" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "
" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "
" Indicative of the title, the poems in All This range from the conventional lyric/narrative that captures an intense moment of emotion, an epiphany glimpsed briefly out of the corner of the eye, to the more experimental. "
Today I skipped my daily hour or more of writing. A discipline I’ve maintained for many years, it has resulted in over four novels, numerous short stories, poems, essays, and now a hybrid memoir. Not writing today made me think of a toddler I dreamt of last night. He told me he didn’t feel emotionally connected to me. At the moment, that’s how I feel about writing. Since I’m currently not immersed in writing a novel or poetry, I feel emotionally detached from the process, but not because I’ve stopped producing. I’m working on a manuscript that starts with my days as a high-school drop out—a memoir that is also an analysis of the genre.
One question I’ve been asking myself as I write about aging is what my goals are. In part, I hope that reflecting on my final years will help me to better understand my own maturing process and deepen it. In sharing this progression, my readers will make their own discoveries, as has been true for me whenever I’ve read about someone else’s journey.
Grace Sammon is an entrepreneur, educator, speaker, and author. She has started and managed two for-profit and two not-for-profit companies, and she has travelled to 35 states and 8 foreign countries. Recognized in “Who’s Who in Education” and “Who’s Who in Literature,” Grace is utilizing skills built up over decades as she re-invents herself with her award-winning fourth book and debut novel – The Eves – as well as with a return to one of her early loves, radio. The Eves is an intergenerational story about lives lived well and lives in transition. It is a novel that challenges each of us to ask who we want to be in the world, regardless of our age. Grace brings that quest for a good story, and a drive to keep contributing, to her new radio show, “The Storytellers.” Each episode captures the stories of authors and others who leave their mark on the world through the art of story.
Grace is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association (WFWA), is Director of Membership for one of the fastest growing Face Book groups “Bookish Road Trip,” and a contributing moderator of “The Write Review.” She is currently working on several anthologies and sketching out her next novel.
Grace grew up on Long Island, NY and spent most of her life in the Washington, DC area. She currently lives on Florida’s west coast with her husband and a small herd of imaginary llamas. You can reach Grace via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook and Instagram at GraceSammonWrites.
The Eves is your fourth published book but your first novel. What was it like to shift from writing nonfiction in your earlier work to fiction? What preparation did you have to do?The shift was easier than you might think. Even in my research-based, data-driven educational works there is an element of story. I believe that we connect best to each other when we understand the art of story and the role that story has in connecting us to the prime message of our work. That’s true whether it’s the importance of improving our high schools in the United States or conveying the message that our literary stories matter. When our stories are told, everything changes.
The educational work becomes more meaningful if I nestle it in the lives of students, families, and educators. The fictional work becomes more meaningful if I can connect readers to strong character and place-driven locals.
The biggest preparation was that the publishing process is entirely different, and, in a novel, you can make it turn out the way you wish, not necessarily where the data lead you.
2. As people learned about your book, what unexpected things happened along the way?
In truth, the entire process has been a surprise. I’m surprised at how much work it is launch and sustain interest in a book. And, I’m surprised at how much joy and interest there is in The Eves. Like many of the characters in my book I thought I was “done.” Finish up the educational career, write a novel, be done, retire. What has been wholly unexpected are the multiple, real, tangible, and important connections I have made with authors and readers. This is an upside of the pandemic – that place where the virtual and real worlds collided. The most surprising and most fun experience is the advent of my radio show, “The Storytellers.” I gave an interview about The Eves to Dr, Gayle Carson on her radio station “Spunky Old Broads.” She loved the interview and offered me my own show. I was stunned that I was stuck in “I’m done” when my characters were clearly screaming at me “you are not!” The process of having a radio show and podcast was entirely unexpected. The gift of interviewing authors, reporters, and even a Nobel Peace Prize winner gives me a new perspective on the art and importance of story. When I look at this body of work, I wish my younger self knew that, as a friend of mine says, “we are not done until they fold our hands in the box.” There is always a next step or a next opportunity. We have to sometimes look for it, sometimes it has to come and find us, but it’s there.
3. Why do you write?I just marvel at the process. I marvel that a nascent thought can somehow percolate around, flow through my fingers, and land with a splat on a page or screen. I write selfishly because I love that magic. I write to move a reader to a place or vantage point that they may not have otherwise ventured. 4.
4. Where do your characters come from? At their core, they are snippets of people I know, conglomerations of people I know. However, Carl Jung, the famed psychotherapist, would say they are also all, slightly, myself. The youngest character in my book is 15, the oldest 94. The characters are white, Black, Latinx, there’s a lesbian couple, there are Native Americans, and while I cannot claim an ethnically diverse background, I think there is part of me in each character, whether I am talking to my 15 year old self that I wish was as wise as Erica, or a 94 year old self that I hope to be.
5. How much time do you spend writing each day?Recently, not as much as I would like. I am currently very good at knocking off short writing projects. However, between “The Storytellers” and my other work supporting authors, I am not writing in the sense of novel writing. I recently created a collaborative of 19 authors called “Author Talk Network.” We are debut authors and USA Today an NY Times bestsellers, some of us have other careers, others have multiple books and are journalists. It’s a fascinating group that has garnered some international attention, that too is exciting.
6. If you didn’t write, what would you do with that time? Do you feel compelled to write or choose to?
That’s an interesting question. My son tells me I am a horrible role model for retirement, as you are. There are days when I want to spend more time with my husband or friends, or play more tennis or pickle ball. Then I think I’ll just walk away. However, the truth is, I don’t know how I’d fill my days, and fill my days with authentic meaning for me.
7. What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?
The writing is the time management and the head space. And, maybe, trusting that the story your heart wants you to tell is tellable. The publishing piece is entirely different. It’s ridiculously hard whether you are traditionally published or independently published or the whole host of options in-between. I did not have a book launch plan, that’s important. I’d have one now, and I help others develop what I did not understand.
8. Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?
People are always surprised when I say that it is not my protagonist Jessica Barnet. Jessica is both the protagonist and the antagonist. She’s her own worst enemy. I love her, but she’s not my favorite. I was asked recently to interview Jessica for a blog. It was incredibly hard, and incredibly fun to see her again and have a good talk and see what she thought of the book.My favorite character is Tobias. Wise, gentle, 90ish, African American, medical doctor. Just so good and easy to be with while at the same time he challenges you to be more.
9. What writing mistakes do you find yourself making most often?
I have a problem with tense. Too often I’ve thought through a scene and when it comes out on the page it comes out in the past tense. This is a real challenge for me. I address it by having my husband read my pages out loud to me and I can hear, most of the time, the error of my ways. Then, of course there are editors with red pens as well.
10. What is your most bizarre talent?
I’d love to say it was something like I can bend spoons with my mind, or that my secret super power is counting backwards by nines. In fact, I’m just not that interesting in that regard. My super powers lay in two areas, maybe three. I’m still incredibly driven to do work, good work. That demands me to be a super good time manager and multi-tasker. My other superpower is listening to people, connecting, caring, being present to people when they talk. And, let’s face it, as an author, being a good listening is the fodder for good stories!
I’d love to hear from your readers. They can follow me on Facebook at Grace Sammon and on Instagram at Grace Sammon Writes and they can email me at email@example.com
If they’d like to learn more about me or The Eves, or listen to episodes of “The Storytellers” it’s all available at www.gracesammon.net
In many ways, we writers are innocents, especially regarding the selling side of the publishing
business. As long as we can stay in front of our computers, engaged in the dream world of our fictions, we don’t have to think of how these narratives will find their readers.
Now that my four novels (Fling!, Freefall: A Divine Comedy, The Ripening: A Canadian Girl Grows Up (a sequel to Freefall), and Curva Peligrosahave been published, I’ve needed to make the adjustment. It hasn’t been easy.
Imagination is such an important part of our work as creators, whether we’re writers, visual artists, musicians, and more. However, it isn’t enough just to have imagination, but it also needs to be educated, refined, and developed, like any faculty. I could have a bent for playing the piano or singing, but nothing much will come of it without practice, lessons, and moving up through the levels.
Okay, I know I’m not the only one who can’t keep her hands off her cell phone and computer. When it isn’t convenient to have my laptop in hand, then I turn to my phone to check email, the weather, the latest news, and more. Thankfully, I don’t text much or that would be another reason to keep it close.
On my blog today, I welcome guest author Mary Byrne, whose Irish heritage shines forth in her lush prose. She writes “to discover, to understand something, usually about people but also about myself.”
Mary Byrne’s prizewinning short fiction has been published/broadcast and anthologized, in print and online, in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Mary has taught English in universities in Paris and Normandy, and has also worked as an editor and a translator. Currently collating collections of short fiction set in Morocco and Ireland, she lives in Montpellier, France.
Some time ago, I read an article in the New York Times Magazine describing the author’s experience with blind contour drawing. The process involves looking at the subject and drawing its contours without looking at the paper. Instead of carefully rendered replicas, the drawer ends up with fascinating interpretations of what s/he is looking at. They may not resemble exactly the person or object, but they exude personality and offer another dimension to what is being viewed.
My husband and I got into a discussion of poetry and our different approaches to it. His training is in new criticism. Mine embraces more contemporary work, though I’m eclectic and like many different styles, including John Ashbery’s method of disjointed narrative. My husband recognizes I’m onto something that Melville was alluding to in Moby Dick—the gap between language and what it tries to depict…how language organizes and creates our way of seeing.
During the Covid pandemic, we’ve all done a lot of waiting, and we still are! We’re waiting to learn if there will be new aggressive variants of the virus. We’re waiting to see if we can spend time with family and friends during the holiday season without wearing masks. We’re waiting to see if 2022 will give us any relief from the multiple problems that face us a a country and as citizens of this planet. But I have to admit that the act of waiting is not unfamiliar to me as a writer. It’s an example of how central waiting is in the writing process.
On my blog today I’m talking to the lovely and lively Judy Crozier. Her early life was a sweep through war-torn South-East Asia: Malaysia’s ‘Emergency’, Burma’s battles with hill tribes, and the war in Vietnam. By nine, Judy had read her way through the British Council Library, including Thackeray and Dickens. Home in Australia, she picked up journalism, politics, blues singing, home renovation, child-rearing, community work, writing and creative writing teaching, proof reading and editing, and her Masters of Creative Writing. Then she escaped and went to France, where she now lives.
I was pumping hard on the exercise bike at the gym while having a conversation with the fellow riding next to me. We had introduced ourselves and exchanged backgrounds. He had just learned that I’m a published writer and was intrigued by the idea, congratulating me on the recent release of my new novel The Ripening: A Canadian Girl Grows Up. I surprised myself by laughing dryly and calling writing an affliction.
I’m realizing that we take the imagination for granted. It isn’t enough to have imagination, but it needs to be recognized, educated, refined, and developed, just like any faculty. I could have a bent for playing the piano or singing, but nothing much will come of it without practice, lessons, and traversing the various levels involved in becoming a skilled musician. These musings have led to today’s blog post on this subject.
This coming-of-age story follows Tillie Bishop from her early years until she turns eighteen. She never knew her father, so when her mother abandons her at fourteen, Tillie quickly becomes streetwise. Even in Calgary, forces of the ‘60s—a decade of rebellion, discovery, and upheaval—already are at work within her. Her grit and ability to face life’s challenges are inspiring, the seeds for her later discovery of her artist self.
What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
Young Adult, New Adult, & Adult
What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
“Lily Iona MacKenzie deftly takes readers into that throbbing, psychedelic world of drugs, booze, and one-night stands where they will root for Tillie as she struggles to find herself. You will be swept along as she painfully learns that true happiness is seldom found amid the glitter and grime. It’s hiding somewhere else … in plain sight. A well-written and visceral story.” Janice Gilbertson, author of Summer of ’58, Canyon House, and The Dark Side of Gibson Road
What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
Since there are so few novels (or memoirs for that matter) about a female adolescent’s sexual awakening, it’s difficult to find another book to compare it to!
Why this book? Why now?
And why not? Each novel gives us one writer’s particular view of the world through his/her characters. This novel featuring Tillie grew out of my last one, Freefall: A Divine Comedy, where an older Tillie, a zany installation artist, is the main character. Pen-L Publishing released that book as well and had contracted with me for three novels. I so enjoyed interacting with Tillie while I wrote Freefall that I wanted to better understand her origins. In the follow up, then, I went back to the ‘40s and ‘50s, to a world that flashed green and red lights at women, the era that produced Tillie (and me!). Some had begun to challenge the dead ends their futures seemed to hold, and Tillie ends up being one of those girls.
Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
Teaching writing at the college level and beyond has been extremely gratifying for me. One thing I discovered when I was teaching rhetoric to college students, and still applies to the creative writing classes I currently teach for older adults, is that my writing of poetry, fiction, or non-fiction is like teaching for me. Both give me an opportunity to investigate ideas, fears, interests, and obsessions—to ask and answer questions. The two roles complement each other, writing being a more introverted activity than teaching. When I write, I do the dance of seven veils. I remain relatively hidden while exposing myself, exploring my mind and imagination in public view, trying to tempt the reader. When I teach, I do a similar dance. Some seduction is needed to catch a student’s attention and turn it towards the important art of them capturing their thoughts in writing conveying them to a reader.
But I’m learning, too, from my students’ successes and failures, growing along with them as a teacher and writer. However, growth requires a willingness to try new things, both on the teacher’s part and the student’s, so I also must create an atmosphere where such risks can take place. I need to be skillful not just in teaching the craft itself but in managing a classroom, in creating a space where students feel safe to experiment and explore.
What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I hope readers will resonate with Tillie’s ability to cope as she faces a multitude of challenges in eventually finding her way in the world. It’s an inspirational story for all ages. We all must deal with difficult times. I believe that Tillie’s story will give readers the courage to take on their own trials.
What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
Country western music as well as rock and roll. Food? The kind of good country cooking that Tillie grew up with: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, home-baked bread and cinnamon rolls. Not too many vegetables!
What book(s) are you reading currently?
I’ve recently discovered the spy novel genre, and while I have no desire to try writing such fiction, I’m impressed with some of the literary narratives that writers such as Daniel Silva, Peter May, and Louise Penney are producing. At the moment, I’m caught up in Silva’s House of Spies.