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!

Q and A with Kindle Bestselling Author Tammy Harding

Did you ever have a pen-pal?    
Author Tammy Harding -http://pennockislandproductions.com/
I did as a little kid. I got another one this year when a friend of mine had a chance-meeting at an airport with author Tammy Harding, and passed her e-mail to me. We’ve been fast e-friends ever since. Tammy wrote about her experiences as an accidental Alaskan in Alaska Bound: One Man’s Dream…One Woman’s Nightmare.

Welcome, Tammy!
Q. If you had to boil Alaska Bound to one sentence of the message you’d like your readers to get from reading it, what would it be?
If you have enough courage, you will always find a way to turn life’s biggest pile of lemons into a profitable pitcher of lemonade.
Q. What made you decide to write Alaska Bound?
There were a couple of deciding factors. In 2006, I sustained a life-changing head injury that brought my once productive lifestyle to a complete standstill. Since I’d always been a very active person, this was a difficult transition. What was I going to do with myself?
But a traumatic brain injury had changed everything. From then on, in order to accomplish any kind of physical activity, it was imperative that I moved like a sloth, avoiding any chance of tripping or being bumped into. The simple act of jerking open a bag of potato chips, for instance, could not be accomplished without repercussions–the jarring would injure my brain. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been digging into the junk food to begin with, but let’s just say that scissors were my best friend for a while. Now confined to what I considered to be an fruitless lifestyle, in order to manage my pain I found myself spending a lot of time on the couch with my head cradled by a bag of ice.

During my many hours of required rest I would still write lists, but these were different. What can I accomplish, even in my ‘useless’ condition, I wondered? It was a short list in comparison, but by focusing on what I could do, even with my head perched on ice not only could I research how to write, copyright and publish a book, but I could also type out my story and then proof read to my heart’s content. I could work from bed! Ha! Who doesn’t dream of that at one time or another?

This new writing project turned out to be a tremendous way to pass away the hours while at the same time provide a means with which to lift my spirits from a deep depression. I could actually accomplish something after all, I thought. I had already been given an idea of what to write about because of my recent trip to Alaska. My husband at the time had talked me into a six week trek to The Last Frontier where we had built a cabin in the wilderness–all on a shoestring budget. And on that trip it just so happened that I had been on what I felt like to me to be a most terrifying, maddening yet unforgettably beautiful experience.

 Once it was all said and done I felt lucky to have lived through it all. Every time I shared my account of this wild excursion, listeners would first be intrigued, then saddened, before becoming distressed and finally overcome with laughter–all within a short span of five minutes. Great fodder for a story, right? Although this traumatic experience hadn’t seemed funny to me, more times than not I heard the remark, “You really should write a book.” Putting two and two together I decided that I would figure out how to accomplish this goal. Between the head injury and encouragement of the people I ran into, I decided I should put my story on paper. And over the course of 16 months, that is what I did! 
Q. You have had great success publishing your book on Kindle, and getting many favorable reviews. Congratulations! What tips do you have for other authors considering self-publishing?
My first advice is: refuse to be intimidated by all the unfamiliar jargon of the publishing industry. Personally, if I had been given a quiz on the definitions of a publisher, a copyright, or a literary agent before I started this process I would have politely declined to make any guesses. But the more I read up on it, the act of publishing is much like any new job you might start; there is a particular language used within the company and in order to be successful, you need to learn it. 

Of course now I understand that a publisher is not a huge company with an fancy desk or a plush office. A publisher is merely an organizer who finances the project. This is someone who oversees the editing and cover design and who also has the ultimate responsibility of responding to everything from customer complaints to glowing reviews. Think of it this way: if you were to divide yourself into three parts–the first segment of your being would be the writer. Without a writer you don’t need the other two–so put your heart and soul into the project. The second section is the proof reader/editor, and the third entity, who silently oversees this project all along but is only called upon to show its face near the end of the project, is the promotional or marketing manager. For the last role it would help if you had the ability to mentally step outside of your body in order to effectively write about ‘the writer’ in third person, as if you have never met yourself before. For instance, I would say something like, “Author/Publisher Tammy Jones Harding is not an expert on the subject of publishing with Kindle, however, due to her extensive personal experiences, she understands the frustrations of getting started so she will be happy to answer any questions you may have.”

Q . You live in a more isolated part of Alaska, with intermittent internet and phone access and few book stores or radio stations. Are their links, sites, and other tools you have used to promote your book while living the rural life?

Looking back at all the attempts I’ve made to promote my book, by far the best decision was when I agreed to sell my book exclusively on Amazon. Using their program you are given five free promotional days each quarter. There is probably a strategy on how and when it’s best to offer the freebies but no matter when I’ve chosen to offer my book on the free promotion, I always see a dramatic increase in sales. The amazing thing about Kindle is that it is worldwide. I can’t say enough good about how well it has worked. In comparison to printing and marketing hard copies of my title, Kindle is a breeze. Setting up an Amazon Sellers account can be done at a minimal cost and in very little time your book can be uploaded for readers. With Kindle you have no orders to monitor, no shipping timelines, no damaged goods. There is zero overhead.
Also, writers should enter contests. I entered that Independent Publisher Book Awards contest last year 
and won Best Nonfiction West Pacific. It’s given me a great promotional edge. http://www.independentpublisher.com/ipland/ipawards.php
Q. Do you have plans to write another book in the future?
Yes, I am working on a sequel. 

Thank you Tammy for the great advice on publishing, and for sharing about your book.
Readers, are you Interested in reading Tammy’s book?  Her link on Amazon is 
Readers and Writers, are you thinking about self-publishing your story now? A new resource to help you sift through the pros and cons of self-publishing is Rachelle Gardner’s How Do I Decide. In it, you’ll hear from established traditionally published authors who’ve chosen to self-publish now, and self-published authors who now prefer working with traditional publishers.