Author Interview with Angela Wren/ Pairing of Acting and Writing

It isn’t every day that I’m introduced an actress and writer, especially one from the United Kingdom. I’m so pleased Angela agreed to be a guest today.

Angela’s novel, Messandrierre, is the first in her new crime series.

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre. 

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.

 

In this excerpt, a little boy named Pierre Mancelle, who dreams of one day becoming a policeman, inserts himself into Officer Jacques workday.

“Junior Gendarme Mancelle reporting for duty, sir,” shouted Pierre as he cycled past Jacques and stopped just ahead of him.

Jacques saluted and smiled as Pierre got off his bike and tried to match Jacques’ pace as he continued along the path to the top road.

Pelletier met him outside the farmhouse. “Beth all right?”

Jacques nodded. “She’s at home resting.” Remembering that Pierre was at his side he squatted down to talk to him. “This is a real crime scene, Pierre, and I’m needed to help with the removal of evidence. So I—”

“Are there any dead bodies?” Pierre asked with an inappropriate enthusiasm whilst straining to see what might be going on inside.

Jacques suppressed a smirk and glanced up at Pelletier who was grinning.

“We don’t know yet,” he lied. “But the thing is, Pierre, only senior gendarmes are allowed at a crime scene so that means that I’ve no one to look after and patrol the village. So I need you to do that for me. OK?” He rose.

“Yes, sir,” said Pierre and set off along the top road to ride around the village.

Thank you for being here, Angela!

Was there one event that led you to decide to write for publication?

Yes, I submitted a story for a competition in a magazine called Ireland’s Own. Then I forgot all about it and went to France. When I got back, amongst the mountain of post that I had received, was a letter from the Editor of the magazine offering me €40 for my story. I hadn’t won the competition, but my piece had been picked out to be included with others in an anthology. Naturally, I said yes. On my bookshelves, in my office where I write, I have a picture of the cheque. When the going gets tough, I look at it and remind myself that my writing does have value!

How has being an actor influenced your writing?  And vice-versa, how has your acting changed, now that you’re a writer?

I think they have grown hand in hand throughout my life. I started acting at the age of 6 and quickly realised that I’d found something that I could do without my brothers and theatre became a permanent fixture in my life.

Telling stories is also something I’ve grown up with. Saturday afternoons reading fairy tales with my dad supplanted listening as he told me bedtime stories. As I grew older I began to make up my own stories. For me it was a logical step from telling stories to writing them down.

As an actor, I have to take the script and build the character I’m playing into a living breathing person for the audience to see and believe in. Once I’m in costume and make-up and I’m on that stage there is only 10 per cent of me there – that’s the bit of me that I need to keep me saying my lines, breathing and moving. The other 90 per cent is the character that I have come to know through rehearsals where, in conjunction with the director, I build that person from the toes upwards. I look for clues in the text, the stage directions, the emotions behind the lines. A character on stage has to behave like a normal person. They may have an accent, a particular tone of voice. All of these details I think about in advance.

As a writer, I build my characters in my books and stories in the same way. I know what colour their eyes are, I know what their greatest regret in life is, their most wanted hope, their favourite colour… It’s all about the detail. Being an actor and a writer kind of goes hand in hand, really.

Which writers have influenced you the most?

I suppose Shakespeare is one. I’ve been learning, reciting and reading his work since I began working on stage.  I also love the lyrical quality of the books of Thomas Hardy, and Nathaniel Hawthorne and the colour with which D H Lawrence peppers his stories.

I started reading Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie as a teenager and they must figure in this list somewhere as I often revisit their stories whenever I can.

I studied William Golding at school and I’m now the proud owner of all of his books which I like to re-read from time to time.

Lastly, my earliest influences were the brothers Grimm, Hans Anderson, Perrault and Poe.

Messandriere is available in print and digitally.

You can find Angela’s books at:

http://viewbook.at/Messandrierre

Amazon

Amazon UK

Amazon US

GooglePlay

You can find Angela at:

www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Angela Wren as Elvira in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit

 

 

And Contentment for All/Reflections from a Protest-Weary Woman


I surprised myself by getting a little protective of my estranged mother at a book event recently as I answered  readers questions. While my mother made a complicated and fascinating character in my memoir as she did in life, I know it wasn’t only her children she made miserable.

By the time my memoir Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters was published, I was years past being angry with her for her wackadoodle and sometimes sadistic parenting. It helped to assume she was mentally ill, and to look at the time from whence she came.

Being stuck in a trailer full of their unending demands threatened to choke the life right out of her. She fancied herself a Hollywood starlet waiting to be discovered. But the discovery never happened, and her home became littered with ungrateful children.—page 78.

My mother was born in a time when women’s choices were defined by gender. The expectations of women were, in short:

To marry. To have children. To be satisfied with being married and having children. To turn the other cheek when struck by the father of those children. To accept having as many children as she became pregnant with.

That didn’t turn out too good for those who had different wants.

Not everyone is cut out to be married, and not all people are built for parenting. Just ask my mom. Better yet, ask any of her children.

When I went away to college in my late teens, I first heard the term feminism. It surely didn’t fit into my then-conservative belief system. Sure, I was pursuing an education to do something beyond having children, like working, but I was no feminist. Or was I?
When I looked up the definition of feminism in the dictionary, I found it to be pretty simple:

The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

Oh. That’s it? Nothing in there about not liking men or rejecting God like I’d been told feminism was. Just a simple belief that we should have equal rights and opportunities.

Today, I shudder when I hear young women today disavow feminism. “I’m not a feminist, but…”

Do you enjoy the right to vote? I want to ask them. Are you glad you can work and have kids, or not have kids? Or have kids and stay home with them?  Are you tickled that you can stick with having pets instead of children? Pleased not to replicate 19 Kids and Counting unless you want to? And are you grateful that it’s no longer legal in the US for a husband to beat his wife?

In this loud and divisive time in history, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant images of protests. Then I’m reminded of role protesting has played in our nation’s history, and that those who’ve historically risked their lives for our freedoms weren’t only soldiers. They were also the soldier’s brave and sometimes unruly wives and mothers and sisters who wanted better for us all.

I like to imagine who my mom would have been had she been born a generation or so later. I picture her as an artist of some sort, living a quiet yet contented life, although given some of  her other issues, that’s  unrealistic.  Still, I remain committed to appreciating mine, a most imperfect life filled with more work than I can  accomplish balanced with a spectrum of friend and familial relationships and hobbies of my choosing with no pressure to get remarried.

And I want nothing less for my own daughters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks always for stopping by.

 

Reviewing Old Resolutions/Aiming High and Accepting Low

Happy New Year!

Just before the holidays, I spent some time discarding and donating stuff I no longer wanted when I came across this tattered list.  It is an outline of wishes and goals I hoped for in my 39th year.

It was just the distraction I needed to stop de-cluttering.

Thirteen years ago, when I crafted the list, my kids were nearing adulthood, so I aimed high.  I hoped for things like a fake wood floor, a better car, a book deal, $500 more a month,  travel opportunities, a soulful community, lower cholesterol, and a  promising relationship. And then I scrawled all of the qualities I wanted my suitor to have.

I think I’d listened to some motivational guru Tony Robbins cassette tapes that inspired me to be focused and intentional about what I wanted.

There’s nothing wrong with being focused, so long as it’s tempered with flexibility.

So how did I fare, achieving my goals?

Well, that year (2003) I was fortunate to enjoy a soulful community and I completed the first draft of my memoir.

And over the next ten years, I did get a fake wood floor, a better used car, and more money. I began to travel, and completed more drafts of my memoir, finally publishing it a few months ago.

Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cholesterol is still high, but my good numbers increased while the bad decreased.

And my promising relationship?

 

 

 

 

Songwriter Leonard Cohen once mentioned in an interview that perhaps his greatest goal was to recall what he’d hoped to achieve as a young man, compare it to what actually did happen in his life as he grew older, and then accept the gap between the two with grace.

Of all my  resolutions for 2017, this is perhaps what I want most of all.

Accepting the gap. And keeping hope and faith alive for the future.

What are your resolutions for the New Year?

Thank you for visiting.

The Collateral Beauty of This Christmas Season

It’s deep December, and I’m a bit late in checking in.

Then again, I’m also late on Christmas shopping and cards and decorating and the like. But I’ve found my Christmas cheer and am enjoying myself silly instead of feeling engulfed in guilt about my failings.

Yesterday, I saw Collateral Beauty at the theater with a friend. It’s a sweet film with a not too subtle message that has always resonated with me: In the middle of a tragedy or even a prolonged period of bleakness, don’t forget to look around for the splendor that’s right there in the middle of it.

I’m pretty good at finding collateral beauty in the midst of tragedy, having had much practice. But when life is simply too busy, or when it’s dark out around the clock in Alaska, or when my car stops working, it’s a different story. The little stuff bugs me. A lot.

But lately, I’ve found myself at so many events related to my memoir this season, recounting the endless acts of collateral beauty I’ve experienced. I can’t remember a time when I’ve cried more or felt so vulnerable. And so grateful.

Just this  week, I met with two classes of high-schoolers for a discussion about the book and on recognizing signs of unhealthy relationships. Their insights were both sharp and gentle. I was in a daylong online dialogue on We Love Memoirs, and  finished the week with a book signing at Kaladi Brother’s Coffee, my second home and the place where I logged many hours of evening writing. New and old friends joined me and settled in for a relaxed talk about our community, twenty or more years ago to now, and where they were when my girls were abducted, and the role they played to aid the recovery.

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Holidays can be tough. I remember feeling stung in years past when I’d look at social media posts or holiday letters from what appeared to be closer or wealthier or just happier looking families than my own here in Anchorage. My friend and blogger Jen Singer wrote a beautiful post about her similar sentiments here in The Holiday Card No One Ever Sends.

Isolating during the holidays is a tradition for some of us. I don’t enjoy big groups, especially when I’m feeling blue, but this year, there’s been no time for that. Whether it’s been through book events or my day job, volunteer work or time spent doing nothing in particular with my girls, I feel a part of something great. And I can’t even begin to say how much love I feel with every email or post on social media and Christmas cards I’ve received. Thank you.

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Truth is, I still live an imperfect life, but so long as it’s filled with love and connections and purpose, I wouldn’t trade it.

I wish to you that same feeling of connection. I hope you know that if you are alone, you don’t have to be. I recognize that just you stopping by to check in with me here is a wonderful effort. There are volunteer opportunities and other people around, looking for connection and meaning, looking for you.

Later today, I get to meet up with a woman who phoned me after a book signing a week ago. She reminded me that in 1990, she’d sold me her TV at a garage sale. I was in my mid-twenties then and was already on my own with my little girls.  It took me a moment to place her, now nearly 30 years later.

“Don’t you remember?… I let you pay me for the TV in installments.”

I can’t wait to see her. Anyone who is kind enough to allow a broke young woman to essential rent-to own a garage sale item is definitely a part of my collateral beauty.

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Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Thank you for being here with me. I’m happy to report that Pieces of Me:Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters has been a popular Christmas gift this year. Thank you!

Channeling Gratitude

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I really have to work hard  this time of year at being grateful .

 

It’s bitter cold outside here in Alaska at the moment.  My lips are cracked and bleeding, my refrigerator is empty since it’s too frigid to shop, and I find the constant darkness to be oppressive.

Add to that the holidays-something I loathe-and the pre and post election fallout and I’d say it’s been a stressful and overwhelming time. It feels like the world has gone crazy and we’ve stopped listening to one another.

I’ve been forced out of my shell the past many weeks  with my book events. I’ve met a lot of new people and attended several book groups already. I’d  spent enough time alone the year before that my social skills had atrophied. How refreshing it has been to see people choose  to congregate, to agree, to disagree, and to do it with respect and often with affection.

Hopefully, I’ll keep my new social chops after the book events wind down. We’re all navigating this sometimes ominous-looking future the best we can, something I lose sight of when I spend too much time alone,  scrolling through social media, reading instead of relating.

Here are some key players who make my life enough.

 

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I have gratitude. It just needs to be defrosted.

Thank you for your support.

The Benefits of a Writer’s Retreat/#swpretreat2016

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I recently returned from a few days in Scottsdale, Arizona at the She Writes Press (SWP)Author Retreat 2016 at The Boulders Spa.

I love writers conferences, but  found this retreat, similar to the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat I attended in Washington almost four years ago, to be more restorative.

Like writers conferences, there were opportunities for learning craft at the SWP retreat. Author Rebecca Skloot of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was the keynote. She taught a workshop on structure, and panels of industry insiders later presented on topics like getting our books into libraries, bookstores, and ways to get collateral rights sold.

But at the retreat,there was built in time for solitude and writing.

There was also the comforting feeling of support in the air. No conference story-pitching  and competition. Just more experienced writers mentoring the newbies, and the newbies reaching out to the newer newbies.

Good food and nice trails for walking were all around. A chance to get new head shots and promo video was offered, not required. And after working closely with the terrific staff  from She Writes Press and SparkPoint Studio, it was a real treat to finally meet them all in person.

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Authors were invited to give three minute reading of their work by the fire pit the final evening.

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Perhaps that’s the most welcome difference I’ve noted between a writers conference and writers retreat. There are invitations extended, but no hard expectations expressed.

I returned home, refreshed and focused with a new group of  authors to add to my friendship bank.

A worthwhile investment, indeed.

After the Release/Balancing Expectations with Reality after Publishing My Memoir

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In life, I like to keep my expectations low.

It may sound negative, but I learned a long time ago that if did, I would rarely be disappointed. Instead, I’m often happily surprised when things turn out better than I could have expected.

I didn’t know what to expect when I published my memoir. Picking apart memoirs seems to have become a national pastime over the last decade, and I braced myself for a challenging launch and turbulent landing afterward. I decided early on that I wouldn’t whine when people gave me negative reviews, and I wouldn’t check my Amazon ranking often enough to make myself nuts. Above all else, it wasn’t wise to assume that simply because I spent two decades writing a book, the world would pay it any mind.

I’d carefully identified my target audience. If I was lucky, women readers from ages 35-75 would be interested (and maybe a brother or two of mine).

I’d carefully planned the release date to be timed close to Domestic Violence Awareness Month since it’s a theme in my book.

And I decided to be intentionally open to new experiences, not simply including local agencies in my launch, but welcoming their invitations when they included me in their fundraising or awareness-increasing efforts.

 

So how did my expectations measure up to reality?

First came the heartfelt messages from family and friends, in Alaska, then in Kentucky, followed by other states,and finally in Australia and the UK.

“As you probably already know, dad bought 7 of your books to give all of his kids and grandkids. I got mine Sunday night and could hardly put it down.”

“We’re at the cabin. Dave was up early. I found him downstairs, riveted, by the time I needed coffee. He is engrossed! Liz — it’s really, really good. No surprise, but still needs to be said.”

“I’m so impressed, and I just can’t say how proud I am!  I hope you feel that way too and are walking two feet taller!!!”

That’s just a few. Meanwhile, my amazing public relations team at SparkPoint Studio made sure that Pieces of Me met the rest of the world.

“A stunning, adrenaline-inducing memoir that could double as a thriller, Pieces of Me is the story of one mother’s spiritual fortitude and the limitless measures she takes to protect her children.” —  She Knows

Also-

10 MEMOIRS FOR FALL BY TRAILBLAZING WOMEN   – The Spark  

5 Memoirs That Remind Us Of The Meaning Of Family- Buzzfeed  

THE TOP 10 inspirational books to take on your next journey – The Culturalist

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I’ve been so grateful for the reviews on Amazon and on Goodreads also, and from them learned that my readers are from men and women alike. And within a month of its official release, a local high school student made international parental child abduction her topic to report on at school after she read Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters and interviewed my youngest daughter about her experiences.

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In all, I participated in 14 events related to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, reconnected with old friends and family, and was even joined by my daughters for some of the events.

Thank you for every bit of it. Thank you for being with me and cheering for me and for advocating that others read my book. Thank you for the reviews. I am truly surprised and honored.

But if you’re wondering if I might change my approach to expectations, the answer is a resounding No.

I went to treat myself to a hair color and style at an Anchorage beauty school as a reward to myself for making it through the hardest parts of publishing my memoir.

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I think you’ll agree that the results below validate how I manage expectations.

See you soon.

 

The Amazing Role of a Domestic Violence Advocate/Interview with Nicole Stanish

  “I don’t understand how you can do that work. It must be so depressing.”

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You get used to hearing that sort of comment when working in the trenches of domestic violence (DV). I used to hear it a lot 20 years ago when I was a DV advocate, but now the question was posed to domestic violence advocate/program manager at Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) ,Nicole Stanish, whom I worked with during some DV Awareness Month events.

She answered graciously, but later I followed up with a few questions of my own. It took her nanoseconds to respond, a sure sign of someone who loves her job.

What led you to working with domestic violence victims?

When I was 12 I read a book about Covenant House and knew that one day I would be a social worker. When I was in college, working towards my social work degree, my professor gave us an assignment to write a paper on a social service agency and she suggested that I might like AWAIC. So I interviewed the Shelter Manager for my paper and she suggested I come to volunteer training, which I did, and then I fell in love with AWAIC and began volunteering a couple of nights a week. Later, when a position opened up I applied.

What do you like best about your job?

The best part of DV work is connecting with people. I enjoy hearing people’s stories, even though they can be sad, and offering them whatever strength, compassion and understanding that I can. We are all human and we all have our struggles and people benefit the most from having a non-judgmental person support them through a hard time.

What is the worst part?

The worst part of DV work is seeing someone who has so much potential continue to go back to her abuser, back to her addictions, lose her children, and continue to spiral farther down. It is hard to have high hopes for a person only to see them continue to get into worse and worse situations. I wish that there was a way for me to transfer all of my hope and faith into them to help them succeed.

 What are some things you want people to know about how they can help?

We all have the power to make a difference. We are all humans and have struggles and fall down. And we are all capable of compassion, understanding, and the ability to reach out to someone who is having a hard time and help them.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone. If you are fortunate enough to never have had it happen to you- do not judge those who are currently experiencing it. Domestic violence is very complex and very hard to break free from. If you know someone who is living with domestic violence, just be there for them. Let them know that they deserve all the good in the world and that you will always be a person that they can turn to. Don’t give up on them.


For more ideas on how you can get involved with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, click here. Thank you to Nicole Stanish for doing great work to impact change.

 

 

A Very Big Dream for a Very Small Life/ Book Buzz for Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters

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It’s the end of September, and the beginning of my dream.

Pieces of Me:Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters has found itself a home with some readers around the globe already. Thank you so much for that, and thank you also to those of who’ve reviewed it on Amazon or Goodreads. It is truly a gift.

 

In the past two weeks, I’ve been interviewed for television with Tracy Sinclare at KTUU  in Alaska and enjoyed speaking with Lori Townsend at Alaska Public Radio Network.

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Buzzfeed included Pieces of Me in their Five Memoirs that Remind Us of the Meaning of Family and the Culturalist named it in the Top 10 Inspirational Books to Take on Your Next Journey.

Books by Women kindly published an essay I wrote about the journey to becoming an author,

None of these things would be possible without the work of Sparkpoint Studio and a receptive writing community, social media shares by family and friends, and the local community around me.

My memoir has had a promising start. And I hope it will continue to start important conversations about domestic violence.

I timed the actual book release and upcoming launch carefully. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the US, a chance to shine the light on a problem that impacts all of us, directly or indirectly. It’s a chance for victim-serving agencies to connect with the community. I’m proud to be involved and I hope you will do the same.

Click here for more information.

It was well over 20 years ago when I grabbed up my little girls and found safety at an overcrowded dormitory-style battered women’s shelter. Back then, I dreamed of safety. Then of getting my own place. Having mattresses to sleep on. Getting off food stamps. I’ve been so very fortunate that all of those dreams came true, and many more for both me and my daughters.

But there are a lot of other victims who need help. Offenders who need support and accountability to change. Children who need hope.

Before dreams can come true, the nightmares must end. All of us can make a difference.

Thanks always for stopping by. Next month, I’ll have at least one advocate serving domestic violence victims as my guest.

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Why Now? When is the Right Time to Publish a Memoir?

Why Now?

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It’s a natural question. My memoir Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters will be officially released on September 20, 2016– nearly four months after the anniversary of the event it’s based on.

The twentieth anniversary.

The why now question comes up a good deal, and there’s more than one answer:

  1. I waited for all the signs of healing to be in place, and when they didn’t come, I knew it was time.
  2. I fiddle-farted around with writing it. Then one of my brothers gave me a nudge, telling me if he worried that if I didn’t finish up, he wouldn’t be around for it’s release. (No pressure there!)
  3. I couldn’t ignore the feeling that there was a cloud over my head. I’d committed to tell the story of addressing intergenerational patterns and then didn’t do it. It felt like I was one class shy of a degree for more than a decade.

But the bigger question is– why bother to write a memoir at all?

At first, it was based on the fact that I loved to write, and thought the double-abduction theme would make a great story. But I was angry for a long time, at the kids’ dad, at the failed judicial system. It would have been an angry book.

It took me a while to figure out that writing a memoir is as much about connecting with readers as it is sharing my story. And during these last few weeks, I’ve heard from family, friends, and new reader friends about parts of the book that resonate with them, triggering memories about their own challenging times. “During my divorce…” or “After my wife died…” or “When my insurance didn’t cover the chemo…”

Stories of strength and survival are what join us as humans. We all have them. And I’ve been so honored to hear other people’s stories as I share my own.

Thank you so much to everyone who has posted, texted, e-mailed, or published reviews. I would be lying if I said this has been an easy and stress-free process. It has not. But I’m increasingly convinced that now was a good idea to publish my memoir, thanks to you.

img_1480img_1483unnamed  Special thanks to Dorit Sasson, Tracy Sinclare at KTUU, and Carol Krein for making this past week successful in getting the word out about my book.