Cinda Williams Chima

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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.

Snowy the (stuffed) polar bear


Brown Bear and Icy, stuffed animals

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.

Photo of Carol WilliamsCarol Williams

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 creative activity.”

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.

"House Divided" book spine

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.

Apollo, my African gray parrotApollo

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 in Nutrition.

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, pot stickers.
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.”

Baby picture of Linda and Cinda Williams

Linda and Cinda Williams

MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW: I have a twin sister, Linda. We used to be in a folk music band.

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 flashy clothes


ADVICE FOR WRITERS: Don’t be a writer unless you have to. That’s how you know.