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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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Filed under Author Interviews, books, Give Aways

Exclusive Interview & Book Giveaway: Arnie Bernstein, author of Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing

Arnie_109Today, I have the honor of hosting Arnie Bernstein, author of Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing.  In his interview, Arnie describes his passion behind this book, explains how to conduct interviews on a delicate subject and the responsibility of portraying accurate details in a true-life story to honor the living and the lost.

Arnie Bernstein is a nonfiction writer based in Chicago. He is the author of three books on Chicago history, which won praise from the late United Stated Senator Paul Simon (D-Illinois) and Roger Ebert.  In his introduction to Bernstein’s book “The Movies Are” Carl Sandburg’s Film Reviews & Essays, Ebert wrote:

 “Arnie Bernstein has performed an extraordinary accomplishment in bringing this book into being….(He) adds great knowledge and insight…providing background, orientation, historical information, helpful footnotes.  This is a book that reopens a chapter of journalism and history that might have remained closed forever.”

Bernstein has been interviewed by many media outlets, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio, BBC Radio, television, documentaries and webcasts. He was honored for his work by the Illinois State Library, and won grants and awards from The Puffin Foundation and Warner Brothers Studios.  Bernstein is a board member of The Society of Midland Authors, one of the nation’s oldest writer’s associations which was founded by Harriet Monroe and Carl Sandburg.  He is also a member of The Author’s Guild.

Speaking engagements include presentations at DePaul University, the University of Chicago, Columbia College-Chicago, and many others.  He has given speeches and served on panel discussions at the Chicago History Museum, the Illinois State Library, the Gene Siskel Film Center, as well as numerous public and private libraries.

Bernstein is represented by Barbara Braun Associates, Inc.  Contact him at arnie@arniebernstein.com. Visit his site: arnieberstein.com.

Bernstein_finalfrontSummary: 

On May 18, 1927, in a horrific conflagration of dynamite and blood, a madman forever changed a small Michigan town. Bath Massacretakes readers back more than eighty years to that fateful day, when Andrew Kehoe set off a cache of explosives concealed in the basement of the local school, killing thirty-eight children and six adults. Among the dead was Kehoe, who literally blew himself to bits by setting off a concealed dynamite charge in his car. The next day, on Kehoe’s farm, his wife’s remains—burned beyond recognition after Kehoeset his property and buildings ablaze—were found tied to a hand cart, the skull crushed and objects placed with macabre ritualism next to her body.
 
 

 

With the horror of Oklahoma City and 9/11 still fresh in Americans’ minds, the seemingly endless stories of school violence epitomized by the Columbine shooting, and suicide bombers around the globe, Bath Massacre resonates powerfully for modern readers and reminds us that terrorism and murder on a large scale are sadly not just a product of our times.

Bolstered by cooperation with survivors and their descendants, the book includes exclusive interviews with the people who lived through that terrible day in 1927.

Some illustrations in the book have not been seen in over 80 years.  Now published for the first time, you will find many of these exclusive pictures here along withother photos of the bombing and its aftermath.

As we mark the tenth year since the Columbine killings of April 20, 1999, there is no better time to learn and remember the incredible impact that such an act of violence can have on a community

Arnie will be stopping in throughout the day to reply to your questions and comments. One lucky commenter will be selected to win a copy of Bath Massacre.

So, grab a hot cuppa joe and settle in for a treat!

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

 1.      How did you decide on writing this book? Were you trying to find the story of  “America’s first school bombing?”

 

I wanted to write about a “forgotten story” in history. I felt this would be a real challenge as a writer.  How do you take something that fell through the cracks of time, and then make it come alive so it’s compelling and relevant to today’s readers?  That was my initial goal so I started poking around the Internet, finding things here and there but nothing that really grabbed my attention.  I stumbled onto the Bath story in May of 2005 on a history web site and knew immediately I found what I was looking for.  It had everything I wanted: a great story arc, a compelling cast of characters, and resonance for modern audiences (particularly in the wake of Virginia Tech, Columbine and other school murders). The Bath School bombing grabbed me from the start.  It was that “eureka!” moment; it was something I hadto write about.  (Rather than recount the story here, readers should check out the synopsis on my web site: www.arniebernstein.com.)

 

2.      During your reading at Columbia College in 2007, you spoke of the survivors you interviewed for this book.  How did you find these people to interview and more importantly, how did you handle probing for details with such a delicate subject?

 

 “Delicate subject” is a perfect description.  I knew I’d have to get the cooperation from the people in Bath in order to get the book done.  Keep in mind I didn’t have an agent or publisher at this point.  There is an excellent web site run by a great-nephew of one of the victims.  This site listed the address for the “town historian,” whom I contacted.  Essentially, the town historian was a resident who put together a scrapbook on the tragedy.  The Bath Middle School houses a museum about the bombing and this man sent me to a couple of their board members.  I called to introduce myself and explain what I was doing.  We agreed to meet and I drove up to Bath (outside of Lansing, MI and I live in Chicago, about a 3 ½ hour drive).  I did a presentation for the assembled board, explaining who I was and why I wanted to do the book.  That was one of the scariest days of my life!  I knew they would look at me as some kind of outsider coming to tell their story—and rightfully so—hence I had to tread lightly but firmly. 

 

I explained what I was doing, what my approach would be and that under no intention was I going to exploit their tragedy for personal gain. I pledged that I would give a percentage of any royalties I might earn to the school museum. It was also important to me that I do this.  Let’s face it; a generation of Bath’s children was murdered.  If I didn’t give something back to the town, then I would be making blood money.  Obviously I had no interest in doing that!  

 

I couldn’t really tell how I was doing in this meeting, but they took what I had to say and asked good questions about my background and my goals with this book.  While they agreed to cooperate, they also asked me not to talk with any survivors, since they didn’t want these people—their friends and relatives, people in their late 80s/early 90s —disturbed by a stranger.  I agreed, although inside I was frantic!  How could I get to the heart of the tragedy without talking to survivors?

 

When the book came out this past spring, I learned that many people had come to the committee before with ideas on telling the story, but had received no cooperation because of various attitudes, mostly a lack of concern for the community.  Among those who’d been turned down was Michael Moore, who wanted to include some stuff on the Bath School bombing in Bowling for Columbine.  Apparently he and his people were rude—quite rude! 

 

But one person, whose late father was a survivor, told me something that really made an impact on me.  I was speaking to Bath high school kids about my book and the tragedy; after my speech I asked this man, “What did you think when I first came to town?”  His words floored me: “After you left,” he said, “we knew we had finally found the right guy.” 

 

Of course, I didn’t know this at the time!  I continued working on the book, doing research, making trip after trip to Bath, talking to the townspeople and working on building trust.  After about a year one of them said that perhaps I should talk to her father.  He was in the school that day and his brother was one of the children killed in the explosion.  The man was now in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  I sat with him and his daughter and we talked.  I was very careful, as you can imagine, because I didn’t want to upset the man and yet I wanted his stories.  His daughter and I went back and forth, gradually drawing stuff out of him.  Although it was clear his mind was not all there, you knew his memory was keen when he talked about that day.  I think we spent three hours talking.  He did repeat a few things over and over but I just rolled with it, figuring he might come up with something fresh each time he recalled the events.  In some cases that did happen.  In fact, he gave me one of the most compelling moments of the book, the last confrontation between Andrew Kehoe and Superintendent Emory Huyck.

 

Once this woman saw me in action with her father, I knew I’d made a major breakthrough.  I felt in my gut I’d finally proved that I could be trusted not to push survivors into painful emotional areas.  I was right; the floodgates opened and I was given the contact information for several people.  Ultimately, I interviewed four of the six or seven survivors left.  And the woman who sat down with me and her father became my best contact, providing me with plenty of information, answering the most obscure questions about the town, and many other things.  We’ve grown very close over the years; today I consider her to be one of my best friends.

 

I guess the bottom line for any of your readers who want to take on a difficult emotional project is take your time, be patient, be sincere, be sensitive, and give your all.

 

3.      (A question borrowed from your website’s Reading Group Questions List) Bath Massacre uses techniques normally found in fiction. In what ways is the book like a novel? How does this help draw readers into the story? How did you build suspense even though the readers know what is coming?

 

My two biggest influences on this book were a pair of creative nonfiction masterpieces: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer.  Though Capote and Mailer were far apart stylistically (to say nothing of their alleged feud and begrudging respect for one another), I think both of these books worked well in developing a dramatic and sometimes suspenseful narrative although the reader already knows how each respective story will end: with executions of the criminals.  Those books were my models; in fact, when I reread Bath Massacre after it was published, I could see exactly how much of In Cold Blood I’d absorbed and reworked into my own style as far as lengthier prose and The Executioner’s Song when it came to the shorter paragraph bursts. 

 

Knowing the outcome of the crime actually helps, I think.  It gives the reader a reference point, one full of dread and yet inevitable. Throughout the book, leading up to the bombing, you get to know not only Kehoe and his increasingly erratic behavior but also the people of Bath.  Some of them are going to die, mostly children.  You don’t want it to happen, but you know it will and it is going to be devastating.  The morning of the bombing, I fill the chapter with short scenes of children going off to school, classroom scenes, and other typical, normal, mundane activities.  Knowing what’s coming, knowing that these lives are going to be shattered in so many different ways counterbalanced by Kehoe’s actions in the final days and hours before the bombing builds the suspense.  Although Kehoeis behaving in a cold, calculating way, he doesn’t appear to be on the surface.  We know what is coming but his victims and the people he has interactions with obviously don’t have a clue.  These two worlds are about to collide in epic and inexplicable tragedy.  And that’s where the suspense comes from. 

 

I hope I’m not coming off as unfeeling here!  Obviously these are real events that devastated a community.  Through creative nonfiction techniques you’re drawn deeper into the action rather than you would be with straightforward police procedural or something written with histrionic language like you see in a lot of cheap true crime paperbacks.  Those kinds of books are designed to provide vicarious thrills to the audience.  I wanted readers involved and sympathetic, not simply stirred up.

 

4.      The varying processes of published authors always fascinate me. Can you share your research and writing process and timeline for this book?

 

My research was conducted on several fronts.  I relied on newspaper accounts of the tragedy; a transcript of an inquest conducted a few days after the bombing to determine the whats and hows of May 18, 1927; two previous books and other accounts of the tragedy, all of which were self published; and interviews with survivors.

 

Because I’m working in nonfiction, I like to immerse myself in as much material as I can on a topic so I know the story backwards and forwards and can cover all of its nuances.  Fortunately, there was a wealth of eyewitness accounts as chronicled in newspapers of the day: obvious choices like New York Times and the Chicago Tribune provided great information, but the meat of these stories came from the Lansing State Journal.  They had people on the scene first and hit all aspects of tragedy: rescues, heartbreak, fundraising, and events in the days after the bombing.  These accounts—particularly the Lansing State Journal—were invaluable resources.  They were filled with scenes that informed the overall story.  I also used newspaper accounts marking various commemorations of the bombing (I dislike the word “anniversary” to describe the date), such as the 75th year marking the tragedy.  A piece from the Detroit Free Press on how Bath offered lessons to the post-9/11 world was also very useful.

 

Next was the transcript of the inquest conducted by local law officials on the Monday and Tuesday after the bombing.  The official goal of this inquest was to investigate the circumstances behind the murder of Emory E. Huyckbut the real job was to provide an account of what led up to the bombing and what happened on May 18, 1927.  This document was nearly 300 pages and was packed witheyewitness testimony.  It was filled withscenes, withdialog, with the interior mindset of so many townspeople, eyewitnesses, rescuers, and victims. 

 

There were a few self-published books on the tragedy.  One was produced by a Bathresident about a monthor so after the bombing to honor the dead and chronicle what happened that day.  Another was a self-published history written about 20 years ago.  The design of this latter book was terrible and the writing was even worse, but the research was great and provided me with a lot of good information, particularly in the school board events that showed the growing tension between Huyck and Kehoe.  There’s nothing more boring than reading accounts of school board meetings and I had to wade through page after page of that stuff!  Despite the tedium, the book did do a nice job of setting the stage and also gave some good history on Kehoe’s early years.  The town historian also produced a pair of spiral bound books that collated a lot of articles and personal accounts and there was also a lengthy history of Bath written in 1976.  All very useful stuff.

 

Finally there were the survivors. The bombing was 80 years ago, yet to them it was yesterday.  Their memories, their words were far more eloquent than anything found in newspapers or books. One woman told me some particularly gruesome details about the scene and a family member who was killed.  As the stories grew bloodier and more personal, I was afraid of upsetting her and said, “You don’t have to tell me this stuff if you don’t want to.”  She said, no, she wanted to tell me.  She wanted people to know what happened and it was her duty to bear witness.  And that’s an awesome task to translate such personal stuff into a book.  The survivors emboldened my resolve to do this book right. I wanted to create the definitive account and hence had to tell it properly.

 

 

What I did was go through this stuff over and over until I felt like I’d really absorbed it.  Now comes the work! I write an outline and throw myself into the writing.  Having all that stuff surrounding me physically as well as stored in my head infuses my process.  I turn into a machine and churn out the material.  I don’t pay attention to things like style; I just write.  Then I go back and edit mercilessly.  Did I leave anything out?  Can I move stuff around?  What really belongs and what can be deleted?  How can I smooth out the work so it reads seamlessly?  Again, I don’t worry about style but getting the story told right and told to the best of my abilities. 

 

What I didn’t realize when I was writing was how violent and graphic the story was.  I just wrote!  In the editing phase, as I played with the material, I periodically would have to put down the manuscript; it got to be too much for me to handle emotionally.  It never occurred to me how hardcore I was getting in the writing.  Like I say, I turned into a machine, taking the research I absorbed and translated it to the page. Regardless, I knew during the editing that if I was this deeply affected, I was on the right track.  Odds were with me that the reader would see and feel the tragedy exactly as I did.

 

 

5.      As writers, we are told to have a readership in mind, especially when pitching an agent or publisher. Did you have a publisher in mind while you were writing this book? Can you tell us about your publishing experience?

 

I can’t say I had a readership in mind; all I knew was that I had a compelling story.  If it grabbed me, surely it would grab others!

 

As for pitching it, I was told at the beginning by one person to “dream big.”  To be honest, I had Devil in the White Citydreams about bestsellerdom, but agents and publishers had other ideas.  I had no agent when I started, but I wrote a damn good proposal (and I used a wonderful book by Elizabeth Lyon, Nonfiction Book Proposals That Anyone Can Write to guide me in this phase; I highly recommend it).  Next I scoured the Internet for potential agents and sent out query after query.  I got plenty of rejections with the occasional nibble for the proposal.  However, the majority of people said the story was “too regional.”  In other words, because the story didn’t take place on the East Coast or the West Coast, it wasn’t significant!  But after 40 or so submissions, I got a wonderful agent who really believed in the material.  It took me only three months to find an agent, a much shorter time period than I anticipated. 

 

She sent out the proposal to publishers but again we ran into the “too regional” roadblock.  We both found this frustrating because in the post-Columbine world you’d think that the first mass school murder—particularly one with as many twists and turns as the Bath story has—would be a juicy plum for any publisher.  Finally University of Michigan Press picked it up.  Because the story took place in Michigan they were a natural choice and UMP is one of the most respected university presses in the country.  I asked a couple of author friends who had published with university presses what they thought, and they encouraged me to take the deal.  I’m glad I listened to everyone. I’ve been very happy with UMP; they’ve done a great job as far as production, editing, book design and promotion.  They’ve worked hard on my behalf and that inspires me to hustle in my own marketing efforts.  We’re now in our fourth printing.

 

Ironically, the Virginia Tech tragedy happened about six weeks after we sold the book.  I said to my agent that we probably could get a big name publisher if the book was still being pitched at that point since the subject would have been more “topical,” something people were looking at anew.  She agreed and she knows the business.  It’s a sick little racket, the publishing game!

 

 

 

6.      What would you like readers to take away after reading Bath Massacre?

 

Overall, I want readers to feel the depth of the tragedy in very human terms.  I’m often asked if the book has any lessons in light of modern school violence and I can’t say it does; the only thing it really shows is that these sort of tragedies are nothing new and realistically there’s nothing we can do to stop determined psychopaths.  I point that out towards the end of the book with a lengthy list of modern school killings.  It’s not a hopeful message, but it’s a realistic one and that’s something I couldn’t avoid.  But the final scene, of the 94 year old woman visiting her baby brother’s grave on the 80th anniversary of the bombing does—I hope—show the reader the importance of memory, of keeping the dead close to heart, of how connections of love are not diminished by the years, of how goodness and decency can emerge from unthinkable violence.

 

 

7.      Please share your upcoming events and readings of Bath Massacre.

 

On Saturday, August 1 I’ll be at the Bourbonnais (IL) Public Library Author Fair. Later in the fall I’m going to be in Grand Rapids, MI for a book festival on Saturday, October 17.  Other events are being scheduled as we speak.  The best bet is for readers interested in attending a reading is to check in on the “events” section of my website and/or become a “fan” of the book on Facebook.

 

I do participate in book club readings and discussions; there’s a readers guide people can download from my website.  Depending on location, I can meet with your group in person, or via telephone, webcast or Skype.  If readers want to use Bath Massacre for their book clubs I’ll provide them with copies (signed, if they want!) at a group discount.

 

8.      What is next for Arnie Bernstein? (Events/readings/classes/projects, etc)

 

I’m teaching basic college composition at Triton College in River Grove, IL.  I love teaching 101; that nuts and bolts stuff and the enthusiasm of my students really helps my own work.  If you can’t do the basics, you can’t write and teaching introductory stuff helps keep my own work fresh.

 

I’m currently researching a new “forgotten history” story that also has contemporary repercussions.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

 

Overall, this book has been a great experience.  Thanks for giving me this opportunity to talk with your readers.  I’d love to hear from people if they have any questions or comments.

 

One last thing: the best advice I can give Writers Inspired readers is that if you have a great story you believe in, keep fighting for it.  You will succeed in getting the work out there.

Please remember to leave a question or comment for Arnie for a chance to win a copy of Bath Massacre.  Comments must be posted before 12 midnight, CENTRAL, today, July 29.

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Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Non Fiction, Platform/Marketing

Ruth Hartman: Blog Tour

Author of   My Life in Chains: My Struggle with Obssessive Compulsive Disorder

book_cover_my_life_in_mental_chains

Ruth J. Hartmanwas once “normal.” She perceived the world around her as any other person would—until she turned 27. That’s when Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) dug in its claws and refused to let her go. Her world (and her family’s) was turned inside out.

Working as a dental hygienist was difficult enough, but trying to balance her work life with the challenges of OCD was overwhelming. Ruth’s family, friends, and co-workers didn’t understand why she suddenly acted so bizarre. She wanted to help them understand, but she couldn’t. She didn’t understand it herself.

My Life in Mental Chains is moving and tragic, yet in the end, it’s an uplifting story of personal faith and inner strength. Ruth’s insight will be a great comfort to OCD sufferers, their families, and their friends.

Ruth graduated from the Indiana University School of Dentistry with a degree in Science/Dental Hygiene. Her interest in writing, which began in high school, led her to earn her diploma from the Institute of Children’s Literature in “Writing for Children and Teenagers.”   She lives in rural Indiana with her husband and two cats.

Visit her website at www.ruthjhartman.blogspot.com, or contact her at RGHartman@aol.com.

My Life in Mental Chains by Ruth J. Hartman

Published by Pipers’ Ash Ltd., $13.00

Publication Date: November 1, 2008

Non-Fiction, True-Life Story Chapbook

ISBN# 9781906928001

An easy way to order the book is: http://www.supamasu.co.uk/glos.html

(then scroll down to the third book) Or you can e-mail them at pipersash@supamasu.com and request the book.
Interview by Mary Jo Campbell:

(Ruth will be replying to your comments and questions all day, so ask away! And you’ll be entered in the random drawing to receive free a copy of her e-book.)

MJC: I see that you’re a graduate of Institute of Children’s Literature.  I’m a former student as well.  Can you tell me about your experience with this correspondence school for those who are contemplating this form of education?

Ruth: I had a very good experience with them. My instructor was friendly, yet very professional. I was supplied with study guides, practice exercises, and even sample children’s books. I was given deadlines for homework completion, but she was patient with me if I needed a little more time. If someone wants to learn the craft of writing for children and teenagers, I would definitely recommend them.

MJC: As writers, we seem to obsess over everything in the process: plot, theme, wording, characterization and more.  What are the true signs of having an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Can you offer any tips from your book on how you are overcoming this disease?

Ruth: Many people have slight OCD tendencies. It’s when those tendencies grow and begin to take over your life that you’ve got a problem. Mine were so severe; I had to quit my job as a dental hygienist. I couldn’t cope at work anymore. I developed a fear of germs at work. In my line of work, you can imagine how often I came in contact with those! Then the problem started to take over my home life. I washed my hands so often, they were cracked and bleeding. It affected every facet of my life.

Thankfully, I found an excellent psychiatrist who helped me tremendously. But even more than that, I was able to find a medication, Prozac that allows me to function normally again, with only occasional, short-lived occurrences.

MJC: How do you feel that your OCD has either helped or hindered your writing?

Ruth: I think sometimes it actually helps. Although I’d never wish it on anyone! When I have an assignment or story to write, my OCD kicks into overdrive and pushes me to stick with my project until it’s finished. My husband is afraid that one of these days I will actually become physically glued to my laptop! On the flip side, It’s easy to obsess about what people think of my work. Will they like what I’ve written? Will they like me? I just have to remind myself that I can’t please everyone. If I’m happy with my work, that’s enough.

MJC: You’re a published writer of both fiction and nonfiction.  Can you tell us your experience in publishing both types of work?

Ruth: Actually, I’ve only been published in non-fiction. My short story, “A Tale of No Tail” will be published in the January-February issue of “I Love Cats” magazine. It’s about my cat Arthur, who lost his tail when I accidentally closed a screen door before he was all the way in the kitchen. I still feel awful about that! My experience with that magazine was positive as well. But fiction is what I really love to write. I just haven’t found the right publisher for my stories yet.

MJC: Your book, My Life in Mental Chains: My Struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is published by Piper’s Ash, a UK based publisher, yet you live in Indiana (USA).  How did you find this publisher and what was your experience like working with a publisher from overseas, especially since they work with a different currency?

Ruth: I found their listing in the “Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers.” My original query was for a fictional story about a girl with OCD. They replied back that serious subjects such as OCD were better suited for their “True Life Series.” I re-queried with my own experience, and it was accepted. They’ve been wonderful to work with. They’re a small, non-profit publisher, so they only work with a few clients at a time. I’ve gotten personalized attention and they’ve been extremely patient with me. Especially since this is my first book!

There were a few differences between this publisher and an American one. It takes longer for me to receive regular mail from them. I waited six weeks for my five complimentary books. I learned that when their web site lists a certain amount in pounds, as opposed to dollars, I’d be paying twice as much. I guess the good news is, when I get paid an amount in pounds, it will end up being more in our currency! (NOTE: When ordering direct from Pipers Ash, readers should expect to recieve their e-book in the mail within 1-2 weeks.)

Also, one thing I had to get used to: when we use quotation marks, they’re double. In England, they often use single quotes. When I got my page proofs from them, I thought it was a mistake at first. Then I researched it on the Internet and found out that’s a normal practice in the U.K.

MJC: Thank you so much for sharing your writing experiences and your struggles with OCD with the readers here at Writers Inspired.

Be sure to leave your comments for Ruth on today’s post before 12 midnight (CENTRAL) for a chance to win your own copy of Ruth’s e-book: My Life in Chains

MJC:  I s

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Janice Lynne Lundy: Blog Tour

janlundyhead5x7-copy

Author of Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be

Janice Lynne Lundy is an inspirational speaker, interfaith spiritual director, syndicated magazine columnist, and the author of four self-help/spiritual growth books for women.

Her newest book, Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be, has just been released by Sorin Books. your-truest-self-cover

Within every woman there is an essential Truth waiting to be claimed, a Truth that will empower her to claim a spiritual life that is real and authentic, one that will nourish and sustain her every day. Janice Lynne Lundy thoughtfully guides readers toward finding that essential truth for themselves. Drawing from her personal encounters with twelve spiritual mentors—Frances Moore Lappé, Daphne Rose Kingma, Iyanla Vanzant, Naomi Judd, and more—she has created twelve Transformational Truths to guide and enable women to live more peaceful, confident, and open-hearted lives.

 

Jan is the author of three previously published personal and spiritual growth books: Coming Home to Ourselves: A Woman’s Journey to Wholeness; Awakening the Spirit Within; and Perfect Love: How to Find Yours and Make It Last Forever (co-authored with her husband, Brad Lundy).

 

The mother of three, stepmother of four, and grandmother of three more, Jan resides on the peaceful shoreline of Grand Traverse Bay in northern Michigan with her husband, Brad, her creative partner and soul’s companion.

 

Learn more about Jan at her website: www.awakenedliving.com.

Register for her newsletter and she’ll send you her new, inspirational 90-page e-book, The Awakened Woman’s Guide to Life. Visit her blog: www.awakeisgood.blogspot.com. She enjoys hearing from her readers and responds personally. Email: jan@awakenedliving.com.

Interview by Mary Jo Campbell:

(Jan will be replying to your comments and questions all day today, so ask away!)

Jan, thank you for stopping by Writers Inspired on your blog tour to discuss the writing process of and the message conveyed in your newest book, Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Were Meant to Be.

 

MJC: Writers are often told to “tell the truth” in their writing. How important is it that we find our “Truest Self” in order to make our writing shine?

Jan: Very important! The best writers I know are living as their truest selves, or in the process of “remembering” how to do so. The mentors featured in my book, most of whom are authors themselves, are shining examples of this. As they have become more peaceful and centered, joyous, grateful, and connected to their spirit, their careers have taken off.

I have a 3-part process I’d like to share that can help any of us arrive at this place of empowerment.

First, we must be able to access inner calm. Without it, we’ll remain a jumble of unorganized thoughts and feelings, a bundle of nerves, a mere shadow of our truest self. We may also feel a profound lack of confidence, even fear, about our ability to express ourselves. Spiritual practices help. Chapter Four of my book, “I Engage in Daily Practices that Nurture My Spirit,” explores how to uncover and implement our unique spiritual practices for experiencing greater calm.

Second, once we have begun to access more peace peace, clarity will come. We feel clear, open-minded, and possibilities bound! Our thoughts are lucid, focused; our intuition is on alert. Obviously, this is an ideal place from which to write.

Finally, with clarity comes wisdom. Wisdom is the root of all great endeavors. Wisdom allows us to make optimum choices and operate in the world in beneficial ways. A wise woman is one who displays the “virtues” of Spirit itself: generosity, confidence, joy, and compassion. Now that’s living as your truest self!

MJC: Many writers, myself included, want to back into a hole and lick our wounds when those rejection letters come in. What steps can give us to regain our self-confidence and find the courage to forge ahead?

Jan: On occasion, I still fall prey to this one myself. A lackluster review on amazon.com can send me tumbling into despair. Most writers are sensitive sorts; I know I am. On the other hand, if we didn’t feel so darn much we wouldn’t be insightful writers!

Rejection is difficult. Early on, I experienced much rejection from agents and publishers with this book. But we cannot give up; I didn’t. If we believe in our message, are faithful to honing our craft, and willing to work with constructive criticism, experiences of rejection can actually build self-confidence.

We learn courage, I believe, through patterning ourselves after bold others. Activist Frances Moore Lappé was one of those for me. She helped me formulate the message in Chapter Eleven, “I Courageously Live and Speak My Truths.” Frankie reminded me that people who appear to be fearless have actually been intimate with fear. Facing our fears and walking through them is key to living as our truest selves.

We must also remember that fear is a trait of the ego (our false self). It is not a reflection of our true nature, which is love and peace. We can begin to make conscious choices to move away from the disempowering messages of the ego and re-align ourselves with those of our spirit, and the greater Spirit (that some call God). My book offers an interfaith roadmap for doing just that.

MJC: Do you believe that all women can tap into their “Truest Self?” Or are there some who are buried too deep in toxic thoughts and actions?

Jan: Yes, I believe all women can tap into their truest self. Our truest self is not a version of ourselves for which we must seek; it is who we are by birth and destiny. We all have an innate core—an essence—which is characterized by peace, love, joy, and other qualities of Spirit. This is our truest self. We simply need to uncover her and bring her into the light of day.

Doing so, however, is a matter of readiness. It is true that some women may be too buried in toxicity to perceive the glory of their own being. But their “stuckness” may be temporary. There is an ancient Taoist saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Any growth we may experience in life depends on readiness—our willingness to grow and change. Until we are ready, we’ll likely remain mired in old patterns, thoughts, and behaviors that do not serve our truest self.

A statement by diarist Anais Nin rings true here: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to blossom.” Profound statement, isn’t it? (I mentioned later to Jan, that this very quote is my tag-line for Writers Inspired!)

MJC: Time seems to always be in demand, especially for busy mom writers. How can we encourage our families and significant others to give us the time and space we need (without the guilt trip)?

Jan: I adhere to the maxim that we teach others how to treat us. As we begin the journey of valuing ourselves—especially our creative selves—we’ll need to educate (or re-train) others to do the same.

We begin with baby steps. We get clear about what it is that we need to do to honor our creativity. I love how author/photographer Jan Phillips explained this in Marry Your Muse. Jan is one of the twelve “Holy Women” featured in my book. The “Artist’s Creed,” which is the foundation of her book, states (in part), “I believe I am worth the time it takes to create whatever I feel called to create.”

Upon reading those words, I finally believed all my efforts were worth it, and once that happened, I could ask for my family’s assistance. I was very clear with them about what I needed—time, space, support. I began by taking one hour in the evening just for ME. This increased over time as my children became of school age and were more self-sufficient.

Letting go of guilt is key to embodying our truest self. It’s important to remember that our needs are just as important as those of any other family member. In fact, our temperament—our health and well-being— may determine the well-being of our entire family. Remember the old adage, “If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy”? It’s true!

MJC: You mentioned in a previous interview that you self-published three of your books. Can you tell us how getting “Your Truest Self” purchased by a publisher differed from self-publishing?

Jan: First let me say that self-publishing has been an enjoyable experience. I highly recommend it if someone has the means (time and finances) to do so. Self-publishing prepared me well for working with a publisher. Especially when it came to marketing. The creation and marketing of a self-published book is a full-time job, a challenge for many writers who simply want to write—not design or sell!

In today’s challenging market, most publishing houses expect their authors to do most of the marketing work anyway. The publisher will do the initial work of launching the book, but getting it noticed and sold to the public is primarily the author’s job.

There are trade-offs with being published. An issue for some writers is loss of control of the book’s content, format, cover, and layout. Ideally, a team approach is used in publishing and the author’s input is respected. In my case, I appreciated the vision Sorin Books held for my project. It matched my own and we worked well together. It was wonderful having an editor who edited gently. The design team created a lovely product (inside and out) and, for the most part, was receptive to my input. (Though you do get only so many cover choices!) This is not the case for many authors, so I feel fortunate that my experience has been a good one.

Of course, having a publisher purchase your work is a thrill, a powerful affirmation of your course in life. The day I was finally able to hold a copy of Your Truest Self in my hand was one of the proudest moments of my life.

May publishing success be yours, as well!

MJC: This is absolutely wonderful!  Your answers are so passionate and in-depth. I can’t wait to see all the comments they stir up!  REMEMBER:  One lucky random winner will receive a copy of Jan Lundy’s latest book Your Truest Self.  BUT, you have to comment here today to win!

more on Jan…

Described by her readers, audiences, and colleagues as “practical and poetic, possessing deep and gentle wisdom,” Janice Lynne Lundy serves as an interfaith spiritual guide to tens of thousands of women throughout the United States through her nationally syndicated magazine column in Women’s LifeStyle, as a professional speaker and retreat facilitator, and as a Spiritual Director. She has been recognized for her sensitive and compelling interviews as well as for her gift for connecting with soul-searching women. Jan is an adjunct staff member for the Institute of Spirituality at the Dominican Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

 


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Filed under Author Interviews, books, emotion, Give Aways, Inspiration