Author Interview-Kai Nicole

Kai Nicole

Kai Nicole

Kai Nicole holds degrees from Harvard University and Howard University School of Law.

She has worked in law, entertainment, technology (Silicon Valley), and has done business development consulting for multiple entrepreneurs.

A native Washingtonian, she has also lived in Boston and Atlanta. Kai is currently residing with her family in the suburbs of San Francisco.

Marina Raydun: Your background is in law. What made you want to write a dating guide?

Kai Nicole: I actually talk about this in my book, Date Like A Woman. But, it was a conversation on Twitter about dating that sparked the decision to write the book. My initiative, the accelerant, was the prolific number of male "dating gurus" online, and frankly everywhere, but so few women in the dating/relationship space, that I thought it was necessary to speak up in a bold way. A book seemed the best way to at least begin a factual discussion.

MR: Writing a book like Date Like a Woman is quite an undertaking. What kind of research did this project entail?

KN: Well, I went on a LOT of dates. I also did quite a bit of reading, e.g. newspaper articles, magazine articles, academic studies, and I did my own research, of course, by talking to a number of women about their dating experiences.

MR: How did publishing your first book change your writing process?

KN: I no longer have the time required to focus on my writing the way I used to. Between blogging and my other business ventures, my time to focus on researching and writing my next book is very limited. I am learning to adjust though!

MR: Is there one topic you would never write about as an author? Why?

KN: There are probably several; I don’t like to write about things that I am not knowledgeable about or have not experienced.

MR: What is the first experience you had when you learned that language had power?

KN: I am not sure about my first experience, however, I will say that my first trip to France was the place where I understood how important being able to use a language was. At the time I spoke very limited French but being on my own for several months forced me to have to communicate in everyday ways, renting an apartment, going to the post office, the laundromat, cashing a check, everyday living. That experience made me really appreciate the power of language and communication.

MR: What is your favorite genre to read?

KN: It used to be science fiction but now I find myself drawn to history and biography.

MR: What are you currently reading?

KN: I am currently reading Becoming Michelle Obama.

MR: Is there a book that changed your life?

KN: Yes, my own! The experience of writing and publishing my book has changed my life significantly. It’s an interesting experience when people read your own words and ask you about them.

MR: If you could have drinks with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

KN: Michelle Obama. I admire her so much. I feel she is a person who, if you had the opportunity to sit down and talk to her, would give you all sorts of wonderful life advice.

MR: What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?

KN: Whether I should be making more videos for my Date Like A Woman fans! Seriously, I get a great response from my videos and for some reason when I am in the car is when I think about it the most.

To learn more about Kai Nicole, please visit http://www.datelikeawoman.com/

Second Person Singular

220px-Second_Person_Singular_by_Ayed_Kashua_book_cover.jpg

I met Sayed Kashua once. A friend of a friend, we were introduced after a screening of Write Down-I am an Arab, a documentary about a renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. I found him intimidating. Kashua, not Darwish. His mood that day can easily be explained by the timing of our meeting—we’d just come out of the discussion about the film and the life of Mahmoud Darwish, and inevitably, the conversation had turned to the life and status of Arab Israelis. My friend Mira Award (who’d adapted Darwish’s poetry to her original music for this project) and Sayed Kashua (who himself is an Israeli Arab journalist and novelist, writing primarily in Hebrew) were poised and polite in the face of some rather ignorant questions, but when it was over and we all headed over the a nearby bar somewhere around NYU, Sayed was visibly shaken and annoyed. By way of context, he had apparently recently moved to the United States with his family, vowing never to return to Israel. He spoke very fast, mostly in Arabic and Hebrew (neither one of which I speak), and I remember feeling very intimidated. He smoked a lot and left before anyone else did. I was relieved! Needless to say, I didn’t even think to mention that I am a writer—a title I still feel insecure about throwing around by way of a self-descriptor. Now, half a decade older, I realize what a wasted opportunity this meeting was! Not because I regret not making a “contact” in Mr. Kashua, but because, had I been braver and not allowed myself to become so easily flustered, I could’ve learned something from such an accomplished author! I’ve been kicking myself and wanting to read Sayed’s novels ever since.

I proposed reading Second Person Singular to my Facebook Book Club, MR. BOOK CLUB, but it lost to American Like Me. I, of course, knew that, win or lose, I was going to finally read this novel, and I have to say, I am glad that I did. I am embarrassed to admit that this is the first work of fiction I’ve read that was written by an Israeli Arab. I’ve read literature by Jewish Israelis leaning to the left of the local political spectrum, of course, but obviously that is not the same thing.

I must say, I don’t remember the last time I felt like I truly learned something from a novel. For example, I had no idea about the friction between Israeli Arabs from the Galilee vs those from the “triangle,” the Christian and Muslim Arabs etc. The way I see it, underneath it all, this book is about insecurity. On all levels—personal, cultural, political. No wonder I can relate! The writing is crystal clear, despite the translation from Hebrew, and truly pulls you in. On the whole, this is a fascinating and rewarding read and I highly recommend it.


Nine Perfect Strangers

I’m just gonna say it—I love Liane Moriarty. Granted, I was a little late to the party, only giving her books a try two years ago; I, therefore, may be overcompensating a bit. I read Big Little Lies, What Alice Forgot, and My Husband’s Secret. Ms. Moriarty’s voice is unlike anyone else’s and I cannot get enough. I’ll be honest, Nine Perfect Strangers is not my favorite novel by Ms. Moriarty, but it is a worthy, enjoyable read. It was my on-line book club’s official November/December selection. Join us here: MR. BOOK CLUB.

Currently, I am wrapping up a manuscript with multiple points of view so getting my hands on a book with that many POVs written by one of my favorite authors was godsent. Quality writing is indeed inspiring. On this front, Ms. Moriarty did not disappoint—nine characters were introduced effortlessly and naturally. Lots to learn from the master! The multiple voices were not overwhelming and it was helpful to hear inner dialogue and different perspectives on the previously introduced conflict. This, of course, was the highlight of the book for me.

Each character was distinct and different and developed to a different degree, but Masha stood out to me for a rather obvious reason. I’m naturally hypersensitive to representation of Russian-speaking characters in books and movies, and here is Masha—the gorgeous, know-it-all, arrogant health resort owner. Naturally, I was on guard from the second I read her name. I need not have been, as it turns out. Not because Masha was portrayed as a highly relatable, likable starlet, but because she was not. Highly educated and of enviable will power, Masha doesn’t hide her distaste for those around her. She feels superior to them not because she is naturally better than them but because she fought and worked hard for everything in her new life in Australia (despite immeasurable trauma, as it turns out). I’ve met women like Masha in my local immigrant community. She’s well-written. She’s believable. I didn’t like her but I understood where she was coming from.

The ending was the only thing that truly bugged me about the novel, to be honest. And even that’s only because it seemed to drag unnecessarily, with multiple updates on the characters in the future.

All in all, I recommend this book to anyone who likes an easy but quality read.

Author Interview-Amanda McDonough

Amanda McDonough

Amanda McDonough

Amanda McDonough was born in 1990 and diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of 4. As she grew older, her hearing steadily declined as she battled to hide her ongoing hearing loss from her family, friends, teachers, and the world. Despite facing unbelievable challenges, she succeeded in; getting straight A’s in school, having a successful child acting career, and leading a fairly “normal” life. But one day, during the most difficult part of her college career, she awoke to discover that her remaining hearing was completely gone. She had lost 100% of her hearing in both ears. All of a sudden, she was unable to communicate with the people around her. She did not know sign language, could no longer speak well, and could not lip read. She became isolated from the world and had to finally face her hearing loss, accept that she was deaf, and find a way to finish college without being able to hear. She found the strength to teach herself to talk well again, to lip-read, and to use sign language and set out on an emotional rollercoaster ride to discover who she was and who she wanted to become. As a late deafened adult Amanda pursued higher education at California Polytechnic University, Pomona where she received her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business Administration- International Business and Marketing Management, with an emphasis in Entertainment Marketing.
McDonough currently resides in Los Angeles, California and enjoys successful inspirational speaking and acting careers. Amanda’s recent television, theater and film credits include: ABC's "Speechless," NBC’s “Bad Judge,” ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth,” Chris Lilly’s Pilot series “Just Us Guys,” "Our Town" with Tony nominated Deaf West Theater and films such as “Listen” directed by Michaela Higgins and "Silent Star" directed by Steven Sanders. Her films "Passengers," "Loud and Clear, " and "Lady Electric" have gone on to show in various festivals (such as Cannes) and win awards.  Amanda's life story has even been the subject of documentaries such as USC's "Amanda" and radio broadcast stories such as KCRW's "Silence."" She has also been interviewed about her life and upcoming book by NBC News and Fox News, as well as for dozens of online articles and blogs.

Marina Raydun: You hid your hearing loss from those around you growing up. Looking back at it now, why do you think you chose to do that?

Amanda McDonough: I started losing my hearing when I was only 4 years old. At that time, there weren’t any openly hard of hearing role models in the mainstream media for me to look up to. I was young. I had no exposure to any Deaf people who could show me that life without hearing would be ok. So, out of fear, I chose to hide my hearing loss. I did the best I could to “fit in” with my hearing peers and hearing family. I tried to ignore my struggles and hope they would go away. It took me 18 years to realize that wasn’t the best course of action.  

MR: What would you say to a hard of hearing child who may be contemplating doing the same?

AM: Don’t. The biggest loss I suffered as a child wasn’t the loss of my hearing, it was the loss of the opportunity to figure out who I actually was. By hiding my hearing loss and constantly acting the way I thought society wanted me to act I delayed my opportunity to find my identity. I also missed out on opportunities to meet other people like me, to gain full access to education, to learn sign language, to benefit from Deaf culture, and even to receive college scholarships.

Be you. There is no better person to be.

MR: You’d been losing your hearing slowly over about two decades and often escaped into your imagination. Is that when you first started writing?

AM: I never saw myself as a writer prior to writing my first book. I even put off “Ready to be Heard” for nearly a full year after the publisher’s requested I write it. It wasn’t until I realized that other people could benefit from my personal struggles and my unique perspective that I started writing and learned that I actually loved it!

3dbook1.png

MR: What is the first experience you had when you learned that language had power?

AM: Language and words have always been powerful for me. Art using language has always been an outlet that I turned to during rough moments in my life. I loved books growing up, theater, poetry, music, and lyrics. Learning Sign Language, however, was a completely other worldly experience for me. It led me to my identity, provided me with support, culture, friends, accessibility, and hope. After all, is there anything more powerful than belonging and being able to share your thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly to a group of peers willing to “listen?”

MR: How did learning American Sign Language as an adult affect your appreciation for careful word choice? Did it affect your writing?

AM: Absolutely! Learning ASL has allowed me to see the world through new eyes! It definitely effected how I wrote my book. Learning the language and the culture, that comes with it, gave me the vocabulary to explaining how I identified at different points in my life and in my hearing loss journey. I started the journey as Hard of Hearing, became deaf, and then chose to identify as Deaf after learning ASL. So, you will see a lot of references to the importance of identity stressed through language and vocabulary (such as little d vs big D- deaf) in “Ready to be Heard.” 

MR: What sort of amplification do you currently use? (Do you use Cochlear implants or hearing aids)

AM: I have 100% natural hearing loss in both ears. I am profoundly deaf with one cochlear implant on the right side of my head.  

MR: What do miss hearing the most when you What is your favorite part about being able to turn it off before going to bed at night? do just that?

AM: My implant helps me navigate a hearing dominated world. However, I love being able to turn off my cochlear implant to enjoy the peace and silence, at will, during the day. Having the option to simply take my implant off makes so many of my life experiences better! For example, the silence benefits sleeping, writing in coffee shops, relaxing on long flights in crowded planes, watching dubbed foreign movies (with captions), walking by construction sites, and being able to nap literally anywhere I want! Being Deaf definitely has its perks!

MR: What does literary success look like to you?

AM: I get these amazing letters, emails, and messages from kids and adults, that I have never met, telling me that they related to something in my book, were empowered, or felt less alone after reading “Ready to be Heard.” That is success to me. I set out to help others. Naturally, I would like to reach as many people as possible with my story in the hopes that it can impact them. I definitely wouldn’t be against making the New York Times Best Sellers List, being on Oprah’s recommended reading list, explaining hearing loss to Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show, or watching the film adaptation of my life. However, at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is that my work leaves a positive mark on the lives of others.

MR: What’s the best and worst book review you’ve received?

AM: My “best” review is actually hilarious! It was one of the very first Amazon reviews I ever received. My mother sometimes uses my Amazon account to order things for herself and my dad. When “Ready to be Heard” came out, she wanted to leave me a review. So, my mom, logged onto MY Amazon Prime account, wrote a beautiful review of MY book with MY name as the reviewer! When someone brought the review to my attention, I laughed for a good 15 minutes, then decided to leave it up as private joke.

I recently received my “worst” book review. All my reviews before this one had been 5 stars; so, when I saw the 2 stars my heart sunk at first. Then I read the review and found myself grateful. I could have been upset that someone didn’t love my work. Yet, I chose to see this review as a gift. It reminded me that not everyone is going to like my book and that is ok. Life isn’t perfect. I am definitely not perfect. I still have a lot of learning and growing to do, so I take all the good reviews and the “bad” reviews and chose to learn from them.

 MR: You were an actress before you were a writer. How is your artistic process similar across the two media?

AM: As an actress I have always been a story teller. My job has always been to bring scripts to life and help people experience new characters, emotions, perspectives, and worlds. Writing is similar in that I am still the storyteller; the difference is that I use my words and personal experience as the tool to get the story across instead of my acting skills.

 MR: How did publishing your first book change your writing process?

AM: I have learned so much from this experience! I have had some amazing mentors to help guide me, but there is nothing like learning by doing. I threw out the first two full 300-page drafts of “Ready to be Heard.” Those drafts helped me figured out what worked for me and what didn’t as a writer. I was then finally able to develop the writing process for myself that I used to write the published version and some day will use to write other book.

MR: Were your book to be adapted into a movie, who would play you?

AM: Is Betty White available? Just kidding. A film adaptation of “Ready to be Heard” is a future possibility; so, I’ll definitely need to start seriously contemplating this question. Any suggestions?

 To learn more about Amanda’s book, please visit:

www.ReadyToBeHeard.com

To keep in touch with Amanda, please visit:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBERhpWcbrcDEsM0A0D36rg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialamandamcdonough/

            http://www.facebook.com/readytobeheard

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ActingAmanda

            http://www.twitter.com/readytobeheard

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amanda_mcdonough/   https://www.instagram.com/readytobeheard

 

 

 

This Refugee's Christmas

Winter Show at a Day Care I hated with a passion, circa roughly 1987-1988

Winter Show at a Day Care I hated with a passion, circa roughly 1987-1988

My first holiday season in America, I thought “Merry Christmas” was synonymous with “Happy New Year.” And it wasn’t just because between all two of my friends and myself we could barely string together enough words to form a sentence in English; it was because, growing up in a country that no longer exists (namely-Soviet Union), New Year’s was all we knew. Sure, we’d heard of Christmas (though Russian-Orthodox Christmas is celebrated in January), but to have a whole week off from school for it was unheard of. If you’re going to be off, it has to be for New Year’s! DUH!

To this day, I seem confuse people both ethnically and religiously. And it’s a complex matter, I’ll give you that. Russian-Speaking Jews will rarely identify themselves as Russian, and that’s for a good reason: decades were spent convincing us that we’re not Russian! Sure, we were citizens of the good ol’ Soviet Union, just like the “real Russians,” but ethnically, everywhere it mattered, our Jewishness was pointed out. I’m talking birth certificates and teacher’s rosters. Ironically (or not), officially, there was no religion back in the old country so all things Judaism bypassed me completely growing up. Same was theoretically true of my Christian peers, though, unlike Jews, who rarely liked drawing attention to themselves, in the days of Perestroika, the “Russian” folk did start wearing crucifixes and occasionally attending church services in the open. But that one thing that united us all was New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s was this totally godless holiday that celebrated ousting the old year and hailing in the new, complete with a new year’s tree, presents, and Father Frost (think Santa Clause but in a different getup and accompanied by his granddaughter…I don’t know why, but somebody should look into it). Yes, that looks and sounds exactly like Christmas (well, minus that suspicious “granddaughter” situation). Apparently, the whole thing started back in the early years of the socialist regime, when all things religious were outlawed but the Party leaders recognized that the people still craved that winter holiday. New Year’s Eve was thus sanctioned. Or so the story goes. Whenever I’m asked to explain it (and that’s usually when I bust out my holiday lights and a decked out tree), I say, it’s like Christmas, only six days later and minus the whole Jesus thing. But literally everything else is the same. And boy, was it a big deal! It was special and wonderful, and we stayed up half the night watching the same movie year after year (Irony of Fate-it’s awesome, watch it!). You won’t meet an immigrant/refugee/ex-pat from whatever republic that used to belong to the Soviet Union who does not have warm and fuzzy feelings about New Year’s eve (and day). It was the holiday for every Soviet child and adult. Sure, we had birthdays and Victory Day and May Day and International Women’s Day, but it was for New Year’s Eve that the fancy china came out and salad Olivier was made in bulk. That shit is not easy to let go.

Two+ decades of an immigrant life experience, no matter the good, the bad, or the ugly, leaves you jaded whether you like it or not. It’s called growing up. Eventually, New Year’s, being of little interest to my American friends in any way that felt familiar, slowly lost its luster. I no longer await it with butterflies in my stomach, I no longer make wishes for the new year, it no longer feels like starting anew. Thus this holiday remains one of the very few things I miss about my country of birth; and much like it, it remains in my past. But you know what tries to fill that hole every year? Christmas! No, not in its religious sense. Mine is a commercial Christmas most people complain about. The chocolates, the gift-wrapping, the glorious tree. It’s the closest thing I’ve got to New Year’s that I can actually share with those around me and I’m sticking to it. That’s when my family gathers (yes, around a table full of Chinese food containers) and exchanges New Year’s presents…all the while listening to Christmas songs.

Sure, you can add a layer to this: I’m a refugee, an immigrant, forever desperate to blend, to adapt, to finally be American. No wonder I’m grasping at Christmas! And you know what? Maybe you wouldn’t be wrong on some level. It is here, in America, after all, that I finally felt that it was okay to look and be different from my peers because, by definition, everyone in America was always meant to look and be different from each other (right?!). My teachers no longer saw “Jewish” next to my name when going down the list of students and that alone felt like feat even back in 1994. And yet, every time somebody expresses skepticism over my affinity for Christmas and reminds me that Hanukkah begins at sundown, I wonder if it’s my semitic looks that prompt the conversation or the well-intentioned political correctness. And that triggers all sorts of trauma—I am again reminded of the fact that, if I am to forget that I’m Jewish, somebody will remind me. Even in America. But I digress…

So yes, forever the agnostic, and yes, one hopeful Jewish citizen of the world, I can’t see why I can’t have both—latkes for Hanukkah and a whole lot of outdoor Christmas lights. Hell, if I wouldn’t be so keenly aware that I am simultaneously judged by both Christians and Jews every Christmas (for being an impostor by Christians and a traitor by Jews, from what I am able to gather), I’d go even more out: stockings and caroling! Maybe next year.

2018 in Books

Eighteen books in 2018 is surely not a record by any measure but I’m easily impressed. My eternal gratitude to Kindle and Audible because, without these modern world marvels, my number would be just a tad sadder. I hope something on this list piques your interest. Please share your favorites!

Happy New Year!

Check out Part I of my 2018 list, January through June, here: https://www.marinaraydun.com/blog/2018/7/18/six-months-in-books

Part II

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessle

4-stars

I’m a fan of Marisha Pessle’s writing. I absolutely loved Night Film so when I saw a new title to her name, I had to jump on it. YA Thriller is not my typical choice of a genre but, like I said, if I like the author, I’m loyal enough to give it a try. The book did not disappoint. It was expertly written and scary in the way it conveyed inevitability of our existence. It’s a very engaging title.

Brain on Fire by Susannah Calahan

5-stars

This is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. Mostly because it’s a real story! It was sobering to be reminded just how fragile our bodies and minds are, how the doctors are not magicians in white lab coats. A young, presumably healthy woman not being taken seriously by medical professionals is also personally relatable (and thus even more petrifying). On the negative side, since I listened to the book on Audible, I have to say I hated the narrator’s unnecessary accenting of various characters.

A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen

5-stars

Given that all the action takes back in the “old country,” of course many names were mispronounced by the narrator here too, but the book is brilliant. Potentially relatable only to those like me—transplants born in one country/culture/society and raised in another, but there is so much tangible nostalgia here. Not for the “motherland,” but for that delicate, fragile feeling of belonging to a place, to a people. Much like the protagonist, many of us feel like we don’t belong—not with the old, not with the new. This is a novel full of beautiful ache. Highly recommend.


The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekknen

5-stars

All I can say is WOW! One of the most complex novels I’ve ever read. Nothing about it was predictable. I simply could not put it down! Additionally, what’s fascinating is that two authors wrote this together in real time. This is unheard of! Sometimes you hear about two authors collaborating, but it’s usually done in editing each other etc; these authors got together every night on-line and actually wrote together. Incredible. Highly recommend!

This One is Mine by Maria Semple

3.5 stars

Maria Semple is one of my favorite authors, but this is my least favorite book by her. It’s a great set of characters (and the set itself is a good example of how characters don’t need to be likable to be relatable), and I loved the multiple points of view, but I didn’t long to get back to the book whenever I stepped away from it. Also, the Audible narrator repeatedly mispronounced Hermès. It was distracting.

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

3-stars

I started a Facebook Book Club by the name MR Book Club (please join!), and this book was our first official selection. The novel is being adapted for the big screen by Ed Norton so I couldn’t wait to dive in. I must admit, I expected it to be better. It’s a fascinating study of Tourette’s, and I love that the protagonist has special needs, but as a thriller, it didn’t really work for me.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

3.5-stars

I loved B.A. Paris’ other books so I was excited to get my hands on this one. It didn’t disappoint but having read so many books by the same author in a short period of time, it wasn’t as unpredictable for me as it would be for somebody else. The writing is solid. Recommend!

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

5-stars

Liane Moriarty cannot possibly disappoint me. Another fun, enlightening read with some gorgeous character development. It’s a long one but oh so satisfying. Highly recommend!

What have you read this year?

May 2019 bring us all lots of glorious storytelling!

~Marina

Author Interview-Christie Stratos

Christie Stratos

Christie Stratos

Christie Stratos is an award-winning writer who holds a degree in English Literature. She is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Brotherhood of Secrets, the first two books in the Dark Victoriana Collection. Christie has had short stories and poetry published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Andromedae Review, 99Fiction, and various anthologies. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics to indies.

Marina Raydun: You hold a degree in English Literature. Any particular favorites among the classics?

Christie Stratos: Julius Caesar and Hamlet first inspired me to take my writing seriously and to write psychological fiction. They also leave enough to the reader (or viewer if you’re watching the plays) that they become an active participant in the truth of the storyline and characters whether they want to or not. I wanted to create that too.

MR: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

CS: The only literary pilgrimages I’ve enjoyed are to libraries for research.

MR: Who is your literary crush?

CS: Hank Rearden from Atlas Shrugged for his incredible ability to change so drastically throughout the book and to become a man with more self-worth than he ever had in his life. My other literary crush is Howard Roark from The Fountainhead for the way he always knew what he wanted, what he would become, and how he never abandoned his beliefs or creative ideals for even one moment.

MR: Who is your literary hero?

CS: Right now, Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks. The Wife Between Us was a stunningly well-written thriller that combines charismatic storytelling with twists and turns you can’t see coming, and they keep you hanging on every letter. I’m fortunate enough to have received an ARC of An Anonymous Girl, their next book that’s due out in 2019, and it’s even better than the first! Their books are so well written, it’s tempting to go through them with a fine-tooth comb to figure out exactly how they do what they do. But it’s also kind of nice finding modern authors whose strategies I admire without knowing exactly how it’s done.

MR: When did you first start writing?

CS: I’ve written all my life. Every since I was capable of writing, I created poetry, then novels, then short stories. Even when I told myself I’d quit writing, I always ended up coming back to it. I can’t help myself.

MR: Is there a thing you’ve written that makes you cringe now?

CS: I wrote a novel in high school that has really good ideas in it, but it was written at a time when I didn’t have the maturity, creatively or in general, that I do now. It doesn’t flesh things out enough, is too straight to the point, and the lack of natural feel to the characters all make me cringe. I’ve wanted to rewrite it, but it’s tough to rewrite a piece of your past—it almost feels like you’re rewriting your own history.

MR: Is there a book that cemented you as a writer?

CS: Anatomy of a Darkened Heart was my first novel written as an adult, and it was my debut book. When I published that, I knew I would continue novel writing in particular forever. Short stories and poetry (and pretty much anything else) are things I’ll probably also always write, but novels are complex and rewarding projects that nothing can quite replace. The satisfaction in bringing characters into themselves, developing them, and putting them through their paces is worth every moment spent painstakingly picking the right word and testing the strength of my creations.

MR: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

CS: Stop doubting whether you’ll get published and just keep writing! And also stop feeling nervous and fearful of writing the wrong thing. It’s impossible to write anything wrong—that’s what the delete key is for.

MR: You are an avid reader. What is your favorite underappreciated novel?

CS: It would have to be Haven Lost and the whole Dragon’s Brood series by Josh de Lioncourt. He is a brilliant fantasy author, and a lot more people should discover his work. It’s written just as well as any traditionally published fantasy author’s work, including excellent pacing, great twists on lore, in-depth character development, and loads of action. The first time I listened to one of his books on audio, I was blown away!

MR: Is there a book you wish you’d written?

CS: The Distant Sound of Violence by Jason Greensides. It’s contemporary fiction that’s also very literary in its complexities and layers. The way one thing can snowball and entirely change lives, the way he expresses how we don’t ever really know what others are going through even if we think we know them well—he’s an amazing writer, and that’s one book I’d like to have written myself.

To learn more about Christie, please follow the links below:

Anatomy of a Darkened Heart:

Amazon: amzn.com/B015KYJXZ8 

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/anatomy-of-a-darkened-heart-christie-stratos/1122766074

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/580327

 

Brotherhood of Secrets:

Amazon: https://bookgoodies.com/a/B073YPBHST

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/locke-and-keye-christie-stratos/1126977290

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/742458

 

“The Subtlety of Terror”:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G4PGRG5/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-subtlety-of-terror-christie-stratos/1129229846

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/886308 

Website: http://christiestratos.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2thw6Pn

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Christie-Stratos/e/B015L5FMTM/

Author YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/christiestratos

The Writer’s Edge YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/thewritersedgeshow

Creative Edge Writer’s Showcase: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/sets/creative-edge-writers-showcase

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christie_stratos/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/christiestratos

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christiestratosauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/christiestratos

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/cstratoswrites

Author Interview Series-Miranda Oh

Miranda Oh

Miranda Oh

Miranda Oh is the author of the successful Chick Lit series, Chin Up Tits Out!

Author Miranda Oh, a girl of Metis tradition and descent is your typical girl: She loves the sunset, loves long walks on the beach, world travels, and when not playing the corporate part she can be found sipping wine and spending all her hard-earned money on nice shoes. Among her friends and family, Miranda Oh is known to be the storyteller of the group, always recapping crazy life stories and situations. Her personal experiences, emotions and fantasies are the inspiration for most of her books, so there is a little bit of her in every story.

Marina Raydun: I love the title of your series. Very gutsy! How did that come about?

Miranda Oh: Thank-you, I also love the title! It’s my life motto! My mom used to tell me versions of Chin Up Tits Out while growing up, when I needed a boost of confidence. Shoulders back, chin up, chest out, head up is meant as a power pose, to look confident, therefore feel confident.

MR: Hadley is a very raw, real character. What do you owe real life people upon whom you base your characters?

MO: Real life is what made my characters who they are. Life experience, and reality is sometimes is stranger than actual fiction. So I try and mix the best of both worlds.  

MR: Which book in the series was more difficult to write—book one or two?

MO: Book two was a lot more difficult to write than book one. It is because reliving everything that transpired in my personal life to prepare to write book 2 was like opening up Pandora’s box in the back of my mind. It let out a lot of really heavy, deep, intense topics that came out in the book.  Then in true Chin Up Tits Out fashion, I had to find a way to spin everything positive with a little twist of sarcastic humor. It was a challenge, and wine was a huge lifesaver during the creation of book 2.

Miranda Oh

Miranda Oh

MR: What’s the most difficult part about writing characters of opposite sex?

MO: As women, we understand and can appreciate (we should always appreciate) our minds, and how many millions of things can cross it in a split second. When writing from a male perspective, it is hard to shut off the female; million mile a minute brain, and just slow things down, and make them less complicated.

MR: How do you select names for your characters?

MO: I am legit the WORST at picking out names for my books. When I create a character that represents someone in my life, if their actual name starts with a ‘S’, for simplicity sake, I will turn their characters name into something that also starts with an ‘S’ – I know, it is the least creative thing about my writing. But I got to do what works for me, and that is what works for me. 

MR: If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaption of your book, who would play them?

MO: Hadley would for sure be Jennifer Lawrence, or Emma Stone. Both of those actresses are extremely talented, unique, and unapologetically themselves, and that is Hadley through in through.

MR: What literary character is most like you?

MO: Well since I wrote a little bit about my life, I would say Hadley, the main character is a lot like me, although more refined, and more tailored. I am not that graceful, or seemingly put together in reality.

MR: Who is your literary crush?

MO: Which women doesn’t have a crush on the typical Fabio looking character on the front of romance novels? I always gawk at them when I pass through a book store. As to a specific crush, I do not have one…that I know of yet.

MR: Is there an illicit book you had to sneak growing up?

MO:  I had a good laugh reading this question, the answer is not really. I didn’t have to sneak it per say. I was however snooping for whatever I was snooping for as a kid, and found my parents stash of illicit books. Once they realized I found them, they mysteriously found a new hiding place.

MR: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?

MO: Why did I share my story?

The answer to that, is because I want to connect us as humans, and by connecting, we share stories. When we share stories, we share feelings, and when someone can resonate with a feeling, no matter the circumstances, we can connect on a deeper level. I am a firm believer in the idea of “together we are better”. The only way I felt I could be better, was to share my story, and it lead me to selling copies of my novels around the world. I am really happy and really proud of that accomplishment, the more people who read it, the more we all become connected, and that is my overall goal.

 To learn more about Miranda, please visit: www.mirandaoh.com

To stay in touch with Miranda, please visit:

@ohmirandaoh – Twitter

@ohmirandaoh – IG

Miranda Oh – Chin Up Tits Out – Facebook

For your copy of Chin Up Tits Out, please visit: www.amazon.com/author/ohmirandaoh

Fiction

I was in high school when The Truman Show came out. My twenty-two year-old journalism teacher, Mr. V, highly recommended it, and he was the resident boy-genius at my inner city high school and would never steer me wrong so of course I dragged my BFF at the time to the movies one Saturday morning to see it for myself. I also had a vague crush on Jim Carrey growing up so we went to the movies often back in the ‘90s. That was years before our small, four-screen movie theater was closed to make room for one massive Walgreens.

Mr. V was right—the damn thing blew my sixteen-year-old mind! The sheer paranoia I felt as I crawled out of the darkened building reeking of old butter! Forever mind-numbingly sober, I wondered if that’s what it felt like being high. Was everything fake around us, I wondered as we crossed Coney Island Avenue, walking up Kings Highway back to my parents’ second American apartment. The sky—was it naturally blue or was it a set? Was someone behind all the green pedestrian lights? I drove my friend nuts all the thirteen street blocks up to my house but the whole euphoria of stumbling on something truly life-altering wore off by Monday. Having reported to my teacher that I saw and loved the movie, I was free to move on to whatever other obsession I was hyper-focused on at the time. It was either Spice Girls or Prince William, depending on the month. I don’t remember much about the specifics of the timing but eventually I must’ve decided that it was irrelevant to me if the sky was real or painted. Whether or not my environment was manipulated and/or manufactured, I still had to pretend to study for my SATs. If my sky was clear—it was worth it, regardless of whether or not there was a control booth involved. Growing up, my agnosticism decided there wasn’t, anyway.

Fast forward twenty years… whoa, I only now did the math… I need a minute…

Okay, ready.

So, fast forward twenty years. I am thirty-six. To escape reality if only for a week, I recently took a trip to a beautiful island in the Caribbean. I won’t name names for the sake of preserving some pretense of anonymity, but suffice it to say, it was warm, exclusive, and incredible. In fact, it was so incredible, that the many palm trees planted on the luscious grounds of this Vegas-like grandeur didn’t sway in the breeze. It was full on Truman Show again! I was sixteen again—back to Mr. V, back to Stan, my then-BFF. I swear to the deity of your choice, no matter the wind speed, those trees stayed put. Much can be discussed in rational and learned manner about manicured resorts in countries where cost of living for an average citizen leaves much to be desired and whether or not our going there helps by way of taxes and jobs or simply depletes the resources, but I must admit—I loved the picturesque sky and the perfectly still palm trees. I didn’t care if they were real. If any of it was. For a week, I felt safe and happy. It didn’t need to be real. In fact, I wanted there to be a control booth.

Is that what fiction is?

Author Interview Series-Lew Bayer

lew pic green.jpg

Lew believes that “Civility is its own reward”. She suggests

that “In choosing civility, people find their best self, and in

doing so, they experience the grace, courage, generosity,

humanity, and humility that civility engenders.”

For almost 20 years Dr. Lew Bayer has been internationally

recognized as the leading expert on civility at work. With a focus on social intelligence

and culturally-competent communication, the team at Civility Experts – which includes

367 affiliates in 43 countries has supported 100s of organizations in building better

workplaces. In addition to her role as CEO of international civility training group Civility

Experts Inc. www.CivilityExperts.com which includes The Civility Speakers Bureau and

Propriety Publishing. Lew is Chair of the International Civility Trainers’ Consortium,

President of The Center for Organizational Cultural Competence

www.culturalcompetence.ca, and Founder of the In Good Company Etiquette Academy

Franchise Group www.ingoodcompanyetiquette.com. Most recently, Lew was selected

as the Champions of Humanity Global Advocate- Champions of Humanity is an arm of

Aegis Trust, a UK based organization focused on peace education and the prevention of

genocide.

Including 2-time, international bestseller, The 30% Solution, and the pending December

release of Golden Rule Peace and Civility Lew is a 16-time published author. Lew

donates her time as Director of the National Civility Center, www.civilitycenter.org and

co-founder of the Golden Rule Civility Global Initiative. She is also a proud mentor for

The Etiquette House, a member of the Advisory Board for A Civil Tongue, was a national

magazine columnist for 10 years, and has contributed expert commentary to many

online, print, and television publications. Lew is one of only 14 Master Civility Trainers in

the world, a distance faculty member at Georgetown University Center for Cultural

Competence, a long-term facilitator at the Canadian Management Center in Toronto

Canada, Instructor – Social Justice at MITT, a Master trainer for the Canadian School of

Service, a certified High Style Impression Management Professional and a certified

Culture Coach® who also holds credentials in Intercultural Communications, Essential

Skills, and Occupational Language Assessment. Most recently Lew has completed the

Champions of Humanity Master Peace Educator Certificate Program at the Kigali Peace

School in Rwanda.

Lew has been recognized at World Civility Day three consecutive years for her

contributions in the field of civility with a Community Civility Counts Award, and she was

recently nominated for Women of Distinction, Woman of Influence, and the RBC

Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the year. She was previously awarded Manitoba

Woman Entrepreneur in International Business and she was the first Canadian to

receive the prestigious AICI International Civility Star Award. In 2018 Lew was

acknowledged for her work as co-founder of Golden Rule Civility Global Initiative

www.goldenrulecivility.com and presented with the International Person of the Year

Award by iChange Nations. In May 2018 she was presented with a US Congressional

Educator Award. She has been recommended for a position in the Canadian Senate and

also under consideration as Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago.

In addition to regularly consulting on corporate impression management, building

relationships with media and creating civil communication, Lew was a national columnist

for over 10 years, and is Lew is a sought-after expert who frequently writes, interviews

and speaks with media all around the world.

Civility Experts Inc. manages The Civility Speakers Bureau www.civilityspeakers.com

offers online certification, www.civilityexpertsonline.com and offers a large array of civility

training tools and materials via www.civilitystore.com. It is a combination of the collective

experience of the world-wide affiliate team, the leading-edge training solutions and the

team's ability to customize to their client's need that leads to the sometimes

immeasurable benefits that choosing civility brings. These outputs include increased

social capital, trust, social intelligence and culturally competent communication - and

together these impacts result in efficiency, competency, retention and bottom line

results.

Marina Raydun: In our day and age, civility tends to be underappreciated. What made you become so passionate about the concept that you chose to make a career out of it?

Lew Bayer: You know, I’ve been lucky in my life in that I have experienced civility my whole life. My parents were very conscious of manners and social graces- I can recall toiling over thank you cards after my 5th birthday, for example. I had the benefit of an amazing support network of neighbours and aunties and uncles who spoke kindly and cared for me, as well as the privilege of working with a professional civil manager at my first job. As I got older and experienced all kinds of incivility, I came to realize that not everyone had the same experiences as I did. I think it was Wayne Dyer that said, “you can’t get orange juice from lemons”…or something like that. As such, I came to understand that you need to teach people how to be kind, how to speak nicely, how to behave in public, how to be nonjudgmental etc. And so I started teaching etiquette and civility as a business.

MR: Word choice is certainly a substantial part of what it means to be civil. What is the first experience you had when you learned that language had power?

LB: This is a great question. When I was young: I was often introduced by my mother (who meant no harm doing so but caused harm nonetheless) as “our adopted daughter.” I could see the pity and judgment on people’s faces, and I knew that the word “adopted” changed how people saw me (and to me, how my mother valued me). I lived with this label my whole life-it shaped my relationships with my siblings, my mother, relatives and it also impacted my self-worth.

MR: You travel quite a bit in your line of work, which must mean lots of plane time. My favorite part of any airport is the bookshop. What do you like to read when you’re up in the air?

LB: Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I read anything nonfiction. I am an information junkie and constantly reading whitepapers and research, textbooks, and often the dictionary, because communication, writing, tone-these are important aspects of civility. As an aside, if you don’t feel like chatting on the plane, pull out the dictionary and start reading. No one bothers you when you’re reading the dictionary.

MR: Is there a book that changed your life?

LB: Left to Tell-story of Imaculée Ilibagiza, a Tutzi woman who survived the Rwandan Genocide by hiding in a 3x4 foot bathroom with 7 other women for 90 days. This story of grace and gratitude and forgiveness, changed how I live and think, and make decisions.

MR: Is there a book that people might be surprised to learn you love?

LB: Ummmm, the dictionary. I know, nerdy, right?! There is such power in words and I like learning the history and nuances of language because it ties to people and culture.

MR: You have over two-dozen titles to your name. How did publishing your first book change your writing process?

LB: My process hasn’t really changed much. I’ve always been a prolific writer. I just can’t write enough. I have the luxury and privilege of traveling and teaching amazing people in amazing places- I do about 220 lectures and presentations a year, so there is always a new perspective, a new story, a new insight, and I have to write it down. I guess if I had to pinpoint one change it’s that now I trust myself more and so I just write how I feel, and as though I were having a conversation. I don’t need to shock or inspire or impress anyone. I just see writing as sharing.

MR: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

LB: I’d say, don’t worry about who is going to read what you write, or buy it, or talk about it etc. Just see the fact that you can write in a reasonably sensible way as a gift you’ve been given. And give that gift away with no expectation of return.

MR: Is there a thing you’ve written that makes you cringe now?

LB: Oh my goodness, yes! Not so much the content itself but the grammar and logics of it all…yish! I think I’ve taken 40-50 grammar and writing courses since 1999 when I started – there is always room for improvement.

MR: What is your biggest failure?

LB: I really see failing as opportunity to grow and learn so I can’t say I’ve completely failed at writing. But I have failed to make good choices  related to writing, e.g., giving people I trusted “co-author” status when they didn’t really contribute at all. In hindsight, I wouldn’t do that again.

MR: What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?

LB: I travel a lot, so when I’m in my car, I think about how nice it is to be home, how lucky I am to live where I live and how I can’t wait to see my beautiful daughter or have my dog Cooper lick my face.

Get your copy of Dr. Bayer’s The 30% Solution here: https://www.amazon.com/30-Solution-Lewena-Bayer-ebook/dp/B074K7MNSZ/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1540663801&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=30%25+solution%2C+low+bayer#reader_B074K7MNSZ

Edward Willett

Edward-Willett-New-Headshot.jpg

Edward Willett is the award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages. His latest fantasy/science fiction novel for DAW Books is Worldshaper; it’s the start of a new series, Worldshapers. Other recent novels include the stand-alone science fiction novel The Cityborn (DAW Books), the five-book Shards of Excalibur YA fantasy series for Coteau Books, the Masks of Aygrima fantasy trilogy (written as E.C. Blake for DAW), and the Peregrine Rising science fiction duology for Bundoran Press. Ed won the Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English for Marseguro (DAW) in 2009. His nonfiction runs the gamut from local history to science books for children and adults to biographies of people as diverse as Jimi Hendrix and the Ayatollah Khomeini. In addition to writing, he’s a professional actor and singer, who has performed in numerous plays, musicals, and operas, and hosts the new podcast The Worldshapers, featuring conversations with science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process. He lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, with his wife, Margaret Anne Hodges, P.Eng., their teenaged daughter, Alice, and their black Siberian cat, Shadowpaw.

Marina Raydun: You are a very prolific author and write mostly in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. What is your favorite genre to read? 

Edward Willett: I read and enjoy science fiction and fantasy equally. Right now, my reading agenda is pretty much being set by my new podcast, The Worldshapers (www.theworldshapers.com), where I interview science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process. Since I’m doing this radical thing where I actually read the book (or books) we’re talking about before I talk to the authors (something I know from experience not all interviewers do!), and I’m doing an episode every two weeks, I’m pretty much only reading work by my guests. However, my guests have all been (and will continue to be) amazing authors, so I’m enjoying it. 

When I’m not reading science fiction and fantasy, I read non-fiction on any topic that catches my interest. (Often, I read these books out loud to my wife—the kitchen is too small for us to work together on meals, so she cooks while I read.) Recent non-fiction books I’ve read have included biographies (most recently of Leonardo da Vinci), science books, history books, and a book about Icelandic volcanoes (because, why not?).

MR: What is your favorite underappreciated novel?

EW: I don’t know that it’s underappreciated—I think it was pretty successful—but one of the most fascinating fantasies I’ve ever read, and one I still think about even though it’s been almost ten years since it came out, is Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, and its sequel, Dreamquake. The story is set in a world much like ours except for the existence of The Place, inaccessible to anyone except Dreamhunters, who can enter it and capture larger-than-life dreams which are then relayed to audiences in the magnificent Rainbow Palace. But the Place hides a terrifying secret which 15-year-old Laura is about to discover...

Highly recommended!

MR: Is there one topic you would never write about as an author? 

EW: I can imagine topics I would rather not write about, but no, not really: not as long as I thought I could write about it well and honestly. 

MR: Your background is in journalism. How does this color your fiction writing? Also, what is Weird Al like? 

EW: I think the main thing I brought from journalism to fiction was the ability to simply sit down and write. I’ve never suffered from what I would call writer’s block. I’ve suffered from writer’s laziness, which isn’t the same thing, and writer’s procrastination, which is endemic, but put me in front of a keyboard and I can write. The world of journalism is a world of deadlines: the newspaper comes out when it comes out, and you have to have your story ready in time to make it into print.

The other advantage, I think, is practice in organizing my thoughts before I start writing. That’s not to say I don’t revise my first drafts of stories and novels—but those first drafts are really pretty good. I think the years of writing for a newspaper helped with that. 

Weird Al, whom I interviewed for the Regina Leader Post when he was coming to town for a concert, was great! I really enjoyed talking to him. (He’s not really that weird...but he is very funny.) 

MR: As a fiction writer, what is the most difficult part about your artistic process?

EW: When I first have an idea for a story, it seems, in my mind, to be perfect and complete, a glistening globe of perfection like a Christmas ornament. The process of actually writing the story feels to me like taking that Christmas ornament, smashing it with a hammer, and then trying to glue it back together using words.

So, the difficult part is choosing the words and scenes and characters and dialogue that will convey to the reader the ideas I want to convey, to try to recreate in their mind that perfect image I had of the story before I began. Writing, though it feels solitary, is actually collaborative: you’re collaborating with your readers, and those readers are not you, so they bring to your work references and memories and connections that you don’t have. They reconstruct the story you think you’re telling in their mind, and it may not be at all the story you intended...and yet, their version of the story is every bit as “true” as your version.

The other challenging thing? To keep readers interested, for the hours it will take them to read a novel. My biggest fear is being boring! 

MR: What does literary success look like to you?

EW: I alternate between feeling very successful and a complete failure. Sometimes I feel successful because I’ve written more than sixty books (counting all the non-fiction), which have been published by multiple publishers; I’ve won awards; I’ve gotten some excellent reviews. Then I’ll feel a failure because my sales aren’t what I’d like, I’m not fabulously wealthy, no movies or TV shows have been made of my books, and most readers of science fiction and fantasy have never heard of me, even though I’m published by a major science fiction and fantasy publisher, DAW Books. But that’s just life. We’re never satisfied. Objectively, after twenty-five years of full-time freelancing and millions of published words, I haven’t done too badly in a notoriously iffy occupation! 

MR: What’s the best and worst book review you’ve ever received?

EW: Best? I’ve had two starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, one for Magebane (written as Lee Arthur Chane), and one for my newest novel, Worldshaper. Those always make me feel good. Worst would be the one by some hatchet-job reviewer on Goodreads (someone who has written dozens of one-star reviews, seemingly picking books to savage at random) for Masks, first book in my Masks of Aygrima trilogy, written as E.C. Blake, which begins, “This book is not so much fantasy as toilet paper...” But the same book had terrific reviews elsewhere. Go figure.

MR: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? 

EW: Hm. This depends on your definition of “friends.” I’m friendly with, as in able to say “Hi” to and chat a bit, with a LOT of writers, whom I’ve met at science fiction conventions: people like John Scalzi, Tad Williams, Seanan McGuire, Lee Modesitt Jr., Guy Gavriel Kay, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Haldeman...and many others. 

I know a lot of Canadian writers a bit better, people like Tanya Huff and Julie Czerneda and Hayden Trenholm and Arthur Slade, and, again, many others. 

But topping the list would have to be Robert J. Sawyer. I’ve known him for more than twenty years now, and I can definitely say he helped me become a better writer, because twice he’s been my writing teacher, through the Writing with Style program at the Banff Centre. I went twice, both because I loved it and because the first time I had a non-fiction deadline and spent most of my time there writing a biography of the Ayatollah Khomeini instead of completely focusing on science fiction. 

The second time, in 2005, Rob came into the classroom one morning and told us to write the opening to a story, cold, no preparation: just...go!

I wrote: 

Emily streaked through the phosphorescent sea, her wake a comet-tail of pale green light, her close-cropped turquoise hair surrounded by a glowing pink aurora. The water racing through her gill-slits smelled of blood. 

My classmates thought it sounded interesting, so, as the week progressed, I turned that opening into a short story, “Sins of the Father.” However, I never submitted it anywhere. Before I got around to it, DAW picked up my novel Lost in Translation, originally published by Five Star, for a mass-market-paperback release, and Ethan Ellenberg agreed to be my agent. Needing something to propose to DAW for my next book, I took the seeds I had planted in “Sins of the Father” and let them sprout into the synopsis for what became Marseguro, my second novel published by DAW (and my first written for them), and winner of the 2009 Aurora Award (honoring Canadian science fiction and fantasy) for Best Long-Form Work in English. The sequel, Terra Insegura, followed. (The two were later published under one cover in an omnibus edition, The Helix War.)

So, that was 150,000 words of fiction and a major award, all of which began with one writing exercise set by my fellow writer and friend Robert J. Sawyer! 

MR: If you could have drinks with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

EW: I’d love to sit down and talk to Jesus one-on-one and ask Him how accurately His life has been portrayed down through the centuries. It’d be cheap, too: I’d bring water, He could make wine. Also, there are a few minor ailments I wouldn’t mind having healed... 

MR: You have recently ventured into the world of podcasting. How does being a writer translate into broadcasting and interviewing? Asking for a friendJ

EW: My podcast, The Worldshapers, is very much focused on writing: in each episode, I chat with an author about the creative process. As of now, I’ve talked to Robert J. Sawyer, Tanya Huff, John Scalzi, Julie Czerneda, and Arthur Slade. Confirmed guests include Orson Scott Card, Joe Haldeman, Gareth L. Powell, Seanan McGuire, Kim Harrison, Tosca Lee, and David Brin...and several others.

I think the fact I am myself a multiply published author helps me with these interviews because all of us as authors are dealing with the same challenges as we move from idea to finished novel, shaping the setting, characters, plot, dialogue, and everything else, writing and revising and being edited.  

Interviewing is of course something I’ve done my whole career, since I started as a newspaper reporter and continue to freelance for magazines and other publications. And on the broadcasting side, I’ve done radio my whole career, too, both as a guest and as a host.

Since my new book is about people who shape worlds (which is why it’s called, duh, Worldshaper), this seemed like an auspicious time to launch something I’ve thought about doing for years. It seems to be going well, and I can’t wait to talk to the many great authors I’m lining up...and read their books!

Again, its website is www.theworldshapers.com, and it’s also widely available through many other podcast sources, including iTunes, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher, and more. Please check it out!

To learn more about Edward Willett, please visit: www.edwardwillett.com

 Online bookstore:

www.edwardwillettshop.com

The Worldshapers podcast website:

www.theworldshapers.com 

Twitter:

@ewillett

@TWorldshapers

Facebook:

www.facebook.com/edward.willett

www.facebook.com/TheWorldshapers/

Amazon page:

www.amazon.com/edward-Willett/e/B001IR1LL6/

 

Author Interview Series-Olga Pinsky

Olga Pinsky

Olga Pinsky

Olga Pinsky is a PhD student at the University of the Rockies in Denver, Colorado. She is an advocate for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and a volunteer at MEadvocacy.org. Though, she’s only published one poetry book thus far, she has written 10 works total of various genres including poetry, fan-fiction, General Fiction, and Short Stories. Her hobbies include scuba diving, world travel, photography, and singing. Born in Slutsk, Belarus, USSR, Olga is fluent in both Russian and English. She currently resides in Stamford, CT with her parents and adorable mini-poodle, Mickey.

 

Marina Raydun: What is your favorite thing about fan-fiction as a genre?

Olga Pinsky: My favorite thing about the genre is that I can use a blueprint of a story and/or film and create my very own world. My first and largest book was “Carlisle’s Diary” (140 chapters/400 pages long), based off of the Twilight character. Instead of doing what every other fanfic writer for Twilight was doing by regurgitating the story but [setting it] in various time periods, I went to a completely different place while still keeping the essence of the original characters and backgrounds. I made a new species that had lived in my head since high school and were taking up too much room in my brain, and evicted them into this story. It was a large gamble but my readers and fans fell in love with these new characters and I was able to create plots that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

Another reason I love fanfic, is because one can escape into the story when real life is a nightmare. It’s a great world to hide and take a break from reality in.

MR: When did you first grow inspired to try your hand at fan-fiction? What character served as your initial muse?

OP: I’ve been writing poetry and short stories since middle school, but it wasn’t until Twilight that I decided to try my hand at it. I’ve always been very creative. I wanted to write primarily from Carlisle’s POV because in both the books and films, he was in the background and never got the same importance as other characters. I have also never written from a male perspective before and wanted to challenge myself. My muse was actually one of my created characters. All of my stories focus around strong female characters. This one was the center being of my created species. She was powerful, kind, caring, a leader, and my alter ego, if you will. She really helped power that story along as well as create the base for all other books since.

MR: What are some of your favorite underappreciated books?

OP: Such a hard question! There are so many! I have a vast number of books at home, [but] I’d have to say the three that pop out in my mind right away are Walter Cronkite’s autobiography, “Golda” by Eleanor Burkett, and “The Guide to Servant Leadership” by James Autry. Though different, these books each speak of leadership, sacrifice, and the telling of a story in their own way.

MR: What’s the best and worst review you’ve ever received?

OP: My worst reviews were always by professors. My best—by my readers and fans.

MR: What was the hardest scene to write?

OP: The hardest scenes to write are mourning-post-death scenes of close friends or family, such as my LOTR/Hobbit fanfic called “Only Time,” or when I’m retelling my own suffering in my dark fiction novel called “Miracle ME.” It’s hard to pinpoint which was worse because they were hard to write for different reasons.

MR: How did publishing your first novel change your writing process?

OP: My first and thus far only published work was my first poetry book. It still floats around Amazon, a decade after publishing. It made me realize what I needed to improve as well as realize that I can do whatever I set my mind and heart to.

MR: Who is your literary crush?

OP: Danielle Steel! She can write 6 plus novels a year. That’s extraordinary!

MR: Is there a thing you’ve written that makes you cringe now?

OP: Honestly, no. I consider everything a learning and growing experience.

MR: Is there a book you wish you’d written?

OP: Due to my being a PhD student, I don’t have time to write for pleasure. That doesn’t mean I’m out of ideas. I have 3 books shelved in my head for later.

MR: What are you currently reading?

OP: Nothing at the moment, though I did read a Danielle Steel [novel] on vacation. I am in the process of writing my first scholarly article, so [most] reading I do pertains to that now.

To learn more about Olga and her work, please visit the following:

www.wattpad.com/OlgaPinsky

www.wattpad.com/Carlislesdiary

https://www.amazon.com/Out-Abyss-Olga-Pinsky-ebook/dp/B00DP8SCHW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514323746&sr=8-1&keywords=olga+pinsky

Write What You Know

Strictly speaking, if we all stuck to specifically what we know, we'd wind up with pretty limited fiction. If female authors couldn't write male characters and vice versa, if straying from your decade was frowned upon etc, there'd be no historical fiction, no thrillers, and certainly no sci-fi. But what do I know? I'm an immigrant who came here at the tender age of eleven, peaked in college, and graduated from law school to become a suburban mom. Should I stick to writing about the frustrations of learning another language while tweening? Or sticking out law school because frankly it is just too darn expensive to quit? Or maybe I should focus on wearing leggings and driving an SUV to PTA meetings? Maybe. But that would predictable, if not boring. I like to research, I like to put my sense of empathy to good use, I apparently like to take risks. Based on my life choices, who would've thought?!

And yet, sometimes I am drawn to writing exactly what I know. I was invited to be a guest blogger on a wonderful literary blog this month but, unfortunately, the head admin of the blog had to shut down the site temporarily due to personal issues. I was bummed. I already had a decent seven page draft of an essay on how my immigrant experience colors my writing. I abandoned the aforementioned draft when the gig was cancelled, but I will return to it. Eventually. The reason being is that my first year in America sucked. In no way am I claiming to be alone in the shitty immigrant experience, but my family's unique set of circumstances does set us apart. That year was a formative one and I desperately want to write about it. In this era of fear of immigrants, one would hope this work of non-fiction would find its reader. The reason why I've been putting it off (I have about three chapters, written roughly a decade ago, stored on my computer and backed up G-d knows where) is because I am afraid that my honesty would hurt (or at the very least upset) certain members of my family. I think we need some more distance between 1994 and the present. In the meantime, perhaps the middle ground lives in the form of fictionalized experiences. Which I suppose what all fiction is to begin with, but I digress.

This brings me to Keith Gessen's A Terrible Country. Which I loved, by the way! It's clearly a work of fiction but it's also very clearly a lived work of fiction. The author is obviously familiar with what became of my old country (or rather, its neighbor); the intimacy is apparent in the writing. Keith Gessen is a journalist and a writer who's been to the former Soviet Union countless times and he conveys the nuances of what it must be like to grow up in America to then suddenly find yourself in your birth country that has undergone tremendous transformation since you've last seen it. The loneliness, the isolation is written with such care, such precision. The gap in his Russian vocabulary, lack of that instinctive grasp of the current culture and politics. It's all highly relatable, even though the last time I visited the city that was my home between the ages of four and eleven was in 1995. Is it the author's experience, research, or imagination that produced such a delicate product? Perhaps a bit of each. On the other hand, the second theme of the book is the protagonist's relationship with his aging grandmother, who is slowly but undeniably falling into the abyss of Dementia. Does Mr. Gessen have personal experience with this too? I don't know. Whether he does or not, clearly his life experience and talent were enough to help him write one gut-wrenching account of what it must be like to be losing your loved one despite their physical presence and agility.

So what's the verdict? Write what you know?

Currently reading: This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

Six Months in Books

Summer is a busy time around my house. What used to be my writing hours are no longer mine at all. Summer is a competitive time for a writer (who doesn't want to be read at the beach?!), but if you're writer who's also a parent, summer is also a tough time on the production end. I'm working on my upcoming novel-Good Morning, Bellingham. It's about half way there. This will be a multiple POV psychological thriller and I'm unreasonably giddy about it. I like to push myself to experiment with different genres and can't wait to share it with the world, but it'll be a little while before I'll be able to announce a release date. Why? See above! Still, a stout believer in routine and maintaining muscle memory, I try to write something every day just to keep the muse happy. Sometimes, it's only a long-winded e-mail, but it's summer so it counts! Again, see above! Summer sucks! This Six Months in Books update is a writing exercise of sorts. Plus, everybody looks for book recommendations in the summer. Two birds? Here we go...

January through June 2018

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

3-stars

This book fell into my lap (or rather, my car's Bluetooth) at the most opportune time-my father had just passed away after five and a half months of torture that is pancreatic cancer. Though we knew from day one that prognosis wasn't optimistic in the least, his actual death came fast: Tuesday, I am driving him to see his oncologist about canceling his treatment in favor of in-home hospice, and Saturday morning he is gone. Left behind was hospice equipment that had barely had the time to be delivered, a boatload of medications, and a lifetime (at least an American one) of acquired junk. Clothes and shoes never worn, countless loose post-its with unidentified phone numbers, and three sheds of cables and screws. Torn between grief and practicality, we cleaned fast. So needless to say, when I came across a title with the words Death and Cleaning in it, it caught my attention. 

I was expecting a how-to, which, luckily, this wasn't. Now that I think about it, how could Ms. Magnusson tell me what to get rid of and what to keep? She didn't try and I thank her. These decisions are tremendously personal. For me, this book served as a gentle kick in the butt to start downsizing now. Hopefully I'll have enough time to do a decent enough job of it before it's my time so as not to leave my mess for my loved ones to deal with. All in all, this was an interesting perspective to read and it did inspire a change in my life. Recommend!

Read more about my thoughts on the book here: https://www.marinaraydun.com/blog/2018/2/26/death-cleaning

Train Girl by Kristina Rienzi

4-stars

I received this short story free of charge as a token of thanks from the author for joining her mailing list. Which is a neat idea, I admit. I, too, must come up with a tangible reward for signing up for my mailing list. Somebody please remind me to do this!

I actually interviewed Kristina back in February of this year. You can read our interview here: https://www.marinaraydun.com/blog/2018/2/5/author-interview-series-kristina-rienzi. The story is incredibly short and is a real page turner. Which, of course, means I swallowed it in one sitting (yes, I read this one instead of listening to it!). It was suspenseful and engaging and the ending was a twist I was not expecting. Recommend!

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

5-stars

I could not, would not put this down (or turn it off). I got this recommendation on a facebook book group and it was so totally worth it. I listened every chance I got! Even if it meant five minutes at a time, I had to listen. Behind Closed Doors truly kept me on the edge of my seat. I was able to visualize everything so clearly, the writing is that crystal clear. Highly recommend! 

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

5-stars

Having loved Behind Closed Doors so much, I had to see what else B.A. Paris had to offer. The Breakdown did not disappoint.  Definitely recommend. I will be reading more B.A. Paris books in the near future, I'm sure!

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

4-stars

A sucker for anything British, I do have a bias for books set across the pond. Now that I listen to books, the fact that they are narrated with a British accent is an added bonus. I don't remember now how I came across this title but it was an engaging one. The suspense was executed well and the ending was a bit of a surprise. All in all, a fascinating read.

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

3-stars

I'm sorry to say, but this was a total disappointment for me. The book is a winner of a very prestigious award and I feel a bit like a jackass for finding it overrated. It goes for profound, grappling with some serious societal issues, but winds up stretched very thin and superficial. I just did not like it, although I read it very fast (and at the beach). I have a separate entry about this one. Read it here: https://www.marinaraydun.com/blog/2018/4/9/the-next-gone-girl

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

5-stars

A reader at a street fair recommended this book to me. I won't lie-the whole thing did remind me of a quintessential Lifetime movie but it did hold my attention. The twist wasn't entirely unexpected, but the execution was entertaining. 

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

5-stars

Short stories are my jam! I find it such an intriguing and difficult genre. Putting out a compilation of short stories is on my bucket list. It's an ambitious dream. It's collections like this one that make it seem so intimidating because, oh my G-d, these stories right here are just sheer brilliance. So poignant and nuanced. So relatable. If you like short stories, please do yourself a favor and check out this book. One of my favorites!

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

5-stars

This was the one "the new Gone Girl" book that did not disappoint. Good suspense, yes, but it also delved into some real struggles that new mothers face. Highly recommend.

Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

3.5-stars

There are many Little Books out there nowadays. I was afraid this one was going to be a preachy book about finding your happiness. I don't do those. I'm one of those rare few people out there who did not like Eat, Pray, Love. But no, this wound up reading like a funny scholarly paper with a bit of statistics and anthropology. It was fun. I now want to learn how to ride a bike and light some candles. 

Author Interview Series-Margaret Gurevich

Margaret Gurevich

Margaret Gurevich

Margaret Gurevich is the author of many books for kids, including Capstone’s Academy of Dance series, Gina’s Balance, and their award-winning Chloe by Design series. She has also written for National Geographic Kids and Penguin Young Readers. When she’s not writing and teaching, she likes exercising, spending time with her family and friends, reading, and watching movies.

Marina Raydun: You work within the MG genre.  What is it about that age group that makes you want to reach out to kids and young adults via fiction?

Margaret Gurevich: I love connecting with the MG age group. There are serious topics tackled but in a manner relatable to the tween. I remember that age, and knowing someone understood what I was going through was everything.

MR: What were some of your favorite books as a middle schooler?

MG: As a middle schooler, I gravitated to adult as well as children’s books. I loved Agatha Christie at that age, but I also enjoyed The Secret Garden, all books by S.E. Hinton, The Babysitters Club series, and more.

MR: Is there an illicit book you had to sneak growing up?

MG: My mom was very open to whatever I read. I was lucky that way.

MR: You were born in Belarus (where I lived between the ages of 3 and 11), but moved to the United States at a very young age. Are you bilingual?  Which language lends itself better to storytelling?

MG: I can speak Russian and English, but English comes easier. There are many Russian words I have forgotten as there is no one to practice speaking with.

MR: What affect do you feel growing up in family of immigrants had (and continues to have) on your writing?

MG: I like this question! I would say the biggest effect was being brought here to have the life my parents could not. We actually came here as refugees, not immigrants. Growing up, I was always told about the opportunities I could have. I took that to heart. Writing was always my dream, and I wanted to do everything possible to achieve it.

MR: What is the most difficult part about your artistic process?

MG: The self-doubt that creeps up is always an issue, but I push through it. 

MR: Is there a thing you’ve written that makes you cringe now?

MG: There’s a poem I wrote when I was seven that my mom still has. I rhymed twirl with chocolate swirl. I think that speaks for itself.

You can learn more about Margaret by visiting http://www.margiewrites.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/MargaretGurevich/

Author Interview Series-Mira Awad

Mira Awad

Mira Awad

Mira Awad

Singer, songwriter and actress. Born 1975 in Rameh village in the Galilee (Israel) to a
Palestinian father and Bulgarian mother. As a relentless Artivista, Mira makes a point of promoting dialogue through all the art forms she practices. As actress she participated in numerous bi-lingual productions, as singer she has made the point of collaborating with artists from both sides of the conflict, to bring forth a model of co-existence. As writer she created TV formats promoting dialogue, and a TV drama series that deals with the Palestinian-Israeli identity. As composer, Mira developed a unique fusion of sounds, combining the East with the West, weaving the Arabic language and it's oriental ornaments with Western harmonies. She also composes music for film and theatre. 


Marina Raydun: I referred to you as a poet once and you corrected me, saying that you’ve
always thought of yourself as a songwriter, not a poet. What is the
relationship between lyrics and poetry?


Mira Awad: Well, I do have the habit of shying away from titles, but after giving your question some thought, I do think a song is some form of a poem after all. Once words are intentionally put together to describe a situation, or an emotion, they are poetry. And like in poetry, lyrics may come in many styles and rhythms, with or without rhymes, they may be strictly structured or freely flowing in an associative manner, this would necessarily affect the way they are put to music. 


MR: Is music in your family or did you fall into songwriting on your own?

MA: Yes, music is in my family, both my parents have musical hearing and beautiful singing voices. From my mother's side there are even musicians, in different levels of professionalism. However, as far as I know, I am the first composer. I started writing songs at a very early age, I cannot recall how I started scribbling words and why they became tunes, but nowadays I think maybe if there were existing songs in my language that portrayed the emotions that I had wanted to describe I would not have had the need to write new ones. I may be mistaken of course, and maybe the need to write songs is stronger than circumstance.
 

RAW_2084-Edit.jpg

MR: What is the first experience you had when you learned that language had
power?

MA: I think I had that realization quite early in life. As I come from a multicultural family, I spoke three languages up to the age of 5, and could connect the different parts of my family together. Although I could not make that assessment as a child, that fact put me in the bridging position early in life.

 
MR: A couple of years ago you put a few poems by Mahmoud Darwish to music. 
What was your biggest challenge with this project? Having asked
that—biggest reward?


MA: The biggest challenge was that the poems were already put to music by a big Lebanese artist called Marcel Khalifeh, and his songs had a big popularity in the Arab world. I had been commissioned to write the music for a theatre play made of Darwish's poems, and felt that the original tunes could not serve the drama depicted on stage, and suggested to the director we re-compose them to serve the play. I did not know how this would be accepted by Palestinian crowds who know the original tunes, and I think opinions are divided regarding this: some appreciate the modern take on the very well known poems, and some feel it was presumptuous of me to even think I could do a better job than Khalifeh (which was never my intent). Regarding the reward, well, besides the actual rewards this project got (I received composer of the year in the theatre awards for that year, and also an award from Acum, the Israeli organization for composers), the biggest reward is when young Palestinians tell me I have revived Darwish for them, and even more, when Israelis , who were usually exposed to Darwish in a demonizing way, tell me I have introduced his poetry to them in a way they can connect to.

MR: You’re a true Renaissance woman—you’re a songwriter, a singer, an actress, 
a graphic artist, and a screenwriter. Does your creative method vary from
medium to medium?


MA: Calling it a "creative method" gives me a lot of undeserved credit, as if I have a planned process I go through in order to create. All the medias you mentioned are ways of expression, each one of them appeals to different senses, but all come from the same need to release what is within, whether in shapes, colors, words, melodies or stories. The process may vary, a creation may start from a private or a shared session of improvisation, or from an idea that then needs to take shape. Creativity is my therapy, that’s why I also developed workshops for creativity, to encourage others, who may not consider themselves artists, to uncover the creativity within them as well. I believe we are all born extremely creative, and I believe that when we release these creative energies, we are happier people.

MR: Your upcoming TV Series, Muna, is about a relationship between an Arab
Palestinian living in Tel Aviv and an Israeli Jew from Sderot and what
happens to their bond with the commencement of military operation
Protection Border in Gaza. You are a tireless advocate for peace and
coexistence. Is this project a part of that effort for you? What inspired you to
turn to screenwriting in particular?

 
MA: My TV drama Muna deals with the same story that I try to tell using all other medias: my identity, as a Palestinian living in Israel. Only this time I chose to bring it forth with a story, and not with a song. While songs may remain in the metaphoric realms, a scenario allowed me to treat the subject more directly, and go more in depth into the conflicts and the complexity. My only experience in scriptwriting comes from being an actress, acting out other people's scripts, and with the years I developed my own taste in what would be a good story or a good scene, and that's what lead me through the process. However, I did have scriptwriter Maya Hefner and director Ori Sivan working with me on Muna, so, although I came up with the story, the series is eventually a joint effort, and the process was yet another big lesson in collaboration.

MR: If you had to do something differently as a child or a teenager to become a
better writer as an adult, what would you do?


MA: I would have worked to release my creative energies more, to learn how to channel my thoughts more freely, something that had taken me years to develop.
That is why I also believe that education for creative thinking should be included in school curriculums.

MR: What, if anything, do you owe real life people who serve as an inspiration for
your characters, be it in a TV show, or perhaps a song?


MA: Everything is inspired by real life, by people I meet, and situations I encounter. Clearly these things get processed through my individual outlook on life, but nothing is created from nothingness.

RAW_2061-Edit.jpg

MR: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?

MA:

Q: "In the eyes of the public, an artist only exists when they share their art. Is it frustrating that people sometimes ask why you disappeared?"


And the answer is: Yes. Sometimes I am frustrated that audiences don't consider the incubation time that I need as an artist, and if I'm not sharing a new song or new concert on my [facebook page], or if I'm not on some morning TV show, then it's as if I'm not doing anything. The truth is that the incubation time, the time that it takes to form a new project, is real life for me. When it is time to share it, it means the creative process has ended and the marketing phase had started, which is nothing about artistic expression and all about sales. I'm sure you can imagine that I would have preferred to remain a private individual in an ongoing creative process, but hey, we all need to make a living somehow.

To learn more about Mira Awad, please visit www.miraawad.co

Glossing

I never related well to peers growing up. I gravitated toward adults, always. Now that I'm that adult, it's tricky. Surrounded by college freshmen week after week, I forget sometimes that they were my kid's age when I graduated from college. I love these kids and will miss them an unreasonable amount, but I can't say I'm not bitter at how much faster they learn. I'm competitive.

I am learning American Sign Language. The reasons I went back to school having long ago secured a doctorate degree are personal and so I'm keeping the entire experience such. All my projects and presentations so far have been autobiographical and personal in nature, and when it came to selecting a song to interpret for my final exam, I picked End Game  by Into the Presence-a song many may not know but one of tremendous personal meaning to me. Explaining why would not only divulge too much personal information but also be taking me off topic. Suffice it to say, the song is significance to me. I discovered it by accident. I saw Lisa Marie Presley perform live at New York City's City Winery in 2013 and when she introduced her bassist (Luis Carlos Maldonado), she mentioned that he had a band of his own. I looked up Into the Presence in a few days later, which also happened to be the day my live suddenly became gut wrenchingly hard, and downloaded its album and single. It was there for me when I needed it to be and I'd been grateful ever since. So back in September, when my professor first told us we were going to be interpreting a song for our final presentation, I'd contacted Luis, asking for complete lyrics. Graciously, he shared them. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), my professor postponed this assignment until we had not one but two semesters of ASL under our collective belt, so here I am, trying to remind myself that I'm not quite as good an actress as I imagine myself to be as I record take after take on my iPhone X. 

I'm a freelance writer and translator, often taking on translation gigs of various size and complexity. I translate English to Russian and Russian to English. I've translated a play, I've translated subtitles, I've translated a short story, I've translated legal guides. What I'm saying is, I'm not foreign to taking material composed in one language, making sense of the essence of it, and then recording that meaning in a different language, and yet, I found this assignment unreasonably difficult. ASL is its own language, with its own grammar and syntax, and still I kept falling back on practically transliterating the lyrics verbatim, word for word, while my professor kept reiterating that what I was supposed to be doing was glossing. Glossing is what we call it when we write down one language in another. It's called glossing of a language because the target language may not have equivalent words to represent the original language. The result is what's called "gloss." What I was supposed to be doing was to go after the meaning of the text and represent that in American Sign Language, in proper ASL word order.

My problem was in the word "meaning." I'm an educated woman, a writer, and yet I would not rephrase "lying in stone" or "soldier and horse." I say "would" because I could, I just wouldn't. Obviously, there is no physical soldier or horse in the song. And there are no stones. It's an internal battle depicted lyrically. Like in an A.P. English class in high school, there I sat with my lined paper, taking stanzas apart. This exercise is the most important key to interpreting a song in ASL, but I still felt like I needed permission to stray from the original English words written by Luis. "But what is he trying to say when he says, 'with every turn I risk the end of the game'?" my professor would ask. "There is no game, right? You can't sign 'game'-no one's playing 'Mortal Combat' here." She was right. It's a visual, literal language, so I couldn't sign "turn," and I couldn't sign "game." Instead, I we compromised on, "Every challenge, closer to finish." 

"But is it okay to stray from the text?" Seventeen older than most people in the class and here I was, arguing with the assignment.

Once I got rolling, and signing, I felt this giddy sensation take root in the pit of my stomach. It felt right-like I was creating a beautiful dance conveying the meaning of one of my favorite songs. Like I was discovering the song for myself all over again. My initial reservations were assuaged when the assignment finally clicked. I wasn't disrespecting the text. I had to remind myself that once the words are written and published, they no longer belong to the author, be it an essay, a novel, or a song. Once it's out, the word lives and breathes, and those on the receiving end are free to interpret your meaning as they see fit. And they'll do so through their own lens, whether you like it or hate it. They won't ask you. And technically, they shouldn't have to. 

I have intimate experience with this. Right before my novel Effortless was published, I was asked to do a guest blog as part of building publicity for the release. The topic I was asked to discuss was how I balance writing and parenting. It was an interesting question but it wasn't particularly challenging because I knew exactly what I was going to write as soon as the request came in. I wrote that it was simple for me: as much as I love writing, it comes second to my kids. Because absolutely nothing comes before them. I believe the words I used were, "my children are not an inconvenience I have to manage." The article was generally well received, but there were a couple of women who took these as fighting words. I was apparently guilting "working" mothers, accusing them of not making their children a priority in favor of their careers. No matter how I tried to explain that nowhere did I say or even meant to say that, those who wanted to believe their version did not want to hear it, no matter how much I brought them back to the original text. It stung, I won't lie, but I had to remind myself that as readers, we all perceive information through our own set of preconceptions, our own set of goggles. I do it too, I'm sure. Perhaps someone felt envious that I was able to put my career second to my kids. Maybe someone struggled with their own guilt as they made choices that were second guessed by their own environment, and here I was with my article, putting salt on the wound, saying how easy it was for me to make that decision. No matter the reason, my reader was the interpreter, and as the author, I was no longer in control. You can only hope that when it's all said and done, your audience will give you the benefit of the doubt, hunker down and try to get to your authentic meaning, putting their own prejudices aside instead of projecting. I'm very careful nowadays to do just that.

With this reflection, I eventually made my peace with my ASL II final: I have the right to interpret the beautiful poetry Luis Carlos Maldonado penned, but it comes with a responsibility to do justice to the original. That's pressure. And I'm competitive.

 

 

Summer Dawn Reyes

Summer Dawn Reyes

Summer Dawn Reyes

Summer Dawn Reyes

Summer Dawn Reyes is a writer of plays and short stories from Jersey City, N.J. She is also a director, actress and event producer and is absolutely in love with theater. She has won multiple awards including a commendation from the New Jersey State Assembly, the Permanent Career Award in Writing from the Society of Arts and Letters-NJ and the N.J. Governor’s Award in Arts Education.

As a woman of Chinese, Spanish and Filipino descent, she is passionate about increasing diversity in the arts, a common mission for both her theater companies, Thinking In Full Color and 68 Productions. You may also know her from her work as an arts journalist covering Hudson County, N.J.

She would like to thank the Lord for His many blessings and her loving family for their support, especially her husband Greg and her stepson Greg Jr.

 

Marina Raydun: Is there a book that changed your life?

Summer Dawn Reyes: I think the most influential books for many of us are the ones we embrace in our youth, the ones that taught us to love reading. For me, this was the Nancy Drew series. I picked them up when I was maybe as young as 5 or 6, and couldn’t put them down. I wanted to read as many of them as possible, and every one was more intriguing than the next. I loved the covers and their dark, mysterious feel. I loved the girl power in the triumvirate of Nancy, Bess and George. It sold me on the entire mystery genre, which was by far my favorite until middle school. What I really loved was flipping to the back to read the ending, and then spending the rest of the read trying to see if the author had masterfully laid out the plot to get there.

MR: What is your favorite underappreciated novel?

SDR: It’s not really underappreciated, but I think Gregory Maguire’s Wicked is so overshadowed by the musical’s success that many people don’t even know there is a book. They just assume the musical is derived from the movie (which I’m sure they don’t realize is from a book too). Wicked is so rich and so nuanced, and the world is so well fleshed out. There is racism and deviance and traditions, all of these layers that are just delicious. And of course, all the characters are way more fleshed out and serious and darker than musical fans would realize. I think anyone who is a fan of the Wizard of Oz universe in any of its depictions should actually sit down and read Wicked and enjoy it as a book.

MR: Who is your literary hero?

SDR: This is probably really cliché, but my literary hero is Shakespeare. I am a playwright and am deeply involved in theater -- I have my own theater company, Thinking In Full Color, which is devoted to sharing stories by women of color. I am also a director, theatrical production manager and actor. And none of this would’ve come to be if I hadn’t fallen in love with the Bard. He is just a master of exploring different depths -- debating philosophical issues on minute, and making cuckold jokes the next. Every single author has so much to learn from him. I can offer nothing new on the subject of his great merit.

MR: Who is your literary crush?

SDR: For some reason I feel like this question wants me to pick a fictional character instead, so I will! I always felt Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights was just dark and brooding and sexy in that stereotypical way, so I’d totally hit it. I would also totally crush on Lisbeth Salander from The Millenium Trilogy, but I doubt she’d give me the time of day (though who knows, maybe someday I’ll get cast as her lover Miriam Wu in something!) As for someone I’d actually want to settle down with….I’m not sure. Most really well developed literary characters are somehow awful, that’s what makes them interesting.

MR: What is the most difficult part about your artistic process?

SDR: To write, I pretty much just need a good beginning. I need inspiration, obviously, but also the first good sentence or paragraph. That for me is everything. Once I have a beginning, jumping off and following my characters’ paths is easy. But sometimes that beginning doesn’t come easily, and other days it just doesn’t come. Besides that, my biggest challenge is just finding time to write.

MR: Is there one topic you would never write about as an author? Why?

SDR: I like to think that I wouldn’t necessarily close myself off from writing about something, but there are definitely some genres or subjects that just don’t interest me. I’m not really into drug culture, cowboys, or like, gross aliens. I’m fine with extraterrestrial intelligence and cultures, but not into just big, slimy, three-headed, no-faced, tentacled monsters. Also I guess I wouldn’t write anything racist, misogynist, sexist, queerphobic or otherwise hateful and discriminatory.

MR: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

SDR: I’m friends with many writers, but I’m unfortunately not really active in any author communities. There is an organization in my area called Jersey City Writers that is really cool and I’ve thought of joining, but I feel like my personal writing (or rather, work) style doesn’t fit into writing clubs in general. I have, however, participated as an actor for their genre nights, when they challenge their writers to create something outside their comfort zone!

MR: If you could have drinks with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

SDR:  In a literary vein, Shakespeare for sure, but I also really love science and fine art so I’d love to hang with Francis Crick, who sounds like a hoot, or maybe Da Vinci, Vermeer or Caravaggio (I won’t play tennis with him, though!).

MR: What is your biggest failure?

SDR: It’s probably not the worst thing I’ve done, but it is something that still bothers me when I think about it -- I messed up my Common App because I didn’t realize they didn’t allow you to change certain sections after submitting it anywhere, so one of my attached essays was only good for one school but not the others. I panicked and mailed my application to Harvard and wrote a note saying I was totally sorry I sent the wrong essay. I just looked like a big dumbass. ...And I still got on the waitlist. I would always wonder what would’ve happened if I just did the application right. I ended up taking some Harvard classes online, and ultimately not really going anywhere because I had to take care of my chronically ill mother, and I regret my whole higher education experience (or non-experience) in general. But I’m still hella smart, and I know someday I could still go back. We’ll see.

MR: Is there a thing you’ve written that makes you cringe now?

SDR: Yes! But doesn’t everybody have those?

 

To learn more about Summer Dawn Reyes, you can follow her on Instagram @summeringo

Links:

  • Boys I Haven’t Loved Yet (Coming Soon!)
  • how to destroy the patriarchy in seven days
  • In Full Color Anthology (Editor and Contributor)

All available at thinkinginfullcolor.com