Thoughts on Writing Novels in the Trump Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

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

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

 

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Update From The Writing Life Blog

Greetings from The Writing Life Blog!

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

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

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

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

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

Be well and happy writing.

Eleanor

Author Interview with Sarahn Henderson, Birth in the Tradition

Sarahn Headshot_By Maiyahn (1)

I couldn’t be happier to introduce you to my new friend, the midwife, educator, and writer, Sarahn Henderson. Two months before my historical novel, A Decent Woman went to layout, I was browsing the internet about caul births, and I stumbled upon Sarahn’s website. This was synchronicity at its best! I immediately contacted Sarahn, who was gracious enough to read an advanced reader copy of A Decent Woman. Sarahn gave my novel the first midwifery ‘seal of approval’. I will always be grateful to this beautiful, talented lady, and can’t wait to meet her in person.

Sarahn Henderson is the principal midwife at Birth in the Tradition. She is the mother of five adult children who were born at home. Since 1980, and to her credit, Sarahn has assisted and midwifed hundreds of families into parenthood. Her role models were the Granny Midwives, respectfully called Grand Midwives today. Sarahn has also apprenticed over a dozen women who chose to study or practice midwifery. Her vision is that homebirth will become nationally recognized as a safe alternative to hospital births (for the low risk mother), and that midwifery will become a licensed profession in the US maternal healthcare system. Sarahn is the author of Speak Sistah Speak, Preserving a Legacy and she is a performance artist.

Welcome, Sarahn!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Speak Sistah Speak, Preserving a Legacy is an inspirational coffee table photo book of Giwayen Mata; an all female African dance, drum and vocal ensemble!

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Speak Sistah Speak, Preserving a Legacy is a mélange of eloquent quotes, golden nuggets and voices of inspiration by the women of Giwayen Mata and other “Elephant Women”.  Additionally, it pictorially reflects the twenty years of Giwayen Mata’s growth and continuation.

How did you come up with the title?

Speak Sistah Speak is a Giwayen Mata Performance piece.

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In addition to being the title of GIWAYEN MATA’S book, Speak Sistah Speak is also the name of one of the performance pieces in Giwayen Mata’s repertoire. In this piece, Giwayen Mata’s artistic director, Omelika Kuumba, has addressed the ridicules, laughter and scorned faces from those who disapproved of her and other women stepping out to speak with their hands as female drummers. The title was used here again because being at the forefront, defending this change in attitude about women drummers is our charge and appropriately sums up Giwayen Mata’s 20 years. The preserving a legacy part of the title speaks to Giwayen Mata’s purpose to preserve the stories, language and history of Africa and the African Diaspora through song, dance and rhythms.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

This compilation of stories and words of wisdom are intended to inspire and encourage those who need examples of perseverance to help them achieve their goals. This book is about determination and perseverance. Giwayen Mata continues to trail blaze a new frontier for women drummers.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is the sharing of my imaginative thoughts in literal form. Writing is an artistic expression that allows me to create tapestries of words that entertain and inform. Writing is my gift, which I am continuously developing.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Putting my thoughts “perfectly” into words is the most challenging aspect of writing for me. When I find myself rewriting what I’ve already written just to make it read better, the process extends longer than I’d like. Knowing that my words will touch someone in the process allows me to stick to the challenge.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I don’t have one favorite author. I tend to be attracted to historical fiction literature. So authors who write a good story with interesting characters and events with historical context, can most times captivate me and hold my attention.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

I would have to say that Eleanor Parker Sapia and her novel A Decent Woman have been new sources of inspiration and influence for me. Besides being a performing artist, I am also an African American Midwife. I have been intending to publish my midwifery memoirs for years. Eleanor Parker’s book closely resembles my personal experiences in the US. After reading her story, I could tell that it is time for me to write my own. My clients, family and friends are continuously encouraging me to do so.

Favorite place to write?

Since I cannot say on the front porch of my cabin over looking the Smoky Mountains of Georgia or on the patio of my beach home listening to the waves of the Atlantic ocean, I have to confess that my favorite place to write is on my bed with my laptop on my lap desk! My room is my “She Cave” where I retreat to gather my thoughts. The lamp which hangs over my head provides me with the light I use to burn the midnight oil.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m shy! People don’t believe it because I perform and am well known in my community. But get me in a crowd with people I don’t know, I am quite the opposite of the social butterfly.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Writing and publishing is a process. Going the self publishing route requires doing your own editing, research and marketing.

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

Speak Sistah Speak is my first published book. After researching different publishing options, I followed the advice from the first person who put me on the road of self publishing. As a novice, this process has felt safe and has allowed me to have control of what I know and of what I need to know for further works.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Write! Be courageous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t procrastinate. If you have a story to tell, write it. Whether you are interested in self publishing or using a publishing company, there are plenty of resources on the web.

Website?

www.giwayenmata.com

Where can we find your book?

Speak Sistah Speak can be found at:

http://www.giwayenmata.org/store/specialty-items/speak-sistah-speak-preserving-a-legacy/  or

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Speak%2C+Sistah+Speak!!%3A+Preserving+a+Legacy

What’s next for you?

The Memoirs of an African American Midwife by Sarahn Henderson!!

Thank you for a wonderful interview and for the kind words, Sarahn! I am blessed to have you in my life and wish you all the best with Speak Sistah Speak and your memoir! Please keep me posted and visit us again! x

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. 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 her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Author Interview – Ally Bishop

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I’m very pleased to have the multi-talented, Ally Bishop, with us today!

Ally is a freelance editor and writing coach, Podcast interviewer extraordinaire, writer, and an Editor at Booktrope.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ally and have already learned so much about good writing from her. I’m sure you will enjoy learning more about her in this interview!

Welcome, Ally!

What is your book’s genre/category?

So…I’m actually a freelance editor and writing coach for fiction and nonfiction writers. We eradicate writer’s block and create awesomeness for authors. 🙂 But I also have a novel dying to be written – several actually. And I have a mystery novel I’m currently working on called CHASING MERCY.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Eddie Keen is a washed up musician-turned-private investigator, on the brink of bankruptcy, when she takes on one last case. A local church is embarking on their own reality television show, based on the faith healings of their members, but one member is calling them on fraud. When Eddie digs deeper, she finds that fraud isn’t their biggest sin. As church members start dying, Eddie is drawn into a web of confusion and lies, loyalty and secrecy, and no one is quite what they seem. With fame on the chopping block and Eddie getting closer to the answers, her own death might be the only testimony she leaves behind.

How did you come up with the title?

Oh, grief – it was tough. I’ve never been good at titling my own work. The original title was Blood in Gilead, which was a twist on a hymn. But the story has morphed and changed, and now the focus is different than the vision that inspired that title. Chasing Mercy is a direct comment on Eddie’s personal development, as well as the tale itself.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I’ve been writing since I was 8. I’ve completed three books that will never see the light of day. This originally started as a project for my MA in creative writing, and it had a vampire and a felon in it. I really wanted to write a paranormal mystery, but my program had so many literary minds in it, I was embarrassed to say that I wanted to write anything in the fantasy realm.

So I figured mystery was safe and “normal.” Ah, foolish me… Nonetheless, I removed all fantasy elements, wrote a straight up mystery (think Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series), and thus, Eddie Keen and Chasing Mercy was born. It’s had probably 11 rewrites (at least), and three major face lifts. It was originally much more snarky, but also, much longer. But now it’s tighter and more focused on Eddie and the story.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part(s) of writing are the initial idea phase, where the excitement insists you get it down on paper. You write from muse and inspiration, and the words don’t stop. LOVE, love, love that time. My next favorite is when you are finished your first draft, and it’s time to dig into the rewrite process. I love to crunch words, move concepts, shape and polish the story so it sparkles. (My inner editor can’t wait to come out and play).

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Honestly, finding time to invest in it. We live in such a harried, distracting world. I’m a social media maven. I’m curious. I have adult ADHD. Sitting down and getting that focus can be tough. The only way I know how to combat it is to have scheduled time to write, that no one and nothing intrudes on. And right now, with a freelance business that is booming and some wonderful opportunities on the horizon, it is critical that I schedule that time and don’t budge from it!

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I have favorite writers, and then I have favorite storytellers. When I read, it is in my nature to be critical – that is what makes me a good editor. So when I read for pleasure, I read storyteller’s works that are engaging and non-stop but at times, irritate my inner critic. But when I read for the purpose of improving my own abilities, I go to writers who I feel have a writing style that is top notch and something I aspire to.

My favorite writers are people like Ellen Miller (Like Being Killed), Gillian Flynn (Sharp Objects), and James Lee Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series). Amazing wordsmiths that can turn a phrase that will make your heart pound and your brain melt.

When it comes to storytellers, I adore Jim Butcher (the Harry Dresden series), Diana Gabaldon (the Outlander series), and classics like Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep). 

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My English Composition professor Nkanyisu Mpofu: he believed in me and my writing, and no one ever had before. He made me hungry to go after that approval. Since then, I’ve been wildly influenced by everything I read. Diana Gabaldon was the first book series that I read as an adult that made me realize the power of characters. Despite the fantasy elements of her series, the characters feel so real. It’s hard to believe they don’t really exist.

Jim Butcher taught me the importance of an evolving character. Harry goes so dark and almost evil at one point in the series – he’s barely recognizable as the wizard you fell in love with. But he’s on a journey in the books, and that makes you want to keep reading, keep finding out what his next step is going to be. It also ensures that you can’t guess what’s going to happen.

Every movie, every book, every magazine with short stories towards the back has taught me about what words can do and create in our imaginations. People often say, “But they’re just words.” I want to respond, “Yes, they are just words. And words are what define and unite us as humans!” They matter, and as writers, we know that.

Favorite place to write?

Coffee shops. Headphones, laptop with uber-long battery (thank you, Apple!), and some sort of hot beverage. When I can, I set myself up in NYC, in a different coffee shop each time, and I always do some of my best writing there.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’ve worked in a large prison, I’ve been on a high-speed car chase, and when I’m not writing, I am gaming. I love Guild Wars 2.

 Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

I completed my internship for my MFA with a small press, and now I am an editor for Booktrope, in addition to my freelancing business. I think we’ve built a mystique around publishing that is simply not accurate. Publishing is a business. If you have a platform and people will buy your book, someone will publish it. But in so saying, you can also do it all yourself – many readers do not care whose stamp is inside the cover. So whether you self-publish or get picked up by the “big 5” publishers, if you have a good story, people will read it.

The really cool thing is that our new social-media-focused world allows for opportunities like Booktrope, where you can get your book published in a more traditional way (with no money out of pocket), have an amazing team of people supporting you (editors, book managers, cover designers, etc.), and not have the headache of self-publishing. Booktrope has such a forward-thinking model for authors, and I daresay, this is only the beginning. In five to ten years, I think we are going to see more unique approaches to publishing that will ensure writers get their stories into readers’ hands.

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

I wrote through the awful. Awful writing, awful inspiration, awful plot line. I had never written a mystery before, so understanding how it flows was difficult for me. I kept trying to write to the formula (all genres have formulas, and mysteries have a very set-in-stone formula), rather than trust the process. Once I started to trust the process, the formula just showed up, rather than me trying to force it.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Write. I know, I know, it seems obvious. But often, we get hung up on the frustrations of publishing, and we forget to keep writing.

Find a good support system. Chances are, it may not be the people that you love. So find people that love writing. They may be on Facebook, Twitter, through meetup.com, or even your neighbor! Check in with a group at your library or local bookshop. You need somewhere to go and connect with people who get it.

And create your platform now. Get a free blog. Open a Twitter account. Get social media savvy. Gone are the days where we can put our heads down and leave it up to the publishers to advertise for us. And I know some complain about it, but really, you’ve never had more control over your creative identity than you do, right now. You get to choose how big it is, how slick it is, how serious it is. Some people embrace that. If you are someone who wants to but isn’t sure how…contact me!

Website?

http://www.upgradeyourstory.com

Where can we find your book?

It’s up on Wattpad (http://www.wattpad.com/story/17714320-chapter-1) J

What’s next for you?

Currently, I’m working on some amazing projects that will be published late summer/early fall, and I’m finishing up my final draft of CHASING MERCY. Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@upgradestory) to hear the latest!

Thanks for a great interview, Ally! Good luck with everything!

Ellie

 

The Most Well-traveled Manuscript in the World

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I doubt many 300-page novel manuscripts have physically traveled as far as the original manuscript of my historical novel, A Decent Woman. See if you agree with me.

I began writing A Decent Woman in the Belgian town of Wezembeek-Oppem, a suburb of Brussels, where I lived with my husband and our young children. I traveled with my bound manuscript on several family vacations to Spain, Italy, Greece, and a ski trip to France. In our 13th year of living in that great Belgian house, I finished the manuscript and found myself separated from my husband.

The manuscript was boxed up en route the tiny Provençal village of Uchaux in the south of France, where I lived in the house that was meant to be our dream retirement home. Retiring in France wasn’t in the cards at that time. I was heartbroken to close the doors of our house and say goodbye to my French friends.

So, the manuscript was again boxed up to travel with my belongings across the Atlantic Ocean to Syracuse, New York. I’d accepted a job as a pilgrimage coordinator for pilgrims looking to visit and volunteer at the Sanctuary of Lourdes in France where I’d volunteered for ten years. As a pilgrimage leader, I traveled from New York to France four times, always with my manuscript in my carry-on. Despite loving the job and the great perks of traveling to France, the harsh, long winters in New York forced me to move south after eight months. I also missed my children who were in colleges in Washington, DC and Virginia. I’d never been separated from them.

From Syracuse, I moved to Frederick, Maryland where I worked at a residential treatment center for kids and went back to school. My kids were still in college and after I graduated, I felt the need to move closer to the DC area where long-time friends lived. I would miss the children I worked with at the center who still hold a special place in my heart, but I had to go.

I moved to a two-bedroom condo in Alexandria, Virginia where my parents had retired in the 80’s and where I’d been a college student and a single woman. When my divorce came through, I was once again, a single woman in the DC area. I took a year off to clear my head and finally took  A Decent Woman out of the box. I enjoyed the DC area and being close to old and new friends, but my heart wasn’t at peace in a huge city with so much traffic, noise and air pollution. I couldn’t focus in that environment and felt out of place. I longed for solitude, nature and a big change.

The following year, I moved myself and my boxed manuscript down the road to Falls Church, VA where I lived in a large townhouse and worked as a Spanish language Family Support Worker. The urge to write full time plagued me every day. I just had to finish my novel, but was exhausted at the end of the day after driving to my client’s homes every single day for two years. I’d come home and try to write, but I didn’t have the emotional and physical stamina for it. I was able to do a large portion of my research, however, which served me well. Nothing we experience is a mistake.

A week after my 50th birthday, I decided to change my life completely. That personal milestone propelled me to fulfill my dream of living a creative life.  I found a house for sale in Berkeley County, West Virginia, only an hour and a half from my children who now lived and worked in Northern Virginia. I packed up my manuscript along with cassette tapes with many hours of interviews, loose pages of historical research, and a stack of non-fiction books I devoured for the novel and I moved West.

A lot of sacrifices were made, lots of lessons learned, and in this Federal-style, 107-year old house, I finished my novel.

I am now a full-time writer and I love it. This morning, I gazed at the four manuscript versions sitting on my dining room floor.  I am amazed at the hundreds, probably thousands of hours I’ve spent sitting at my laptop, sometimes from sunup to sundown. Definitely a labor of love. I can honestly say I’ve never tired of reading A Decent Woman and my characters are more dear to my heart than when I started.

I then walked up the attic steps and retrieved the box that holds my original manuscript. I was quite nostalgic when I opened the box. That manuscript takes me back to a very happy and difficult chapter of my life. I read the first few chapters and smiled as you would smile at a child during an important event in their lives. I’ve done everything necessary to prepare my historical novel for the world. It’s time. I am excited for the book launch of A Decent Woman in Fall 2014. I’m ready to share my book with the world.

My WIP, historical fiction, Finding Gracia, is well on its way and I am certain the book will be published during my time in this old house. I hope to see my second novel published in 2015. The sequel of A Decent Woman, Mistress of Coffee, will also be written and published while I continue to live in West Virginia, hopefully in 2016.

Although I doubt West Virginia is my forever home, for the moment…I’m not moving! My dream of returning to live and write in the South of France isn’t far from my mind, however. That is still my #1 dream.