Paranormal Fiction Contest Brings Changes for Friday Reviews

Hugs for Authors

The entries are rolling in for the paranormal fiction contest and each one must be read. Stories good enough to recieve invitations to the anthology will also need to be edited. In order to accomodate a time budget for all this contest judging and anthology compilation activities in addition to my other life responsibilities, you can expect to see a few changes in the Friday Reviews.

One good change is we’ll be seeing more of Jeff Bowles. Last week he stepped in with a movie review of Glass that was brutally honest, but captivating. That review was so well recieved that he’s agreed to share a movie review with us on the third Monday of every month. His review of Glass was knowledgeable of the genre and written well enough to be mistakeing for one of the top critiques. If book reviews are hugs for authors, then Writing to be Read wants to hug the film industry, too. If you want to keep up on many of the latest movies, be sure to catch Jeff’s Movie Review (working title) each month.

I also plan to make two reviews each month instead of four, for books in the genre to go along with the monthly theme set by the genre the “Chatting with the Pros” guest author for the month. In February my guest author was nonfiction author Mark Shaw, so the February theme was nonfiction. My supporting author interview was with nature writer Susan J. Tweit and my supporting post was about my own nonfiction endeavor with the first post in my new bi-monthly series, “The Making of a Memoir“. My reviews were both of nonfiction books of different sub-genres: Mark Shaw’s How to Become a Published Author and a compilation of poetry artwork and writings about mental illness, the Letters of May anthology.

Science Fiction-Fantasy

March’s theme will be science fiction and fantasy, and the “Chatting with the Pros” guest author will be national and international best selling author Kevin J. Anderson. He’s written more best sellers than there is room to list here and I’m thrilled to have him on Writing to be Read.  My supporting post will be about my science fantasy series, Playground for the Gods. I’m still searching for a author for my supporting interview, but my reviews will be for Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories and Jordan Elizabeth’s Rogue Crystal. If you want to be sure not to miss any of these great science fiction and fantasy segments, be sure to sign up to email or follow on WordPress to get notification of new content.

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Before I wrap this up, let me just remind you all that there is still time to submit your short story to the WordCrafter paranormal fiction contest. The deadline is April 1, so don’t drag your feet on this one. The entry fee is $5 and the winner will recive a $25 Amazon gift card and a guaranteed place in the WordCrafter Press paranormal short fiction. Email your submissions to kayebooth (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll send you confirmation instructions for submitting your entry fee.

Your submission can be any genre, but your story does have to include a paranormal element, so get those stories in. Other entries may be included in the anthology by special invitation, and all anthology authors will recieve a small royalty share if the book makes any money. You can get the full submission guidelines here: https://kayelynnebooth.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/short-fiction-contest-paranormal-stories-sought/

I do hope you’ll all join me in the exciting changes ahead. I’m always interested in reader feedback, so leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to see on Writing to be Read.

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Writing for a YA Audience: Interview with FANYA’S illustrator.

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

Every book is a collaboration. I work with editors, cover artists, and the publishers in so many ways behind the scenes.  A few years ago, I got to collaborate in a different way.  This time it was with a local illustrator, Aaron Siddall.  He had an idea for a YA steampunk story.  He would illustrate it and I would write it.  We created a world of magic and mysterious creatures, and the book was released on November 14, 2018 from CHBB Publishing.  *Hold for applause, wink wink.*

Fanya - cover

I would like to introduce Aaron Siddall to all of you. We met years ago when I joined the Utica Writers Club.

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JE: When did you join the Utica Writers Club?  What do you like most about it?

AS:  The Utica Writers Club and I came together in 2010. I do write and occasionally read from things that I am working on, but I mostly attend for the creative energy. That and I find that writers make for excellent friends.

JE: How long have you been an illustrator?

AS: I’ve had a passion for art all of my life, but I had my first professional experience as an illustrator in 2001 working for Kenzer & Company and White Wolf Studios, both as a freelancer.

JE: What are some of the projects you’ve illustrated?

AS: Its hard to narrow down to favorites. But several stand out, such as; High Towers and Strong Places: A Political History of Middle Earth by Tim Furnish and published by Oloris Publishing.  How Robin Hood Became an Outlaw by Learning A-Z. Ravenloft Denizens of Darkness by White Wolf Studios.

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JE: How did you come up with the idea for FANYA?

AS:  In a discussion concerning Steampunk and Fairy tales that I was involved with, I compared elements from both in relation to our world in the late 1800s (the Victorian era). In doing so, Russia and Alaska at the time were in the midst of tumultuous times, as there are many marvelous Russian Fairy Tales and the legends of the First Nations have many similar legends, these elements came together naturally in my mind.

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JE: How did you come up with the title?

AS: Fanya is a name that shows up in both Russian and Inuit and Aleut peoples.

JE: What do you hope people take away from FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD?

AS: Overall, I hope that people enjoy the action and magic of the setting. There is a great deal to think on and enjoy.

JE: What is your favorite illustration from the book?

AS: The one of Mr. Beisy on the doorstep in chapter two.

We hope you enjoy reading FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD.  Reviews and emails are always appreciated.  If you love the artwork as much as I do, merchandise is available here.

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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with nonfiction author Mark Shaw

chatting with the pros
In February, Writing to be Read is taking at look at nonfiction authors and their works. I’m pleased to say that my guest on Chatting with the Pros this month is nonfiction author Mark Shaw. Mark has been a traditionally published author for many years, following a successful career in journalism. He’s written biographies on sports greats, priests, accused criminals in high profile cases, as well as books about golf and pilots, and writing instruction. Today, he champions those for whom justice has not been served, his most recent book being Denial of Justice, which outlines the events surrounding the  and deaths of J.F.K., Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and Dorothy Kilgallen, which is a sequel to The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, which is Kilgallen’s story, and both books have been optioned for visual media and a script is currently being developed. Let’s welcome him and see what he has to say.
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Kaye: Could you share a brief history of your author’s journey for those who are not familiar with you or your work? How did you get to where you are today? 
Mark: It’s difficult for me to even believe that Denial of Justice was my 27th book. I never had any experience with writing, no classes, no workshops, etc. when I first wrote a book about Mike Tyson’s rape trial in 1992. What I fell in love with was the research, the writing process, and the chance to make people stop and think about important historical issues. That’s what keeps me going, looking for subjects now that deal with justice and injustice.
Kaye: In your books, you use your investigative reporting skills to dig deep and reveal little or unknown facts until you can tell the whole tale. Many of your books have brought some surprising details to the public eye. How do you choose the subjects for your books? 
Mark: I like to say the book ideas come to me. Most of the time, I get an idea for a book at 3 a.m. and quickly write down a thought about it on some note cards I keep by my bed. All of my book titles have come that way as well. Writers need to keep their eyes open, many book ideas float right in front of us if we pay attention.
Kaye: After the story of Dorothy Kilgallen, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, had a great reception and is now being prepared to be told through visual media. Was any of this a surprise to you, or did you think this story might be a best seller as you were writing it? 
Mark: I had no idea Dorothy’s name was still magic, that a book about her would touch so many reader’s emotions and become a bestseller. I’ve heard from people around the world about the book, still do today, two-plus years after the book was published. It’s been amazing experience for sure.
Kaye: You recently released Denial of Justice, which digs even deeper into Dorothy’s story. How did you know there was more to be found regarding her story?
Mark: Those readers I mention sent me tips about new information about Dorothy’s life and times and her death and a file I kept just kept getting thicker until I realized there was a second book for those who read the first one and did not. Now I feel as if I have told the complete story about her although some new information still comes my way.

 

 

Kaye: As mentioned above, the Dorothy Kilgallen story in The Reporter Who Knew Too Much is going to be portrayed on the screen. Are there plans to include Denial of Justice to be portrayed visually or perhaps be included in the screen version already planned? 
Mark: Both books were optioned for the big or little screen.
Kaye: How is that going so far?
Mark: There is no filming yet of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. It is still in the development phase with a script being completed. I am quite excited about Dorothy’s story being on the big or small screen since if that happens, more and more people will know about this remarkable woman. I like to say a book is like a written megaphone to the world but a film or TV series reaches even more people.
Kaye: In addition to several books which revolve around J.F.K. and his circles, you’ve also written about sports icons such as Larry Bird, Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Don Larson. You’ve told the tales of suffering and discrimination during the holocaust, and you’ve written the biography of a priest, books on golfing and a how-to book on writing. What motivates you to write the stories that you write?
how to become a published authorMark: Again, the chance to make people stop and think, although some books have been more for entertainment purposes. Regardless, my books have a controversial slant to them, and that is important, something aspiring authors should seek to achieve. In my book about the publishing process that I use when aspiring authors hire me as a consultant, How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication, this is the type of practical advice I provide based on all of my
experience.
Kaye: Have you ever written a book of fiction? 
courage in the face of evil cover final nov 10 2017Mark: Yes, Courage in the Face of Evil is based on a true story, a Holocaust diary that is both disturbing and inspirational in nature, but I had to add certain elements that cause it to enter the world of fiction. I have also created a crime series called Vicker Punch: Lawyer on the Brink that is fiction, but based on my years as a criminal defense lawyer handling murder cases, and a book that is a sequel to a famous work of fiction.
Kaye: How do you see writing nonfiction differing from fiction in the publishing arena?
Mark: Fiction is much more fun, let the imagination loose without worrying about footnotes, etc. Just let it go and let the characters tell whatever the story is they want to tell. This said, for a first time author, getting fiction published these days is much more difficult that non-fiction since with fiction the star of the book is the author while with non-fiction the star of the book is the story.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing nonfiction for you?
Mark: How to tell the story once I have done all of my research.
road to a miracleKaye: Tell me a little about Road to a Miracle? The book is listed on Amazon for $57.73. I have to wonder what type of book rates a price like that? 
Mark: That’s nuts, and there are other editions of the book at a much less cost. The book is my road through the amazing life I have been blessed to live to the point of finding a daughter and two grandchildren I never knew existed a few years ago. Truly a miracle.
Kaye: I believe your stories are successful because they all hit emotional chords in your readers. How do you portray the emotional elements of your story so that they will touch your readers?
Mark: I tell writers I work with to be certain, whether fiction or non-fiction, to show the reader what’s happening, not tell them. That’s how the emotion comes through, how the reader connects with the story. Remember, a book is like a conversation with the reader but the author is not there so the emotion must be shown not told.
Kaye: In How to Become a Published Author, you talk about the importance of titles and subtitles. How do you come up with titles and subtitles for your books? How important are subtitles?

Mark: The book ideas come to me and the titles in the middle of the night when whatever spirit it is that is guiding my life, whispers in my ear. I quickly write down the idea on note cards I keep by my bed.

Many good books and movies have never seen the light of day due to bad titles. They need to be catchy, like TRWKTM, Denial of Justice, Miscarriage of Justice, The Poison Patriarch, etc. Don’t have too much experience with books based on true stories or fiction but Courage in the Face of Evil is striking as is Victor Punch: Lawyer on the Brink.
 
Re subtitles, not as important as titles but add to the description of the book. Again, I’m quite proud of the subtitles for my books. They certainly add to the allure of the story.
Kaye: Many of your books are collaborations. Is it difficult to write a book with someone else? Why collaborate? What are the pros and cons? 
Mark: No, during the early part of my getting some footing as a writer, I had collaborations, but no more. This said, working with someone famous to tell their story is a good way to show writing skill and the ability to tell a good story. That’s key to establishing a reputation, as is writing biographies if a writer wants to enter the world of non-fiction.
Kaye: You were a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst for the news media covering the Mike Tyson, O.J. Simpson and Kobe Bryant cases, and you have a book about Tyson, Falsely Accused. Are there books about O.J. and Koby in the future? If not, what separates Tyson out from the others? 

 

 

Mark: Injustice is the key word for the Tyson book since he did not get a fair trial. That thread has been woven through almost every book I’ve written in the last ten years or so, Miscarriage of Justice, Beneath the Mask of Holiness, Melvin Belli: King of the Courtroom, The Poison Patriarch, TRWKTM and now Denial of Justice, which relates actually to four people, JFK, Oswald, Jack Ruby and Dorothy Kilgallen. All were denied justice.
Kaye: What’s in the future for Mark Shaw?
Mark: Only the good Lord knows but I am truly the most blessed man on the face of the earth and for sure, I want to help as many writers as possible become published, to realize their publishing dreams.
I want to thank Mark for sharing with us today. He’s given us some insight into the world of a nonfiction author. You can learn more about Mark or his books at the links below.

Website: https://www.markshawbooks.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mark-William-Shaw/e/B000APQ7ZM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1547774000&sr=1-3

 

 

You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.


Alternating reading with your child

Growing bookworks 2

When my son, Michael, was in Grade 2 at school we discovered that he had an audio processing problem and this was inhibiting his ability to read fluently. It took Michael longer to read a book or perform an activity in class than his peers and his teacher was concerned about his ability to cope in Grade 3. The work load increased significantly when the children moved from the pre-prep (ages 5 to 8 years) to the prep school (ages 9 to 13 years) and they needed to work faster in order to keep up.

I was more concerned about my son’s mental well-being and confidence. I had noticed that my little boy was becoming withdrawn and reserved. I took him for a series of test by a child psychologist and together we decided that Michael would benefit from a remedial school. We enrolled Michael at a good remedial school in Johannesburg the year he turned 9 years old. This was an excellent decision for all of us as the remedial teachers at the school also gave me a lot of advice about helping Michael to develop a love of reading despite his learning barrier. I desperately wanted Michael to love books and reading as much as I did so I was delighted to embrace their advice which was very successful for us.

One of the methods of assisting Michael with learning how to read faster and more fluently was for me to alternate reading paragraphs and pages with him. Michael would select a book of his choice. In the beginning it was always Winnie the Witch or Horrid Henry books. He would read one page and I would read three. I would help him when he got stuck with a word and sometimes read with him if a sentence was particularly complex. This method enabled Michael to enjoy the story and it moved along at a pace that was fast enough for him (and me) not to become frustrated and forget the beginning of the story before we reached the end. If the book Michael selected was a bit more difficult than usual, we would alternate reading paragraphs instead of whole pages to ensure that frustration didn’t set in with Michael. In this way he was able to read the occasional book that was above his reading level at the time.

I encouraged Michael during these early years of learning to read fluently, to choose books comprised of a few short stories rather than full length chapter books. Despite the alternating reading, chapter books took longer for us to read together and Michael would sometimes lose the thread of the story before we reached the end of the book.

We continued with alternating reading for two years until Michael’s reading was sufficiently fluent and well-paced for him to start reading entirely on his own.

During this two-year period, I also read to Michael every evening after we had finished the alternating reading. The books I read to Michael were more challenging books than the ones we read together, and they appealed to his sense of humour and adventurous spirit. Michael loved being read to and it taught him good concentration and listening skills which I believe will benefit him for the rest of his life.

Alternative reading is beneficial for all learning readers and can also help a strong reader with their word pronunciation and vocabulary enabling them to move on to more challenging books more quickly.

About Robbie Cheadle

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Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


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The Making of a Memoir: Stage 1: Prewriting Tasks

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His Name Was Michael

I’m starting this bi-monthly blog series, The Making of a Memoir, which will chronicle my journey as I write my memoir of my teenage son’s suicide and my life without him, breaking down the memoir process into stages. I am sharing thios process for several reasons. One, Michael’s story deserves to be told. It needs to be told. Two, telling my own story may act as a catharthis and help me to resolve my own unresolved issues surrounding Mike’s death. Three, commiting to bi-monthly accountability to you, my readers and fellow authors, forces me to create and meet deadlines, assuring that I make adequate progress on the book. It is too easy to make excuses and avoid the emotionally difficult tasks if I’m accountable only to myself. And four, I believe there are those of you out there who are interested in the methodology behind creating memoir.

Before I can begin writing the my memoir telling the story of my son’s death and the story of my own journey to find closure and my need to be sure that he will always be remembered, I must know what it is that I want to say, and have some idea of how I want to present it. After Michael’s death, I went through his writings and artwork, I went through every picture of him over and over and over. I listened to his music. And I cried and cried, and I thought I would never stop. It never has. At least not completely, but I did gain control over it by putting all his things away, to be dealt with at a later time. I knew I needed to tell his story then, but I wasn’t ready. Not then.

I actually made several false starts at writing his story at different times, I wrote poetry, some of it semi-epic, but the emotional wounds were still fresh. I was angry and overcome by grief, and I wanted by son back. I wasn’t able to portray what I was feeling with the depth of emotions I was experiencing. I had to set it all aside and heal some before I could undertake this immense task.

In addition, I wasn’t a skilled enough writer to undertake it at that point. I’ve since earned my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, published three books, and have short fiction and poetry featured in several publications and anthologies. Does that make me an expert now? No. But it has taken me down that path, and certainly I know more about writing books and my writing skills are much improved. I believe that I’m ready now to undertake the writing of my son’s story and my own.

There is no doubt in my mind that this book will be the most difficult book I could ever attempt to write. It is difficult because there is so much emotional investment in this book for me. I’ve collected and saved a mass of materials which may or may not end up in this memoir, but it first must be sorted and compiled. This is a difficult task because of the emotions attached to every piece of material I’ve collected and with the memories associated with each one. Michael has been gone from my life for a decade, but the compilation of these materials still must be taken slowly, a little at a time.

On the other hand, emotional investment in the author lends authenticity to the story and that, according to some, leads to best seller material that people want to read. If you go by that thinking, the more difficult the book is to write, the better it will be. You can let me know if I’m right after you’ve read it.

I thought I had the title. His Name Was Michael: How I lost my son to teen suicide. The title, “His Name Was Michael”, is perfect, for it reflects the feelings I had as time passed and others went on with their lives. Sometimes, I felt that everyone had forgotten about him except my husband and I. A title that would make people remember is a must, and I think it does that. But the subtitle, “How I lost my son to teen suicide”, although clearly and concisely telling the reader what the story is about, it doesn’t roll off my tongue smoothly when I say it aloud. I came up with the idea of  replacing it with “No Happy Endings”, and although it states a truth about this story, the potential reader picking it up off the shelf or spotting it online, might pass it over because it sounds depressing and doesn’t really tell them what the book is about. At this point, I have to wonder if a subtitle is even necessary. Comments on Facebook reflect the idea that the title is strongest without any subtitle. So, I am rethinking the title and I’m open to suggestions or thoughts in the comments.

There is still much to do in addition to compiling material and deciding on a title, before I can begin the actual writing of the story, pre-writing tasks, if you will. There are still more materials to gather and research to be done. I know you may be wondering what there is to research. Don’t I know my own story? After all I lived it. But the fact is there is research to be done on every book. On this one, I need to know things like statistics on teen suicide, and I need resources for warning signs of suicide and other information on the subject. I may not use everything I dig up, but I will have it available if I decide that it has a place in this book. I believe it does but I haven’t worked out how I want to present it. There is so much that I want to say, but not all of it belongs. Finding my voice for this book will mean finding my true voice.

There are several people I need to interview, people who I haven’t seen since Michael died, people who have something valuable to contribute to his story. I must learn to control the emotional whirpool that surfaces when I anticipate these contacts, the memories connected, cause turmoil within me. But, I know his story must be told, and to tell it in the manner it deserves, and so, I must contain my emotions and silence the memories in order to what must be done. The very act of doing this very difficult task for the sake of his story will become a part of my own, for it is my story, as well.

There must be at least a vague outline, which is now begining to take shape in my head. I believe I know how I want to begin the story and the structure I need to use. The next step will be to get it down in print, so I have a clear direction in which I want the story to go which I can refer back to to ensure that I stay on track. Outlines are a valuable tool  in giving any story direction and making sure it doesn’t veer off into left field and lose the storyline and the way I’ve chosen to structure this particular story demands that guidance.

I’m starting this blog series, The Making of a Memoir, which will break down the memoir process into stages, for two reasons. One, Michael’s story deserves to be told. It needs to be told. Two, telling my own story may act as a catharthis and help me to resolve my own unresolved issues surrounding Mike’s death. And three, commiting to bi-monthly accountability to you, my readers and fellow authors, forces me to create and meet deadlines, assuring that I make adequate progress on the book. It is too easy to make excuses and avoid the emotionally difficult tasks if I’m accountable only to myself.

Since I hope to get this memoir published traditionally, I will also need a book proposal, a query letter and somewhere around the first three to five chapters for that. We’ll cover that in the April segment The Making of a Memoir: Stage 2: Selling the story. I do hope you will join me on my journey.

 

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“Letters of May”: A collection of glimpses into mental illness from the inside

letters of may

Letters of May is, to my knowledge, a unique collection of writings, poetry and artwork which offer glimpses of mental illness from an inner perspective. I can see how someone  afflicted with any of the mental illnesses addressed within it’s pages might be grateful to find others who relate with them and the knowledge that they are not alone. These authors have vowed to fight against the stigma of mental illness and share of themselves openly.

For someone who is not afflicted, they offer opportunities to step into the authors shoes and see the world as they do. For the authors and others who are afflicted, dealing with their mental illness is a way of life, encountered on a daily basis. For me, they were a learning experience, identifying some things, but also exploring worlds foreign to my experiences.

These pages might be empowering to some, and enlightening to others. This collection was compiled with the intention of raising awareness of mental illness. Their message above all else: Those with mental health issues are more than their illness. They are still human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity and understanding. This book has much to offer all readers. I give Letters of May five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

 


Interview with nature author Susan J. Tweit

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My guest today is an author, nature lover and plant ecologist. Her books include memoirs, beautifully illustrated travel books, nature guides, and even children’s books, but they all have strong ties with nature. Her books reveal connections with nature and life that have not been pondered or may have been overlooked in our everyday lives. Her books have won the ForeWord Book of the Year, the Colorado Book Award, and she is a five time recipient of Colorado Author’s League Award. With a background in science and plant ecology, she expertly weaves her natural environment into her writings, illustrating how all things interact and connect. Let me introduce creative nonfiction author, Susan J. Tweit.

Kaye: You are a female author who champions the natural environment. Do you identify most as a feminist, a naturalist or an environmentalist?

Susan: All of the above. I grew up in a family of naturalists and scientists; restoring everyday nature is my way of leaving the world a better place. And I work in two fields where women are still second-class citizens in so many ways: science and writing. So am a feminist just be participating in those fields as a woman.

Kaye: On your website you claim that you taught yourself to write after you realized that you enjoyed the stories told by the data more than you did doing the research. How does one teach oneself to write?

Susan: I don’t know how other people teach themselves to write creatively, but for me, as a scientist trained to eschew personal opinions and emotions, and to be extremely parsimonious with descriptive adverbs and adjectives, I found my writing voice in reading the works of writers whose works I admire. I read Ann Zwinger and Terry Tempest Williams, Barry Lopez and Kim Stafford, Brenda Peterson and Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko and Denise Chávez, Robert Pyle and Gary Paul Nabhan, Sharman Apt Russell and Barbara Kingsolver, and so many others.

As I read, I thought about the mechanics of how each writer told their stories (whether fiction or essays), how they introduced subjects and characters, where they got personal and where they stepped back, how they described landscape and culture, how they used words and language… I tried out techniques and styles until I found my own voice, which has continued to evolve through twelve books and hundreds of essays, articles, and columns for newspapers and magazines.

Kaye: Connections are a common theme in many of your works. Can you talk a little about those?

Susan: As a plant ecologist, I am fascinated by the relationships and interrelationships that form community, whether the human community, or what I call “the community of the land,” the interwoven communities of species—from tiny microbes to gigantic redwood trees—that make life on Earth possible. Who loves who, who eats who, who sleeps with or pollinates who, who can’t stand who… All of those relationships weave the fabric of Life with a capital L. Without them we would not exist, and we have so much to learn about the connections that are vital to this planet. I just collaborated with science illustrator Samantha Peters on “Natural Partners,” a feature for WILDFLOWER Magazine on plants and the animals they rely on. It’s up on the internet here: https://www.wildflower.org/magazine/fauna/natural-partners (The print version took the cover of the magazine, and it’s really gorgeous!)

Kaye: Writing seems to be a way of life for you, and your love for nature is woven into almost everything you do. You have a background as a plant biologist and most of your books offer a perspective on nature and the environment, and you call your books love letters “to the earth and its living web of lives”. If you could convey one message to your readers, what would it be?

Susan: Get outside and get to know nature nearby. Learn even a handful of your neighbors in the world of plants and animals and you’ll never be bored. Nature is vital to our health and wellbeing—it’s the best antidote to stress I know of, the closest source of inspiration and renewal, and it doesn’t require a prescription or training. And it’s free!

Kaye: Besides writing and ecological restoration projects, what are your favorite things to do?

Susan: I’m an outdoors person, so I love taking long walks in the arroyo near my home, hiking with friends, and setting out on long road trips to see this amazing continent. At home, I tend a small garden of native wildflowers and other plants chosen to provide habitat for songbirds and pollinators, cook elaborate dinners for family and friends, and read. I’m an omnivorous reader, which leads into your next questions…

Kaye: You’ve written three memoirs about your life experiences. What makes an experience worthy to become a memoir?

Susan: Memoir is a way of distilling what our own lives and experiences have to offer others. What makes an experience worthy of memoir is partly whether we can find a way of telling the story that is compelling to others (that is, to a wider audience than our close friends and family!). It might be that we lived through a critical part of history, or our personal journey is exceptional in some way, or simply that we figure out how to relate our very ordinary story in a way that offers some universal wisdom about being human. Both of my published memoirs—Walking Nature Home; and Barren, Wild, and Worthless: Living in the Chihuahuan Desert—taught me about how to tell a story, how show the way we grow and change over time, and how to pick and choose telling detail. Each one presented different challenges, and the memoir I am working on now is challenging me in new ways. Telling my personal story may be my greatest learning experience as a writer!

Kaye: Would you tell us about your Write & Retreat Workshops?

Susan: They are an immersion in writing, in learning place and story, and in the inner work that is the source of our creativity. Each one includes hands-on writing and workshop time, as well as time to retreat and nurture our inner selves. Each one is set in some extraordinary place chosen to inspire us, with time spend exploring that place. I don’t have any W&R workshops planned this year, but next year I may offer one set near Yellowstone National Park, that place of wildness and wonders.

Kaye: You are a member of Story Circle NetworkWomen Writing the Westand Colorado Author’s League. How are these organizations beneficial to you as a writer?

Susan: I am also a member of Wyoming Writers. Belonging to at least one professional writing organization is critical to writing: they offer education, resources, and, most importantly. community. Writing is an inherently solitary activity: pulling words from deep within, honing them into stories, and then offering the work of our hearts to the world is perilous. Finding a community of fellow sufferers… uh, writers, is essential to maintaining our sanity, growing in the craft, and getting published.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Susan: Besides leaving behind a paycheck, benefits, and job security to chase words and stories? Hmm… It’s hard to choose just one. Kayaking with sea turtles in the Sea of Cortez off Baja California? Learning about how to blow up dams to restore a river and its salmon run? Dancing with a Native American community to celebrate the return of those salmon? Watching a grizzly bear mom teach her twin cubs how to dig and eat spring-beauty bulbs in a meadow in Yellowstone National Park? Walking alone through some of the wildest country in the Lower 48 states, carrying all I needed on my back to listen to myself? Tending my husband and the love of my life through his death from brain cancer and then figuring out how to write how to survive loss? Seeing monarch butterflies return to a restored patch of urban nature? I’ve been fortunate to experience miracles and wonders all along the way.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What can readers expect in the future from Susan J. Tweit?

Susan: I’m working on The Climate Victory Garden, a book about how gardens can help grow The Green New Deal and slow climate change. It’s another chapter in my life-long quest to leave this world in better shape than I found it by restoring nature nearby and our connection to the green and living world.

Many thanks to Susan for sharing with us today. You can learn more about Susan J.Tweit and her work by visiting the following links:

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Susan-J.-Tweit/e/B000AQ53RY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1547778739&sr=1-1

Website: http://susanjtweit.com/

Join us next Monday, when I’ll begin a new bi-monthly blog series, “His Name Was Michael”, which will chronicle the stages of writing a memoir as I work through them for my own memoir of the same name, telling the story of my son’s death and my own grief process. This first post will talk about the prewriting stage for memoir.

 

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