Thoughts on Writing Novels in the Trump Era

In the summer of 2015, after the publication of my debut novel, A Decent Woman, a comment on a writing blog got my attention. It encouraged writers to focus on writing and marketing their books and refrain from sharing strong opinions and political views on social media platforms. The reasoning? So as to not alienate readers and potential readers; in essence, to limit their opinions and dialogue to discussions with friends and family. Good to know, I thought. The advice made sense to me at the time–nothing can turn a lovely dinner party into a school food fight quicker than heated debates about religion, politics, or other family members–but what about that business of writers potentially courting disaster with future book sales and alienating readers by speaking out on public forums? Was there any truth to that? I tucked that nugget away.

I kept my focus on learning the ropes of marketing a book. Little did I know marketing my novel would turn into an intense year of written interviews, podcast interviews, writing blog posts, participating in book fairs, and encouraging readers to post book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. That same year, I set up an author page on Facebook, opened a Goodreads author page and set up a Twitter account–lots of moving parts in addition to keeping up with a writing blog, interviewing fellow authors, and paying attention to my author website! And of course, I was thinking about writing a second book. A brief text exchange with my friend Wayne sparked an idea and I ran with it.

In early 2016, I began the preliminary research for my second book, as yet untitled. On June 16, 2016, Donald Trump officially announced his plan to seek the presidency. I started writing The Laments of Sister Maria Immaculada, now titled, The Laments of Forgotten Souls. From June to November October 2016, I watched the presidential campaign/sideshow on my laptop (I haven’t had cable TV since 2011). I kept writing and diligently researching the lives of nuns in 1927 Puerto Rico, the history of Old San Juan, and the little known (to me) islet of Isla de Cabras, five miles off the coast of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the ruins of a Spanish-built leprosarium remain. I kept writing and became increasingly distracted by politics. How could anyone possibly avoid it? I began to think about a writing retreat, away from home where I was buying the Washington Post on a daily basis and New York Times, when I could find a copy in my adopted West Virginia town.

In January 2017, I licked my wounds along with millions of Americans and participated in the now-historic Women’s March in Washington, DC. The political attacks and distractions from the White House began immediately and were unrelenting. I kept up with Rachel Maddow’s informative and timely blog posts for political analysis and information and watched MSNBC videos on Youtube. I learned a lot from Maddow, and for the first time in my life, I knew the names of all the key players in Washington, DC and their positions. I was paying attention. It also occurred to me how much my antagonist reminded me of Trump. A light bulb moment. What a strange and interesting twist. I zoomed in on Trump’s behavior and mannerisms, the way he speaks, and what his base sees in him.

I kept up with Twitter, Facebook, and I wrote a blog post about my experience at the Women’s March, always thinking about the advice to writers I’d read the year before: keep your opinions off social media. But how? I mused that might have been a popular opinion before the last Presidential election campaign. Before Trump became President. Before the march in Charlottesville. Before the brutal attacks on the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Before Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island of my birth, and Trump callously threw paper towel rolls at Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Before 20 shootings took place on American school campuses. Before Trump brought us to the brink of nuclear war by antagonizing Kim Jong-un. Before Trump ordered the barbaric directive to separate children from their asylum-seeking parents at US borders. Before our planet was threatened by Trump directives and decisions. Before, before, before. I’ve left out dozens and dozens of events, I know. My apologies, this is what immediately comes to mind as I write this blog post. Fill in the blanks, please.

The attacks from the Trump White House seemed endless, unrelenting, and more cruel with each passing day. Then I remembered–our country, Americans, have suffered and endured cruel directives that go back to the founding fathers. Our history is full of racism, white privilege, misogyny, bad decisions, and crazy makers. Had we learned anything? Apparently not. I was reminded of the old French saying, “The more things changes, the more they stay the same.” But I was changing–as a woman, as a proud Puerto Rican, and as an American who’d lived overseas for over 25 years. As a novelist, I was wide awake. History was repeating itself before my very eyes and I was outraged.

You see, before January 2017, I’d never marched in protest, never held a placard, and had never called my elected officials. I had voted, of course, and in my previous jobs as a refugee caseworker, Spanish language Family Support Worker, and as a counselor working in Brussels, Belgium, I’d worked with and tried my best to assist and support those less fortunate in my community. To walk hand in hand with those who were hurting and needed help—that came easily to me. I was a mom. But to be a vocal activist? To be outraged and shocked enough to say what I felt in a public forum, on social media? That didn’t come easy. I was raised to be polite, fair, and to be diplomatic, whenever possible. But I found it increasingly difficult to remain silent. I kept writing and in my continuing research, I kept digging deeper into the dark corners of religion, faith, and humanity. World events were certainly changing my work in progress. How could the story not be affected? How could I remain unchanged? As I saw it, it was imperative to remain informed, but to also strike a balance–I needed to turn away from the news in the evening and force myself to remain in my writing chair. I was losing discipline and valuable time, but with each new event in the US and abroad, I gleaned valuable research material. I felt like a literary vampire.

What I came to understand was that in many ways, art and the making of art and literature is a political act.

Among the early reviews of my first published novel, A Decent Woman, two respected writer friends called my first novel a political statement, a feminist novel. After my initial surprise and feeling so grateful for their generous book reviews, I realized the two men were absolutely correct. In the early stages of writing A Decent Woman, (and in my newbie writing mind), I’d simply set about to tell a story about the lives of women in 1900 Puerto Rico. Then I remembered. Just before the manuscript went in for the final edits, I came across documents and a book about the rounding up of prostitutes in Ponce, Puerto Rico (the setting of the novel) and about the forced sterilization of thousands of Puerto Rican women by the US government. The book had to change. I had to change. It was necessary to grow a thicker skin in the public arena and speak my truths, instead of opting to remain in the shallow end of the pool. So I wrote that book.

Interestingly enough, the same thing is happening with my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, which explores faith, religion, and the Catholic Church in 1927 Puerto Rico, with all its’ ugliness and scandals, community works and good intentions. Once again, I’ve had to dig deep, record history, and speak my truths as I discover them in my research and from my memory. I’m still reading several online newspapers and calling my elected officials. I buy newspapers and still watch Rachel Maddow during the day. I write at night like I always did, with less fear than before. The balancing act of being ‘woke’ and finishing this book is easier these days; I’m not as reactive to the news. I use it all.

In the telling of a story, writers stand, exposed and raw, for all to see. So be it.

Will President Trump and this White House stop the unrelenting attacks on Americans, on the poor and the marginalized, on our democracy? Will Trump be impeached? All that remains to be seen. We have no choice but to soldier on, persist, and resist when the need arises. And as writers, we must keep writing. Lord knows there’s a plethora of material out there for novelists these days.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

 

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Update From The Writing Life Blog

Greetings from The Writing Life Blog!

In January 2018, I shared a super interview with writer, Ivelisse Rodriguez, about my first book,  A Decent Woman, that includes a brief excerpt of my work-in-progress, The Laments of Forgotten Souls. Yesterday, my jaw dropped when I saw the date of my last blog post on this blog– it was October 21, 2017. Has it been that long since I last shared a blog post? As I look back on the events of the last two years, no, it’s not hard to believe!

Despite a crazy blur of a year, I’m back to blogging and setting up author interviews with new and old writer friends. I’m happy, healthy, and currently working on my second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. I hope you’ll enjoy the story as much as I do. During writing breaks, I work in my small, urban garden and enjoy the fruits of my labor as I dream of my next trip (or think about a new plot twist), and as always, I love and cheer on my beloved children from afar. They’ve been super busy with travel and work, as well. I don’t see them nearly as often as I’d like, but such is life with adult children. They are happy, which is what matters most. That’s what I tell myself when I’m not throwing a motherly pity party. 🙂

On the blog front, I’m excited to share two new author interviews:

On June 25, I welcome Mickey Brent, a long-time friend from my Brussels days, and on July 10, Ivelisse Rodriguez will join me. Ivelisse’s collection of short stories, Love War Stories, debuts the day of the interview.

I hope you’ll check back for those two fantastic interviews.

Be well and happy writing.

Eleanor

Hurricane Maria: Jangled Nerves and Prayers

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My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean islands, and with Mexico. This afternoon, I’m thinking of the people of the small Caribbean islands, who are currently suffering the devastating effects from Hurricane Irma, and who face the real possibility of more devastation with Hurricane Maria. It’s unthinkable, yet a reality. I wonder if Barbuda will ever recover and if Barbudans will return to their beloved island. I worry for the people of Dominica, Tortola, the British and US Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, and Guadalupe. And of course, I am beside myself with worry for my family and friends in Puerto Rico.

I know the resiliency and courage of the people of the Caribbean, but Hurricane Maria is a beast. I’m grateful to the countries helping in the recovery and rebuilding efforts throughout the islands, and I’m especially proud of my fellow Puerto Ricans for welcoming and assisting our Caribbean brothers and sisters to our island–Puerto Rico is truly a beautiful port in a storm for many. And what a storm is coming tonight and tomorrow morning.

On Monday, I spoke with my family members and friends in Puerto Rico. My aunt and cousins in Ponce and San Juan assured me their homes are physically prepared to “welcome” Maria. Well, as prepared as you can be with a Category 5 hurricane coming toward you. Emotionally? I’m not entirely sure, but I know their nerves are jangled at this time and stress is high. Our family members in the United States join me in praying and hoping against hope that Hurricane Maria goes far north of Puerto Rico and doesn’t make landfall on any Caribbean islands. That seems implausible with all the hurricane models and weather reports I’ve seen, but nonetheless, that is my prayer.

All the unknowns of a hurricane make this event very frightening. Like millions of others, I’m finding it difficult to concentrate with so much happening around the world with other hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. So, the candles are lit and I will pray–that’s what I can do today. Be present, be still, and pray for my family, my beloved island, and for mankind.

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

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 Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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2017 International Latino Book Awards

I am honored and pleased to share exciting book news with you! My novel, A Decent Woman, set in 1900 Ponce, Puerto Rico, was awarded Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Awards held in Los Angeles this past weekend. 
My deepest gratitude and thanks to Latino Literacy Now; Las Comadres Para Las Americas; Kirk Whisler and his amazing staff; all the judges; and most importantly, many thanks to my wonderful, supportive readers!
I am hard at work on a second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Old San Juan and the Puerto Rican islet of Isla de Cabras, Island of Goats, off the coast of San Juan. This happy book news makes me smile and offers encouragement as I finish writing the next book.
Thank you for your visit! Please read on for more information from Kirk Whisler, Latino Literacy Now, about the book awards. I will post the complete list of winners very soon.
Eleanor X
new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016
The Largest Latino Cultural Awards in the USA Recognizes the Greatness in 233 Authors & Publishers From Across the USA & Around the World
By Kirk Whisler, Latino Literacy Now
The International Latino Book Awards Ceremony occurred on September 9th at the Dominguez Ballroom of California State University Dominguez Hills. Over the last 19 years, the Int’l Latino Book Awards has grown to become the largest Latino literary and cultural awards in the USA.
A crowd of book lovers cheered on this year’s 233 author and publisher
honorees from across the USA and from 19 countries outside the USA. The 2017 ceremony also unveiled the new, world class medals that were given to all honorees in Recognizing the Greatness they have achieved.
Latinos in the USA will purchase $700+ million in books in both English and Spanish. The number of books by and about Latinos has risen substantially. In 1980 less than 400
books were written and published by a Latino in the USA. In 2017 that number will be between 25,000 and 30,000. The bottom line is that books targeting Latinos are a growing
segment because of the rapid growth of the market and the current gaps in relevant topics being presented.
The ceremony also featured a major salute with The National Latino Trail Blazer Awards for Charlie Ericksen, co-founder of Hispanic Link; Mimi Lozano, founder of Somos Primos; Ambassador Julian Nava; and former Secretary of Labor, Supervisor Hilda Solis. Edward James Olmos, Rick Najera, and Katherine A. Díaz were this year’s emcees. The Awards also featured musical performances by Suni Paz and Georgette Baker. This list of winning books makes a great Christmas shopping list: a kid’s book for this child; a good mystery for that friend, this nonfiction book for that student headed off
to college, etc. With all the categories we have, there’s at least one perfect book for everyone.
The 2017 Int’l Latino Book Awards are another reflection of the growing quality of books by and about Latinos. In order to handle this large number of books, the Awards had 196
judges, triple the number from 2013. The judges raved about the quality of the entries. The Award sponsors included California State University Dominguez Hills as a Gold Sponsor; The California State University System, Entravision, Latino 247 Media Group, and Libros Publishing as Silver Sponsors and the American Association of Latino Engineers and Scientists, El Aviso, the Los Angeles Community College District, LA Plaza de Cutura y Artes, and Scholastic Books as Bronze Sponsors. Award partners include Las Comadres de las Americas, REFORMA, and Mi Libro Hispano.
Latino Literacy Now, is a nonprofit co-founded in 1997 by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler that has five types of programs:
Latino Book & Family Festivals around the USA: we’ve held 63 Festivals attended by a combined 900,000+ people; Awards which also include the Latino Books into Movies Awards; Education programs like Empowering Students and Education Begins in the Home; Membership programs like the Int’l Society of Latino Authors (www.ISLA.news) and the Empowering Speakers Bureau; and Content programs
like Latino Reads video show plus other online efforts. More about the Awards can be found at http://www.Award.news, and the 2018 entry form is now available.
Amazingly, sales of books by past ILBA winning authors have totaled more than 200 million copies! Winners have included many of the best-known Latino authors including
Belinda Acosta, Rodolfo Anaya, Alma Flor Ada, Ron Arias, José Antonio Burciaga, F. Isabel Campoy, Denise Chavéz, Paulo Coelho, Dr. Camilo Cruz, Junot Díaz, Gabriel García Márquez, Reyna Grande, Juan Felipe Herrera, Oscar Hijuelos, Mario Vargas Llosa, Josefina López, Pablo Neruda, Ana Nogales, Jose-Luis Orozco, Luis Rodriguez, Don Miguel Ruiz, Alisa Valdes, and Victor Villaseñor. Winners have also included well-known figures from other professions including Entertainers like Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan, Shelia E, Cheech Marin, Rick Najera, Jenni Rivera, Linda Ronstadt, and Carlos Santana; Sports notables Pedro Guerrero, Oscar de la Hoya and Jorge Posada; Media figures like Martín Llorens, Jorge Ramos, Teresa Rodriguez, and Ray Suarez; Public servants like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Henry Cisneros; and Chefs like Paulina Abascal, Jose Garces, Pati Jinich, and Daisy
Martinez.
ABOUT ELEANOR:
ellie

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 Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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Author Interview: Yadhira Gonzalez-Taylor

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the great pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today I’m very pleased to welcome fellow Puerto Rican writer, Yadhira Gonzalez, who celebrates a birthday today!

Yadhira Gonzalez

Yadhira Gonzalez-Taylor was born in Bronx, New York in 1973 to Puerto Rican parents. She is a graduate of the New York City public school system and also attended elementary school in Caguas, Puerto Rico. She served her country as a Military Police Officer in the US Army Reserve, assigned to the 812th MP Co., 800th MP Brigade in New York State between 1992 and 2000. 

 She received her B.S., magna cum laude and M.A., in Criminal Justice in 1999 from the City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A graduate of New York Law School, she received her J.D. in 2002. Upon graduating law school, Ms. Gonzalez-Taylor served as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County where she prosecuted economic crime cases until 2006. Her career path led to an appointment as an internal prosecutor for the NYC Police Department between 2006 and 2009. Currently, she is an administrative law judge for the NYC Department of Education. An attorney by day and a writer by night, she is inspired to write by her three daughters and her own upbringing, traveling between New York and Puerto Rico. Presently, she is working on more adventures for the Martina series and other literary projects and workshops.

Ms. Gonzalez-Taylor is published in Bronx Memoir Part I as an essay contributor. She is a member of the Full Circle Ensemble and has performed spoken word at the National Black Theater with her writing circle. She is also a contributor to the Anthology, Mujeres, the Magic, the Movement, a poetry collection written by fierce warrior women resulting from a women’s literary workshop facilitated by the poet Peggy Robles-Alvarado. The anthology book launch will be occurring soon and the book will become available within the next few weeks on Amazon.

Bienvenida, Yadhira.

Please describe what your books are about.

The published books are within the folk / fable family in children’s literature genre. Martina Finds a Shiny Coin is an offshoot of La Cucarachita Martina, an old Caribbean folktale first put to print by New York City’s first Puerto Rican Librarian, Pura Belpre. In the story, a little roach finds a coin and goes on a shopping spree. She ends up buying make up, and what follows is a journey of self-discovery, courtship, randomness, and the meaning of true love.

Martina 1

Once the first story was published, I got an idea to do a spinoff using the same character. In Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall, Martina goes on a musical journey with all her friends from the Barrio.

Martina 2

How did you come up with the titles?

Martina Finds a Shiny Coin was inspired by the main character finding the coin. This sets off La Cucarachita on her journey, not only on her shopping trip, but that of her meeting many suitors on the road to discovering her true worth. Hence, Martina Finds a Shiny Coin.

The second title, Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall, came about because the main concept of the story is the journey to a magical, wondrous waterfall that Martina and all her friends go on.

They’re lovely books. I’m saving my signed copies for future grandchildren 🙂

What inspired you to write children’s books?

As a mother, I was always tasked as the sleep time storyteller. I kept repeating the same fairy tales that were not representative of my own culture, i.e., Goldilocks, Three Little Pigs, etc. One day, my husband asked if I had any stories from Puerto Rico. Immediately I remembered La Cucarachita! The rest is history. We adapted the story with different things and interests for the main character and a new illustrated version of the story emerged.

The second book, Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall, was inspired by a trip I took with friends to a majestic waterfall in my hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico.

I tell new writers to write what they’d like to read. Looks like it worked beautifully for you and your children.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

I think my lifelong struggle with weight had a part to play in how I wrote the story. I have struggled with self-esteem, so I know what it’s like to people please or change one’s appearance to satisfy others. For example, I once had a boyfriend who criticized me every time I wore my hair in a bob. He preferred long hair, I guess. So I kept my hair long for a while just to satisfy this relationship, which eventually ended. Probably because I wasn’t being my true self. So in that way, I can relate at an intimate level with the main character. I have grown so much since then.

Today, despite all my professional and personal successes, I still struggle. And who doesn’t? It’s part of being a human being, I think. The difference now is that today, I look at myself in the mirror and I remind myself that I am made by the universe to be alive, to love, to live, to educate, to nurture, and to be of service to my fellow humans. None of those responsibilities are affected by the way I look, unless I let it, so I affirm that I am a human first and everything else is gravy.

Exactly, everyone struggles with one thing or another. When I stopped the people pleasing, a few toxic relationships ended soon afterward, which was a good/sad thing and probably inevitable. Looking back, the experience made me stronger and opened new doors.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is having the ability to purge feelings, positive and negative, into an artistic medium. I journal, write poetry,  and perform my poems (sometimes), and I write stories. It’s a form of positive escapism. If you are going to have a vice, I would say writing is a healthy one, unless you forget to bathe, then you are running into potential problems if you share space with other humans 🙂

Too funny. I live alone, so I don’t bother anyone with my late night writing sessions, but my Chihuahua complains when I leave the light on.

Yadhira, what do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Procrastination. I can write almost anything. It’s the editing that gets me stuck. I use verbal prompts, images, and writing workshops to crank up the writing. It’s what happens next that I find tedious. However, it is necessary to produce quality work that someone is going to be willing to pay for, or even trek to the library to borrow my book. I believe a writer’s success is measured by the quality of their work. It’s one of those things where word travels and reputations can hurt your ability to market yourself. Especially in the world of self-publishing.

Very true. Most writers I know have unique ways of dealing with procrastination. I show up at the writing desk every day and force myself to write, no matter what. If the writing doesn’t move me that day, I switch to doing research for the book I’m working on or reading, which usually gets me motivated and reinspired. But I remain at the writing desk.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

I am currently reading a few books on writing as I am working on editing a manuscript. This one is not a children’s story. The last book I read for fun was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. How could I not like a story written by a genius? I loved it. The sad tragic story of the main character coupled with his undying love for the love for a woman who abandoned him and his undying need to punish himself with self-destructive behavior is a reminder that sometimes we just have to let go; that love is not supposed to hurt.

Definitely one of my favorite books. Marquez was a genius and a masterful storyteller. I’m currently reading Love in the Time of Cholera in Spanish and loving it even more than the English translation.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Isabel Allende is a favorite. I love magic realism and she does it fabulously well in her books.

Another favorite. What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

I enjoy authors who show their own defects and spiritual struggles in their writing. Isabel Allende is one of those authors. She is unafraid to embrace the dysfunctions and sadness of life and it shines through in her writing.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

Writing, no. I have to adapt as an urban dweller who spends a lot of time outside. So sometimes, I write in a journal and sometimes on my laptop when I have a lunch hour to spare at work. Reading however is a different story.

I have an old winged back chair in a corner, by the large windows at the front of my home. There, I have set up a nice cotton area rug for my feet to be warmed, I’ve placed many of my (70-plus) plants in that area, and I have a space to place my coffee mug. That is where I do my best reading. It is also,where I sit to quietly meditate and read the paper on Sunday mornings.

Yadhira reading nook

Looks like a great place to read. I think everyone should have a sacred space in the home.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I once ran after a moving tractor-trailer truck. I was about 20, crazy, and still in the Army. I still had a lot of recklessness in me. The truck hit my mom’s car and kept going, but we were in heavy traffic so the truck wasn’t going that fast. I ran after it, climbed on the step and banged on the window to make the driver stop. Looking back now I realize it wasn’t very good idea.

Wow, the hit and run driver must have been shocked to see you on his truck! Now, I want to know the ending of that story.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

The writing process reminds me of my propensity for procrastination, the writer’s worst enemy. It’s easier for me to create content than it is to edit and re-write. I struggle with that issue. I try to carve out time. However, writing though my passion, is not my full time employment, so I have to squeeze in writing and editing time when I can.

I learned a lot during the self-publishing process. I tried traditional agents and publishing houses, but I was unsuccessful. I had to do all the work myself. I hired illustrators, editors (of all stages), even the guy who produced the trailer for my first book. So I became well versed in the lingo of the industry, which I believe adds to my credibility as a self-published author. Many people out there are discovering createspace or other self-publishing platforms. They are buying ISBNs or using the createspace ISBN, and putting work out there that is not edited by anyone. Oftentimes, the first draft is published and we, self-published authors, have to compete against the presumption that self-published is of a lesser quality than a traditionally published book.

To your last comment, that’s a common complaint among self-published authors. Self-publishing is a lot of work!

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

Both stories involve a journey of self-discovery. There is also the underlying theme of self-reflection and personal improvement woven within the story. It is never too late to change your perspective. A positive perspective in any situation can lead to positive changes and therefore, genuine happiness.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market your books?

I was blessed to meet so many people because of writing the first book. When I first published Martina Finds a Shiny Coin, I participated in the Brooklyn Book Fair. It was there that I met Maria Aponte, a fellow author, who is very involved in the Latino writing community. She was my shiny coin! After meeting her, I met countless others that shared the same desire to produce quality written content as well as people willing to share resources and information and that is how a natural marketing process began. Today I have so many new friends, including you, Eleanor, whom I have met through my adventurous development as a writer.

Maria is a shiny coin! I was very happy to finally meet you, Maria Aponte, Bobby Gonzalez, Theresa Varela, and Manuel Melendez at the Comite Noviembre Puerto Rican Author Book Expo last year. It’s a great Boricua event, and I hope to participate again this year. My son lives in NYC, so it’s looking good.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped in the writing or marketing of your books?

I stay away from paying Facebook for ads. I don’t have an exuberant budget and I found that the amount of money I was paying for highlighting my main character’s Facebook posts was not paying a dividend.

I’ve thought about Facebook ads, and heard the same feedback from many authors. I find book blasts, book tours, and Thunderclap campaigns are good ways to introduce new books.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to be published?

Editing is an important part that cannot be skipped or minimized. I am not going to buy any subsequent books you publish if your first one is riddled with errors. Editing, editing, and more editing is the bulk of our writing. Also, don’t go straight to self-publishing. Try the traditional way first. Publishing houses have far more resources than an indie author could ever dream of having. You’ll still have to market yourself as an author, writer, etc., but you will have more support in the background.

I completely agree with you on editing and trying for traditional publishing. I recommend checking out smaller publishing houses; that’s how I got my foot in the publishing door.

Website and social media links?

You can follow me on twitter @gothamesq

Martina has her own Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/martinafindsashinycoin/

And my author page can be found on the net at: www.ygtbooks.net

Where can we find your books?

You can find both titles on Amazon.com and of course, directly from me by emailing ygonzaleztaylor@yahoo.com. I can mail a signed copy right to reader’s doors, or to their gift recipient’s door.

What’s next for you?

I am attending workshops to hone my craft as well as writing and reading as much as I can. I am hoping to finish editing a manuscript and will begin the process of finding agents to represent me in that endeavor.

Yadhira G

I just love this photograph of you! This is the happiest way to end a great interview. Best of luck on your writing journey, Yadhira. I look forward to the release of the anthology.

About Eleanor:

ellie

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 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.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Kelly Bennett Seiler

Welcome to Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. Today I’m pleased to welcome Kelley Bennett Seiler, writer of Contemporary Women’s Fiction.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, won’t you please show us some love by clicking ‘Like’ at the end of the interview? Thank you in advance!

Kelly Bennett Seiler is the author of The Plan and Shifting Time.  A former high school English teacher and school counselor, she has written articles for such websites as eHow and Livestrong, in addition to creating questions for nationally standardized exams. She’s been featured by Woman’s Day magazine, NPR and PBS and was on the cover of Military Spouse magazine. Kelly has edited numerous books, including a New York Times bestseller. She received both her Bachelor’s degree and her Master’s degree in English from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. A native of New Jersey, Kelly currently lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three children.

kelly-seiler

Welcome, Kelly!

What is your book’s genre?

I believe the ‘official’ category is “Contempory Woman’s Fiction.”

Kelly Seiler book.jpg

Please describe what The Plan is about.

Claire Matthews’ entire world shatters into a million pieces the night she’s the only survivor of a brutal car that claims the lives of her husband and three children.  Irishman Callum Fitzgerald, a tri-lateral amputee, has built a life and a career around encouraging others to find a purpose for their pain, with the reassurance there’s always a greater plan. Claire and Callum – two individuals with seemingly little in common – yet, their lives will unexpectedly converge, thus beginning a love story so profound and enduring, it could turn the darkest tragedies into spectacular triumphs.  

How did you come up with the title

It was the easiest of my titles to decide upon.  The entire book is about how there is a larger plan for one’s life – one we, very likely, will not see or understand as it is unfolding.  The Plan was the natural title choice for this book.

Kelly, what inspired you to write this book? 

This book began as a screenplay.  My agent signed me based on that screenplay, with the agreement I’d turn it into a book.  So, although it is my second novel, THE PLAN is actually the beginning of my writing journey.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I enjoy “having written,” but not necessarily the process of writing.  I’m proud of myself once I have written during the day, however, forcing myself to actually sit and write is often a struggle.  I am easily distracted.  Having said that, once I begin writing, I get lost in the work and the story and I find it to be therapeutic.

I feel the same way about distractions and getting lost in the story once I’m writing. Does your main character resemble you?  If so, in what ways?

Claire is similar to me in that she is a wife and a mom of three children.  The struggles she encounters, however, are well beyond anything I have ever had to experience.  I hope I could say I’m as strong as she is, but I don’t think any of us would know what kind of strength we have until we are faced with such huge adversity.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing? 

As I mentioned earlier, sitting and actually writing is my greatest challenge.  I am easily distracted – by the dishes, the laundry, the TV, my kids, etc.  Once I’m writing, I’m good to go, but getting myself seated in that chair is always quite an accomplishment in and of itself. 

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it? 

The last book I read was “Mrs. Perregrine’s  Home for Peculiar Children.”  I read it with my children.  I enjoyed it, though, not quite as much as I’d hoped – that might be because my kids complained a lot during the reading!  I’m excited to see the movie, though!

The movie is on my list! Who are some of your favorite authors?

Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Jennifer Weiner

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why? 

Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.”  I believe that’s true, and along those same lines, each book you read is bound to influence you and your writing in some way – be it for the better or not.  Many books I read introduce me to new concepts and ideas and even vocabulary.  Some just remind me of what I do not want to do as a writer!  Thus, I wouldn’t say there is one particular author, but all the authors I’ve read ‘as a whole’ are the ones who have influenced me. 

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read? 

I tend to “read” by audiobook, thus that occurs a great deal while I’m driving.  As for writing, I write in a variety of places – my home office, Starbucks, Panera – but my favorite (and most productive) place is the local community college library because it is so much more quiet in there than in a restaurant or even the public library.

Kelly, tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know

I was on the synchronized swim team in college.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process? 

The greatest surprise for me, during the writing process, was that I am capable of writing a 450-page novel in six months!  I would have never thought I could accomplish such a task, but when Simon and Schuster gives you a deadline, you meet it!  Regarding publishing, I was surprised that, though the book may have only taken me six months to write, it then could take over two years to get into print!

kelly-seiler-book

What do you hope readers will gain from your book

I hope the readers will gain actual hope.  THE PLAN is a story with great sadness, but it is also a story about how there is a purpose to the pain we experience in life, though we might not be able to see it as we are trudging through it.

I agree. Pain can be a great teacher. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I networked!  I rarely ever lose touch with the people I meet.  Many of my book sales came from friends and acquaintances and their friends and their acquaintances.  I also used social media to the greatest extent to publicize my novels.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped

I have passed out fliers to some of my book signings in the past and I don’t believe I ever really got very many guests based on those notices.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published? 

I wrote an article for The Muse that might come in handy for aspiring writers.  It’s called “How I Networked my Way to a Book Deal.”  https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-i-networked-my-way-to-a-book-deal

Thanks for sharing your great tips with us. Website and social media links?

www.kellybennettseiler.com; @kbennettseiler  (Twitter); Kelly Bennett Seiler (Facebook)

Where can we find your book? 

Hopefully, wherever books are sold!   Specifically, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Walmart.  Also, many public libraries and local independent bookstores have it.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on the screenplay for my first novel, Shifting Time, and working on a new adult novel.

Thank you for chatting with me, Kelly. I wish you all the best with your books and screenplays!

About Eleanor:

ellie

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 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.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

Two Gateways to the Garden of Creativity

My friend Beth G. Raps, Ph.D. is a linguist, mother, fundraiser, moneycoach, and philosopher, as well as a writer, editor and French translator. We share many common interests, and most of our conversations revolve around a gentle, kinder life, and about writing and creativity.

After a recent email exchange, I invited Beth to write a guest post on writing and creativity. My reply (which she encouraged me to share) to Beth’s inspiring piece is at the end of the post. I am very pleased to share my creative friend’s widsom with you, dear readers.

Dear Ellie,

The invitation you’ve given me to write for your blog is so sacred. I’m really into structure! And having to work within the structure of a single post–on someone else’s blog, where no one knows me–is especially enticing. I think a lot of writers secretly love structure, even though nowadays it’s not as popular as its complement, freedom. For me these are two gateways to the garden. If one gateway gets overused, its as if it got stuck in the “on” or the open position…the garden suffers.

This letter to you is about my love of taking “the gateway less traveled,” to paraphrase Robert Frost, the one less often opened nowadays–structure. I like structure so much I’m writing a whole book about it!  I see structure as an opening to creativity and more: manifestation. That’s an area in which I work with some of my coaching clients and even my consulting clients when they let me! If it’s appropriate, you can send people to find out more at this link: www.raisingclarity.com

My “Structure Book” (what is it about titles? I’m one of those writers who gives them at the end, not the start of a manuscript; right now I have five different titles) is in manuscript. It’s being read by a dear friend and I’m ready to see how it lands with others if anyone’s interested!

In it, at one point, I draw on the history of the mnemonic arts by Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory, especially her chapter on the classical memory art taught Cicero. Cicero said if you wanted to remember a speech, you created a house for it that was unusual, and then created rooms in your house for each major part of your speech, then placed unusual objects (like sculptures in wall niches) in the rooms that reminded you of the things you wanted to be sure to say in each part of your speech. To help you remember your whole speech, you enter the house, and go room by room to stand before each room’s unusual objects.

The ancient memory arts gave me permission to make even thinking about my writing important enough to set aside time and space for.
For me, thinking is tantamount to writing: once I’m in my set-aside time and space, I begin thinking. And then my fingers start to itch to write. What I write may be drivel! But I know I am putting in the time I need to on my writing.

You can see how natural it was for me, when you invited me to write, and because it was so sacred, to respond that that I would meditate on the subject of my post before getting back to you.  And then, in the magical way that life’s microcosms are a fractal of its macrocosm, I realized that the act of setting aside time to meditate on a piece of writing was probably more unusual, and more useful, to your readers than anything else I could write about.

Let me anticipate some readers’ response, and add that one of the best reasons to set aside time is what you may fear the most: having nothing come from your fingers once your set-aside time begins.

I’m sure many of us have read Writing Down the Bones: Natalie Goldberg’s advice in the event of “nothing to write” is simply to write anyway–write nonsense, keep the arm and fingers moving. Similarly, once you are in the time and space you’ve set aside, you are in the garden. If you keep faith with it, it will keep faith with you. The act of entering a creative space is itself creative.

Being present in our creative space just means showing up, committed but not always clear. The most glamorous garden activities are the most visible ones: planting seeds, or flowering, or fruiting or harvesting. We don’t always have to be in glamour mode. In our garden, we can weed or water or compost or simply contemplate what we’ve done thus far, our garden in its present state. We can noodle around or research or plan or meditate. We can read something inspiring or juicy or controversial to us, and free-write in response to it. We can take a bath (why can’t the garden have a bathtub in it?) and contemplate the back story of our main character. Or a minor character we find interesting. We can make ourselves a special treat in the kitchen, taking our time and dedicate it and the enjoyment of our treat to the fruition of our short story. We can go to a museum or a cathedral and walk around and think about the relationship of what we’re seeing to our essay or history.  We can re-read our last draft from start to finish as my favorite book on writing, Walter Mosley’s This Year You Write Your Novel, says is when the real work begins, and we understand what we’ve created in an entirely new way.

I have lots more specific ideas but I’d love to hear what other readers of your blog think about and do with this idea!

Thanks again for inviting, Ellie!

–Beth

My response to Beth:

Dear Beth,

I’m very pleased to share your wonderful, insightful piece! I found myself nodding and smiling as I read along. Thanks for accepting my invitation; it’s an honor to share your wise words.

After reaching 57, 467 words with my work in progress, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, I couldn’t decide on an ending. My characters were doing things I hadn’t expected, so I stopped writing to sit with the story. I also watched movies, puttered around the house, painted a few pieces of furniture, and bought two books for further research.

As much as I’d like to put out one book a year, I must remain patient with the story, the characters, and with myself. I listen to my gut and spirit, and try not to fall prey  to kind and generous cries of, “We are ready for your next book.” I wasn’t ready.

Last night, the ending came to me, and how the entire story and characters fit together! How important it is to sit with our characters and the pasts we’ve created for them in order to know and understand what their next moves might be. My job is to listen, write, and not rush the characters and story along. And I agree with you: what I do in between is also important and necessary to the creative process.

I love my new story, I’m happy with the ending, and now, it’s time to think about structure, while remembering that the story is still baking until I write, ‘The End’. Even then, I allow myself time to think and honor my ability to edit and rewrite, just as I did for 25 years as a painter. When is a painting, a story ready to be shared with the world? When my gut tells me it’s time.

All the best with your book, Beth!  Thanks again. Off to write.

–Ellie

About Beth:

beth-raps-photo

Beth G. Raps, Ph.D. is a linguist, mother, fundraiser, moneycoach, and philosopher, as well as a writer, editor and French translator.  She blogs at:

http://www.raisingclarity.com/blog/

https://bethrapsblog.wordpress.com/blog/

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/rapsraps

About Eleanor:

ellie

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.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com