" 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. "
It’s Meet the Author Monday! Once a month I meet with a new author and learn about their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today I’m talking to Barbara Quick, who has published 4 novels. Join us!
Novelist and poet Barbara Quick is best known as author of the 2007 international favorite Vivaldi’s Virgins, still in print, translated into 13 languages, made into an audiobook, and currently in development as a mini-series by Lotus Pictures. Winner of the Discover: Great New Writers prize for her first novel, Northern Edge, Barbara was awarded the 2020 Blue Light Press Poetry Prize for her debut chapbook, TheLight on Sifnos. Barbara’s fourth novel, What Disappears—over a decade in the making—was launched by Regal House on May 17th. Five of Barbara’s poems were recorded by Garrison Keillor and featured on The Writer’s Almanac last year. She has been a frequent guest—most recently on May 2nd, on Grace Cavalieri’s archived program from the Library of Congress, “The Poet and the Poem,” which has featured both her poetry and her novels. One of her poems was published as a full-page spread in the May 2022 issue of Scientific American. Her 2010 novel from HarperTeen, A Golden Web—about the 14th century teenage anatomist Alessandra Giliani—continues to intrigue and attract historical fiction fans. A trained dancer and avid organic gardener, Barbara is based with her husband, violist and vigneron Wayne Roden, on a small farm and vineyard in Sonoma County. More at BarbaraQuick.com
Meet Canadian self-published author Marlene Cheng:
Marlene Cheng is a Maincrest Media and a Book Excellence award-winning author of women’s fiction. Her books are about the relationships that define women’s lives—romance, friendship, family. Marlene is a keen observer of how people think and feel, and she writes lyrical, uplifting, and emotionally rich stories.
Carolyn Clarke is the founder and curator of HenLit Central, a blog focused on ‘life and lit’ for women over 40. And Then There’s Margaret is her first novel. She has been an ESL teacher for over sixteen years and has co-authored several articles and resources with Cambridge University Press, MacMillan Education and her award-winning blog ESL Made Easy. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her partner, Tony, her two daughters and of course her bulldog, Sophie.
Valerie Nieman has been a reporter, farmer, sailor, editor, teacher, and always a walker. She is the author of In the Lonely Backwater, called “not only a page-turning thriller but also a complex psychological portrait of a young woman dealing with guilt, betrayal, and secrecy,” four earlier novels, and books of short fiction and poetry. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte, she has held state and NEA fellowships. You can find her online sites at linktr.ee/ValNieman
Linda Rosen’s books are set in the “not-too-distant past” and examine how women reinvent themselves despite obstacles thrown their way. A central theme is that blood is not all that makes a family– and they always feature a piece of jewelry! Her debut novel, The Disharmony of Silence, released in March 2020, and her sophomore novel, Sisters of the Vine, one year later from Black Rose Writing. Linda was a contributor to Women in the Literary Landscape: A WNBA Centennial Publication for the Women’s National Book Association and has had stories published in online magazines and print anthologies. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and the Women’s National Book Association where she is Selections Coordinator of the Great Group Reads committee which curates a list, published annually, of novels and memoirs perfect for book clubs.
Leslie Lehr is a prize-winning author whose latest, A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession shaped Me… and You was featured in People Magazine, Glamour, Good Morning America, and in Entertainment Tonight’s short list of books by “trailblazing women changing the world.” Salma Hayek is producing a comedy series based on A Boob’s Life for HBO Max. In addition to her novels and nonfiction books, her essays have been in the New York Times Modern Love column (narrated by Katie Couric for NPR). Leslie is the Novel Consultant for Truby Writers Studio.
One night when my husband and were about to celebrate our first home together, I got out of the shower and noticed my breasts didn’t match. I’d just completed breast cancer treatment and was grateful to be alive. But I was also upset. My husband accused me of being obsessed. As a feminist, I was insulted. Then a comedian on TV made a boob joke, proving it wasn’t just me. I couldn’t sleep.
Next to my bed was my favorite picture of my mom and sister and me in matching red bikinis. It makes me laugh because my baby sister couldn’t keep her nipples covered, I was three and I already knew that nipples were taboo. How can this not be a huge influence about how we feel about our bodies?
I went to my computer to find an answer. There were books about breast cancer and breastfeeding and of course lots of porn, but nothing that put it all together. I could track my whole life by my breasts – wanting them as a girl, hiding them to work, showing them to date, breastfeeding, breast implants, breast cancer… I had to investigate further. Turns out that the way we view breasts, the part of a woman that enters the room first, has influenced both men and women in profound ways.
How do you come up with book titles? Do you know them from the beginning, or do they evolve?
Titles are super important, so I always decide at the beginning. It’s the easy part for me, and the most fun. A good title can also remind me of my story goals as I write. When I consult or teach, I suggest that writers brainstorm titles based on character, setting, plot, and theme to come up with options. Sometimes the publisher changes it, but at least I’ve had my version.
As people learned about your book, what unexpected things happened along the way?
The most unexpected was having a producer want to make A Boob’s Life into a TV comedy series. That was before I even got a book deal. It’s in development now with Salma Hayek’s company for HBOMax. I also am always surprised at the letters I get, and the real opportunities I have supporting related causes that help people. From cancer to breastfeeding to parenting, divorce, and domestic violence, I’ve been able to have a voice to attract support and fundraising. Different themes of the book really speak to all kinds of readers. And recently I’ve had one fan sending me her favorite lines – a lot of them! Writing is lonely, so this is a best result.
What is your preferred genre to write in?
I write to explore the lives of contemporary women. I think that’s why reviewers have called me a “bold new voice for feminism.” I use whatever genre works best for the story I want to tell. I usually start with personal essays that evolve into books, from nonfiction (Welcome to Club Mom) to drama (66 Laps, Wife Goes On) to thriller (What A Mother Knows) to this pop culture memoir (A Boob’s Life).
Where do your ideas come from for stories/books?
You know that old saying, write what you know? I write what I want to know, to find ways to understand the divide between sexy and sacred, the way women are challenged and defined and limited when we are truly complex and doing our best. This passion drives all my work. And, of course, I want to have fun and entertain readers while doing it.
What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your book?
Readers of all ages are relating to my personal experiences because all of us with boobs get up in the morning and decide what to do with them. We all get judged by them and have feelings about them. I get letters from both women and men, mothers and daughters, teens and seniors, because it’s A Boob’sLife for all of us. That’s why the subtitle is How America’s Obsession Shaped Me… and You. The mix of memoir is woven with anecdotes and songs and fun facts about how our culture was defining women at each stage. This unique combination made it hard to sell. But it’s also what makes the book so popular, especially now, for Women’ History Month. It’s the history of how America has defined women by our breasts for decades.
Why do you write?
I write to have a voice. I started with essays to figure things out and have my opinion on record. I wrote the NYT Modern Love essay to show something that truly surprised me about love. I had no intention of going deeper. Then one day I knew I had to write a book related to it and go much deeper. It’s incredible to start with an idea and make it real, to work hard and create something that can move and delight others. It’s magic.
What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?
Writing is the fun part for me. Not the first draft but revising. It’s like having a puzzle and playing with the pieces. Publishing is all hard. It’s such a gamble. Writers have no control unless we do it ourselves and publish independently. But that is not my strong skill set. I just want to write!
What are you currently working on or have future plans to write?
I’m currently working on a novel based on real events that I’ve been trying to approach from different angles for decades. It’s a historical novel combining love story and drama. Just recently, I found a notebook from high school saying I needed to write this story before I was 25 and “over the hill.” Ha!
What is your most bizarre talent?
I don’t know of a bizarre talent, but I sure have a bizarre lack of talent: typing. I was forced to take typing in high school because girls needed to have a fallback career as a secretary. I was not interested, so I nearly failed. (I wasn’t planning to be a writer.) I still type with four fingers.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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.
Betty Jane Hegerat pens stories in the splendid writing community of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she also teaches, mentors, and offers reading and substantive comment on selective works.
Primarily a writer of fiction, her first love was the short story, and it still is, but she finds herself increasingly drawn to the personal essay. The waves of memory and nostalgia that come with growing older will do that to a person.
She is the author of five books: three novels, a collection of short stories, and a strange hybrid of memoir, fiction, true crime and metafiction that claims to belong to the genre of creative non-fiction. Currently she is working on short fiction.
On my blog today, I’m privileged to introduce my readers to the bi-cultural Sophia Kouidou-Giles. Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, she tells me about what inspired her to write her memoir Sophia’s Return: Uncovering My Mother’s Past, a work that captures family secrets.
On my blog today, I’m delighted to be in conversation with the lovely Bonnie Lee Black, a woman who has been Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon, Central Africa, who has conducted an independent economic development project in Mali, West Africa, and who has been a professional writer and editor for over 40 years. She currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico,
On my blog today I’m talking to Pat Taub, a family therapist, a journalist, a writer/host for the Syracuse NPR station program “Women’s Voices,”a writer for Key West Magazine, and a writing teacher. Pat explains how her memoir, The Mother of My Invention, helped her make peace with her troubled relationship with her mother.