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.

 

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.

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.

Thanks for stopping by!

Interview with Author Tina Dreffin on the Healing Power of Travel

Imagine raising a family in the confines of a boat or catamaran on the open seas.

I picture the closeness. The sunshine. The fun.      

Then I read Bluewater Walkabout: Into Africa by Tina Dreffin.More than a travel memoir about the misadventures of a woman and her family sailing the world, Bluewater Walkabout tells how Tina’s travels promoted the healing of deeply rooted traumas in her life: a sexual assault like the loss of her first born baby.

A 2017 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY) Silver Medalist, Tina has established a thriving writing career while managing family responsibilities on a boat in exotic locations.

I’m happy to have connected with her recently, and to have her as my guest.

Thank you, Tina!

You endured so many hardships during, or even as a result of your travel, including losing your first child. What is the takeaway you want your readers to embrace as they pursue their own dreams?

Never allow hardships to minimize you.

After losing my baby, I needed to release tremendous guilt in having failed my child as a new mother, especially since I felt partially responsible for her death. Trauma inflicts emotional pain. To recover from the pain, I needed to forgive myself and learn how to love myself better. If I hadn’t, I knew I would lose my life and my marriage.

Travel brought me full circle to where I could look at myself clearly and make healthy changes.

When I journeyed to Africa, Asia, and South America, I witnessed women suffering the agony of war, lack of clean water, and disease.

Suddenly, my issues appeared less painful. I may have suffered sexual abuse and my baby’s death, but I still had my family who loved and cared about me. I lived in a safe community and had access to clean water and proper health care.

What was the most difficult part of the book to write?

Writing about my sexual assault proved the most painful episode in writing my book.

No one in my family knew of the attack, not even my good friends. I told my friends first before I told my husband. I felt women would understand and relate more. I also wanted to test their reaction, to prepare for how my husband and sons would react. My friends advised me to leave out the history of my sexual assault in my book. They only wanted to read ‘happy books,’ they told me. My sons didn’t want to talk about their mother’s sexual assault. And my husband … I failed to find the words to reveal my history with him. I chose instead to include the rape in my book, allowing him the freedom to decide whether he wanted to know about it or not.

The night my husband finally learned of my past in the book, he looked me tenderly in the face and held my hand. No words came. It felt good. I had been right, after all. Still, the reaction of my family and friends left me baffled. No one wanted to talk about it. As a result, I doubted myself and began to drink too much. I drifted away into solitude. I grew angry and depressed. Where was my support? When our forty-year marriage began to unravel from my self-inflicted strain, I knew I needed to jump-start personal growth. “You’re only hurting yourself, Tina,” I told myself. Only I could fix the problem. So, I looked at my rape differently and in a short time, the way that I looked at my abuse, changed. I now saw it as an experience that I had recovered from successfully.

My book became the tool to bring women out of the closet. The conversation about rape had begun, and I would never stop sharing again. I would tell all who would listen because the more I talked about it, the quicker the healing came. Upon the release of my book, young girls and women began to open up and reveal their sexual assaults on Facebook. Their stories were even more devastating than my own. Many responded, sharing their own sexual assault experiences and discovering support from complete strangers who shared theirs as well. Suddenly, I knew I had healed my soul by taking a direction to open the conversation of sexual assault, giving others permission to do the same. As a result, we all found healing.

And which part was the most fun to write?

Recounting our wild adventures in the African bush while on safari proved to be a delightful experience. I relived the remarkable experience with my mother who has since passed. Mother proved to be an adventurous soul when a bull elephant- arguably one the world’s most dangerous predators-held us captive after trumpeting and charging at our van. He was followed by a herd of Cape buffalo.

You recently won an Independent Publishers Book Award for your memoir. Congratulations! How did that feel, being an indie author getting this great nod?

I felt elated when “Into Africa” won the award since it was my first book. I felt validated of my feelings in wanting to save other women from making the same mistakes as me. Suddenly, I knew I was on the right path. Inspiring personal growth and healing in others today remain a critical motivating factor of my writing.

What’s next for you?

I currently reside in Exuma, Bahamas, aboard my catamaran, Yacht Freebird. I’m finishing Bluewater Walkabout: Into the Pacific, due out in 6 weeks. It continues our adventures in the South Seas, the 2nd leg of a global circumnavigation by boat with our family.  All of us about Yacht Scud.

To connect with Tina, click here.

Author Tina Dreffin

 

Q&A with Karen Meadows, Author of Searching for Normal:The Story of A Girl Gone Too Soon

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

It’s estimated that one in five Americans lives with a mental health condition. All of us know someone who struggles. But despite this, mental health too often remains a topic we don’t discuss until it’s too late.

I’m pleased to have met author Karen Meadows last November who has opened her life and her heart in her compelling memoir, Searching for Normal: The Story of A Girl Gone Too Soon, one of the National Clearinghouse of Families and Youth library selection.

Why did you want to share your story with the world?

I needed to make something positive come out of my daughter’s death. I just couldn’t let scattered ashes be the end of her. While Sadie was alive, we didn’t share much about our mental health struggles. We thought no one else would understand—rather that our sharing would drive people away. A woman I worked with stated this thinking so well. She said “I am afraid to tell people about my mental illness because it might destroy people’s perception of me as normal.” We allowed the stigma to interfere with our finding the community and help that we needed. While I cannot change that, I decided I could share our story now, after Sadie’s suicide, to build awareness of the prevalence and cost of mental illness, to share resources and new developments that provide help and hope to those struggling and to inspire action that increases funding for mental illness services and research. Most importantly, by sharing our story, I hope to help others avoid my daughter’s fate.

What are you most proud of about the impact your memoir is making on the world?

The book is building awareness of mental illness, helping others that are struggling and inspiring improvements in the mental health system. This is best illustrated by feedback I have received:

Building awareness

From a 20+ year-old male relative: “I don’t normally read this type of book but reading it made me realize if someone as bright and full of life as was Sadie, someone coming from a good family, could be struck with mental illness—then it could happen to anyone.”

Helping others

From a colleague who shared my book with her friend—She told me that after reading the book her friend was in tears saying I may have saved his daughter through my words and that he and his wife feel less alone in coping with things they have a hard time understanding.

Inspiring improvements in the mental health system

From a state government agency manager who is responsible for publically funded youth residential treatment programs—“When I read your comments about the lack of long term outcome data for residential treatment programs, I realized that we don’t have that kind of data for our programs either and should.”
What do you think your daughter would say about your book?

My daughter Sadie had a great deal of empathy for people that struggled. I believe that overall she would have positive things to say about my book because it is helping others that struggled as she did. More specifically, I think she would be:

Proud that that she inspired me to write the book and proud that I included her writing so readers better understand from her own words how her mental illness made her feel.

Proud of me—that I reached way beyond my comfort zone to write a book and to share our story.

A bit embarrassed that I shared intimate details of our story—she would not have wanted people to think poorly of her.

Overall I believe she would be pleased that she and I are making a positive difference in the lives of people struggling as she did.

What resources would you endorse for parents supporting a child that is struggling with depression or bipolar disorder?

I included an annotated list of helpful, credible resources in my book and on my author website. Some offer information (e.g. signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, latest research findings), others offer on-line community (e.g. blogs, connections with others, etc.), some offer support (e.g. crisis lines, chat rooms, etc.).

For more information about Searching for Normal: The Story of A Girl Gone Too Soon, go to http://www.karenmeadowsauthor.com/.

And if you’re in the Portland, Oregon area on May 12th at 7PM, please join Karen and me with two other amazing mom-themed authors at Another Read Through Bookstore.

 

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