- What is your earliest memory of writing?
My earliest memories are: Practicing penmanship at Catholic school, we weren’t allowed to write or think for ourselves but boy did my cursive look good. After transferring to public school in Junior High School, I struggled to write but I kept simple diaries, recording of the lyrics of the pop music I loved, concerts I attended, along with petty fights with my two brothers.
- When did you know you were a “writer?”
I think I finally felt it when I received a scholarship to the writing retreat, “Hypatia in the Woods.” I started writing regularly in graduate school in the ’90s but it takes a lot to internalize the weight of the word “writer.” How do you define it? Is it when you write something every day? Get published? Become skilled at having an eye for observation and putting those visions to paper? The confirmation of being a writer got stronger when I became part of the WGI mentor program.
- What do you think makes a good story and what kinds of stories are you drawn to?
A good story is something that takes the reader out of yourself, but the storyteller keeps the narrative relatable. Oh my gosh, I love what I call, “death memoirs” two of the most recent, When Breath Becomes Air and Blue Hour. I love biographies, auto biographies, I want to know what challenges people went through; how they handled their issues. I’m drawn to sense of humor, if something is straightforward or dry it’s not for me. I like stories that aren’t formulaic, life doesn’t work that way so stories shouldn’t either.
- What are some of your favorite books, tv shows, movies and why?
Some authors that I admire are David Sedaris, Flannery O’Connor, Anne Lamott, Truman Capote,
I love the book, The Diving Bell and The Butter Fly, it examines the beauty, complexity and suffering in life. TV shows — Mary Tyler Moore, Madame Secretary, Orange is the New Black, shows that examine the problems in life while using humor to explore, educate and advocate. I’m a fan of Political humor shows like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, I would love to be part of a writing team. Historical fiction is a fave – I want to learn how my grandparents lived and their struggles. I am a huge admirer of songwriters, the way they economize words, their ability to tell a complete story or take you on a journey in a brief time frame.
- What inspires you?
Life, Music, other writers.
- What is your writing process like?
There’s a lot of guilt… I feel I don’t spend enough time actually writing. When I’m gardening or walking our dog, I’m thinking, then little bits start coming: an idea, theme or scene. Once I get a rough draft going, I send it out to my fellow creatives. Then, the wait – to hear where the material falls flat, needs more clarification or detail. I am so thankful for their feedback. They make me better.
- What’s the most surprising thing you have learned from writing?
That everyone is so much more connected than they think.
- Tell us about your latest project.
I’m working on part three of my Reports from the Elder Front series. I received a Regional Arts Council Grant, to do community outreach with this piece. The series was inspired by a WGI prompt when I was participating in your program at the Profile Theater in Portland, OR. “You need to hear this…” was the prompt. My opinion was and is – the world needs to hear how the American Healthcare system mistreats the elderly. My advocacy project started a couple of years ago, way before Covid but we’ve certainly seen how this country has not stepped up to do what is right for our seniors who are in nursing homes or assisted living.
- Do you have a“writing quirk” if so, what is it?
I like “talking to my phone.” If I’m out and about and an idea comes, I’ll dictate a note, or make a voice recording on the phone. Regarding the elderly advocacy piece, my husband has saved some of my voicemails to him. They’ve been when I’m at my rope’s end, no one’s listening to how I’m attempting to advocate for my mother and I’ll leave a snarky voicemail to him while also asking for his advice. He tells me, “I saved it because this will make good material someday.”
- Do you have any suggestions or advice for anyone struggling with writing?
Start simple, take your favorite song, use it as a mentor text. What I mean is, can you write something similar either in style or subject matter? What does the song make you feel? Can you put that into words? Extra points if you give it some rhythm with or without rhyme.