Author Interview: Linda DeFruscio

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. Writing books is a solitary endeavor, so it’s a pleasure to meet fellow writers through these interviews. By interviewing authors across genres, I discover new books and authors, and I’m happy to bring their talents to my readers.

We are nearing the end of the 2017 Author Interview series at The Writing Life, so enjoy the few remaining interviews as I focus on finishing my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls. If you’ve missed a few interviews, or are just now “tuning in”, we had a great year! Happy Spring to you.

linda-defruscio

Today’s author is Linda DeFruscio, the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. Her writing career began years ago, when she was invited to write a series of skincare articles for a national magazine. Linda’s fascinating memoir, Cornered: Dr. Richard J. Sharpe As I Knew Him, was published in 2015 by Twilight Times Books.

NOTE: A week before Linda’s scheduled interview, I stumbled upon a YouTube video of a Harvard-educated, millionaire, cross-dressing doctor who’d shot and killed his wife. As I put this interview together, I realized it was the same Dr. Sharpe we would be speaking about today. Talk about a strange case of synchronicity.

linda-df-book

Welcome, Linda. Please tell us how you met Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, and what inspired you to write this memoir.

Richard Sharpe was my business mentor, long before he committed his crime. He was a dermatologist and I was (and am) an electrologist, so we had in common that we were both interested in people’s skin. When lasers for hair removal came out in 1998, he was one of the first to realize their potential. He bought two (they were absurdly expensive back then) and “leased” them to me and other electrologists and skincare professionals he knew. I started taking notes about my interactions with him almost from the day I met him, because I am a compulsive note taker and he was unique in so many ways. And he only became more notable (and not always in a good way) over time. By the time I decided to write about him, I had boxes of notes. And because of the notoriety surrounding his trial, eventually I had boxes of newspaper clippings and Court TV tapes and tapes from various TV interview shows as well.

I find it fascinating that you listened to your gut and began taking notes on Richard Sharpe from day one. I can imagine how incredibly difficult it was to write about your friend and business associate, but to find yourself in the middle of this murder case must have been harrowing.

In the year 2000, I was forced to make an unthinkable decision. Dr. Richard Sharpe, a man who was my business associate and friend, committed a terrible crime. I went through many stages of emotion when I learned about it, beginning with shock, then grief, then a kind of numbness. I was in the numb stage when he reached out to me, from prison, asking me to remain his friend. I knew being his friend would cost me dearly; I would lose friends, clients, and some peace of mind. But I agreed to maintain some kind of relationship with him, because someone had to. He was utterly broken and very sorry for what he did. My memoir tells his story—how he went from being a medical and business genius, and, it goes without saying, a millionaire, to being a broken man in a prison cell—within the context of my own.

Writing Cornered must have required a lot of courage, stamina, and self-reflection. What did you learn and ultimately, sacrifice in the process of writing this memoir?

Since I appear as the narrator, I sacrificed anonymity in order to tell the truest story I could. In Cornered it required much more of me. I had to really reveal myself—all my many warts included—so that the reader would understand how I came to make the decisions I did. But it was worth it. A lot of people who read the book commented on my “unfailing honesty.” I think their trust in me enabled them to better see Richard Sharpe through my eyes. Yes, he was a despicable criminal, but he was also a man who tried, and ultimately failed, to deal with his physical, emotional and spiritual burdens.

How did you come up with the title? I think it’s perfect for this book.

I was adding to my list of possible titles the entire time I was working on my memoir. But in the end Cornered, with its subtitle, seemed the most appropriate. Richard Sharpe liked to be in the limelight—and often he was, because of the many contributions he made in the medical field. But when he felt himself threatened in any way he drifted into the corner, both literally and figuratively. And frankly, I felt cornered by him sometimes, because he was so needy. So the word worked on several levels.

After watching one video about this troubled, brilliant man and the murder of his wife, I would have felt cornered by him, as well as torn by the idea of remaining friends. Human nature is fascinating.

My decision to remain friends with Richard Sharpe impacted my life in ways that were unimaginable to me at the time. I learned a lot about myself and about human nature generally because of our association. I suffered a great deal of loss too. I think any reader who has experienced shifts in their life as a result of an association with a difficult or strong-willed or mentally-ill person—whether it is a child or a spouse or a friend—will identify with Cornered.

You’ve published children’s books and this memoir. How did you come to writing?

I came to writing more or less by accident. Years ago a magazine publisher asked me if I would write some skincare articles for her. And, a doctor asked me to contribute an article to a publication called the Annals of Dermatology. I found that writing is an engaging process. If it requires research, so much the better. Now I’m working on my third book, and I’m collecting notes for a fourth book. I’m so glad I discovered writing. It has become my way of exploring the world.

Has the writing process uncovered surprises or learning experiences for you?

Yes! I learned so much about myself through the writing of books. Loyalty is not something I ever gave much thought to before, but as it happens, it became a major theme in Cornered. I am a loyal person; I didn’t even know that before. And that’s just one example. Writing is a way of living; for all that it seems like such a passive activity, it results in lots of experiences and insights.

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

Great thoughts sometimes find their way to me when I’m in an environment that is not conducive to writing them down. I have been known to scribble on Post-its, paper napkins, and even checkbook registers. I have also been known to run out of my office, ostensibly to use the ladies’ room but really to have a moment’s privacy to write down a thought before it slips away. The worst is when great thoughts come to me late at night. Since I have a day job, I need to get a good night’s sleep. But I know I will forget all about the great idea if I don’t get up and write it down right away. So I get up, which leads to challenges the next day.

I can fully relate to getting out of bed in the middle of the night to jot down great thoughts! What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth by Grace Anne Stevens may be one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read about what it means to be a woman. The ironic thing here is that Grace started out as a man. Another title I loved was Joan Heartwell’s memoir Hamster Island, which is about growing up dirt poor with two disabled siblings. You can see I gravitate towards memoirs, mostly about people overcoming great emotional obstacles. I also read a lot of spiritual books.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Besides Grace Stevens and Joan Heartwell, and off the top of my head, I enjoy Jennifer Boylan, Keith Ablow, and Jeanette Walls.

Who influenced you as a writer?

Marissa Lynn is the magazine editor who, the first day we met in her office, asked me if I would like to try to write an article on skincare. I went home and poured everything I knew about skincare into a first draft. Then I took it in to show Marissa a few days later. She read it, and, to my horror, she ripped it up. She said, “I don’t want this!” I was stunned. I started to cry. “This isn’t how you write!” she continued. “This sounds like a text book. Tell me real stories about real people with real skin problems. Tell me what you know from experience, not from what you studied in school.”

My inclination was to tell her nothing, other than that I wasn’t interested in working with her after all. But I took a minute to think it over and decided that would be a mistake. She was offering me an opportunity to reach many potential clients. She opened her drawer and took out a tape recorder. She said, “Take this and start talking. I’ll type it up later.” So I pulled myself together and told her a story about a man who had the beginnings of folliculitis barbae—a rare but serious bacterial infection of the deeper layers of the skin and subcutaneous tissues—and how we determined the cause of his infection and how we finally got rid of it. Marissa loved it. That was how it all began. 

It sounds like Marissa was a tough, but necessary mentor in your writing journey. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

Because I have my own business and work long hours, I don’t have the option of writing whenever or wherever I want. I write notes, as I mentioned above, wherever I am, as I think of things. Most of them I never look at again. But sometimes I realize I have the makings for a manuscript.

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

I am a yoga fanatic. I do yoga very early in the morning, as many mornings a week as possible. I am also a closet eater of candies and other sweets that I know are not good for me. My favorite indulgence is York Peppermint Patties. So, something healthy and something not, that’s one surprise about me—though there are others.

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

I stuck with it. In these times it’s not enough to find a publisher and hope your book flies off the shelves. You’ve got to accept every interview invitation that comes along, every opportunity to talk about your work, and not just right after the launch date. You’ve got to keep at it. It’s been difficult for me, because I work so many hours. But I do as much as I can and I plan to continue to do so.

linda-df-book

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t give up. Go after your dream. Persevere. The rewards for me have been huge, even though Cornered is not a best seller. Not only did I accomplish what I set out to do, but in the process I discovered answers to questions that had plagued me for years.

Well said, Linda.

Website and social media links?

www.lindadefruscio.com

www.thecorneredbook.com

www.gingerandmoecatbook.com

Where can we find your books?

On Amazon and other online sites, on my website, and in libraries and stores.

What’s next for you?

I’m completing a wonderful book about individuals in the transgender community. Because I am an electrologist, and because I was introduced to people from the trans community early on, a great number of my clients are transgender. And because every transgender individual works with a variety of healthcare professionals, I know lots of people peripheral to the transition process. Over the last two years I worked with an assistant to interview several of my trans clients. Their stories are all different and all fascinating. Now I’m in the process of adding a preface and some back matter, and deciding on a title.

The book I’m just starting is about my sister, who suffers from MSA, or Multiple System Atrophy. As you might guess, this book will describe her personal journey, and mine as well, with the context of our relationship as sisters. Again, I have boxes of notes, some of which are my sister’s ideas and insights. I can’t wait to get started.

Thank you, Linda, for a most interesting interview. I’ve enjoyed getting to know more about you and your memoir. I wish you the best of luck with your timely book on the trans community and the memoir with your sister.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Author Interview: Linda DeFruscio

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series. I love introducing readers to authors across genres, which makes Tuesday one of my favorite days of the week.

Today, I am pleased to welcome Linda DeFruscio, memoirist and author of the children’s book, Ginger and Moe and the Incredible Coincidence, which releases today, March 7, with Brown Publishers.

Linda DeFruscio is the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. Her writing career began years ago, when she was invited to write a series of skincare articles for a national magazine. Linda’s fascinating memoir, Cornered: Dr. Richard J. Sharpe As I Knew Him, published in 2015 by Twilight Times Books, will be featured at a later time. So do check back with us.

linda-defruscio

Welcome, Linda. Tell us a little about Ginger and Moe.

 

Ginger and Moe is a true story, about two sibling cats that I adopted, only to find out later that I was allergic to cats. I was determined find them a new home with someone who, like me, would never want to see them separated. My commitment to these wonderful cats turned into a journey, for both them and me, that I could never have imagined. 

How did you come up with the title?

Ginger and Moe and the Incredible Coincidence was a title I came up right away, on the very day I began to write the story. Ginger and Moe were the real names of my cats, and the story is about the coincidence that resulted in them finally finding a home after being nomads for a while. “Coincidence” is a hard concept for children to understand. My hope is that my book will illuminate the concept in a straightforward manner. It made sense to include the word in the title so parents buying the book will know what to expect.

What inspired you to write Ginger and Moe?

Ginger and Moe was a story that lived for years in my heart. I didn’t need boxes of notes to be able to write it. All I needed was a little time to reflect on the ways in which those cats touched and changed my life.

linda-df-books

You are the narrator in your story. How easy was that for you?

Yes, I appear as the narrator in both Ginger and Moe and Cornered; in both cases I sacrificed anonymity in order to tell the truest story I could.

For Ginger and Moe and the Incredible Coincidence, this only required that I talk about my allergies.

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

Great thoughts sometimes find their way to me when I’m in an environment that is not conducive to writing them down. I have been known to scribble on Post-its, paper napkins, and even checkbook registers. I have also been known to run out of my office, ostensibly to use the ladies’ room but really to have a moment’s privacy to write down a thought before it slips away. The worst is when great thoughts come to me late at night. Since I have a day job, I need to get a good night’s sleep. But I know I will forget all about the great idea if I don’t get up and write it down right away. So I get up, which leads to challenges the next day.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I came to writing more or less by accident. Years ago a magazine publisher asked me if I would write some skincare articles for her. And, a doctor asked me to contribute an article to a publication called the Annals of Dermatology. I found, in both cases, that writing is an engaging process. If it requires research, so much the better. Now I’m working on my third book, and I’m collecting notes for a fourth book. I’m so glad I discovered writing. It has become my way of exploring the world.

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

No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth by Grace Anne Stevens may be one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read about what it means to be a woman. The ironic thing here is that Grace started out as a man. Another title I loved was Joan Heartwell’s memoir Hamster Island, which is about growing up dirt poor with two disabled siblings. You can see I gravitate towards memoirs, mostly about people overcoming great emotional obstacles. I also read a lot of spiritual books.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Besides Grace Stevens and Joan Heartwell, and off the top of my head, I enjoy Jennifer Boylan, Keith Ablow, and Jeanette Walls.

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

Marissa Lynn is the magazine editor who, the first day we met in her office, asked me if I would like to try to write an article on skincare. I went home and poured everything I knew about skincare into a first draft. Then I took it in to show Marissa a few days later. She read it, and, to my horror, she ripped it up. She said, “I don’t want this!” I was stunned. I started to cry. “This isn’t how you write!” she continued. “This sounds like a text book. Tell me real stories about real people with real skin problems. Tell me what you know from experience, not what you studied in school.”

My inclination was to tell her nothing, other than that I wasn’t interested in working with her after all. But I took a minute to think it over and decided that would be a mistake. She was offering me an opportunity to reach many potential clients. She opened her drawer and took out a tape recorder. She said, “Take this and start talking. I’ll type it up later.” So I pulled myself together and told her a story about a man who had the beginnings of folliculitis barbae—a rare but serious bacterial infection of the deeper layers of the skin and subcutaneous tissues—and how we determined the cause of his infection and how we finally got rid of it. Marissa loved it. That was how it all began.

You experienced tough love from Marissa, which is often necessary to dig deep with a story. I’ve experienced similar tough love from editors, which I appreciated very much.

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

Because I have my own business and work long hours, I don’t have the option of writing whenever or wherever I want. I write notes, as I mentioned above, wherever I am, as I think of things. Most of them I never look at again. But sometimes I realize I have the makings for a manuscript.

Linda, can you share something personal that people may be surprised to know?

I am a yoga fanatic. I do yoga very early in the morning, as many mornings a week as possible. I am also a closet eater of candies and other sweets that I know are not good for me. My favorite indulgence is York Peppermint Patties. So, something healthy and something not, that’s one surprise about me—though there are others.

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

Yes! I learned so much about myself through the writing of both books. Loyalty is not something I ever gave much thought to before, but as it happens, it became a major theme in Cornered, and to a lesser degree, even in Ginger and Moe. I am a loyal person; I didn’t even know that before. And that’s just one example. Writing is a way of living; for all that it seems like such a passive activity, it results in lots of experiences and insights.

linda-df-books

What do you hope readers will gain from your books?

As far as Ginger and Moe, I think there is a lot to learn in that little book. There are lessons on caring and commitment that might be valuable for parents as well as for the children they read to. And of course the big thing is that children reading the book will learn about the concept of coincidence, maybe for the first time. I’m especially hoping that teachers will see the value of using the book in the classroom. You can stand up and tell a roomful of little kids that a coincidence is “a remarkable concurrence of events without apparent casual connection,” (as one dictionary has it), or you can read them Ginger and Moe and let them see that the “remarkable event” at work in the book has a name. Which one do you think will ultimately be more memorable?

Experiential learning usually works like a charm. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market these books?

I stuck with it. In these times it’s not enough to find a publisher and hope your book flies off the shelves. You’ve got to accept every interview invitation that comes along, every opportunity to talk about your work, and not just right after the launch date. You’ve got to keep at it. It’s been difficult for me, because I work so many hours. But I do as much as I can and I plan to continue to do so.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t give up. Go after your dream. Persevere. The rewards for me have been huge, even though Cornered is not a best seller and Ginger and Moe is barely out at this time. Not only did I accomplish what I set out to do, but in the process I discovered answers to questions that had plagued me for years.

linda-df-book

Website and social media links?

www.lindadefruscio.com

www.thecorneredbook.com

www.gingerandmoecatbook.com

Where can we find your books?

On Amazon and other online sites, on my website, and in libraries and stores.

What’s next for you?

I’m completing a wonderful book about individuals in the transgender community. Because I am an electrologist, and because I was introduced to people from the trans community early on, a great number of my clients are transgender. And because every transgender individual works with a variety of healthcare professionals, I know lots of people peripheral to the transition process. Over the last two years I worked with an assistant to interview several of my trans clients. Their stories are all different and all fascinating. Now I’m in the process of adding a preface and some back matter, and deciding on a title.

The book I’m just starting is about my sister, who suffers from MSA, or Multiple System Atrophy. As you might guess, this book will describe her personal journey, and mine as well, with the context of our relationship as sisters. Again, I have boxes of notes, some of which are my sister’s ideas and insights. I can’t wait to get started.

Both books sound wonderful and very close to your heart; not to mention timely. I wish you the best of luck with your books and your works in progress, Linda. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.

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: SJ Brown

Welcome to The Writing Life blog and to the Tuesday Author Interview series. I will be showcasing authors well into May 2017, so please check back in.

This week, I’m very pleased to chat with wildlife photographer, memoirist, and author, S. J. Brown.

Prior to pursuing wildlife photography, S. J. Brown describes living an average life in New Jersey. She discovered her love of writing in high school, and her love of photography began on a whim with an inexpensive 35mm camera, a few rolls of film, and an appreciation for the natural world. For over 15 years, she has traveled extensively throughout the eastern United States in pursuit of wildlife encounters. Much to the dismay of her spotter, this often involves trekking through thick brush, muddy trails, and secluded locations, and on rocky seas. S. J. says the interaction with wildlife makes it all worth the effort.

S. J. Brown’s books include, Close ups & Close Encounters: A View From Behind The Lens and Adults Gone Wild Coloring Book, and for little ones, All The Birds I See, Clancy’s Catnap, and Wild Animals Coloring Book. I am a fan of this creative lady’s beautiful, sensitive photographs.

Welcome, S. J. Brown.

s-j-brown-photo-vertical

What is your book’s genre(s)?

Close Ups & Close Encounters: A View From Behind The Lens is a mix of nonfiction, memoir, and photography.

Please describe what Close Ups & Close Encounters is about.

The reader goes into the field with me to see what photographing wildlife is really like.  There is more to photography than just clicking the shutter button.

That’s a unique approach and very true about photography. How did you come up with the title?

I played with several titles, which I sent to friends and family for their opinion.  Most of them loved Close Ups & Close Encounters. They felt it accurately captured the feel of the book.

sj-brown-cover

What inspired you to write this book?

A fellow author overheard my conversation about one of my photographs. He later said, “Girl, you have to write this shit down.” I went home that evening, put aside the project I was working on, and began Close Ups.  Everyone has heard the saying every picture tells a story.  Well, there is a story behind getting every wildlife image.

Within the pages of my book, I share the learning experiences in the field, my close calls, and my failures and successes.

I love that your book combines photography with memoir, which helps the reader to learn about and connect with you, the person behind the camera.

I’m still smiling about your friend’s comment. So true about the importance of getting it all down. What are your favorite parts of writing and photography?

I love sharing my love of wildlife and ultimately, sharing my images and experiences with readers. The time I spend with students and adults presenting and discussing my photographs hopefully inspires others to explore their creative side. Whether it is through photography, painting, sculpting, or sketching, I believe there is a little bit of artist in everyone that often just needs to be nurtured a bit to bring it to the surface.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Punctuation, I really suck at punctuation. As the book evolved, many pages were put aside, which at first was hard. However, the book slowly took on another feel and showed things from a different perspective, which I liked better.

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

I Have MS. What’s Your Superpower. It is a very informative book for people with MS and for their loved ones. I am fortunate to not have MS, and now I have a better understanding of how the disease affects people.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Most of my favorite authors are people most people may not have heard of. They are authors I have met, hung out with, and consider friends. Sally Brinkman, Victor Banis, Kirk Judd, Lisa Combs, R. G. Redding, Tracy Ball, Eleanor Parker Sapia, Cheryl Grogg, Diana Pishner Walker, and M. Lynn Squires.  Of course, there are many more, these are just the top 10 that came to mind. They are not only good authors; they are good people, as well.

Thank you kindly, SJ, for including me in your list. What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and as a photographer?

That list is long. Every time I read a book that captivates me, I want to write better to capture my audience.

My family has played a big part in encouraging  me to continue both my writing and photography careers.

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

I write at my desk in my newly-completed office. I write mostly at night when the house is quiet and there are no distractions; however, I tend to get lots of ideas and will take notes almost anywhere.

As for where I read, that varies; it might be in my car, in an office, on the couch, just about anywhere I can find a few minutes of quiet.

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

A couple of things: I don’t like water, but I will get into a canoe or a boat if it means there is a chance to get a few critter photos. I’ve owned a small business and have explored sketching and working with stained glass and ceramics. And lastly, when I first began submitting my photography to publishers, most of the submissions were returned unopened. I knew I was choosing publishers that would be interested in my work, but they weren’t looking at the images. Once I began using my initials, publishers began opening the submissions. No, they didn’t all buy my work, but they were  looking and some were buying. It turns out that most publishers I approached assumed a woman couldn’t get the kind of wildlife images they were looking for, so they just returned them unopened.

To this day most publishers assume S. J. Brown is a man and often write the check to Mr. S. J. Brown.  Yes, I enjoy enlightening them.

sj-brown-cover

I can imagine you do enjoy enlightening them after you receive your check! Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

The final version of Close Ups & Close Encounters is nothing like the original draft. Along the way and as the book evolved, I  spent a lot of time with fellow authors. The evolution included adding entire chapters, while deleting others.  Writing a book is a process and the end result can be surprising.

As for the publishing process, I still have a lot to learn. However, I now know that I need to consider each submission carefully, and if I  have doubts, that might not be the right place for my work. 

I absolutely agree with trusting our gut. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

A love and appreciation for nature along with a better understanding of just what it takes to get that perfect shot. I also hope this book encourages people to follow their passion wherever it leads them.

That’s awesome. I’m also a big fan of encouraging others and following our passions in life. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

Getting input from fellow authors is invaluable. I was fortunate to have a varied mix of authors weigh in on my work. A lawyer is going to offer a different perspective than a children’s book author or someone who writes sci-fi.

As for marketing, I am still learning and I have a lot more to learn. 

What didn’t work?

Marketing. Publishing with a small publisher was a mistake for me. A larger publisher could have guided me through the marketing process and helped me to find the right market for Close Ups & Close Encounters.

I always say I write full-time along with a part-time job in marketing. Marketing isn’t easy. Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t rush things. It is better to publish one good book than to publish several so-so books. Take your time. A book is your baby, nurture it. When you are ready to let it go, make sure you find the right home for your book.

Website and social media links?

Website www.sjbrown.50megs.com

FaceBook  https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

Google+ https://plus.google.com/107089848958196015385

Linkedin  https://www.linkedin.com/in/s-j-brown-40667b47?trk=hp-identity-name

Where can we find your book?

Amazon   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Close-Ups-Encounters-View-Behind/dp/0985726784

Create Space  https://www.createspace.com/4228022

Autographed Copies available at www.sjbrown.50megs.com

Barnesandnoble   http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/close-ups-and-close-encounters-s-j-brown/1115678349?ean=9780985726782

What’s next for you, SJ?

I just completed a memoir that I co-authored with my sister.  Now it is time to find a publisher for it.

While that hunt proceeds, I am working on a project I have wanted to do for a while. Time after time, readers have commented on the images in Close Ups & Close Encounters. Many admitted they never actually read the book, only looked at the photographs, so I am ready to tackle a coffee table book of just images. The real challenge with this project will be finding a publisher that is willing to handle a project with so many images.

Thanks for a fun interview, SJ. Best of luck with Close Ups, your new memoir, and the coffee table book. I look forward to catching up with you soon.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention in Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the award-winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Well-traveled Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger who is never without a pen and a notebook, her passport, and a camera. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

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

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

 

Author Interview: Jacqueline Cioffa

The Writing Life is pleased to welcome Jacqueline Cioffa, author of The Vast Landscape.

Jacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and a celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector, and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in the anthology, Brainstorms, and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness. She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth, and film lover who’s traveled the world.
Her poignant, literary fiction debut, The Vast Landscape, gives new meaning to intense, raw, and heartfelt.

JCioffa_n

Welcome, Jacqueline.

What is your book’s genre/category? 

Literary Fiction

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Bold contemporary fiction, The Vast Landscape shares one woman’s journey filled with doubt, mistrust, fame, and self-discovery. Join Harrison on her quest to find inner peace despite the harrowing obstacles placed in her way. Will she succeed in stripping away her complex armor to unmask the flawed, beautiful, and strong iconoclast kept hidden for so long?

1027_0.813088001446671690_the-vast-landscape

How did you come up with the title? 

The title was inspired from a large landscape portrait an artist, photographer friend gifted me that lives on the wall in the Zen room, the place where I write.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was very, very sick, with Manic Depression and made the decision to leave New York City to move back home to the Finger Lakes and a simpler, more manageable way of life. I made a pact to write everyday, stream of consciousness. The Red Bench was a coping mechanism, a way to hold onto to hope, and frankly to stay alive.

The Vast Landscape began as memoir, and many of the passages are excerpts from The Red Bench sprinkled throughout both The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine.

Once I freed The Vast Landscape to be fiction I realized Harrison, the protagonist could go anywhere. I had a larger canvas for her to stomp on.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Trusting the words, the absolute and complete freedom I feel releasing thoughts onto the page, whether dark or light.

I am discovering the story and characters for the first time as well, and because I rely on a lot of real life experience and characters for inspiration, I’m always surprised and invigorated.

Jacqueline, what is the most challenging aspect of writing for you?

The editing, marketing and all the ‘stuff’ that comes after. I find the business, publishing, and marketing aspects to be quite challenging which is why I’m so grateful for Rachel Thompson, and that she asked me to join Gravity Imprint. She is a talented author, gifted and a humble, marketing guru. My words are in the best, most capable hands with Gravity Imprint. I pinch myself daily. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

John Irving, Joan Didion, Samuel Beckett, Sylvia Plath, J.D. Salinger, John Green, Patty Smith, Nicolas Sparks. It’s pretty eclectic; I find inspiration across the board. I’m a visual writer and I love watching films adapted from books. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My parents are my first favorite humans, kind, generous, solid, loyal, and nurturing. They gave me a solid foundation, moral fiber, enough room to grow, and pursue my dreams. My BFF who believed in the magic of my words way before me, and still does even when I don’t.

Author Mark Blickley who read my earliest works and emphatically encouraged me to pursue a career in writing later in life. (I’d already had successful modeling and makeup careers).

Rachel Thompson, Julie Anderson, Marla Carlton, Feminine Collective, and all the empowering women who challenging the stereotypes daily.

Nicole Lyons, writer and founder of The Lithium Chronicles, the fierce, courageous Mental Health Advocates I’ve met through sharing my Mental Illness story.

Anyone, and everyone who champions others and dares to dream. There are quiet and loud warriors changing the world in positive ways.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

The ‘Zen room,’  where I wrote The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine. It’s filled with talismans, inspiration Buddhas, crystals, a vast landscape canvas portrait, and childhood memories.

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

I’m a goof, I like to watch Lifetime Movies and chew Bazooka Bubble Gum.

What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?

I was blown away and delighted by the overwhelming visceral reader response to both The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine. Readers have an immediate and intense connection to the stories. Their response and desire to dissect the characters, understand, talk about the tears, joy and connection they felt. That still shocks me in the very best, and humble way.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I wrote my truth first and foremost for me. I gave Harrison all the messiest, strongest, ugliest, prettiest, chaotic, stoic and flawed parts of my character. But I also created a fantastical, sanctuary for her to live and dream. The Cove, the safe, mystical, magical dwelling by the sea filled with stars, sunshine, beach, hope, love, emotion and family. For her, and me. And, ultimately the readers.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t try to mold yourself into some preconceived idea, lust after another, more successful author and don’t compare yourself to anyone. That is a recipe for disaster. Find your unique voice and look around, pay attention. Humans are complex fascinating creatures. The possibility for good stories is happening all around you. It took me forty-seven years to get published, and I’m still learning the craft. Write like you can’t live without it out, and don’t be in a hurry.

Website?

Author site: jacquelinecioffa.com  http://jacquelinecioffa.com

Gravityimprint.com http://gravityimprint.com/team/jacqueline-cioffa/

Bleeding Ink on FeminineCollective.com http://femininecollective.com/jacqueline-cioffa/

Where can we find your book?

The Vast Landscape and Georgia Pine are currently available on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Jacqueline-Cioffa/e/B00H4EZKVE/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Look for The Vast Landscape re-release in early December and Georgia Pine to follow with Gravity Imprint of BookTrope Publishing.

What’s next for you?

Writing my column, Bleeding Ink for Feminine Collective, Mental Health Advocacy,

The repub of Georgia Pine, the sequel to The Vast Landscape with Gravity Imprint, and finishing Evergreen, completing The Vast Landscape Saga. 

Then it’s back to the red bench, and a walk in the woods, to start fresh.

I do my best writing while walking.

Thanks for chatting with us today, Jacqueline. I wish you continued success with your writing and blogging!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

 

elliePuerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut historical literary novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, and book clubs in across the United States have enjoyed the book. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

 

 

Author Interview: Mary A. Pérez

The Writing Life is pleased to welcome Mary A. Pérez, author of ‘Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace’, her debut memoir of the turbulent and uncertain childhood she survived.

mary a perez

Born in the Bronx, raised in Miami, relocated to Houston – Mary is of Puerto Rican descent, a mother to four grown children, “Mimi” to a couple of gorgeous grandchildren, and happily married (the second time around) to a phenomenal man for twenty-one years.

Mary was born to a Puerto Rican immigrant family in the Bronx of New York and moved to Miami, Florida in 1962. Her childhood story played out against the backdrop of constant social change which defined the 1960s and forever altered the landscape for future generations. With political tensions of the time raging during the Vietnam War, there was a personal war within Mary’s own family dominating her life. Her future held little hope for a precious girl who lived through more traumas before her adult years than most live in a lifetime.

As she cleaved to the Godly faith that her grandparents instilled in her at an early age, she still found the courage to persevere through her young adulthood seeking the peace and serenity they had shown her, though it continued to be an elusive ambition.

As you get to know Mary in the pages of this moving story of hope and forgiveness, you will be overcome by the power of a grandparent’s love for their granddaughter, a child’s quiet understanding of God’s path for her, and the way in which Mary turned a life of peril into a life of promise. This book will leave you with the undeniable power of faith, hope, and love.

Mary began writing her memoirs in 2008 and continues to share her inspiring outlook with her writers group and fans through her blog. Her award-winning essays have appeared in La Respuesta, The Latino Author, and Sofrito for Your Soul.

Welcome, Mary Ann!

Please describe what ‘Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace’ is about.

Running in Heels depicts a Puerto Rican girl’s refusal to be defined by her environment while seeking love and security with her divorced mom in a dilapidated home. She becomes a teenage bride to a ruthless man twice her age. She has her first child at sixteen and her fourth at twenty-two. Can she overcome the shackles of poverty, alcoholism, racism, violence, and abandonment to establish a better life for her and her children?

Running in Heels Best Seller

Mary, how did you come up with the title?

I often thought how I ran around as a little girl, forced into adult shoes, shoes too big for my feet. Even in my adulthood, I couldn’t run fast enough while stumbling along the struggles in life. 

What inspired you to write this book? 

Initially, I started writing for my children so that they may know their family history and some of the things their momma had to endure. I survived abandonment and domestic abuse. But my current husband pointed out how my story could inspire others; this then became my passion.

What is your favorite part of writing?

The best part about writing is that writing can be therapeutic. It is when I am at my best, along with my thoughts uninterrupted. If needed, I can re-write for clarity at my leisure without the pressure of trying to convey my words plainly from the get-go.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

For me at times, the most challenging aspect of writing is to sit down and begin. It takes awhile to warm up before the creative juices flow. Once I’m in the zone, I don’t want to stop. But as life would have it, sometimes the distractions come and you have to stop and walk away. As a memoirist, another challenging part of writing is re-visiting traumatic periods of my life, such as in the final moments of loosing loved ones. I wrote some of those stories through blinding tears. 

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

I’ve always found myself engrossed in Christian Fiction from authors who pull on the heartstrings with conviction. Authors like Jan Karon, Karen Kingsbury, Terri Blackstock, Charles Martin, and Richard Paul Evans. My list continues to grow. And I never tire of Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

The first time I discovered another Puerto Rican author who wrote her memoirs, I was ecstatic! Esmeralda Santiago’s coming-of-age memoir When I Was Puerto Rican similar to my story, shares the loss of childhood innocence—even having to gaze upon a baby in a coffin—and as a child is expected to take on adult responsibilities. Naturally, I enjoyed learning more about her Hispanic culture.

I devoured The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Her incredible story tells of not only surviving terrible parenting and relentless poverty, but also in finding the grit and grace needed to break the pattern of bad choices and find a happily ever after. I appreciate the honestly of Wall’s narrative, which manages to share the pain and the love that seem impossibly intertwined without diluting either one. 

I have recently discovered Mary DeMuth, author of several books and memoirs. She is a survivor and a wonderful, gifted speaker who loves to help people live uncaged lives. I have her memoir, Thin Places in my collection of books to read. 

Do you have a favorite place to write? 

Sometimes, it’s in the formal living room where there’s lots of natural lighting. But most of the time, it’s at my desk on my computer in my bedroom, closed in.

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

I tend to weep while watching a baby being born and hearing that newborn’s first cry. Regardless of whether in real life or in a movie or TV, it doesn’t matter. If I watch or hear the cries of the miracle of birth, I sob. My husband thinks it’s sweet, but I can’t help it.

What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?

Learning about the steps necessary with printing and in eBook formatting, the ISBN and Copyright registration, and then the Copyediting and Proofreading requirements. Writing a book is just a small portion of the work involved. You have to basically become a business person and learn how to promote yourself and market your book. You have to know your brand and know your audience. You never stop learning.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

After writing solo a few years, a friend suggested that I join a writers group. After visiting a couple of them, I found my place in a group and stuck with them for a couple of years. They were seasoned writers and published authors. Their critiques were invaluable to me. I also surrounded myself with friends and colleagues who believed in my work, and even helped to support me financially. A year before my memoir was published, I worked on my writer’s platform and gained followers by starting a blog. Encouragement goes a long way!

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Don’t expect your novel to sell itself. Do your homework. Learn about pitches, book proposals, having a writer’s platform, and getting your work professionally edited. Before you seek representation, don’t submit anything until your work is clean! Remember by page five it will be known if you are an actual writer or not. You need to grab the reader by then.

Website?

My website is  www.maryaperez.com  which will take you straight to my blog. I can also be found at:

Twitter.com/MarysReflection

Facebook.com/WriterMaryAPerez

Pinterest.com/yellowrose4ever

Goodreads.com/user/show/16540249-mary-a-perez        

Where can we find your book? At your favorite online store:

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Running-Heels-Memoir-Grit-Grace/dp/1631250280/

Association of Authors  http://books.txauthors.com/product-p/maprh.htm

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/running-in-heels-mary-a-perez/1121713380 

What are you working on now, Mary?

I just completed training in becoming a certified sexual assault advocate. The more stories I hear of survival regarding women who took courage and broke free from their abusers, the more I believe their voices need to be heard! I shall be working in gathering a compilation of stories from women of all walks of life who have overcome domestic abuse and hardships.

Wonderful. That will be an important and rewarding project. Thanks for chatting with us, Mary. I wish you continued success with your writing.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA

ellie

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

A Decent Woman is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Barnes & Noble for Nook and in paperback.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-decent-woman-eleanor-parker-sapia/1121258236?ean=9781620154007

La Casa Azul Bookstore    143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029         info.lacasaazul@gmail.com

http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

@eleanorparkerwv

http://www.facebook.com/eleanorparkersapia

Author Interview: Judith Works

The Writing Life is pleased to chat with author, Judith Works.

Judith Works, a graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, is retired from the United Nations, Rome, Italy. She is the author of a memoir about Rome, Coins in the Fountain, available as an e-book, and City of Illusions, published by Booktrope. She is currently on the steering committee for the literary conference, Write on the Sound, and is also on the board for Edmonds Center for the Arts and EPIC Group Writers. She is a member of several other writer’s groups.

City of Illusions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Welcome, Judith!

What is your book’s genre/category?

City of Illusions is best described as women’s contemporary fiction.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Laura’s milestone 30th birthday is fast approaching and she sees her life as stalled. No children and a marriage settled into a routine far too early. Wanting more from her life, she finds a one-year job in Rome and talks husband Jake into taking a leave of absence. But while Laura is learning to live (and later to love) in Rome, Jake becomes a trailing spouse, adrift with nothing to do. Rome offers myriad opportunities to get into trouble for the unwary and Jake falls in with a gang of antiquity thieves. As his life spirals downward, Laura moves forward. After several missteps she finally achieves her own goal of fulfillment with a new life in Italy.

How did you come up with the title?

I had an earlier title which I didn’t like. I searched for quotations about Rome for an inspiration for a new title and came across this quote written by Giotto, a pre-Renaissance painter: “Rome the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.” This was written around 1300 and is still a perfect description of what it is like to live in Rome for many of the expats who come for la dolce vita and find a different path.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I wrote a memoir, Coins in the Fountain, about my happy and fraught experience of living in Rome for ten years but there was more to tell. I knew many expats who ran into difficulties, trailing spouses who could not work, who did things that they should not have, and those who never wanted to leave Italy. A novel was the opportunity to fictionalize some of the opportunities and challenges of living aboad.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Since much of my writing is centered on Rome, I love doing the research, especially if it involves “field research.” Sadly that doesn’t happen all that frequently, so I have to say the best part of writing is sitting down with a cup of coffee and putting down words to see how they come together.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

The generation of viable ideas – what works for a short story, for a post about my travels, for flash fiction, and for a novel.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Hemingway, Faulkner, Sarah Dunant, Anthony Doerr, Marguerite Yourcenar.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

I read widely, both fiction and non-fiction. Several non-Italian authors have influenced me to think more deeply about Italy in all its variety: Frances Mayes, Elizabeth Bowen, Eleanor Clark, Iris Origo, and Tim Parks. The Italian author that I find captured the essence of southern Italy and also Rome was Carlo Levi.

Favorite place to write?

I have an office where I am surrounded by reminders from my travels: a sculpture of Dante, a watercolor of the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, posters from art exhibitions and items from much farther afield: a painting from Ethiopia, an icon from Bulgaria, a wood carving from Papua New Guinea. And of course loads of books.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m a Canadian citizen along with my US nationality; I’m a chocoholic; and I have been to over 100 countries, crawled inside a pyramid in Egypt, hiked in Petra, Jordan, and watched the sun set and a full moon rise in Ankor Wat.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

My memoir was self-published with assistance from a professional cover designer and others, but still mostly of my own doing. Working with an actual publisher instead of Amazon was a good experience. When you know there are professionals available to help it give you a sense of confidence. And my publisher, Booktrope, has a network of authors that communicate with each other to offer advice and solutions. I find that is very helpful.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I had several early readers who were very generous with their time and advice. I think this is a very important step for any author. Learning to accept critique is essential.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Write, write, write and then edit, edit, edit!

Website?

www.judithworks.net

Where can we find your book?

City of Illusions is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback and electronic format, and on iTunes electronically.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/judith-works/id471795858?mt=11

What’s next for you?

I am in the outlining stages of another novel. It will open in Rome but then move to Seattle and nearby Vashon Island. There will be murder!

Thanks for visiting us today, Judith! I wish you much success with your books!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

Our Gifts: Small and Large #MondayBlogs

cropped-vscocam-photo-1.jpg

It is not unusual for me to briefly return to painting or drawing after a particularly long writing session, or if I feel stuck in a chapter or a paragraph of my work in progress. Yes, you could say I reward myself for a good writing session with my first passion—painting, and you’d also be correct if you thought I return to what I know best and did for most of my adult life when things get tough. You see, I came to writing late in life–at age 50 to be exact.

Usually, I force myself to remain seated in my writing chair by trying out different phrases, grabbing the thesaurus, breathing in and out, and visualizing the scene, because I know writers must travel through dark valleys, alleys, and around corners to get to the other side, to the light. It has happened to me—beautiful prose doesn’t always flow on demand because we have time, the inclination, or even if the muse is willing.

I am blessed to have many wonderful avenues of expression—all creative outlets—and I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t paint. I thought of this last week and came to a realization—everything we do is a creative outlet; no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to us…or others. Our creative outlets are blessings, and I am grateful for them.

How grateful am I?

My artistic gifts have always nourished and sustained me. My gifts of writing and painting keep me grounded, and make me feel vital, energized, and relevant. I do not, however, have other gifts which others might take for granted if they don’t view them as gifts and creative outlets. For example, I cannot sing a note without sounding off-key, and I don’t have the breath necessary to really belt out a song, which I’ve always wanted to do! I am not good at math, so my checking account is usually a bit messy, and I’m not a great organized, so my writing desk isn’t neat and tidy–I was absent the day God handed out those gifts.

I am, however, highly intuitive and creative; always have been. When I was growing up, my father turned his head at the gift of intuition, as well as my gifts of creativity and imagination. His feet were firmly planted on the ground and growing up poor only led to his deeply-rooted belief that everyone should earn their way in life; hobbies were silly. When I was ready for college, my father was adamant that studying art and painting would lead me nowhere and that I would die of starvation. I wanted to pursue art and English Literature in college, but he forced me to study business, which I did. I pursued art and writing on my own while working as a secretary for seven years before I married and had children of my own.

Of course as is life when you are a creative person (and a stubborn woman), I ended up painting, writing, and exhibiting my paintings as an adult. I now use my gifts every day, and so do you. You might bake, make beautiful flower arrangements or wreaths, decorate a beautiful room, and have a garden that people admire. You might make furniture, work on cars, cross stitch, write short stories, make beautiful scrap books or invitations, or write poetry. I never took my gifts for granted because I had to fight for them all my life.

But how grateful am I for my creative gifts?

Last week, during my first book festival as a participating author, I met a tall, lanky young man who approached my author table, pushing a stroller that held an adorable infant who was rubbing her eyes, flanked by two little girls who held onto the sides of the stroller. The young man introduced himself as William and then he introduced his daughters, which I thought was beautiful. As it turned out, soft-spoken William and his brood were looking for a gift for his wife/their mother for Mother’s Day.

I answered his questions about my historical novel, A Decent Woman, and he said the book sounded right for his wife. He went on to tell me how strongly he felt about introducing his young daughters to women who are living their passions in life. I was entirely charmed by William, and my sister and I agreed that he was an amazing father.

Then William told us a moving story about his battle with brain cancer after a youth spent on drugs, playing basketball for his university only to fall and injure his knee, and about getting in trouble most of his young life. He said it was time to share his story. Well, it has been a long time since I taught creative writing, but I encouraged him and without thinking, I said I’d help him as a writing coach and I’d edit his manuscript free of charge. The words rolled off my tongue and felt right.

William thanked me, reached across the author table, and shook my hand. I handed him my business card, and asked him to send me an outline of his story. He was overjoyed and when he left, I whispered to my sister, “What have I done? I’m writing and researching my second novel. I don’t have time for this!” My sister smiled and reminded me of the question I’d posed to myself the week before, “How grateful am I?” Was I willing to give back for writing an historical novel that has so far been well received? Was I serious about being grateful? It would have certainly been easier if I’d offered to read to his daughters or even babysit! Writing takes time, energy, and lots more energy. I’m 57…I don’t have all the time in the world, but I’d committed. And I always keep my word.

On Monday morning, I had a long email from William with an outline attached. I was blown away by what I read—his life had indeed been a struggle from childhood to the present. It’s a wonderfully inspirational story, and the outline will need a lot of fleshing out, but the bones are there. I will learn a lot while coaching and editing for William, and I have a feeling William will teach me more than I could ever imagine.

I know it will take us some time to write William’s inspirational memoir because he is a new writer, but we’re on the path. One chapter at a time.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut historical novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, Book of the Month. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M