The cover’s been designed. The word doc version is being converted to an ePub. It’s very quiet and still. Too quiet. Too still. Yes, I could be working on my next novel, No Ordinary Girl (and I have written a few pages this week). But my heart is still with bereaved parents Alyssa and Seth, and their therapist Katherine, and officer Greg Wallace who was at the scene of the drowning. And I think of Nevaeh…baby Nevaeh, her cherubic smile. And Daisy…sweet, silent, Daisy. They live in me. Old friends. I miss them.
I’m blessed to have a few treasured friends who asked me heartfelt questions like, “What do you love about writing?” or “What inspired you to write this novel?” And yet another favorite,”Do you get attached to your characters?” It’s a gift when someone listens, isn’t it? So much of blogging, for me, is the interchange/exchange that I have with my reader. It’s like having coffee with a friend, which is why I chose my blog title to be sipnshare. So when I was prompted by several friends to answer these questions about my writing on my actual blog, my initial reaction was, “Isn’t that a tad narcissistic?” But the longer I though it over, I realized that my blog and writing is not just about me and my viewpoints at this point; this is a family affair. My family and friends have voted on my book title, cover art, names of characters, dialogue bits. And as a reader, there is something delicious about an author letting you into her inner world and the dots are connected between reality and fiction—when we understand what moved an author to write that story. So, without further ado, I bring you my interview, courtesy of my writing partner, Christina Mercer’s, questions.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was working as a grief therapist, and while I adored my clients and worked very hard on my specialty, I felt a dark cloud over me. A friend/colleague introduced me to the term, Compassion Fatigue. Essentially, I was burned out. While in a group meeting of therapists one morning, the question was asked, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I exclaimed, “I’d write a book!” Three months later, I resigned. Nine months later I birthed my first draft. I’d always wanted to write; fear of failure held me back.
What do you find particularly challenging about the writing process?
To stay present. To shut out the noise around me, whether it be my “to do” list, laundry, a Costco run, exercising, “shoulds.” The worst: what if this isn’t…funny enough, impacting anyone, doesn’t attract an agent, the market doesn’t pick up, blah, blah, blah. It’s so important to write because I love to write. And I do so love to write…it feeds my soul!
What is the best part of the writing process?
It’s two-fold. One, is when I’ve cranked out a few pages, go back over it, and sit back and say, “Dang…that was good.” (Believe me, there are plenty of “Delete, delete, delete,” moments.) The other is when I’ve let someone else read my work and they send me an email, a message on Facebook, or a post on my blog, and they move into that space of connecting with me emotionally; they get me, it…we get each other. I’ve touched someone. That is pure bliss.
Who is your favorite author and what is it about his/her work that you love?
Really? One!! I can’t. Two. My first is Anne Lamott because she is quirky, brutally honest, transparent, her writing brings me to out loud laughter or streaming tears, she says four letter words AND she loves Jesus and she understands grace. I have read all of her books. Twice. Her writing instruction book, Bird by Bird, is my writing Bible. If I can learn to keep the mice in the jar who are tapping at the glass, wanting to scream out that ‘I’m not good enough,’ then I’ll be okay for one more day. My second favorite author is Jodi Picoult. Her characters, ability to build suspense, add tension, and sneak in plot twists, well, I never tire of her novels. Plus, when I’ve written her emails, she actually answers them.
What is the greatest piece of wisdom you ever received?
Writing wise, it’s that I have to develop thick skin and be able to welcome critiquing and criticism. Now, this did not come easy. I am sensitive, cry easy, pour my soul into my writing, and so, when my first draft came back looking as though a red pen leaked all over it, I wanted to put it through the shredder, throw the covers over my head, and toss my laptop into the garbage. Fast forward to the present, I get a critique back, see those red marks, and exclaim, “Yes! That is so right on. How did I not see that?” It’s a process, for sure. I’m still sensitive and cry easily, but not over a critique. Oh, and I have an amazing editor and writing partner, thank you Jordan and Christina.
What is one ‘random’ fact about you?
I’m a drummer. My mother wanted a dainty, ribbon-in-the-hair, pattoned-leather-shoe, darling of a girl. Instead, she got a safety pin-through-the-ear, streaks-of-blue-in-her-hair, purple-mini-skirt and matching-head-band, drummer-chick. In fact, I just sold my original 1979 set to my neighbor and got a screamin’ deal on a Ludwig kit that I can’t wait to set up in the family room.
What new project are you working on?
I’m juggling a few. One is a humorous, chic-lit book with a twist of self-discovery that I’m currently calling No Ordinary Girl. I’m about 75% through my first draft and hope to complete the rest by January. The second is a parenting book for spiritually minded parents of tweens and teens who are struggling with giving over their kids to a social media frenzy world and wants to reclaim their family time. Although the book tackles strong issues, the writing is light, humor-filled, and keeps it real. My third project takes me back to my roots of grief work in that I’ll be a contributing writer for a post-vention program for the bereaved by suicide. I continue to look for ways that I can serve my community and when this writing opportunity popped up, it was a great fit.
Can we look forward to book tours/author signings for Out of Breath?
Absolutely! I will have traditional books available late October/early November in time for Christmas gifts. Local bookshops, cafes, art council groups, and local libraries have expressed interest in having author readings and book signings. I will keep everyone posted on my blog and Facebook. Additionally, I will be visiting bookstores and libraries in Santa Cruz County, as this is the setting of my novel. After that, I’ll branch out and introduce myself to Bay Area Bookstores and libraries. If anyone’s up for a road trip, let me know!
Thanks for your great questions, Christina, and thank you, friends, for allowing me this time to share my thoughts and stories about my passion for writing. I look forward to my next post announcing: My book is up on the Kindle, Nook, Reader and iPad, now…GO BUY IT!read more
My novel, Out of Breath, is uploaded to my server, Bookbaby.com. What does this mean? It means I get to practice patience, stillness, calming my breathing. I bring to mind every lovely person who read a page, critiqued, gave me a shake of the head, or fist pump, and especially, a word such as, ‘beautifully written…you moved me.’ Finally, I get to reflect on a three year adventure of trusting myself, to do something I’ve wanted to do since childhood: write a book. I followed my dream and it’s unfolding in front of you, in front of me. Thank you…
I would love to tell you that Out of Breath will be available tomorrow, but uploading to the e-readers takes time…roughly 10 days time. I’ve waited my whole life; surely I can wait 10 days.
Without further ado, here are the first few pages to wet your appetite! (Sorry for the goofy spacing…something gets lost in translation.) Please post your comments and let me know what you think!
Here’s what I see: a closet, like a time capsule, holding clothes I’ll never wear again. My
teacher’s wardrobe, blousy and in a bouquet of color, crammed up against the left side of the closet where they’ve remained untouched for over six years. Nothing, especially a job, would get in the way, I told myself, of being the perfect mother of my two children. What other lies have I told myself to see what I needed to see? Alongside my discarded kindergarten teaching wear is my wedding dress—not the traditional, puffy sleeves, sequins or pearls. Seth and I
would have none of that. No, I strove to match his blue Hawaiian shirt with a soft, cotton white sundress and strappy sandals. I rip the dress from its hanger and feel my face flush.
My breath quickens as I sift through my maternity clothes: an oversized flowered overall get-up, cotton leggings, and thick, stretched-out wool sweaters—all of them a reminder of what they covered—you. My legs give way and I land hard on the carpet. I punch the ground as if my tantrum will somehow stomp out the fiery pain in my gut. The whole room haunts me of the life I had only two weeks ago: a framed photo of the four of us together up for a picnic on the redwood trail; a picture of Seth and me, tan, windblown, passionately in love, standing
in front of our long boards on a surf trip to Costa Rica.
I call out, just as I did that night, “Where are you Nevaeh? Why, Seth? ” My screams go unheard, echoing through the house.
There is nothing here for me. I shake until my teeth chatter. I’ve got to get out of this house. I’ll have Oma pick up something black to drape over me and then I’ll tear it to shreds and bury it. Keep an eye on her. She’s a busy one. Why did I trust him again? If I’d only thrown him out after the first relapse, or kept you by my side all night. You’d be here, with me. Right now, with your face pressed up against my breast and I could smell the sweet scent of your sweat. “Nevaeh!” I call out. All I hear is the pounding of my heart as it threatens to blow apart.
I’m startled by the sound of keys jiggling in the front door, but not enough to
“Alyssa, it’s just Oma. Daisy’s staying at Carolyn’s for the evening. Thought it’d do her some
good,” I hear my grandmother call out in a high-pitched, nervous voice. She’s my anchor, but even anchors get ripped up in storms.
“I’m in here,” I say in a raspy voice. My throat is sore and parched.
She appears in the doorway, slightly askew, favoring her hip that is starting to give her trouble. It’s as though Nevaeh’s death has caught up to her all at once and she finally looks all of her seventy-seven years.
“I thought maybe you might need this.” She pulls out a fitted, black skirt and long sleeved black blouse—my funeral dress.
“Thanks. I don’t have anything,” I reply, pointing to the closet. Her eyes look over toward the wedding dress that is crumpled beside me. She cocks her head and purses her lips together.
“Everything is much bleaker at night.” I know she’s referring to my marriage with Seth, or
rather, separation from him.
“Oma, it’s not the night that makes it bleak. I can’t see any hope. Nothing. I wish I’d died with her.” I grab my knees and pull them tight against my chest. My back muscles ache from night after night of wakefulness.
Oma squats beside me, grunting on the way down, then pulls me into her warm, soft body. As a child, about the only thing that comforted me was the feel of what I called “the lumps” of my grandmother—her oversized bosom and rolls of doughy flesh are like my security blanket. I let her comfort me, wanting to crawl inside her and disappear. “Shh, now don’t say such things. God needs you here for our Daisy.”
Daisy. Poor Daisy. My five-year-old hasn’t spoken a word since the night her little sister drowned. The last sound she made was a shrill scream.read more