Category Archives: Author Interviews

Wicked Good : An Interview and TWO Contests!

As part of the WOW! Women on Writing Book Blog Tour, please welcome authors (and sisters!) Joanne Lewis and Amy Lewis Faircloth as they share the journey of researching and writing a beautiful novel about a mother and her son with Asperger’s syndrome.

After the interview, please leave a comment or question for  Joanne or Amy for a chance to win a Kindle version of Wicked Good.

Details of the second contest (to win $100) follow the interview, as well.

Amy & Joanne

Bio:

It was a chilly day in Maine when Amy received the call from her sister, Joanne, “Wanna write a book together?” Amy said yes and the journey began.

Amy is the older sister who loves her 2 sons and nephew, dogs, volunteering at the Bangor Humane Society, running, hiking, snowshoeing, surfing the web, her brown poodle Teddy, Lola, writing, reading, cycling, going to bed early, spending time with her friends and family, being outdoors when it’s nice outside and indoors when it’s not, and editing Joanne’s writing. She is a pescatarian and a lawyer in Maine.

Joanne is the younger sister who loves her 3 nephews, her grey poodle Frisco, writing, hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, cooking, traveling, Florence, Italy, anything to do with the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo, spending time with her friends and family, and being edited by Amy. She a vegetarian and a lawyer in Florida.

Two sisters, both attorneys; as sisters, Amy and Joanne have learned to play to each others strengths—an important lesson for any co-authors.

Website: www.amyandjoanne.com

Blog: www.wickedgoodthebook.blogspot.com

Interview by Mary Jo Campbell

1.     How did the idea of this story emerge and develop?

Joanne had written several novels and was between books. Amy had never written a book nor even thought about writing one. One day, on a whim, we decided to write a novel together for no other reason than we figured it would be a fun thing to do. The initial idea was about a mad scientist who seeks to extract DNA from a boy with Asperger’s syndrome in order to cure cancer. It didn’t take long before we realized that was a dumb idea. Over time and through many drafts, the story of a mother (Archer) and her adopted son (Rory) who has Asperger’s syndrome and searches for his birth parents began to emerge.

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2.     What was the research process like? Please share how you began, who you reached out to and how many notes were “left on the cutting room floor?”

As we developed the plot, we researched the issues that came up. We don’t out-line since we like the writing process to be organic. As we plotted if there was something we needed more information on we would stop writing and do the research until we felt comfortable continuing. Also, after we finished a draft that we felt good about, we would fill in gaps with additional research. To research, we used different processes. We used the Internet and books. For example, Rory loves lawn mowers and gas globes in Wicked Good. We knew very little about both. We learned a lot about them by researching on the Internet and reading books. We visited actual locations for the novel such as Bangor, Maine and Salem and Gloucester, Massachusetts. We asked questions of people who might have first-hand information. We also do a lot of research just by being aware of our surroundings, watching and listening. Amy’s son (Joanne’s nephew) has Asperger’s syndrome so her life is filled with experiences that could be used in Wicked Good. Just watching and listening to her son gave her information as to how Rory might act in a situation. We are both keenly aware of our surroundings and the people we come into contact with. For example, in the novel, Archer gives Rory the candy Skittles that she calls his feel-good pills. Amy got that idea from a friend who had done the same thing with her son. It’s these real life touches that make the fiction world of Wicked Good appear very real. As far as reaching out to people, there is a police officer in the novel so we contacted a friend of ours who is a former police officer to make sure we got the character of Campbell correct. It took us 3 years to go from inception to completion of Wicked Good with maybe 20 different drafts of the novel. Not a lot of research was left on the cutting room floor since our research is narrowly targeted. However, a lot of the novel was left on the cutting room floor. We did a lot of editing of Wicked Good. And when we thought we were done editing, we edited some more!

3.     You’re both lawyers with families. Please give us a glimpse into your writing routine/schedule. How do you fit it all in? And, more importantly, how do you get your family onboard?

Amy: I not only work as an attorney but I am on the Board of the Bangor Humane Society and volunteer there too. I write after work, Sunday afternoons and in bed before I go to sleep if I’m not too tired. I have two teenage boys who are quite happy when I am out of their hairs! Jo: I work as an attorney and volunteer as well. I write when I’m not working. Before work, after work, evening, weekends, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. I don’t like a definite schedule. It’s not easy juggling a full-time job as an attorney with being a novelist but our family knows how important this is to us so they are completely on-board. Amy: We have also learned when not to write. Many times, it’s important to shut off the computer and spend quality time with our families. That’s why I always try and have dinner with my sons. Jo: I completely agree.

4.     Like I mentioned, I was pulled into Archer and Rory’s world from page one. The dialogue and setting are so strong. The emotion is tense, yet fragile. I’m always curious how many drafts writers go through from 1st to finished. Can you share your revision process? (i.e. Do you revise while writing; revise by hand, on computer; use a special technique, etc.?)

We do all our writing on the computer. Amy lives in Maine and Joanne lives in Florida so we e-mail drafts back and forth. We went through about 20 drafts of Wicked Good. After we got a handle on what the plot was going to be, we wrote it straight through without any major editing. We just wanted to get a first full draft done that was starting to look like the novel we wanted to write. Eventually, when we felt we had completed a decent draft, we gave a copy to each member of our mother’s book group. They took it very seriously, which we really appreciate. We went to the meeting when they discussed Wicked Good and they ripped it apart! While it was painful then, looking back it was an amazing experience. We dusted ourselves off and got back to work. We revise on the computer. When we make a lot of revisions and the draft starts to look significantly different, we save it under another name so we have all our drafts on our computers. And we back up everything on an external hard drive. Thank you for enjoying Wicked Good. There is nothing we want more than for people to get lost in Archer and Rory’s world as we did.

5.     What were the highs and lows of co-authoring a book? Do you think these were intensified because you’re sisters? 

The highs of writing the book feel endless. We know that sounds hokey but it really is true. Everything about writing Wicked Good is better because we are sisters. From day one, we decided to have fun writing Wicked Good. We both have good jobs so while we love writing we do not approach it with an expectation to make livings as full-time authors. That takes a lot of pressure off of us. The highs were speaking and e-mailing each other every day and learning about each other’s lives in a way we had never known before. The biggest high now is looking back and realizing what we have accomplished together. While we were great friends before we began writing Wicked Good, we are now the best of friends. We guess it could have gone the other way but are glad it didn’t. We’ve never had a fight over Wicked Good. If we have a disagreement over the plot, we discuss it and usually reach a compromise very quickly. However, if Amy is adamant about plotting or characterization, she usually prevails since she is the one who lives with a child on the autism spectrum and is most qualified to keep Wicked Good realistic in that regard. And she is the older sister too! The lows have really involved post-publication and marketing. The reviews have been great and Wicked Good has won an award and is up for another award (to be announced in October) but getting Wicked Good out there has been difficult. We know it takes one reader at a time. We are hoping as more people read Wicked Good and they tell their friends who tell their friends…so please, if you enjoy Wicked Good, please tell your friends and family.

6.     Do you have any future writing projects planned together or individually?

Yes, to both. We are working on the second book in the Wicked series called Wicked Wise. In Wicked Good, Rory is fifteen years old. In Wicked Wise, he is nineteen and graduating high school. We are planning on following Rory into old age. We are hoping to have Wicked Wise released in 2012. Individually, Joanne is in the final editing process of a historical fiction novel called The Lantern that will be released by the end of this year, or early 2012.

Please leave a comment or question for the authors to be entered to win a Kindle version of Wicked Good! Winner will be randomly selected and announced tomorrow, Wed. Sept 21

And, now the deets on the $100 contest:

Have you ever said something that totally stopped conversation? Maybe it was insightful. Maybe it was weird. Maybe it was the thing everyone was thinking but was afraid to say. Rory, the teenage character in Wicked Good, is the master of conversation stoppers—his family calls them “Roryisms”.

WOW! is hosting a “Roryism” contest; the winner will receive a $100 prepaid Visa card and their Roryism will be published in the next book in the Wicked series. Full details can be found on The Muffin. http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2011/09/wicked-good-by-amy-lewis-faircloth-and.html

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Interview & Book Giveaway: Amira Aly, Egypt: The Uprising

Amira Aly

Please welcome, Amira Aly, author of the YA novel, Egypt: The Uprising. Amira answers my questions on the timeliness of her novel, being a doctor and a novelist, writing against the regime without fear and her secret writing weapon. Enjoy this fascinating interview and be entered in the ebook giveaway drawing by leaving  a comment or question for our author. Entries will be randomly selected on Wednesday, August 10.

Interview by Mary Jo Campbell

Welcome, Amira! Thank you for taking the time to answer my interview questions. I’m sure my readers will glean much from your responses.   In your unofficial bio on your site, you say “Oh, {I’m} also a full-time writer and part-time doctor.”  I Love that irony! It’s unique to see those who study medicine/science also having a passion for creativity and art. How does one help the other in your life?

Thank you Mary Jo. It’s funny because there is a long line of doctors-turned-writers in Egypt. I guess it stems from the pressures Egyptian society exerts on us. We, ‘artsy’ types with scientific potential, are usually cajoled into pursuing a more traditional career. I think we end up studying medicine because deep down in every writer there’s a romanticism that lends itself nicely to medicine.

Studying medicine, and practicing it in the setting of a developing country among the poor of the nation, has enriched my understanding of human beings and exposed me to the most interesting characters one can come across. I also think that seeing and experiencing suffering first hand taught me a lot about human nature and how people react to trauma–things that I would not have otherwise been exposed to in my otherwise sheltered life.

Post-apocalyptic stories seem the new trend, but your book has a slight edge, as Egypt has already been dealing with political uprisings, the most recent being broadcast world-wide in January, 2011.  First off, when did you begin writing the ideas of this book and how long was the publication process, from brainstorming to finished product in hand? It seemed perfectly timed with the riots.

I had been fiddling around with the idea of a book set in post-apocalyptic Egypt where the goddess of justice, Maat, meets up with a young Egyptian girl to help her on the quest to “set things right.”

When the uprising broke out, I felt like this was a perfect opportunity for Maat’s intervention in modern history–after all justice and equality were the demands of the protestors.

I had all the Egyptian mythology research ready (approximately two years worth) and various character notes. I wrote the book in a little under three months.

 

Have you had any political resistance to the release of your book? I’m thinking back to the internet being shut down during the uprising in January and how scary that must have been for the citizens.  Were /Are you concerned for your safety while writing and/or releasing this book?

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When I started writing the book, I had no idea that we would “win” and that Mubarak will be ousted.

Being politically active on the internet through social media, I’d made it abundantly clear that I was anti-regime. So I suppose that I would’ve been rounded up with the rest of the “virtual” activists had Mubarak stayed in power.

But I was not concerned about that. There was so much more at stake that my safety somehow just felt of secondary importance. The young innocent lives taken by the security forces and regime thugs left a bitterness and aching in me that superseded any other feeling.

 

 

Can you tell us a bit about your writing practice – any routines, quirks, rules you follow?

I, unfortunately, am very peculiar when it comes to my writing habits. I can only write when it’s cool (my AC bill always speaks for how much writing I get done in the summer.)

When working on my novels, my best writing comes when I am in the “twilight zone,” not fully awake and alert, usually late at night or just after I wake up and before my morning coffee. Sure, the writing is usually full of typos, but I feel like this is when I best access my creativity.

I also have a secret writing weapon–my husband! Without him, I’d be totally lost.

He takes my toddler and 7-year-old daughter out whenever I need some alone time to concentrate on my writing.

 

Can you share your tips for research?

After extensively researching Egyptian mythology I thought I had everything figured out. But when I started writing, this turned out to be far from true. I heard some writers talk about a research-as-you-write process, and I think it is an excellent idea which can significantly cut novel writing prep time.

 

Anything unusual you found while researching for this book?  Can you give us an example of how you merged factual data with your fictional world?

 

Many unusual things came my way during researching the ancient Egyptian mythology and culture. Most interesting was that the known ‘myths’ or accounts of the relationships between the Neteru, or gods, are not ‘set in stone’ (pun not intended.) They vary depending on where in Egypt the information was found and during which dynasty. Some like Seth, god of the underworld, for instance was not vilified until later in ancient Egypt’s history. Earlier accounts of him talk about him being an ally of the sun god Ra.

There is a lot of room for interpretation of Egyptian myths. And I had a pretty set idea about which bits and pieces I was going to mix together.

Fact meets fiction many times in my book, starting with the Egyptian revolution of January 25th 2011 of course.  The looting of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Tahrir Square is the quintessential fact upon which I build my world.  The museum was in fact looted by pro-government thugs during the uprising; I  fictionalize why that happened and present an interesting theory about the onset of the revolution.

One key artifact in my story is the gilded Trumpet of Tutankhamen, a trumpet which was dubbed “the trumpet of war” and postulated to possess a magical ability to start war. Egyptian Minister of Antiquity, Dr. Zahi Hawass, had even issued a statement about some Japanese delegation sounding the trumpet one week before the revolution started!

I’d chosen to include that trumpet in my story ever since I saw that it was on the list of the missing artifacts from the museum, even before Hawass had made that statement, but when he did I decided to add a Japanese element to my mix.

I also have a fact or fiction section on my website  http://www.battleformaat.com/p/fact-or-fiction.html to specifically address all questions I receive about sorting out the factual from the fictional.

 

What’s next for Amira? Are you staying on the writerly path or devoting your time to medicine?

The writerly path it is! Being a novelist is an addiction I cannot cure myself of I am afraid.  I want to tell my stories to the world. Now that I’ve started, there is no stopping me.

About the Author…

Amira Aly lived in Canada up until her first year in university when she moved to Egypt to study medicine at the University of Cairo. It seemed she was on the traditional route of a medical career working as an intern and teaching assistant in the surgical pathology department. But then she discovered the wonderful world of freelance medical writing. And who could resist its charms?

Egypt: The Uprising isn’t Amira’s first book. There was that picture book she wrote when she was five years old. Sadly, publishers didn’t recognize its brilliance but it was the first step on a life filled with a love of writing.

When she isn’t writing Amira likes to read her favorite authors Anne Rice, Stephen King, and F. Scott Fizgerald. She also spends time dancing, playing video games, and eating her favorite food Molokheya (an Egyptian green soup). She’d like to squeeze in time to learn a fourth language. She already speaks English, Arabic, and French. Amira lives in Cairo with her husband, 7 year old daughter and 17 month year old son. Her children would like to add a dog to that list but Amira, still traumatized by the loss of a pet turtle, has sworn off pets. That, and she knows she’ll be the one walking the dog even though everyone promises they will.

http://www.battleformaat.com/

http://amiraaly.wordpress.com/

About the book…

Aya is a teenage girl trying to live through the Egyptian Revolution of January 2011 with her brother and aunt without getting swept up into the demonstrations and violence. But fate has something else in mind for Aya. What starts out as an attempt by Aya to drag her brother and is friends away from the demonstrations transforms into a battle with ancient Egyptian figures who have returned from the past to take control of modern Egypt. Can Aya learn enough about her mysterious past and powers in time to save her world from the evil threatening it?

Egypt: The Uprising is a fascinating combination of modern events, historical figures, secret organizations with magical powers, and adventure that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

“Reminiscent of National Treasure, this young adult book has a little of everything for reader – sibling rivalry and love, family dynamics, young crushes, loyalty, magic,fabled creatures and beings, strange worlds and journeys.”

- Shaeeza Hanif, Amazon Review

“Very few people could have pulled this off and created a story with such layering, a story that reads like a credible Hollywood screenplay in the mold of Raiders of the Lost Ark with the scholarly underpinning of a National Geographic documentary.” – Amazon Review

Egypt: The Uprising is available for purchase in print and e-book formats at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, in various e-book formats at eBookIt!, and for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch at the Apple iBookstore.

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And the Winner Is…

The lucky winner* of Tracy Seeley’s book, My Ruby Slippers, The Road Back to Kansas  is..

Carol Wong!

Congratulations Carol! Please send me your snail mail address via email to mjcwriter”at”comcast”dot net.

Thanks to all who visited and left comments and a special thank you to Tracy for the insightful interview and book donation!

Stay tuned for more guest posts, interviews and book giveaways coming in the next weeks.

*I use Random.org when selecting a random winner

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Interview & Book Giveaway: Tracy Seeley: My Ruby Slippers, The Road Back to Kansas

Win this Book!!

  A special treat today! Tracy Seeley, author of My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas, answers my questions on reliving her childhood, positioning a new memoir and creating a writing community. Plus! A chance to win a copy of her book! See details at end of the interview…

Watch the book trailer now >> The My Ruby Slippers book trailer 


Tracy Seeley

About the Author: A bout with breast cancer and a betrayal by a loved one encouraged Tracy Seeley to search for her past in what she had believed to be a long forgotten childhood in Kansas. A plan for just one trip back to the past evolved into several trips to the Midwest that revealed her hidden feelings about the meaning of family.

Along with beautiful descriptions of a state most of us know little about and associate with…flatness and cornfields, Seeley paints for us an inner map. The map from the interactions of her childhood family to her present day relationships with the men in her life. Seeley has put away her wandering shoes long enough to join us for a WOW Blog Tour featuring her memoir My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas.

What inspired the idea to write My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas?

My first inspiration came from a list of 13 addresses my mother had written in my baby book—all the places I’d lived by the time I was 9.  I was curious.  I didn’t remember the first 7 places, and had long thought I’d go back and follow my family’s wanderings and just see what turned up.  It took me a long time to finally make that trip.  When I did, my parents had recently died, I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the man I’d lived with for a long time had left me for someone else.  So inspiration also came from those events.  The childhood moving and the more recent dramatic changes in my life all uprooted me in different ways.  In my books, I wanted to explore rootlessness and change and my own desire for a deep-rooted sense of place.  I’d never had one before.

With all the memoirs out there, especially from big-name rock stars, how did you angle your memoir to get it picked up by an agent/publisher?

I actually couldn’t find an agent—and I think you’ve put your finger on the challenge there.  I had a signing event at a Barnes & Noble recently, and while I sat at my little signing table chatting quietly with customers and signing a few books, across the lobby from me was a huge rack filled with Steve Tyler’s new memoir, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?  It cracked me up.  Me and Steve Tyler at the bookstore together.

But it also reminded me of how tough it is to get an agent or big publishing house interested in a memoir if you’re not already well-known or your memoir doesn’t touch on a controversial, dramatic or currently newsworthy subject.  It’s very, very tough out there. 

So after the agent search didn’t work, I started looking for small presses that supported literary nonfiction.  I knew about the University of Nebraska Press and their trade list, which includes a lot of strong, literary nonfiction, including their ‘American Lives’ series.  They also publish books with Midwestern connections.  All of that made them a good fit for my particular book. 

So I pitched My Ruby Slippers to them as a memoir of place, a genre with a long and revered tradition.  Writers I admire, like Wallace Stegner, Joan Didion, Gretel Erhlich, Kathleen Norris and Terry Tempest Williams have all published memoirs about place.  At the same time, as I’m sure you know, the trick is to fit a genre with a track record, and yet add a new and different voice.  So my pitch focused on what was old and familiar as well as new and different about My Ruby Slippers

Ultimately, the writing had to be good, too.  But getting the pitch in the door was my first victory.

What was the most interesting discovery you made on your trip back to your childhood “homes?”

My most interesting discovery was how much I didn’t know! I learned so many interesting things about Kansas that I’d never learned growing up—like the story of Nicodemus, the farming town that was settled by African-Americans after the Civil War.  It’s a dying small town now, like so many in rural America.  But I visited there during their annual Homecoming celebration, talked to people who’d grown up there, and really loved the deep loyalty so many people felt for the town.  A lot of them have moved away but still come back every year for Homecoming.  There’s a nice little museum there—so if you’re anywhere near Nicodemus, go!

I also discovered the story of Sadie, a Pawnee girl whose parents died in the 19th century.  It really resonated with me because it’s a story of family loss and having to leave a place you love—so I tell her story alongside mine in My Ruby Slippers.

Did the research conjure up any strong emotions, good or bad, and how did you decide what to include and what to exclude during the drafting phase?

Writing about my childhood and family stirred up a lot of feelings—both good and bad.  The many times we moved created a lot of emotional havoc, and coming to terms with what that rootlessness and family chaos had cost us all was hard.  At the same time, writing is an art.  It’s about taking raw material and raw emotion and creating something new.  It helps give a meaning and shape to experience, which finally  helped me let a lot of the past go.    

Deciding what to include and what to exclude was always a balancing act.  What memories and stories had the strongest pull on me?  What parts of the story really fit the book and its preoccupations as it took shape?  Those are two different kinds of questions.  One is emotional or psychological, the other is aesthetic.  So I began writing about the material that just wouldn’t let me go.  I knew it was important for some reason.  The more I wrote, the more I understood what fit the book’s shape and focus would be.  And then decisions became more about the art of the book. 

A lot of pages ended up in a drawer.  Not because I didn’t feel strongly about them, but because in the end, they didn’t really fit the book.  But as you know, those excluded bits are never lost.  Some will emerge in other forms, others will be valuable because they got me where I wanted to go.

It seems your childhood relocating inspired many more travels throughout your life. Are you thinking of writing another travel memoir? If not, what else is in your writing well?

I’ve just started in on a new long-term project, and it’s not a travel memoir.  I don’t think.  It will do some of the same things that My Ruby Slippers does, like interweave personal stories with other, bigger stories.  This one’s rooted in 1918, so it entails earlier generations of my family, but also includes stories from around the world.  That’s all I want to say for now.  It’s just beginning to take shape and I want it to build up some steam before I say more.  Though I know the general subject, I’m not sure what kind of book it will be.  So we’ll all be surprised when the time comes.

I hear you teach writing courses to faculty as well as encourage more writing in the community. Tell us more about your teaching projects! (I also teach creative writing workshops independently in my community and always welcome new ideas to grow!)

I actually don’t teach writing to faculty, though that would be fun!  And several have asked.  Instead, I started a college Faculty Writing Initiative program.  The aim is to build a writing community that supports faculty writing, including mine.  The great thing is, what we do there would work for any kind of writing.

Our first activity is a once-a-month salon where we socialize, have wine and cheese, and hear other faculty talk about and read from their newly-published work.   We also have monthly all-day writing retreats, which give us a big block of time to make real progress on whatever projects we’ve got going. 

But the centerpiece of the Faculty Writing Initiative is writing groups, and I’d encourage everyone out there to create one.  We don’t share and critique work, because everyone’s working in a different discipline.  But writers sign up for a block of hours at the same time and day every week.  We have a beautiful writing room with a long, antique writing table in the middle and work stations around the edges.  When it’s someone’s scheduled time, they join their group in the writing room—and away they go. 

During the writing blocks, we write for 45 minutes then take a 15 minute break.  That seems like a lot of break time, but it really works.  No one enters or leaves the room during that 45 minutes, so it’s focused, concentrated time.  During the breaks, we relax, talk about our work, and get to know each other.  And because of the breaks, we’re actually more productive.  People get enormous amounts of writing done, even if they can only come to a group two hours a week. 

The process creates real community—and because we feel obligated to show up at our appointed time to support other writers, we show up for ourselves, too. 

As all writers know, it’s hard to make writing time when you have a full-time job doing other things.  Teaching and service work at my university can crowd out everything else.  Any job can.  As head cheerleader for the Writing Initiative, I encourage everyone to put their writing time into their calendars just as they would a dentist appointment.  Then if some possible conflict comes up, they can say, “Oh, I have something else at that time—and I can’t miss it.”

We have groups meeting during all work hours, five days a week.  Depending on the day and time, groups range from two writers to twelve.  Fridays are jammed.  As many as 25 people come then, and many spend the entire day.  Fridays are exciting!

I wrote most of My Ruby Slippers in my Friday writing group, so I know that writing in groups works for me.  It’s also given me some close friends and relationships with colleagues I wouldn’t know otherwise.  I really encourage writers of all kinds to create a work group.  It’s the best combination of carrot and stick I know.  And it’s fun.

To learn more about Tracy and My Ruby Slippers, visit:

website :  www.tracyseeley.com

twitter: @tracy_seeley

Facebook page:  My Ruby Slippers: the Road Back to Kansas

 OK, interested in getting your own FREE! copy of My Ruby Slippers? Just leave a comment and/or question for our guest author by midnight tonight, July 19, and be entered in a random drawing. US residents, only, please!  Winner will be announced Wed., July 20  

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5 prompt Friday

         Here we go again…

  1. The empty feeling in my stomach spread to my chest and head, threatening to pull me inside out.
  2. How do I say this to you?
  3. On her wrist was a bracelet made from multi-colored paperclips.
  4. His voice crackled through the walkie-talkie, “The Eagle Has Landed.”
  5. Are you ready to do this?

Have a story or prompt to share? Post it here : ) Happy writing!


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Tuesdays with…Mari L. McCarthy: JOURNALING

 

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Journal: Write: Reflect

By Mari L. McCarthy

If the world seems to be off its rocker, your friends turn on you, everybody’s pressuring you, and your mother is obviously out to ruin your life, it’s time you took up journaling.

Keeping a journal is like having a secret garden or hideaway that is always available to you. You can go there anytime, and you always come back from there with a better grip on life.

It seems like a simple thing, and it is. You just get hold of a small notebook and keep a pen with it, and have it always in your purse or back pocket. Whip it out at the mall, on the bus, between classes, at the basketball game, in the middle of the night. Make note. Observe. Reflect. Notice what you notice.

Or you can do it more formally, of course, with a nice big notebook, a selection of pens by your cozy chair at home, and an ingrained daily habit of writing every evening at 9. Whatever works. Whatever system best encourages you to reflect on your experiences and articulate your reflections.

The more you become accustomed to reflecting like this, the more you appreciate the enormity of your awareness, and the infinite number of possibilities that are open to you.

Here are a few ideas to write about, just to kickstart your practice.

  • Write about what makes your best friend special to you.
  • Recollect the best vacation you ever took. 
  • Describe your immediate family and what makes each person unique. 
  • Write about your proudest accomplishment. 
  • Describe your favorite activity or sport to do in your spare time.

 

Or try this: make a scrapbook snapshot. Create a mini time capsule of your life by filling a page or two with photos, magazine cutouts, drawings and writing about what you love at the moment. Include your favorite foods, books, toys, movies, hobbies, songs, hangouts and friends, and go into detail about why you like these things.

Another idea: think back to a time when you were younger. Doesn’t matter how much younger, just some event that occurred when you were appreciably less experienced than you are now. What would it be like to have a conversation with your younger self? What would you say as encouragement? How would your younger self view the person that you are now?

I love coming up with prompts for journaling, but the soul of journaling is You and Your practice and Your understanding and joy. Interacting in a friendly way with your experiences, especially your younger self, can turn up a ton of good stuff, including making you feel happier and more confident in the here and now.

Mari L. McCarthy

By Mari L. McCarthy – The Journaling Therapy Specialist, founder of Journaling for the Health of It™.  Please visit Mari’s blog at http://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog/. In 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness (http://www.createwritenow.com/peace-of-mind-and-body—27-days-of-journaling-to-health–happiness/), Mari walks you through an easy process for accessing your natural inner strengths. Mari’s latest publication is titled, Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life. See http://www.createwritenow.com/journaling-therapy-ebook/ for details.

 *For a chance to win a FREE copy of the ebook 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness, leave a comment under this post before MIDNIGHT. Winner will be randomly selected and announced Wednesday, May 18

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Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Give Aways

Tuesday with…author, Nava Atlas

Follow the tour to win this book!

Ever wonder what hurdles women writers in history had to endure? And what might we learn from them? Today I’m sharing my  interview with Nava Atlas, author of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, a book of first person accounts from women writers in history who broke the mold and paved the way for us.  Enjoy the interview – and please, leave a question or comment for our guest. Nava will be popping in to respond throughout the day!

Don’t forget to follow the rest of Nava’s book tour sponsored by Wow! Women on Writing, for a chance to win a free copy of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life!

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

I’m so excited to read The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life! What gave you the idea for this book?

As both a writer and a visual artist, I’ve long been fascinated with the creative process and love to read artists’ and writers’ biographies. A few years ago, when my sons had hit their teens, I had the crazy notion to go back to grad school for a Master’s degree in Art Studio so I could update my rusty design skills, study theory, and learn how to make limited edition hand-made books.

One of my classes was called Printed Books and I worked on making a little book of brief passages on the writing life that I’d started to collect. The book, a rudimentary version of the one we’re discussing now was also called The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life. and how it ended up being published is a story unto itself, but it goes to show that if you believe in an idea, and are willing to persevere and go deeper with it, it can grow in surprising ways.

After researching for this book and undoubtedly learning about the struggles these ladies had to endure in their writing careers, what can the modern woman writer learn?

That’s a great question and truly the point of the book. We look at our favorite literary icons and think that with their talent and achievements, they must have burst forth from the womb fully destined for their successful outcomes. In truth, most of the twelve authors I focus on in the book (as well as other classic women authors) each had particular obstacles and struggles to overcome.

One of the great lessons learned from this book is that no one had success handed to them; all these authors worked incredibly hard and kept going despite setbacks, and life’s large or mundane problems. Even someone like Edith Wharton, a wealthy heiress, struggled with a crippling lack of self-confidence and a whopping inferiority complex. We see in these classic authors a mirror of our own experience, and that’s quite comforting.

Do you see any parallels with the writing process and life balance between the Literary Ladies and modern women writers?

Striving to find one’s voice (as well as the confidence to use it), learning to be disciplined, facing rejection, finding time to write, dealing with self-doubt—these are amazingly universal experiences. The contemporary woman writer reading the Literary Ladies’ first-person narratives on these very issues and others will take courage from the fact that she’s not the only writer struggling with them. Of course, what’s more important is to overcome issues and obstacles, which the twelve Literary Ladies did gloriously; and that’s where the inspiration kicks in!

Fewer women writers of the past were also mothers than I think is true today. Only four of the Literary Ladies had children, and that’s pretty representative of female authors of the past. Madeleine L’Engle and Harriet Beecher Stowe were two of them, and they directly addresses their balance issues in the chapter titled The Writer Mother. Stowe was burning to write what ultimately became Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and lamented, “As long as the baby sleeps with me nights, I can’t do much at anything, but I will do it at last.” Sound familiar? Others who didn’t have children, like Louisa May Alcott, still had to work to support themselves or their families. Alcott did a lot of anonymous hack writing to support her mothers and sisters. Perhaps she felt a bit compromised by it, but on the other hand, doing nothing but writing for a living helped sharpen her writing skills and voice.

Writing to me means thinking, digging, pondering, creating, shattering. It means getting at the meaning of all things; it means reaching climaxes; it means moral and spiritual and physical life all in one.

-– Anais Nin

How do you think we’ve changed as a society to help or hinder women writers today?

Women authors had greater odds and prejudices to overcome in the nineteenth century; and by this I mean white women authors. Because of the way things were, women of color as well as women of other ethnic descent didn’t gain much traction until after the civil rights movement, with the exception of a small number of  pioneers like Zora Neale Hurston (who I wish I could have made one of the Literary Ladies, but couldn’t find enough in her first-person narratives about her writing life). So that has been one positive development.

I wish I could say that women writers have made huge strides since the earlier part of the 20th century, but surprisingly that isn’t true. I compared the best-seller list of the 1930s with today’s and it was such an eye-opener. Women—including some of those in this book, like Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, and even Virginia Woolf (plus other renowned authors like Pearl Buck and Margaret Mitchell were not only topping the best-sellers lists, but reaping Pulitzers like crazy. According to a National Endowment for the Arts survey, professional women writers are making 80% of their male counterparts’ earnings, which is pretty much what it is across the board these days.

One other change that’s not so positive is that in the age of proliferating media and the internet, sources of paid writing have shrunk dramatically. While it’s great that the internet has fostered the democratization of writing, there is also a sense that everyone who writes is a provider of free content, for the glory of promotion or a link. Several of the Literary Ladies worked as journalists, others editors, and still other cut their teeth by writing sketches, articles, column-fillers—print media, after all, was all their was. This allowed them to sharpen their writing skills with the very same effort as making a living.

Which Literary Lady’s story inspired you the most and why? Which of these ladies do you most resonate with?

Though I’m no heiress like she was, I really appreciated Edith Wharton’s  honesty about her struggle to overcome lack of self-confidence. I’ve had to face that as well. And when you do experience that moment of revelation that others do appreciate and respect your creative efforts, it’s really liberating and gives you the courage to do much more than you ever imagined. I haven’t received a Pulitzer or gotten an honorary doctorate like she did, but I can dare to dream now! And I also really like Charlotte Brontë. She was self-described as “small and plain” (like her heroine, Jane Eyre) but she seemed so formidable. She was the ringleader of the trio of talented sisters which included herself, Emily (Wuthering Heights) and Anne (Agnes Grey). She seemed like the kind who wouldn’t take flak from anyone.

“At last I had groped my way through to my vocation, and thereafter I never questioned that story-telling was my job … I felt like some homeless waif who, after trying for years to take out naturalization papers, and being rejected by every country, has finally acquired a nationality. The Land of Letters was henceforth to be my country and I gloried in my new citizenship.”

— Edith Wharton, From A Backward Glance, 1934

Tell us what is next in your writing and promotion projects!

Aside from the WOW blog tour, I’m connecting with others in the vast writing community to do guest posts and interviews; this week I’ll also be doing an interview on the BlogTalk radio show Feisty Side of Fifty (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/feisty-side-of-fifty/2011/03/30/nava-atlas-on-feisty-side-of-fifty-radio), readings, library events, and I hope in the fall to speak to college classes on my travels. I hope I can participate in literary festivals and book fairs. There are so many ways to go with a book about writing and classic authors!

To keep up with events please visit the book’s site, http://www.literaryladiesguide.com and click on Events. Or connect with me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nava-Atlas/67621864858?ref=mf) for up-to-the-minute Literary Ladies sightings and events!

In one of my other two lives (aside from writing, there’s visual art, and vegan food), I have a vegan cookbook coming along this fall, Vegan Holiday Kitchen (late Oct., sorry, no link yet). Years ago, I tried twice to write novels but gave up when it started to feel too hard. I put it out publicly in the preface to The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life that I want to do a graphic novel. Now that I understand that even for the true giants of writing, the effort often felt arduous and lonely, I’ll be less likely to give up! Even if nothing comes of it, I’m going to see the project through. Check back with me in a couple of years on that!

Mary Jo, thanks for these thought-provoking questions, and for hosting me on your site today.

You are very welcome, Nava! Thank you for visiting Writers Inspired!

About the Book:

In this celebration of twelve remarkable “literary ladies,” Nava Atlas reveals how such pioneering authors as Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Madeleine L’Engle, L.M. Montgomery, Anais Nin, George Sand, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf pursued their dreams of becoming a writer–and how the lessons of their lives can inspire today’s writers. Drawing on the personal journals, diaries, memoirs, and letters of these brilliant, unique women, Atlas explores how they balanced their own individual literary voices, dealt with rejection, struggled with their own inner demons, and basked in the triumphs of success.

The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life is a lively and incisive look at what it takes to be a writer and to hold onto belief in one’s own talent, sometimes despite enormous obstacles. Sumptuously illustrated, this book brings to life these twelve classic authors in their own vividly compelling words. Nava Atlas accompanies their quotations with fascinating biographical details and her own insightful reflections on the writing life. As she says in her introduction, this book is “a treasury of intimate glimpses into the unfolding creative process across twelve brilliant careers.” Atlas includes the voices of other female writers as well, ranging from Zora Neale Hurston to Colette to Anne Lamott, to capture a spectrum of literary wisdom. For all who dream of living the writing life, this is a book to treasure.

About the Author:

Nava Atlas Nava Atlas is the author and illustrator of many well-known vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, including Vegan Express, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, and The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet. Her first book was Vegetariana, now considered a classic in its field. In addition, she has published two books on humor, Expect the Unexpected When You’re Expecting! (A parody), and Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife.

Nava is also a visual artist, specializing in limited edition artist’s books and text-driven objects and installations. Her work has been shown nationally in museums, galleries, and alternative art spaces. Her limited edition books are housed in numerous collections of artist’s books, including the special collections libraries of The Museum of Modern Art (NY), National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC), National Library of Fine Arts, and dozens of academic collections.

Learn more about Nava’s work at VegKitchen.com and NavaAtlasArt.com, in addition to LiteraryLadiesGuide.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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