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Women Artists Who Dared to Create From A Room Of Their Own


I want to  dedicate this post to all women, irregardless of whether they’ve been written up in the pages of history books. Women, by their mere existence, create history that is unforeseen and untold every single day that they live and breathe~ so for all women, let me say, Happy Women’s History Month!

The novelist,George_Charles_Beresford_-_Virginia_Woolf_in_1902 Virginia Woolf wrote in her famous essay, A Room  of One’s Own, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Viewed in a broader sense, the essay could reference any author’s need for poetic license and the personal liberty to create their art.

The artists I’ve chosen to honor for Women’s History Month, in essence, created from a room of their own. The “room” for the most part were of their own choosing, but sadly, one  young girl had no say in the literal sense.  Nonetheless, these women (and many more) craved out an impressive body of creative works that became a historical legacy.

1f30f05d-b3d0-4f97-a720-e238d5d018f7-originalMaya Angelou had me at I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. She was brutally raped as a little girl and only shared this secret with her brother, Bailey. When her uncles found out, the molester was killed. Maya did not speak for 5 years, blaming herself for the molester’s murder.

7f3df4e8-d3f7-31df-921d-cc3810d0eed7ANNA 13-year-old Jewish victim of the Holocaust… Anne Frank went into hiding from the Germans with her family and another family for two years in a small annex above the office where her father once worked. It’s reported that Anne, her mom and sister died in the concentration camps and only her father would survive to publish her diary, written while in hiding. 

Anne wrote in her diary that she wished her writings to live on in life. How prophetic her words were.

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thnikkiNikki Giovanni has often been called a “Revolutionary” poet. All I know is her writing are often based on fact and it is those poems that touches the sensibilities of a nation of readers, including myself. A prolific writer, activist and highly guarded educator, Ms. Giovanni is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech.

My very favorite of her many works includes: Those Who Ride The Night Winds, poems about the mass murders of young black boys in Atlanta totaling more than 29 young children killed. Ms. Giovanni poems, in my opinion, are a loving eulogy to the memory of those children.  thIf you haven’t read any of Nikki Giovanni’s work, you are missing out on one of our greatest literary contributors.

220px-Pearl_Buck I read Pearl S. Buck’s, The Good Earth in High School. The book introduced me to another culture and people with a different way of living. Although American, Ms. Buck lived in China for a while and associated with Chinese culture and tradition. I was impressed by the humanity of The Good Earth as it relates to a country’s change affecting regular people.

51zRzieodBL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Ms. Buck died in 1973, but her Pulitzer prize novel lives on. 

In another life, I opt to come back as Lorraine Hansberry! Not only was she the first African-American woman playwright, she was the first woman of color to have a play produced on Broadway! A Raisin in the Sun was inspired by Poet Langston Hughes poem, Harlem that asks, ” What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the Sun?”

Ms. Hansberry’s play would later inspire Nina Simone’s song, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black!” You know what they say, “The Play’s The Thing.” Lorraine Hansberry was the “ish” and sadly, gone too soon… The playwright died of pancreatic cancer in 1965. Sheer Brilliance!

Here’s a special clip for y’all 🙂

And:

thtoni Toni Morrison’s-The Bluest Eye,Tar Baby, Song of Solomon, Beloved and Sula.

thzora Zora Neale Hurston’s  “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Their_Eyes_Were_Watching_God_us

thalice When Alice Walker was a little girl, she was playing in the backyard with her brothers, one of whom accidentally hit her in the eye with one of the pellets from his BB gun ( I remember those. My brothers got them for Christmas) . That accident never stopped Alice from living her dreams. One of the biggest dream in history was:

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I’ve had several books from these historical women on my bookshelf,  in what I can only describe as a stationary library for many years and felt that I could never part with any of these great works, but, alas, I have and I don’t regret passing them along (donations) to new readers and creatives and curious children who just might dare to dream 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. I know that the works of these and other women history making artists are sitting on your bookshelf, vying for a little Women History Month love shout… Please share a few of your fave with us.

Writer’s quote for today:

“Only I hold the pen that will write the story of my life.” Tia Kelly

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Interview With Zoe Forward


Happy Friday, readers & writers! A few weeks ago, I told you about Dawn Of A Dark Knight, a great Paranormal romance novel by Zoe Forward. Today, I ask you to join me in welcoming Zoe to Clara54’s writers blog.

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Dawn of a Dark Knight is a spellbinding read! Is writing your passion?

Writing is simply wonderful, but I came to it well after I had an established career as a veterinarian. I recall reading a dreadfully written paranormal with a rather blasé plot. Annoyed, I determined that the characters bumping around in my brain would be vastly more interesting to read about. So, I released them onto paper. And what an exhilarating experience. I’ve got many more characters and stories. So, I’d keep writing even if I never publish another novel (although Forgotten in Darkness, Scimitar Magi series novel #2 is on the way), I’ll keep on writing.

Your book is in the paranormal realm. What led you to write for this genre?

I’ve been a paranormal romance and mainstream fiction addict for decades. I’m not sure there was much of a choice not to write paranormal for me having grown up loving Ann Rice and movies like Indiana Jones. For Dawn of a Dark Knight everything came together at the right creative moment — my thoughts on Egyptian mythology, my interest in archaeology, my ideas about a new type of paranormal hero and more. It all just gelled.

What sort of research, if any lends itself to such interesting characters in Dawn of a Dark Knight?

This book required researching Egyptian mythology, which I discovered is complex and there is not always consensus between references on much of anything (from the names of gods to what exactly they did or represented). I spoke with people well versed in weapons to learn about knives and guns, as well as what makes sense during fight scenes.

The odd mixture of characters just seems to work for this book! Were you concerned that readers might not care about such an integral part of fiction writing?

Characters are the key to driving the story. If we’re not interested in who is in the story, then it’s probably not a book that the reader is going to finish. I never thought about readers being concerned about introducing so many different characters. I was careful to differentiate the characters so they each have a unique voice and unique personality quirks.

Tell us how you approach a writing process…do you use an outline, notepad or just hit the blank page with fingers to the keyboard?

I’m not a plotter and outlines don’t work for me. I rarely use actual physical writing…too slow. It’s just me and my laptop. And I just go for it. I have a rough idea in my head of where I want to go, and the story arc. I create my characters and then throw them together. They usually drive the story. On occasions when I have a strong idea of where and what I want them to do and I try to push them into doing it, the character has rebelled. I had a few fights with my characters while writing, and ultimately the character won.

I’m paraphrasing a bit, but, some great author/writer shared that a writer who haven’t written about sex in their stories, essentially does not a writer make, although, that’s not the case here. Care to comment?

When I first started writing romance, I found love scenes tough. But now I don’t fight it. I just let them flow as any other scene would. I don’t let the subject matter hinder me. My job as a writer is to put what’s in my head on the page as faithfully as I can. That includes the love scenes.

What’s next for Zoe Forward?

Dawn of a Dark Knight is the first in the Magi series. In the second novel, Forgotten in Darkness, there is a new magus who just got released from an unjustified stint in purgatory. Long ago, a dark-magik sorcerer cursed him and the woman he loves to murder each other within days of meeting in each new lifetime. Being back means this cycle will start again. He’s attempted countless curse-reversal rituals over the centuries, and all failed. Now, he may have discovered a way to break their vicious cycle. But it requires he kill her before she strikes her deathblow, something he’s never done in the past.

Where can readers pick up their copy of Dawn of a Dark Knight?

DawnofaDarkKnight

I’d like to thank my readers for picking up my book and taking that chance. There are so many options out there. I’m honored when you put my book on your shelf. I love to hear from readers whether it is via email, facebook or twitter. So, don’t be shy.

Links:
Website: http://www.zoeforward.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorzoe.forward
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6591244.Zoe_Forward

Buy links:
Wild Rose Press: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=195&products_id=5122

NOOK: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dawn-of-a-dark-knight-zoe-forward/1114807621?ean=2940016381633

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dawn-Dark-Knight-ebook/dp/B00ADAD9AU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354129181&sr=8-1&keywords=dawn+of+a+dark+knight

Zoe Forward writes action-adventure paranormal romances. Although a deep part of her wishes she had pursued a career that would have her at a dig site in a hot, sandy country, she’s a small animal veterinarian, caring for everything from chinchillas to dogs…and even one hermit crab in there. When she’s not being a vet, a mom, or sneaking out to a movie with her husband, she’s at her laptop writing.

Zoe is the creator of the brand new Scimitar Magi series. The first book in the series, DAWN OF A DARK KNIGHT was released by Wild Rose Press on March 1, 2013.

Having read Zoe’s interview, would any of you tackle this genre? If you already write paranormal, please share your thoughts.

Building a Mystery By Author Anne Marie Stoddard


Happy Friday readers and writers! Please join me in welcoming Mystery Author, Anne Marie Stoddard to Clara’s writer’s forum.

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It’s no secret that I’m a lover of mysteries (and as you can tell from the title of this post, the secret’s out that I’m also an old school Sarah McLachlan fan—everyone has their guilty pleasures!). I grew up reading everything from the Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes’ series to Agatha Christie. Lately I’ve been enjoying some great who-dunnit’s from Charlaine Harris, Victoria Laurie, Madelyn Alt, and P.J. Morse. There’s just something so satisfying about curling up with a good puzzle in book form and challenging myself to solve the crime before the author reveals the culprit. Sometimes, I can point out the killer by the end of the second chapter, and other times an author leaves me stumped right up until the guilty party reveals him or herself.
It’s that exhilarating feeling of piecing the clues together along with the characters that led me to write my first mystery novel, “Murder At Castle Rock.” Why not? I thought to myself as I begin typing the first page of Chapter One. I’m pretty good at solving them when I’m in the reader’s shoes, writing my own should be a piece of cake—right? Not exactly. Still, it can be done, and here are the lessons I learned along the way:
Use an Outline to Plan Your Clues
One very important part of the writing process for most authors is creating an outline for the plot and scenes of the story. Sure, there are quite a few “pantsers” out there—myself included—who simply start from scratch and let the story evolve as they write, with little to no sense of direction. Plenty of books have been written this way and turned out great, but not planning ahead can often lead you to writing your characters into a corner that you can’t write them out of. I started writing “Murder At Castle Rock” with no outline, and I found my characters reaching dead ends (no pun intended) every couple of chapters. If I had created a full outline before I began writing, I might have saved myself a LOT of rewriting and stress!
Writing an outline helps you to put all your cards on the table before you begin the writing process. If you determined who committed the crime, you’ve got to decide where it’s best to drop some hints for your readers. In any mystery, readers want to pick up on clues along the way that help them narrow down the suspects along with the detectives. Make rational decisions about where to place your clues—is the killer the town baker? Perhaps you can include a hint in Chapter 4 where the sleuth smells yeast or finds a white powder at the crime scene that turns out to be flour.
Your Characters Know the Story Better Than You Do—It’s Their Story, After All
This will sound like almost the opposite of the advice that I gave above about outlines, but just hear me out: Sometimes during the writing process, you have to concede from your own ideas about a scene and let your characters do the writing. Get to know your main character—step into her two-inch heels for a minute and see your way through a scene through her eyes. It’s best to ultimately stick to your outline in order to arrive at the desired end result, but sometimes you have to let your characters decide how to get there. Would my main character, Amelia, run away if she heard footsteps behind her—or would she turn around and make a snarky comment to her stalker before defending herself? Once you’ve developed a character, make sure that his or her actions reflect his or her personality—not yours.
Get Creative to Keep it Interesting
If you’ve got an understanding of how to logically place your clues and plan your story, that’s awesome! Still, in order to write a mystery novel that will leave your readers craving more, you have to keep it interesting—it’s time to flex your creative muscles!
Here’s an example: Would you rather read a book about a detective who goes to the office every day, solves a crime from his desk, and then goes home to bed—or would you rather read about a crime-solving supermodel who goes undercover at fashion shoots to track down a ring of high-end designers who are producing their clothing in sweat shops?
See, it’s easy to plan a Plain Jane story that doesn’t include much action—but you’ve got to get creative in order to pull readers along to the end. Choose a fun or interesting setting (like the fashion industry), and create characters that have personality. Give them quirks, fears, doubts, ambitions—there should be more at stake in your novel than simply finding out who killed the mailman. In the model example, perhaps if our heroine doesn’t catch the culprits and shut down the sweatshops in time, New York Fashion Week will be cancelled. (And perhaps the mail man was killed because he was delivering photographs of the guilty parties to someone who wanted to turn them in to the police!)
Writing your own mystery is an invaluable learning experience that will test your own wit, creativity, and deductive reasoning skills—and the story you create might surprise even you!

0171b7d better anne

About the Author:
Anne Marie Stoddard is a mystery author and writing tip blogger in Atlanta, GA. Her music industry thriller, “Murder At Castle Rock,” was the winner of the 2012 AJC Decatur Book Festival & BookLogix Publishing Service, Inc. Writing Contest, and it will be published in April 2013.
Website: https://www.amstoddardbooks.com
Connect with Anne Marie on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AMStoddardBooks
Connect with Anne Marie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmStoddardBooks
Connect with Anne Marie on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6949689.Anne_Marie_Stoddard

An Interview With Author And Emmy Winning Filmmaker- Melissa Peltier


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Melissa, thanks for visiting Clara54’s writers forum. Your body of work is so amazing. I’m just going to introduce you as an emmy-award winning bestselling writer, filmmaker, producer and author. Please share some of your fascinating career highlights with us.

I feel that (so far) I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had a varied and interesting career, though really, I see myself as more of an average worker bee in the industry than someone special. Of course I’d like to change that – and still have quite a “bucket list” of dreams and dream projects I’d like to create – but as you can probably guess from my novel, most ‘Reality TV’ isn’t on that list!

Looking back to these 25 plus years, I’d say I’m most proud of the longform documentary film projects I did with my mentor Arnold Shapiro (model for the “Marty Maltzman” character in Reality Boulevard), including Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse, hosted by Oprah Winfrey, which was simulcast on three networks and was, at the time, the most-watched television documentary in history. Break the Silence the follow-up, is another ASP project of which I’m very proud. I am also still immensely proud of my mini-series for A&E on the Titanic, which won two Emmy’s in 1995. Then of course, White Irish Drinkers, the indie feature film written and directed by my husband John Gray, which I produced (with Paul Bernard and Jim Scura) in 2010. We did it for $600,000 in 17 days and it’s a true indie gem.

You referenced your writing as “cathartic” and I’m sure many writers can agree on how freeing the creative process can be. What’s it like for you ,being ‘in the zone’ so to speak?

When I was in college, I wrote a lot of fiction and poetry and was so frequently ‘in the zone’ that my favorite place to write was the busy student union…because somehow the act of shutting out all the noise around me made my focus even stronger. I went many years without writing my own fiction (with the exception of a handful of dramatic scripts, only a few of which ever went anywhere.) Writing non-fiction books and television was a different, more intellectual process. Now that I am writing my own fiction again, I am so pleased to be back in that place – ‘the zone’ as you say – that I remember. It is amazing, how the characters speak through you and lead you down paths you never expected to go. In a few places in Reality Boulevard, characters would open their mouths and teach me lessons about myself and my life that I really needed to learn. That’s what writing is all about – it comes through you, from somewhere else (I’m a Jungian at heart and the collective unconscious describes a very real place for me) and your perceptions, history, and craft are the conduit. It’s a near magical experience. Of course, some days, it’s just a slog. But you have to do the slog days to get to the magic days.

Let’s talk about this exciting new novel! Tell us about Reality Boulevard.

imagesmelissa's book!

Thank you! Reality Boulevard is set in present-day Hollywood, and its premise is a long-running, 16-year award-winning show about heroic first responders, cops, doctors, etc. called Lights and Sirens (for fun, drop in at http://www.lightsnsirensprod.com !) is unexpectedly and unceremoniously bumped off the air by an ambitious, recently-hired network executive (who would secretly like cancel all drama shows too, and turn her flagging broadcast network into all reality, all the time). Lights and Sirens producer, the quirky, loveable, Oscar-winning documentarian Marty Maltzman, and his loyal staff and crew suddenly find themselves out in the street in a world filled with Kardashians, Real Housewives and Survivors. The novel is about how they cope with this crass new Hollywood, and follows a number of different, colorful characters as they try and reconcile their dreams and idealism with what they must do to survive in a business that is (and has always been) ever-changing.

Reality Boulevard reads like a satire and many readers have called it “laugh out loud hilarious,” but the truth is, I wasn’t thinking “comedy” when I wrote it! Unfortunately much of it is more deadpan truism than satire. But I’ve been in that world a long time and truly, it satirizes itself. There are days when you feel like you’re living in an outlandish satire. Without a sense of humor about the absurd, it would be impossible to survive it!

Although your novel is fiction, I’m frankly embarrassed with some of the disturbing behaviors seen on these shows. Being a black woman and a celebrity blogger, I do call out ugly behaviors at my entertainment site. Is the stereotypical aspect of reality television a big part of executive behind the scenes decision making? Do you think viewers have become desentsitized to what they see on reality tv and how their children might also be affected?

I’ve been around the business a long time and have watched as, slowly, non-fiction/documentary television morphed into what we know today as Reality TV. It has been a gradual process, starting in the 90’s and really exploding on network with the arrival of Survivor in May of 2000. My stepdaughter and her friends were born in 1993 and watching their reaction to shows like The Hills and The Bachelor made me realize, these girls have never known a world without reality TV! I believe it has strongly colored their perceptions toward the world and not for the better. In fact, the Girl Scouts did a study on the effect of regular Reality TV viewing on 1100 girls. http://blog.girlscouts.org/2011/10/new-girl-scouts-research-exposes-impact.html A few of the results of the study showed some positive effects in the areas of leadership and ambition. But to my mind, many more of the results are quite frightening. The girls who watched more reality TV showed a markedly higher belief in the importance of physical appearance (like we women need more of that!), the idea that women have to outdo one another for a man’s attention, and that backstabbing and manipulation were viable life strategies for success – the normalization of the ‘mean girl’ stereotype.

The stereotypes perpetuated on Reality TV, when taken as a whole, are equally as disturbing. As a black woman, you have every right to be enraged! The racial stereotypes in reality TV (“Flavor of Love”; “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”) are appalling. The gender stereotypes are equally dangerous and I believe the Girl Scout study is the tip of the iceberg as to the subliminal damage they do to young women who are just beginning to develop their grown-up identities. An outstanding and very readable academic analysis of this can be found in Jennifer Pozner’s outstanding and impeccably researched book, Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV.” ( http://www.realitybitesbackbook.com )

Sadly, Reality TV could not exist without stereotypes. You see, it’s mostly not real. (I’m not talking about real docu-style shows or shows with reality-based formats like Hoarders, The Dog Whisperer, Intervention, Beyond Scared Straight, etc. here – there are still people who are trying to make redeeming TV. I’m talking about the average docu soap and many contest shows) The shows are conceived and greenlit in a cynical, reactive kind of way based on trying to capitalize on or outdo the success of what came before (although to be fair, all TV, film, theater, commercial art and publishing contains an element of this.) The “cast” – who are cast in much the same way a dramatic project is cast – are often wanna-be actors or even simply wanna-be celebs who don’t want to do the work to actually learn something for which to be famous. They just want to be famous – end of story. Their greatest talent is the ability to play and to improv a larger-than-life aspect of themselves that fits into a stereotypical niche. What most people don’t know is, much reality TV is actually what’s called “Soft-Scripted” – an absurd moniker if I’ve ever heard one! “Soft-Scripted” means that the situations, scenes, conflicts – even lines, from time to time (I know an agent of one of the top and most successful reality docu-soap TV ‘stars’ who dutifully passed on a full script to his client every week) are ‘written’ by someone who, for union reasons, can’t be called a ‘writer’, so he or she is called a “series editor” or “story producer,” or other bland title like that, that won’t alert the Writers Guild that something fishy is going on. It’s paint-by-numbers, lowest-common-denominator drama – if you can call it drama – but it’s very deliberately planned out. Then there are the on-scene “directors” – like writers, they are often simply called segment producers or field producers so the Directors Guild doesn’t get upset – who use any and every technique possible to create conflict and drama among the characters. This could include passing along rumors, to giving the participants alcohol (there’s a lot of that), to forcing the participants into dicey situations. There is enormous pressure on these field producers to bring back heightened spectacle for every episode. And enormous pressure on the editors and post-production producers to heighten that drama and conflict even more in the editing process.

I don’t want to come off as a crusader against reality TV because I’m not. I like being entertained by silly things and guilty pleasures, just like anyone. Television is an ever-changing business and there’s no point in railing against change. The genre itself will evolve like anything else, and maybe it’ll even die a natural death some day. In the meantime, a lot of people seem to love it.

What I want to do is shine a light on an aspect of reality TV that is unsavory and in my opinion, potentially harmful. For instance: I’d say to parents, don’t let your daughters sit and watch the Kardashians on their own. Use it as a teaching moment to discuss superficiality and materialism and let your children know that these situations are about as real as their school musical. When watching shows like Survivor, ask your kids questions about backstabbing behavior, forming factions, etc. as ways to win. What do they really win? (Look up the “where are they now” features about past winners and you’ll see how hollow their victories.) And I think discussing the concepts of fame and celebrity with your kids is important too, because many in this generation truly believe in the Andy Warhol edict – that it is their birthright to be famous. This can be dangerous, because often ‘anything goes’ in this quest (case in point: Tila Tequila). Help your kids develop other role models who actually have a true gift, a skill, an ability or a talent which they’ve honed through hard work.

In the film Iron Lady, Meryl Streep (a great role model for actors!) says, “Today, all everyone wants is to be somebody. In my day, we wanted to do something.” Teach your kids the difference between these two concepts, and reality TV will be far less harmful to them.

What is the reaction from inside the industry, now that you’ve given the world, Reality Boulevard?

My mentor, Arnold Shapiro, loved it, which is what mattered to me most. I know plenty of people who might not be happy about the portrait I paint in the book, but the novel makes a huge point of defending the worker bees in the business – the producers/field producers/story producers/whatever, the editors, the crews – because they too are victims of the market. People have to work, have to feed their families – especially in this economy – and they have to take the work that’s out there. One outcome from the book is, I’ve received lots of private communications from people around my age with years and years in the business, who are paying mortgages and putting kids through college and although the business was quite different when we all started out in the ‘80’s, they aren’t in any position to change career directions at this point in life. Some are indeed upset by and ashamed of some of the work they do, but they still have to put food on the table.

I also wanted people reading the novel to understand that the majority of people who work in the film/television industry are not rich by any toss of the coin. What outsiders call “Hollywood” is mostly peopled by a huge group of middle class workers – creative people and technical people – who work insanely long hours with incredible dedication, for fair but not excessive wages. Without union protection, most have to pay their own (and their kids’) health insurance premiums. They also work from project to project. When a show is cancelled, they have to find a new job. Reality TV has lowered wages across the board, so they’re not only creative victims, they’re financial victims as well.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

My book is only available in eBook at the moment, through Apostrophe Books http://www.apostrophebooks.com – through Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and hopefully B&N soon if Nook gets its act together! You can also visit my author website at http://www.melissajopeltier.com.

Melissa, it was such a pleasure, having you here. I can’t wait until my readers and your new fans weigh in!

It’s been a pleasure; you ask great questions!

Did you guys enjoy the interview with Melissa? What’s your take on Reality TV?

A Visit With Joe Bunting…


Hello everyone. Thank you for stopping by on this first day of March. I know what you’re thinking-“TGIF!.” Clara54’s guest today is professional writer, author and editor, Joe Bunting. Please join me in welcoming him to the writers forum.

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1. Congratulations on your blog The Write Practice being selected as one of the 10 best writing blogs of 2012! What did that feel like?

Thanks Clara. It felt like relief, actually. We won last year, too, and I was so nervous that we wouldn’t this year. Expectations make life so much harder. When you get what you’re expecting, you’re not satisfied. When you don’t, you’re angry and disappointed. It’s better to have low expectations.

2. I’m a subscriber to The Write Practice because it’s a great resource for those of us who love the Story and maybe want to write that great Novel someday. You have said that writing short stories is the best way to began this endeavor. Why is that?

I think the most important thing for a writer to do is start sharing his or her work as soon as possible. To be successful, you need to start making friends and building an audience sooner rather than later. Plus, I think, most of us writers have an innate urge to share our work. It’s scary but it’s thrilling, too, and it motivates us to work harder on the next story.

The problem with novels for the new writer is that they just take so long. They make it so much harder to get your work in front of an audience (even if that audience is just your mom). Stories allow you to audition, bringing a little bit of your best work to the world to see if they want more. Stories are little experiments. Novels are huge projects.

And the reality is that your first “finished” pieces will probably be very bad. I’d rather fail at a dozen short stories than a novel I’ve put three years of my soul into.

3. Can you talk a bit about Story Cartel? I joined the site as an Amazon reviewer and love that I get free books out of it! Is this the only stipulation for joining?

Yep! All of our books are completely free in exchange for your review. We wanted to create a really great resource for readers, almost like a speed dating site for readers and writers to connect. I’ve spent a long time talking just to writers, and I wanted to start connecting with readers. It’s been really fun so far.

4. What makes a great writer?

Sheesh, what a question, Clara! Proust was a great writer but that doesn’t mean I want to read him. I love Dickens but I know so many people who hate him. And a teenager who’s just finished Twilight might say Stephenie Meyer is a great writer, and while I’ve earned the ire of many a writer for sticking up for her, saying she’s “great” might be stretching the language a bit.

Still. I guess I’ll take a shot at it. To be a great writer, I think you have to create interesting characters whom you know completely, to tell a great story, to combine politics, history, religion, and setting without overwhelming that story, and write perfect prose with your own unique flare.

5. How do you handle criticism?

I grieve. Then I get back to writing.

6. You’ve recently introduced HANDS to the reading audience. I’ve read great reviews about this one. Share a few nuggets with us and how we can get a copy for ourselves?

Hands is essentially a story about music, how it connects us to ourselves and to others, even across obstacles like race, age, and death. The story is about Jim, a dying jazz musician who is losing the use of his hands, and a visit he has with one of his former music students, his favorite student, really. During the visit, Jim finds that he can no longer connect—he’s too old and too out of touch—except through the music.

If that sounds interesting, you can get a free preview of the story here:

http://thewritepractice.com/hands-preview/

Thanks for sharing a slice of Joe Bunting life with us!

No, thank you, Clara. You’ve been so great.

Are you guys encouraged to move forward and write that great short story or novel? What burning question would you have asked Joe Bunting?

Scott Bishop On His Novel: A Soul’s Calling


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Hi Scott, thanks for agreeing to this interview. When I learned your memoir, A Soul’s Calling, was just out, I wanted to share your work with my readers, because I love the Memoir, as well as the spiritual aspect of finding one’s self. I’ll let you tell the readers about your journey. But, first a brief author insight…
Who is Scott Bishop?

Just a normal guy. I’m just a normal guy. Pretty average, I’d say.

What led you on a trek to The Himalayas? My soul. The Prologue and Chapter One explain this in more detail. But to pare it down, it was my soul and the call of the mountains that beckoned me to go on this trek.

Many of us can identify with Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Is A Soul’s Calling somewhere in the vicinity of seeking meaning after suffering disappointment and pain?
No. The book is nothing like that at all.

It’s funny you should bring up Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. In researching A Soul’s Calling, I read her book. I knew it was a travelogue and wanted to see how an established writer went about her craft. But no, A Soul’s Calling is not about a man seeking meaning after suffering disappointment and pain. It’s a very different book than Eat, Pray, Love. For that matter, it’s different from Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. But for anyone who liked Wild, I’m sure they’ll like A Soul’s Calling. My book has plenty of hiking scenes to enjoy. Plus, I make the Himalaya a big part of the narrative. When writing A Soul’s Calling, I wanted to bring the Himalaya into the comfort of people’s living rooms, to make them as vivid as possible. I hope I accomplished that.

I find people are coming to the assumption that my book is about the author’s soul’s calling just by the title and cover alone. On one level, they’re correct. But to quote from the book, “there’s more to it than that.” A Soul’s Calling is about something much larger than just one man’s soul’s calling.

But I understand the knee jerk reaction and pegging it a spiritual book, that it must be about the author’s soul’s calling. I wrote the book, though, to entertain, to be pure escapism for the reader. It’s a travelogue, a hiking adventure, that’s sprinkled with shamanism and magic throughout.

I also worry what people are going to think about the first chapter. I worry whether they’ll say this is just too crazy and give up before they give the book a chance. I’m confident though, that if they make it Namche, they’ll be hooked.

I can tell you this. The book’s ending took me completely by surprise. I never saw the end coming until I wrote the chapter in which the book reveals itself. When it happened, when the book revealed itself to me, I felt like it landed in a beautiful and sweet place. That was the moment when I fell in love with the book. But that was my experience. I think A Soul’s Calling will speak differently to readers in different ways.

I promise this. Whatever readers think the book is about, it’s not what the book is about. If I could say anything to a curious reader thinking about reading my book, A Soul’s Calling will reveal itself in the end. Until then, be open, don’t presume to know how it will end, and just enjoy the trail. I hope the ending is as magical for them as it was for me when writing it.

What came first, the idea for the book or seeking answers to meaning in life? Give us the process.
You might be surprised to hear me say that when I went on this adventure, I wasn’t seeking answers to the meaning of life, and I certainly never imagined writing a book about the trek while I was on the trail.

My need to reach Mount Everest Base Camp came upon me all of a sudden. It was an epiphany really. A light bulb moment. One moment I was thinking about the dream that I describe in the Prologue, and then the next, I knew I had to reach the foot of Mount Everest, to thank her. That was the initial catalyst. That’s what got me up off my caboose and to purchase a plane ticket to Nepal. I began training myself into shape earnestly after that. In the end, my reason for needing to reach Mount Everest was not the reason I needed to reach her. In the end, the reason why I needed to reach her turned out to be quite different. I won’t say anymore because that would be giving away the book’s biggest spoiler.

As for the book, I never imagined I’d write a book about my experience trekking to Everest Base Camp. That was the furthest thing from my mind. Had I any inkling that I was going to write a book afterwards, I would have taken much better notes along the trail. I would have written more in my journal. I would have taken more photographs, too.

The book grew organically. When I returned from Nepal, it took me a good two weeks before I wanted anything to do with the trip. What I mean by this is that my duffle bag and daypack sat in the middle of the living room floor, and that includes my dirty laundry stuffed inside. When I did recover and began to re-engage life, I started looking at my photos. It didn’t take long before I started posting some of the photos to a WordPress blog. The posts soon grew to include excerpts from my journal. The journal excerpts grew to having narratives. The first narratives were short, less than 1000 words long. But then they began to grow, until I think it was installment ten or twelve, which wound to be about 5000 words. That was when I asked myself, “Hm. I’m not writing a book am I?” But that was too crazy an idea for me to accept. So I didn’t.

Several more weeks went by. All this time I remained reluctant to say I was writing a book, but after setting down another 20,000 words, I finally threw my hands up and surrendered to the process. By this time, it was early January 2012, something very powerful had taken hold over me. Something burning inside me insisted that I write every day. It was only then that I allowed myself to acknowledge I was writing a book. Surrendering to the process was all I could do. There seemed little choice in the matter for me. There was a story that needed to come out. So, I wrote.

In conversation, you told me what you wanted readers to take away from A Soul’s Calling. Can you expound a bit?

Sure. I don’t want readers to take anything away from A Soul’s Calling. That’s not for me to dictate to anyone. The book will speak differently to different readers.

What I hope, though, is that in the end, readers will realize that what they’ve been reading, is not a story about the author’s soul’s calling, but about something much, much larger. In doing so, I hope they hear their soul “calling” out to them. I hope they are encouraged to get in “tune” with their soul. I hope they stop to consider whether they’ve been leading the life that their soul came to live or a different one.

I believe that everyone will take something different away from A Soul’s Calling. There are people who will read my book and will think it some fantastical adventure that could never have possibly happened. And that’s alright. I’m not asking anyone to believe anything. In fact, I make this clear in one of the final chapters.

Then, there are others who will take more away from my book. What they take away from A Soul’s Calling, though, is up to them.

One reader who reviewed my book wrote:

A Soul’s Calling is soulful, insightful and informative. This book is truly a must read for anyone who has ever questioned life, love and loss. Scott Bishop’s writing encourages and challenges all to open our hearts, minds and souls to the universal law of love. He neither endorses nor disparages any religion, yet beautifully validates that a God, by whatever name undoubtedly exists. His message inspires hope and reminds us we are truly never alone, we all have a purpose and death is definitely not an ending. This has to be one of the most thrilling and fascinating books on the subject of higher realms that I have ever encountered. There is far more going on around us than we could ever imagine.

And another reader wrote me:

Absolutely incredible story!!!! Honestly, I was polarized throughout. I almost had to stay up all night, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to face work in the morning.

Seriously Scott….I loved the book. I really felt like I was walking next to you every step. The prose is rich with visual brilliance, words so carefully blended together.

I think there’s much in A Soul’s Calling that offers opportunities for rich discussions. I hope if people discuss my book they are mindful and respectful and non-judgmental of the beliefs of others. This is a central message and theme of A Soul’s Calling. Do no harm. We’re all on our own unique spiritual paths, and we’ve been given the resources to successfully navigate them. I hope people will see this and honor the book in this way. Yes, let’s talk freely about our beliefs, but let’s not cast judgment on others when their beliefs don’t align perfectly with ours.

Let me leave you with my disclaimer. The only thing I know for certain is, I know nothing for certain.

I was convinced by your reasoning that this book is worthy of massive readership because of its message. Please tell my readers where they can purchase a copy of A Soul’s Calling and give us your Twitter handle, Facebook and LinkedIn connections.
Thank you for this opportunity Clara.

A Soul’s Calling is available at Amazon.com and through BN.com. It’s available in Kindle format and in April it will be available for the Nook. It’s available at your local independent book store. They should be able to order it for you. The ISBN number is 9780615695358.

My author website is http://www.scott-bishop.com
My Twitter handle is @SBishopAuthor.
My Facebook is a longish link. I can’t have a fancy name until I get thirty people to like the page. (I only have six likes as of this interview). The link is: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Souls-Calling/529223290430260.

Thanks so much, Scott.