The Future of Write Now Columbus

The Future of Write Now Columbus


The Future of Write Now Columbus

 

Nita here, cutting to the chase.

 

After twenty years publishing Write Now Columbus, it’s time for me to step down and for a new publisher to step up.


Is This You?

The ideal Write Now Columbus (WNC) publisher is someone with strong central Ohio ties who runs a writer-centric business. It might be an editor, publisher, coach, or marketing expert who serves writers and readers.

Or, it might be a writer looking for a community service project. That’s how I began. I knew I would be able to publicize my own events and help other writers while doing so.

WordPress and email newsletter experience would help, but a passion for the central Ohio writing community is the main requirement. I can teach you the rest.

Full Disclosure

I’ve always considered WNC my “community service” project rather than a business. As a result, current expenses exceed donations and sponsorships. I will fully disclose all this information to anyone interested in taking on the work.

Tami Kamin Meyer, the WNC volunteer editor, is willing to continue to be involved. However, she’s not available to assume responsibility for the entire newsletter alone.

Bottom line:

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO WOULD BE A GOOD FIT,
PLEASE CONTACT US ASAP!
What’s Next?

Tami and I will publish a February 2023 newsletter. After that, unless someone steps up, we will put it to bed.

Neither of us want Write Now Columbus to end, but it’s had a fabulous run. Twenty years is a long time!

On January 1st, 2003 when I sent the first issue of “Write Now,” the monthly email newsletter that would become Write Now Columbus, I had no idea how long I would continue. Shannon Jackson Arnold, the original publisher, graciously gave me her email list of central Ohio writers when she moved from Ohio to Wisconsin. Tami Kamin Meyer was on Shannon’s original email list.

In 2020, when I began to look for someone to take over WNC, Tami eagerly responded. My first book had been published and the second was in the works. I no longer had time or energy to manage Write Now Columbus effectively. Tami volunteered to write the essay, convinced me to accept sponsorships in addition to donations, and secured quite a few. I’m forever grateful to her!

And, of course, I’m grateful to each of YOU for opening and clicking and reading and replying month after month after month for TWENTY YEARS! Thank you for letting us be of service!

Why Now?

As some of you know, back in September of 2022, I had a cardiac episode. It has resolved, but there’s nothing like a serious medical issue to rearrange your priorities.

Plus, two decades is a long time to keep something going. Twenty has a nice ring to it. It seems like the perfect time to put a bow on my tenure.

To be honest, since 2018 when I entered a contract for my first book, I haven’t given WNC the attention it deserves. With my mental health issues, it takes every ounce of “work” energy I have to be a successful author, leaving little for WNC. Thank you again Tami for stepping in.

And, it hurts to see the untapped potential in WNC. It deserves fresh eyes and energy.

WE WILL NOW TAKE YOUR QUESTIONS

Please CONTACT US with any questions and we will do our best to answer them right away.

All my best,

~ Nita
Nita Sweeney, publisher
(c) 2023, all rights reserved

A few of my favorite (writing) things

A few of my favorite (writing) things

Is it just me, or does every writer have favorite writing things?

Whether pens, notebooks, a keyboard or special mouse, or even your favorite writing t-shirt, I (Nita) bet you too have a preference for certain accoutrements of the profession. Here, I share mine. Full disclosure: these are affiliate links which means, if you buy anything by clicking through, Write Now Columbus will earn a teensy, itsy bitsy commission.

Rollerball

My long-time teacher Natalie Goldberg extolls the benefits of a “fast-writing pen.” My favorite is this Pilot Precise V5 rollerball. I prefer purple.

I also keep this assortment of colors on hand to match my mood.

Spiral Notebook

Back in the day when I attended Natalie Goldberg workshops at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico, we sat in rows of chairs, sometimes 60 or more of us in one room with no tables. We wrote in our notebooks on our laps. I didn’t think much of it until I brought a floppy notebook to a workshop. The ones I had preferred were out of stock at the office supply store. I never made that mistake again. Nat uses “cheap notebooks” and I can too. But if I have my preference, I want something sturdy with rings that don’t bend when I look at them the wrong way.

Notebooks from Carolina Pad fit my fussy requirements and come in wide range of collections from inspiring sayings to fun designs my current favorite, “Forest Friends.”

No surprise. I also have a few in the “Puppy Paws” collection:

And, I keep a copy of this around to write in when I need inspiration and instruction! 😉

Wireless Mouse

Whether I’m in a library, coffeeshop, hotel, or the community room of a grocery store, I’m not great with the touchpad on my laptop. Wireless mouse to the rescue.

My original Logitech mouse had a place on the back where you put the USB receiver. That automatically turned the mouse on and off. I put off replacing it because I knew I would lose the (now much tinier) USB receiver if it wasn’t somehow attached to the mouse. Yes, I could leave it in the laptop. But at home, I use the mouse that’s hooked into a docking station with other devices and I need all (two) USB ports for other things. That tiny USB receiver would be lost in no time. But Ed recently found this Logitech mouse that has a tiny space inside to store the USB receiver so I won’t lose it.

Leather Mousepad

So many colors! Not for the vegans or vegetarians, of course. But I grew up on a farm and have not yet let go of my attachment to fine leather (or the occasional good steak).

Metal Mousepad

I haven’t purchased this metal one, but it looks cool and it too comes in several colors .

Webcam

Before the pandemic locked us in our homes and threw us onto zoom, we didn’t know we needed a webcam, but now we can’t live without them. I love the built-in speakers in this one and the easy way it tilts.

T-Shirt

I don’t yet own this shirt, but I should!

That’s a short list for now. Tell us your favorite (writing) things in the comments.

Author Interview: Brenda Knight

Author Interview: Brenda Knight

 

I interview wellness authors to find out what makes them tick and why they write the books they do. 

I call Brenda Knight my “Fairy Godmother.” And I’m not really joking. After the years of rejection I experienced, when Brenda told me that Mango Publishing Group wanted to publish my first book, Depression Hates a Moving Target, it felt as if she had flown down from the sky, swooped me up, and made my wildest dreams come true.

As the Associate Publisher at Mango, Brenda is a gifted powerhouse, wrangling authors and juggling publishing details with a firm, but gentle touch.

Brenda also writes.

A prolific, successful author, she is published under her own name and several pseudonyms. Mango recently updated and released one of Brenda’s best-selling books, Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Days of Good Deeds, Inspired Ideas and Acts of Goodness.

Selfishly, I wanted an excuse to spend some time with her. I knew you would want to learn about her as well. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Nita Sweeney (NS): What prompted you to write Random Acts of Kindness?

Brenda Knight (BK): My inspiration for the book starts with childhood. I was raised in my mom’s religion, First Day Adventist, which is very different from Seventh Day Adventist. I remember being jealous of Catholic, Baptist, and Jewish people, and people of all other faiths because their beliefs seemed so much more interesting. They had angels in heaven. They had hell and all that. First day of Adventist is very plain. The bottom line is “Be a good person.” Then, when Jesus Christ comes back at the Advent, if you’ve been a good person you get to stay in Heaven which is actually here on Earth.

I remember thinking “That is so not exciting.” I wondered why all my friends’ religions were more interesting and had more bells and whistles. But those early teachings of “be patient,” “be generous, “be kind with no expectation,” “be a good person, and “that’s just what it is to be a human on Earth,” worked their way in there. They got on the hard drive.

Those early teachings worked their way in there. They got on the hard drive.

When I worked at Canari Press, and Random Acts of Kindness was first published back in 1996, it went on to become a two-million copy bestseller. That was quite thrilling. I especially loved it because I love book publishing. I love working with creative people, writers, and designers—every step of the process.

But when you combine publishing with a purpose where you’re helping people, to me that’s the ultimate. I wanted to return to that purposeful publishing feeling. I wanted to share acts of kindness that I recommend, but I’ve also included some new stories where I don’t necessarily come off that well. But in those, I’ve learned a lesson and I share those lessons.

When you combine publishing with a purpose, that’s the ultimate.

NS: What a wonderful backstory to that book!

NS: In one sentence, what do you hope the reader will take away from Random Acts of Kindness?

BK: Be mindfully kind. Have that as part of your being. I do think people are inherently good. You could argue the opposite, that the jails are full to bursting, and there’s all that bad news I see on cable news channels which might make me think we are not inherently good. But there are studies and documentaries about toddlers that show that as soon as they can crawl, their inclination is to give, to help. That’s been proven.

We start off kind. And all of us, including me, get beat up by the world.

Over the years, that innate kind helpfulness can get stripped away. You start to think I just need to get through my day. I just have to survive today. But if we just take a breath and reorient, open our eyes, there are still opportunities to be kind every day in ways big and small, even in pandemic America.

Maybe it’s something like adopting an elder cat which I recently did because it never occurred to me that no one wants to adopt really old cats so they get moved out for the kittens that are highly adoptable. And the old cats are herded into old cat homes which is quite sad. I don’t know why I didn’t know that before but when I discovered it, I thought “Oh! I’ll adopt an old cat.” I sort of feel like an old cat myself. We can keep each other company. And we do.

Be mindfully kind. Have that as part of your being.

Adopting an elder cat is one example of taking action. I learned something and immediately wondered “How can I help?” Then, I took direct action. Of course, not everyone can. Perhaps your landlord doesn’t allow pets. But there are just ways to be kind. Ask the barista at your coffee place how they are doing. Really stop to listen. Then you’ve created a relationship. As we go through our day, try not to let the spinning of this old world wear you down. Be mindfully kind. It really becomes effortless.

Brenda Knight

NS: With practice it certainly does. And that leads me to the next question.

NS: Writing and life can be stressful. How you take care of yourself?

For me, writing is a kind of self-care, and I bet that is not too foreign an idea for a certain Nita Sweeney. This week, I don’t have anything that I’m writing personally, but I’m probably going to start a new project next month. I reserve writing time usually during the time the Rachel Maddow show is on. But I don’t watch Rachel Maddow when she comes on. I have it DVR’d. It could be 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. or 7:15 to 8 p.m. I reserve that time.

And it’s very meditative. My writing desk is by my garden window. I can look out right now and see the azaleas having their second bloom of the year. The beautiful fuchsia of those, the green of the newly rained upon lawn, the plantings and the apple tree are very peaceful. I look at that and drink in that peaceful, natural beauty.

Even if it’s raining, I will run out and do a little wedding. Wedding is my therapy. It brings me so much restoration and respite. It may come down to a little bit of Feng Shui, but I oriented my writing desk by something that I love to look upon, just gaze upon it. Because it’s in such a beloved peaceful spot that feels like a retreat, my heart feels writing is something I look forward to.

Weeding is my therapy.

Then I’ll light a scented candle and a stick of incense and then plop myself in front of my writing desk, and I usually know what I’m going to cover, so I have my section planned. I’ll also do some free writing. The way I’ve set up my writing area brings me a soulful sustenance. I hold onto that and don’t let anything get in the way of that.

There are two desks in the front of the house for my day job with Mango Publishing Group. I have a separation of church and state. This writing is just for creative self-care.

NS: That’s so helpful! I love the separation of church and state. Thank you.

NS: Let’s change gears a bit and talk about your business path. I once heard you say that when you were a little girl, if someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, you said “an international business woman.” Will you tell us more about that and how that led you into publishing?

BK: Oh yes. I grew up up a holler on a dirt road on a farm in West Virginia on a farm which was lovely and tranquil. I had awesome access to Nature 24/7 and took full advantage of that. But I was a voracious reader from the minute I could read. And I knew there was a big bustling world out there. I wanted to get out there and see as much of the world as possible. Especially as a teen, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could get a job where I can get paid to travel. I pondered that because those options weren’t exactly in my neck of the world, in southern Ohio and western West Virginia.

I was a voracious reader from the minute I could read.

When I moved to San Francisco, I actually got a job the first week with an import-export company. It thrilled me because I was surrounded by people from all over the world, people from Taiwan, mainland China, Brazil, Mexico, Malta, and the Philippines. The lunchroom was full of people speaking all these different languages. I would try to learn how to say “Good morning” and “How are you?” and “How’s your lunch?” in different languages. I can’t begin to tell you how exciting that was.

I did whatever it took: answered the phone, took orders, even drove a forklift in the warehouse.

But I knew in order to become a buyer which is that job where you go around the world stop on somebody else’s dime, I needed to take an executive path. So, I asked to be mentored by the executives. I was, and I did well. As I’m talking to you, I’m looking around my home. I see objects like from that time. Some of the nicest things I own, imported from Italy and India, are real treasures from that job. I hold onto that memory in that way.

I was super excited to finally be tapped to be a buyer by the founder of the company. He was a Merchant Marine who bootstrapped the company up from nothing. He said “Tomorrow we’re going to look at the factories. We’ll visit India, Mainland China, Taiwan, and, if we can, we’ll work in a trip to Italy.” I was on fire and couldn’t sleep, champing at the bit to get out there. I was in my early 20s and had not traveled at all, had never been outside of the United States. This was my dream job.

I was on fire and couldn’t sleep, champing at the bit to get out there.

Then he brought in photo albums of the factories in India and Mainland China. My chin dropped to the floor. The photos showed children making the products. That’s how I learned that, unbeknownst to me, I had been exploiting children for the five years I’d had that job. I was horrified. I said, “Those are children.” And he said “Uh huh” like it was no big deal. He’d visited those factories billions of times.

Unbeknownst to me, I had been exploiting children for five years.

As I looked at the photos, I remembered my summer job in high-school. I worked for a car dealership. I was one of the only females who worked there and I drove cars and worked in the parts department. The mechanics who repaired the cars and worked in the body shop were my lunchtime buddies. They were like artists. They took great pride in how they painted the cars.

One of them, the oldest guy, closest to retiring, didn’t want to wear the masks and protective equipment they had to wear when spray painting the cars. I always checked to see if he had on his mask.

When I caught him spray painting a car without his mask, I scolded him in a caring way because I wanted him to live. But one day he started coughing and he coughed up blood.

Because of this, I knew firsthand what would happen if you were lacquering products without ventilation and masks. It would harm your lungs very severely. And I knew the kids in the plant in India lacquered the silver tea sets and all of the other things that was lacquered. I asked my boss, the owner of the company “Where are the fans? Where’s the ventilation? Where are the masks? They are lacquering those product.” He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And I said, “Well I do. Without ventilation and masks, they’ll be coughing up their lungs before they’re twelve.”

It was like an out-of-body experience.

Some aspect of me was watching me engage with my boss, the founder of the company, in shock about like how he was exploiting children and harming them. And I said “So you’re telling me like there’s no masks, no fans, no ventilation system to protect these children?” And he said, “They’re happy to have a job, and you should be too.”

I said, “I will not exploit children and you shouldn’t either. I quit.”

All these years later, I still can hardly believe I did that. I didn’t have very much money. Every month when the rent came due it was a big stressful deal. I didn’t make much money. Maybe I was being exploited too. I went home and called my best friend Maria, and cried and cried and cried. She was a great shoulder to lean on. Then she said, “All you want to do is read and talk about the books you’re reading. Why don’t you get a job in publishing?”

Then she helped me research local publishers one of which was Harper Collins in San Francisco.

After two informational interviews, I talked my way into a job in publishing and I have never looked back!

Publishing was so exciting to me. I couldn’t believe I got free books!

But thanks for asking about that experience. It’s important. Even in the face of hunger or total impoverishment, I made a value choice. It was instantaneous. There was no question. I was not going to exploit children. And I brought that sensibility with me because once I got a job at the executive level at Harper Collins, I formed a committee where we made sure that no children were working on the books especially in China and India. And on the rare occasion where we’re having books manufactured overseas, I always make sure of that too. It’s important because it’s still happening.

NS: Thank you for standing up, and for that reminder.

NS: Today, do you have a motto or a slogan that you find helpful in your day-to-day life or business?

BK: The title of the writing journal you and I collaborated on “You Should Be Writing” is my motto. Even if you work in tech or you have an organic farm, you should be writing for many reasons. First, it’s a form of self-care, at least in my life and it is for many other people. Also, you can pass down things to your children and your children’s children.

Let’s say you run an organic farm. You could write in a journal about the experience, the pleasure, and the difficulties and how you face them. People hunger for those real stories. And that’s what we are. We are our stories. We’re like vessels filled with stories. No matter who you are or what kind of work you do, you should be writing. You should be should be telling your story. Record it whether by journaling or something more deliberate like memoir. Or perhaps poetry is how you express.

“You should be writing” is my motto.

I have had people come back and tell me, even relatives in my family say, “I didn’t believe you about the writing. I didn’t think I had any anything important to say, but I found the process very enjoyable.” And, almost invariably, something else happens. As people write their story and retell it, more details come through. They are helping themselves remember. They put together pieces of stories and aspects of life. That’s important too. Writing can help you actually land on a more complete picture, a more complete story of your life. And that’s important too.

NS: I love that advice as well. Thanks.

NS: So, what’s the worst wellness or mental health advice you’ve ever been given?

BK: I have ups and downs with weight. I think it’s part of my DNA combined with having a job that requires me to be pretty sedentary where you’re locked at the laptop for zoom meetings and writing. The most recent horrific advice I got was “Don’t drink coffee. You’re poisoning yourself.”

I have to tell you, if I didn’t drink coffee, which I greatly enjoy—I’m enjoying an oat milk latte right now—I would not have a job. I’d be living in a homeless shelter. Coffee is enjoyable to me. And whether it’s just an idea in my head or if it really is caffeine power, it makes me feel like a “can do” person. Now that I have a latte, I can totally handle the five more hours of stuff I have to do. So, no. I cannot accept that advice. I have to have my coffee!

If I didn’t drink coffee, I would not have a job. I’d be living in a homeless shelter.

NS: Oh goodness. I couldn’t take that advice either.

NS: What is one wellness practice you wish you had learned earlier?

BK: Walking. From growing up on a farm, I associated walking with work. Of course, I took all kinds of little walks when I was a kid. I gathered pretty rocks I found in a creek. I had a rock tumbler and made some sad looking bits of jewelry for my sisters and mom. You’re allowed to do that for a certain number of years and then walking had to be purposeful.

My dad walked the fence line to make sure there were no holes. Walking always had to have a task attached to it. Walking didn’t have pleasure, fun, or relaxation associated with it. I had to rediscover it. And I think a lot of other people did too, especially during the pandemic. Just walking. Walking for no reason other than walking. To just blow the cobwebs out of your head. Or run a little errand. I reembraced walking and let go of the idea that it had to be chore-related. Now, I enjoy walking for no other reason than walking!

I had to rediscover walking just for walking.

NS: I can’t love that enough.

NS: How about a writing tip or a bit of advice for the writer types?

BK: I hope this isn’t too stale, but assign yourself a word count. It doesn’t have to be 2000 words a night. I’ve done that to myself and it can be stultifying. Maybe it is 250 words which is pretty doable. Then, if you go over, you’re ahead for the next day. Whether you’re writing your November novel, or a self-help book or memoir, have that very achievable daily word count and stick to it.

Brenda Knight reading in a pink room in pink light

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a writing project, especially if you’re a little bit of a newbie. Writing a 55,000-word personal growth book sounds unachievable. You think “Oh my goodness. I can’t do that.” But whatever you’re doing—I find this applicable to all kinds of projects—map it out into small doable chunks. When you meet your word count or exceed it every day, mentally reward yourself. Take a moment to feel proud of yourself. Acknowledge that, and that will give you momentum to keep going.

Assign yourself a very achievable daily word count and stick to it.

And here’s another thing. There’s a lot of bad advice out there. Don’t try everything you’re told. There’s more bad writing advice out there than there is good, especially at writers’ conferences. And I feel a little naughty saying that because I’m usually at writers conferences every year except for the pandemic time.

But I have heard some atrocities being hurtled out at writers. And they’re so earnestly like drinking it all in. Sometimes I think “Oh my God, No! Please don’t do that.” And I can’t scream out and say that, but I can tell you to listen to what resonates with you and then even double check that with somebody you really trust.

And just don’t listen to everything you’re told.

NS: Can you give us an example, maybe the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

BK: Some writing conference presenters tell writers to just get a list of editors and send them all the same email. Well, we can tell! And you wasted your time. We can tell instantaneously. That time you spent cutting and pasting the names of fifty editors would have been better spent going to Publishers Lunch, and looking at the top five editors and publishers who publish in your category, and querying them, and doing a little research about them.

When you reach out, you say:
“Jane Doe, I noticed that you were the acquiring editor of the book Wild. I love that book and found it life-changing. Because you work with non-fiction women’s narratives and do it very well, I’m contacting you. I have one I think you might be interested in.”

Take time to research the people you want to query. It makes such a difference. Taking ten minutes to do that research will actually get your query looked at. We can all tell and we appreciate when you’ve done your due diligence. You will be seen if you just take the time to do that research.

That’s what you did, Nita Sweeney, when you knocked on the Mango door.

NS: Thank you. And yes, I did my due diligence.

NS: We’ve covered a lot. Is there anything you would change about your journey?

BK: It was definitely important for me to have had that experience being an “international business woman” which took me down the road not taken and into publishing.

I’m even glad I worked for Rupert Murdoch, since News Corp owns Harper Collins. At the time I worked there, in the 90s, nobody knew who Rupert Murdoch was. He was just an Australian newspaper man, the mysterious global figure we didn’t have to pay any attention to. Then when he started Fox News, I began to wonder “Who is Rupert Murdoch?” so I left at exactly the right time. I joke that I went from working for the worst man in publishing to working with the kindest people in publishing with Canari Press, especially with them publishing Random Acts of Kindness.

At the time I worked at Canari, nobody knew who Rupert Murdoch was.

But there is one thing I might have changed. As that farm girl who as going to be an international business woman, I had the idea that I needed to have a high title. I thought I needed to be vice president and then president. I had this trajectory in my mind that I somehow developed while living on a farm!

Eventually, I did get a job where I was vice-president of an international publishing company. I don’t even have it on my resume because it was a nightmarish experience for me. I’m sure other people had a very different experience, and I wish them all the best. But it was very male-oriented. There was even a little bit of a “bro” mentality, and I do not mix well with the “bro” mentality. I don’t think most women in business do well with the “bro” mentality. It was miserable for me.

And once I achieved that vice president level, all I did was put out fires and deal with really boring paperwork. I didn’t get to do what I really like which is acquiring books, developing books and book programs, working with authors and creative people. I just shoveled paper from my desk to others’ desks.

While I wish I hadn’t had that job, at the same time, I learned an important lesson. Titles don’t matter, not in the least. When I left that job, I became publisher which is also a nice title, even though I had gotten over my obsession with needing a fancy title. On my business card, I had them put publisher and office composter. And I was more proud of “office composter.” I worked out a whole system, and got all the tenants in the building involved. I even got the Berkeley trash and compost people to come over and meet with us. I took it very seriously.

Titles don’t matter, not in the least.

NS: I can absolutely see you as the office composter. Brava!

NS: So, the last serious question. “What’s next?” You hinted at the next writing project. Do you want to tell us about that?

BK: All I will say is that it is Tolkien related. It goes right back to the farm.

When I was nine, someone gave me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I started with The Hobbit and there was no turning back. My mom drove me all over, including many trips to Columbus, Ohio, for books. Once I got into it, I had to read every biography of him ever written, and stories he had written that weren’t nearly as popular. I was a Tolkien completist starting at the age of ten. My love for his writing and the world he created, Middle Earth, only grows. So, I’ve got something up my sleeve that’s a little Middle-Earthy.

NS: And finally:

NS: Mermaids or goddesses?

BK: Mermaids. Double Pisces.

NS: Of course!

NS: Toast or bagels?

BK: Toast.

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forests?

BK: Forests, preferably Middle-Earthy ones.

NS: Leggings or jeans?

BK: Leggings.

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?

BK: And you can’t say all?

NS: You can say all.

BK: I’m going to say “all” because when I lived on a farm, we had all of those, and more!

About Brenda Knight:

Brenda Knight Random Acts of KindnessBrenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries Paolo Coelho, Marianne Williamson, and Huston Smith. Knight was awarded IndieFab’s Publisher of the Year in 2014 at the American Library Association. She is the author of Wild Women and BooksThe Grateful TableBe a Good in the World, and Women of the Beat Generation, which won an American Book Award. Knight is a poet, writer, and editor. She also served as President of the Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter, and is an instructor at the annual San Francisco Writers Conference, Central Coast Writers Conference and wherever she can be with fellow writers. A scholar of medieval literature and modern poetry, she lives in San Francisco, California.

Follow Brenda’s blog, “Lower Haight Holler.”



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Author Interview with Laura Davis

Author Interview with Laura Davis

 

I interview wellness authors to find out what makes them tick and why they write the books they do. 

I met best-selling author Laura Davis in Taos, New Mexico at a writing and meditation retreat she cotaught with Natalie Goldberg where I served as Natalie’s assistant. Laura’s genuine, helpful, and powerful teaching about family relationships and abuse touched us all deeply. Laura is best known for The Courage to Heal, but her new book comes out soon! I knew you would want to meet her as well.

Nita Sweeney (NS): Please tell us about your new book:

Laura Davis (LSD): The Burning Light of Two Stars is a memoir—and my first book in 19 years. It tells the story of my embattled relationship with my mother, our determination to love one another, and the dramatic and surprising collision course we ended up on at the end of her life. For the millions of readers of my first book, The Courage to Heal, the new book serves as both prequel and sequel, revealing in intimate, page turning detail how I reconciled with the mother who betrayed me, and came to care for her during her final days.

NS: What prompted you to write this book?

LSD: I wrote it because it was burning inside me and had to come out. I tried to walk away from it multiple times and it always came back and insisted on being told. We all have certain core stories that live inside us—and this just happens to be one of mine.

The Burning Light of Two Stars is about an intense mother-daughter relationship where we both needed and loved each other, but there was a betrayal that got in the way of us trusting each other.

Book with flowers around it

Although it’s the story of one mother and daughter, one relationship that went from an impossible state of estrangement to a surprising state of reconciliation, it’s a story that will resonate with anyone who has someone in their life that they struggle with but wish, more than anything, that they could come to terms with.

Besides, my mother is the best dramatic character I’ve ever come across and her story–and mine–and the fireworks we created together makes for great storytelling.

There were also several core questions I had to answer through the writing process:
  • Is it possible to caretake a parent who has betrayed you in the past?
  • Is it possible to open a heart that’s learned it’s safer and easier to stay closed?
  • What does healing from trauma look, truly look like, over the course of a lifetime?

NS: What message do you hope readers take away?

LSD: The Burning Light of Two Stars comes out November 9th and I’ve posted the first five chapters on my website and I invite you to come read them for free. Since I posted them, I hear from women every day.

“Your book makes me think about my mother—or my daughter—in a whole new way.”

“I’m going to have to take care of my mother, and I’ve been dreading it, and now I’m looking forward to it as an opportunity.”

One woman reported calling her mother for the first time in 18 years. I loved hearing that. More than anything, I wrote this story because I wanted to demonstrate that transformation is possible in even the toughest relationships. That caregiving can be a pathway to healing.

Woman standing in front of waterfall

 

NS: Writing (and life) can be stressful. How do you take care of yourself?

LSD: Swimming—I love being in the water. I’m saved every time I dive into the pool.

Being out in nature. Hiking. Walking by the ocean with our yellow pandemic lab puppy, Luna.

 

 

NS: Tell us about your other work.

LSD: In addition to writing books that inspire, the work of my heart is to teach. For more than twenty years, I’ve helped my students find their voices, tell their stories, and hone their craft as writers. I love creating supportive, intimate writing communities online, in person, and internationally. Writing can be a powerful pathway to healing, connection, integration, and wholeness. That’s what I love to teach.

NS: What led you to this path?

LSD: It’s a natural extension of who I am and who I was meant to be in the world. I’ve used words to express, to vent, to educate, to inform, to disrupt, to teach, and to inspire since I was a teenager. And I’ve been committed to—and fascinated by—how human beings heal and grow across the life cycle.

The tag line on my website is: “Healing Words That Change Lives.” That’s a pretty good summation of everything I’ve been manifesting as a communicator for the past forty years, whether as a talk show host in Alaska, a seven-time author, a public speaker, a teacher or as a retreat leader.

NS: Do you have a motto or slogan you find helpful? If so, how did you arrive at that?

LSD: As my father once said, “A family is a dictatorship run by its sickest member.” My dad was full of great slogans, but that one has really stayed with me.

“A family is a dictatorship run by its sickest member.”

NS: What’s the worst wellness (mental health, self-care) advice you’ve ever heard?

LSD: Take Ivermectin. Unfortunately, I have family members who believe it.

NS: Oh. That’s sad and painful. I’m so sorry. What is one thing about well-being you wish you’d learned earlier?

LSD: That worrying is practice for failure. And I wish I’d learned to apologize a lot sooner. I’m still working on that one.

NS: Do you have a go-to wellness practice you would like to share?

LSD: Walk or sit in nature with your palms open. Pet a dog.

NS: Do you have a writing tip for the writers out there?

LSD: Write and edit in layers. If you read a powerful, well-developed fully rendered scene, you might think that it was “just written that way,” but it wasn’t. The writer started with raw material. They did a free write or a writing practice. They dove deep into the maw and the gut and brought back an image, an emotion, or a moment and put it on the page.

Or perhaps they started with a character or a single dramatic moment, an object or an image, and the story evolved from there. On a later pass, they focused on characterization or on building tension, on creating an emotional flip in a scene so it didn’t remain static. They took the words, “He was angry,” and found a way to show anger on the page without using the word “angry” or any of its synonyms: “enraged,” “furious,” incensed,” and the like.

And they didn’t worry about diction!

On another pass, they worked on creating vivid dialogue or adding rich sensory detail. But they didn’t add all these layers at once. They focused on them one at a time with each rewrite of that scene. And they didn’t worry about diction—the mechanics of writing–till the very end—the length and rhythm of their sentences, their word usage, the sharpness of their verbs, ridding their work of cliches.

Each time a seasoned writer comes back to a piece, they hone in on a different element of storytelling. Each rewrite, each new draft, moves the piece forward. Eventually when the scene or story or book has been completed, the writer has seamlessly integrated all the elements of story and made it look easy—but it isn’t.

woman hiking with journal

NS: What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

LSD: Any advice that proclaims, “This is the only way to be a writer.” There are as many ways to be a writer as there are writers.

NS: And the best?

LSD: Start by letting what’s in your body and your heart pour out on the page without editing. Don’t edit and write your first draft at the same time.

And I’ve always loved Natalie Goldberg’s line: “Feel free to write the worst shit in America.”

NS: Me too! Such freedom. Has your life turned out differently than you expected? If so, how?

LSD: In my twenties, when I was first facing the sexual abuse I’d experienced as a child, I believed I was too damaged to have children. But then I healed and got involved with a wonderful woman who showed me that I was capable of love and loving. We’ve been together more than thirty years and have three children and three grandchildren. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to have a family and a fulfilling career.

Author Laura Davis

NS: Is there anything you would change about your journey?

LSD: No, every step, even the really painful ones—and the worst mistakes I’ve made, have led me to where I am today.

NS: What are you currently reading for inspiration?

LSD: To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue. It’s always on my bedside table.

NS: Is there a wellness or inspirational book you couldn’t finish? Why?

LSD: Many, I’m opposed to dogma.

NS: What wellness book could you not put down?

LSD: Liberating Masturbation by Betty Dodson, back in the 1974. She was such a trailblazer and a feminist idol of mine.

NS: What’s next for you?

LSD: Launching a book, like birthing a baby, is all-consuming. Hopefully once the new book gets kicked out of the nest and starts making its own way in the world, I’ll rest. Deep rest is a critical part of the creative cycle—every field needs a fallow season—but it’s always a challenge for me.

I’m such a doer.

I’m going to be taking a group of writers to Tuscany next June. That trip had to be canceled twice and I’m hoping the third time’s the charm! Late at night, I just love drooling over pictures of the Italian countryside and all the fabulous meals we’re going to eat.

AND FINALLY:

NS: Mermaids or Goddesses? (Superheroes or Gods?)

LSD: Mermaids. I love everything to do with water.

NS: Toast or bagels?

LSD: I’m not a big bread person. But I’m partial to ginger lemon scones and fresh handmade corn tortillas.

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forest?

LSD: Ocean. I grew up a 15 minute walk from the Atlantic and now I live a 15 minute walk from the Pacific.

NS: Leggings or jeans? (Jeans or slacks or sweatpants?)

LSD: Jeans.

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?

Dogs, and I never thought I’d say that until I got a puppy at age 64. I’ve never liked dogs before, and now I’ve fallen in love with all of them—how amazing to intimately observe how another species moves through the world.

About Laura Davis

Laura Davis is the author of The Burning Light of Two Stars, the story of her loving yet tumultuous relationship with her mother, and six other non-fiction books. The Courage to Heal and The Courage to Heal Workbook paved the way for hundreds of thousands of women and men to heal from the trauma of sexual abuse. Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, a rich resource guide co-authored with parenting expert Janis Keyser, helped parents develop a vision for the families they want to create. And I Thought We’d Never Speak Again: The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation teaches the skills of reconciliation and peace building to the world, one relationship at a time.

Laura’s groundbreaking books have been translated into 11 languages and sold two million copies.

You can learn about her books and writing workshops, read the first five chapters of her new memoir, and receive a free ebook: Writing Through Courage: A 30-Day Practice at www.lauradavis.net.

Facebook: @LauraDavis&TheWritersJourney

Facebook personal page.

Instagram: @laurasaridavis

Pinterest: laurasaridavis



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NaNoWriMo Motivation – You’ve Begun! How Do You Keep Going?

NaNoWriMo Motivation – You’ve Begun! How Do You Keep Going?

 
National Novel Writing Month – You’ve Begun! How Do You Keep Going?

Fourteen-time NaNoWriMo winner Nita Sweeney offers motivation for your National Novel Writing Month adventure.

Congratulations! You’ve taken the huge step of signing up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and you’re in the throes of writing your novel. But what happens if (when?) the exuberant exhilaration wears off? How do you keep going? 

Don’t panic! Whether it’s your first Nano or your fifteenth, time-tested methods will help you keep going once that initial excitement wanes. 

For the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge in which writers all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words of fiction (1,667 words a day) during the 30 days of November. Other writers (like me) aka “rebels,” write in other genres, revise, or add to existing works.

Regardless of which challenge you have chosen, the following tips can help you keep up your momentum and cross that finish line strong.

Candy Bar Scenes

Coined by author and writing teacher Holly Lisle, the term “candy bar scene” refers to any scene you are eager to write. Writing such a scene is a reward. You get words down and you enjoy it.

If you feel stuck, take a few minutes to make a list of scenes you know must happen in the story. Bonus points if these scenes excite you and make you eager to write, i.e. candy bar scenes. Don’t worry if any of these scenes occur late in the book or even at what you believe to be the end of the story. Don’t worry about writing out of order. Especially if you use writing software like Scrivener or yWriter, but even with word, you can cut and paste or drag and drop scenes into the correct order later. Organization is what December is for!

Make the list. Then, whenever you feel blocked, grab one of those scenes and dive in. Often we’re only fighting inertia. Use one of these “delicious” scenes to entice you back into the work.

Community for NaNoWriMo Motivation

I’m writing this during the pandemic. For safety issues, NaNoWriMo cannot allow in-person events this year. In the before times (and hopefully in the very soon after times), write-ins allowed wrimos (people participating in NaNoWriMo) to gather and write side-by-side in small groups. The pandemic prevents that fun, but it can’t keep us from gathering online!

Be sure to join your local region. Municipal Liaisons (regional leaders) and other wrimos host activities on Discord and Zoom or other chat rooms and video conferencing platforms. Word wars and word sprints or just camaraderie to write together will help you meet your daily goal.

The NaNoWriMo forums may also help you get the work done. Stumped with your plot? Go to the borrow a plot thread. Trouble naming your character? Let someone else name her for you. Don’t know what the name of that thingie your villian uses to kill people? Head to the experts forum. Someone there surely knows.

A word of warning, however. Time you spend in any of these communities takes away from the time you have to write. Beware of time sucks and rabbit holes. Perhaps set a timer to limit how long you spend scrolling through the interesting forum threads. You have words to write!

Writing Fuel

I hope you’re already well stocked with writing “fuel” (books and snacks). Chocolate and meditation books are my favorites right now and I also need coffee and tea. But we also need to eat healthy foods. Remember to eat a vegetable once in awhile and some protein too.

Friends and family can help here. If they want to support your efforts, invite them to bring you snacks! Promise them you’ll help with the dishes . . .  in December. Boundaries are your friends in November (and always).

Maintaining Your Writing “Machine”

In addition to eating a few vitamin-rich foods (or taking some vitamin tablets) during November, don’t miss out on other ways of keeping your writing “machine” in top shape. By “machine” I mean your body.

If you exercise regularly, do your best to keep that up. Exercise benefits mood and mind health and great character arc ideas might pop into your head when you’re out jogging with the pupperina.

If you don’t have a fitness routine, add a walk around the block or a stretching session between writing bursts. Who knows! The habit might stick beyond November.

Your emotions can use a strength session too. Five minutes of meditation or a ten-minute writing practice session can refresh you during the month. No need to complicate it. The simplest thing can have a great benefit.

Structure is Your Friend

Those write-ins I mentioned? That’s a structure. A ten-minute timer, another structure. Word sprints and word wars, yet another way to structure your time and get the words down.

Make It Your Own

Some people write best first thing in the morning. Others are night owls. Another group loves to sneak in a writing session on a lunch break. And you’ll find still another bunch writing in their cars in the parking lot while waiting for their kids to get out of school.

Find the time and the place and the mode that works best for you. Make no apologies. Part of the lure of NaNoWriMo is experimentation. It’s a safe space to figure out your best writing practices. Lean into those, and don’t let anyone dissuade you.

Share Your Tips

I’ve offered some of my best motivation tips. I’d love to hear yours. Comment here or buddy me on the website. I’m willwrite4chocolate. And check out my other NaNoWriMo blog posts. I’ll see you around the forums!