Author Interview: Pamela Jane, Memoir Writer

PamieBookCoverI’m excited to share this interview with author Pamela Jane with you.  I know Pamie through my friend and biz partner, Debbie, and I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of her book. I loved it. Truly could not put it down. So I was happy to learn a bit more about the story behind it.  Pamie is an accomplished children’s book author as well as a memoir writer. Scroll down for more information about Pamela Jane and read on.

Tell us a little about the book, please.

An Incredible Talent for Existing is a personal, psychological, and political adventure about how I, as a young woman, got caught up in the radicalism of the 1960s while trying desperately to find my way back to my true self, and the lyrical world of childhood.  This inner war of identities became more intense when I embraced radical feminism; my new husband and I were comrades in revolution but combatants in marriage; I was a woman warrior who spent her days sewing long silk dresses reminiscent of a Henry James novel. One half of me wasn’t speaking to the other half.  And then, just when it seemed that things could not possibly get more explosive, my country cabin exploded in flames, and I found myself left with only the clothes on my back.  The story goes on to describe how I  integrated my two selves and became the writer I inwardly imagined myself to be.

Rumor has it that the book took, ahem, a few years to write.  Can you talk about the process of writing it?

It took me over twenty years and hundreds of drafts to finish the book, but maybe I was just slow!  (I also published many children’s books during this time.) Besides identifying my story, I struggled to find a voice that felt natural.  That seems like it should be easy, like an actor who does not appear to be acting, but it is deceptively difficult to appear relaxed and candid in a memoir ­– in other words be yourself on the page.  Paradoxically, I worked hard so that the book would be easy to read.  I jokingly express my writing formula this way:Pamie1

agony + (obsession x conflict) + panic + 10,000 drafts – total crap = finished memoir

You started out writing it as a novel and then turned to memoir.  Why? And what was different about how you approached each genre?

I discovered drafts of a novel I was trying to write many decades ago about the events in the memoir.  I was young, in my mid-twenties, and had no idea what I was doing.  But it was a beginning, and I did use some of the descriptions and dialog from that early novel in my memoir.  It would require a change in genre (from novel to memoir, which I think works better) and the magic elixir of time and experience for my (very bad) novel to evolve into the memoir it was meant to be.

You’re an accomplished and prolific picture book writer.  Share a little about that.  How hard is it to leap from writing for kids to writing for grown-ups?

I’m a kid at heart and writing always feels like playing to me (though sometimes that play is darn hard work!) so writing chapter and picture books for kids, while also writing for adults doesn’t feel like a leap.  Also for some mysterious reason, I write only fiction for children and only nonfiction for adults, so each genre occupies its own special sphere.

You cover some pretty wild stuff that happened to you in your earlier years.  Did you worry about your family (especially your daughter) reading these parts? This is such a common fear among memoir writers.

Yes, I worried a lot!  And I left out a lot, too that didn’t serve the narrative and might have hurt the people I was writing about, if they happened to read it.

My daughter, who is twenty-one now, seemed to have no problem with the memoir, which I was relieved about.  However, I did warn her before publishing it that I was writing about some events she might find shocking.  When I told her what they were, she looked relieved and said, “Oh, I thought you hurt an animal or something!”  That made me laugh and I can promise readers I did not hurt any animal – except a giant water bug I flushed down the drain in one scene.

I’d love to hear a little about how you found your publisher. LittleElfieOne

This was a long process of submitting to agents and publishers over several years, but I think it was only in the last few months of submitting that I managed to polish my query to a high shine, and clearly articulate the theme of my story.

Advice for memoir writers? 

Allow yourself to write ramble in early drafts, and write badly.  As Woody Allen said, “that’s why God invented the word rewrite.”

What are you working on next?

I’m working on children’s books and a travelogue about the three years my family and I lived in Florence, Italy.  The subtitle is “No One Feels Sorry for You When You’re Living in Tuscany,” which is true!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’ve seen many novels and memoirs in writing groups or workshops that looked hopeless at the time ultimately evolve into publishable books. Tell yourself giving up is not an option, and if there’s something wrong with your story, don’t despair.  You can always  fix it!

Pamela Jane has published over twenty-five children’s books with Houghton Mifflin, Atheneum, Simon & Schuster, Penguin-Putnam, Harper, and others.  Her books include NOELLE OF THE NUTCRACKER illustrated by Jan Brett, and LITTLE GOBLINS TEN illustrated by NY Times best-selling illustrator, Jane Manning (Harper, 2011). The sequel, LITTLE ELFIE ONE has just come out (Harper).  PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND KITTIES: A CAT-LOVER’S ROMP THROUGH JANE AUSTEN’S CLASSIC with coauthor Deborah Guyol was featured in The Wall Street JournalBBC AmericaThe Huffington PostThe New York Times Sunday Book Review and The Daily Dot, and has recently been issued in paper. Pamela is a writer and editor for, and has published essays and short stories in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Antigonish Review, and Literary Mama, .  An excerpt from her new memoir, JUST WAIT! A Short Story Rejected in Grade School Becomes a Cause in Action appeared in the March issue of The Writer.

Author Interview: Kayla Dawn Thomas

I'm happy to share an interview with my friend, Kayla Dawn Thomas, today.  Actually, Kayla and I have only met through social media (primarily Twitter and Instagram), but that is about to change. Because this summer, she and her family are visiting Portland.  And on July 23rd, the two of us will be doing a reading at a cool local bookstore, Another Read Through on Mississippi, one of Portland's happening neighborhoods.  I love this bookstore, and I love that the owner, Elisa Saphier, is a huge supporter of local authors.  So come on out and join us on the 23rd at 7 PM.  And even if you can't come that night, please do drop into the store if you live in town or are visiting. And now, without further ado, let's find out more about Kayla Dawn. KaylaDawn

Tell us a little about yourself. I’m a family, book, wine lovin’ lady. My husband, daughter, and I are living a mostly peaceful, quiet life in Eastern Washington (Go Cougs!) 

How and why did you get started writing novels? 

It was something I wanted to do since about second or third grade. That’s when the reading bug really bit me, and I wanted to make cool books like the ones I was tearing through. I wrote stories in one form or another all the way through high school. Some harsh college professors slashed my writing confidence, so there was about a decade where I didn’t write anything. Then one day in my early thirties, I started journaling. I was battling anxiety and depression. The idea was to work through that, but what ended up happening was a novel! My childhood dream came true in the midst of that darkness. It’s amazing how life works.

Please tell us a little bit about each of your titles.

Swept Up is my first novel. It was the result of scribbling in that journal. The process of writing broken characters and working them through healing, and of course, falling in love was very cathartic.

TS Cover finalThe Jenna Ray Stories have been a hoot to write. It all started when a Twitter friend posted a picture of a note he found in a library book that read: Have a stranger come to the bar-tell her he loves her-asks her to go to Chicago with him the next weekend-she doesn’t go. I let my imagination run wild and created a woman vigilante who’s life’s mission is to put an end to wandering penis syndrome (AKA cheating husbands). After writing Narrow Miss on a whim, my husband encouraged me to make it a series. Currently I’m working on the fourth installment. At the moment, I believe there will be five total.

 Tackling Summer is my newest novel. It’s very near and dear to my heart as it takes place on a cattle ranch very similar to the one I grew up on. It was fun to revisit childhood memories and the beautiful mountains that left their indelible mark on me. There are so many adventures one can have out in the sticks. I have a feeling there will be more books in this type of setting. 

 Why did you decide to go the indie publishing route?  Do you plan to continue in this arena? 

Ahhh, the million dollar question. First off, I’ve always wanted to work for myself. After doing LOTS of homework and realizing I could turn my passion for writing into a viable business, there was no question of the direction I would take. The idea of skipping over the gatekeepers and doing things my way was beyond exciting. At this time, I plan to continue with indie publishing.

 Who inspires you?  In the same vein, who do you like to read? 

 It’s tough to narrow down who inspires me the most! First off, my mom and sister. They are both successful entrepreneurs in different fields, and it’s been very inspiring to watch them grow their businesses. Toby Neal and Shanna Hatfield are the two female indie authors I want to be when I grow up. They’re producing great work, run impressive businesses, and are downright good people. They always make time to answer my newbie questions and have been so encouraging to me.

I read a little bit of everything except horror. I hate being scared and/or grossed out. I like happy endings. I turn to Shanna Hatfield when I want something light and friendly. Janet Evanovich is my got to when I want to laugh. Toby Neal and J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts oftentimes take care of my need for a mystery/romance combo fix. I guess there’s a common thread running through that list. I like a good love story, and they can take many forms.

 Writing plans for the future? 

I’m working on the fourth novella in the Jenna Ray Stories. I’m hoping to have that out in early fall. I’m also sketching an outline for a novel based around Webb Baker’s sister, Celeste, from Swept Up. I knew the moment I typed “the end” on that manuscript that Celeste had a story to tell.

Where can we connect with you? You can find me over at my website My monthly newsletter is the best way to keep up with my new releases, sales, events, special giveaways. I also spend a fair bit of time on Facebook

Kayla Dawn Thomas writes general and women’s fiction, as well as chick lit novels and novellas. Her mission is to give her readers an escape, from a chronically busy, overwhelmed world offering them the opportunity to settle in and discover someplace new, maybe crack a smile, and find a little romance. She’s been a storyteller all her life. Before she knew how to write, she told stories to a jump rope. Thankfully that stage ended once she learned how to work a pencil. Now she’s blessed to be able to write full time and looks forward to sharing her crazy ideas with readers. Always a romantic, Kayla managed to marry her high school sweetheart. They have a very bright, active nine-year-old daughter.

When not writing or being mom, Kayla can most likely be found in a cozy spot with a good book. Reading, sunshine, and hanging out with family and friends bring her joy.

Interview With Debut Author Amanda Michelle Moon

 Allow me to introduce you to my former student and now friend, Amanda Michelle Moon.  Her book, Stealing the Ruby Slippers, was just released, and I can't wait to read it! I'm so excited about everything she's doing that I asked her if I could interview her and she graciously said yes.  Read on! And check out her Kindle Countdown Deal that starts today (details at the end of the post).

New-ePub-Cover-200x300CRD: Your book, Stealing the Ruby Slippers, was just released. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

AMM: Jared Canning is in over his head with gambling debt, and has a bookie on his trail. He gets an opportunity to earn the money he needs by breaking into a small-town museum, stealing Judy Garland’s Ruby Slippers, and selling them to a buyer in New Orleans. The robbery goes off perfectly. But Hurricane Katrina wipes out New Orleans, and his buyer, and Jared is stuck—both with the shoes and with a debt he can’t pay.

CRD: Did I see somewhere that this is the first of a series?

AMM: I wrote it to be a stand alone book. Then, while out walking the dog exactly two weeks before the release date, the major plot details for a sequel came to me. Right now I’m working on outlining and doing character sketches for the sequel.

CRD: Where did you get the idea for the book?

AMM: I grew up in Hill City, Minnesota, fifteen miles south of Grand Rapids, where Judy Garland was born. The museum there was the summer home of a pair of Ruby Slippers she wore in The Wizard of Oz. In August of 2005 I was newly married, living with my husband in Nashville, Tennessee, watching coverage of Hurricane Katrina when I saw the headline across the ticker at the bottom of the screen: “Ruby Slippers stolen from museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.” I freaked out. Grand Rapids, MN, is really small, and almost always confused with Michigan. I called my parents (they still live there) and confirmed what actually happened. The two events, while in reality have no connection what so ever, have been linked in my mind ever since.

CRD: Can you share a bit about the publication process? You indie published, correct? Do you recommend this route to other writers? AmandaMichelleMoon

AMM: I’d had the idea for this book in my head for years, but I’ve been (and still am) working on another novel, so I didn’t actually sit down to write it until November of last year. It took 21 days to get the first draft done, but I had a very detailed outline. 2014 is the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz and I knew that releasing the book to coincide with all of the festivals would be the best free publicity I would ever get, so I worked my tail off to get it completed. With a timeline that tight, indie/self publishing is the only option. I didn’t have time to query agents or publishers, or to get on a publisher’s schedule or timeline. Indie publishing is a lot of work. I was lucky—a teacher at Hamline put me in touch with a former editor from one of Minneapolis’s publishers, and he talked me through the whole process. A friend of mine, Joe Hart, has had great success self publishing and he gave me a lot of insight and resources. I’m still working on/struggling with marketing and getting the word out. I have a great base of friends and family, and there is a wonderful Wizard of Oz fan base that I’m tapping into. But wider visibility is hard. If you are willing to give up half (or more) of your writing time to the business side of publishing, I do think indie is a good option. I have a history in the music industry and have seen the shift there from the major labels to indies and how good that has been for the artists. Everything we’re seeing in the publishing industry now I saw when I was at labels in the early 2000s. That’s not to say the major houses are going away—or that the prestige of publishing with them is any less desirable—but I know, at least sometimes, it’s a better move to go indie, retain control, and work your butt off.

CRD: When you're not writing novels, what do you do?

AMM: I’ve got two kids, Lily is six and Austin is almost five, so they keep me busy. One of them is always home. I can’t really even imagine what life is going to be like when they’re both in the same school at the same time next year. I’ve also got two dogs, a husband, and a jewelry line ( When I’m not busy with any of that, I’m enjoying life in Minneapolis. This town is awesome. From the lakes to the Institute of Art…I love it here. Oh—and yoga and Pilates. I used to teach Pilates and might start again when the kids are in school next year.

CRD: You're currently working on your MFA at Hamline. You and I worked together at the Writer's Loft in Nashville. How has going to school affected your writing?

AMM: I’m a lot more critical, which isn’t a bad thing. I hate the whole editing process. I write really fast, and it’s not awful, and for a long time that was good enough. But having to turn things in for grades and comments…I had to make peace with editing because getting minor issues pointed out is embarrassing. Also, deadlines are awesome for getting work done.

CRD: Having worked with you in the past I know you produce prodigious amounts of writing. Can you tell us a bit about your schedule?

AMM: Well…for a while I was working a retail job with a completely erratic schedule that meant both of my kids were in daycare and the days I had off I could focus on writing. Those days it was common for me to knock out 7-10K words. Ahhhh…the good old days… Now, with at least one kid home at all times, and a husband who is self employed and works from the basement, I’ve had to get more purposeful. Until 9:00am is my time every morning. For a while I was getting up at 5:30 (it was required to get StRS out on time) but I need more sleep than that. So most days I’m up around 6:30 and in my office, working, by 7:00. I have several projects I’m working on now: a sequel to this, the aforementioned novel, a YA book, and a collection of short stories. I break my time out into chunks and dedicate a certain amount to each project. I use a lot of the time management tools that Kimberly Wilson talks about at Tranquility Du Jour, and I recently discovered Nozbe, which I think is going to help with the organization a lot.

CRD: What is your best advice to other writers?

AMM: I have two: 1) Find a writers group. You need to get regular feedback (and camaraderie) from other writers that you trust. Writers can spot problems with your work that your beta readers don’t. (let’s face it—your beta readers are there because they like what you write.) 2) Have more than one project going at a time. That way, when you get stuck, you won’t just give up, you can move on to something else. At the same time, if one project is going really, really good, (provided you’re not missing any deadlines) let the other projects drop away for a bit. Find the best time of day for you to work.

CRD: Anything else we should know about your book, your writing, or you?

AMM: My blog is You can see a lot pictures of my kids and dog if you check out my instagram (amandamoon) and on Facebook (AmandaMichelleMoonWriter) I actually post about my writing.

CRD: Thanks, Amanda and good luck with the book!

If you'd like to buy the book, Amanda is running a Kindle Countdown deal the next few days. Details below.

Stealing the Ruby Slippers will cost:

0.99 Thur-Sunday, June 19th-22

1.99 Monday & Tuesday, June 23 & 24

2.99 until 11:59pm PST Wednesday June 25

Regular price (5.99) 11pm PST on June 25.

Interview with Helene Dunbar, Author of These Gentle Wounds

I'm so excited to introduce you to my friend Helene Dunbar and her book, These Gentle Wounds, which releases this week. Helene and I met in Nashville, back in the days when I was on the staff of the Room to Write writing retreat, and we've kept in touch ever since.  I've been eagerly awaiting the publication of her novel, and the time is finally here.  Read on to learn more about it–and her.

These Gentle WoundsThese Gentle Wounds
comes out May 8.  Can you tell us a bit about it?

These Gentle Wounds is a story about a teenage boy named Gordie Allen who survives an almost unspeakable act on the part of his mother. Five years later he’s reached a place in his life where he can keep things almost in balance, but then his father reappears and throws it all out of whack again. It’s about being stronger than you think you are. It’s about brotherhood and the roles we sometimes get trapped into. And it’s about first love and learning to rely on other people and learning to let them rely on you.

The book came out of a number of freelance articles I’d written for an education publisher on the cases of Susan Smith and Andrea Yates, two mothers who killed their children. In January 2011, a mother in New York State drove her four kids into a river, killing three of them. I became curious about what sort of life the surviving child would have and so I started writing about it.

I was also interested in exploring the life of a teen who had survived childhood trauma. Not much has been written about post-traumatic stress disorder in non-military terms.

What attracted you to writing YA?

The only fiction I’ve ever written is YA. I spent a lot of time as a teen reading, only YA wasn’t really such a “thing” then so I read a lot of speculative fiction. I tripped across Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series at a time in my life when, for the first time, I really wasn’t doing a lot of reading because nothing really seemed to make me feel anything. That opened up the whole world of YA. I think the intensity of being a teenager lends itself to fiction, particularly if, like me, you like the books you read to really affect you.

Have you written in other genres?  Any desire to?

Um….well… first manuscript was a fantasy. My second was magic realism. I think promised myself that I was sticking to contemporary. However…’s possible that I might be working on a magic realism book right now….possibly….

What are your release celebration plans?  Events?  Hoopla?

I’m having a release party at Parnassus here in Nashville on May 17, at 6pm. Parnassus has been amazingly supportive of the local writing community here and I’m still in awe of the fact that they’re willing to let me launch there. I’m still looking into other dates as well, so stay tuned.

What's up next for you? Helene

Oh how I wish I had a Magic 8 ball that would tell me? 🙂

Anything else you'd like to add?

For those who read it, the recipe that Gordie and his older brother Kevin made (pea balls!) is a real thing. The book also has a killer playlist that I’m going to be blogging about soon. Thanks for hosting me, Charlotte!!!!!

Helene Dunbar usually writes features about fiddles and accordions for Irish Music Magazine, but she’s also been known to write about court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes. She's lived in two countries, six states, and is currently holed up in Nashville with her husband, daughter, two cats, and the world’s friendliest golden retriever.

Living With Ease: Interview with Sandra Pawula

It is my pleasure and honor to offer you this interview with Sandra Pawula.  Sandra writes one of my favorite go-to blogs, Always Well Within, where I find spiritual wisdom and inspiration.  She's a writer herself, so everything she shares speaks to creatives.  Sandra has a new e-course that starts September 9th.  I'm planning to sign up–it's just $21.  Please check it out.  And read her informative comments on easing stress below.

You've been writing a popular blog for quite some time now. What made you decide to offer an E-course?

The purpose of my blog, Always Well Within, is to help others tap into their own inner spring of true happiness and freedom. A blog post can inspire, encourage, instruct, and spark change. But, you can only go so far in a blog post.

I’ve already been facilitating online meditation courses for more than five years. It feels natural to extend that into an e-course via my blog so that I can support people to grow through a process of positive change that occurs over a period of time.

I’ve led a high stress life, and I know it’s not easy to turn stress around, which is the focus of my course. You need a more concentrated immersion and an ambiance of care and support, to begin to retrain these long-held patterns.

What is the greatest enemy to living with ease?

Your own mind. Marcus Aurelius said:

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

This hasn’t changed since the time of Marcus Aurelius, thousands of years ago, and it will never be different now or in the future. Yet, many of us suffer needlessly because we don’t realize we are responsible for our own thoughts, emotions, and perceptions and have the power to change them. Instead, we function on automatic and in a reaction-triggered mode, feeling like a victim of circumstances, relationships, and our own turbulent mind. This can adversely affect your mood, your body, and your overall sense of well-being.

That being said, it’s important to know that some people are genetically predisposed to having a stronger stress response or a weaker relaxation response. Some immune-related diseases may diminish your ability to respond to stress as well. Early nurturing or lack thereof can also impact one’s capacity for resilience. A series of strong stresses that arrive one after the other can also wear out your ability to cope effectively with adversity.

If stress plays a big role in your life, you may be dealing with a unique mix of factors like some those above. If so, it’s critical to take this into account, and at the same time to know it’s still possible for most people to see significant improvement through the mindful use of stress reduction practices.

Stress is endemic in modern life. Physical, emotional, mental, and circumstantial stresses will always occur in your life. But you can learn to intercede and diminish the stress response. The long-term impact of stress can be so debilitating it’s foolhardy not to do so. Stress can be a key element in the development or exacerbation of many disorders like heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, skin conditions, and inflammatory bowel disease, among others. Not to mention it can totally wreck the quality of your life and relationships.

Is it really possible to reduce stress in our crazy new millennium lives?

Absolutely! More than 30 years of medical research has proven this to be so. Here’s one example of cutting edge research from the Harvard Medical School News, which provides an unequivocal yes to this question:

“A new study from investigators at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center finds that eliciting the relaxation response—a physiologic state of deep rest induced by practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and prayer—produces immediate changes in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.”

It’s true that our highly active digital engagement – even digital addiction – adds a new dimension to the activation of stress, but we can learn to disengage from time-to-time as part of our personal stress reduction strategy.

Can you share one tip for living with ease?

Breathe! It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it’s always available. Pausing to take a slow, deep breath immediately begins to change your biochemistry. It tells the brain that danger has passed, and it’s OK to relax. But, it's not enough to just breathe once! You need to learn how to breathe, and turn it into a regular practice.

And finally, since my audience is made up of creatives and writers, can you speak to the unique stresses that we face?

Stress takes on so many possible forms in a creative life: Fear of rejection and rejection itself, deadlines, an erratic work flow if you are a freelancer, resistance, lack of motivation or inspiration, finances, juggling your craft with a “real” job. These are just a few ways that stress can manifest for writers and creatives.

If you find stress creeping into your creative life, regular use of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques will help tremendously. But, you also have to dig deep and be willing to look at what triggers you. Once you know, you can begin to deconstruct the old stories that keep you struck one at a time, or put practical strategies in place that head-off the stress response. Through doing so it will be so much easier to find your flow.

Sandra Pawula is a freelance writer and inner explorer. She writes about finding true happiness and freedom at Always Well Within. Her new e-course, Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress begins on Sept. 9th, and you can register right now.

How do you deal with stress?  Does writing ease it for you as it does for me?  Please share!

Photo by hirekatsu.

Interview: Barbara Abercrombie, Author of A Year of Writing Dangerously

AYearofWritingDangerouslyI thought you'd be interested in this book on writing, and so when the publisher contacted me asking if I'd be interested in doing a review or an interview, I leapt at the chance.  The book has an engaging format of one entry per day, with quotes and anecdotes from famous writers, as well as inspiring mini-essays from Abercrombie herself.  It's the perfect daily writing companion.  And now, after some background information, the interview:

Barbara Abercrombie teaches in the writing program at UCLA Extension. The author of novels, children’s books, and many essays and articles in national publications, her latest books are Courage & Craft and Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved & Lost. A Year of Writing Dangerously is her fourteenth book. She lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband and rescue dog, Nelson. Visit her online at her blog, and at her website.

What inspired you to write this book?

The title came to me first and for a while I didn’t know what to do with it. I’d already written two books about creative writing and felt I didn’t have anything more to say on the subject, but I couldn’t let go of the title. For a while I thought maybe I’d write it month by month, twelve sections, but a writer friend said, “No, it has to be day by day. That’s the kind of book I need!” The idea of a book to read daily for comfort and inspiration and company suddenly seemed very appealing to me and unlike anything I’d written before.

Why writing “dangerously”?

Because I think there’s always a sense of risk when you write – fear that maybe someone will deny your version of things, or that they’ll get mad and disown you, or that maybe you’ll make a fool of yourself and expose too much or too little. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is by Terry Tempest Williams who said: “I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts…I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words.” And that’s what it feels like sometimes, a bloody risk to form the words.

Why a year?

Because if you want to write a novel or autobiography or memoir you’ll need at least a year of focused work to get from the idea in your head to the reality of a first draft. Or if you want to write short pieces a year could get you from dreaming about being a writer to actually completing and marketing one or more personal essays or short stories. I think a year is a manageable amount of time for a writer – long enough to get serious work done, yet short enough to give yourself a realistic deadline.

How does your book differ from other books on creative writing?

There are 365 entries of anecdotes and quotes that offer inspiration and also commiseration from a lot of famous and successful writers who go through the same struggles all of us have getting our work done. I’ve always found it encouraging to read about the problems of writers I admire. It makes me feel like I’m in good company. While the book does gives you some advice about the nuts and bolts of writing and getting published, as well as weekly writing prompts, it’s more of a day book – a book to keep on your desk to dip into for a daily dose of encouragement and some company. To my knowledge there isn’t any other book out there quite like it.

Thanks, Barbara!  Now what about you?  Do you write dangerously?  How do you define it?

Interview with Author Pamela Jeanne

I'm pleased to present an interview with naturopath Dr. Pamela Jeanne.  She and I worked together on her just-released book, Healing Matters, and in this interview she opens a window into the self-publishing process.

HealingMattersCould you start by telling a bit about the book?

The main theme of the book is celebrating and honoring the value women bring to healing. My writing addresses the fact that medical historical information both past and current, of the contributions by women on all levels of health care, has been missing and/or undervalued throughout recorded time. Most medical books have been written by men, moreover, there have been important works by women in which full credit was not given and even worse some works were co-opted by male writers.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

My original inspiration came when my first year history professor in medical school failed to present in the course work any woman or her contributions to medical care. I remember becoming quite furious at the end of that school term! He is a really great guy but lacked the consciousness that women have made and still make tremendous contributions in medical care.

How long did you work on it from start to finish?

I’d say about 3 years from actually sitting down to begin the writing process to the actual ‘birth’ of this baby. Many of my ideas, however have been percolating for more than 25 years!

What was the writing process for you? PamelaJeanne

It has come to me that writing is an art form, a process and a tremendous opportunity for growth. My prior belief was that I could not write, but I stayed with my clear intention and was able to attract into this project, all the best people to help me. I call them my angels as each appeared at the right time when I needed extra coaching or help to complete this dream. Charlotte Dixon was one of those angels. (Editorial comment:  thank you!)

What was the process of publication for you? Can you speak a bit about self publishing?

Again, as I progressed deeper and deeper into my writing, and could see a shape appearing, the next person would appear. Mostly it was effortless. I was led to a publishing company, through my women’s network, who specialized in helping women authors to self publish. Wyatt-MacKenzie Publisher is owned by Nancy Cleary and I have only praise for her support, responsiveness and clarity. There was no groping around looking for answers in a very complex publishing industry; Nancy led the way to help with a successful self-publishing event. Early on in my book project, I felt I needed to find a publisher, but later decided that self publishing was best for me. I was ready to self promote and did not want a company to own my work and then decide to stop printing if sales were not up to their quota. This is a good route for first time writers.

How will you do future books–the same? Different?

I would do the same for future books because it went so well. Yes, there were a few glitches, but Wyatt-MacKenzie has been very responsive to the problems that came up. This is a service I really appreciate.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Here is what I have learned still continues to teach me: Publishing a book is a tremendous accomplishment. At first whole task seems daunting, but my intention remained firm and clear. I did not waver because of the message I wanted to get out to the world via the book. So if you have something that is burning inside of you, get clear what that is, set your intention, be open for what comes up, then don’t waver from the outcome you’d like to see. Also it helps to have a few cheerleaders on the sidelines. My partner was that for me; she did not waver either!

Thanks so much for your insight into your publishing process, Pamela Jeanne!  For more information on Dr. Jeanne and her work, please visit her website.

What about you–have you considered self publishing?  Feel free to comment.

Photos courtesy of the author.

Interview with Jessica Baverstock of Creativity’s Workshop

Jessica Baverstock has been a great friend and loyal reader of this blog (she's also written a couple of guest posts for me), and when she told me she would be publishing her 100th post last month, I wanted to do something to celebrate.  And since I'm a curious sort and have always wanted to know more about her, I suggested an interview.  So here it is, complete with photos of her life in China, taken by and captioned by Jessica herself.  Thanks, Jessica!


One evening while walking the streets of Beijing, I happened across a little boy and his grandmother. During the conversation we discovered that the little boy and I were both born in the same Australian city!

You're an Aussie living in China. For some reason, that fascinates me. Can you tell us why you're there and what you do there?

I grew up loving languages. When a friend of mine started teaching me some Mandarin Chinese, I found it addictive but slow going. Then someone invited me to stay with them in China for a month. In that month my language ability leapt ahead, and I discovered the wonders of living overseas.

Figuring that China was the best place to learn Chinese (can't argue with that logic) I've lived up here on and off ever since. It's such a fascinating place to live, and the more of the language I master the more I enjoy it. Language isn't just about understanding the words, it's also about understanding the people who speak it. Their intonation, gestures, personalities, culture, logic, history and landscape all influence how and why words are spoken.

I love watching people's faces change from concern, annoyance or outright distrust into surprise and openness when they realize they can speak to me in their mother tongue. It opens up a freeness of expression and a window into their soul. I have learned so much from these beautiful people.

Everywhere I look there are things to understand, photograph and describe. Even simple trips to the shops, to the doctor, to the acupuncturist all turn into hysterical adventures. What writer can resist that?!

I'm planning on starting a new blog soon, devoted to tales of living in China and descriptions of the wonderful people I meet, so I'll be able to share more interesting stories with my readers.

To earn a crust I do some work for a charity up here, helping them develop training materials for teaching nannies, teachers, mentors and foster parents how to look after orphaned children. It's a wonderful way to help out with my writing skills.

What is the most difficult thing about living in China?


It seems you need a minimum of three people for a Chinese chess match – two people to play and at least one person to watch. This is a common sight in parks and streets all around China

For me I think it's the sheer panic of not understanding what someone is saying. I have been studying Chinese for over 7 years now, but there are still so many words I don't know. I'm often presented with situations where I have no idea what is going on.

Every time the phone rings or there is an unexpected knock at the door, I steel myself for another interaction which my dictionary may or may not help me through. I have a good Chinese accent, which backfires because the Chinese expect me to understand more than I actually do. I had an argument with a telemarketer once because she thought I couldn't possibly be a foreigner with my accent, and I was telling her I didn't understand what she was saying.

Even when a Chinese person does speak English, there is still a language gap. Last week, when visiting the doctor she asked if I had "dyspepsia"* (I could not for the life of me remember what that meant) and then instructed me to 'respirate with my abdomen.'

Still, these experiences have given me valuable insights which I can then use to relate to foreigners in my own country.

I'd really love to hear more about your writing. First, I know you have an Ebook coming out soon. Can you talk about that?

 I recently released my first e-book, Tips for Those Contemplating Insanity. It contains 15 tips I've found useful for coping with overwhelming situations, and I'm already hearing back from people who love it. The e-book is available for free when you sign up for the Creativity's Workshop Newsletter.

After completing that e-book, I decided I should write something which specifically dealt with the stress and guilt writers often feel. As writers, we're under a lot of pressure to be creative, to pump out work, to accept criticism, to market ourselves etc. I personally find this takes the fun out of writing and saps me of energy – sometimes even leaving me too stressed to face the page.

So I wanted to write something which would free me (and other writers) from this pressure – a book with comforting reminders, helpful tips and gentle reassurance. Unfortunately, it's so much fun to write, and there are so many areas to cover, that it's turning into a far longer project than my last one! Still, I'm enjoying the journey and am really pleased with how it's coming together.


If you need your bike repaired, shoe resoled, keys cut or any number of other handy jobs done, you can find someone on the side of the street with the equipment and skills. Fascinating conversations are all part of the service.

And how about your novel?

During National Novel Writing Month (NaNo WriMo) last November I started writing a novel about Edward, an English businessman whose company sends him to China for work. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to take my Chinese experiences and wind them into a plot.

Because Edward writes manuals for a living (like moi) I'm experimenting with turning the novel into a manual for life in China, while weaving in plot throughout. It's still in experimental stages (such fun!) and full of sparkling potential. I can't wait to see how to comes together.

What are your writing dreams? If I could wave a magic wand and give you exactly what you wanted, writing-wise, what would it look like?

The confidence to believe in my ideas, to write my words, to market my work, to interact with other writers, and to bring humour, inspiration and entertainment to my readers – without the fear of not being good enough or losing my creative voice.

The skills/ability to craft stories, delve into characters and polish my work so that everything I work on will be good enough to be released to readers.

The freedom to explore plots, creative concepts and projects without having to worry about a bank balance or what others might think of the outcome.

The energy to complete all the projects spinning in my mind. Basically, it would look like lots and lots of my books available to be enjoyed by readers.

Oh, and while you're at it, can I have a lifetime supply of exquisite journals and perfect pens?

Now, how big a wand to you need? I'm sure we can get one made in China…

*Dyspepsia means indigestion.  (Editor's Note: I had to ask Jessica to remind me what it means.)


Isn't Jessica wonderful?  Before you go visit her blog, what's your take-away from the interview?  Please leave a comment.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Do you have an e-book in you like Jessica?  What are you an expert in that you could write about?

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