Thanks to Pen-L Publishing for this lovely cover of my soon-to-be released novel Freefall: A Divine Comedy.
“These fascinating characters will fill your imagination, defying expectations about aging, art, and what truly matters in life.”
—Laurie Ann Doyle, author of World Gone Missing.
“This is an enchanting story about old friends reuniting as they struggle with thoughts on aging, religion, motherhood, men, art, and death. A delightful trip in every respect, with plenty of surprises and laughs along the way. A Divine Comedy, indeed!”
—Mark Willen, author of the novels Hawke’s Point and Hawke’s Return.
1/25/16Interview with Kate Raphael, KPFA radio “Women’s Magazine”: https://kpfa.org/episode/womens-magazine-january-25-2016/ (My portion in this hour-long program starts mid-way through the session.) Two segments look at the experience of “women of a certain age” in a culture obsessed with eternal youth.
Lily Iona MacKenzie joins me to talk about her rich journey from high school dropout and teenage mom in Alberta to author, writing teacher and labor leader in San Francisco, with forays into longshore work, waitressing and everything in between. Her first novel, Fling, is a twist on the traditional “coming of age” story, asking whether women can come of age at 60, or even 90.
And I speak with New York Times reporter Patti Cohen, whose recent article, “Over 50, Female and Unemployed” looked at the struggles of women over 50 to find jobs, even as the general employment picture improves. Patti covers economics for the times and is the author of the book In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age.
11/16/15 The California Journal of Women Writers published an interview with me today. “Language by its very nature is magical, transforming our everyday reality in multiple ways, carrying us aloft on the wings of thought. When I call on magical realism in my fiction, I do it because it opens me up to a fuller understanding of our world, both internally and externally.” http://www.tcjww.org/#!Interview-Lily-Iona-MacKenzie/czls/563d5d710cf23796cd90d1cb
Following is an interview that CJSW conducted with me on their program Suffragette City in July 2015 when I was in Calgary for the launch of Fling!:
WOW: Thank you for choosing WOW to help promote your book. We are looking forward to a great tour!
Lily, We are going to start with a really tough question: Who or what inspired you to write and how have you been instrumental in encouraging others?
Lily: I wish there was a simple answer to this question. No one inspired me to write. Something in me had to write. I was a high school drop out, and I didn’t have parents who understood there was such a thing as an artist’s or writer’s vocation. When I was in my mid-20s and working as a customer service representative for Olsten Services, I recall telling a co-worker that I wanted to be a writer. But I honestly didn’t know where those words came from. At that point in my life, all I had written were letters. English had been my strong subject in high school before I dropped out. But the only poem I recall having read at that point was Poe’s “The Raven,” and that had happened before I quit school.
But I did begin to keep a journal while going through a depression when I was 28, and that practice continues until today. I also went into therapy. That commitment helped me to discover myself as a writer and led me to major in creative writing as an undergraduate. Later, I also earned a Masters degree in creative writing and another in the humanities. The rest is history.
How have I been instrumental in encouraging others? I’ve taught expository and creative writing over the years, and that has exposed me to gifted students. It’s been a privilege to support their process.
WOW: Support is incredibly important for all of us. Have you found book clubs and writers groups to be a good place to find additional support and encouragement? What has your experience been?
Lily: I’ve been part of a small book club for many years. What I’ve loved about the group is discovering books that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen on my own. It’s forced me out of my comfort zone into works that challenge and inspire. We’ve read works like The Constellation of Vital Phenomena, a masterfully constructed novel about Chechnya, and The Traveler of the Century, one of the best books of 2014.
I’ve also participated in an on-line writer’s group for a long time. I started it because I wanted to continue to receive the valuable feedback that fellow experienced writers can give one another. So I sent out a message to graduates of San Francisco State’s Masters’ in Creative Writing program and invited those who were interested to get in touch. The group members have changed over the years, but we continue to give each other important comments on our fiction. By the time each person has remarked on a submission, it adds up to one expert editor’s response. It’s been enormously helpful to have these readers’ views.
WOW: Sounds like it was time well spent. Speaking of time, how do you manage to get everything done, stay on task, and use your time to your fullest?
Lily: Before I had a book in pre-publication, I didn’t have too much trouble keeping to my one hour a day schedule. I usually can fit in that amount of time, and I’ve produced an amazing amount of material over the years as a result: three poetry collections, one of which is published; four+ novels, two of which are on their way to being published, and I’m sure the other ones will as well; a short story collection; travel articles; reviews; memoir; and much more. But at the moment, marketing responsibilities have made it difficult to be as faithful to this regime. I look forward to when I can resume it!
WOW: You certainly are focused and driven: such an inspiration for all the rest of us!
Who is your favorite author?
Lily: I really don’t have a favorite author. There are too many that I admire and regularly return to for inspiration. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one such writer. His One Hundred Years of Solitude found me at a time when I needed a model for the magical realism approach that seems natural to me and inhabits much of my work. I’ve read nearly all of his books and return to them frequently. He’s a kind of muse.
WOW: Support (as well as inspiration) is incredibly important in any career, but especially as a writer. Who has been most supportive of your writing through the years?
Lily: My husband has been exceptional in not protesting when I need time to write. His field is the 19th and 20th Century novel, so as a reader, he’s perceptive and extremely thoughtful. In my acknowledgement in Fling!, I refer to him as my first and best reader.
WOW: Sounds like you two are a great team! How do the two of you celebrate your successes?
Lily: Success is relative. I’ve published many things, and it’s always satisfying to have one’s efforts recognized in this way. However, I’ve been writing for so many years now, that when one of my books finally is published, my response is “It’s about time!” But my husband always wants to do something special to acknowledge a new publication and will bring home champagne for us to share.
WOW: On the flip side of success, what about rejection? Not that we ever want to be rejected, but let’s face it…it’s all part of writing and being published. Do you have some words of wisdom for others?
Lily: Finding a responsive reader for one’s work is challenging. I’ve sent out many stories/poems/essays over the years that didn’t get picked up immediately. But if you believe in the piece and it’s worth being published, then it will eventually find a home. Persistence and doggedness is essential to succeed as a writer.
WOW: That’s a great way to explain it; thanks for sharing! What’s next for you Lily?
Lily:Bone Songs, another novel, will be published in 2016, so I’ll be spending some time in the next few months revising that book. I’m also two-thirds of the way through a collection of short pieces entitled The Sinner’s Club. Each character is part of the same church setting and has an intriguing story to tell. The various sections offer a kaleidoscopic view of this particular religious community and its characters’ foibles. Since I’ve written a total of four novels, I’m eager to focus at the moment on short fiction and poetry. I’ll be interested to see what will tempt me to tackle another longer work.
WOW: Thank you so much for choosing WOW! and for today’s wonderful interview. We look forward to your future books and hope to see you again in 2016 and beyond!