Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog. I am very pleased to welcome back, Rev. Judith Laxer, the author of Along the Wheel of Time: Sacred Stories for Nature Lovers.
Rev. Judith was Ordained as a SHES (Spiritual Healers and Earth Stewards) Minister in 1992. Since then, she has officiated at countless rite of passage ceremonies. She has taught classes and workshops on the Goddess, Women’s Mysteries, and psychic development locally and nationally since 1993, and was the Ceremonial Director for the Seattle-based Women of Wisdom Conference for five years.
Her collection of short stories Along the Wheel of Time: Sacred Stories for Nature Lovers was published in June 2014.
Judith enjoys her successful private practice of Spiritual Counseling, Psychic Tarot readings, Certified Hypnotherapy, Reiki and Shamanic practices. In September of 2000, she began offering Goddess Worship Services to an ever-growing congregation. Her soul has found home in Gaia’s Temple, where she is Founder and Director.
Welcome back to The Writing Life, Judith!
What is your book’s genre?
My book is a collection of short stories in the genre of magical realism.
Please describe what your book is about.
Along the Wheel of Time: Sacred Stories for Nature Lovers comprises eight short fictional stories that accompany the sabbats, or natural earth holy days, on the Pagan Wheel of the Year: the solstices, the equinoxes and the cross quarter days in between. They help the reader deepen their connection to nature within a spiritual context.
How did you come up with the title?
The Wheel of the Year is a metaphoric model for our souls’ journey. I wanted a title that speaks to the ongoing cycles of life. The use of the word Wheel in the title addresses this metaphor because like circles, wheels have no beginning and no ending. Also, I have always been fascinated with the concept of time and how our perception of it shifts with our awareness of living.
What inspired you to write this book?
Nature inspires me. My personal experience of living a devotional life is so richly connected to the natural world and is so satisfying, I wanted to share the beauty and significance of a life lived this way. Especially in our era of ubiquitous technology that engages us in superficiality and keeps us disconnected.
What is your favorite part of writing?
My favorite part of writing is how it makes my experience of time disappear. When I am on a roll and the words are flowing, I love the feeling of being transported from ordinary reality when time seems to stop. I also love when I finish the first draft and then get to go back and begin carefully crafting it. I love polishing a story.
Do your characters resemble you? If so, in what ways?
Well, each story has its’ own set of characters. There are aspects of me in all of them, I suppose. My life experience has greatly informed the tales, although I wouldn’t say any one of the characters resembles my personality specifically. I tried to listen to each one and portray them as they revealed themselves to me.
What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?
Intellectually I know there are going to be days when I write and write and don’t like what I end up with. But emotionally, if I end up not liking what I have spent time writing, doubt sets in. Often I feel I am in competition with myself, like I must outdo myself each time I sit down to write. Once I get that inner competitor under lock and key, I have a much easier time.
I like the idea of keeping the inner competitor under lock and key. What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?
A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I enjoyed the story and the tears it brought to my eyes. I loved how life kept interrupting his plans, but I won’t say more so I don’t spoil it for others. The author made good use of revealing the backstory a piece at a time. It elicited compassion for the title character in me, despite his being an exasperating curmudgeon.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Barbara Kingsolver, Joan Didion, Somerset Maugham, Elizabeth Cunningham, Colum McCann and Lidia Yuknavitch.
What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?
Jean Huston has had an enormous influence on me. I strive to have her command of language, but it’s more how she thinks that is so impressive. I find her understanding of the possible human to be endlessly inspiring. More recently, I’ve found Lidia Yuknavitch’s courage to speak her truth unflinchingly on the page, and her originality to be rather contagious.
Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?
I like to write best on my desktop computer in my home office. I sit in the room I have designed to my liking, surrounded by my colors, my art, my Goddess statues, looking out my window onto my prolific garden. Visual beauty is crucial to me for inspiration and creativity and my sense of myself as an artist. I like to read on the living room couch sipping a cup of tea with my favorite fleece blanket over my knees.
Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I am an ordained minister and have a private practice as a psychic, spiritual counselor, hypnotherapist, shamanic practitioner, and teacher of women’s mysteries. I once accompanied a hypnotherapy client into the operating room for her breast cancer surgery. She was allergic to anesthetic and we used hypnosis to get her through it! The next thing I know, I am wearing scrubs sitting on a stool at her head in the freezing operating room for close to eight hours. To this day, it is still one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful experience, Judith.
Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?
The writing process showed me where I needed work specifically on craft. It propelled me into classes which have helped me up my game with wordsmithing.
I’ve learned many things about the publishing process and here are two that are most important to me.
- Be bold. Take risks. Promote yourself like you are promoting someone you adore. (You should adore yourself anyway, right?) Sometimes it’s easier to take risks if you imagine they are for someone else. We have the courage to do and say things for others we often have trouble doing and saying for ourselves.
- Follow your intuition. Shortly after the company that first published my book went under, I got a notice that a publisher was now following me on twitter. Hmmm, I thought. Who are they? I checked out their website and even though it said they don’t publish short story collections, my gut said to write them anyway and see. The publisher responded within twenty four hours, picked me up and got my book back out there within a month. If I had second guessed my impetus to reach out, my book might have gone the way of obscurity.
What do you hope readers will gain from Along the Wheel of Time: Sacred Stories for Nature Lovers?
These stories inform readers how reverence for nature is also a viable spiritual path. I hope this gives them the courage to explore something alternative. I also hope the stories debunk a few unsavory myths and much negative press about Paganism.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?
Being in a writing group was so helpful with encouragement, feedback and accountability. The support kept me going, even when my doubts seemed to overthrow my inspiration.
About a year before my book was published, I finally cried ‘uncle’ and joined social media-which I had resisted with all my might- because I knew those are the best tools for marketing. Then I threw myself a big launch party which was a blast. I sold many books that night.
The marketing of one’s book(s) never ends. What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?
Having unrealistic expectations. I thought it would be easier to get my warm market to write reviews, share the book with others, etc. And although some did, many more did not. My strategy and task now is to write essays on related topics and get them published to get my name and work out there beyond my warm market.
Great plan. Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?
Make sure your writing is as good as you can get it before submitting it to an agent of publisher. The old adage ‘you only get one shot at making a first impression’ applies here for sure. I am not an expert on getting publishing by any means, but I can see that developing relationships with other writers leads to support, introductions, and opportunities one wouldn’t get on their own.
Website and social media links?
Facebook: Judith Laxer and Rev. Judith Laxer
Where can we find your book?
AMAZON US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HC4OEIA
What’s next for you, Judith?
I just finished the first draft of my m-m-m-m-memoir. (Did I write that out loud?) I am revising it now after some feedback before I begin to shop it around.
Yes, you did, and your memoir is now out in the Universe!
Thanks, Ellie, for featuring me on your blog!
It’s always a pleasure to catch up with you, Judith. Best of luck with your books.
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.