“Wednesday Writer” – Kathleen Ellis

I am an equal opportunity author interviewer. That means that, whether I read the genre or not, I’m interested in the writer and his/her process. I think today’s interview is a first, since Kathi Ellis writes what I would call spiritual self-help books. So she’s breaking new ground for me, but I doubt it will be my last interview in this category.

Kathi EllisME:  As someone who ended up writing a book entitled THE DARKNESS CANNOT KEEP US: CHOOSING A BETTER TOMORROW, how would you characterize or describe your childhood? Where did you grow up and do you have any regrets? (I’d love to post a picture of you as a child.)

KATHI:  Actually, the book begins in the womb of my mother. Although most people would consider this an odd place to begin a story, it seemed fitting to me. I have discovered some amazing things about my own life, and the processes in it. My childhood was incredibly difficult. 

The book describes the life my brother, sister and I had. Our family was being torn apart even as I was developing in the womb, and we were all placed out for adoption. There were six living children. The oldest two had died at birth. We were placed in an alcoholic and abusive home with no love, no nurturing in our family.

Kathi as a child(Kathi as a child…it’s amazing she could smile)

I grew up in South Dakota. My greatest regret about the childhood of my brother, sister and me was that we didn’t know our birth family, including our parents and siblings. I eventually grieved a childhood lost.

(I suspected the roots of your book began in your childhood. You certainly wrote about what you knew.)

ME:  What did you want to be when you grew up and how did that evolve as you got older?

KATHI:  When I was young I always wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to help people. I think it was mostly because of the lack of nurturing I received as a child. I think on some level I knew I was meant to help people as part of my life purpose. Through my book and workshops I am able to do that now. Writing and speaking are passions of mine.

ME:  Did you go to college and, if so, what was your major? When did you realize you had a gift for writing?

KATHI:  I went to college to study nursing, but found after the first year I was too empathic toward my patients and could not deal with their pain on an emotional level.

I have always loved writing as well as reading. In high school, my teachers told me many times I had a gift for writing. I have written many unpublished essays and poetry and did publish one poem in a National Poetry Association anthology, as well as my first book, THE DARKNESS CANNOT KEEP US: CHOOSING A BETTER TOMORROW.

The Darkness Cannot Keep Us

ME:  Part of the description of the book on your website says “the author shares insights that took her from the depths of despair to fulfillment and love in every area in her life.” You’ve already touched on it, but when and why were you in “the depths of despair,” and how did you get there?

KATHI:  I was born into the depths of despair as the reader can experience in the book.  My mother was in the throes of severe post-partum depression, as I was the youngest of eight children, and our family was being torn apart even as I grew in the womb. By the time I was 18, having grown up in an abusive adoptive home, I made a decision to commit suicide. I talk about the miracle that changed that path of my life in the book. 

I felt compelled two years ago to change the direction of the book I had previously written.  As I have grown and changed throughout the years, I finally came to a point that caused me to have meaning and understanding about my early years. What I discovered was a process called cellular memory and how it affects everything we think, say and do on a totally unconscious level. Once I understood what was going on with me, I was able to heal a lot of physical and emotional pain, and correct the direction of my life. 

The depth of despair was a cumulative effect for me all through childhood. Getting to fulfillment and love was a journey that I describe in the book. I encourage others to consider the elements I have found that produce love and fulfillment in our lives.

ME:  What led you to write about your journey from despair to love and fulfillment?

KATHI:  When my youngest brother was dying in 1995, we had just lost our birth mother.  He asked me to promise him that I would make sure our lives made a difference, and would tell our story. I began this book at that time in part as a tribute to him.

When my brother passed away, he left me a book called “Hands Of Light”. It talks about the body’s human energy field. I was fascinated by the material so I decided to take some courses on it. I have studied the human body’s energy field for a long time, and became a Reiki Master over fifteen years ago. That knowledge, together with the study of cellular memory, has helped me to understand more completely how much we are in charge of our own destiny, physically, mentally and emotionally.

ME:  How did you become a motivational speaker and at what point did you develop your workshops? Please describe briefly the kind of workshop you put on and how it relates to your book (if it does).

KATHI:  I have always loved public speaking. It started when I took speech and debate in high school. In my adult life, I was active in political and social activities that called for public speaking. In the late 80’s, I joined a Toastmaster group because I was teaching adult education courses at the local college where I lived and wanted to improve my humor. Public speaking got into my blood as I began competing in Toastmasters. 

In 1994 I had the opportunity to become a Professional Development Consultant through the National Professional Women’s Network, and was trained and certified and began doing seminars. I also had the opportunity to contract with a national speaking circuit to do personal growth workshops. I lost my $50,000 investment, however, when the company was shut down by the Federal government as illegally operating a pyramid scheme. 

Now, I conduct personal growth and goal setting workshops to help people focus forward toward a better tomorrow. I know from my own experiences that what we focus on we will move toward.

ME:  Please describe the writing process you followed to produce your book.

KATHI:  Because of the promise I made my brother, I began by journaling. It was important for me to just start somewhere. The more I wrote in my journal, the more I began healing myself. 

It’s important for people to remember that all of us have a story within us. The most basic concept begins with going inside to find and touch that seed that will grow into our story.  Once we can get that story out on paper, we can move forward in our own lives. It doesn’t matter if you put your story out as fiction or non-fiction; it’s just important that you start somewhere.

(Well said. And I agree–we all have stories in us.)

ME:  Which came first, the workshops or the book? And can we expect other books from you in the near future?

KATHI:  I have to admit the workshops started before the book. However, I realize that since I wrote the book and had it published, the context and tone of the workshops has changed entirely. Writing this book has changed my life. After my youngest brother died in 1995, we had another 12 family losses and 6 of our best friends pass away in eight years.  My two older brothers passed away two years later three months apart as well. It literally sent me to my knees. (I can well imagine!) 

Two years ago, I picked up the book again, and began re-writing. I had an epiphany one morning during meditation that totally changed the direction of the book.

I will be writing more books. As a matter of fact, I have three titles in front of me to work on.  My readers are asking when the next book is coming out, so I guess that means I had better keep my nose to the grindstone and keep working on them. 

I have been really busy with the promotion of this book. Having self-published through Balboa Press, I find that much of the work is my responsibility. I’m sure it would be easier if I had a publisher that took care of all of that work for me, but right now I am arranging my own book signings and speaking engagements, etc. It keeps me pretty busy.

(Actually, unless you get signed with a big publisher, you’re still likely to have to do a lot of your own marketing. Writers rarely catch a break.)

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space or office, and list the five things in it that make it unique to you. (And I have to have a picture of it.)

KATHI:  I have a beautiful office! My husband hung a chandelier in it because he said every queen has to have a chandelier. It has my favorite colors on the walls, a muted purple and a purplish taupe. I like lots of light in my work place. I want cheerful and warm but serene at the same time! I have light colored plush carpet on the floor. AND I have a cross stitched sign on my desk that says “SHHH – I’m talking to God!” 

I also play beautiful soothing music when I write. It helps me go within to that space where all inspiration is found.

My space is bright and cheerful, and the walls are lined with bookcases filled with books.  Most of my books are spiritual, self-help and motivational works. I have angels, pictures of my kids, grandkids, and friends around me, and a photo of my husband on my desk. He changed my life and is my life!

(And here’s the proof):

Office (3)(A beautiful, well-lit office)

Kathi’s book is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. If you’d like to learn more about her workshops or writing, please feel free to check out her website or her author page on Facebook.

Next week I’ll be featuring an interview with fantasy author, Candi L. Norman, who also happens to work at our local Barnes & Noble.

Candi L. Norman

Originally posted 2013-10-09 06:00:30.

“Wednesday Writer” – Jordan Chaney

Jordan Chaney is a force of nature, and a natural for his style of poetry (more about that in a minute). I say he’s a force of nature because of the power of his presence. Also, not ten minutes after he saw that we’d been assigned an area of less traffic in the Barnes & Noble store to do signings, he sought out the manager. While we didn’t get moved, they at least began to send traffic our way. :D

And I’m so excited to have this opportunity to interview a poet on my blog. In my opinion, poetry is the very essence of writing and the very best writers have the souls of poets inside them. Let’s get a peek inside Jordan’s soul, shall we?

Jordan Chaney reciting poetryME:  Tell me about your father and mother and how each has affected your poetry. (And I’d love a picture of you as a child in either Alexandria, Virginia or Kennewick, Washington.)

JORDAN:  My mother was the person that introduced me to poetry when I was 6 years old. I remember her having a binder full of poems that she and her friends had written. I was fascinated by the collection because they were all typed up, laminated and 3 hole punched. It made the poetry seem special and important from my youthful mind. It drew me in. Besides poetry she used to draw pictures with color pencils from time to time, they were really good too. Her creativity made a huge impact on me as a child.

1378372_10151756996388101_1779303804_n(Jordan surrounded by books as a child in Kennewick…a Ninja Turtle fan!)

My father committed suicide when I was 3 years old. I didn’t have the chance to gather many impressions of him, but from stories I’ve heard and old polaroid photographs I’ve learned that he had a great sense of humor and he loved art as well. My dad was a hard worker. He was employed by AT&T and started out collecting change from pay phones and worked his way up to PBX installation which is climbing up the telephone poles and connecting wires to and fro I assume. I am the product of a soft-hearted poet and a hardworking electrician.

(And, believe me, it shows. The soft-heartedness in his poetry, and the work ethic in his drive to market his poetry and make connections.)

ME:  What was the first poem you ever recall reading, and which poem had the greatest influence on your desire to become a poet?

JORDAN:  The first poem that I ever read was when I was 6 years old and it was titled “Mr. H.” The poem was about a woman that was dating a man named Mr. H and it was a very abusive relationship. No matter how badly Mr. H abused the woman, she, to save her own life, could not leave him. At the end of the poem it is revealed that Mr. H is actually the drug heroin and she is losing a battle to her addiction. As you can imagine this is pretty heavy reading for a child. But it taught me personification as far as structure goes and it taught me empathy for real ills that humanity faces.

Later in life I came across a poet named Saul Williams. His poem, Amethyst Rocks, reminded me so much of Mr. H but with power and intensity. Amethyst Rocks was the first spoken word performance piece that I ever witnessed. It is still to this day the only poem that has given me chills. It completely changed my direction with where I wanted to go with poetry.

Saul Williams(Saul Williams in performance)

ME:  What did you think you wanted to become when you were in high school, and how and when did that shift to poetry? (And I’d love to post a high school picture of you.)

JORDAN:  When I was in high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to be–a public speaker and a poet.

1378336_10151756995348101_319406350_n(Jordan in high school)

In 10th grade during Career Week, we were given an assignment to write a career paper based on what we wanted to do for the rest of our life. I spoke to the guidance counselor and told her very confidently that I wanted to be a public speaker and a poet. She immediately shot back in what I know now to be a patronizing tone,  “Oh honey, that is not a real career. You need to choose something more realistic, ok?”

I was crushed. My dream was shot down. I mean here my whole life teachers and other people as well were constantly beating into my head that I could be whatever I wanted to be in life. That was the on-going campaign slogan from kindergarten on up and now all of the sudden it changed to “You can be anything you want, but choose something realistic.”

So I chose to write my career paper on becoming an Astronaut.

My latest book of poetry is titled ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS. (And let me add that it’s been endorsed by local NYT best-selling author Patricia Briggs.) I never became an Astronaut per se but here I am still reaching for the stars as a public speaker and poet with hundreds of speaking engagements and poetry performances under my belt.

381689_10151400816603101_1941005730_n(Jordan proving his guidance counselor wrong in one of his workshops)

Kids, you can be anything you want to be. You just got to always believe that it is possible and that all dreams have the potential to become reality. Don’t let anyone politely guide you away from them. They don’t know about the wild fires dying to climb out of you, only you do.

(Well said!)

ME:  Why verse? Why not fiction or memoir? In other words, in your opinion, what can verse do that other forms of creative writing can’t? And what is the difference between a poet and what you call yourself–a spoken word poet?

JORDAN:  To be honest, fiction and memoirs have always been scary for me to take on as a project simply because of the length, technical aspects, and structure. I didn’t feel ready to write larger stories up till now. I am actually working on a memoir behind the scenes. (Yay! You’ll have to let us know when it’s done.)

There has always been freedom with verse. No punctuation is needed, misspelled words are welcomed phonetically if you want, it can rhyme or not rhyme, it can be long and drawn on or to the point and pithy. Poetry is Vegas for a writer. Anything goes really. (I’ll have to admit, that’s a new way of looking at it.) Though after writing it for years I have found patterns that work better than others when it comes to getting a message across.

I always have considered myself a poet. A spoken word poet to me falls under the umbrella of poet. Spoken word poetry has more of a theatrical aim than poetry that is just written to be read on page alone. When I am speaking at high schools, my talks are a blend of motivational speaking and poetry. Spoken word is a more entertaining medium and an effective way of getting a message across. Message is everything for me.

ME:  Having met you, I know you have charisma and are a real people person. How have you used those skills to enhance your career as a poet?

JORDAN:  I genuinely love people. I love meeting all kinds of people and on the upside of that you never know who somebody knows. I have shaken hands with people who have turned around and introduced me to New York Times Best Selling authors. I have met people whose stories have turned into my most popular poems. Having a genuine love for people has by default created many great opportunities, fans of my work, and most importantly long-lasting, genuine friendships. Some people call it networking, I call it friend collecting.

(And he has a gift for it. You know how moths are drawn to light? Well, he’s a light.)

ME:  Please tell us about the workshop you’ve put together, and where has it proven most effective? (I’d love a picture of you workshopping.)

JORDAN:  The first workshop that I put together is called Speaking From the Pen. It is an interactive workshop equipped with communication and improv games as well as writing prompts, all designed to help a person become a more confident, creative communicator. I have done this workshop for 4th and 5th graders, junior high and high school students, teens in alternative schools and the juvenile justice center, college kids, and even parents.

I have found that it is most effective with people that are looking for something more, for growth, for self-improvement. Because my workshops are not just getting down to the bones of writing and performing. My workshops are about unveiling your dreams and your passions and how confidence, creativity, and communication can help you get there!

481735_10151217085363101_1820929857_n(Jordan, in the rear, with one of his enthusiastic workshop groups)

ME:  Your poetry has begun to take you places. What’s the most exotic destination you’ve visited in pursuit of your art, and where would you like to go next? (I have to have a picture of you in that most exotic location.) Also, when traveling and performing abroad, do you worry about translating your verse, or do you keep it in English?

JORDAN:  The most exotic place my poetry has taken me is Athens, Greece. Earlier this year, a friend of mine posted a link for a unique opportunity to attend the Athens School of Fine Arts. I figured I would give it a shot. Lo and behold, I was 1 of 22 artists from around the world chosen to attend. (You see? His gift for friendship paid off.)

IMG_0594(Jordan in front of the Parthenon)

All that I learned there would take up about 20 pages so, in short, I learned that with art anything is possible and it is important for the world that an artist stands his ground boldly and courageously.

I am going to London next and I am beyond excited about this opportunity. Supreme elation is what I feel. I have had people ask to have my poetry translated into their native tongue and I have been perfectly ok with that. In fact, in my book there is one poem that is written for migrant workers that I had translated into Spanish.

ME:  Despite the likes of J.K. Rowling, novelists are generally classed among the poor, and poets even more so. How do you support yourself financially, or are you able to rely solely on your creative work?

JORDAN:  Gigs. Workshops. T-shirts. Speaking engagements. Performances. Books. Sometimes tips. I believe that a creative person has to also be creative entrepreneurially in order to thrive as an artist. That is the short answer.

The longer answer can be found on page 12 of ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS, which can be downloaded for free from Smashwords.com or purchased at Barnes & Noble.

Rocket Fuel for Dreamers(Way to promote yourself! Who can resist a free download to get the long answer?)

ME:  Please talk about your poetic process, and the differences between your two published works, DOUBLE BARRELED BIBLE–A POET’S QUEST FOR THE ALMIGHTY and ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS: POETRY. Also, what are you working on next?

Double Barreled Bible

JORDAN:  DOUBLE-BARRELED BIBLE is the rawest material I have written so far. It is all of my frustrations with religion and politics, me reconciling coming from poverty and a broken home, and struggling to find a balance between my spirit and my flesh. The tone is very heavy, real and dark with a thread of light inter-mixed throughout its pages.

ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS is the opposite of DBB, it’s about self-love, it’s about going after your passions, it’s about wine, and Ninja Turtles, it’s for my son, the women that I have loved and still love, it’s peppered with Greek mythology and wild imagination. There is even a glossary in the back of the book!

(Now that’s got to be a first–a glossary in the back of a poetry book.)

I am currently putting together a chap book of 10 poems titled Maria, which will be all of the things I never said before, a confessional piece that I have found very hard to talk about in the past, and what my actual thoughts are on life, god, and religion. 

I have also written a children’s book that is being illustrated at the moment. That should be ready sometime next spring. A memoir is also in the works, tentatively titled: The Psychotic Misadventure of a Blossomed Consciousness.

I, like many creative people, keep a journal of endless ideas. I only share the ideas that are in motion.

(Nice way to put it. :D)

ME:  Finally, please share a poem that describes one of your favorite creative spaces–a place where you find it easiest to compose poetry. (And I’d love a picture of that space.)




I have a crush on you

you beautiful bulbous

berry of the gods

you galaxy of dark blue stars

you plump and precious

bottle of Pinot Noir


I simply adore you


you sometimes gorgeous green thing

drooping a thousand times from paintings always nude and next to tulips the Pinot Gris on your two lips puts the kiss in kismet

it’s serendipitous the way

we have come together


mighty migrant workers

are up to their shins in mud

are sweating in the sun

are plucking darkened rubies

all for my tongue

getting paid in pesos

to slave away

for my fair love


you are endless and without edges

a purple pearled necklace

with a cluster of cleavage

dangling beneath it

a scarlet goddess 

robed in a red dress 

sagging on the vine

marauding my fantasies

every midnight

when the sky light is merlot-like


(Note: The poem continues for several stanzas. To read the rest, you’ll have to get a copy of ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS)


530546_10151727441713101_76589646_n(A beautiful, inspiring view for Jordan. Needless to say, there are many wineries in this region and I have a feeling he’s familiar with at least some of them.)

If you want to learn more about Jordan, his poetry, and his workshops, check out his website. He’s also on Facebook and Twitter.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be featuring Kathi Ellis, an award-winning motivational speaker who has authored a self-help book.

Kathi Ellis

Originally posted 2013-10-02 06:00:34.

“Wednesday Writer” – Christy Leskovar

Christy Leskovar had a solid career in mechanical engineering when she happened upon some family history that was too intriguing to ignore. As she delved into the truths behind the tale, she knew this was a story waiting to be written and, setting aside her career, she set off to do just that. What resulted was her first published work–ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN–a true story of “scandal, war, murder, and mayhem.”

Leskovar_HiRezx300x385ME:  You were born in Butte, Montana but grew up in Kennewick, Washington. Do you have any childhood memories of Butte, and, if so, which ones stand out the most? Also, how does the Kennewick of your childhood differ from what it is today? (I’d love to post pictures of you as a child in Montana and in Kennewick.)

CHRISTY:  Memories of childhood in Butte – playing piano by ear at Grandma T’s while she and Mom visited in the front room; the house shaking at 4 pm when they blasted in the mine; Dad pulling my brother and me on the sled when we went out to the forest to chop down a tree for Christmas; getting a ride home from school in the cab of the next door neighbor’s cement truck; the nuns’ formidable long black habits at St. Ann’s (I’ll bet you have some good nun stories…:D); playing kick the can in the alley; the 9 pm curfew siren; snow so high we could barely see the mailbox.

img131(Christy gets a writing desk for Christmas in Butte…signs of things to come)

As for the Kennewick of my childhood differing from today, the Tri-Cities have grown so much since we moved there at the end of 1968. That’s the biggest difference. There are many more wineries too. (Amen!)


ME:  Before you discovered the long-hidden truth about your great-grandmother that led to your writing ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN, what were some of the most interesting things you had heard about her? (And is there a picture of her with your great-grandfather that you can share?)

CHRISTY: Before hearing that she was arrested for murdering her husband, the most startling thing I had heard about her was that she tried to force her daughter (my grandmother) into prostitution. Grandma T told me that.

(Wow! That was some kind of mother.)

Christy50 024(Sarah with Arthur Hughes before she allegedly killed him…see those cold, hard eyes?)

ME:  Okay, I can kind of tell from your college degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and French that you were somewhat undecided between the Humanities and Math and Sciences. So I wasn’t completely surprised that, after a solid career as an engineer, you decided to put it aside and try your hand at writing. Still, to do something like that, you must have had some early success with the written word. When and how did you know you had it in you to write a book?

CHRISTY:  I didn’t think about it in those terms. I just did it.

(That has to be a record on my blog for the shortest answer to the longest question ever!)

ME:  Some writers seem to have it in them from an early age and stories tumble out of them. Others come to it later in life, particularly when one story, in particular, captures their imagination. Tell us how ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN came to you and why you were so sure you had to tell this story.

CHRISTY:  I had gone to Butte for a family funeral. While visiting Aunt Aila, she pulled out a box and from it some papers which she passed to us. They were rap sheets from the prison – for my great-uncles Bill and Archie, Grandma T’s brothers. I barely knew she had brothers (no surprise after seeing the rap sheets). Then Auntie Mary told us about the fire on the ranch, and finding the body, and that Great-grandma Sarah was arrested for murdering Arthur. I went home, went back to work at Bechtel, and then one afternoon the idea just popped in my head: I was going to go find out what happened and write a book about it.

ME:  Doing the research for this particular family saga required a lot of travel. Please describe some of the surprising places and events you found you had to investigate to do this story justice. (And I’d love a picture or two from your travels.)


CHRISTY:  It was an unforgettable adventure, chronicled in my second book, FINDING THE BAD INN. One of the biggest surprises was finding out that one of the prisoners escaped. What an escapade that turned out to be.

As for my travels, I went everywhere anything significant happened, which included Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wales, Northern Ireland, France, and Belgium. I was attacked by a dog on a Welsh farm, had a policeman train his automatic weapon on me in Belfast, and was hospitalized in Belgium. (Can you tell how dedicated she was to uncovering the whole saga?)

Along the way I gathered amazing story after amazing story. One of the most exciting physical finds was discovering the old stone house where Sarah lived in Wales.

Old Stone House in Wales where Sarah Thomas lived as a child(Sarah’s old stone house in Wales)

(And here’s her book trailer for her second book)

ME:  What or who helped you decide to create a second book out of what was essentially your journey of research for the first?

CHRISTY:  After my trip to Wales, Ireland, France, and Belgium, I felt like I was living in a novel. Finding the story became as interesting as the story I was finding. I decided to write down what happened–my search for the story–just to preserve it for myself. Then I realized, there’s a book here.

In light of what has come out about several memoirs, I’m glad I did it, though ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN isn’t a traditional memoir in that it was assiduously researched.

ME:  Do you have more stories in the pot stemming from your own family history and, if so, what may we expect to see next from you? I know, for example, that after the murder of her father, your grandmother was sent off to an orphanage. Did you cover her story enough in your first book or can you see possibly devoting a third book to your grandmother’s life story? (And I’d love to post a picture of you with your grandmother.)

CHRISTY:  The story of Sarah’s being arrested for killing her husband is just Part One of ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN, which has six parts. After the mystery of the fire on the ranch is solved, at least in part, the story continues with my grandmother getting out of the orphanage, moving to the raucous mining town of Butte, Montana, (this was in 1915), meeting her handsome, footloose future husband who goes off to the First World War. It’s quite a story. (It certainly sounds like it!)

the old orphanage(Christy with her grandmother in front of the old orphanage)

First World War Trench in France

(Christy in a World War I trench during research)

Originally, I planned to write a book about all four grandparents, but as I got into the research, the story grew by leaps and bounds. There was more than enough story about my maternal grandparents for one book. My paternal grandparents are the protagonists of my next book, which I’m researching now. As with ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN, it will be nonfiction, researched, and put in historical context.

(We’ll have to keep an eye out for it.)

ME:  What are some of the most important things to remember when writing memoir, or true crime, or family history?

CHRISTY:  Get the facts, and the memories, in context. Corroborate everything you can. You find more story that way, and you get closer to the truth. Even things you read in well-regarded “history books,” if something doesn’t sound right, research it.

ME:  How did you personally keep all of your research materials organized so you could quickly find and refer to them as you were writing?

CHRISTY:  I kept notes in notebooks and transcribed them onto the computer. I kept a timeline and notes by subject. I reviewed them many, many times. I wrote from memory, then went back to my notes and timeline to fact check myself.

(As you can tell, writing history accurately requires a great deal of patience and persistence.)

ME:  Finally, could you describe your personal writing space in the voice of your great-grandmother. (And I’d love to post a picture of your office or writing area.)

CHRISTY:  In the voice of my great-grandmother, my goodness! She was a cross between Auntie Mame and Fagin (What a combination!), so I’ll leave that up to the imagination of the reader. As for my writing space, I have a desk with a bookcase and file drawers in front of window with a lovely view, palm trees in the distance.

photo of Christy's desk(Hmmm…now how would Auntie Mame and Fagin describe this?)

Seriously, readers, if you want to give it a try, please post your best efforts in the Comments section. :D I’ll let Christy be the judge as to who captures her villainous, adventurous great-grandmother the best.

In the meantime, you can learn more about Christy and her writing on her website. And you can buy her book on Amazon.

Note: I apologize for not posting my promised interview with Karen Spears Zacharias last week, but a family situation came up that I had to attend to. I’ll try and catch her again in a couple of months.

Meanwhile, check back here next Wednesday for my interview with the popular and entertaining poet Jordan Chaney.

Jordan Chaney reciting poetry

Originally posted 2013-09-25 06:00:58.

“Wednesday Writer” – Patty Old West

Patty was one of my fellow Pacific Northwest Authors taking part in the recent group signing at Barnes & Noble, and it’s a pleasure to introduce her to you today. She has an infectious smile and I have a feeling that translates to both her children’s fiction and inspirational nonfiction alike.

Patty Old WestME:  I have to admit that when I first read your name, the phrase “The Old West” came to mind and, figuring it was a pen name, I assumed you wrote Western fiction. Of course, once I dug a bit further, I realized that wasn’t so. Please tell us how you came by your name. (And I’d love to post pictures of you with both of your husbands.)

PATTY:  I married Ken Old in 1998 in Kent, England. I had visited him and his wife there in 1993 and 1996 with friends. She died in 1977 and in 1998 I visited on my way to Kenya. I sent him a letter from there saying all my waking thoughts were of him. (Sometimes it pays to be forward, ladies!) Twelve days after he received the letter we were married, and I became Patty Old. In 2007 he died and I moved back to the States.

Reply Patty and Ken(Patty and Ken)

In 2008 I sent a Christmas letter to a man I graduated with in 1949. There was no wife listed with him in our church directory and our sixtieth high school class reunion was coming up.  He replied with his own Christmas card and I let it set until the day before Valentine’s Day when I sent a reply saying if I had mailed it a day earlier I could have asked him to be my valentine. He actually got it on Valentine’s day, and called to invite me to lunch. Five weeks later we were married and I became Patty West. The Little People stories were written by Ken so I used Patty Old West as my author name.

(Aha! Now it’s all clear.)

Reply Patty and Roy(Patty and Roy)

ME:  Where were you born and raised, and how has that affected your view of the world? (I’d love a picture of you as a child.)

PATTY:  Actually, I am from the Old West. (How fitting!) I was born on Halloween, 1931 in Denver, Colorado at my grandmother’s home. My parents moved to Central City 40 miles west of Denver—a small town at 8,000’ elevation with only 200 residents. Everyone knew everyone else in town. It was known as the Richest Square Mile on Earth for its gold mines.  We lived on the side of a hill and climbing up and down the hills gave me a sense of adventure that I never lost.

Reply Patty 18 months(Patty at 18 months…she already has that winning smile)

I attended grade school there, graduating from eighth grade at the top of a class of eight.  In 1945 my folks moved to Richland. (That’s in Washington State for those of you not yet familiar with me and my whereabouts.) The first question students asked at school was, “Where are you from?” For years my answer was always, “Colorado,” even after I had lived here longer than I did in Colorado. I am a Rocky Mountain girl at heart.

ME:  When did you develop an affinity for writing and/or storytelling, and what made you realize you were good at it?

PATTY:  Actually, it was Ken who wrote the Little People stories and I have edited them for publication. (Stop right there. I’ll let you chalk it all up to Ken, if you like, but I know enough to recognize that it takes a good writer to do editing.) He wrote in King James English and some of his sentences were a full paragraph long. He didn’t have the benefit of moving sentences around, so many of the stories were out of sequence.

I have learned a lot about writing in working with the publisher. I have been encouraged by so many positive comments about how fun and exciting the stories are to read that I am going back to re-edit book one.

The Wizard of Wozzle (straight)(Volume 1)

Ken led such an interesting life that I felt his story needed to be told so I did write his biography. I spent three years researching his life before submitting the book to the publisher. They felt it was too long so it was divided into two books.

Good and Faithful ServantOnce Met Never Forgotten

ME:  How has your Christian faith affected your writing?

PATTY:  The Little People only tell the truth so all of those stories have the underlying characteristics of Christian faith without being “in your face” about it. My deep faith means I would never write a book filled with profanity or actions contrary to Christian principles.

ME:  Okay, please tell us who the “Little People” are and how the 12-part series got started. Also, which age group are they aimed at?

PATTY:  These are stories Ken told to missionary children in Pakistan. They were isolated from parents at boarding school for months at a time. He ‘invented’ the Little People—half-a-thumb high—and a wicked wizard who tries to capture them, to encourage the children to let their imaginations soar to new heights.

When he retired, he began putting the stories in writing. He had only written a few chapters when I married him. As he finished a chapter, I would do simple editing, print it out, and we would read them together. With his prolific imagination, the continuing story became twelve books.

(Note: They haven’t all been published yet. See her website for details.)

The stories are geared primarily for 8- to 15-year-olds, but younger children enjoy having them read to them. And the adults who have read them cannot wait until the next book comes out. (That pretty much seems to cover all age groups. Smart marketing. :D)

ME:  In the series, since you’re mixing reality and fantasy, do you ever have to do research in terms of travel? And whether you do or not, what was one of your most memorable places you visited, either alone or with Ken? (Also, I’d love a picture of the site and/or a picture of your home in England.)

PATTY:  The Little People stories are based in England so there was no research regarding travel, but Ken inserted a lot of history into his stories and I have done much research verifying the details of different events in history. Ken and I never travelled together outside of England or the US, but we often visited Cornwall where he spent the early days of his life. It was his favorite place to visit.

Repty Gibbins Brook Farmhouse(Their farmhouse in England)

Reply Farmhouse Living Room(Their farmhouse living room…Isn’t it cozy?)

(*Hint: If you click the picture for a larger view, you’ll be able to see lots of clues to Ken’s far-ranging travels.)

ME:  You’ve been to some pretty exotic locales, yourself. What were some of the most fascinating and which are you most likely to write about in the future? (A picture of you in the setting would be lovely.)

PATTY:  I don’t know that I will be writing about any of the places I have visited except to mention them in my biography. I have been on every continent save one and I am going to Antarctica in February with my son. (Now that’s a biography I’d definitely be interested in reading!)

One of the countries I would enjoy visiting again is New Zealand. It is like a miniature America in its landscape. I went to Peru to view Halley’s comet and enjoyed seeing Machu Picchu. And it was interesting standing on the equator and going on safari in Kenya where I patted the nose of a rhinoceros. I taught English in China for two summers and climbed the Great Wall of China. The time there was eye-opening in more ways than one. The home I stayed in when I went to Estonia took me back to my childhood. It was like stepping back into the thirties. Compared to America, it was almost primitive.

(Patty explained that all her pictures from her trips abroad were of scenery or of the people she went with…so we shall just have to imagine Patty standing here:)

great wall of chinaME:  Please describe your process of taking Ken’s story notes, written in King James English, and turning them into finished books.

PATTY:  First I go through and change all the British spellings to American. (Hmm…my latest work involves British spellings…I might have to consult you for your expertise.) Then I do the formatting—setting margins, removing tabs, formatting titles. Then I do an initial reading and edit the sentences—breaking them up into shorter sentences. As I notice paragraphs out of sequence, I move them where they belong. I also change present progressive tense to present tense at the suggestion of the first editor I had.

(Quick grammar lesson: He walks – present tense; He is walking – present progressive)

Then I read through again, correcting errors as I find them, and change text into dialogue or thought. I also make the dialogue for Jock, the little Scottish leader of the Little People, into a Scottish brogue. The read-through before I have my daughter ‘proof’’ it for me is to check for accuracy of details, insert text to clarify the action, and improve readability.

(Sounds like quite a process!)

ME:  I know you’ve written and published two biographies of Ken. Once you’ve finished the Little People series, what do you think you’ll write next—fiction or nonfiction, and why?

PATTY:  My next project is to write my own biography so my family will have a history of my life.


ME:  Finally, please describe your office, or the area you use to write, in the voice of the Wicked Wizard. Feel free to use King James English or not. (And I must have a picture of your writing space.)


Miss Patty isn’t as smart as she thinks she is. With my brilliant mind, I would not need two printers to get my work done. And why does she need two oversize screens? Does she think she has limited vision or something? I could do just fine with the laptop screen. And the keyboard? Ridiculous! Can’t she see the buttons on her computer? Of course she has it stuck back against the wall and couldn’t reach the keys anyway. I do rather like the big TV screen that enlarges pictures and printed material. Just look at her with her nose up against the screen peering through a magnifying glass. Doesn’t she ever take a break? Her poor husband sits out in the living room hour after hour waiting for her to join him. What a patient creature he is. I wouldn’t stand for it.

(Wonderful! And here’s the visual proof:)

Patty's OfficeYou can read a lot more about Patty and Ken and their books on her website. And check out the first volume of the Little People series, THE WIZARD OF WOZZLE, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kindle.

As far as next week goes, please check in again on Wednesday for my interview with MOTHER OF RAIN author, Karen Spears Zacharias, whose work has been featured in The New York Times and The Huffington Post, as well as on CNN and NPR.


Originally posted 2013-09-11 12:28:18.

“Wednesday Writer” – M. Ann Rohrer

I met Ann a little over a month ago, thanks to a friend of mine, and now she’s a member of our local ANWA Chapter, the Columbia River Writers. I wasn’t surprised to find out she belongs to a few other writing groups, as well. And I have Ann to thank for passing along the invitation to take part in the recent Barnes & Noble Pacific Northwest Authors Event. While she has only published one book so far, I expect to see a lot more from her. Once you’ve read about her background, I think you’ll understand why.

ann-rohrer-author-_mattieME:  I heard some stories from the Pratt brothers in my BYU student ward back in the 70s about growing up in Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, but my memory’s poor. Please describe what it was like for you growing up there and include a picture or two. Also, what took your family there?

ANN:  Think southern Utah about sixty years ago; farming community, wide roads, redbrick homes with tin roofs on an acre or two; add tall cottonwood trees and Maples lining the streets. That is Colonia Juárez. Until relatively recently, most of the roads weren’t paved. One or two still aren’t, like the one that passes the family homestead where my mother now lives. I was born in the front room—the big window on the ground floor.

Colonia Juárez house(Interesting. That is not at all how I pictured it.)

My great grandparents were among the many families who came from Utah about 1886, to colonize and farm the land purchased by the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) from the Mexican government. My parents left the Colonies around 1950 and didn’t move back until 1980. But, we spent many summers visiting. My grandparents’ house was built in 1920 and didn’t have an indoor bathroom until the 60’s. We knew about outhouses and chamber pots. Haha.

Hated them.

(Can’t blame you.)

Summers in Colonia Juárez meant horseback riding, sneaking green apples from grandpa’s orchard, and proving our courage on the swinging bridge—a footbridge made of rickety planks held together with cables that would sway with every step. The crazy kids would jump up and down causing the bridge to undulate, scaring the living daylights out of us more cautious types.

Electricity was not consistent, and many a night we depended on coal oil lamps for light. Grandma cooked from a wood-burning stove and we did our wash once a week with a wringer washer (Believe it or not, I remember those! My grandma had one. That’s how old I am) and a big steel tub over a fire for the white clothes. I even remember weekly baths in the kitchen in one of those steel tubs. We all took turns. First one to bathe got the clean water. And it was never me.

(Hmm…too slow or didn’t you like baths?)

Colonia Juárez View

I thank Jeff Romney for permission to use this recent picture of Colonia Juárez. Central, in the background, is a Mormon temple, and bottom left in the foreground is a Catholic church. The building on the far right is the Juarez Stake Academy where students have attended high school since 1897. It is a private school owned by the LDS church with a dual-language program open to everyone for the price of tuition. My sophomore year was at the JSA. My parents lived in Peru, South America by that time, and their employer did not provide education after the ninth grade.

ME:  Why, when you were nine, did your family then move to Peru, and how did your years in Mexico compare to your ten years in Peru? Also, how have each of these places affected your writing? (And I must have a picture or two from your years in Peru, preferably one of them showing your whole family.)

ANN:  By the time I was five, my parents lived in Bisbee, Arizona. Dad worked for Phelps Dodge Copper Mine. About 1952 PD joined with other mines to form Southern Peru Copper Corporation. My father spoke Spanish and was hired in 1956 to help open the mine in Peru eventually becoming Drilling and Blasting foreman for SPCC. The picture below was taken about 1965. I’ll spare you the myriad of pictures of blasts that made it so deep. Dad was proud of his work.

Southern Peru Copper(Southern Peru Copper Corporation site)

Toquepala is a community carved out of the western slopes of central Andes Mountains for SPCC employees.


(You can make out the village in the lower left hand corner)

We lived at 9000 feet, the mine was at 11,000 feet, and the reservoir, where we liked to picnic, was at 12,000-14,000 feet, at the foot of the snowcaps. We could be at sea level in less than two hours. One learned to pop their ears or suffer the pain. Annual rainfall was about ½ inch. The mountainous desert was as barren as a sand dune. Close to the equator, Toquepala daytime temperatures never exceeded 75and nighttime temperatures rarely dropped to freezing.

Naturally, life’s experiences surface in my writing. Anyone reading my books will learn about green apples, weekly baths in steel tubs, wringer washers, the terror of earthquakes, and the expansive beauty and terrible force of the unforgiving Pacific.

Ann with family(Ann, front and center, with her family)

ME:  I’m curious about the reason you returned to Mexico for your sophomore year and why you didn’t stay there to finish high school rather than go back to Peru (where you earned the rest of your high school degree by correspondence).

ANN:  After ninth grade, there were three options:  boarding school in Lima 600 miles away, return home to live with relatives, or correspondence.  My parents chose to send me to Mexico to live with my Dad’s brother and his wife—wonderful people with a large family, who had a daughter my age. I was fifteen—too young, and terribly homesick. Returning to Peru for the summer, I decided to stay, choosing option three to continue my education. Through correspondence, I finished my junior and senior year in twelve months and enrolled at Brigham Young University at age seventeen. . .just.

(Good for you!)

ME:  Have you always wanted to be a writer and, if so, what was the first creative piece that convinced you that you could succeed as a writer? Please share what you remember about it.

ANN:  Haha. You should ask. It’s not glamorous, nor impressive. My mother loved my letters and told me I should be a writer. (Yay for mothers!) She said it often enough, it became a recording in my brain, and when my last child entered high school, I signed up for a creative writing class.

Over a period of fifteen years, I wrote two novels—the first one about eight times. I didn’t know if I was any good; I only knew that writing was my passion second only to chocolate and caramel. Finally, I braved a critique group about four years ago. The others were published authors who validated me as a writer. You would have thought I had won the lottery—or landed a publishing contract—I was that excited. Haha.

(We do have a responsibility, I believe, to validate each other as writers. Yay for critique groups and mothers!)

ME:  What were your earliest memories of Tucson, Arizona where your family ended up in 1965? Whether you remained there for college or went elsewhere, I’m curious if and how much you were affected by culture shock and what you ended up focusing on in college.

ANN:  I don’t remember much culture shock, other than craving bologna sandwiches and Rainbow bread. Shopping was awesome. The young men didn’t whistle or cat call. That was a relief. The biggest shock was seeing snow for the first time. I was seventeen. It quickly lost its charm. I remember one morning, my third semester, middle September, lying in bed groaning because I knew without looking, from the sloshing sounds of the passing cars, that it had snowed. Haha.

Out of money and at loose ends and very homesick, I quit school and joined my parents in Arizona. I planned to work a couple of years and go back to school. Instead, I served a two-year mission for my church in Mexico City and then got married.

(By the way, Ann and her husband are currently serving a local church service mission together here in Kennewick, Washington.)

ME:  I imagine you were (and probably still are) fluent in Spanish. After settling stateside, did you find yourself drawn to the Hispanic community? Where did you find your best friends?

ANN:  Four of my grandchildren are Hispanic. While I speak Spanish, my grandchildren don’t, and their father learned to speak it when he was a missionary in a Spanish speaking country, as did four of my six children. I have great friends of both ethnicities.

MattieME:  How did you come to write MATTIE, and what are the basic themes of the novel?

ANN:  I wrote a short story about an incident during the Mexican Revolution experienced by my grandfather. The professor suggested it would make a good chapter for a novel. It was the only positive feedback I got from him. Haha.

Except for a couple of chapters, MATTIE is set in Mexico. Based on the lives of my maternal grandparents, it is a story of struggle, faith, and courage with a hint of romance and a healthy dollop of history during the Mexico Revolution. Viva Pancho Villa!

Pancho Villa(A picture of the Mexican Revolutionary)

ME:  How would you describe your writing process and what are you working on now? Also, what is the most important principle you feel a writer should always follow?

ANN:  If at first I don’t succeed, then to heck with it. Haha. I agonize over theme, story line, plot, and characters, and get it down from start to finish. Then, I do what I love, checking for consistency and fleshing out the story with description, emotion, and dialogue.

Currently, I am in the what-I-love phase of my second novel and in the agonizing phase of my third novel, a sequel to MATTIE. For now, the sequel is percolating on the back burner at about chapter three while I get book #2 ready to pitch to a publisher.

(I told you there would be more coming.)

The most important principle a writer should follow, you ask? Is there just one? Haha. I expect every writer has a list of what is most important. Let me add just one: don’t get attached to your literary genius. Be willing to slash and burn, even if it’s brilliant.

Very painful, indeed.


ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space as the character Enos would describe it from your novel. (And please include a picture of the same space.)


“Enos thought he might find her at the kitchen table bent over a pile of papers writing in the flickering shadows cast by the coal oil lamp. Instead, she was comfortable in the family room sitting in a new fandangle chair with a hidden foot prop that whips out so she can put her feet up.  Surrounded by electric lamps, making the room bright as noonday, she opens what appears to be a black notebook without any pages. Placing it on her lap she stares for hours at a little picture-show, her fingers flying over rows of tiny squares with the alphabet painted on them in no particular order not making a lick of sense, but somehow it comes out right, like a printed page from a book.”

(Love it!)

Ann in writing space(And here she is at work!)

If you want to stay abreast of Ann’s work, you can check out her website or blog, or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Her historical novel, MATTIE, is available on Amazon, Deseret Book, and Barnes & Noble.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be interviewing another local Pacific Northwest author, Patty Old West, who, together with her husband, writes fanciful tales of the “Little People.”

Patty Old West

Originally posted 2013-09-04 06:00:45.

Jason Conquers Grilled Cheese!

After only a few weeks of practice, my son has finally learned how to make his own grilled cheese sandwiches. This is a BIG accomplishment in my book. It means Michael and I can perhaps go away for a weekend without worrying that Jason will have to subsist on Costco rolls and Ritz Bits with cheese.

(How convenient that our anniversary AND my birthday are right around the corner. :D)

Anyway, in case you don’t already know, Jason won’t eat just ANY grilled cheese sandwiches. Due mainly to his Asperger’s, he likes them done a particular way and so I decided to begin teaching him the easy part first–everything but the buttering.

On our recent trip to Utah, I challenged him to take over the placing of the buttered slices on the grill, the placing of the cheese slices, the flipping (more about that in a minute), and the cutting off of the crusts.

He got better the more he did it, though he wasn’t always happy about having to do it. Still, as we all know, practice makes perfect. He’s proven himself to be an accomplished flipper, in particular, as will be demonstrated in a video below.

Once we returned home, I finally made him take up the dreaded knife and begin to learn how to spread butter on a slice of bread without demolishing it. It took some coaching and I even had him place his hand over mine a few times to get the feeling of the knife’s angle, etc. But it worked!

And here are the pictures (and video) to prove it:

IMG_1098(First, the set up: Orowheat Country Buttermilk Bread, Country Crock Spread with Calcium, Kraft American Cheese Slice Singles, one of our blue Tupperware plates, and an unplugged griddle…the knife and spatula aren’t shown here)


(Jason lays four slices out on the plate to be buttered)


(He opens up the butter…hey, sometimes it’s not easy!)


(Now he’s dipping in with the knife)


(And he begins to butter the first slice)


(Here’s a closer look…it’s a very meticulous process for him, but that’s fine.)


(With all four slices buttered, it’s now time to set the top two, upside down, on the griddle.)


(And then comes a slice of cheese for each)


(As you may imagine, he’s very careful about placing the cheese slice just so. In fact, he’s a little perturbed that cheese slices aren’t made to fit the bread better.)


(See how perfectly he’s centered them?)


(Now it’s time to set the other slices on top…)


(And finally plug in the griddle, turn it to 325, and start the timer)

NOTE:  After years of experimenting, we discovered that Jason’s preferred grilled cheese sandwiches turn out perfectly when heated at the above temperature for only 2 minutes and 5 seconds for the first batch, and 1 minute and 35 seconds for the second batch. Yes, he eats four grilled cheese sandwiches at a sitting…four for breakfast, and another four for dinner. For lunch, he snacks on a banana and some Ritz Bits or something.

IMG_1118(Now he waits as the timer counts down)


(A closer look at the sandwiches as they are grilled)

Then comes the flipping:

(Quick and sure)


(He begins cutting off the crusts after first turning off and unplugging the griddle)


(Then he moves the crustless sandwiches over to the plate)


(Like so)


(And now the cutting into bite-sized squares)


(First the top sandwich…)


(And then the bottom before moving to the horizontal cuts)


(Making 16 small bite-size squares in all)


(E voilá! Grilled Cheese á la mode de Jason!)*

*I apologize if I mixed my French and Italian a bit there. Can’t recall if it should be “de” or “du”

Originally posted 2013-08-30 06:00:46.

“Wednesday Writer” – Connie Sokol

When I consider all that Connie has on her plate, I can’t believe she agreed to be interviewed. Where could she find the time in between mothering, writing, and presenting at BYU Education Week? This is, after all, a woman with seven kids who has written eleven books, recorded several talk CDs, and is always on the go (as you’ll come to appreciate a bit later).

Not only did she agree, she took the time to send me detailed responses and even more pictures than I’d requested. I’m going to do my best to post all of them (plus a couple I found myself). Let’s find out what drives her, shall we?

Connie-23-300x199ME:  I can’t imagine that, as a young girl, you dreamed of one day becoming a national presenter or author, or did you? What did you dream of becoming when you were young? (And I’d love to post a picture of you as a child.)

CONNIE:  Although I’ve wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember, I had several dreams as a young girl (be a broadcast journalist, a teacher, Pinky Tuscadero)…

(Wait, that’s ringing a bell. Hold on a second while I look her up . . . Oh yeah, from the old TV show “Happy Days.” Have a look.)


(Okay, I think we’re all going to regard Connie a bit differently now. :D)

I also had a very strong spy/detective thing going on for a long time. (Me too!) After reading Harriet the Spy, I fingerprinted my family using my watercolor paints, and then I’d observe them covertly, recording revealing information such as which hairbrush was used by whom (to be revealed later at a strategic time).

Very big on Nancy Drew–she always dressed well and then was off to lunch with her friends in between sleuthing. (I read through all 50+ Nancy Drew books–my sister earned the entire set. My tweener daughter and I were at Costco a few years ago and saw 10-book packages of them with those yellow spines. I seriously felt giddy, so we’ve continued the legacy.)

(I bought the same sets for my daughter. I think it’s a mother/daughter bonding thing.)

With that being said, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but it didn’t hit me until a pivotal moment in sixth grade. My fabulous teacher, Miss Hatch, took my poem called “Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride” to the principal because it was that good . . . and the principal couldn’t believe (so she said) that a sixth grader wrote it. I remember feeling like, “Wow, I could be a writer.” I then immediately began my first serious work titled, Mom and Me. Of course, I quickly disclaimed to everyone that it was not actually about my mom and me.

(Of course not.)

photo of Connie younger(The blossoming sixth grade poet)

ME:  Where did you grow up, and how did your environment and each of your parents affect you as a parent, a woman, and a writer?

CONNIE:  I grew up in several places in a fairly dysfunctional family environment. But what I remember most, as far as writing goes, from elementary age on is the vision of my mother reading a book in bed at night, her finger in an L-position with the thumb resting under her chin, glasses half-way down her nose. Something very comforting about that sight.

My mom taught me a lot about parenting, plenty of it helpful, some of it questionable, a bit of it downright laughable. For example, I couldn’t wear nylons as a seventh grader because they were “too grown up” so I was the ONLY cheerleader in knee socks. Or like the time I was asked to do the hula (I’m not bitter here). I was one of only THREE fifth grade girls who would dance in front of the ENTIRE sixth grade, including my then-crush, Shawn, but my mom said NO WAY to a bikini top and hula skirt. I was the ONLY girl (see a trend??) wearing a bright yellow T-shirt standing between bikini-top twins in front of the entire sixth grade.

(Yeah, but what did Shawn think?)

Shawn did not call . . . (Ah, well, every writer needs an experience with unrequited love.)

But now I say, GO MOM, and continue the modesty trend in my own family.

(I sure wish I could have gotten a picture of you in that hula getup.)

ME:  When did you realize you had a way with words and influencing people? And when did you begin to understand the responsibility that came with it?

CONNIE:  That sounds remotely like a Spiderman theme . . . (Seriously? Hmm, now that you mention it, it kind of does.)

During elementary through high school years, I felt sort of like a personal therapist, and a perpetual third wheel. People would come to me with their problems about guys/girls and then I would intensely try to help them with good answers, after which, they would skip away happily with their guy/girl and I would remain the perpetual third wheel.

BUT this helped me become better at expressing my thoughts, which helped me when writing in my journal or diary (which I started as early as age 10, possibly earlier, but that’s the earliest I’ve kept).

When I started speaking and writing things that people would actually read, that’s when I understood the power and responsibility of words. Women would, and still do, email me, saying how something I’ve written or a product they’ve purchased has changed their or their family’s lives. It’s a sobering thing to realize people actually read what you write, and then will do the things you might suggest. Keeps me on my knees and trying constantly to live what I share.

ME:  Okay, how did you go from being an Elementary Ed major at BYU to radio, TV, and the Deseret News? (And I have to have a picture of you in a TV studio.)

CONNIE:  I’d wanted to be a broadcaster back in the Jessica Savitch days (if anyone remembers those days).

(I do! I LOVED Jessica Savitch. In fact, here’s a picture of her:)

Jessica Savitch

(The inspirational NBC News Anchor, Jessica Savitch)

I went to BYU, thinking that was my star and then felt impressed to serve a mission (even though I was totally unprepared–when I was in the MTC doing a mock discussion with “investigators,” one of them pointed to the picture in the Book of Mormon with Mormon and Moroni and said, “Who is that?” I paused and said, “That’s Moses, pointing to the Promised Land.”).

(Okay, nobody can accuse Connie of never being self-deprecating.)

After my mission, I put serious thought into the realities of a future family, and I realized broadcasting wouldn’t work for me. Then I felt impressed to do Elementary Education. UGH. At the time, it occurred to me that was the major for girls who baked things for guys and didn’t plan on finishing a degree. But I’m so glad I switched. I finished my degree :D AND I baked things for my husband–AFTER we were married.

After we had children, I sort of put those dreams to the side, trying to survive young children (at one point, four kids under six). But then someone suggested I apply to speak at Especially for Youth. I agreed but was so nervous and embarrassed that I waited until the night before the application was due, then made a truly hideous video sitting in a white suit by my Christmas Tree. After a few years of EFY (Hey, it must not have been that hideous . . . maybe you look extra good in white.), friends suggested I do Education Week–that was twelve years ago when they weren’t as selective, I think.

Then Bonneville Communications asked me to audition for a family TV series (RIGHT after I’d had a baby AND had braces at the age of 40 . . . lovely). So I did that for 13 episodes (filming three or four episodes on a Saturday about every few months). That led to me being on Studio 5 with a frighteningly lame opening segment (the team at Studio 5 amazingly allowed me to continue to try to find myself on screen).

(And even though she didn’t send me this, I tracked down a photo of Connie on Studio 5.)

Connie on TV

Meanwhile, Bonneville started a women’s radio station, “Ask a Woman”, and invited me to be on daily from 3 to 6 p.m.

In a pivotal conversation I said I couldn’t do that as I was basically an at-home mom, but I could do Tuesday/Thursday from 12 to 3 p.m. They kindly agreed and for six months I hosted my own show those days, working the radio board myself, and often writing the show content on sticky notes while driving to the Salt Lake studio about an hour away.

(Are you beginning to get an idea of the energy of this woman?)

As for Deseret News, it was during that same radio year that I submitted my columns, and was summarily rejected. After overcoming the disappointment with a really good dinner and dessert, I let it be. A year later Deseret News asked me if I wanted to write a regular column, which I did twice a month for about four years, after which I stopped writing for magazines and newspapers and several others things when our family shifted into a busier stage of life (and fewer kids’ naptimes).

(Okay, I’m exhausted. Dinner break.)

ME:  (Ready to go again after some fish and a baked potato) Given your experience, what should a writer develop first, platform or product. And does it make a difference whether it’s fiction or nonfiction?

CONNIE:  Writing is a passionate experience so I believe a writer should go with what he/she is passionate about. If it’s a fiction novel that’s bursting to be told, write that. If it’s a cause you can’t get out of your head, pursue that. At the end of the day, though, having a platform—a clear and useful focus for that passion—is a dynamic combination. I feel like it’s a win-win; writing is therapy for me, and I’ve been told it’s helpful to the women reading it. That makes me feel I’m doing good in some way all the way around. I do believe nonfiction has an easier time and is a generally better vehicle for carrying that platform, although fiction has a beautiful, memorable way of threading it, too.

ME:  You seem so involved all the time (to the point that you find an appointment at a hair salon to be a waste of time). What, to you, is an ideal way to re-charge your batteries? (And if you have a photo of you doing it, I’d love to post it.)

CONNIE:  I absolutely love date-night and overnighters with my hubby; to play games like Trouble or Pit with my kids, or gather on our king-size sleigh bed with popcorn and an oldie movie (“The Court Jester” is a fave and we recite the dialogue frequently—“The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true…”); or to have quiet writing time to myself which is positively delicious, though scarce right now. I crave Zumba, delight in butter cookies and cold milk, and to devour a fabulous book that keeps me up until 2 a.m., LOVE when that happens (although not the day-after).

photo of Connie at hair salon(Connie wasting time at the hair salon)

photo of daughters

(Her daughters not wasting time…ice cream and pedicures are never a waste of time)

ME:  Tell us about your latest book and how you came up with the idea for it.

The Life is Too Short Collection

CONNIE:  I came up with THE LIFE IS TOO SHORT COLLECTION because I wanted a great gift book that I could keep in the hopper for all those times that I forgot to get an incredibly thoughtful gift for friends, visiting teachees, etc. I didn’t want a downer or a to-do, but something every woman over 20-ish could relate to and laugh with. Something upbeat, candid, happy, not sappy, with substance but not a heavy meal.

Life is too short for one hair color

The result is close to 200 pages of one to two-page essays of what I call “kitchen table wisdom with a side of humor.” It’s a compilation of the most humorous and popular essays from my other three books: LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR ONE HAIR COLOR (Now the picture above makes more sense . . . you were working, not wasting time. :D), LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR SENSIBLE SHOES, and LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR LINOLEUM.

Life is too short for sensible shoes

I have loved, loved, loved the response from women. One of my favorite experiences was at a Costco signing and hearing a woman laughing hard from almost the other end of where I sat. When I looked behind me she was at the table of books, reading from mine—woo hoo!

Linoleum-Book-Cover-150x150ME:  What are you working on now, and what do you have planned in the near future? Also, how would you describe your writing process?

CONNIE:  I’m working on finding my writing bag, never mind the time to write (with seven kids including a 15-month-old, and me at the age of 47, it’s a little hard to remember where I or my little one has left it…)

photo of writing space bag(Here’s a picture in case any of you have seen it. A writing space I’ve heard of, but a writing bag?)

I’m working on a romance series involving four old college friends of diverse ages and situations who, at a reunion, and through a life-changing event, challenge each other to achieve a bucket list dream within the year, facing unexpected trouble, defining decisions, and toe-curling romance while in England, Paris, and Italy.

(Sounds terrific! Now I understand the “research” trip to Italy I’d heard you were planning about a month or so ago.)

My writing process is a mix of passion, organization, and timing, and the amount of each depends on the type of book. When I wrote my romance, CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS, I did the full rough in about 60+ hours. LOVED that experience, could see whole scenes in my head and scurried to write them down.

Caribbean Crossroads

With 40 DAYS WITH THE SAVIOR, it was my scripture study for the holiday season that unexpectedly turned into a daily blog post that turned into a book/e-book.

40 Days with the Savior

With FAITHFUL, FIT & FABULOUS, it’s been a love labor of over ten years, living principles and practices, and fine-tuning them to their most practical and easy-to-use versions, then distilling those things down to absolute gems to help women and families live a more fulfilling and focused life.

Faithful Fit & Fabulous

I’m a sort of hybrid personality—a serious organizer but passionate writer, so the two fight a bit to see who needs to win today to get something done.

(That must be a fascinating struggle to watch. Maybe I should have interviewed some of your kids about you. :D I think the organizing wins out, though, based on the two pictures of her “writing boards” that she sent):

photo of writing board 1(I get the different categories, but what’s with the jewelry?)

photo 2

(I think she’s going to need a bigger board)

ME:  With all that you have going on, plus a family of seven kids to care for, you must be a supreme organizer. What are your top three tips for organizing?

CONNIE:  Speaking of organizing…I love being organized but with a big family I’ve had to accept the fact that my garage will never be tidy (muttering under my breath about scout equipment…) And that someone will always leave the garbage lid open just enough for the neighbor dogs to desecrate. And that the laundry will be Taylor Swift never, ever, EVER be done (because even if the counter is clear and the tubs are empty, WE ARE ALL WEARING CLOTHES THAT WILL NEED TO BE WASHED).

Hmm, my three top tips. That’s hard because what worked three months ago doesn’t necessarily work today. But here are few stand-bys:

photo of family boardphoto of family board office1. Family Boards:

We have an active board in the kitchen (See top picture above) with family mission statement (that no one but me remembers), goals (which still have April 2002 on it), important immediate papers and to dos, reading award/food certificates, chore charts, etc. Then a passive board in my office (See bottom picture above) with a picture of the kids and a clipboard underneath for really, really important things that can’t be lost (or if they are, it’s not my fault, because kids didn’t put it on The Board). These boards have saved my bacon so many times.

2. Kids’ Zones:

Each child has a cleaning zone they do for two weeks (they “Deep Clean” once a week then tidy daily, or at least are supposed to). For the Deep Clean it used to take us three hours of nightmare “working together” and bitter tears. But now, they do their zones, bedrooms, and bathrooms in about 30-60 minutes, with minimal tears, and it actually stays clean for an entire day…ish.

(Take note, mothers!)

3. Find Your Rhythm:

I’ve had to stop fighting my family’s messy rhythms and work with them. For example, my hubby likes to drop clothes by the side of his bed, so I just make sure that his side is always the one away from the door and can’t be seen. And we don’t do chores on Saturday—that’s for a project or fun (or both). Instead, we do the Deep Clean on Monday or Tuesday afternoons. Lastly, I allow myself The Abyss—a room, any room, that I can simply stuff boxes and whatnots in when life requires (i.e. speaking at Education Week, cleaning out another room/closet, mother comes to visit, etc.)

(Great advice!)

ME:  Finally, please describe how you’ve organized your workspace and the five items on your desk that are unique to you. (And I must have a picture.)

CONNIE:  I use three “places” as workspaces. (Why am I not surprised?)

1. My hubby’s massage chair that looks out the window for fun writing (so admin stuff doesn’t cloud my mind).

photo of writing space chair(Complete with blanket and pillow)

2.  My “Jane Austen” desk for functional writing like To Dos.

photo of Jane Austen desk(Nice. Jane would approve, I’m sure. Click on it to make it larger for the other answer.)

3. My writing bag, a hideous red bag which makes it easier to find and quick to tote for writing on the go.

photo of writing space bag(Here it is, again. Have you noticed her fondness for the word “hideous”?)

The five unique things on my desk (and thanks to this interview, they are now nicely situated and dusted) are:

1. Picture of my family–to remember who, what, and why I write.

2. Gratitude plaque–a gift from a speaking assignment that reminds me of the daily gift that I get to be a mom of seven AND write/speak/help women and families on the side; that all the talents He gives me are to be used for good.

3. Flowers my mom sent me when I released CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS and it hit number one on the Amazon Fiction Bestseller list. (Congratulations!) Despite a traditional publishing offer, I went with my gut and self-pubbed it. (Yay!!) Reminds me to go with my gut!

4. A statue of the Eiffel Tower–earlier this year I had an unexpected opportunity to travel to Paris, France with my daughter and baby to not only help a friend but to do research for the novel in the works (see above) that is set in, what else, Paris, France. This reminds me to open my mind and heart to dreams, to prepare for them, and to always set my books in exotic locations. I’m now opening my mind to Italy . . . (Hey, I’m still pretty fluent in Italian. Want to take me along?)

5. My Joy Wall–this is a place I put cards, thoughts, and sweet notes from family, friends, and people I’ve met that say very nice things to me. This is for days when people do not say very nice things. (I think most authors can relate.) It reminds me what to focus on. :D

All of Connie’s books, as well as other products, are available on her website, several are also available on Amazon, and you can certainly keep up with her schedule on her website or on Facebook.

I’m interviewing the first of one of my fellow local Barnes & Noble authors next Wednesday. You see, our local store had a “Pacific Northwest Authors Event” last Saturday and I was invited to do signings with over twenty other authors, including M. Ann Rohrer, who’ll be kicking off my Pacific Northwest Writers series of interviews. Many of the rest will follow.

ann-rohrer-author-_mattie(She also happens to be in my local ANWA chapter)

If you’re a published author living in the Pacific Northwest and you haven’t yet been interviewed by me, now is a good time to schedule an interview. Just email me at tanyaparkermills(at)mac(dot)com.

Originally posted 2013-08-28 13:10:10.

Response of Mormon Writers to CFI Controversy

Many of you may be unaware of what occurred recently in the smaller world of LDS Publishing, but I was among those appalled by the recent treatment of fellow writers by a particular publisher and so I put my name to a statement on the issue.

The statement reads as follows:

Mormon Writers Ask for Manuscripts to be Treated on Quality of Work not Content of Biography

In response to recent events and attention in local and national media, we authors, who are also members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, feel the need to express our disagreement and disappointment with Cedar Fort in their dealings with David Powers King and Michael Jensen in regards to the manuscript, Woven. We appreciate that Cedar Fort has returned the rights to the work in question and want to note that there are many wonderful people working at Cedar Fort–staff members and authors–who strive to carry out their duties with professionalism and courtesy. Nevertheless we wish to offer our support to our fellow authors and feel compelled to speak out.

As writers, many of whom have published with Cedar Fort, we believe everyone should be treated fairly and with respect, regardless of political or religious affiliation, age, gender, or sexual orientation. We believe that degrading attacks are inappropriate in any business or personal relationship. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), we understand our church to teach respect and encourage civility–even when we have differences of opinion.

While publishers have the right to choose what they will and will not publish, we believe books should be accepted or rejected upon the merits of their content, quality, and commercial viability, not on any other factor. If a publisher isn’t comfortable with an author’s personal choices, those concerns should be discussed clearly and respectfully upon signing a contract–not hours before the book goes to press.

We believe that all publishers should be clear and professional in their submission requirements, treat others with dignity and respect, and give all authors the right to be judged on the quality of their work, not the content of their biography.


Braden Bell
Abel Keogh
Rachelle Christensen
Liz Adair
Frank Cole
Jeff Savage
Daron Fraley
Steve Westover
Marilyn Bunderson
Donna K. Weaver
Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
Matt Peterson
Heather Justensen
Tanya Parker Mills
Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Loralee Evans
Melanie Jacobson
Marion Jensen
Carole Rummage
Josi S. Kilpack
Sarah M. Eden
Jolene Perry
Michael Young
Carole Thayne Warburton
Chantele Sedgwick
Mette Ivie Harrison

I encourage those of my readers who are in agreement to go to the website where the statement has been originally posted and make a comment.

I also encourage those who also happen to be LDS writers in agreement with this statement to email writer(at)abelkeogh(dot)com and ask to have their names added (and linked to their websites, if so desired).


Originally posted 2013-08-23 11:18:19.

Jason Kills Off Cinderella’s Stepmother, Lady Tremaine

I haven’t posted a Jason update in a long while. To catch you all up, he’s finished all his Pathway courses . . . except the dreaded Math. He’ll be taking that one come January. In the meantime, he’s enjoying some freedom, and the only assignment he has these days is to learn how to make his own grilled cheese sandwiches. He’s halfway there and I’ll be posting about that next Friday, complete with pictures.

(Part of the reason we’re not pushing the driving, the math, or the mission right now is that we’re getting ready to list our house and looking into moving to Southern Utah. We want to downsize, be closer to both our families, and give Jason more opportunities to meet other LDS singles. But more about all of that in future posts.)

As I wrote on Monday, to help pass the time while driving down to Salt Lake City (and then on to St. George), I reviewed Agatha Christie’s writing methodology with Jason and proposed we give it a try. He agreed and so, first, we had to come up with a plausible victim who would have enemies.

JASON:  How about Lady Tremaine?

ME:  Who?

JASON:  You know, the stepmother from Disney’s “Cinderella?”

Lady Tremaine

ME:  Oh, yeah. Okay, she’ll do. Now we need to come up with the murder method.

He thought about that for a minute and shrugged. So I prodded his recollection of her fondness for shopping.

ME:  We could kill her off during a shopping trip in town.

JASON:  Huh? How?

ME:  Let’s see . . . since Agatha Christie was into poison, let’s come up with a really sneaky way to poison her while shopping.

JASON:  (No response)

ME:  Okay, how about this? . . . The killer applies an odorless poison to a dress Lady Tremaine has admired before, counting on the fact that she’ll likely try it on. Once she does, the toxic concoction seeps into her skin and 2-3 days later, she’s dead.

JASON:  Cool!

Now that we had the victim and the method all set, we had to determine the killer.

JASON:  It can’t be Cinderella and it can’t be the Prince. That would just be wrong.

Cinderella and the prince

ME:  Okay, who else wouldn’t like Lady Tremaine? Who else would have a motive and yet probably be overlooked by the reader?

JASON:  Maybe Anastasia would work.

ME:  Who?

JASON:  You know, the younger daughter. The one who was sort of kind to Cinderella . . . at least in the sequels.


ME:  That’s good. People probably wouldn’t suspect her because of that. But what would her motive be? Doesn’t she like her mother?

JASON:  Well, in the sequels, we find out that she doesn’t really like her mother’s iron grip on her life and that she just wants to be free to marry for love, not money. So that could be her motive.

ME:  Perfect! Now we need to figure out the motives for all the rest of the characters (not including the animals).

JASON:  Okay. Drizella, the eldest daughter, could have done it because she wants to inherit the family fortune sooner rather than later after her mother dies naturally.


ME:  (Nodding) Good. Go on.

JASON:  Who else is there?

ME:  How about the dress shopkeeper? That’s where the murder takes place. Wouldn’t she naturally be a suspect?

JASON:  I guess, but what would her motive be?

ME:  I know. She could have done it because Lady Tremaine hasn’t been paying her bills on time and the woman is about to lose her shop.

JASON:  Hmm . . . that will do.

Finally, we needed to come up with the right detective to ferret out all the clues, with the help of Cinderella and the Prince, of course. Thinking back on the movie, that left only one possibility. It was apparent to me, but I had to bring Jason around to the realization.

ME:  Okay, Jason, who was the one in the film who went all over the countryside asking questions?

JASON:  Huh?

ME:  You know, he had a glass slipper and . . .

JASON:  Oh, you mean the Grand Duke?

grand duke 2

ME:  Exactly. Even though he’s kind of a bumbling fool, he’s the perfect type to put people off their guard while secretly he’s observing their behavior and asking all kinds of innocent questions.

JASON:  You mean his clumsiness is just an act?

ME:  Precisely. Now all we have to do is sit down and plot it out.

Et voilá. An Agatha Christie-styled murder mystery. Anyone want to write it? (We won’t for fear of being sued by Disney. Although perhaps Jason might give it a go as a piece of fan fiction. I’ll let you know if he does, but I can’t promise to post it here. He keeps his fan fiction private.)

In any case, it was a fun exercise and took a good bit longer in the car than it took you to read about it here. By the way, Jason helped create this post, so give him half the credit, okay?

Originally posted 2013-08-23 06:00:17.

“Wednesday Writer” – Rebecca Jamison

Clean romance author Rebecca Jamison appears to have jumped on the Jane Austen bandwagon at the right time with her modern take on Emma (a follow-up to her successful retelling of Persuasion last year) coming out only eight days ago. But there’s much more to Jamison than her love of Austen and the classics.

Rebecca pink crop 2ME:  In researching you, I discovered you are tall (as in 5 feet 11 inches tall), and I wondered at what point in your childhood you began to tower over your classmates and how that affected you personally? When did you finally grow comfortable with your height, or was it never a problem for you? (I’d love a picture of you standing out among your elementary school classmates . . . or later, depending on when the growth spurt took place.)

REBECCA:  I was always one of the taller girls, but I never felt self-conscious about it. I remember in junior high, my friend told me I looked like a giraffe walking down the halls with my neck and head above everyone else’s. I just laughed.

The only thing that really made me feel bad was that people who sat in back of me in class couldn’t see when we watched a film or video. Because of that, I got in the habit of slumping down in my chair. Other than that, being tall didn’t hold me back. I danced ballet en pointe, despite the fact that I could barely cram my size ten foot into a toe shoe.

(Good for you! My six-foot tall nieces didn’t shy away from ballet either.)

becky 11 striped pjs(Rebecca towering over her sister…in striped pjs, no less!)

ME:  I’ll ask you the same question I asked Amanda Sowards (at least I think I did): If you had to choose between swimming and writing, what would you choose, and why?

REBECCA:  I’d choose writing. The great thing about writing is that it allows you to experience things in your imagination. I can write about swimming; I can’t swim about writing.

(Clever and true, but there will be some swimming authors who can probably concoct whole plots while in the water.)

ME:  I spent part of my childhood in the Washington D.C. area (a year or two in McLean, Virginia and then six years in Bethesda, Maryland), so I wondered what you favorite adolescent memories of Vienna, Virginia were and how you dealt with the transition from the humidity of the east to the dryness of Utah?

REBECCA:  Vienna was such a fabulous place to grow up. There’s so much diversity. I had friends who were Muslim, Catholic, Baptist and Buddhist. I researched a high school term paper at the Library of Congress. (Heaven!) My teachers took me on field trips to Amish country, New York City, and Russia.

(Excuse me? You had a school field trip to Russia? What kind of school did you attend anyway? I mean I know the public schools in Virginia have a high reputation, but Russia? Seriously?)

Everything there is green. (Amen!) We never watered anything. So, of course, it was a shock to come to Utah. I’d never experienced chapped lips before. I had to get used to applying lip balm. I also wasn’t used to having to drink water. When my friends invited me on a short hike, I had no idea how important it was to bring a bottle of water. They all went out of their way to offer me sips from their bottles, and being the germaphobe that I am, I learned my lesson.

ME:  Since you grew up in the east, and I know you love beaches, please tell us what your favorite beaches were? Rehoboth, Bethany, Ocean City, or may farther south to Nags Head or Kitty Hawk, NC? (And please provide a picture of yourself having fun at the beach as a child.)

REBECCA:  My favorite beach on the East Coast is in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It’s not as crowded. I’m an introvert at the beach. I like to read books, collect shells, swim, and take long walks. I don’t care about the boardwalk and all that. (I hear you.)

becky 4 at beach(At the beach at age 4 with her mom and sister)

ME:  If you could live on any beach in the world, where would it be? (And by the way, there are some lovely villas available for not too much money on the Cape Verde Islands, where you spent part of your mission.)

REBECCA:  If money and healthcare weren’t an issue, I’d choose to live in Lagos, Portugal. I spent part of my mission there, too, and it’s gorgeous. It’s an ancient city with cobblestone streets, stunning views, and gracious people. Fig trees, hibiscus, palm trees, and bougainvillea grow beside the roads. I loved standing at the top of the cliffs to look out at the blue ocean.

(Sounds like paradise. And here are a couple of pictures to prove it.)

Lagos town(The town situated above the beach)

Lagos beach

(The beach!)

ME:  I know you considered writing a hobby for many years, but what made you decide to get serious about it and pursue an MA in English with an emphasis in creative writing?

REBECCA:  At first, I wanted to be a high school English teacher, but my counselor convinced me I’d be better off teaching at the junior college level, which meant getting a Master’s degree. Choosing creative writing as my emphasis was a practical decision. (Whoa! That somehow doesn’t sound right.) I’d already taken two graduate level creative writing classes, which meant I was already halfway through the creative writing course work. (Ah, now I understand . . . you meant practical as in the quickest way to the degree.)

ME:  Tell us what prompted you to write your first manuscript, your Master’s Thesis, and the process you followed in writing it.

REBECCA:  I had to apply for admission into the creative writing emphasis, so I put together a portfolio of short stories, and . . . I got rejected. (My short stories, written for Richard Cracroft, would have gotten me rejected too, I’m certain, had I tried to apply for the same program.)

Doug Thayer was my creative writing teacher at the time. (Lucky!) I’d taken his novel writing class, and he convinced me to reapply, using the chapters I’d written for a novel. That’s how I got accepted. It’s also the reason I ended up writing my first novel. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that first rejection has been a huge blessing in my life. I don’t think I would have ever written a novel otherwise.

Doug Thayer(The man who’s influenced so many LDS writers for the better)

ME:  Your first published book, PERSUASION, was about fear and not letting it rule your life. Tell me honestly, are you like your main character in that you’re afraid to go back to your Master’s Thesis, revise it, and submit it to some major publishers? If so, why?

REBECCA:  You got me. I’m scared to death to delve back into that manuscript. There are so many problems with publishing it. For one thing, I’m a white woman writing from the point of view of a black African woman. For another, it starts out with her husband forcing her to have an illegal abortion. Then there are all the normal problems I need to work through with the plot, etc.

(I understand, but let me share an observation I recently came across from the respected author, Jonathan Franzen:  Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money. Personally, I’m hoping you take that leap of faith and re-work your thesis some day for publication.)

ME:  Tell us about your next book, EMMA: A LATTER-DAY TALE and how it’s different from the original work by Jane Austen.

REBECCA:  EMMA: A LATTER-DAY TALE is a modern, LDS version of Emma. The biggest difference from the original work is that my Emma is a much nicer person, but most people won’t notice that because they’re more familiar with the movie adaptations than they are with the book.

Emma 2x3

My Emma is an aspiring life coach, which means that each chapter starts with a motivational quote. I love that it has such a  positive, self-help-gone-haywire vibe to it. The story is set in Washington, D.C. It involves a country music star, a senator, and the paparazzi. It’s funny and inspirational.

(Sounds like a fun read.)

ME:  I read that your husband tried to scare you out of a blind date with him by asking if you’d be interested in a game of Spin the Bottle. What was your response to him, if you can recall, and how soon after you met did you know this was the guy for you? (I’d love to post a picture of the two of you.)

REBECCA:  My husband had a string of bad blind dates before my roommate suggested he go out with me, so, of course, he tried to wheedle his way out of a blind date with me. My roommate made me promise to go out with him before I read the note he’d written me. I promised. Then I read the note and laughed. The note said, “Let’s get together and play spin the bottle.” I understood why he wouldn’t want to go on a blind date, but I called him anyway. We hit it off immediately. Our first date was four hours long. (Yay! A blind date that worked!)

Rebecca and Eric(Rebecca and her daring husband)

ME:  Finally, what are you working on now and where are you doing most of the writing? (I know you write a lot between household chores, but please provide a picture of your “stationary” office.)

REBECCA:  I am halfway through my version of Sense and Sensibility.

I do most of my writing on an old laptop without Internet access, so I don’t get sidetracked by e-mail or social media. (Good for you!!!) Lately, I’ve been waking up early to write before my kids get up. I use a little desk in the corner of my bedroom.

Rebecca's Desk(Her little corner)

Check out Rebecca’s website or blog for more details about her life and work. And here’s a peek at her book trailer for EMMA: A LATTER-DAY TALE, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

And next week, I’ll be interviewing author and national presenter, Connie Sokol.


Originally posted 2013-08-21 06:00:34.