Author Interview with Lisa Braver Moss/Shrug

I love a good book, and was honored to provide an author endorsement for this one. Shrug is available to order now!

I’m so pleased to have Lisa Braver Moss as my guest.

Author http://lisabravermoss.com Lisa Braver Moss

What inspired you to write Shrug?

My experience growing up was similar to that of Shrug’s main character, Martha, so that was my inspiration. I wanted to create a coming-of-age story about childhood domestic violence and other trauma. I also thought the wild vitality of Berkeley of the 1960s made a great backdrop for the story. I was interested in the interplay between Martha’s household chaos and that of the world of Berkeley at the time.

https://www.amazon.com/Shrug-Novel-Lisa-Braver-Moss/dp/1631526383/

How did it influence your writing to be a survivor of childhood domestic violence?

I witnessed domestic violence against my mother, and was a target of it myself, while growing up. I felt chronically outraged by what was going on, and could be quite confrontational (which my father did not find amusing). My appetite for speaking the truth eventually morphed into a sense of urgency about writing Shrug.

Many stories of teenagers show rebels. What made you create a character who’s anything but a rebel?

I would argue that Martha is quite a rebel. Sure, she’s a bit of a goody two-shoes; she wants nothing more than to do well in school and find meaning in her life. And yet, just her being an achiever is radical in the context of her family. She’s contradicting all that’s unconventional at home: negative messages about school, unpredictability, lack of structure, impossible emotional demands, and explosive physical violence. The challenge was to show Martha as a complex, sympathetic character whose rebellion paradoxically takes the form of conventionality.


The family dynamics in Shrug are complicated. In essence, Martha’s father is abusive, but likely the better parent to her. Her mother is a victim, but flees the entire family. What do you hope the reader takes from these imperfect parents? 


Yes, the battering father, Jules, turns out to be the better parent than the victimized, histrionic mother, Willa. You see clues of this along the way. I wanted to show what it’s like to have the story’s “bad guy” be more capable of love than the “victim,” Willa. I felt this added depth and complexity to the story.

Your book cover is stunning. Tell us about the process of selecting it.

Thank you! It was one of those situations where there were four choices and it was completely obvious which one was the one. That was also obvious to the publisher, so it was nice that we were on the same page (so to speak…!).

I had expressed to the publisher that I envisioned a kind of wistful look for Martha. I provided a black-and-white photograph that I felt captured that look, and they did a fantastic job of creating the same mood without using that particular photo. I love the design and colors they came up with, too.

Of the three siblings, Martha, Hildy, and Drew, Martha, the middle child, seems to be the mother’s favorite. How does this family role affect her?

Martha is indeed in the unfortunate position of being Willa’s favorite of the three children. I say unfortunate because often in dysfunctional families, “favorite” means “able to be manipulated.” Couched as extra love, favoritism is generally more a matter of extra demands than of actual support. It’s no bargain.

Also, Martha carries such a burden of guilt about being favored that she’s slow to see that she, too is being mistreated by Willa. She’s too preoccupied with Jules’s mistreatment of all of them, too busy propping Willa up, and too busy worrying about her siblings. She also experiences her own suffering at Jules’s hands as secondary to Willa’s suffering. I think many children who see themselves as rescuers (rather than victims) have these same reactions.

This book of fiction brings up very real topics of domestic violence and resilience following trauma. How can storytelling bring attention to social issues and create change?

Whereas nonfiction can offer suggestions, how-to’s, research data, psychological insights and so on, I think fiction is deadly if it’s didactic that way. The subject matter of a novel may include social issues, but the primary purpose of a novel isn’t to create social change. It’s to engage, entertain, and maybe inspire thought.

What fiction can do is make people feel less alone. Those who grew up with domestic violence and the kind of trauma Martha experiences tend to feel isolated and ashamed at some level. But while the circumstances vary, feelings of isolation and shame about childhood difficulties are universal. And those feelings can lift somewhat when one immerses oneself in a world of fiction that addresses that terrain. If readers identify with Martha, they can feel less alone. That in itself does create a shift in the reader, and I think we can call that change.

You can connect with Lisa Braver Moss at lisabravermoss.com or on Facebook. Her book is available for ordering wherever books are sold.

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

 

Am I Too Old for Literary Success? A Few Reasons 50 -plus is Just Alright With Me

Some of the literary greats didn’t start publishing until well after 50 years old.    —She Writes Press

I read this post a couple of weeks ago and felt relieved. I’m well in to my fiftieth year now.

photo(5)And I’m well in to the process of getting something major published, not just a simple content article or essay, but a real-life manuscript.

I cannot tell a lie; it’s been anything but quick and easy.

I remember finishing the first draft of my memoir in 2003 when I was thirty-nine. I was so sure it was ready to publish. Whew! I got it in just under the wire, I thought, confident that forty was the cut-off point that if I hadn’t gotten a book deal, all efforts were doomed.
“What’s your rush?” one of the agents I shopped my book to asked me after showing interest but ultimately rejecting it –“as it is currently written”– a phrase I would come to despise.

It was a good question that I could not answer. I still can’t.

I’m not sure I can articulate in so many words why I think it’s important either. But every time I read someone’s story, I’m so grateful that the author, and that I, have persevered.

Last night, I finished The Craggy Hole in my Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It by Geneen Roth, an oldie but goody I picked up at a garage sale.

It was transformational.

Now I’m reading Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin, who has been publishing books for 45 years.

publishing-writers-memoir-ds-200w

But perhaps it was reading to my adult daughter punctuated the point best.

Eleven days ago, I let her pick out a book I would read to her from my library before bed. I rarely get to read aloud anymore, but she indulges me once a year. She selected Carole Radziwill’s What Remains.

I read her the opening scene which begins with the date July 16, 1999.

“Honey, what’s the date today?” I asked my daughter after reading it. She looked on her iPhone.

“July 16th.”

A few lines down, as I’m reading about a fatal plane crash, it gave the time also: 9:44 p.m.

“What time is it right now?” I asked my daughter.

Again she looked at her phone screen. “It’s 9:43p.m.”

Suddenly, the engine of an airplane close by drowned out my reading. We don’t live near any airport. My daughter and I looked at each other, wondering if this was to be our last memory before the plane crashed in to our tiny home.

It is this that I love. The fact that we can be transported in to someone’s story that happened sixteen years ago, and it’s real and it’s relevant and for a moment, we were a part of it.

I don’t really mind that I’ve spent more than sixteen years working on my own story to share, so long as many years later, or even after I die, someone might still relate to it.

What I do mind (only a teeny bit) is that my kids’ former teen-aged babysitter posted a story on VOX at her young age that knocked my socks off a few days ago and is now expected to turn in to a memoir very quickly. Perhaps you’ve read the story. I Spent Two Years Cleaning Houses. What I saw Makes Me Never Want to be Rich.

Sure, I felt an ugly twinge of envy when I saw it pop up on MSN’s feed, but it’s such a great story that I’ve nearly forgiven her for being so young and so dynamic. (Watch out for Stephanie Land’s upcoming book. I can’t wait!)

And thanks for not giving up on mine. You can e-mail me at Liza8m@gmail.com if you want to be on a waaay early pre-order list.

Thanks always for stopping by.

From Past to Present/Dusting Off My Manuscript to Answer the Real Questions

A few weeks ago She Writes Press announced a cool new contest for memoir writers.

Simply put, women writers can submit a query letter and the first couple of chapters of their memoir and compete for an agent with Serendipity Literary Agency. Check it out on She Writes Press.

I may have mentioned I shelved my memoir about domestic violence and child abduction for many months after a few drafts, more than a few rejections, and much much more than a few hundred dollars spent on editorial services. I was positively sick of it.

Then I listened to a recorded tele-seminar from my National Association of Memoir Writers membership and heard author Linda Watanabe McFerrin give tips on writing memoir. She mentioned that in a memoir, the protagonist has something they want which is the external plot, versus something they truly want,  the internal which has emotion.

And just like that, it made sense. What do I say I want, and what is really driving my actions? That’s what needs to be in the book.

I’ve also been re-reading the artful memoir Swimming with Maya again by Eleanor Vincent, and realized I need to re-write my first book in the first person to experience the emotions long buried.

So here are my first couple of pages. Does it work for you written in present tense?

I’d love to hear your reactions at liza8m@gmail.com. It’s due on August 31st.  And soon, Eleanor Vincent has agreed to be interviewed for the blog. Stay tuned!

Chapter 1

I brush Marianthi’s hair as fast as I can without upsetting her. My oldest daughter, like so many firstborn, seems in tune to my every mood since her birth. Just six years old now, she senses my wave of anxiety about her father’s impending arrival for weekly visitation.

“Are you scared, Mommy?”

Marianthi’s voice sounds like a munchkin from the Wizard of Oz, as small and sweet as she is.

“No, sweetie” I smile. “I just don’t want to keep Daddy waiting. You look beautiful.”

And she does. She’s wearing her blue dress with the floral collar that matches her liquid blue eyes. Her straight brown hair is neatly held back by a barrette. Now I direct her to her coat and boots while I work on getting her little sister ready.

I push Meredith’s plump calf into her boot. She groans. “Point your foot down, baby.” Slowly, the boot slides on. I run my fingers through her baby-fine brown ringlets and inspect her round face for remnants of Rice Krispies.

Meredith is the antithesis of her sister. At two, she lost grasp of her helium balloon, silently watching it float towards the clouds. “God stole my balloon,” she had announced. At three, she told a bald man that he had a baby head. And now at four, Meredith has learned she could belch as loudly as a college boy at a frat party.

My daughters are absurdly cute. I’m not the only one who thinks so; four separate couples have requested the girls be in their upcoming weddings this spring alone.

“Ready just in time,” I tell them as their father Grigorios, Gregory for short, pulls up in his dented, bright blue Jeep Cherokee. A male passenger I don’t recognize is sitting next to him. I try to get a closer look without upsetting Gregory. The passenger catches me, and I avert my eyes immediately. What guy would ride along with Gregory to pick up the girls? And why?

“Momma, will you pick us up tomowoh?” Meredith asks. I dread the day she’s able to pronounce her r’s.

“I’ll pick you up on the tomorrow after tomorrow, remember?” But of course Meredith can’t remember the court- appointed visitation schedule. She’s only four, and her father visits are irregular. She doesn’t know that the court only recently lifted the supervised visitation requirement that has been imposed during a restraining order, or that I pick her and her sister up at the daycare for the express purpose of avoiding unnecessary contact with him. And she shouldn’t have to. Neither of them should have to know of the grim details of their parents’ divorce. They’re still little girls, after all.

I feel like I have spent my entire twenty-nine years of life walking on eggshells. It’s March 13, 1994, and I’m four years out of my violent marriage. But despite the passage of time, my fear of Gregory is as strong as the day in March of 1990 when I got back up off the floor, collected my baby girls and fled in a taxi. The scratches and strangulation marks healed after several days, but his parting threats haunt me: “I would rather kill you than let you leave. That way you’ll die knowing the girls will have no mother and their father will be in jail. Leave and you’ll never see them again–I have nothing to lose.”

That was by no means the first time Gregory had threatened to harm or kill me. Not even close. In our marriage, he’d isolated me from friends, had taken my car, and at the lowest point, limited my access to food while I was pregnant. Eventually, he wrung my neck. And all the while, he delivered the same message, over and over. “You are worthless, stupid, and helpless. I am the only person you have to rely on. Without me, you are nothing.”

But it’s his threat to take the children and disappear to his native home in Greece if I left him that got to me. He knows that I could never live without my children.

I remind myself that our circumstances are different now. Yes, things are still hard, even though four years have passed since our marriage ended. I have no family around to help with the girls or with the house. We live in Alaska, a place where one battles ice and snow and long periods of continual darkness that is followed by short periods of constant light. It’s a place suited best for those with money. Money to buy a four-wheel drive. Money to buy lots of insulation for the house and to buy fancy winter boots and coats, and money to buy airline tickets to leave the state once or twice a year for a warmer climate. All of the things

But on the plus side, our divorce is final now and includes provisions in our custody arrangement to prevent him making good on his threats. I’ve earned my journalism degree. I have a promising job, and I’m determined not to feign independence through remarriage and further dependence. We are out of low-income housing, and off of food stamps. And more importantly, the girls are smart and healthy, and they how to respond if anyone, including their father, attempts to take them away from me. There is no reason to be afraid.

“Don’t forget your blankie, baby,” I remind Meredith. I hand her the paper-thin quilted blanket that she’s loved since birth. Life for everyone around Meredith goes better when she has the comfort of her security blanket. While her sister is the sensitive, pleasing child, Meredith’s attitude is that if she has to suffer, then so should the entire community.

The doorbell rings. I hug the girls and open the door. Gregory is standing there in his hooded blue jacket and baggy khakis. His dirty-brown hair looks even thinner than the last time I saw him, and his cheeks more hollow. Though he’s a half -inch taller than me at 5’8,” I outweigh my former husband by an easy fifteen pounds despite my frequent crash diets. This stupid fact has pissed me off over the years as much as the legitimate reasons I have to hate him. And yet, his gaunt look makes him appear more scary and desperate to me somehow.

Gregory wordlessly takes Meredith’s hand. She in turn grabs Marianthi’s hand. They carefully step over the ice and snow that has yet to melt in the extended Alaskan winter, and Gregory lifts them into his Jeep. They both looked back at me before he shuts the rear passenger door.

“Goodbye! I love you,” I call out.

“Bye Mommy!” they say in unison.

Gregory glares hard at me before getting in the Jeep. I return his gaze and smile brightly, refusing to defer to his intimidation tactics, and then shudder as the Jeep disappears from view. I close the door, chiding myself. I hate being paranoid, but who is that guy with him? None of your business, Liz, I tell myself. Bad things always seem to happen when I question Gregory about anything, and it isn’t illegal for him to have someone I don’t know in the car. Just get over it.

Time to prepare for the day ahead. I plan to take my friend Julie to lunch at a new sushi restaurant for her thirtieth birthday, and will force myself to enjoy the quiet time without the girls.

Somehow, today feels different to me. A palpable feeling of unrest is in the pit of my stomach for no particular reason.

The climate between Gregory and me has cooled again in the last few weeks. I had always hoped we could be on civil terms for the sake of the children, and was occasionally encouraged when time passed without any hint of coarse language or bullying as we exchanged the girls for visitation. But the peace has been short-lived. In general, it seems that the passage of time has only increased their father’s intentions to possess or destroy me, whichever comes first. And although I’m too scared to cross Gregory unless my and the girls’ safety is at stake, the state of Alaska boldly dipped into a legal settlement of his to collect child support a few weeks ago. Gregory is livid. I can’t help but worry about repercussions. He has strong feelings about paying child support.

“If you need diapers, call me,” he told me after the girls and I got settled into low-income housing four years earlier. “If you and the girls run out of food, you have my number. I’ll do what I can. But don’t ever let some government agency tell me how much I need to pay you to support my daughters. I will decide this.”

And true to his word, Gregory has not bowed to the government mandate of paying child support. Instead, I have learned to manage the financial struggles of supporting two little girls on next to nothing. I have learned how to manage his threatening phone calls, and the image of Gregory in my rearview mirror. I have even learned to parlay my fear of being killed by him into an inspiration to live each day with my daughters as if it might be my last. Because it really might be.

Yet I know I can never learn to live without my daughters, and Gregory knows why.

***