Linda Yiannakis has worked with children as a Speech-language pathologist for over 30 years. Her interest in language on becoming a writer has been an important influence on becoming a writer. She also teaches martial arts and there are certain philosophical elements from that world that have made their way into her work. Linda lives in the high desert of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where roadrunners and bobcats are some of her closest neighbors.
Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Linda. I think we live at opposite environments, although we also get bobcats in Northern Ontario.
Linda Yiannakis: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Ferrante: What martial arts do you teach? Have you ever written about them?
Yiannakis: I teach traditional judo and a style of Japanese jujutsu. Over the years I’ve studied other arts as well, such as kenjutsu (swordsmanship), which is based on the same principles as the unarmed arts. I have published several articles in various martial arts publications and on the websites of international organizations. I also write summaries and further explanations of points I’ve discussed in class for my students.
Ferrante: Kenjustsu is impressive to watch.
As a former teacher, I was always grateful for the difference speech therapy can make to a child’s ability to be understood. Has your experience with this work ever shown up in your writing?
Yiannakis: It has, in a yet-to-be-published manuscript called Digby of the Dinosaurs. In that story there are serious issues of communication to be overcome by the main character.
Ferrante: I look forward to seeing that in print. Erasable is your first book, correct? What inspired you to write this story?
Yiannakis: Erasable is my first published book, yes. I think that years of working with children who often wanted to just wish their problems away rather than deal with them made an impression on me. You do have to learn how to deal with problems, but not everyone has an adult who guides them through that process as they grow up. Children often can’t see the potential unhappy consequences of things that they wish for. I hope Erasable at least plants the seed of that idea in some young minds.
Ferrante: Unfortunatly, not everyone understands that. All that power in the hands of an inexperienced child parallels what often goes on in the adult world as well.
There is a strong element of karma in the novel. Every time one part of history is changed, the ripple effects are unpredictable. What are your thoughts on this?
Yiannakis: Change doesn’t always turn out the way we envision that it will. I think that as humans we are more connected to other people and events than we sometimes realize. And we can see less far into the whole cascade of future events that can occur as a result of our changing things than we think.
Ferrante: I loved the book and the subtle messages given about our choices, impulses, and perspective. Without trying to give away too much of the story, one prevalent theme is the impact of our close associates on our lives. The presence or absence of another can greatly influence who we are. What would you hope readers gather from that?
Yiannakis: We should reflect on the fact that everyone leaves imprints or influences on other people. Some leave just a trace that we barely notice; others change our lives. And we ourselves are leaving imprints on others. It’s important to take stock once in a while of who you believe yourself to be and who you want to be because you are sharing little pieces of yourself with the people around you, whether you are aware of that or not. There is a Japanese legend about the « red string of fate » that says that the gods tie a red string around the pinky fingers of those who are destined to meet, help one another, or achieve something together. There are variations in how the legend is told but it presents the idea that all of our encounters are not random, but meaningful.
How do you organize or schedule your writing? Do you have a routine?
Yiannakis: I do best when I get a lot of little chores out of the way so they aren’t nagging at me. I’m most comfortable writing in the late afternoons or early evenings. I like to write to some sort of closure. So in a book like Erasable, generally I tried to finish a draft of a chapter each time I sat down. Then about every three or four chapters I went back to reread and begin revising previous chapters. This was a process that I did over and over until I was ready to go through the whole thing from the beginning and do further revision on the book as a whole.
Ferrante: I would consider this book suitable for ages ten and up. Why did you decide to write for that age?
Yiannakis: It’s a wonderful age. They’re old enough to consider some more mature life concepts and scientific principles than children just a few years younger. But they’re still young enough to believe in magic and wishes.
Ferrante: Yes, I loved teaching kids that age. They also have developed a fun sense of humor by age ten.
What do you think makes your writing original?
Yiannakis: I believe I bring a voice that reflects not just my own perspective on life but experiences from many children from a variety of backgrounds.
Ferrante: Yes, spending a day with a child is more valuable than any writers’ workshop.
Are you working on anything new that you would like to share?
Yiannakis: I’m working on more revisions to Digby of the Dinosaurs, a story about culture shock, identity and self-empowerment in a little boy who finds himself among living dinosaurs.
Ferrante: Well, that could go a lot of different ways! LOL. Now for three random questions (From a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking).
Ferrante: What is the most useless thing you have ever bought?
Yiannakis: That’s a tough question. I guess recently, a tomato slicer. It should have been called a tomato squasher.
Ferrante: As a child what was your favourite meal?
Yiannakis: Lasagna. Still is!
Ferrante: What is people’s most common misconception about you?
Yiannakis: I learn languages pretty easily, but not without a lot of work. I’ve had several people tell me over the years that they wished they had my ability to « just pick up a new language. » They don’t realize how much study and mental practice I build into my day to progress.
Ferrante: That’s admirable. Perhaps that will show up in your writing in the future. Best of luck with Digby and thank you for participating in my interview series.
Erasable will be reviewed tomorrow on this blog.