What was the impetus or inspiration to write your stories?
While my first two novels (Choice and Queer Greer) were primarily driven by social issues that also affected me personally in some way (abortion and the LGBT+ community, respectively), my newest book – Vuto – was inspired by my experience as a health volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps. Stationed in Malawi, Africa, one of my most vivid memories from my time there involves my witnessing a teenager give birth in the health center of my village. I was in awe of the fact that she had to go through her labor and delivery alone, as tradition warranted. I was also incredulous to find out that the husband of the girl would not see the child for two weeks after the birth; if the child passed away during that period of time, the father would never acknowledge the child whatsoever – the burden of burial would fall on the mother and the village women. I knew there was a story in those traditions and it took me about five years since returning from Malawi to flesh that story out.
What were some of the struggles that you faced in the writing process? How were you able to overcome them?
My primary struggle was assuring that my memories of Malawi and Malawian customs were accurate. While Vuto is fictional, I wanted to make my descriptions as precise as possible. One of the ways to do this was to incorporate as much of the language of the country as I could into the story, weaving Chichewa vocabulary into the prose and the conversations of the characters. This was yet another struggle – to assure my use of Chichewa was correct in each instance. I sent my manuscript to several Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to read over before publication to make sure all of the aforementioned were as they should be.
How do you see writing as an empowering experience for yourself and other women?
For me, writing is about having an outlet for my creativity that I have complete control over. It’s about being able to enter any world and be any type of person on any given day. Writing is how I travel without a plane or a plane ticket. It’s how I can experience being both an all-powerful presence and the smallest, most vulnerable creature in a matter of paragraphs. Writing is experience and, for me, experience is everything. I have always been intrigued by people and places I’ve never been, desiring the ability to live an astronomical amount of lives within my own lifetime. As a writer, I have that seemingly impossible ability. For women and others with similar desires, or for those who may feel trapped in their current realities, writing offers a similar escape and a way to explore lives one might never have the chance to otherwise.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to aspiring female authors?
Never stop writing. Write when others say you shouldn’t or you can’t. Write when you’re happy, angry, sad, ecstatic. Write every day. I can’t tell you the number of times people have told me I won’t make it or I won’t make a living as a writer. If you hear those same critics, ignore them, pick up a pen and write some more. You are your own biggest cheerleader when the critics grow too loud – press on through, keep writing and, one day, you’ll make it.
If you had to describe yourself in three words only, what would they be?
Passionate, idealistic and driven.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
It’s so difficult for me to choose just one place – I want to go everywhere and see everything! Believe it or not, though, ever since I left Malawi, I’ve felt pulled back there. I want to revisit without being a member of the Peace Corps to view the country with a new set of eyes. I want to go back and try to find my homestay family, whom I think of daily yet have had no way of corresponding with since coming back to the U.S. I want to give back in some way to the country that influenced me just as much as my native home.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future? Do you have any exciting plans or projects coming up?
I always have at least three books percolating in my mind at any given time. Right now I’m considering a follow-up to Queer Greer, perhaps turning it into a series. I also have a very rough draft of a novel from National Novel Writing Month 2012 that may or may not turn into something publishable. But I’m thinking that the book I’ve been writing off and on for four years, based on the life of the incarcerated Elizabeth Burke, might be next. I’ve been corresponding with Burke since 2009 and, after hearing her story and reading her court transcripts several times over, I believe she was wrongfully convicted of killing her son. The Innocence Project of Texas is currently looking into her case and their verdict might mean that Burke becomes my fourth novel.
Choosing Crowdfunding Reward Incentives
By AJ Walkley
On April 9th, I launched my first crowdfunding campaign to fund the publication of my third novel, Vuto. I had started to look into crowdfunding opportunities upon finishing the last edit of my novel, wanting to get it into readers’ hands. Not being in a place financially to do so myself, I turned to this platform in the hopes that I would find success. After a couple weeks of research and tweaks to my project, as well as my video, I was ready to put all of my energy into this venture.
Thirty days later with countless hours invested into outreach and promotion, I witnessed my project reach 175% of its funding by the time the clock hit 0. Throughout the campaign, I took copious notes on everything I did to reach and ultimately surpass my funding goal. While I won’t be crowdfunding for another novel or creative project anytime soon, I wanted to record my journey in the hopes of bestowing what I’ve learned upon others thinking of using crowdfunding to finance a creative endeavor as well.
Looking back, one facet of the crowdfunding experience that I found to be of utmost importance was the ability to offer reward incentives. In my initial research prior to launching my own, going through campaigns to see if there were any I wanted to back, I found that the likelihood of me pledging was based on my interest in the project itself, as well as the pledge tiers for the rewards and the types of incentives being offered.
When it comes to rewards, in my opinion, rule number one is to offer something for everyone, even potential backers who can only afford to give you $1. For some reason, those campaigns that started their rewards at $1 made me want to donate even more than the minimum.
I wanted to offer the same on my own project in the hopes of attracting more donors, as well as backers who were further incentivized to give over that minimum pledge level. I also wanted to offer a wide variety of donation levels with varying rewards attached to each. The levels I chose were: $1, $5, $10, $25, $35, $50, $100, $200, $400 and $500. I even had incentives of $1,000 and above at the beginning of the campaign, but ended up deleting them in the last couple of weeks feeling like the amount of might be overwhelming for certain viewers. In many ways, even the $1-$500 might have been going a little overboard. If I were to do it again, I would probably cut it down to between five and seven tiers.
As far as choosing rewards for each tier, I first determined what I would be able to offer: blog shout-outs, postcards, bookmarks, eBooks, paperback books, posters, the backer’s name on the Acknowledgements page, and Skype “meet and greets.” I then did a cost analysis to figure out what each of the aforementioned would cost me and how much it would cost to ship the physical items.
Next, I set rewards for a specific giving level, aiming for each to have value to potential backers, even the $1 reward (a shout-out on my blog and a personalized postcard). Having already determined the monetary tiers, I then paired the rewards with a giving level. I made sure that the rewards being offered for each level made sense based on said level. So, for instance, $10 backers would receive an eBook of my novel, a signed bookmark, a blog shout-out and a postcard – considering that my eBook will likely be priced a bit higher than the $10 mark once published, I saw this as a great deal for backers who would essentially be getting a discounted deal on the book along with the other goodies.
I would say that value and cost-effectiveness were my focus in deciding my reward levels. In the upper levels, I sought to provide added value to the backer without raising my own costs post-campaign. I did this by offering e-versions of my previous titles, which were of value to the backer, being that purchasing them online would cost them $10-$20 otherwise, but cost nothing for me to provide them.
While nobody took advantage of the $400 and $500 tiers, I still kept them up as I felt like the rewards associated with them were clever and might inspire other authors going this route:
$400: the backer would receive all previous rewards, plus their name as a character in my next book.
$500: limited at two, the backer would receive all previous rewards, plus a 20-minute Skype “meet and greet” and the ability to choose the topic of one of my next two books.
Along with the initial reward tiers, I would also highly recommend adding new rewards mid-campaign to keep the momentum going. Statistically, most campaigns hit a slump in the second and third weeks. To try to prevent donations from dropping off too much during this period, I rolled out a few different interim rewards. For instance, in the second week I added a $30 reward – 20 backers could get a handmade bracelet from me in the colors of the Malawian flag (the country in which my novel takes place). I received six additional donations at this level, which was significant for me. Once I hit $3,500, I posted an update letting everyone know that if we could get to $4,500 by the close of the campaign, I’d film myself making a traditional Malawian meal to send to all backers. Once that goal was met, I set another stretch goal of $5,000 – if we hit or exceeded that amount by the end of the campaign, I would publish an eBook of short stories and poems that all backers would receive for free.
Just before we hit the last week, I let my current backers know that a pledge increase of just $7 would get them a tote bag with my book cover on it. In the final week, I let backers and potential donors know that the next 10 people to donate at least $50 would receive an advanced reader copy of Vuto prior to release.
I found great success with these tactics, leading to more donations and pledge increases in the last few weeks of my campaign. I hope these tips will benefit others venturing into the crowdfunding sphere, as well.
A.J. Walkley is the author of Choice and Queer Greer. Based in Arizona, she currently blogs for The Huffington Post, primarily focusing on issues related to the LGBT+ community. Walkley has served as a health volunteer for the United States Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa, teaching villagers how to protect themselves from contracting HIV; this experience inspired her to write her third book, Vuto, which will be published in the latter half of 2013.
A roundup of what the Pubslush team has been digging into this week.
a beautiful mess by Ali Berlinski
(Debuted last Tuesday! Get your copy here!)
The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Happy Friday and happy reading!
What was the impetus or inspiration to write your story?
I wrote a story called “Pain” when I was in graduate school. It was the very staccato recounting of a woman’s life of pain from the time she was a young girl until she was an adult. The story’s protagonist was the character that became Lorca in my novel. I found her voice even in the story (which didn’t work for a whole slew of reasons) to be the most compelling I’d come across. I wanted to take her with me when I started writing something larger.
Too, I’ve always been deeply interested in loneliness, and in the measures we take to feel less alone, and to cope in the meantime. For me, that is in great part what APRICOTS is about. Finding ways out of one’s solitude, connecting, engaging, becoming all right.
How do you see writing as an empowering experience for yourself and other women?
Writing is a great expression of freedom, of the imagination, of voice. I can’t imagine anything being more empowering than finding one’s voice and letting it ring out. Think of all the things we can say, and in all the different ways, once we realize that we have the power to say them. Reading, for me, is empowering too. It engages us in a conversation about empathy, which allows us to better understand the world, others. That is immensely powerful: understanding. It’s everything.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to aspiring female authors?
Scratch what itches. Tell the story you want to tell, you must tell. It might take a long time—to come to it, to put it into words, and then to find for it a place in the world—but everything else is a waste of time. Editing is very different from self-censure, and an important distinction. Tell the story you must.
What was the publishing process like for you? How were you able to bring your book to life?
I wrote a short short that was published by Granta (http://www.granta.com/New-Writing/Beginning-End) just after I graduated from graduate school. By some stroke of luck, it got enough attention so that when I was ready to send out a manuscript, I already had contacts. Which didn’t mean it was easy. It just meant it was easier. My name carried the tiniest bit of weight. I did a whole bunch of revising with my agent, and then even more with my editor. I did a lot of revising, compared to some other writers I know. But what do I know? My manuscript was once a mess, aimless. I’m lucky to have found people who believed in it: sometimes more than I did. Usually more than I did.
If you had to describe yourself in three words only, what would they be?
Porous. Nostalgic. Mindful.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
Cuba. I’m nostalgic by nature, and Cuba is such a perfect illustration of that particular emotion. Of all the places: maybe the most so.
Tell us about Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots.
It’s about a young girl, a pain addict, who is looking for friendship, the key to her mother’s happiness and a recipe. And an old woman, an 85-year-old Iraqi Jewish widow who is looking for friendship too, and the daughter she gave up for adoption fifty years before and the key to her own happiness. They find each other. It is as much about sadness as it is about what happiness after sadness. Sadness and then.
Like these quotes?
Then you’ll love the book and the blog!
How and when did you decide to become a writer?
For years, like many others, I have felt I have had a book inside me. I have enjoyed writing since I was about ten years old when I wrote plays for my maternal grandmother, Nan and all her little Italian lady friends. I can still see them gathered in the living room sipping coffee and chattering on in Italian. I never understood a word but I can still feel their fascination and loving attention as they hushed each other when I stood at the archway to announce the play would begin.
As I grew older and began facing life with all its complications, I found myself journaling my way through the heartaches of relationship failures, the searing pain of divorce, the exhaustion of being a single-parent, the terror of loving and living with an alcoholic son, the heart wrenching losses of my maternal grandmother, Nan, my best friend, Judy and the recent death of my beloved father as well as my own diagnosis of cancer. Journaling became my pathway to healing, capturing my moments of need, longing, passion, creativity, my life.
I started taking writing courses in 2002 while working as a nurse. In 2009, I became serious about learning the art and craft of writing, taking ongoing memoir writing workshops, author platform building courses and attending national writing conferences.
When I retired from my beloved nursing career in 2011 after forty-four years as a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner, the foundation for my writing career was established. I called myself a writer.
Tell us a bit about your blog, Memoir Writer’s Journey.
I started blogging in December of 2009 on response to agents consistently asking about what my author platform was. I have been blogging once-twice a week since on memoir writing, publishing and social media tips gleaned from writing my own memoir and sequel. I feature other memoir writers in guest posts. In January, 2013 I started a series called A Memoir Moment where, once a month I post either an excerpt from my memoir or a story. The working titles of my memoirs are: Choice and Chances: My Jagged Journey to Self and the sequel: Hope Matters: A Memoir of Faith
How does blogging help your own writing?
Blogging guarantees that I stay on track with a message that will resonate with my readers. It forces me to write clearly and concisely. The world wide web is a noisy place and I want to give my readers something valuable when they stop by “around my kitchen table” so they’ll want to come back and participate in the conversation. I have been able to make many meaningful connections with like-minded people who have helped me on my journey. I get immediate feedback on what I’ve written and also gain ideas from my readers.
Describe yourself in three words.
persistent, grateful, facilitator
What’s the greatest obstacle you’ve had to overcome being a memoirist?
It’s difficult to narrow it down to one but I can address the obstacles I have encountered in various stages of writing my memoir:
#1 Facing the pain: .When I first started writing out my stories, facing painful memories was difficult. As I kept writing, new insights revealed themselves to me just through the process of facing them and writing about them. I experienced healing through reading my own words and began to feel I was on the other side of the pain. I learned that emotional distance from the pain is necessary to be able to convey a story to the reader in an objective, clear way.
#2. Dealing with my “inner critic”: Once I finally figured out a way to get by my inner critic—which took a fair amount of time and effort—- who insisted “nobody cares about your story, you can’t write, you don’t know what you are doing”…
#3 Time management: I think the biggest obstacle I am facing now is dealing effectively with social media distractions and balancing author platform responsibilities with the actual writing. Knowing that the only way I will finish my memoir(s) is by writing on a schedule keeps me motivated to keep at it. I am a work-in-progress trying to move forward.
Kathleen Pooler is a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who is working on a memoir and a sequel about how the power of hope through her faith in God has helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.
Here’s an inside look at what the Pubslush team has been reading this week. A lot of great books to add to your reading list if you’ve missed out on any of these!
Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
“It seemed to him that in Annawadi, fortunes derived not just from what people did, or how well they did it, but from the accidents and catastrophes they dodged. A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught.” - Behind the Beautiful Forevers
He Never Liked Cake by Janna Leyde (A Pubslush author! Woot!)
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
“When shit brings you down, just say ‘fuck it’, and eat yourself some motherfucking candy.” - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Night Games by Arthur Schnitzler
Happy Friday and happy reading!
1. How and when did you decide to become a writer?
I think that writing is something that chooses you, in a way. I cannot remember a time when I was not writing, storytelling, drawing and even singing my stories before I could form words with a pen … then the thrill of constructing sentences, filling pages in secret notebooks with tales of high fantasy, novellas about magical cats descending from mysterious planets to empower girls to take up their destinies, running away to lonely islands and surviving … I have always written. Writing saved me, in a way. I was severely bullied through much of school, and I could transform it all and be empowered by narrative. There were times I story-told my way out of being hurt, too … my insurance for a while was telling customized tales under a tree in exchange for protection, or the distraction of my tormentors! My friends and mentors breathed amid the pages of my books, so writing was a way to meet them, spend time in their world that was so much kinder and more stimulating than my own.
2. What is the most important piece of advice you can give to aspiring female authors?
Read. Read across all genres, picture books, poetry, nonfiction. Listen. Eavesdrop on friends, relatives. Look. Form a keen eye for gesture, faces, compositional arrangements in the landscapes around you. Write as often as you can (public transport is great!) and don’t show anyone else until you are sure you feel solid in your voice. I think that as women we are conditioned extremely thoroughly to adjust to what we perceive others want/expect from us, and our writing is a tender sacred thing that needs to “sound its barbaric yawp” without fear nor favor. So care for your “voice” and let it grow strong before subjecting it to the scrutiny of others.
Once we feel strong, then of course share. Expect to rewrite twice as much as you write, and cull your work frequently. A friend who taught me to sew advised me from the start that I would unpick twice as much as I sewed. She was right, and I think you can apply that to writing!
Support your sisters, keep a generous spirit to yourself and all others — learn from them (especially the old and wise ones). Don’t write to get published, write to create the most truthful, incredible art you can make. Stay true, break all the rules and then stick by them too, just to see where that takes you. Be open-minded and open-hearted, and find at least two others who share your passion for words.
And have fun!!
3. What approach did you use in publishing your book—self, traditional, etc.?
I had an agent, and was on the path well and truly to traditional publishing. Then, during my Masters in Children’s Literature at the University of Georgia, I found out a lot more about the corporatization of publishing, and it concerned my deeply. Now, studying my MFA in New York City, I am surrounded my industry folk and wannabe best-selling authors. I feel keenly that there needs to be a professional, grassroots small press movement to return storytelling to the community. And thankfully there is a burgeoning of such presses.Writing should be disseminated and sold, of course, but I don’t believe it should become commodified, if that makes sense. I am a keen advocate for the rights and celebration of independent artists and publishers, and resent the fact that now marketing departments have the final say over who gets contracts, not editors.
My husband and I founded Australia’s first (and only, to my knowledge) nonprofit indie record label about 7 years ago. We are both in love with reading and writing, and when I had been with my agent for a while, and one very large mainstream house kept my book for a year, arguing over whether it should be literary fiction, YA or women’s fiction and finally gave it back to my agent with a “we love it, but could not figure out how to sell it,” then we looked at each other and he said to me, “if we can do it with music, we can do it with books. Let’s start a press.” And we have. We are incredibly excited too, about using this platform to support more authors, but that is probably for another interview!
4. What is your involvement in pre and post promotion of your work?
Community is everything, and the best art comes from that place, we believe, so I ran a kickstarter campaign. The challenge was: If I prepared the project’s pitch well, allowing people to download samples and hear the journey and political context through a short video, would we get enough people on board to publish? It was scary, because I found it hard to believe that folks outside my immediate circle would be interested, but I really wanted to see if it were possible to find a core audience first, and then publish for them, rather than publishing the work and then finding a market.”
Miraculously, we burst through the funding goal. I was ecstatic, because I knew that a huge reason why people funded this project was to support the idea of independent artists and author self-empowerment. In other words, this campaign was a much larger concern than just my book; which is what I wanted it to be. I hoped people would begin to think critically about the process by which work is brought to them, or kept from them, to ask questions and to celebrate the range of places from which new voices emerge. I was also adamant that the work represented the highest level of writing, editing, and design.This was to be independent publishing, not the work of a Vanity Press, with all its attendant (and sometimes rightly earned) stigma.
I had a wonderful time organizing the official launch in Athens, GA, at the best indie bookstore in the South East (Avid Bookshop) and we celebrated the novel with a full house and free donuts (hmm, a connection there I suspect!). I am now in the throes of setting up some more readings up this way, where I am now based, to coincide with the official release in June.
The amazing thing, is that supporters in Australia are organizing “reading gatherings” of “Shadows & Wings” too—reading aloud the work and encouraging others to purchase the book. I am thrilled at this—the idea of people around the world gathering to read and enjoy home-cooked art, and sharing it with others outside their spheres … that is mind-blowing to me.
I feel as if I am a part of a shift in our world, that is about reclaiming what is ours—our stories, dreams, and the ways we choose to share these with each other. I feel it is an exciting time to be in writing and publishing, and can’t wait to see what exciting manifestations of “the book biz” will continue to appear.
5. If you had to describe yourself in three words only, what would they be?
Passionate. Determined. Dreamer.
6. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
Can I have an endless round the world ticket, and say ‘everywhere’? No? Okay! I would have to agonize between two places—traveling around the byways of Ireland in a gypsy caravan, and trekking through the Himalayas. I have a deep love of being with quiet with wilderness around me. It reminds me again of my own insignificance—I mean that, too, in a positive sense—in the face of the planet on which we walk. It renews me with joy, and I become aware of the beauty, danger and risk that is living; urban life can feel so disconnected from the basic things like growing food, depending on seasons, needing each other … being away from that, amongst mythic places, makes me feel lost in a far greater story than just my own. It’s liberating.
7. Tell us about your latest book.
Shadows & Wings was born many years ago, from a conversation I overheard as a child, between an aging German soldier (and relative) and my parents: But we did not know. How could we know? I was an ordinary soldier. Years later, having become obsessed—both as teacher and writer—with the rise and profound effects of fascism on Germany in the 20th century, and what it means for us today, I had to try to answer that question. I had to unpack the silences in my own family, and map what was compelling me to write.
Shadows & Wings, although about a young man coming of age as a cellist and artist in another time and place, is very much about myself; and about many people – all of us who feel like exiles, who feel that somewhere along the line we have listened and obeyed a voice that is not that of our own hearts, and we seek freedom and peace from what we have done.
Shadows & Wings is a novel of cyclic journeys between hemispheres, the connections between ourselves and those we can never know, and the haunting power of art, love and dreams.
The story revolves around Tomas, a cellist and dreamer, who denies the devastating changes happening in 1930’s Germany—until he is drafted into Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Many years later, having emigrated to Australia, he raises his granddaughter Lara to love music and birds. He also chooses to hide from her a terrible secret.
When her beloved Opa dies, 22 year-old Lara receives a shadow box of mysterious ornaments that force her to confront his past. Seeking to understand his years of silence, and to find a way through her own grief, she travels to Germany—the objects her only guide.
Social media: a brilliant place for keeping in touch with friends, posting pictures of cats, and book discussions. Facebook is filled with countless pages for readers and writers, but which ones are worth following? Here are the best five pages on Facebook for all you book lovers out there that connect you with countless people reading the same books, and sharing their views from the comfort of a fuzzy pink bathrobe.
Friday Reads is one of the best book recommendation pages on Facebook. Continuously asking readers what their favorite books are and what they’re currently reading gives you a huge variety of great books to choose from by readers and the moderators of this page. You’ll have endless books to choose from just by reading their updates for a few days.
NPR Books uses their Facebook page to post new books coming out, interesting facts about classic authors, and news on books and reading today. NPR keeps you up to date on all the new books coming out that are definitely worth reading.You get your daily dose of both news and intellectual posts to really make you think.
Shelf Awareness A great source of book humor. You’ll easily spend hours reading the links and memes posted while you appreciate their literary references. Connect to other book lovers, read great literary quotes posted daily, and hear about all things happening in the literary world.
The Millions is a perfect place to connect with countless other readers and writers to talk about every book imaginable. This page is a haven for book lovers of all kinds with recommendations for every genre, and great literary memes to feed your love of reading.
The Goodreads Facebook page is filled with book suggestions, links to books and authors, and daily updates on your favorite writers! Get a quick book recommendation on their page along with a quirky fact about today’s date in literary history.
1. What was the impetus or inspiration to write your story?
I tried very hard not to write my story. In 2008, I started graduate school at the University of Western Connecticut MFA program. I was determined to become a witty travel writer—a David Sedaris meets Barbara Kingsolver out on the open road, if such a thing is possible! I swore I would never write about relationships or marriage.
Yet every time I sat down to write, my marriage—and my disillusionment and unhappiness—crept in. For my very first assignment I tried to write about a trip my husband and I took to Mexico. I wrote 30 pages to arrive at the 15 I turned in, and the piece was a mess. Luckily, my mentor, author Mark Sundeen, took the time to read carefully and discern that it was not really an essay about a trip to Mexico. It was an essay about a 30-year-old woman trying to figure out if she could reconnect to her husband and the life they’d built together over the previous 10 years.
She could not. I could not. Over the next two years, I found myself writing a memoir about my divorce as every aspect of my life unraveled. Time and again, I tried to write something else, but I was always drawn back to my own story. I learned that sometimes we have a specific story that needs to be told and there can be great power in heeding that. I know now that writing that story helped me save my own life and create a new one better aligned with my true dreams and values.
2. What were some of the struggles that you faced in the writing process? How were you able to overcome them?
Most of my struggles were emotional. I wrote as a way to find answers in my own life, often tackling questions and issues I hadn’t admitted out loud to myself or to my husband. This made writing an extremely emotional process layered with intense guilt—my ex-husband was not an evil man; I was the one hurting him by asking for a divorce. I was also writing about things still ongoing in my own life. I didn’t know how things were going to turn out, much less how to end chapters. Some chapters had to sit for months before I could give them a proper resolution. I also worried a great deal about writing a story that not only exposed my secrets and flaws, but also exposed my ex-husband and my family.
Three things helped me get through the process. First, I learned to focus only on the writing before me. I could worry about sharing it (and hence, the reactions of others) after I had a manuscript to show for my efforts. Secondly, I found a lot of freedom in the Artist’s Way, a book by Natalie Cameron that taught me to foster my own creativity and introduced me to morning pages—essentially, three pages of handwritten brain dumping to get ride of mental clutter and closer to my own truth. I learned to let the act of writing be a safe and creative space in my life and not something to fear.
I also had tremendous mentors who didn’t judge me. They provided a fair sounding board for my writing, and also cared about my well-being. They taught me that it was okay to let a story rest while I lived my life—that just like my life had it’s own timing and rhythm, the life of a story did, too.
3. Is there a place, routine, or ritual that you have when writing? Is there an environment that allows you to be the most creative?
For creative writing, I write best in the early morning hours. I like to wake up, let the dog out, get a cup of coffee and climb back into bed to start with morning pages. It’s best when it’s still dark out and I’m writing only by the glow of a bedside lamp. It creates the sensation that I’m in a safe cocoon, and it’s a signal to my inner censor that this draft doesn’t have to be good. It just needs to uncover the story. (I should add that I write all rough drafts by hand for the same reasons!)
Now that I’m in a new relationship, it doesn’t always work to take over the bed for writing. I’ve trained myself to write during the light of day now, in 90-minute increments (with the timer actually going). That’s long enough to get something done but short enough that it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming amount of time. I’ve also had great success writing first drafts on airplanes or waiting for airplanes—there’s no place to go and nothing else to do.
4. If you had to describe yourself in three words only, what would they be?
Determined. Adventurous. Homebody.
(I like to think the latter two can coexist).
5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
Rock climbing in Thailand. I moved from Minneapolis to Colorado after my divorce, and I now live 9,000 feet above sea level. I crave tropical forests and humidity! Not long after moving here, I met my boyfriend of two-plus years and he introduced me to rock climbing. It’s a physically and mentally demanding sport that in many ways parallels the writing process—you make progress by taking small steps and learning that you can move forward even when you’re afraid. That’s a life lesson I always need to be reminded of, and I would love to explore it in Thailand.
6. What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future? Do you have any exciting plans or projects coming up?
I’ve begun my first novel about a young girl in Northern Minnesota—the place of my roots—coming to terms with a newly created wolf hunt. I’ll admit, I love fiction after pouring my heart and soul into a memoir! I’m also launching a new business as a writing coach, and as part of that, a website called WritingStrides (www.writingstrides.com) dedicated to helping writers navigate the writing process. Not just the nuts and bolts of writing, but the emotional hurdles that come with it.
Calling all book lovers! New York City always has something to do, and the literary community is no different. Here’s a list of some of the literary events happening in the city for the month of May to help you get out into the community, hear your favorite authors speak about their work, and maybe get some tips for your own. Most of these events are free or only have a requested donation, so you have no reason not to join the rest of those book lovers out there in New York City and share your love of all things literary.
April 29-May 5: The PEN World Voices of International Literature is an ongoing, all day, annual event to commemorate newly published authors, share success stories, get acquainted with publishers, hear lectures on how to get to that success stage in your own work, and meet other readers and writers from all over the world.
May 1, 7-8pm, Housing Works: The debut of Housing Works’ new monthly series of literary readings, beginning with Lucy Knisley, Max Messier, Sydney Kramer, and more. It is only a suggested donation, and not only do you get your fill of readings from contemporary authors, you also get to hang out with other book lovers.
May 2, 7pm, 192 Books: Get acquainted with Ken Kalfus and his new book Equilateral. Kalfus will be sharing parts of his intellectual, eccentric comedy based on the science and politics between Egypt and Britain in the nineteenth century, arguing for proof of life on Mars.
May 6, 8-10pm, Franklin Park: Come and celebrate the launch of Ben Greenman’s novel The Slippage at Franklin Park. Learn all about this new fiction novel and hang out with the author. With a $4 pint special, there’s no reason not to.
May 8, 6:30pm, Brooklyn Academy of Music: Hear the author of the popular comic Dykes to Watch Out For Alison Bechdel talk about her newest tragicomic memoir, Are You My Mother? Join the discussion on this book and learn about the future of her memoir series.
May 9, 7pm, PowerHouse Arena: Anton Nocito shares his experiences in his success from developing his own all-natural soda, following the release of his book Make Your Own Soda. Learn about the steps he took to succeed in his own company and how he translated that into a memoir.
May 10, 8pm, 92Y’s Poetry Center: Witness the rare poetry reading by W.S. Merwin and hear firsthand some of his brand new poetry following the release of his new collection.
May 13, 8pm, Franklin Park: A new monthly event starting at Franklin Park in Brooklyn! The Reading Series brings five authors to Prospect Heights to share pieces of their new works of fiction.
May 14, 7pm, The Strand: Tiziana Lo Porto presents his new biography, Superzelda: The Graphic Life of Zelda Fitzgerald.
May 15, 6:30pm, Symphony Space: Jane Gardam, British author of Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat, makes a rare appearance to New York City to present some of her work and discuss the future for her series.
May 15, 7pm, Barnes and Noble on 17th Street: Paul Farmer presents his new book To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation and his comments on how to solve the social issues in the world through the next generation.
May 18: In Cobble Hill Brooklyn, the annual Lit Crawl brings writers and readers together to appreciate all of the classics in the community of other lit buffs just like you and I through bars all around Brooklyn.
May 20, 7pm, Barnes and Noble on Broadway: Judith Regan interviews Laura Antoniou, author of The Killer Wore Leather and discusses the implications of this book and others on the use of sexuality in women’s literature in the modern age.
May 23-25 at the Radisson Martinique: The Backspace Writers Conference is a great opportunity, exposing writers to a community, publishers, and lectures to help them workshop their own books. Registration and payment is required for this event, but for writers looking to publish their work, this conference is a perfect local opportunity to get that jumpstart assistance.
May 29, 6:30pm, Brooklyn Academy of Music: Richard Russo presents his brand new, witty and award-winning memoir Elsewhere. Come and join the following and learn all about his switch from fiction to memoir, and learn all about his hilarious and emotional account of his childhood.