A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone/Interview with Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth

 

March 2017

Dr. Jane Wilson Haworth  has been my virtual friend ever since  our stories both appeared in this anthology. She eventually gave me  I terrific book blurb that  I included on the jacket of my memoir Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters. She was kind enough to give me a few last edits as well.

I’m really running her post, and please note that the children’s book she mentions  below has been published. Wonderful,  informational, and perfectly illustrated.  You can find this and others on the link below or click  A Himalayan Kidnap.

Enjoy!

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Taking to the road alone is a brave decision. A Girls’ Guide to Travelling Alone is an eye-opening, honest and inspiring on-the-road companion. Richly varied, these witty, inspiring, challenging and sometimes uncomfortable travel stories have been written by women of all ages, nationalities, backgrounds and experiences, each with a compelling tale to tell. Available now on Amazon  and iTunes.

One of the best parts of being a contributor to a book like A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone is connecting with inspirational writers across the globe.

Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth’s piece Sex-Hungry in Sindh caught my eye.  She has me at the first sentence:

A prostitute’s “uncle” wouldn’t return Khalid’s deposit, and he was irate.

Dr. Wilson-Howarth is also the author of  books like A Glimpse of Eternal Snows, Snowfed Waters, and How to Shit Around the World.

Welcome, Dr. Wilson-Howarth.

Q. How did you pick this piece to share it in Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone?

A. I thought I’d share my impressions of sexual repression in Sindh as – years on – when I remember the incident with the shopping bag, I still feel like a Boudicca figure, fighting hopelessly for women everywhere. It still appalling to me that there are women in Pakistan who only ever leave their homes twice – once when they go from their father’s house to their husband’s and the second time when they die.

Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth
Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth

Q.What led you to doing the work that you do?

A.After I graduated first time (in zoology) I travelled overland to the Himalayas and ended up teaching villagers in a remote valley about wound care. I saw how small interventions can make huge improvements in people’s lives and this first sparked my passion for passing on the information that helps people avoid illness. Then once I was qualified as a physician I just tried to make myself as useful as I could wherever I was. I have a thing about championing the underdog.

Q. A Glimpse of Eternal Snows is your book about decision to live in Nepal with your newborn son despite his serious health challenges while you worked on child survival and health education endeavouring to improve the lot of the profoundly poor

 What were your greatest challenges in writing A Glimpse of Eternal Snows?

A.It is an account of what proved to be the most important six years of my life. It was so hard to condense all this experience into one readable book. And I wanted to make it uplifting. I could have written at length about caste, slavery, wildlife, conservation dilemmas, linguistic gaffs and my work. I had enough material for many books on a range of subjects. It was hard not wandering off on tangents.

Q. How did you cobble together a support network of women in a foreign country while going through some of life’s most difficult times?

A. We were in the fortunate position to be able to employ reliable help, including women who were willing to travel with us. I found both my local colleagues and the expatriates I met were often kindred spirits – risk-takers. Most were able to see beyond the trivial and nearly all our friends and acquaintances seemed motivated to make a difference. It was inspiring to spend time with these people. We all supported each other.

Q. I read that it took many years for you to write A Glimpse of Eternal Snows. How did you know when you were finally on the right path to make your book its best?

A. There was a danger that this book from my heart would never be quite perfect, although it physically hurt to write some sections. I seemed doomed to continue writing and rewriting it – until publication stopped me fiddling. It still could be improved.

Q.You’re a doctor. An author. A mother. A humanitarian. Where do you see yourself in the next several years?

A. I’ve been kind of grounded in the UK for the last few years because of our sons’ educational needs. I’ve been contentedly working as a family physician as well as running a travel immunisation clinic. My boys are almost independent now so we’d like to do another big trip before my ability to learn a new language leaves me. I could see us moving to work in another remote corner of Asia soon – for maybe five years…. Then after that… who knows. I’m sure there will be scope for another book or two though.

Q. What’s your next writing project?

A. I’ve been working on a couple of eco-adventures for 8 – 12 year olds. These started as bedtime stories for my youngest son and he now is of an age that he considers them pretty naff. One is set in Nepal and the other in Madagascar. I hope to publish these soon.

Q. What advice would you give to busy women writers who have many other demands on their time?

A. Don’t ever expect to get a regular writing schedule going. Just grab writing time when you can. And always keep notes of choice sayings, snatches of conversation or turns of phrase.

For more information on Dr. Wilson-Howarth’s books and work, go to wilson-howarth.com.

And buy The Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone before the holidays for much less than it’s worth!

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

 

 

Memoirist Ann Anderson Evans on Writing About Others

ln6jlCJJWhen a sixty year-old, twice-divorced woman starts to date again, she’s not pinning her hopes on an invitation to the prom. She is financially stable and professionally credentialed. She is a matriarch, a pillar of her church, a member of a choir. She has children and neighbors who might disapprove. She has a lot at stake. – Ann Anderson Evans

So begins the feisty memoir by author Ann Anderson Evans, Daring to Date Again, who shares her process for writing the unvarnished truth while maintaining sensitivity to those whom she wrote of.

As a memoirist, I write about events that involve other people. While writing Daring to Date Again, I ran into legal and moral issues, and assessments of delicacy and good taste. At some points I feared that I would not be able to publish the book because the information I possessed about dozens of people, mostly men I corresponded with or dated, was sensitive or intimate. They wrote about the regrets and problems involved present or past relationships, revealed details about their sex lives that they probably would like others to know about, and in some cases, the very fact that we were in touch with me would have been compromising.

Legally, I could not use whole emails, and could not use an entire poem. One of my favorite poems is The World Seen By Moonlight, by Jane Hirshfield. I wrote to her publisher for permission, and received back an email from Hirshfield herself saying how delighted she was that I wanted to use the whole poem instead of just a snippet. But her publisher sent me an application for a waiver, which my publicist told me would probably involve a payment. The publisher said I would have to wait a month or so for a response. I used a snippet. With regret.

I could not use entire emails, even if I didn’t identify the writer, his name was an alias, even if he had died. The styles of some of the emails I wanted to use were idiosyncratic to the writer, giving a whiff of a personality trait that would be better shown than told about. I used snippets. With regret.

book-cover1The moral judgments regarding dating itself are dealt with in the book; here I am writing about my judgments regarding what information to include. I had to proceed on the premise that a lot of people would read the book – if hundreds, thousands, millions of people read it, it would be too late to take anything back. Writing with the mindset that “nobody will ever read it” would be crippling.

I decided not to use the real names of any of the men involved. Recent books presented as memoirs have been discredited because they were partly fiction, so I wanted to keep the proof that everything I wrote about had happened. Most of my dating happened through dating sites and email, and I have in my closet a carton containing printouts of a couple of years of emails that buttress the facts and people discussed in the book.

There were certain men who had lied or behaved badly, and I was dying to use their names, but to what end? That guy in Texas is such an asshole that I doubt his neighbors and family need my book to tell them that. The man who said he and his wife had decided to have an open marriage when she had said no such thing will have to find his own hell (which, according to him, was his marriage). It felt good writing out our story together; that will be revenge enough.

One man died a year after we spent a loving month together at his home in Harare, Zimbabwe. That is the longest and most affecting part of the book, and if his children eve read it, they will recognize him. About fifty pages of the book are about my visit, so I revealed a lot of information. Without writing about his whole life as I shared it, I would not have conveyed my love for him.

After all this thought about the law and morality, I confess that I would not have written this book if my mother had been alive. It’s not that she would have criticized my behavior or my thoughts, I just did not have a relationship in which we shared our intimate thoughts. My son read the book and loved it. My daughter picks through it, getting a little bit of information at a time, and, to tell the truth, it is not half as salacious as some people think it is. I wrote the truth as I see it, and have no compunctions about my daughter reading it. Even the happy ending to my adventures, my husband Terry, has read it. But my mother……

The Amazon book reviews write that I was “sassy,” “brave,” adventurous,” and so on. I doubt the reviewers could guess how cowed I was by my mother.

In other words, your obstacles as a writer are more within you than in the law or even the rules of civilized behavior. Here’s Annie Dillard’s advice:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Don’t hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The very impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful; it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

(Annie Dillard, b. 1945)

You can find Ann’s book on https://store.kobobooks.com.

Connect with her on annandersonevans.com.

The Space Between/Author Interview with Dr. Virginia Simpson

Author Virginia Simpson

I’m fortunate to have Dr. Virginia Simpson as my guest author this week. Her book, The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life is now available at bookstores and on Amazon, and I loved reading it.

Thank you for being my guest, Dr. Simpson.

After your father died during when you were young, you wrote that you became very anxious about death. Can you tell us how you moved from that point to becoming a bereavement expert?

My father died when I was 12, during a time when adults didn’t take into consider children’s feelings or whether we even grieved.  I kept my feelings to myself and became fearful of everything, especially death.

By the time I was an adult, I thought about death a lot and was terrified. I was in my late twenties when I made a conscious decision to learn everything I could about the thing that scared me the most, and that’s when I began to study death. Reading Stephen Levine’s book Who Dies? opened me to a new way of considering death and inspired me to begin my education and career in death, dying and bereavement. I have never regretted this decision because it expanded my understanding of life and death, and taught me the value of using our pain to create more meaning in our lives. As a result of these lessons, in 1995 I founded The Mourning Star Center, a nonprofit which provided free support to grieving children and their families. I was privileged to watch families heal and sad children find their smiles.

My work with grieving people and being with people at the end of their lives is an honor and a reminder of the importance of daily gratitude and focusing on what’s going right in our lives.

What is the most important message you want to share with care providers?

I don’t know that this is the “most important message,” but I would like to say: Be kind to yourself and know that you are doing the best you can under difficult and heartbreaking circumstances. And please, get outside help and support.

What do you hope that  your reading audience will get from reading The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life?

I believe anyone who has ever had a mother will relate to the complexities inherent in the parent-child relationship. I hope parents will gain a better understanding of how their words and attitudes affect their children, and I hope children will gain a new respect for the lives their parents lived and the challenges they face. Numerous adult children have told me that The Space Between has inspired them to reach out and work harder towards better communication with their parents.

As a specialist in death, dying, and bereavement, it was important for me to provide useful information while also giving voice to the challenges and real emotions of being a caregiver. Watching someone you love fade away in bits and pieces is difficult and heart wrenching—and yet, also rewarding. I wanted readers to recognize the importance of communication and to see that even a difficult relationship can be healed.

I was privileged to witness my mother turn into pure love and to know there were no spaces left between us when she died.

This is something I wish for everyone.

The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of LifeHas there been anything that’s surprised you about this process to publication that you wish to share?

What surprised me the most is how much work I still had ahead of me after I thought I’d finished the book. I had to learn a whole new business and world, from writing tip sheets, reaching out to respected authors to request blurbs, being a guest on podcasts/radio shows, contacting book stores about launch parties, and planning and attending launch parties. Book marketing is a lot of work and it continues. I also had no idea how much fun this would all be.

In your book, you’ve disclosed some powerful family secrets that propel your story without taking away from the theme.  How many drafts did it take to get it right?

That’s a good question. I wrote and edited each chapter numerous times. Because the nature of memoir requires we go beyond reciting the facts and dig deeper into the story to excavate meaning, rewriting was crucial. Each time I read a new draft, I understood the events with greater insight. What had been hidden was revealed.

Were you concerned about how your family would feel when you published your memoir?

The only family member whose opinion and feelings mattered to me was my mother, and she was already gone before I began writing The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life.

My desire to “live out loud” and no longer be hostage to secrets outweighed any concern about the potential anger of one violent family member.

What are you working on next with regards to writing?

I’m working on a memoir about my relationship to men, which will be structured around the two years I spent with a fabulous older man when I was in my twenties.

I have two great working titles but haven’t yet decided which I’ll use.

For more information, Dr. Simpson can be reached at drvirginiasimpson.com.

Interview with Iris Waichler, Author of Role Reversal, How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents

Chances are if that if you have aging parents, you’ll need to learn how to best care for them as their age increases and their needs change.

Role Reversal
With the increasing number of adults living beyond their 70’s, their middle-aged adult children are often left to navigate the challenging role of care provider.

Today, author Iris Waichler talks about her past experience caring for her aging father and the lessons learned and  shared in her book Role Reversal, How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents.

Welcome, Iris!


Q&A

Was there a pivotal moment when You knew you must write Role Reversal?

Yes. One day I realized that countless people around me had been talking about their struggles around health crisis their parents were having. The recurring theme was they were uncertain about what to do and overwhelmed. I have been a medical social worker for 40 years.
My father was ninety and I quickly noticed something was wrong, his balance and memory were off. I took him to the doctor right away and we learned he had a brain hemorrhage. He had surgery and made a full recovery. It got me thinking that if people knew what to look for they could be proactive and mange care challenges in more productive ways. I decided to use my dad’s story as a springboard to help others.

You have written 2 other books. One of them won multiple awards. How did the process differ when writing this book? What difference was working with a hybrid publisher like She Writes Press?

This book was very challenging because I was writing my father’s life story and the story of
my family. It was very personal. I wanted people to see that sometimes people can appear
ordinary by society standards and do extraordinary things. I also wanted to make sure my
siblings were OK with my sharing our family experience.

I love the hybrid publishing model. It has been a perfect fit for me. She Writes Press offers the expertise of
traditional publishing with high quality design team and distribution options. Brooke Warner,
SWP publisher, is very hands on. She guides her authors through every step of the process. I also
really enjoy the opportunity to share ideas, successes, and resources with my talented colleagues.
You don’t find that in other publishing models.

 

iris
Author Iris Waichler

What chapter was the most challenging to write?

The most difficult chapter for me to write was called “No Mas” which means no more in
Spanish. It is the story of letting go of my father and facing his death. He used to say no mas
when he was eating and didn’t want any more food. He had a swallowing problem because of his medical condition. It was so painful to even think about. I could not begin to write it until a
couple of months after his death.

 

What are the top 3 tips you share with readers in Role Reversal? What was the most difficult
you to follow as you cared for your father?

One of the most difficult things for people to do is estate planning. Nobody wants to think about
death or talk about it. If you know what your parents wishes are regarding health directives, and
what insurance and assets they have, that information can guide you as a caregiver. I interview an
estate planning expert who shared his recommendations.

A very challenging aspect of caregiving is identifying caregiver roles and sharing responsibilities
with siblings or other family. This can cause so many problems and can dissolve relationships. I
explain how to approach this challenge and to build a support team with family.

As a social worker I am interested in grief, loss, and relationships. This ultimate role reversal
where adult children parent their parents comes with a lot of emotional baggage from the past. I
reveal how these past relationships impact your current caregiver relationship and how to
incorporate this in your caregiver plan.

I am incredibly lucky. My relationships with my father and my siblings were very good. My dad
trusted me. We discussed his wishes about health directives, his financial situation, and he made
me executor and gave me power of attorney. When decisions needed to be made and I had to set
up his care and arrange his funeral, he gave me everything I needed. It was such a gift to me and
my siblings. I didn’t have any of the challenges of those 3 tips.

How can readers best connect with you?

My website is iriswaichler.wpengine.com I also offer lots of resource information on my
Facebook page @ RoleReversal1

Iris Waichler is the author of Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire

 

A Different Kind of Same/Author Interview with Kelley Clink

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’m pleased to have mental health advocate and author Kelley Clink as my guest.

Author Kelley Clink
Author Kelley Clink

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime. In my immediate little family, all three of us are impacted.

Maybe that’s why I so connected with Kelley Clink’s memoir, A Different Kind of Same, a book selected by BookSparks’  #Speak Out Campaign to raise awareness and funds for an agency dealing with suicide. Her book also won the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year. More than a book about her brother’s suicide, Kelley’s memoir describes her relationship with her brother and with mental illness.  “For better or worse,” she writes in it,”Matt’s life shaped mine. Knowing him, being a sister to him, made me who I was. Losing him has made me who I am.”

Welcome, Kelley!


Q&A

Your book openly discusses your own battle with serious depression and a suicide attempt before your brother’s eventual suicide, a devastating blow just as your own life had taken shape. How did you gain enough emotional distance to be able to write such a powerful memoir?

Time was a big factor. I waited two years before I started, and in all it was ten years before the book was published. I tackled subjects when I felt ready for them, and sometimes I misjudged and had to walk away from the project for a while. It was extremely painful for many years.

But eventually, the more I worked on it, the less attached I became. Participating in a workshop made a huge difference. Focusing on craft helped me distance myself from my narrative. This made the writing process easier, but also prepared me for sharing my book with the world. Criticism feels a lot less personal when you’ve had a lot of practice.

A Different Kind of SameThrough your writing and experiences, I’m sure you’ve met many loved ones of those experiencing mental illness. What advice have you for them to be the best advocate for their loved one while not losing their own mind?

One of the most important things you can do for anyone going through a difficult time is to listen to them, without trying to fix or change how they feel. You can encourage your loved one to seek help from a professional. You can ask her pointed and specific questions about what she is doing to take care of herself, and whether she is thinking about harming herself.

But I think the last part of this question is the most important—helping someone through a mental health crisis can be scary and confusing. There’s only so much you can do. At the end of the day, if your loved one is an adult, she is responsible for her own care. Only you know what your limits are, and where you need to set boundaries.

What has been the best part about the process of sharing your story with the world?

Honestly, the best part was writing the book itself. It was so, so difficult, but it was the only way I knew to heal, and in the process I walked away with a new understanding of myself, my past, and my depression. I feel so lucky that I am able to share the story with others, and I hope it has helped those in similar situations. But even if no one ever read a single word, it would still have been worth writing it.

How are you introducing your child to the uncle he didn’t get to meet?  What will you teach him one day about mental illness and how to support someone who experiences it?

Oh my goodness, this is such a great question, and I really want to have an answer, but I’m not sure I do yet! My son is 18 months old, and I’ve only recently started wondering how I’m going to tell him about my brother. I plan on putting some family photographs on the walls of our house, ones that include my brother, so that he can see him and learn his name.

Beyond that, I am hoping that I’ll learn the most age appropriate ways to discuss my brother’s death with my son as we go. I’m hoping that talking with him openly about my own experiences with depression, and focusing on emotional literacy in general, will help him be aware of his own mental health and the mental wellbeing of others.

A Different Kind of Same is available at kelleyclink.com or on Amazon.

For more information about mental illness, check out the National Alliance for Mental Illness at www.nami.org.

Author Interview with Gemma Thompson/Girls’ Guide to Travelling Alone

Despite my whining about social media recently, there are many upsides to Facebook and Twitter and the like.

GemmaThompson
For me, entering a simple contest on Facebook hosted by United Kingdom author Gemma Thompson was one of those upsides. Being a part of A Girls Guide to Travelling Alone connected me with other female solo travelers across the world, and I have loved their stories and other stories they’ve written.

The book, available exclusively online, became a hit travel anthology in the United Kingdom, and this week, I’m  happy to have Gemma is my guest. Gemma is now balancing new motherhood to her beautiful baby, Rosa, and a writing career, so I greatly appreciate her time.

Thank you, Gemma!


agirlsguide

Q&A

What inspired you editing the anthology?

On previous solo travel trips, I always packed books that could teach me a bit more about the area I was visiting, but were also travel narratives. I loved the idea of sharing someone else’s experience of a country, whilst I was having mine. However most of these books were written by men, and I wanted a woman’s perspective.

Were there surprises while putting it together?

I enjoyed reading all of the submissions, but some women’s stories (that feature in the book), took me by surprise by how emotional I got when reading them. These are extraordinary women. Brave, stoic and inspirational. They are also students, mothers, aid workers and TV producers. It was the women’s personal stories and backgrounds that captivated me just as much as their travel experiences. You can never judge a book by it’s cover.

What kind of diversity were you looking for to represent to your readers?

I wanted to hear from women of all ages and backgrounds. We all travel for different reasons. Whether it is to fulfill a lifelong dream, to escape and achieve a new perspective or just to have a change of scenery. What I love about travel is that plans will often veer off course, and usually for the better. It’s amazing what situation you can find yourself in, just because you pushed yourself that little bit further, or said ‘yes’ on a last-minute whim. As a woman travelling alone, it is empowering to feel your confidence grow, as you break out of your comfort zone.

What was the best feedback from readers that you received?

I’m going to quote Dr Wilson-Howarth, who writes for Wanderlust magazine. She reviewed my book by saying “This is a great anthology of tales from feisty females from both sides of the Atlantic that will amuse, inform, inspire, and maybe even horrify. I particularly liked Hayley Gislason’s observation “Travelling helped me with two things: forgetting about the things that don’t matter; and being grateful for the things that do.”

So I guess it’s two-fold – receiving some great feedback from someone I deeply admire, plus the underlying message in the book, as highlighted by Hayley Gislason.

Author Gemma Thompson and baby Rosa.
Author Gemma Thompson and baby Rosa.

Imagine you’re speaking to your baby girl Rosa when she is 17 years old and  just on the verge of adulthood. What is the message about solo travel that you will want her to receive?

Oh, the thought of my baby heading out on her own terrifies me! But I did it, and you have to let them go. My advice? – Just book that plane ticket. Do your research, and always be respectful to the country you are visiting. Try new flavours and new experiences, swim in the sea and wear your sun factor. Most importantly, don’t forget to pack your ‘common sense head.’ (and please call Mum when you can!)

What project are you working on next?

I’m setting up a website which will include a blog, a community for people to share their travel stories, advice for solo travel and hopefully, guest bloggers. I’ve also written a piece for Matador Network (hopefully it will be the first of many) and I’m always on the lookout for more travel writing. This will also feature on the website. I’m also tempted to publish a printed version of A Girls Guide to Travelling Alone.

How can readers best reach you or follow your work?

You can reach me via our Facebook page or via Twitter @GirlsThatTravel.

Interested in reading more?

You can get a copy of the book for .99 cents on Amazon and iTunes.

A Girls’ Guide to Travelling Alone/Interview with Jane McIntyre about Roman Holiday

1510730_10202012491091778_125210113_n‘Tis the season to be jolly. How are you holding up ?

I’ve never been subtle about my dislike of the  holidays.  If I can’t travel this time of year, I like to reflect on my travels or read about the travel adventures of others to transport me out of my funk.  And I’m loving reading A Girls’ Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson.

A year ago, I was planning my solo trip to France and Italy. Rome was one of my favorite destinations.  Now, I’m enjoying the story Roman Holiday by former BBC radio journalist Jane McIntyre.

I caught up with Jane on Twitter initially, and for me, it was love at first tweet. She’s a hoot.  Jane works as an extra in television and films, and spends time in her lovely cottage in Normandy.

Jane MacIntyre
Jane McIntyre

Shoes, shorts, shampoo, suncream. Dollars and euros.

And a couple of 20-quid notes. The sitting room was fast becoming a bureau-de-changing room.

At one end, my 16-year-old daughter’s neat piles of camp clothes and trainers, heading for Wisconsin, USA. At the other, and now leaning a little, Pisa-like, my attempt at ‘travelling light to Italy.’ We were both flying solo: the first time for Alice. And both leaving from Manchester airport, but three days apart.–Jane McIntyre

Thank you for being my guest, Jane!

How did you find out about the contest for Girls Traveling Alone?

Probably on Twitter!  I seem to find out about so much in life on there. I`m completely addicted to it….!

Does it inspire you to write more?
How could it not inspire me…and other writers included in it. It`s  a fantastic mix of people, places and experiences …the stories do, I guess, what any good travel `essay` should do: attack the senses. Draw you in. Make you read in colour. I`m thrilled to be involved and I`m trying, all the time, to write notes about what I see and places I go, even in the UK.

What is one thing you want your daughter to know about her journey into adulthood?
Alice is 18 now, and by the way I have an older daughter too, 24 year old Juliet. Both have done a fair bit of travelling alone; to and from the States and around Europe. I`m so proud of both of them for being bold and bright enough to save, fix their itineraries, and dip their toes into a new country or culture. So my one thing I`d like both of them to take in their ongoing journeys into adulthood is this: You’ve both been blessed with decent brains and good common sense. So..in life…. trust your instincts. About people. About…where to travel. Who to travel with, or who to avoid. And what you can achieve (but always aim high!).
To see what Jane McIntyre is up to, read her blog at lovemymondays.blogspot.co.uk.

And for your copy of A Girls’ Guide to Travelling Alone, download it from Amazon or Itunes for way less than it’s worth!

SWIMMING WITH MAYA: Interview with Author Eleanor Vincent

I have mentioned before that Swimming with Maya is one of my favorite memoirs ever, so I was ecstatic when Eleanor Vincent agreed to be interviewed. Thank you, Ms. Vincent!

http://www.amazon.com/Swimming-Maya-A-Mothers-Story/dp/0988439042/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1359922098&sr=1-2-catcorr&keywords=swimming+with+mayaAs I lift May’s still warm and pliable fingers in mine, the instinctive mother’s recognition of her child’s body takes over. I slide my right hand under her shoulder and gaze down at her serene young face.

Reverend Margaret leans over her. “Maya, this is your graduation from life on earth. You are going on to a school far greater than U.C.L.A. We release you with all of our love and blessings.” She looks at me from across the white mound of sheets covering Maya’s body. “Can you let her go, Mom?”

-excerpt from Swimming with Maya, Published by Dream of Things.

Swimming with Maya is a beautiful account of the loss of your daughter, as well as the long path towards healing which was aided by meeting the recipients of her donated organs. How did you know when the right time was for you to begin writing this story?

In this instance, I had no choice. I had to begin immediately. Maya’s death was such a shock that I needed to write about it to make it real, and begin to process the loss. What I wrote in the two to three years after her death became the foundation for the book, but I used very little of the actual writing. It took me 10 years to create a story that would be a compelling read.
How did you come up with the title Swimming with Maya?

It only came to me at the very end when I was writing the dream about swimming with Maya – it seemed like a perfect metaphor for how we continue to weave into each other’s lives in a very fluid way. I think Maya’s message to me in the dream was that what we think of as “the other side” is actually very close to us, and that those we love can communicate with us even when they are no longer in physical bodies. So water had special meaning and is a thematic element throughout the book.

Writing a memoir can become an unfortunate info dump. Not everyone can survive what you have and detach enough to write scenes as though they were occurring in real-time. Do you have tips for writers who don’t share your gift?

Writing memoir is a learned skill, and one that requires you to detach enough to be a character in your own story, as well as a narrator. It is essential that the narrator knows and understands more than the character. I learned a lot from Vivian Gornick’s book The Situation and The Story. After I read it during the final years of drafting the book, I was able to go back and revise accordingly. As the author, it’s vital to no longer be shocked or astonished by your own story. It took me many years to reach that point. I guess my advice to others would be patience and studying the craft of writing.

What was the greatest help while writing this story? Did you have a critiquing group or editor or another source of support and inspiration that was key in your success?

I was working on an MFA in creative writing at the time Maya died, so that program at Mills College was very instrumental in giving me the support and the craft knowledge (and practice) I needed to succeed. I also had a wonderful writing group in the last years of the writing, and reader critique was essential to the process. In addition, I had a writing partner, Sarah Scott Davis to whom the book is dedicated. I emailed Sarah chapters as I completed them and every Saturday morning we’d talk by phone and she’d give me her feedback and offer support. As I was completing the final revisions, Sarah spent a few afternoons with me and we spread the manuscript out on the floor, chapter by chapter, and worked on the final polishing.

Was there ever a time when you were writing this book that the writing stalled, or did it flow pretty easily once you were able to begin the process?

I stalled out countless times. I had to stop and grieve. I was raising my younger daughter Meghan at the time, and working at a full-time corporate editing job, so my time was very limited. Once Meghan left for college, I was able to focus more, and buckle down and get it done – but it still took several more years to complete.

Swimming with Maya has been a New York Times e-book bestseller twice! Congratulations! What has been the most effective way that you’ve found to market your memoir?

My publisher Mike O’Mary at Dream of Things is very savvy about using newsletters targeted to e-reader users. So Mike placed ads with those publications and I supported his efforts with a Facebook author page, my website, and a blog tour. Most of our sales have been in the e-book format.

I heard in a podcast that you finally got your book published, and the publisher went belly up. Please tell us a bit about that, and how you proceeded to keep your story alive.

Capital Books, the original publisher, brought out a beautiful hardback edition of the book in 2004. They kept the book in print until they went out of business early in 2011. At that point, I looked at several options. The Author’s Guild has a “back in print” program but formatting is very limited. I considered self-publishing but felt I’d rather focus my energies on writing and that I needed technical and marketing support. A dear friend, Madeline Sharples, had recently published her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, with Dream of Things. She introduced me to Mike and he was very enthusiastic about Swimming with Maya. We brought out an updated edition in paperback and e-book early in 2013. I was very lucky to find a publisher with Mike’s level of commitment and skill to reissue the book.

What are you working on currently?

I’m currently working on a treatment for a screenplay of Swimming with Maya. I’d like to see the book adapted and made into a movie. Writing for film is very different from narrative nonfiction writing, so I’ve taken several classes and am now working with a screenwriting consultant to polish the draft. I also have a completed draft of a book about my time living in a co-housing community – a hilarious and poignant disaster – that I’m currently working on turning into a novel. Fictionalizing it will give me more freedom to amp up the drama. So I’m in a learning curve with that project, too. I like to learn new things and challenge myself to expand my skills. I’ve been writing professionally for four decades and I feel like there is so much more to learn.

Swimming with Maya can be purchased on Amazon or at Dream of Things.

IF I’M SO WONDERFUL, WHY AM I STILL SINGLE? Author Susan Page Answers Your Questions Now

Several months ago, I revived one of my favorite classic self-help books and interviewed its wonderful author, Susan Page. This time, I listened a little better to her advice as I sifted through an assortment of single men, and I’m pleased with how things went.

If you haven’t read one of her books, I encourage you to pick one up.

I am honored to have one of my favorite authors as this week’s guest.

I first read Susan Page’s renowned book If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?  when I turned forty, just after a dear family member mentioned that the odds of me finding a life partner was shrinking as fast as the Alaskan glaciers. 

 This bestselling relationship book has been published in 18 languages and has sold more than 158,000 copies in the mass market paperback alone. Though Susan Page has been on Oprah and her book has been excerpted in numerous publications, she responded immediately when I requested an interview.

Welcome, Susan Page. Thank you for your time!

Q.You were not yet married when you began writing this book, now published for over 25 years.  Which strategies did you employ that helped you connect with your future husband, or alternatively, which strategies did you develop from your experience in this successful relationship?
 
Perhaps the most important strategy I used is that I was willing to date people who did not seem to be my type. Mayer (my husband) and I would never have been matched up by a computer, and I would never have chosen his profile from a dating site. I am a Methodist minister, and he is Jewish. I had in mind a highly educated, professional person, maybe a university professor for example. He was a college dropout and an artist. The first time I met him, I was sure this could never work, but in accord with my philosophy, I saw him again. Turns out he was a very successful artist and a clever entrepreneur and a totally wonderful man. We decided to get married on our fourth date.
 
Another important strategy for me was, “No more short-term relationships!” As soon as I realized the person I was with was not “the one,” I stopped seeing the person. I wanted to keep my time and my energy clear. When I met Mayer, I was completely unattached and free to proceed with him. — Relationships that are clearly short term — I call them BTN Relationships: Better Than Nothing —  are a drain, not only on your time and your energy, but also on your self esteem. You can’t feel great about yourself when you stay with someone who you know is a compromise for you. It’s often hard to break out of these relationships because they are comfortable and feelings may be hurt. But if you are seeking a life-long partner, it’s important to end your BTN!
 
If_Im_so_wonderful_why_am_I_still_single_book_frontQ. Your book is timeless in its universal themes, helpful for single women and women  who are ambivalent about the future of the relationship they are in. Was it your extensive work with singles that gave you your material? And how much have dating and  relationship issues changed since it’s publication in the 80’s?
 
As soon as I was seized with the idea for the book, I began conducting workshops to test my ideas. I ended up conducting these workshops for singles, and later for couples, for twenty-two years before I retired from that aspect of my work. I have trained others to conduct the workshops for couples that I pioneered. The workshops gave me a great deal of material for the book: ideas and anecdotes from people who were actively using the strategies I suggested.
 
Dating issues have not changed in all the years I’ve been working. People still need to explore their hidden ambivalence, to act in more decisive ways, to be more courageous and more open, to move through their fears. Work on all these issues is simultaneous work on hidden problems with self esteem. For anyone seriously struggling with dating, I highly recommend working with a dating coach who knows how to assist you with all of these issues. The consistency and accountability of a dating coach makes an extraordinary difference, to say nothing of the insights such a person can facilitate. I highly recommend the coaches on my website: susanpage.com.
 
Q. What was the most enjoyable part of writing this book?
 
I began writing it because I saw that my attitudes about dating were different from the attitudes of the singles around me. It was thrilling to see others adopt my strategies and philosophies and then succeed. It’s still enjoyable for me to receive e-mails and letters from grateful readers who “got” the insights in my books and changed their lives.
 
San Miguel Writer’s Conference
Q. Please tell us about the San Miguel International Writer’s Conference? How many people attend on average, and what is the focus of it?

The San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival is five days of workshops, keynote addresses, agent pitch sessions, open mic readings, and much more. As a writer, you get to choose eight workshops (our of 56 offered) by world-class writers and teachers. Previous keynote speakers include Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Tom Robbins, Naomi Wolf, and many others. In February 2014, our featured speakers are Pat Conroy (The Great Santini, Prince of Tides); Yann Martel (Life of Pi); Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate); Benjamin Saenz (PEN/Faulkner Award winner); David Whyte (poet), and others. The parties and receptions we put on are world-class also. Our Mexican Fiesta has become legendary! — As the “Creative Crossroads of the Americas,” we draw faculty and participants from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The entire Conference is bilingual. 

Q. If you had to boil it down, what would be the most important quality a woman to possess before she begins pursuing a relationship? 
 
She needs an attitude of openness. I can’t emphasize this enough. Most women are guarded and suspicious of men, making it difficult and scary for a man to approach them. They are quick to be judgmental and to look for reasons to reject a man. An attitude of openness will not get you in trouble. You can still be in control of any situation. 
  
Smile a lot. Let the world know that your heart is open. Learn the “non-demanding smile.” 
Here’s an experiment that could teach you a lot about yourself:
Sit in a popular coffee shop from eight to ten one morning. Have a book or newspaper. Sit near the door. For everyone who walks in, look up, give the person a nice welcoming smile, and go back to your book. Pretend you are on the cosmic greeting committee, and your job is to make everyone feel good and welcome. It’s totally non-demanding, just a gift you are giving each person. The point is to see how this makes you feel. Also try it all day at work. Try smiling at 50 people in one day. — It’s not the actual smiling I’m after here. It’s the attitude that goes with it, the feeling that you are open and warm and easy to approach. — And give a man a chance. Give him a second chance. Unless you encounter a real deal breaker on the first date, if he’s interested, go on at least three dates before you decide.
Q. You’ve written several popular books on relationships now including another title I love, Why Talking Is Not Enough. How can interested readers reach you to work more closely with you on their dating and relationship issues?

 My website is www.susanpage.com 

I have discontinued the workshops I conducted for twenty-two years, but I do train others to conduct them. (I am actually looking for a partner who would enjoy training others to conduct these distinctive workshops.) I highly recommend the brilliant dating and relationship coaches on my staff, whom I have trained, and who can also be reached through my website.

The San Miguel International Writer’s Conference is on February 12-17 this year!  Check out the link. Writer Calvin Trillin is this year’s keynote speaker!