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

 

 

Advertisements

Author Interview: Rev. Judith Laxer

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.

judith_authorphoto_portrait_websmall

Welcome back to The Writing Life, Judith!

Book Cover (1)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

www.judithlaxer.com, www.gaiastemple.org 

Twitter: @judithlaxer

Facebook: Judith Laxer and Rev. Judith Laxer

Book Cover (1)

Where can we find your book?

AMAZON US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HC4OEIA

BARNES & NOBLE: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/along-the-wheel-of-time-rev-judith-laxer/1123953263;jsessionid=DD1A8CE26242A839A39FF219CF064AC0.prodny_store02-atgap10?ean=2940153239224

KOBO: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/along-the-wheel-of-time-sacred-stories-for-nature-lovers

GOOGLE PLAY: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Rev_Judith_Laxer_Along_the_Wheel_of_Time?id=WVtuDAAAQBAJ&hl=en

iBOOKS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1125895996 

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.

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

Author Interview: William Galaini

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog. I am very pleased to welcome William Galaini, author of Trampling in the Land of Woe. It turns out we share the same editor and publisher, Ally Bishop at Scarlet River Press. I am happy to finally chat with William about writing, publishing, and his book.

Bio:

Everything is now Twitter. My bio will be 140. Vet, married, bonkers son, four cats, crushing insecurity. Out of room to explain myself. Sad.

Welcome, William!

galaini

What is your book’s genre?

Hmmm… historical neoclassical fantasy literature? With romance. And even a bromance.

galaini-book-cover

Please describe what Trampling in the Land of Woe is about.

Book blurb – As World War I rages on Earth, Hephaestion, lauded general and soul mate of Alexander the Great—and now a citizen of Purgatory—embarks on the darkest, most challenging journey of his existence: descending into The Pit of Hell to rescue his king. Chased by Hellbeasts, hunted by Jesuits, and aided by unexpected allies, Hephaestion tests the bounds of loyalty, dedication, and even death as he faces the greatest demon of all: himself. A blend of steampunk and Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Trampling in the Land of Woe drives through the cobblestoned streets of New Dis, soars above The Pit in airships, and then stumbles down into the terror-ridden rings themselves. Steam-powered trains, zeppelins, and ornithopters zoom by in a mash-up of literary proportions, all to answer one question: What will one man do to understand the meaning of love and truth?

Envision a steam-punk Dante’s Inferno for the setting. In that setting, Hephaestion breaks into Hell in an effort to rescue his lover and king, Alexander the Great. Throughout his journey he encounters various historical figures and personalities that either aid or hinder his efforts. This all occurs while the first World War occurs on the surface of Earth, so we have dirigibles, paddleboats, cannons, and locomotives.

Sounds like an intriguing read. How did you come up with the title?

Milton’s Paradise Lost has several passages that refer to Hell as a land of woe. The thought of an ancient Greek cavalry general like Hephaestion kicking in Hell’s door to descend its rings of torment brought the verb ‘trampling’ to mind.

What inspired you to write this book?

….. okay this might be embarrassing. A DND session. Well, technically the gaming system we used is called Savage Worlds. This system lets you establish the setting in any way you like, so I build the setting of Dante’s Hell in 1910 so that my players had trains to ride and zeppelins to fly. So my gaming group and I used my setting as a narrative playground for about a year. From that, I plucked story elements, conflicts, and plots that captivated everyone the most. Trampling is the first novel from this.

While the specific characters we played don’t make a showing in the novels, many of their challenges do.

I had to look up ‘DND session’–Dungeons & Dragons. I can see real merit (and fun) in the creative sessions you and your gaming buddies enjoy; especially for writers of fantasy, dystopian, and steam punk stories.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Being done. At least, being done before the next round of edits and revisions. At that moment you feel the marvelous sensation of growing power and overcoming adversity.

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

Not really. Hephaestion is a handsome, capable man driven by principals. He is patient, temperate, and focused. I am NONE of those things.

I will confess that Hephaestion’s caretaker, a German from Purgatory with bad gambling habits named Yitzhak, is exactly like me. His sarcasm, observations, and reckless idealism causes all kinds of trouble but also often saves the day.

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

I likely have a different answer for this question each time I’m asked, so here is my current one: patience. I can pound out a novel once a year and that includes six to seven months of research. Granted, I’ve got eleven novels planned out and I spend years outlining them, but once I’ve finished my first draft my patience VANISHES. I become impatient with my cover artists, my editors, my layout artist, and my publisher. I do my best to contain this tiny, embarrassing monster of mine, but sometimes my editors or artists will get a rambling voicemail message that entails a combination of my raging impatience and my apologies regarding such.

I’m impatient with the team that makes a book happen because I’m ignorant of what they have to do to make my book a reality. This childishness embarrasses me.

I appreciate the candid answer, William. I remember growing impatient with my first book until I discovered what each of the team member’s important projects entailed on the road to publication. Thank God I listened to my gut, my editor, and that we didn’t rush to publish; it would have been a disaster.

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

Enemy at the Gates. It was about the siege of Stalingrad. I was engrossed in it for both its detail and humanity. I had chosen the book to read for research for an upcoming novel that involves a city under siege. Just before Enemy at the Gates, I had read The 900 Days, which was equally haunting.

My next book will be fun. I’ve got my eye on Ready Player One. I hear it is a good read.

My writing mentor recommended the film version of Enemy of the Gates for dealing three alternating POVs; it’s a super film. I just ordered the book.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’m a fan of books, but some of my favorites are written by Ken Follett, M.M. Kaye, Isaac Asimov, and I love Milton and Pope’s prose.

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

Mom. Yeah, it is cliché but completely true. Mom had me reading science fiction like I, Robot and Rama as a kid and I gobbled it up wholesale. My stepmother, Mutti was also a huge reader and she got me into contemporary works like Terminal Man and some John Grisham.

My wife also. She is always there next to me in the car or the kitchen when I’ve got an idea. She is the first barrier all ideas and character elements have to pass through in order to make it to the page. Ginger actually doesn’t read my books because, frankly, she just doesn’t have to. She watched me mix the thing and bake it in the oven. No need to taste it to know it is good.

How nice to have that instant feedback. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

We have a couch that is actually long enough for me to splay myself out on. I look like I’m ready for Jack to paint me like one of his French girls. That is the BEST place to get my read on. 

As for writing, I just need a proper keyboard, a chair, and either headphones or silence.

Okay, now I won’t be able to get through that scene in Titanic without thinking of you sprawled out on the couch, waiting for Jack. Too funny. Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m not as insecure as I profess to be.

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

I learned a lot of self-acceptance in writing. There are no mistakes to be made in writing. You literally will not do anything wrong when you write…

…until you publish. Publishing is where mistakes are made, not the writing. Publishing too early or without revising properly are both brutal mistakes that I have paid for.

Do not be impatient when publishing. Allow the various stages of double-checks to occur. The hindrances you face in publishing your book will make it more refined.

Couldn’t agree more. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

Meaning and fun. I explore heart-break and deeper themes via the proxy of adventure. I hope that, on the surface, the reader is satisfied with a good time but upon reflection, they ask themselves the questions that motivated the story.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I didn’t stop.

What didn’t work?

Awesome question. Well, a number of things. First off, I had a preconception of the book being a lone journey and I kept trying to force it into that mold. My dev editor, Ally Bishop, wisely aimed me toward focusing not on character in the narrative, but on relationships. This brought a close friendship between Yitzhak and Hephaestion and through that relationship a lot of the story’s themes and conflicts became far more vivid and engaging.

Secondly, I had a hard time finding the rhythm of my syntax. I still struggle with it now, but it took a lot of proof editors to help me polish it.

Ally is the real deal. She encouraged me to change the original ending of my book, smart lady. Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

There are no mistakes in writing, only in publishing. That is my axiom.

galaini-book-cover

Website and social media links?

Williamgalaini.com

@wgalaini on Twitter

https://www.facebook.com/WilliamLjGalaini/

Where can we find your book?

My, so glad you asked! Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and ask for it at your local library.

https://www.amazon.com/Trampling-Land-Patron-Saints-Hell/dp/0996926208/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485893782&sr=8-1&keywords=trampling+in+the+land+of+woe

What’s next for you, William?

Part two for Trampling is already done and it is awesome. Boudica is the main character in the sequel. I’ve just started part three!

Great interview, William. Thanks for chatting with me. Best of luck with your books!

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

 

 

 

Author Interview: Barbara Eppich Struna

Welcome to The Writing Life blog! Today, we are celebrating our third blog anniversary, and to help us celebrate is Barbara Eppich Struna, who was my first guest author in 2015. That seems like eons ago, and I’m happy to say that the Tuesday Author Interview series is still going strong. We have a wonderful line up of talented authors for 2017, who will chat with me about books, writing, publishing, editing, marketing books, and publishing. I hope you’ll join us each Tuesday. Thank you for your support!

struna-author-photo

A storyteller at heart, Barbara Eppich Struna lives on Cape Cod with her family in an old 1880 house where her imagination is constantly inspired by the history that surrounds her. She is the published author of two historical novels, The Old Cape House – “First Place – Historical Fiction, Royal Dragonfly Awards 2014”, and The Old Cape Teapot.

Struna is an International Best Selling Author, a Member in Letters of the National League of American Pen Women, International Thriller Writers, Sisters In Crime, and President of Cape Cod Writers Center. Always a journal writer, she is fascinated by history and writes a blog about the unique facts and myths of Cape Cod.

Welcome back to The Writing Life, Barbara!

What is your book’s genre?

Suspenseful Historical Fiction

struna-cover

Barbara, please describe what The Old Cape House is about.

Nancy Caldwell relocates to an old sea captain’s house on Cape Cod with her husband and four children. When she discovers an abandoned root cellar in her backyard containing a baby’s skull and gold coins, she digs up evidence that links her land to the legendary tale of Maria Hallett and her pirate lover, Sam Bellamy. Using alternating chapters between the 18th and 21st centuries, The Old Cape House, a historical fiction, follows two women that are lifetimes apart, to uncover a mystery that has had the old salts of Cape Cod guessing for 300 years.

How did you come up with the title?

My husband and I, along with our children, live in an old 1880 house on Cape Cod similar to the house in the story. In fact, it is the house pictured on the book cover.

What inspired you to write this book?

I always wanted to write a story about our old house and its history. I knew from my research that it held many secrets. When a connection finally sparked in my head between our house and the 18th century Cape Cod legend of Sam Bellamy, his lover Maria Hallett, and the pirate ship Whydah, I knew I had to write The Old Cape House. Besides I’ve always maintained a philosophy in life of,  ‘It could happen….” and “What if….”

Of course, I never found what my contemporary character discovered but I did uncover several surprises.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Crafting the plot, and if I discover any missing facts or holes in the history within the story, after months or years of research, that’s where I make it up and fictionalize. I love to tell a good story.

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

My contemporary main character resembles my life and thoughts about 50% through the storyline. The character experiences some of my adventures and choices. She takes chances as often as I do.

For example:

Did I move across the country with my children into an old 1880 house at forty years old? Yes.

Was I a stay–at-home mother of five children? Yes.

Did my husband/artist support us through his artwork? Yes. I was the business manager/agent for his career.

Did I unearth a surprise in my backyard like my character? Yes, under 10 inches of dirt.

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

Making sure the reader wants to turn the page.

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

To be honest, it’s been a while since I have had the time to finish reading someone else’s book. When I’m engrossed in writing, and I’m on Book #4, I’m too tired to read extra. Plus my research takes up a lot of time. But I do love the whole process of writing a book. In the new year of 2017, I plan to read more.

I find it difficult to read for pleasure when I’m writing, as well. Who are some of your favorite authors?

I enjoyed reading William Martin’s Cape Cod and Back Bay. I love the technique of alternating chapters between centuries, which he does so well.

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

My mother always encouraged me to follow my dreams and my husband, a full time/self-supporting artist, who never gave up on his goals.

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

I write in the parlor of our old house in front of a large bay window and always listen to instrumental music, usually movie soundtracks. Because all of my children are grown and on their own and my husband works in his art studio, I can play my music without interruption. I have to set the timer on my phone to 45 minutes; otherwise I’d sit at the computer all day, lost in the story.

struna_beach

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

Whenever I’m driving on the road and I see a garbage bag on the side, I always think there’s a dead body or treasure inside.

I’ll admit my mind goes there, as well. Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I knew there would be numerous drafts and editing but did not expect the lengthy time involved as the MS moved through editors, proofreaders, and beta readers.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

An appreciation for a good story that is simply told and the need to keep turning the page. 

Looking back, Barbara, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I think the best thing that happened to me was that a publisher picked up my book and guided me through the preparation and publishing of my first and second novel. I also paid attention and educated myself about the many confusing ins and outs of the process. My third book, coming in 2017, will be self-published because my publisher closed. It has turned out to be very challenging but with my background knowledge in place, I know it will be a success.

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

Querying too early and thinking the MS was finished. I was rejected 55 times before I re–wrote the MS based on the comments in the rejections and finally received a contract.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Edit, edit and edit. Find at least 10 beta readers that include, some family, friends, but mostly readers who are merely acquaintances.

Great advice. Website and social media links?

barbarastruna.blogspot.com  Blog

https://www.facebook.com/strunabooks/  B.E.Struna Books

@GoodyStruna  twitter

struna-cover

Where can we find your book?

Amazon

Barnes& Noble

Ibooks

www.Struna galleries.com

What’s next for you?

As I mentioned before, my third novel in The Old Cape Series will be out in June 2017, The Old Cape Hollywood Secret.

Currently I’m writing the fourth in the series.

Thanks for visiting us again at The Writing Life, Barbara. I wish you the very best with your series. Happy writing.

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 Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

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

 

 

 

Author Interview: Caroline Allen

Welcome to our first author interview of 2017! Here at The Writing Life blog, I have the great pleasure of chatting with authors across genres every Tuesday. Today, I’m happy to chat with talented artist and award-winning author, Caroline Allen.

caroline-allen-pic

Caroline Allen is the author of EARTH and AIR, part of the 5-book Elemental Journey Series. Both novels were published in 2015 by Booktrope Editions of Seattle. Each won Independent Publisher awards soon after publication, a gold medal for regional fiction for EARTH, and a silver medal for visionary fiction for AIR. Prior to becoming a fiction writer, she worked as a journalist all over the world, as a reporter and editor in Tokyo, London and Seattle, and as a travel writer throughout SE Asia. She now lives in rural Oregon and is a book coach and a visual artist.

Welcome, Caroline!

What are your book’s genres?

Literary, visionary fiction.

Please describe what your books are about.

I’m writing a series of five books, The Elemental Journey Series, which includes EARTH, AIR, FIRE, WATER, and ETHER.

EARTH and AIR were published by Seattle’s Booktrope Editions in 2015. I’m currently at work on the third novel. All five books follow one protagonist on a hero’s journey around the globe as she finds herself in a world rocked by climate change and growing chaos. What does a person’s journey look like in such an unstable world? Is there a greater spiritual call to be answered by each person in a world on the edge?

Caroline Allen Earth.jpg

EARTH looks at our protagonist as she is rooted in place, in the rural farmland of her ancestors. Pearl Swinton, the protagonist, has mystical visions. She wants nothing to do with these visions, her family and teachers think she’s crazy. She can find nowhere where she “fits.” When she hears her aunt in another town has the same “curse”, she goes on a bicycle journey to find her. In the end, she learns she must uproot from this rural bedrock of tradition and forge a new path for herself.

Caroline Allen Air.jpg

In AIR, Pearl lands in Tokyo, where she hopes to float above the culture and find perspective. She meets a Japanese missionary who makes himself homeless, in his despair over his brother’s death in a culture that overworks its people. As he lives beneath a bridge folding origami cranes, he tells Pearl he is now homeless, just as she has made herself in leaving her rural American hometown. What are the uses of disconnection? He asks her: Where truly is home? He urges her to study her visions to find her purpose and help the world.

You ask great life questions. How did you come up with the titles?

I was a short story writer, living in Washington state, more than a decade ago now. I was sleeping in Seattle when I awoke from a dream and sat up, and I was “given” the message that my short stories would fit together into a novel, and there would be a series, EARTH (connection to our place of birth), AIR (leaving our traditions and floating above the culture), FIRE (the burning of the ego in London), WATER (personal healing in the Pacific Northwest), and ETHER (being of spiritual service to others).

I was “given” the general story for each book. The task after the dream, of course, is developing the characters, writing all of the plot twists, revising and editing and getting the books to market. It’s a lifetime task.   

Fascinating. What inspired you to write this series?

I was an international journalist for a decade, working in newsrooms in Tokyo and London. I was at the London dailies when I had a huge spiritual opening. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I was able to read everyone’s mind, no, more than that, I could see the bigger truths affecting them. It hit me all at once, and was extremely overwhelming. I moved back to the States as part of the process of figuring out what was going on with me. When I finally integrated this side of myself by doing metaphysical healing work in Seattle for years, I was inspired to include “visions” in the novels. What if there was a character who all of her life had spiritual visions? How would everyone react? What purpose would her visions ultimately fulfill?

My path in understanding my visionary side inspired me to write all five books.

I look forward to reading your books, Caroline! What is your favorite part of writing?

When I created Usui, the Japanese missionary, in AIR, I fully and completely fictionalized him. My books are semi-autobiographical in that sometimes a scene or a place or a character is based on either real life, or an amalgamation of different lives. But Usui was totally fictionalized. And I fell in love with him. I’m still in love with him. He is like the greatest love of my life. I dream of him, and talk to him and feel his presence. He’s depressive and weak and shy, but also so spiritually evolved. It’s just this love. I cannot explain it any other way.

His spirit has come back in FIRE, the novel I’m writing now, and he shows up and speaks every once in a while to my protagonist. My favorite part of writing is this falling in love. It’s as real as any love I’ve ever known.

What’s really exciting is that apparently I’m not the only one who fell in love with him. A Massachusetts artist fell for Usui too, did a painting of a scene in the novel where Usui is folding origami cranes beneath a foot bridge as a homeless person. The painting was accepted into a major juried show called Alienation in the fall of 2016.

The character Usui is intriguing as I practice Usui Reiki. The strong connection most authors have to their character(s) is quite fascinating. It happens to me, as well.

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

Pearl Elizabeth Swinton is a semi-autobiographical version of me. Like me, she grew up on a subsistence farm in Missouri, flew to Tokyo to live and work, traveled through SE Asia, lived in London and ended up in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike me, she has had visions since she hit puberty, and this fact in itself changed how closely the story could follow my life. Pearl is much more excitable than I ever was, much more dramatic, and much less intellectual.

As she travels the world, she meets many characters who do not exist in real life, people I never met.

I’m a book coach, as well, helping people all over the world write novels and memoir. Just this morning, I was speaking to a fiction client about how important it is to disconnect from thinking the protagonist is you. You need the freedom to truly create a work of art. I have been able to see Pearl as separate from me, even though sometimes our paths run side-by-side.

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

Writing envelopes me. It swallows me. It takes me over like a whirlwind romance. I have to figure out a way to go into that phase and to come out of it, or, as has happened in the past, I look up and it’s the first of the month and I didn’t make enough money to pay the bills.

There were bigger challenges in the beginning of my fiction-writing life. When I gave up journalism, I couldn’t seem to get into the next phase of creative writing. I wasn’t writing. Anything. I was so shut down and didn’t know why. I came to a dangerous edge in my life. In therapy, a counselor told me, “You need to write every day. Every single day.”

I burst out sobbing. “I can’t. I can’t.” I just kept repeating those two words. “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t,” wailing into my hands.

“Why?” she asked again and again.

“The monsters will come out. If I open that door, the monsters will get loose.”

She sat pondering, while I rocked on the sofa.

She didn’t even ask me to explain the monsters. I would’ve had no words for what I meant. Instead, she said: “OK, you like to build things, right? Here’s the plan. Go home and build a cage. Put it beneath your writing desk. Keep the monsters in the cage. You’ll need them for writing, so open the cage every morning to start your writing session, let them out, write, then put them back in and close the cage door. Can you do that?”

I looked up, sniffed, and nodded. For some reason, I loved the idea.

I built the cage. It sat under my desk for 13 years.

I understand the need of a visual and even a literal cage when dealing with monsters after a creative period. Artists and writers need their dark sides, as they are part of the whole.

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

Incarnations by Susan Barker. Loved it. Written by a British author, well-researched and beautifully written. It deals with the past lives of a Chinese taxi driver. I dig past lives and think the whole subject is rich fodder for fiction.

Caroline, who are some of your favorite authors?

Mostly my favorite writers are poets. Mary Oliver and Adrienne Rich top the list. Women who live their lives with integrity, outside the mainstream, who speak with poetry and love about their lives.

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

Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills and The Unconsoled were profoundly strong influences on me. He plays with time in both books, where forward is backward and now is then and people exist and do not exist, and he writes about these subjects within a well-told plotted story. This appeals deeply to my metaphysical side. I do not think life is linear, and an understanding of the nonlinear life can help expand our excitement of it. Authors who go to that place seem expansive and exciting to me.

Camus and Dostoyevski are two other influences. Any author who sees the dark side and absurdity of what it called “normal” society appeals to me. To me what we call normal is absurdist at best.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

My yurt! When I finished AIR, I gave myself the gift of a yurt in the woods. The original yurts were and still are used by nomadic tribes in Mongolia. A modernized versions of these are becoming popular on the U.S. West Coast. When I moved to Oregon, I camped up and down the coast to get to know the state, and the state parks rent yurts as cabins. I fell in love with the round, domed structures.

Caroline Allen yurt.JPG

I purchased a kit from Pacific Yurts. Don’t let the word “kit” fool you. It was an intense full-on construction scenario and my friends and I were utterly exhausted after building it in a clearing in the woods.

Months after it was constructed, I found a desk, chair, and dresser down a rural road, at the end of a gravel driveway, placed there for free by the owners. It was the kind of furniture I would’ve loved as a little girl. Now, I had my writing desk. There is no internet connectivity or consistent electricity, so it’s just me, my laptop with its battery, and some candles. Next year, I will be able to afford a wood stove. The view is of forest. A family of deer like to hang out around it. There’s even a bear. Being that close to the wild engages my inner wild child writer.

I do love the idea of a yurt in nature!  Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m also a visual artist. That’s not the surprise. I just finished a project called Outside the Lines, one painting a day for one year. For 366 days — it was a leap year — I painted a painting every single day. That’s not the surprise either. I painted one while in the departure lounge waiting for a late United flight, my carryon as an easel, I painted one the day I had surgery for an accident that severed my foot from my leg (the morphine made the painting really really wild), and I painted one during a birthday party for me in Seattle.

Anyone who follows me on social media knows about these paintings. I’ve strung them on clothes line with pins around the inner walls of my yurt, like prayer flags.

This is the surprise and it’s happened several times: I’ll walk into the yurt and see all of the paintings, hundreds of expressions of my soul, and become so emotional. I’ll wish I could paint like that. Oh, if I could just paint like that I’d be such a fulfilled person. I’d feel so weepy. Yes, I look at my own paintings and wish I could paint like I already do paint. That reaction is a surprise even to me. I still don’t get my reaction. A healer friend told me sometimes it takes the emotional body time to catch up with the physical body. Perhaps that is it.

We are constantly peeling our emotional onion while writing and painting, aren’t we?

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

As an author and a book coach, the biggest thing that always, ALWAYS, surprises me is how far we women still have to go in speaking our soul truth. How far we have to go as writers in working through the blocks to speaking our truth, and how far the publishing industry has to go in accepting us. It surprises me again and again that people are not used to women truly speaking the depths of their truth.

If my protagonist, or me as a person, speaks in terms of her/my relationships (to the opposite sex, or to children, or to any sort of caregiving role), we are much more accepted and acceptable.

Speaking pure truth through fiction or memoir is still more rare than it should be. This affects the writing process and it affects publication. Finding a publisher who’ll take a chance on women speaking deep soul truth is better than it was, but it’s still too difficult!

I wholeheartedly agree with you; still too difficult. What do you hope readers will gain from your books?

All five books explore a paradigm shift from linear thought to a more spiritual holistic mindset, through the story of one character. The books go from sticking to the past of our ancestors to trying an entirely new way of living through a shift in our perceptions. My deepest hope is that by explaining the process, in five books that will take decades to complete, the details of the path will help others on a similar journey. I believe we all need to make this paradigm shift, but that it’s so radical that no one person or book is going to create it. I am part of a greater path of bringing this information into this time period in the world.

caroline-allen-earth

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

Tenacity. I have nothing else to add. Simple hard work, day after day, month after month, year after year. You’ll be exhausted.

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

Everything worked, even the things that didn’t because they were part of the learning process for “being” a fully fledged writer. I wouldn’t change any of it.

I landed a big New York agent with EARTH. I really connected with him. He loved my novel. We shopped the book around to all the major houses, and we got great feedback and some serious nibbles, but nobody would bite. It was a two-year process that failed. But I would not say it didn’t work. What I learned was unbelievably helpful. It helped me as a writer and as a book coach. I wouldn’t change that “failure” for the world.

Do you have any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Tenacity. Tenacity. Tenacity. It may take a decade longer than you thought. My path took 15 years longer than I thought it would. You may well be writing about subjects before your time! Maybe the world hasn’t caught up with you. But, your time will come, but you’ll miss it if you give up.

Great advice, Caroline. I love the idea of writing about subjects before our time!

Website and social media links?

www.carolineallen.com

www.artofstorytellingonline.com

www.artofstorytelling.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/carolineallenartist

www.twitter.com/artofstory

http://www.instagram.com/carolineallenartist 

Where can we find your book?

Amazon

EARTH

https://www.amazon.com/Earth-Elemental-Journey-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01GIBQIFA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483405361&sr=1-1&keywords=earth+by+caroline+allen

AIR

https://www.amazon.com/Air-novel-Elemental-Journey-2/dp/1513703943/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483405375&sr=1-1&keywords=air+by+caroline+allen

Barnes and Noble

EARTH

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earth-carol-allen/1000420387?ean=9781620156513

AIR

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/air-david-allen/1000420194?ean=2940153195681

IBooks

EARTH

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earth/id1119725900?mt=11

AIR

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/air/id1119726394?mt=11

What’s next for you?

I’m nearly finished with my third novel, FIRE, and I just landed a literary agent. In FIRE, Pearl travels throughout SE Asia and lives in London, where she meets people who lead her more and more closely to her purpose. Before she can find her purpose, though, she has to heal her lost self.

The literary agent and I will shop the book around to find a publisher this year.

Fantastic, Caroline. It was great having the chance to know more about you and your series. All the very best with your writing and painting in 2017!

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 Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

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

 

 

Leary, But Hopeful New Year Musings

IMG_0591
The Capacon River, West Virginia

What a year.

2016 was a roller coaster of a year, chock full of ups and downs, perilous and hairpin turns, sad and surprising, exhilarating moments sprinkled about, all the way to the ball dropping in Times Square.

Earlier in the evening on December 31, I joined my sister and a good friend in filling our champagne flutes with 2016 water (our Puerto Rican family custom), which we would throw out at midnight (throwing out the “bad”), and refill with bubbly to ring in the New Year. We were so DONE with 2016. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically spent at the beginning of the evening, we nervously looked toward the new year with hope, lots of lovely and all-important hope–may we never lose hope–but, I certainly prayed all those celebrating the end of 2016, at home and abroad, would remain safe.

Minutes before midnight, we muted Kathy Griffin’s voice and Anderson Cooper’s giggling for the fourth time, rolled our eyes over Mariah Carey’s concert walk out, and through our own giggles and raised eyebrows, wondered if a certain CNN anchor would have a job in the morning after many televised tequila shots and other interesting shenanigans, which included an on-camera ear piercing. At midnight, I popped the champagne cork (which I hate doing, but sister and friend declined!), and held my breath that nothing else would happen as we toasted each other–a knee-jerk reaction to 2016, I’m afraid. I then spoke with my beloved children, who stayed home (thank God) to celebrate with good friends, enjoyed my sister’s fabulous New Year spread, and we learned of the massacre at a Turkish club in Istanbul. We prayed for the victims, for Betty White (whom we adore), for our children, for everyone, in the tumultuous days before and after Trump takes office as President of the United States. God help us all.

Just before falling asleep on January 1, 2017, I wondered if Prince William will take over when Queen Elizabeth passes on because I can’t imagine a Queen Camilla, and pondered what would happen to the business of the monarchy if Princess Diana resurfaced alive and well, with a daughter born of her marriage to Prince Charles before their marital separation. I still miss her. I know, I know. But I’m a writer, an historical fiction writer; I think of stuff like that late at night. A story needs twists and turns, and all the complications imaginable to work well, right?

Although I know it’s not good for me to fall asleep with worries, fears, and negative thoughts on my mind, but baby steps with feeling hopeful and all rah rah optimistic in 2017. I’ll get there. All I can muster at the moment is cautious optimism. And thank God for the Bed Time Fan app my daughter told me about. I slept like a baby and woke up very happy to be alive, craving a Mimosa.

On the creative front, here at The Writing Life blog, we will continue posting our Tuesday Author Interview series, starting next week. So stay tuned! I’m now back at the writing desk with my second book, The Laments of Sister Inmaculada. No personal blog posts until then. I’ll be on social media sparingly, and by spring, I hope to send the first draft manuscript to my editor. Fingers crossed and prayers said. I love this new story and my characters, who will keep me company this winter. I hope you will love them, too.

I wish you and yours a blessed, safe, happy, healthy, prosperous, and creatively uplifting 2017. May all your hopes and dreams be realized this year.

I am happy to share some words from Neil Gaiman, which I highly encourage you to follow in 2017.

Eleanor x

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

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 Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

Creativity and Making Art Today: Wisdom or Folly?

My newest piece for The OCH Literary Society.

syyxwtavqj8-tomo-nogi

CREATIVITY AND MAKING ART TODAY: WISDOM OR FOLLY?

 

by Eleanor Parker Sapia

“It is very interesting that foolish people make the world what it is, and wise people have to live in it. Foolish people can create disasters, but they cannot endure them; wise people do not cause them, but they can endure them. One of the proofs of wisdom is the fact it can survive the shock and stress of change and the shock and stress of error. There is something immortal about wisdom because wisdom can live in an environment where stupidity cannot exist. Wisdom possesses a certain immortality. A wise person can live in a world as it is, regardless of what that world may be, regardless of the religions and philosophies, or absence of them, regardless of the intemperances and intolerances. That which is truly wise flows continuously and placidly on its way, unmoved in itself by any of the changes which affect and afflict that which is unwise.”

~ Manly P. Hall

These wise words by Canadian mystic and writer, Manly P. Hall, were posted by a Facebook friend last month. They still resonate with me and accurately describe where I hope to find myself as we inch closer to Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States: wiser.

I was deeply affected by the Election Night results. Shock, dismay, and at times, disgust plagued me on November 9. In the days and weeks that followed, I truly wish I’d returned to working on my second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, with new vigor, but that didn’t happen. The long periods of writing I’d enjoyed in the past weren’t possible. Instead, I was glued to on-line news and bought a newspaper every day. I didn’t go so far as to subscribe to cable television (which I’d given up in 2011,) or to the online version of the New York Times, but I was tempted. I felt distraught enough to consider asking a friend to hide my laptop charger so I couldn’t read another on-line article that I knew would anger me. I remained frustrated, unnerved, and frightened as the horrifying news finally came out of Aleppo and South Dakota.

Despite my humble attempts to decipher real news versus fake news in November and early December, I fell for a few headlines and felt my blood pressure rise upon discovering that I’d been duped. I wondered how many people had been duped during the campaign by fake news. I broke my time-honored “no-news” rule and kept reading, hoping to better understand people who’d voted for a man (and his Cabinet choices) who seems to stand for most everything I oppose. I prayed for an end to war in Syria and that the pipeline protesters in South Dakota would win before winter. All that did was to fill my mind and heart with despair and confusion, and everything I read fueled a growing feeling of guilt for not writing and a sense of the ridiculous when I did work on my novel.

In late November, the only answer for me was to practice self-care, which I did by binge-watching “Downton Abbey”, seasons 1-6. I watched the entire gorgeous series again, this time in four days. Don’t judge; I’d hoped the period series would take me back to a gentler, kinder, more innocent time. But of course, there wasn’t any truth in that. Each episode tackled some form of racism, hatred, misogyny, and classism in the turbulent times before and after WWI and WWII. So despite knowing how damaging it was for me to return to reading news articles, I felt the need to stay informed, voice my opinion and support where I could. I also needed to write, which I knew would ground me. For many creative folks, the internal creative push and pull of November seemed relentless. Some friends still find themselves creatively paralyzed.

Several times I sat at the writing desk, only to log off as my second book tackles deep, troubling issues facing women in 1920 Puerto Rico; unfortunately similar to what women today face around the world. I couldn’t focus. I turned to reading beloved books, taking afternoon naps, long walks with my dog, and kept busy by connecting with like-minded friends, but that was short-lived. We were going around in circles; not much help to each other, but we sure tried. And as soon as I logged back onto social media, there it was—the good, the bad and the ugly—right where I’d left it all.

When I did write, my words felt trite and after a good, long writing session, I’d feel guilty for not keeping up with the horrors of Aleppo and South Dakota. Then on November 28, something happened. I believe everything that happens to me and around me is useful for my creative life. What I am passionate about is making art and telling stories about uncovering truths, so I decided to use the disappointment, confusion, and fear to write. I owned my feelings of loss, rejection, and yes, anger, at the writing desk. I refused to get up. I reread and reconnected with my story; it worked. I sat with my young protagonist and she told me her tragic and troubling story. She’d faced the same feelings and emotions in her complicated world. I reentered her head, as broken and clueless as she, and moved about in her world, not sure where to turn next. We walked side by side, and wrote the next chapters together. I regained my creative strength, and love and courage for my characters. The words flowed.

My writing voice allows me to protest what happened to my character in 1920, and the act of writing brings a sense of control and meaning to my life, balance. I don’t know what will come after January 20, 2017. I pray for peace and a ceasefire in Aleppo, and I still worry that we are being duped about the Dakota pipeline. The pain and suffering in the world continues. We do what we can, we help wherever possible, and we are stretched beyond what is comfortable because that’s important, too. We can’t bury our heads in the sand to what is happening around us and far away from our homes.

Writers and artists must continue making art. Grab the hankies, your bullhorn, and use it all. Be bold, courageous, and use your art as a way to make sense of your world and that of others, who at this time might not be able to tell their stories.

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 historical novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

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