On Love After 50 and Books/Author Interview with Ashley Sweeney

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Just before my initial book launch, I had the pleasure of meeting author Ashley Sweeney and her husband Michael as they were wrapping up Ashley’s book tour in Alaska. Their chemistry was obvious, as was their mutual respect. And as it turns out, their romance ignited the spark that turned in to the award- winning novel, Eliza Waite. I’m thrilled to have Ashley as my blog guest today.

Welcome, Ashley!

Q: What was the inspiration for your debut novel, Eliza Waite?

A: The idea for Eliza Waite was born on my first date with my husband, Michael, in the fall of 2008. While hiking across largely uninhabited Cypress Island in Washington’s San Juan Islands, we came across an abandoned cabin perched steeply above the beachfront on the island’s remote north side.

We were curious. The small, rustic cabin sat in sad disrepair, missing its door and windows, and sporting a sagging roof and mouse droppings throughout. It was evident that no one had lived there for a very long time.

But who had lived here? And what was his or her story? I couldn’t get the image of the cabin out of my mind, and from that chance discovery, I began crafting the novel.

Q: How did you research and promote the novel together?

A: Eliza Waite recounts the story of a disenfranchised woman who finds her way in the world, first as a lonely preacher’s widow in Washington, and then as a successful business owner and enlightened woman in Skagway, Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.

Both Michael and I derived much pleasure researching for the novel, which took a full six years. We especially enjoyed our first trip to Alaska together in 2013. We cruised up the Inside Passage and stopped in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Anchorage (Michael had spent much time in rural Alaska in his career as a fisheries biologist; I’m a native New Yorker and had never been to Alaska before). At each of the stops, we conducted interviews and pored over myriad archival media: books, photos, essays, magazines, diaries, and cookbooks from the late 1800s.

Returning to Alaska with the finished product in 2016 was satisfying, particularly when we revisited bookstore owners, editors, museum curators, librarians, authors, and locals who helped with initial research. Michael and I often joke that Eliza has been with us since our first date, and we talk about her as if she’s an old friend.

Q: What are the unique challenges of a new relationship over 50?

A: Michael and I were 51 and 58 when we met at a party at a mutual friend’s home in the late summer of 2008. I had been married for 28 years and was newly divorced; my husband had never been married.

We took our relationship very slowly. For three years, while we were both still working fulltime, we visited only on weekends. Then we lived together for three years before our marriage in 2014.

Kindness is the basis of our relationship; it cannot be underestimated in any union, marriage or otherwise. We also share base values and political views. On a personal level, we have learned to give the other what he/she needs the most. I crave emotional support; Michael is a strong listener and offers steady encouragement. Michael craves independence; I give him lots of space to hike, explore, and do projects. Another key: we laugh a lot.

Q: Do you have any encouragement for singles looking for love after 50?

A: Enjoy yourself, your friends, your job, your activities. We’ve all heard the old adage that you’re apt to meet someone when you’re not looking. If you do meet someone with whom you feel a genuine spark, be gentle, honest, and kind with him/her. Trust your intuition. And don’t force it. Everyone comes with his or her own life experiences, and oftentimes by our 50s (or older) hearts have been bruised or broken more than once. Give it time to see if your lives mesh and the relationship evolves to a deeper level.

Age alone is not a dead-end for possible happiness with another partner. Michael had given up on marriage after many failed relationships; I had sworn off marriage after a long and unhappy marriage. Just goes to show you that our perceptions were shattered when we met each other.

Q: After the success of your first novel, do you have another in the works?

A: My second manuscript is finished and out on review. It centers on a feisty young Scottish botanical illustrator who is forced to accompany her authoritarian uncle to Oregon Territory at the height of the fur trading empire in the early 19th century. The novel spans 29 years and four continents and is filled with intrigue, deception, heartbreak, and lust; it chronicles one woman’s desire to be recognized in life and love.

I’m now working on a third manuscript that follows the ill-fated Donner Party as they travel west on the Oregon/California Trail in 1846. Just recently, I was turned on to another story, which may develop into a fourth novel set in the desert Southwest at the turn of the 20th century. It’s interesting that all my stories have come to me by chance, so I’m always listening!

Q: How can readers contact you?

A: Please visit my website: www.ashleyesweeney.com. There you’ll find info about me and my novels, and you can access my monthly newsletter, Word by Word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Writer’s Mentor/Interview with Author and Professor Dr. Virginia Carney

In 1992, when I was a welfare mom trying to finish my degree before my girls were old enough to feel the stigma of poverty, I met a professor who immediately felt like family. Later, it made sense. Not only was Professor Ginny Carney an inspiring and nurturing person,  her roots from Southern Appalachia were close to mine from Eastern Kentucky.

Before she moved  to Kentucky from Alaska to live near Berea College,while she attended graduate school, Dr. Carney became Ginny to me, a treasured friend and confidante who helped me believe that anything was possible.

Though I’ve not seen her in person in more than two decades, Ginny Carney remains a mentor and a dear friend.

January in National Mentoring Month, and I’m so pleased to have one of my favorites here today.  Thank you, Ginny!

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Who mentored you and fostered a love of stories and literature?

Neither of my parents was a high school graduate, and they were probably never aware of what a strategic role they played in cultivating a love for words in their children; both my mother and father, however, were avid readers and would often tell stories, sing ballads, or recite long poems from memory. Although we were very poor, they always subscribed to a newspaper and a couple of magazines, and when I was about three, they found a way to “buy on time” a set of the Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia. I loved those books, and somehow, I learned to read from them by the time I was four years old. Since our family had no car and no electricity, reading introduced me to worlds far beyond Southern Appalachia, and I developed an insatiable appetite for books.

When did you know you wanted to mentor others? How did it begin? Was it through foster parenting or parenting?

I’ve never really thought of myself as a mentor, but for as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for learning—and I have always wanted to share that passion with others. By the time I was four years old, I already had three younger siblings, and playing “school” with them was excellent preparation for my years ahead as a mother/grandmother/great-grandmother.

 You enjoyed a second career after nursing. How did that come about? Was there a pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a professor?

My childhood dream was to become either a medical doctor or a registered nurse. Due to lack of financial resources, however, completing college was a much greater challenge than I had anticipated. After getting married in 1963, I did begin applying to nursing schools, but was stunned to discover that none of these programs accepted married women (a story in itself!).

I did eventually complete nursing and work for several years as a pediatric/NICU nurse, but adopting a sibling group of four (ages 2-6) in the late 1980s, eventually compelled me to think about a profession that would allow more time with my family. Subsequently, I enrolled at UAA, where Dr. Arlene Kuhner (Professor of English) became an incredible mentor/friend, encouraging me to be proud of my Cherokee/Appalachian heritage, and to incorporate that into my writing.  I completed an M.A. degree in English in 1990, was privileged to teach at UAA for three years prior to my acceptance into a PhD program, and I continued working in higher education until my retirement in 2016 at age 75.

 Do you have any advice on how emerging writers can find a mentor? Are there secrets you have learned in being a mentor?

Of course, it would be wonderful if every emerging writer had a trusted mentor of his/her own. Often, however, mentors are individuals who don’t necessarily think of themselves as mentors, but who, as a result of life’s experiences, have gained a wisdom, compassion for others, and encouraging spirit that they instinctively share with others—especially with those who may be going through similar experiences. Therefore, emerging writers (of all ages) often find that their greatest support comes from authors like you, Liz—writers whose stories they may have only read, but whose words light an inextinguishable flame of creativity and hope within them.

 Is there a story or two you would like to share that you’re most proud of?

Of the hundreds of narratives that I could share, this story of an elderly Ojibwe woman in Minnesota is one of my favorites:

After outliving three husbands and retiring as a Licensed Practical Nurse, 85-year-old Miss Lois said, “I’m bored! Maybe I’ll take a moccasin-making class at the tribal college!” So, she enrolled in that one class, and she so enjoyed being with young college students that she decided to enroll as a full-time student.

One of the classes she took was my American Indian Literature course—a course in which we read about and discussed a number of emotional topics, including the Indian boarding school era, which has resulted in PTSD for thousands of American Indian/Alaska Native students and their families. At first, Miss Lois only alluded to the sexual abuse she and other young children had experienced at the hands of their “teachers,” but one day, she began joking about a group of girls “ganging up on a priest and tying him up.” Her young classmates (who had never attended boarding schools themselves) did not laugh.  Instead, they voiced indignation that their elders had “put up with” the physical and sexual abuse inflicted on them in many American and Canadian boarding schools. At that point, Miss Lois, who always seemed full of laughter and fun, shocked her classmates by breaking down in tears, and she began pouring out things she had kept inside for almost 80 years.  During the next several classes, other students began openly sharing their stories of incest/sexual abuse, and Miss Lois became their trusted (and highly esteemed) confidante/mentor. She went on to graduate from college, touching untold numbers of lives with her stories in newspaper and television interviews, as a participant in numerous panel discussions, and in her handwritten memoirs.

Miss Lois died in 2013 at the age of 95.

 

The New Year’s Cruise and Other Updates

Happy 2018!

My New Year began with a cruise vacation on Holland America’s Eurodam, where I enjoyed sunshine, fireworks, good friends, and a break from social media and work.

I’d needed a vacation. And here’s what I loved most:

    • The days at sea.
      I slept well. I went to the library to write. I found quiet spaces to read. There were workshops to attend, a book group. I especially loved a lecture on pirates, past and present. And the music- from the jazz band to the orchestra- was fantastic.
    • The days at shore.
    • In Key West, I went to Judy Blume’s bookstore. I’d emailed her to see if perhaps I could meet her and have her sign a copy of her latest book.   I didn’t expect anything. While I lost my internet access on the ship, her assistant wrote with a date that we could meet. Rats! Missed her. But I liked the Ernest Hemingway Museum. I’d never seen six-toed cats before. I won’t miss them in the future, but it was a fun day.

    • Turks and Caicos was pristine. The Dominican Republic was nice, and I especially liked feeding and snorkeling with stingrays in the Bahamas. Did you know stingrays are affectionate? I was surprised to be spooned by them when I was holding their fish dinner. They wrapped around me for a little appreciative hug. Very nice (once I realized I wasn’t going to die).
    • The return to home. Coming back to the cold and dark season, I was refreshed. I’d missed my life here in Alaska. I knew I wanted to keep some of the vacation gains going. Like going to bed earlier, shutting my phone off for some time every day, writing more, etc. I’d given up nearly all coffee, a true love of mine I’ve maintained for 40 years which had been aggravating some health issues. And I want to take time off more regularly, just to recharge.
    • And guess who got herself a part-time job this summer in tourism?
    • Me! I’ll be working at Holland America/Princess Tours (HAP) on Saturdays, earning a little cash and meeting some great people, who will help me figure out where to go next with my HAP travel benefits. I know it seems I’m moving in the wrong direction, wanting to take more breaks and all, but if it’s enjoyable, I’ll work there fulltime for a few months every year after I retire. It’ll give me travel money and focused time to write. An inexpensive or no-cost writer’s retreat every year.
    • If you’re in the neighborhood on a cruise, please say hello. I’ll be stationed in Whittier.
    • Another fun fact—I joined MoviePass just before I left on vacation. For just $10 a month, I can see all the films I like. A movie membership that will save me easily $40 plus dollars a month. I highly recommend it if you like seeing movies at the theater. It’s terrific.At the theater, I saw Molly’s Game, All The Money in the World, Darkest Hour, and The Post.
    •  I just finished reading In the Game by Peggy Garrity and In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.
    • So that’s what I’ve been up to. How about you?

 

Cheers for the New Year

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities.

And thankfully, it is over.- Lizbeth Meredith, after each and every Christmas.

Happy nearly New Year! I hope your holiday was peaceful and lacking expectation.

I enjoyed time with both of my grown daughters and with their significant others.  I cooked unsuccessfully, did more cleaning than I enjoyed, and heard from family and friends from near and far. And both the daughter time and the friends and family contact made it special.

So looking ahead to the New Year, I wish you the best of health and happiness. Positive relationships and some relaxation.

To that end, I’m leaving the cold behind and going on a trip with two dear friends from my childhood, and I’m so happy to have time offline  and in warmer temperatures!

Thank you stopping by, and I’ll be back soon!

Liz

 

 

 

Intended to be pumpkin pancakes.

 

 

 

A Full Circle Christmas and Dog-Eared Reads

 

My youngest daughter called me from Barnes & Noble the other day. “What are 12-year-old boys reading these days?” she asked.

She’d adopted a needy family whose name she got from a Christmas three at the mall.

It was a sweet reminder. We’ve come full circle.

“Did you know our little family was adopted one Christmas when you were small?” I asked her.

It was the Christmas of 1990.  A woman rang my doorbell and left a toboggan on the front porch, filled with gifts and preloaded stockings and all the food to make a Christmas feast. There were winter jackets for us all, wrapped toys for my daughters, socks and mittens and hats. Everything we could ever want or need. It was the best Christmas we’d ever had. It would be the only Christmas that I didn’t worry about how their holiday compared to those of their peers.

Comparing holiday spoils was something I was adept at. As a child, I dreaded returning to school after Christmas break. “What did get? Where did you go?” Basic stuff kids ask kids. Questions I was too embarrassed to answer.

When I became a mom, I tried to make sure my kids’ Christmases were great. I cooked the big meal or said yes to a lot of invitations to share it with friends. Along with the book or sweater I bought new for the girls were presents scavenged from Value Village, wrapped as pretend-new gift. I hoped their holidays would measure up to their friends’ scrutiny.

The thing is, there wasn’t any scrutiny from their friends.  But the girls certainly felt my pain. They felt it through my moodiness and meltdowns. And they felt it through my martyrdom.

When they were teens, my oldest daughter broke it down for me.

“You do realize that you ruin all of our holidays by trying so hard, don’t you?”

I was gob smacked. While it was tough to hear, it was also freeing. Who says holidays need to be perfect?

Holidays have a way of amplifying old insecurities or hurts if we let them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In later years, my daughters and I settled on easier holiday routines. For gifts, we get one another things to experience. A pedicure, a massage, movie tickets, books. We like brunch with egg nog French toast casserole better than turkeys. And we like just enough time together that the sweetness lingers, but not so much that old bitterness’s resurface.

It doesn’t always work. And the trick for me is not expecting perfection on Christmas and other holidays when I enjoy an imperfect life all of the other days.

And the other trick is to appreciate the ability I now have to both give and receive.
I wonder sometimes about the nice family that adopted mine so many Christmases ago.  I wish they knew how they touched our lives, and that we’re doing our best to pay it forward.

I hope you enjoy your holidays. And drop me a line if you know what 12 year-old boys are reading these days. It’s fun to hear from you.

Here are some of my recent reads from Alaskan writers.

From L to R- Homestead Girl, Whisper Mama, The Shadows in My Heart, Trumpula


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for stopping by.

If you’ve wanted to come to one of my book events but couldn’t, here’s a link to a recent interview from Radio KMXT’s Dog Eared Reads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Catch-Up and NaNoWriMo

I hope your holiday season is going well.

Please forgive my lack of activity. I’m gently behind on some emails and calls and blogging this month.

I’ve slowed down markedly with the increasing cold and decreasing light. Sometimes, after I get home from work, I sit in a cold stupor and just think. I know I’ll defrost soon enough as the weather resolves.

 

During the latter part of October, I finished with book events in Sitka and Kodiak in their respective libraries. Both trips for me were magical, with the well-attended and respectful conversations about trauma and writing and anything else that came up. Both trips included beautiful wildlife. And both trips gave me time with treasured friends who live on the Alaskan islands. Huge thank you to the people of Sitka and Kodiak, including the libraries there.

I returned home feeling refreshed and encouraged. And in need of time to just write and to binge-watch TV with my cats and to catch up with friends.

So that’s what I’ve been doing a little more of. Writing. It’s NaNoWriMo  ,National Novel Writing Month, and while I’m not planning to finish a novel in the month of November, I’m nearing 100 pages on the second book of my trilogy. And editing/producing Pieces of Me so it will one day be an audiobook. And I’ve happily written some essays for different magazines, and am seeing some of them find their way to publication.

I wondered if I’d be sad about the book tour excitement being over. It’s been such an emotional roller-coaster, and while so many things went wonderfully, I had a lot of near-misses and disappointments too.  But honestly, I just feel pretty pleased and grateful to have shared it with you.

So I gave myself 90 days of no book events. A vacation from hearing me talk about me. I needed that.

And then a nice lawyer called and booked a talk in February for a group of attorneys who volunteer to represent victims of domestic violence for free. Their conference comes just as my 90 day event break ends, and this is a group I definitely want to talk to. Volunteer lawyers have helped me find my missing father, seek orders of protection and eventually a divorce when I needed to from my former husband, and volunteer lawyers helped recover my missing daughters. I am truly forever indebted. It will be an honor to meet with them.

I plan to have a low-key Christmas and sneak in some sunshine at the end of December. A trip just for the sake of fun with two old friends from my childhood.

Until then, I’ll keep plugging away. Please remember my author page on Facebook, and thank you for your comments.

With you, I’m never alone.

Thanks for that.

 

 

 

Interview with Homestead Girl Author Chantelle Pence

  When did you know that you wanted to share your stories in the form of a book?

It sounds kind of hokey to say that I wanted to write a book since I was a child, but it’s true.
After I read The Outsiders when I was about ten years old, I had a distinct thought: “I could do this…” I thought it again after reading The Prophet and after I finished Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which was my favorite book as a young child.

I knew that I loved writing, but I didn’t pursue it as a serious craft until I was in my early thirties. My education and professional background is in Human Services, not journalism, so it took some time and permission-seeking from others, before I finally told myself, “If you want to be a writer, just write!” I had notebooks and computer files full of writing, but when I shared my first piece with friends and family, I was trembling. Any offering of writing is an act of vulnerability, and most of my stories are very personal in nature, so it was scary.

I discovered that my writing resonated with people, beyond my friends and family, when I started submitting pieces to the Anchorage Daily News as well as to local and regional publications. I began getting feedback and encouragement to keep writing. I even received phone calls, letters, and emails from some state officials after certain essays were published in the paper. At some point I decided that I had earned the right to write a book. I didn’t have a degree in journalism or creative writing, but I had a body of work that I could stand on. I applied for, and received, an Individual Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation, which funded my first book project.



  What was your favorite part  of Homestead Girl to write?
I don’t know that I have a favorite story, but I love the process of story making. One essay in Homestead Girl describes the feeling I get when a story is ready to come through. I liken it to a “joik”, a style of song that is native to the Sami, the indigenous people of Northern Europe. They don’t joik about a person, place, or thing. They joik it into being. It’s not a retelling, it’s a conjuring. I don’t even bother sitting down to write, unless I feel the story coming. It’s not a thinking process, it’s more like feeling the spirit of the story and giving it a body. Sometimes a story will flit about for days, or weeks, before it’s ready to come through. When it does it’s a great relief, and frees me up for other things…until the next story starts whispering.

 What surprised you the most about writing and publishing nonfiction?

I am pleasantly surprised that I don’t get more hate mail! I get a bit, and it’s to be expected because some of the subject matters that I explore are controversial or uncomfortable. My intention, always, when I write about things that are not so pleasant (a recent sexual abuse article comes to mind), is to shine a light and offer solutions. I also write from the ground level, not up on a pedestal. I promised myself a long time ago that if I were going to write about sensitive subjects I would put myself right in it, and share my own failings, not just point out problems and act like I’m perfect. I had to get over the desire to want to be liked or to look good.
Generally, people appreciate the honesty in my writing. I know it’s not always easy for my family or community when I share certain things, but I do believe that the truth sets people free.

 Your book has done very well, and I’ve noticed your articles that appear in the local newspaper reference your book, increasing its visibility. You have also done some out-of-the-box promoting.
 What promotional advice would you give prospective author about publishing his or her book?
You have to put it in front of people.  Your friends and family will buy your book, but others won’t unless they know about it. I go anywhere that will have me (book fairs, farmer’s markets, book clubs, craft fairs, etc.), but I don’t think of it as marketing. I think of it as an opportunity to meet new friends and readers. This has truly been the best aspect of the book release. I did a Books and Brew tour that was really fun! I was able to do readings and pop-up book signings at some of our Alaskan breweries, and met really fantastic people. That’s what it’s all about for me.

  How can readers best connect with you?
Go to www.chantellepence.com and fill out the form on the Contact page.

#DVAM 2017/Does Talking About Domestic Violence Really Make a Difference?

While de-cluttering my bedroom recently, I found an old magazine that reprinted my first published article in 1993. First posted in Alaska Women Speak, later in The Radical, I wrote it about the epidemic of domestic violence.

 

How novel it seemed at the time to be writing about what was then considered to be a deeply personal matter. Pre-O.J.Simpson trial. Pre United States Surgeon stating that domestic violence was (then) a leading cause of injury to women in certain age brackets.

It was truly wonderful to be a part of making a positive difference. Along with the other domestic violence advocates, I got to give a series of presentations and trainings. Trainings for judges, police officers, and employers. Presentations for clergy and public assistance workers, concerned citizens, and eventually for doctors, once it was confirmed how many victims presented with mental and physical injuries that needed attention. No matter who our audience was, we encouraged people to get a little nosy. “Ask when you see injuries if you have a private moment with the possible victim. Address concerns in a non-judgmental way.” Easier said than done.

Below is from the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

Initiating this conversation can be difficult. Some tips to help:

Tell what you see “I noticed a bruise on your arm…”
Express concern “I am worried about you.”
Show support “No one deserves to be hurt.”
Refer them for help “I have the phone number to…”

If your friend begins to talk about the abuse:

Just Listen: Listening can be one of the best ways to help. Don’t imagine you will be the one person to “save” you friend. Instead, recognize that it takes a lot of strength and courage to live with an abusive partner, and understand your role as a support person.

Keep it Confidential: Don’t tell other people that they may not want or be ready to tell. If there is a direct threat of violence, tell them that you both need to tell someone right away.

Provide Information, Not Advice: Give them the phone number to the helpline (1.866.834.HELP) or to their local domestic violence resource center. Be careful about giving advice. They know best how to judge the risks they face.

Be There and Be Patient: Coping with abuse takes time. Your friend may not do what you expect them to do when you expect them to do it. If you think it is your responsibility to fix the problems, you may end up feeling frustrated. Instead, focus on building trust, and be patient.

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This past year, I’ve had the chance to join domestic violence advocates in a number of community presentations since publishing my memoir.

Abuse in relationships is still far too common, and well over 1,000 women every year die because of it in the United States alone. Millions of kids are still being raised in homes witnessing domestic violence.

It’s natural to wonder Are we making a difference?

Then I had coffee with my friend Ruth. She used to manage the Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) shelter I worked at 20 years ago and we left our jobs around the same time. Now on blood thinners, Ruth bruises like a banana.

“Does anyone ask you about the bruising?” I asked.

“All the time,” she told me. She’s been asked by friends and strangers alike if she’s okay. “Even the groundskeepers downtown have asked me if I was safe.”

So Happy 30th Birthday to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and to all who’ve stuck their neck out to ensure we’re making progress.

I encourage you all to become a part of the conversation and part of the solution when opportunities arise. Or donate to or volunteer at your local shelter.

As a side, I’m grateful to my friends at AWAIC for honoring me for sharing my story. Without them, there would be no story.


Thanks for stopping by.

Pieces of Me Turns One/Looking Back and Moving Forward

Today it’s been a year since my memoir was officially launched.

More than 65 events, 103 online reviews (and counting), and three awards later, what a year it has been.

Thanks to your support, Pieces of Me has enjoyed national attention, and has garnered international fans as well.  None of this would be possible without your support. There just are not enough thank you’s to go around.

The gifts that followed after publishing my book are the relationships that have been strengthened, the new friendships made, and the opportunities to talk with family, friends, and strangers  about issues that have been traditionally have secret. Like family violence. Parental child abduction. Intergenerational trauma.

When giving presentations to high school and college students, I love recalling that pre-internet time when people across the community united to help me bring my kidnappped daughters home. What a diverse group my support network was made up of, and their generosity was duplicated in  beautiful Greece.  And what a special time it was in history in general when people actually spoke to one another instead of at each other.  It reminds me that together, we can  accomplish most anything.  It reminds me that when we are divided, we accomplish very little.

There have been some stressful times promoting the book. I ruffled a few feathers. I got very tired. And I relived some very horrible moments in my family’s history.  But the good has far outweighed the negative.

I have some more events coming up. Indeed, I am about to get on a plane and speak at it conference this weekend.  But after October, it is time for me to slow down and work on my next book.  I’m excited about it, having pitched it to  a literary agent at a writer’s conference last weekend, who deemed it the “most promising manuscript,”  of those pitched to her in that event.

I plan to begin charging for book trips that cost me both money and personal leave time so I can break even financially. But I have treasured this year and these moments together.

I will continue to work toward getting my memoir into universities, and welcome any help to that end.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

XOXO,

Lizbeth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Becca Puglisi on The Emotion Thesaurus and Writers Helping Writers

 

 

I’m always looking for tools to help my writing.

Two years ago I found Writers Helping Writers in the nick of time as I was polishing up the final draft of my memoir, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters.

Writers Helping Writers is an easy site to navigate, and offers a number of author reference books. Books like The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression and The Positive Trait Thesaurus are  in giving writing dimension.

I checked in with author and co-founder Becca Puglisi about what’s new in Writers Helping Writers community since I ran the below Q and A originally in 2015.

Coming soon to the Writers Helping Writers Collection…The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. Of all the formative experiences in a character’s past, none are more destructive than emotional wounds. The aftershocks of trauma can change who they are, alter what they believe, and sabotage their ability to achieve meaningful goals, all of which will affect the trajectory of a story. Enter The Emotional Wound Thesaurus, which explores over 100 possible traumatic experiences and how they can impact the character in the present. Armed with this unique resource, authors will be able to root their characters in reality by giving them an authentic wound that causes difficulties and prompts them to strive for inner growth to overcome it. Look for this book to be available by the end of October 2017!

 

Author Becca Puglisi.

I’m happy to have author Becca Puglisi as my guest in today’s post.

Thank you for being here, Becca!

How did the process of writing The Emotion Thesaurus evolve?

Well, it started when I noticed that my characters were constantly smiling and shuffling their feet. I wanted to get rid of those repetitions, but I didn’t know how else to show the emotions. Angela was having the same problem with her characters, and there just wasn’t anything out there to address the issue. So we started making lists of different emotions and brainstorming how people often express them.

When we shared the lists with our critique group, they jumped on it, sharing how they each struggled with the same problem. Years later, when it was time to start our Writers Helping Writers blog (then called The Bookshelf Muse), we wanted to include practical and fresh content that would keep writers coming back for me. We decided to share our lists, releasing a new emotional entry each week. And The Emotion Thesaurus was born.

You write Young Adult Fantasy Historical Fiction Writing in addition to the series of guidebooks for writers, two vastly different forms of writing. How did you develop the structure for The Emotion Thesaurus?

Well, in its original state, it was just a bunch of simple lists: one for fear, one for anger, etc. By the time we started our blog, the lists were so long that we needed something a little more organized and user-friendly, so we split each entry into fields: physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and so on. And when we decided to publish the books, we added a few more fields that we thought would be helpful to writers.

What is the process like of working with a co-author? Did you each divvy up sections in advance or teleconference occasionally to check progress?

Our process is fairly smooth because Angela and I complement each other very well. I think that in comparison to many people, we each tend to over-communicate; we talk A LOT—about possible ideas, problems that we anticipate in the future, how to break ideas down into a process and format that make sense, how the final product should look.

For any potential idea or project, we do a ton of pre-writing before we ever put pencil to paper. At the end of this stage, we usually have a template and a list of overall entries that we’d like to include. At that point, Angela writes one half and I write the other. When the drafting is done, we switch halves to edit—usually a few times. By that point, the writing has blended into an end product that is a mixture of` both of our styles.

I imagine you receive a lot of feedback from readers about this book, your site Writers Helping Writers, and the other great tools you’ve shared with the writing community. Is there any one example you would like to share that is especially gratifying to you?

Oh my gosh, there are so many examples. We’ve heard from Special Ed teachers using The Emotion Thesaurus with their students to help them read and identify other people’s emotions. Another time, I led a workshop on backstory that shows writers how events from the past can determine who a character becomes. Afterwards, one of the attendees told me that during the workshop she had identified an emotional wound from her own past that she hadn’t realized had impacted her so much, and now that she’d named it, she was going to be able to deal with it.

It was incredibly gratifying to see how a book of ours had impacted someone so meaningfully on a personal level. But I think the best note I’ve ever received was from a visually-impaired writer. Blind from birth, this writer had always had trouble describing character emotion because he had never seen it. With The Emotion Thesaurus, he said he could finally picture what a frustrated, excited, or terrified person looked like, and he was able to write those emotions realistically. I was floored. Who would’ve thought that our book would be able to help someone in such an amazing way?

I read that you were a teacher long before you were a writer. What inspired you to take the plunge and become an author?

This is my favorite interview question, because it exemplifies how good God is—and also shows that he has a sense of humor. My church was running a ministry project and, as a private school teacher, I had very little money. I prayed, asking God how I could make some extra money, and he told me to write a book. Haha. ‘Cuz writing is so lucrative, right? I had never written anything before, but I started working on what would become a middle-grade chapter book. And I was hooked.

It was eight years before I made a single cent from my writing, and that ministry opportunity never benefited from it, but with the sales of our books over the past three years, I’ve been able to pass on the blessings in ways I’d never imagined.

Writers Helping Writers

What has been the most surprising part of being a writer?

When I considered a career as a writer, I had this image of me happily writing—in a café somewhere sipping a drink, sitting by the fire in winter, staring out a widow at a picturesque view while contemplating my plot line. It was a shock to discover how much of my writing time was spent doing other things.

I spend an awful lot of time networking on social media, blogging, reading about writing, keeping up on industry news, bookkeeping, and responding to emails. It was discouraging at first, because with two small children at home, my writing time was very limited. But it’s all part of the deal. And for me, it’s been totally worth it!

Author Bio–Becca Puglisi is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others. This is one of her reasons for writing The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. Her website, Writers Helping Writers, is a hub for all things description, offering tons of free resources to aid writers in their literary efforts. A member of SCBWI, she leads workshops at regional conferences and teaches webinars online.

For more information, check out Writers Helping Writers.

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