and I have lived in Illinois, Alabama, Kansas, back to Illinois again, and now we live in Nebraska where we were both raised. We raised a son, and have had adventures along the way. I support him in his music, and he supports my writing. We’re better together, and life is good.

Becky Breed: I married my college sweetheart and we’ve been on a journey together for a long time. Even after so many years, each day is a surprise, kind of like what you read in a family drama novel. This partnership (so far) has a happy ending.

10. Children or no?

Lucy Adkins: I have one son who lives with his family (including three grandchildren) in Japan. I could go on and on about them. But let me just say that they are amazing. Last March, just before the pandemic hit in all its fury, we were

about to leave for Japan to visit them. Hopefully we will be able to see them this summer.

Becky Breed: I’ve never had better teachers than my two daughters and four granddaughters. Just when I think I have finally learned my life’s lessons, then, poof, they help me learn another one.

11. Pets?

            Lucy Adkins: Yes, a 13 pound Scottie-Schnauser inherited when our son moved

            to Japan. Her name is Misty and she has added great delight to our lives.

Becky Breed: We call Cooper the White Blur. A very energetic lab who gets a lot of our attention. An observer might say too much. 


12. Favorite place to write?

            Lucy Adkins: In my study with the garden outside my window. The window is to

the side so I can concentrate on my work, but it is there for me to glance out—and see my winter “brown and white” garden or my spring “coming alive again” garden, whatever the season brings.

Becky Breed: In my living room on my couch, watching the birds dip and swirl outside the window. And an occasional fun-loving squirrel who climbs the trellis helps me remember that writing, at least some of the time, should be playful.

13. Favorite restaurant?

Lucy Adkins: I love a local neighborhood French restaurant called The Normandy. It’s a great place for a romantic occasion; also a Mexican restaurant, La Paz, for its color and its plants, the zestiness of the food.

Becky Breed: Any ethnic restaurant is my favorite. I like Moroccan, Indian, Mexican cuisines. Food is one of my pleasures in life.

14. Do you work outside the home?

Lucy Adkins: I’m retired from teaching and working at an insurance company. For the last 15 years of my “working to make a living” life, I was so fortunate as to work half time. Enough to earn a little much-needed money as well as benefits (yes, remarkably I had benefits at 20 hours a week!) and working little enough that I was able to pursue writing.

Becky Breed: Retired. I am a longtime educator with my last gig as the principal at an alternative high school. I felt that I was the fortunate one to work there. I learned so much from the students.


15. What was the name of the last movie you saw?

Lucy Adkins: “Invictus” a movie from the 90’s about Nelson Mandela and rugby in South Africa. It stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon and I recommend it highly.

Becky: ”Nomadland”is a story about grief and loss. I think it also says something about the lack of quality eldercare. I ask myself regularly, what can I do to support an aging friend?


16. Favorite outdoor activity?

Lucy Adkins: From the second year of our marriage, my husband and I have owned a camper, pop-up campers at first, and now a (very) small travel trailer. We love to hike and camp and visit beautiful places. Of which there are many in this country. And as mentioned previously, gardening for me is essential.

Becky Breed: Hiking in the Rockies with my family and lifelong friends is my      favorite outdoor activity. No place on earth is more beautiful or has better

spots to share deep conversations and build rich relationships.


17. Pet peeve?

Lucy Adkins: I’m usually pretty tolerant, and do not consider myself one of the “Grammar Police,” but misuse of “less” and “fewer” by news anchors and journalists makes me roll my eyes.

Becky Breed: Misspelled words are worrisome, maybe even peevish to me. Spell check on computers and phones is a good thing.


18. Your goal in life?

Lucy Adkins: To write well, to achieve excellence if I can, and in the process to

tell good stories. To write what will make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Perhaps through my writing and teaching, I can inspire someone. That is my hope.

Becky: To lead and live with kindness.


19. Your most exciting moment?

Lucy Adkins: The birth of my son. He was born five and a half weeks early—and on my birthday. Surprise! Also, I was one of a family of four girls. My older sister had a girl, all my friends had baby girls; and I thought it would be the same for me. (This was before the time of routine ultrasounds which foretold a baby’s gender.) And I had a boy! Another surprise and great delight. And of course, babies are always miracles. Another exciting time for me was starting at the University of Nebraska. I came from a small farm, a small community, and the university and the capitol city opened up a new world for me.

Becky Breed: Seeing my granddaughters for the first time and watching how our daughters and their partners are such lovely parents. My heart soars when I            see them all together!


20. The love of your life?

Lucy Adkins: My musician husband. I have a great “how we met” and “how our romance blossomed” story about that. But it’s too long to tell here. Let’s just say

it involved bluegrass music and a little boldness on my part. You can read the story in our book!

Becky Breed: My husband of many years. Love is more than feeling, it is action. Every day we ask ourselves “What can we do to leave the world a better place?”


Lucy Adkins earned her MFA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is a writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in many journals and anthologies, and her first poetry chapbook, One Life Shining, was published by Pudding House Press. She co-presents the Nebraska Humanities program “Diaries and Letters of Early Nebraska Settlers,” and is a frequent writing instructor for OLLI, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and the Larksong Writers’ Workshops. Her book, Two-Toned Dress, was the winner of the 2019 Blue Light Press poetry chapbook contest.




Becky Breed, a veteran educator, poet, and essayist, co-wrote and facilitated “Women at the Springs,” a Nebraska Humanities program empowering women to live more courageously, as well as “The Intergenerational Project” connecting elders and teens through stories to promote communication, writing, and use of the media. She has an Ed.D. in Education, and in addition to teaching at the university level, was the principal of a Gold Star School which was awarded recognition for significant improvements in reading, writing, and math. The students’ resiliency and drive to be the best they can be helped shape the fabric for several of the enclosed essays.

Together the two co-authored Writing in Community: Say Goodbye to Writer’s Block and Transform Your Life, which was awarded an “IPPY” in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Writing in Community, the first book in their “Essential Writing and Creativity” series, along with the impact of Adkins’ and Breed’s many presentations and workshops led to their being named winners of the 2020 Lincoln, Nebraska Mayor’s Arts Award in Artistic Achievement in Literature.



Author: Lucy Adkins & Becky Breed
Publisher: WriteLife Publishing
Pages: 290
Genre: Creativity / Self-Help


The underlying principle of The Fire Inside is that we all have within us vast untapped reservoirs of creativity, and when we recognize and begin to connect with that potential, our lives will open in ways we cannot begin to imagine. Many books have been written about the art and craft of individual disciplines of creativity. Yet few are so inclusive, so welcoming as this book, offering insight not only for furthering ones abilities in the traditional arts, but also in our day to day creativity, which so enriches our lives.

Based on the authors’ combined fifty-five years of teaching, working with writing groups and providing workshops on writing and creativity, The Fire Inside is written in a spirit of warmth and generosity. It invites the reader to:

Say yes to creativity and the nurturing it provides

Choose to live a bigger life

Uncover inner sources of inspiration and discover how “the magic” happens

Become a part of the creative community

Let go of forces that try to limit you

Develop skills for what it takes to live more creatively

Locate the “sweet spot” needed to build your life as an artist and creative being

Wherever  one may be in his or her creative life—just tiptoeing in or fully immersed in the life of the imagination, The Fire Inside will be a companion in that life, a source of encouragement and inspiration. The manuscript is composed short essays designed to provide a daily dose of support and motivation. It includes anecdotes, inspirational quotations and end of chapter meditations and exercises which ask Why not me? What gets in my way of being creative? In what unknown ways am I waiting to blossom. 

More and more, we hunger for meaning and for opportunities of self-expression. The Fire Inside, in its bite-sized essays which can be read in five or ten minute increments, speaks to that hunger, and provides a source of the creative nourishment we all need.


IndieBound Paperback: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781608082483

Amazon US eBook: https://amzn.to/3u7m9Pc

Amazon US Paperback: https://amzn.to/39s2bai

iBooks US eBook: https://apple.co/3rvqTMT

Barnes and Noble eBook: https://bit.ly/3m1FIFW

Barnes and Noble Paperback: https://bit.ly/3fj2vvI

Rakuten Kobo US eBook: https://bit.ly/3wi2xKv

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