NTMI: Hello, everyone. I'm here this evening with Tdyans, author of many nice stories which have earned her twenty two pieces in the Neopian Times as we speak. Good evening, Tdyans!
Tdyans: Good evening. I'm honored to be interviewed.
NTMI: The honor is mine :-) The first question I need to ask, though, is how did you find and begin playing on Neopets?
Tdyans: Ah, that fateful day. I was wandering around my college campus, because I had a block of time between my classes, and then I remembered that a friend had told me that she spent a lot of time in the English Department's computer lab, so I went up there to see if she was there and we could do something. I did indeed find her there, but she didn't want to go anywhere with me because she was engrossed in this rather silly-looking little game. She cajoled me into signing up on it myself, and I gave in figuring it was free and I could always just never return. I created Achilles81 and started to search around, and then I had to go to class. But when I got back to my room later in the day, I found myself logging on again. I think my friend probably quit after a week, but I was absolutely hooked, and now here I am.
NTMI: Here you are, what, a year later?
Tdyans: Hmmm, let's see...20 months, so more than a year and a half actually. Yeah, I was a sophomore then, and I'll be entering my senior year in the fall.
NTMI: So lots of things keep changing in real life while we play on Neopets! Tell me, how did you come up with the username of Tdyans?
Tdyans: I think I first tried TBone:-), but of course that was taken. I created Tdyans out of my first and last initials (T and S) with my middle name (Dyan) sandwiched in between.
NTMI: So is this a case of blame it all on your parents? (Just kidding!) Seriously, back to the "real" questions... What do you like most on Neopets?
Tdyans: That's a tough question! And it's changed over time, but then Neopets changes all the time, and that is part of what I like about it-- there are always new things to keep you interested. I love my pets, of course, especially since they've really developed personalities in my mind, largely thanks to my writing about them. There was a time when I spent a lot of effort making NP, but that has faded. And there was a time when I really wasn't all that interested in guilds, but now I'd say my guild, the Neopian Times Appreciation Guild, is one of the things that I really concentrate most of my Neopets time on. It probably helps that I created it, so I'm really invested in it and in its theme. And I love many of the people that I've met through it. We have a lot of fun just chatting and helping each other out. To be completely honest, it can be a hassle running it sometimes, but I wouldn't give up all the positive things that I've gotten from it.
NTMI: I can see where it would be. I've always been more content to be a member and let someone else have the headaches of running it! So, what does an "average day in Neopia" consist of for you?
Tdyans: Well, usually first I check on my Neopets, make sure they're not hungry, and if they are I feed them, and sometimes play with them a little. I do all the free stuff and check to see how dismally my stocks are doing in the stock market. I check the bookstore periodically throughout the day to see if it happens to be restocking, and if so, I buy as many books as I can and read to them. I check the news page often. The next stop is the guild. I read through all the new messages, respond to those that I want to, post any announcements and take care of any other guild business that I need to. After that I keep checking back at the guild pretty regularly-- I really pretty much live there.:-) I also like to play my three games of Destructomatch and Volcano Run and and sometimes Pyramids and Scarab21. I also do whatever Snow Faerie and Mystery Island Chef Quests that I can get that won't cost me over 1500 NP. And I'm sort of addicted to the Scratch Card Kiosk, so I visit that at least once a day.
NTMI: Sounds like you are definitely busy! So how and where did you find the Neopian Times in all that, and what got you started writing for them?
Tdyans: I can't really remember all that well-- I guess because I didn't realize that it would become something that would still be affecting me a year later. I probably just noticed the NT as I was exploring the site, and decided that I'd like to give it a shot. I wrote an article and a story. I don't even remember what the article was, and it didn't get in. The story was the story of Achilles81 fighting in the Battledome Leagues. I think, like with a lot of things that I write, the idea for that story just kept building and building in my head until I just had to write it out, and since it was written, I figured I might as well send it in too. Maybe if I'd known then that it would become kind of an... obsession?... after my first success with that story, I wouldn't have done it. But then again, maybe I would have, because if it is an obsession, it's really not a bad one.:-)
NTMI: Well it's certainly one that we all enjoy! So what's your favorite things to write- or that you have written- for the Times?
Tdyans: I've dabbled in everything except for comics, and it's tough to choose favorites, but I'm probably leaning toward series as my favorite type of NT writing right now. As for favorites out of everything I've written-- they're all kind of special to me in their own distinct ways. I have to kind of go with what my readers' favorites seem to be. I still get neomails about these from time to time telling me how much the person enjoyed them. For articles, there's the infamous "The Right Way to Adopt," which made some people hate me, but really seemed to affect some others in a really positive way. For stories, there's "Where I Belong," a story that didn't get accepted the first time out, but that I sent in again because it really was important to me. And then for series there's "The Strangest Lupe" -- this may be the all-time favorite, and I always feel challenged to try to live up to it.
NTMI: Interesting choices! I have been reading Legends of the Seasons myself and enjoying it. So where and how do you get inspired with your story ideas?
Tdyans: Thank you. I enjoyed writing LOTS, but never got quite the response for it that I did for The Strangest Lupe, although I think the cute little picture that went along with The Strangest Lupe probably helped it. It's often difficult for me to remember where my inspiration came from once I've actually gone through the process of transforming that little glimmer of an idea into an actual story or article. Sometimes, I write purely so that I can work something personal out, as in the case of "How Moeioe Got His Wings" as I was trying to come to terms with the makeover of the fire moehogs, and "Rooruon Finds His Place," which helped me to adjust to the addition of my fourth Neopian family member. "The Strangest Lupe" and "Where I Belong" and my latest series all seem to have started with pictures that just got somehow stuck in my head, and I have no idea really where those pictures came from. "Sankara's Story" grew out a comment that someone made on the chat boards. For articles, I usually get ideas either from the news page or just from issues that I feel strongly about, which usually come up from reading stuff on the chat board also. I usually don't go searching too hard for ideas. I just let them come to me and build up until I know I have something that I can write.
NTMI: Once you have them, how long does it usually take to write a story?
Tdyans: It depends. Usually with a story or article, I've already mapped out in my head exactly how things are going to go, and it's just a matter of actually making time in my schedule to sit down and find the right words. So, the actual writing process can take maybe a half an hour to a couple of hours. Series take me much longer-- at least a month, and oftentimes more, not that I'm actually physically writing for a month, but even though I do have the series mapped out, things can change in the course of writing it, and I also usually need to take breaks between each part.
NTMI: Do you find your series changing moods between episodes because your mood changed as you worked on it?
Tdyans: Hmmm, I never really thought about that, but I think it is a definite possibility now that I consider it. I'm sure it happens, but I do try to read at least a little of what I wrote previously to recapture what I'm going for before I start again.
NTMI: So what is the most important piece of advice you could give to someone thinking about submitting to the Times?
Tdyans: Another tough question. First of all, don't give up. I've seen time and time again in my Neopets career that perseverance pays off. If a story really means something to you, and it doesn't get in, revise it and try again. Or, move on to other stuff, but don't just throw up your hands and admit defeat. Try to find something new or original to write about, or at least write about your subject in a new, original way. On the more technical side, spell and grammar check are wonderful tools. So are all the people you know who will read over your work and give you advice to improve it. Reading it aloud to yourself will also help you hear how your story really sounds. Make it something you can really be proud of, even if it doesn't get chosen. There's probably tons more that I could say, but it's not popping into my head right now, and I know it's all been said before-- there are lots of great guides *and* people out there that can offer advice, so use them.
NTMI: Perhaps we could also include "never think you're alone, because there's help available!"
NTMI: So what sort of feedback do you get when you have a piece published?
Tdyans: Usually I get wonderful feedback from a lot of people. It's really uplifting, and one of the reasons that I love writing for the NT. Some people tell me that I should be a writer "when you grow up," which is nice to hear, because I'd love to be a writer, but I have to wonder if they realize that I'm 20 and not 12.:-) So, most of the feedback I get is very encouraging, although I get more feedback on some pieces than others. "The Right Way to Adopt" is really the only piece that I can remember getting actual negative feedback on. A lot of adoption agencies took offense and let me know so, some of them rudely, and some of them more constructively, which I actually enjoyed because with those people I could have an intelligent conversation about the issue. Then I get the usual spate of battledome challenges, neofriend requests, some begging, and requests to date my pets. I don't like to do two-player fights very often, as it says in my lookup, especially now that Chia Flour is out there. I accept all neofriend requests, which is kind of foolish, but it's just something that I started doing and never stopped and now it's gotten out of control, so I hope that people will consider getting to know me before they request it, because I'm really too weak to refuse.:-) I don't like begging, but I'm always happy to give tips, although I can't really give tips on HTML except to say look at the Neopets HTML Guide, and I prefer people read the tips on writing on Achilles81's homepage before they ask for writing tips. As for dating, and again this is stated in my user lookup, my pets don't date. I don't want them to have more of a social life than I do.;-)
NTMI: :-) I certainly won't argue with that reasoning! So have you gotten anything published on the Neopets site besides Neopian Times pieces?
Tdyans: Let's see...I've won the Storytelling Competition 4 times. (Don't hate me please:-)-- it took forever before I won the first time.) Then I finally won the Poetry Contest a while ago with a poem about Tyrannian Victory Day that I had first written and sent in a year before. Oh, and months after submitting them, my first three pets won the Pet Spotlight. Like I said, persistence really does pay off. I'm still trying at that darned Caption Competition.
NTMI: I wonder if they have some sort of Grand Slam prize for someone getting in everything... would be nice wouldn't it.
Tdyans: Heh, yeah, that would be neat. I'm kind of a sucker for trophies, but for quite a while I didn't have any at all. I'm still no whiz at the majority of the flash games.
NTMI: What is the worst part of being a writer for the Neopian Times?
Tdyans: Another thinker. It's probably just all of those things that I talked about in the kind of feedback that I get-- anything that ignores the things I've asked people not to do in my user lookup, like battledome challenges and dating requests, as well as begging and other such things. Oh, and I hate requests for me to write something that someone else can put their name on and submit to the NT. I guess I'll never be a ghostwriter. What pride can you get out of something that someone else did for you? I say, write it yourself, and if you give me the excuse that you can't write well, then find something else that you are good at or else keep trying at it. I also hate seeing my stuff plagiarized.
NTMI: Just my personal opinion, but anyone who tries that should know that the editor of the NT can almost certainly tell if that happened- a writing style is distinctive, and I feel sure he knows his regular contributors' styles.
Tdyans: Good point.
NTMI: So what sort of writing have you done outside of Neopets?
Tdyans: Outside of Neopets...I've been writing, or at least making up stories, since I was a little kid. I have cassette tapes where I recorded myself just jabbering away telling these little stories that I made up. And I also wrote stuff once I was old enough, but I didn't really realize how much I loved writing for a while. I actually thought I wanted to be an artist for quite some time. Then I just decided one day in fifth grade that I wanted to write a story, and that story ended up winning the grand prize for my age group in a local writing contest. I won that contest four years in a row, and that pretty much cemented that I wanted to be a writer. So, I'm majoring in English with an emphasis in writing, which means I've taken a few different writing classes and written various stuff for them by now. Most have been fiction classes, but I took one creative non-fiction class this past quarter. As an English major, I also write tons of essays, which apparently I'm quite good at, but I enjoy fiction more, maybe partly because it's more challenging for me. I've got an internship at a magazine this summer that I might get to write a short article for at some point also, so I'm excited about that.
NTMI: So what goals do you have for your writing down the road?
Tdyans: As for the real world, I always kind of dread questions about the future, because I'm so uncertain. In an ideal world where everything that everyone wanted came true, I'd probably spend my life writing and not have to worry about anything else. In the real world, I've learned to still dream, but still be practical at the same time. In the short term, I'm hoping to get into an upper-division writing class next quarter that will hopefully really help me improve, and I also plan on doing a fiction project for my senior thesis, probably historical fiction. In the long term, maybe I'll go to graduate school for writing. As far as a career, I think that if I can find anything that involves writing in some way, I'll be happy. On a personal level, of course I want to always keep improving. As one of my favorite professors said, writing can never be perfect, but you can always keep working at it.
Tdyans: As far as Neopets goes, I've just sent in a new series, and you're hearing it here first...If I can finish at least one and hopefully both of them during the summer, I plan on writing two sequels to that series. I've never done sequels before, but somehow this series just calls for it in my mind, as I've already got a basic outline for both sequels sitting in my head.
NTMI: Well don't forget us when you become famous ;-) That was all of the questions I had to ask, was there anything more you wanted to say?
Tdyans: Hmmm, I can't think of anything more. Thanks again for interviewing me. I'll look forward to seeing it!
NTMI: And thank you for spending your time with us!
Would you like to read all of Tdyan's stories? Just click here to check her out in our database!