New to Sierra Writers I wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed or amused the day Phylis told me she’d seen a crowd conjugating in front of the library. When I asked whether she meant congregating, she laughed and confessed she was often afflicted with attacks of malapropitis. Then she proudly revealed her favorite tale on herself. It seems she was at dinner with friends when her husband, Gordon, related a story about a prizefighter who died and donated his organs. The group discussed what organs those might be. After listing the usual liver, heart, lungs etc. Phylis added “… oh, and the eyes, unless of course he had gloccamora.” To which one of the other guests responded, “Isn’t that a dip?” Phylis calls that her “triple.”
Phylis Warady, past president of Sierra Writers, current board member, and the group’s reigning monarch of malaprops has had a long career as a writer. Like many women writers, Phylis began when her children were small, writing when the children were napping. Her first writing job was with a newspaper in Simi Valley, CA. She wrote the society page, features, and “whatever they needed just before deadline.”
She soon realized her first love was fiction and enrolled in a Creative Writing class. At the same time she signed up for the “Writer’s Digest course in Short Fiction,. “They give you a year to finish a story,” she says. “I took two.” But after that she was off and running “attending any writing class within fifty miles of Simi Valley, ending up in advanced writing classes at CSUN, California State University Northridge, where she took both the Short Fiction course and the Playwriting course, which included movie scripts and was taught by a script doctor who worked for Warner Bros.” In her spare time she wrote short stories in many genres including mystery and literary. Her Christmas story, “Close to the Stars,” has sold nine times.”Shattered Image” has not sold yet but won the 2002 Dorothy Daniels Writing Award for Fiction. Another story, “Pearl in a Foul Oyster World” has been published eleven times and is scheduled for inclusion in three as yet unpublished anthologies.
Even so, there was little market for short stories. “It took eight years of submissions to get anyone to even comment.” Phylis decided to try her hand at one of her other loves, Regency Romance. These novels take place during the period of history when King George was “mad” and the Prince Regent was the acting ruler of England (1811-1820). There is a strict structure to these historicals and their fans are sticklers for accuracy. So is Phylis. A large map of London circa 1809 graces one wall of her office. Another entire wall is filled with books from reference tomes to well worn paperback favorites. She has brought her expertise to five published regencies, one of which, “The Earl’s Comeuppance”, was a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award. But this success didn’t come easily. Two publishers offered to buy “The Earl’s Comeuppance.” Phylis chose Harlequin. Soon after, Harlequin closed its Hollywood office and the editor left the company. “Earl” got lost in the shuffle. Harlequin never published it and it was nine more years before the novel was finally published. She’s written nine novels and published five. “The other four were practice,” she says.
Phylis credits her novel writing with teaching her to write short stories. She recently pulled out all those old short stories, revised them and has been submitting them to various contests and literary journals. The practice must have paid off because Phylis has been raking in prizes and sales at a rate to cause envy in any writer’s heart.
Although she prefers fiction, Phylis hasn’t completely forsaken reality. She has written several nonfiction articles, mostly on writing. Her article “How to Turn Rejections Into Checks” recently sold for the ninth time. It will appear in the May 2003 issue of “Fellowscripts.”
Phylis has shown her dedication to writing through her membership in various writing organizations. She belonged to Mystery Writers of America for 12 years, is a founding member of Romance Writers of America, and is a member of the Author’s Guild and Novelists Inc. Through these organizations, she keeps abreast of trends and keeps in touch with other working writers. Writing can be a lonely business and these contacts let her know she’s not working in a vacuum.
For nearly twenty years Phylis has been a guiding presence in Sierra Writers. She joined soon after moving to Nevada County and has since served in most offices and board positions and currently is a member- at-large. Her love of the short story form led her to start the annual Young Writers Contest which she named to honor Lee Roddy. She also instituted the twice yearly 3-page Read which gives writers the opportunity to have the beginning of their piece read aloud to see whether they’ve made it interesting enough so the reader will want to see page 4.
Several years ago, faced with declining membership and low turnout, Phylis called each member personally to ask them to attend a strategy meeting to find ways to keep the group together. Four people showed up. The group decided to give it one more year and if they couldn’t increase membership they would concede defeat. Phylis became a dynamo.
She asked popular author, Lee Roddy to become president. She scheduled an amazing roster of speakers on every aspect of writing. She recommended we put on a writing seminar with Lee as speaker. We set up live interviews on KVMR and KNCO, wrote publicity articles for the Union and placed flyers (designed by Phylis and Gordon) in libraries, bookstores and schools around the county. At the end of the year we had over ninety members. So it is largely through the efforts of Phylis Warady that on the second wednesday of each month Sierra Writers continues to conjugate in front of the library.
Find Phylis Warady’s web site at www.phyliswarady.com.
- Scandal’s Daughter
1989 2nd place Historical Fiction Southwest Writers
1989 Maggie Finalist
2005, reissued in large print edition
- The Earl’s Comeuppance
1987 Golden Heart Finalist
2005, reissued in large print edition
The Golden Swan1994, reissued in 2007 e-book & trade paper back
- The Persistent Suitor
1995 Holt Medallion Finalistreisued in 2008 e-book or trade paperback
Breach of Honor1995
Que Sera, Sera! 2nd place 2008 Fresh! Literary Magazine
A Deathly Chill 2007 Mimi Heitzmann Award
Road ( Essay) 2007 S. Portia Steele Award for Excellence in Prose
- Close to the Stars
1999 1st place, The Literary Network
1999 Zoetrope’s Hall of Fame
- Pearl in a Foul Oyster World
2000 2nd place The Writing Parent
- A Neat and Tidy Crime
2000 1st place Rockford Writer’s Guild
2003 Ray Bradbury Creative Fiction Award2nd Place 2005 Grandmother Earth
- Shattered Image
2002 1st Place, Dorothy Daniels Short Fiction Award; 1st place 33rd Annual Foster City International Writers’ Contest
- The Betrayal of Melissa Jane
2002 Finalist, Wm. Faulkner Award for Short Fiction