Category Archives: Give Aways

Journal Write to Discover What You Know (plus a BIG Giveaway!)

Today, please welcome back, Mari McCarthy, as she talks about how to discover what we really know and spinning this into our writing. BUT, the BIG NEWS is…today, one lucky commenter will have their choice of THREE COOL PRIZES:

Giveaway: Winner’s Choice (either an eBook copy of Dark Chocolate for the Journaler’s Soul, a spiral-bound copy of Mari’s Most Musefull Journaling Tips, or a Dark Chocolate T-Shirt)

RULES: You must leave a comment or question after today’s post before midnight tonight! I will use Random.,org to select the winner, and the winner will then select their prize!

Option #1: ebook

Journal Write to Discover What You Know

 

“Write about what you know.” If you’re into writing, you’ve heard this a zillion times, and you believe it makes sense. After all, if you’ve always been rich, protected, and pampered, you’re probably not a good candidate to write about growing up in the ghetto. If you’re a cowboy, you probably don’t know much about high society manners. Sure, you can understand why it’s important to write about what you know.

 

So what exactly is that? What do you know well enough to write about it? Seems like such a simple question, but when you seriously examine it things get complicated, quickly.

 

For some (even me, many days) it’s challenging to come up with anything at all that you truly know. Other days, you may mistake raw experience for knowing, thinking that since you endured something, you then know it.

 

You might know what it is to lose a job, for instance, or to become a mother, but what do you know about those things that you would write about?  There’s knowing that is simple cognizance, and then there’s knowing that is worth sharing.

 

Here’s a key point: You Do Know Something Worth Sharing. Don’t ever believe you don’t. You may, however, find the search for that Something to be interminable. Hang in there. You will find it. Your whole life may be about the search. That’s okay; there are few more noble endeavors.

 

Want a shortcut to finding out more about your unique knowing? There actually is a way to speed up the progress of your expanding awareness. It’s called journaling.

Option #2 spiral book Museful TIps

 

When you keep a journal, you take the pause that refreshes, you slow down enough to contemplate, you give yourself a chance to put the pieces together and create something new. The result? Appreciation, inspiration, and a much better idea of “what you know.”

 

Establish and wholeheartedly commit to a practice of writing regularly. Journal for self-discovery, which means

  • Hand write in your notebook. A keyboard doesn’t yield the same direct self-perception that hand writing does.
  • Do a lot of stream-of-consciousness writing.
  • Be extra stern with your inner critic: this is one place that tyrant doesn’t belong.
  • Be faithful to the process and to yourself; be willing to grow; be willing to be surprised.
  • Ask your journal questions: Where am I going? Who am I? What do I want? What do I know? What don’t I know?

 

If all the introspection makes you dizzy, use a journaling prompt now and then and enjoy the revelations that kind of writing affords. Following an impartial lead can often lead to personal treasures, just as direct soul searching does. Keep your practice fresh and on its toes by mixing these two approaches.

 

Option #3 T-shirt

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Mari L. McCarthy, journaling therapy specialist and author, owns Create Write Now, a website dedicated to all things journaling. The site includes hundreds of journaling prompts, personal journaling stories, interviews, a blog, and many other resources. Mari has published nine books to date. For more on ways that journaling brings self-knowledge, see Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life.

CreateWriteNow.com
Twitter.com/CreateWriteNow
Facebook.com/JournalWritingTherapy

 

Don’t forget to Leave your comment!!

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Filed under Believe, books, Creative Essays, Give Aways, Inspiration

Writing Backstories – Guest Post & Book Giveaway!

Writing Backstories

By Karen Wojcik Berner

Thank you so much, Mary Jo, for inviting me to guest blog today. I am very excited to be here.

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

Talking Heads. “Once in a Lifetime.” Remain in Light. Sire Records, 1980. Vinyl.

This song pops into my head all the time. Not only were the Talking Heads one of my favorite bands back in the day, but it also helps put me into the proper writing mode to create a character’s backstory, which happens to be every time I begin writing a Bibliophiles novel.

Most series focus on the adventures of one main character. I decided to switch things up a bit. Each novel in my series spotlights one or two members of a classics book club and tells the story of their lives up to joining. The book club storyline is furthered throughout the series.

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For example, A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One) is about Sarah, an overwhelmed, stay-at-home mom, and Annie, a P.R. executive dealing with fertility issues. My next book, due out in spring 2012, follows Bibliophile Catherine Elbert as she bounces from coast to coast in search of her true self.

Backstories are a big part of all fiction, don’t you think?

I start with the standard journalism questions: who, what, why, where, when and how. I can’t help myself. I was a magazine editor for ten years and a newspaper freelancer before that.

Who is this person? How old? Where does he or she come from? What kind of family? House or apartment? Rural, city or suburb? What school? What does she look like? What kind of family life did he have growing up?

Relationships, or lack thereof, with siblings or parents. Goals and dreams. Clothes? Music? Cars? Drinks? Favorite food? All these things help create well-rounded characters. As you make your choices, be careful not to make your new character a stereotype. Mix in some seemingly conflicting traits to shake things up a bit.

The main question I think backstories should answer is how did this person get to this point? What are the ramifications of the past upon the present?

Also, don’t forget to include the things that just spill out while you are writing. Most of the time, these can be the best details, even though they might change your previously conceptualized notions about your character.

That’s okay. It’s your world. You can alter it however you please.

Don’t you wish life had that option? I know I do.

About the Author:

Karen Wojcik Berner lives a provincial life tucked away with her family in
the Chicago suburbs. If it was good enough for Jane Austen, right?
However, dear Miss Austen had the good fortune of being born amid the
glorious English countryside, something Karen unabashedly covets, so much
so that she majored in English and communications at Dominican University.

Like the magnificent Miss Austen, Karen could not help but write about the

Society that surrounds her.

A booklover since she could hold one in her chubby little toddler hands, Karen

wanted to announce to the world just how much she loves the written word.

She considered getting a bibliophile tattoo but instead decided to write about

the lives of the members of a suburban Classics Book Club. The series is called,

of course, The Bibliophiles.”) When she isn’t reading, writing, or spending her
time wishing she was Jane Austen, Karen spends her time can be found sipping

tea or wine, whichever is more appropriate that day, and watching Tim Burton

movies or “Chopped,” her favorite foodie TV show.

Just Thought You Should Know:   A Whisper to a Scream is Book One of a series called The Bibliophiles. The second book in the series will be released in February 2012. Stay tuned!

Author’s Websites:                                                  
Karen Berner’s website:  http://www.karenberner.com/index.html

Leave a comment or a question and Random.org may select You as a winner!

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Filed under Advice, books, Fiction, Give Aways, writers

What Color Should Your Writing Room Be?

Guest post and Book giveaway by Cat Larose

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Color has a profound psychological impact on our lives. It’s used every day to stimulate our senses, excite us, calm us and, yes, induce us to buy products. Each color family has its own set of characteristics that trigger certain responses in us. With that in mind we should tread carefully when adding color to our space, especially our writing space.

There are trend colors, those colors du jour that we fall “in like” with. Be careful here because this relationship is a bit like infatuation. Color fatigue sets in quickly with trend colors. And before your know it, it’s time to move on to something else.

Then there are colors that last a lifetime – those are your favorite colors, the colors your intuition chooses. These are the colors that you feel close to and comfortable with. These are the colors that already appear in your closet and in the most comfortable rooms of your house.

When it comes to choosing color for any room, keep in mind that you don’t have to have an all red or all green room. Sometimes a dash of color is just enough to stimulate your creativity or get you in writing mode.

What follows is my take as a color marketer on color and how it can affect us as writers. Keep in mind that if you’re seriously engaged in the writing process, your focused and so you don’t see any color – it’s actually the absence of color, i.e. black type on a white page.

Red is a very stimulating color; it is the color of heat, passion and warning. It’s used a lot in fast food restaurants to move people in and out quickly.  Use a dash of red to jump start your project.

Purple is a mystical color. It promotes healing and meditation. Leonardo da Vinci said that the color purple can increase meditative powers tenfold.  A purple room is good for contemplating plot and structure.

Blue is a very relaxing and calming color. If you’ve put yourself under the pressure of deadlines, then blue is the color for you.

Green is Mother Nature’s favorite color. And just look how creative she is.

Yellow is a high-energy color that stimulates the mental process of thinking and activates memory. If you’re writing a memory a little yellow will go a long way.

Orange is a color you either love or hate. It’s also a high-energy color and encourages socialization. It might be a good color to use in a room where writers convene to discuss their work.

Whatever color you choose for your writing room it should be a color that enhances and promotes your personal well-being – as you feel it. Color like everything else in a room should disappear after a while as you engross yourself in your story. At that point your story’s own color will jump off of the page.

Cat is eager to chat with you and hopes you’ll have lots of questions for her!

One lucky commenter can win her book! But, post TWICE and you can win a whole Book Club Prize Pack!!

See details below…

On Monday,December 19 at the end of her WOW Blog Tour, Cat Larose will be awarding a special Book Club Prize ! The prize includes 10 copies of her memoir Any Color But Beige, a guide on how your book club can enjoy Any Color But Beige, a virtual visit from Cat Larose, and several other surprises. If you want to enter this contest just leave a comment after this post with the words “Book Club Contest” in the message. You can enter to win both the individual contest for one copy of Any Color But Beige and the Book Club Contest but you have to leave two different comments. Don’t forget to tell everyone who belongs to your Book Club to enter the contest!

For more about Any Color But Beige, and more chances to win, follow the rest of her tour!

Friday, December 9 @ Kritter’s Ramblings

Learn more about yourself and color with a fun quiz from color guru Cat Larose. You can also enter to win a copy of Cat’s memoir about embracing a colorful life: Any Color But Beige.

http://www.krittersramblings.com

Monday, December 12 @ From the TBR Pile

Are you brave enough to bare all? Your soul that is…to write memoir! Cat Larose writes about baring all and gives away a copy of her memoir Any Color But Beige.

www.fromthetbrpile.blogspot.com

Cat Larose

About the Author:

 

Catherine is one part hot blooded Latin and one part wild eyed Celt. She’s the oldest of seven children raised in a large Irish/Italian family – Catholic, of course. But family and friends think of her as the gypsy. She’s spent her life studying, living, and working all over the place.  Cat is forever destined to wander incessantly as a person currently without country(CWC), or with no fixed address(NFA). Blessing or curse? Grandma V had her pegged long before she ever left Clevleand, Ohio when she gave her red-headed Italian granddaughter this advice , “All you need is a place to hang your hat.”

As she was traveling the world, Cat managed to acquire a husband. A rather beige husband. Not a good match considering the fact that Cat sells color for a living. What does that mean? When you go to a home improvement store  and to choose a paint color, those little color chips are made by Cat’s company. They produce color chips for the automotive industry, cosmetic industry and of course your local Home Depot.  While in Paris on business, Cat decided that life was too short to be beige. Her memoir is a record of her escape from the beige tinge of her marriage to the wild colors of singlehood.

 

Author’s Websites:                                                  

Catherine Larose’s book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9vh0IkE3YU&feature=related

Catherine Larose’s blog:

http://cafegirlchronicles.wordpress.com

Cat also has two fun videos you can check out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9vh0IkE3YU

http://vimeo.com/31352868

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Filed under Advice, books, Fun Stuff, Give Aways

Win this book! Hospice Tails: The Animal Companions Who Journey with Hospice Patients and Their Families

Win this Book!

Leave a comment or question by midnight on Tues. Nov 22 for a chance to win this sweet book! (Why not purchase a few for those on your holiday shopping list!)

<Scroll down for the guest post>

About Hospice Tails:

Told from the perspective of a hospice social worker, Hospice Tails is a baker’s dozen of stories about the animal companions of hospice patients and their families.

 In these pages you will meet King, an abused pit bull fiercely loyal to his rescuer, Fizzle, a teacup poodle who guarded his human in death as well as life, Io and Oi, two cats who facilitated a beautiful conversation between their owners, and Lightning, a horse who helped a widower find the strength to go on.

Uplifting, matter-of-fact, sometimes funny and never sappy, Hospice Tails will change the way you think about the animals in your life.

Only 24 Hours in a Day? Making Time for Writing

guest post by: Debra L. Stang

I’m afraid I have to start this post with some bad news. There is no way to increase the number of hours in your day. Much as we might wish for a 26-hour day, or even a 46-hour day, we are stuck with 24 hours.

Now for the good news: Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Jonathan Kellerman, and Margaret George are stuck with the same 24 hours, and look what they’ve managed to do with their time!

If you’re having trouble carving out time to write, you’re not alone. Almost every writer who ever lived has struggled to make time for his or her craft.

You’ll notice, by the way, that I said make time, not find time. You’re unlikely to stumble across a cache of extra minutes. If you want to write, you’ll need to schedule time and then fight for that time as fiercely as a mother bear fights for her cubs.

When I was writing Hospice Tails, for instance, I wrote in the evenings after I got home from my day job as a hospice social worker. I tried to explain to my friends that I actually was working during this time, but they kept calling, and I finally took the phone off the hook during my writing sessions.

I’ve developed a few other secrets that have helped me make the time to develop my writing career.

Schedule your writing times to coincide with your peak creativity. If you’re a morning person, get up half an hour earlier to write; if you’re an evening person, stay up half an hour later to write.

Commit to writing during your scheduled time whether you’re in the mood or not. Train yourself to sit down for the scheduled amount of time and write or type, even if all you are typing is, “This is stupid. I can’t think of anything to say.”

Don’t be afraid to write badly. I’ve been at this for ten years, and my first drafts of anything still stink up my apartment, though not as badly as they used to. Writing is like a muscle, and the more you work it, the stronger it will get.

A short block of writing time is better than none at all. If you only have ten minutes a day to write during a morning commute, so be it. Even if you only write half a page a day, within two years you’ll have a 365-page book.

Find a writing buddy. It’s much easier to stick to your writing goals if you know you’re accountable to a friend. A writing buddy is also a great person to turn to when you’re feeling hopelessly stuck.

If you’ve tried all these steps and you still find that you can’t make the time to write, check in with yourself about your motives. Do you really want to write, or are you doing it because you feel that you should or because you think you’d be letting someone down if you don’t? If you find that you really don’t enjoy the writing process, there’s no shame in that. Put writing aside for now, and move on to an activity that you really do enjoy.

If, however, you do enjoy writing and are still committed to making the time to do it, grab your calendar right now and block out ten minutes a day for the rest of the week. Just ten minutes. You can do it, and it will be productive time.

When are you going to schedule the time to write?

About our Guest Author: Debra L. Stang

In addition to her parents and two sister, Debra’s family includes four cats. The current crew includes a grouchy nine-year-old named Achilles; and orange tabby and alpha male named, appropriately enough, Alexander; and a black and white long-haired cat with attitude named Leroux. Then there’s the foster cat named Pumpkin. Of course, it all started with a three-month-old brown-and-gray tabby named Calypso who had strong feelings about most people. And not warm fuzzy feelings. Calypso even had the dubious honor of being banned by not one, but two vets.

When not caring for cats or writing, Debra spent many years as a social worker. She worked with AIDS patients, emergency room patients, and those with Alzheimer’s. Her final years as a social worker were spent with hospice patients. Although some would view that as a depressing job, Debra chose to view herself as a catalyst helping people make their final hopes and dreams come true. Sometimes it was making up with a family member after a decades long feud or leaving behind the stress of the office to reconnect with another aspect of their personality.

Debra took a clue from her patients and recently decided her writing–for years a part-time career–couldn’t wait any longer. Worried she would become one of those people who would one day say, “I wish I had…” she handed in her resignation and is now living her dream as a full-time writer.

Author Website: http://www.debrastang.net

Author Blog: http://debrastangfreelancewriter.typepad.com

 

Don’t forget to leave a comment or question for the author to be entered in the book drawing!!

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Filed under Advice, books, Give Aways

Are Old Fears Dragging You Down? (Guest post & Giveaway!)

Are Old Fears Dragging You Down?

Guest Post by Mari McCarthy (Don’t forget to enter the ebook giveaway @ bottom of post!)

It’s the human condition to experience fear every now and then. No one is entirely immune to it. Part of growing up is learning how to handle your fears.

A friend observed the other day that people seem to be inexplicably drawn to challenging situations, circumstances that will force us to change and grow. It’s easy to build a cozy cocoon of our daily routines, but the time for metamorphosis comes around sooner or later. And often, you find yourself facing the very thing you hoped to avoid forever.

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The challenges that beckon us can bring us face to face with old fears. It’s as if the growth is directly aimed at making us resolve these ancient terrors, so we can progress in life. Our fears are barriers, keeping us from becoming what we naturally wish to be.

A highly effective tool for making your old fears disappear is journaling. Try the following process.

  1. Set aside a notebook that is dedicated to journaling about your fears. Write in it regularly.
  2. Make a list of everything you are afraid of.
  3. Identify several childhood fears that you had. Have you overcome any of these? How were you able to erase your fear?
  4. Write about the sensation of fear, how it feels in your body, what it might look like if it had a tangible form.
  5. Write in detail about the conditions present when you experience fear in your current life. Describe the external circumstances as well as the sequence of your thoughts.

Now return to the list of all your current fears and work through them in whatever order you wish.

Write about:

  1. where you are when this fear arises
  2. what happens in your body when you feel it
  3. your response to the fear
  4. the value of this fear to you (don’t forget that some fear is good; it protects us from harm)
  5. and end with an observation (or two) about your fear at this point

As with all journaling, don’t neglect the important step of reviewing previous entries after some time has passed. It is when you look back on the past that your journey is revealed.

Finally, notice that the journal writing therapy prescribed here makes no demands on you to change. It is important not to feel pressured about changing. Know that you are journaling to record, to illustrate, to discuss; but not to achieve anything.

Let the change come of its own accord as you continue to observe and write.

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Mari McCarthy

 By Mari L. McCarthy – The Journaling Therapy Specialist, founder of Journaling for the Health of It™.  Please visit Mari’s blog at CreateWriteNow. In Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life, Mari presents a gentle process for self discovery through journaling. Mari’s latest publication is titled, Your Money Matters! Use Journal Writing Therapy to Get Financially Fit Now.

Enter to win! By leaving a comment or question on today’s post, you are entered to win a copy of Mari’s ebook: Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life. I use random.org to select a winner – posted tomorrow, Wed., Aug. 31)

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Filed under Advice, books, Give Aways

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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Filed under Author Interviews, books, Fiction, Give Aways

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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