Diane Wigginton Three Random Questions Interview

Diane Merrill Wigginton began writing after retiring from two careers. From 1983 to 1998 she was an Registered Dental Assistant and decided to retire before the birth of her last child. Then upon moving from San Diego, California to Herald, California, a small rural community in the Sacramento County in 2001 she began caring for children after opening a daycare in her home in 2002. She completed writing and producing her three historical romance books in the Jewelled Dagger series: Angelina’s Secret, Isabella’s Heart, and Olivia’s Promise, while simultaneously working full time, and only recently decided to retire from the daycare business and close her doors at the end of April, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Diane. In what time period do your books take place and why did you choose that setting?

Diane Merrill Wigginton: The series begins in 1763, with each book picking up with the family and their dynamics approximately 20 to 21 years later. I chose this time by random and completely by chance, but felt that this was a very rich period in time, fraught with Pirates, secret societies and the opportunity to spin an exciting tale.

Ferrante: You have a large family, five sons and one daughter. How have they influenced your writing?

Wigginton: I married my husband, David Wigginton almost 20 years ago and we are a combination of “His, mine and ours.” It’s funny to say this, but I remember watching the movie, “His, Mine, and Ours,” with Lucile Ball years ago and thinking how cool it would be to combine a family and then it happened to me. Dave had 3 sons, I had a daughter and a son and then ended up getting pregnant on my honeymoon. The little bundle of joy was born 37 weeks later, a whole 3 weeks early, and hasn’t slowed down yet. I feel blessed to have such a large brood. We are currently up to 6 grandchildren, with a seventh due next March. It is an exciting time in my life and I count my blessings every day that we stuck it out through the tough times so that we could enjoy the fun times. In the early years, it was very hectic and busy. Fortunately for me, Dave’s boys were mostly grown and well established when we wed. My children were 10 & 6 when we had our youngest. I guess I have always been curious and driven, but in the early years I was too busy and exhausted to explore what I really wanted to be when I grew up. When I turned 50 in 2013, I had an “Aha,” moment. I had always liked writing and expressing myself, but had never pushed myself to see what I was capable of. Our youngest son was the only child home and he was busy with his friends and being a teenager, so with no formal training, I sat down one day with an idea in mind of what I wanted to accomplish, I began to write a story. One chapter turned into two chapters and before I knew it, I had written an entire novel. It took me about six months and it felt amazing. Things just poured out of me onto the keyboard and there it was. I went through and did a rewrite then sent a copy to my best friend, Gigi in Idaho and printed out a copy for my Mom, and asked them both to proof read it and give me their opinion. They both loved the story and were very encouraging.

Ferrante: What processes do you go through to receive feedback on your work in progress?

Wigginton: First of all, no one sees the product until I am through and have done at least one rewrite. Then I always pass my work off to Gigi and my Mother, because they are both professional readers, devouring anything with pages and a cover. Plus, if the story stunk, Gigi would tell me straight up, but so far, she has loved everything I’ve written. My mother would just avoid talking about it for awhile until I pressed her for an opinion if she didn’t like the story. When I gave my mother a copy of my second book, Isabella’s Heart, she called me the next day to tell me that she stayed up to 3 a.m. reading it, until her eyes wouldn’t focus anymore. That made me feel really good.

Ferrante: Angelina is not a product of her time. Her beliefs and behaviour run contrary to societal norms. Why did you choose to make her so out of place?

Wigginton: I think that there has always been forward thinking, strong minded women among us, they just haven’t always been spoken of. I wanted my character, Angelina to be one of those women. Someone who thought outside of the box, kind of like me. I can be saucy and sassy myself, just ask my husband, Dave. I wanted to create someone that women could relate to or even just aspire to be like. Angelina is strong, opinionated and flawed but she grows as the story progresses. She learns to think about the welfare of someone other than herself and her immediate needs. She was fun to create and imagine.

Ferrante: I understand you have written two picture books. Would you like to share a little about that?

Wigginton: I had this idea, years ago about three best friends, who get together and have an adventure, using only their imaginations, but their imaginations transport them to another place. Then in the end, they are walking home with the spoils of their adventure, and it leaves the reader wondering if it was all imagined or was it real.

The second book involves the Sand Man and the Tooth Fairy and how they came to be who they are. My daughter, Nicole, challenged me to create a story about the Tooth Fairy, and so I did. It was a blast.

Ferrante: I have a tooth fairy story as well. I love that mythology.

There is a pirate in your Jewelled Dagger series and one in your picture book. Why are you drawn to pirates?

Wigginton: The time in history when pirates roamed, is filled with possibilities, and as an author it allows one’s imagination to go in so many directions. Plus, what woman hasn’t been drawn to a bad boy at some point in her life.

Ferrante: Are there any authors or books that influence your writing? What gets your creativity flowing?

Wigginton: I love Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander Series. I read only 4 of her books in her 8-book series over 20 years ago and am so thrilled that she is doing well with her books being turned into a mini series on Starz. She waited a long time for it to happen and deserves everything she has worked so hard to achieve.

Sometimes the thing that gets my imagination going is as simple as a turn of a phrase in a song ling, or a television show or movie. Something as simple as a line or a few words and off I go.

Ferrante: Do you have recurring themes or messages in your writing?

Wigginton: I try to bring a thought or message of growth. Maybe it is a spiritual thought I had or read. Sometimes it is an idea that we can all change and grow stronger emotionally from a terrible situation. A gleanable moment that can be reflected upon and pondered over. A “Aha,” moment that my character is going through that maybe someone reading my story can relate to.

Ferrante: What advice would you give a writer starting his/her first novel?

Wigginton: Keep it simple. Don’t get too fancy with words, because you might lose your reader. Create a vivid picture in the minds of your readers, with your words, that transport them to another time or place. Do your research and never give up on your dream. Even if you aren’t very good at first, take the time to educate yourself and follow that dream.

Ferrante: What was your favourite childhood game?

Wigginton: Hide and seek. I could play it for hours.

Ferrante: If you were a rock, what Rock would you be?

Wigginton: I would be an ordinary piece of coal, that has the opportunity to be turned into a diamond.

Ferrante: If you could go into a fiction book and participate in the story, what book would you choose and who would you want to encounter?

Wigginton: I loved the movie, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of The Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. It would have been an honor to have shared a cup of tea with anyone of those three women and picked their brain for awhile.

I love stories of over coming the odds. I grew up in the “60s” and remember the prejudices that took place and find it still just as shocking when people see the color of someone’s skin or judge them by the clothes that they wear, rather than on their merit as an individual. The world is full of beautiful, positive, wonderful people. Everyone should take their blinders off and expand their horizons, and judge every person individually rather than as a whole.

Ferrante: Hear, hear. Hidden Figures is a great example of how incredible potential that could further all human development can be wasted by curtailing people’s opportunities and gifts. It also boggles my mind that people still try to keep others down. I try to make my books as diverse as possible without misappropriation. Recent political/social events with regard to sexism and racism have left me gobsmacked. I’m happy to see writers like you trying to open people’s minds and hearts. Thank you for participating in my Three Random  Questions Interview series.

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34318579

Twitter feed – https://twitter.com/dianesunny  https://twitter.com/wiggintondiane

facebook  https://www.facebook.com/AngelinasSecretBook/

Amazon author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Diane-Merrill-Wigginton/e/B00MS5NV38/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1 or https://www.amazon.com/author/dianemerrillwigginton

Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/diane-merrill-wigginton-12170b19/

 

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Three Random Questions Interview with Lauren Isabelle Pierre.

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Lauren Isabelle Pierre is a children’s writer, self-taught illustrator, and aspiring comic artist. She began self-publishing her picture books at the age of 15. At the ripe old age of 18, she has a lifetime ahead of her to grow and share.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Lauren. I have to say, you slipped under my radar. As a rule, I don’t review books written by such young people. I reviewed your book, Tip and Lulu A Tale of Two Friends in March, 2017 not knowing how young you were when you wrote it. Why did you decide to start publishing so soon?

Lauren Isabelle Pierre: Haha, yeah, sorry about that. I had wanted to be inconspicuous about my age in the past, but eventually I came to realize that the whole novelty of me being a young writer was people KNOWING how old I was. I’m glad it worked out though; your review is one of my favourites! To answer your question, I’ve actually been trying to get published since I was maybe 10 years old? It all started back when I was seven or eight when my dad showed me a news article about an 11 year old girl who wrote a novel about dolphins and published it through Lulu.com. That was the spark that eventually ignited my “passion dynamite” for being a published author, if you will. I had a lot of good starts, but usually lost interest. Several years later, when I was 14, my dad approached me with yet another article about a New York native writing YA romance/sci-fi… at 13! She was printing through CreateSpace. That was the push that eventually led me to write/illustrate my first children’s book.

Ferrante: You write from a Christian viewpoint but, at least this book, lends itself well to non-Christian readers as well. I liked the message that kindness is its own reward. Are you consciously making your books available to a wide audience?

Pierre: Absolutely! As they sang in VeggieTales (which I was recently surprised to find out is enjoyed by both Christians and non-Christians alike), “God’s Word is for everyone”. I know that the term “Christian” can turn a lot of people off and get them thinking, “This is just another book about God and all that preachy stuff, I’ll pass,” so I go out of my way to make my stories accessible to a wide readership, all while teaching the values I believe in. That isn’t to say I’m afraid of sharing my faith (my first faith-based children’s book is set to be released next month); but I know how people can be when you “push them.”

Ferrante: I agree. Respecting the beliefs of your readers is important. Although my books are written from a Buddhist viewpoint, there is only one Buddhist word in one of my picture books. (The AMIDA Tree)

Your other two books, Ollie the Opossum: A Tale of Loving Yourself and The Panda that Learned to Ignore use animals as the central characters. Why do you use anthropomorphized animals instead of humans?

  

Pierre: Well, The Panda that Learned to Ignore was written by my brother Samuel, and his reason for using animals in it was because his favourite animal is the panda. My reason for using anthropomorphic animals characters is so readers focus less on what the characters look like (black, white, etc.) and more on what they’ve done or overcame; I want them to focus on the lesson of the story and internal emotions of the character. Also, they’re a lot of fun to draw and are capable of maintaining plot elements that *normal* human characters can’t (like fly, scale up trees with ease, pick up a scent from far distances, etc.). I think I’ve grown up enough as a writer to start telling stories with a human cast… but we’ll see if there are any more “furry” characters in need of getting their stories told living in my imagination. There will always be a place in my heart for each of them.

Ferrante: You’re self-taught. You’re fortunate enough to be living in a time where the internet provides free instruction on writing and illustrating? What drew you to Mark Crilley’s website? Are there any other sites you would recommend for emerging illustrators?

Pierre: I found Mark Crilley while browsing the Kid’s section of our former cable provider’s pay-per-view channel when I was 11, I think? There were some free how-to-draw videos by him, and I used to wait for when the service put new videos up. Eventually I learned that he was a published comic-creator with a youtube channel, and our “relationship” took off. He “mentored” me for several years until I made a style change from Japanese manga to western animation-styled art.

There are several social networks where artists can be found and followed, like tumblr, twitter, instagram, and deviantART (though I’m personally not a fan of that site due to its name and content that is allowed there). If you’re ready, get an account on one or more of these sites and start sharing your art. I don’t advise getting an account too early in your growth; my parents prevented me from doing so, and I’m glad they did (but don’t tell them I said that). People online can be cruel, and the pressure of being surrounded by artists who are more experienced then you are may hurt your growth as an artist. People also have different opinions on what is considered “art”, so what might be inappropriate to you, will be beautiful to someone else. What I like to do is bookmark the tumblr, twitter, and/or portfolio website of artists I like and “follow” them that way. It’s less distracting, and you get to decide who you want to see, as opposed to getting suggestions from a social media feed.

Ferrante: Do you participate in peer critiques? Do you test your manuscripts on children? Where do you get feedback on your work before publishing?

Pierre: My go-to feedback person is my mom, second are my siblings. Though I’d love to be able to critique with other young authors, the majority of my “peers” that are writers are most likely writing YA novels, so I’d be the odd one out, easy! For the most part, I read up on a lot of resource articles on the best ways to write for children, common mistakes new writers make, and other insightful pieces and pray I’m doing it right. You can imagine my ecstasy when I get a nice review.

Ferrante: Yes, I can. Do you plan on pursuing any formal education in writing or illustrating? What is next for you?

Pierre: As much as I’d love to go to an acclaimed art school and study Illustration and/or Character Design, a $50k tuition for 4 years to study something I’ve proven I can learn on my own would most likely be a very unwise investment (though the Ringling Art Institute in Sarasota, FL is calling to me), especially if it takes a while for my highly-specialized career choice to take off. I’m thinking I might study education or another field I’m interested in at a less-expensive local school and do freelance illustrating/write books on the side, or get a major and art minor and use the major as a backup if my art career doesn’t work out immediately. But this is all speculation. Only time will tell.

IFerrante: I’ve heard how expensive post-secondary education is in the United States. That’s unfortunate but you seem to be finding your own way just fine.

Ferrante: If you could dance, sing, and act perfectly in a Broadway production, which one would you choose?

Pierre: The Lion King, period. It’s one of my favourite Disney movies, and I love the soundtrack. I’m a little short, but I think I’d make a good Adult Nala or Rafiki (who is female in the Broadway version for some reason). I’d also say Annie… but I think I’m too old for that!

Ferrante:  If you could make a fantasy character such as a dragon, a fairy, a mermaid, a wizard, or an elf become real, which one would you choose?

Pierre: I’m torn between choosing a fairy or an elf. I think having a trusty sidekick like Tinkerbell would be fun. But there’s an all-ages webcomic I read called Harpy Gee, about a magic-less elf (named Harpy) who learned to rely on her physical skills to protect herself in a world crawling with monsters. So if she were the elf, I think we’d get along. She could teach me how to kick butt, lol.

Ferrante: Under what circumstances do you say, “this only happens to me!”

Pierre: When I mess up a sketch on paper and look for the “Ctrl + Z” keys on my desk. (Actually, this happens to a lot of digital artists, haha.)

Ferrante: Ah, yes. The blessed “undo.”

Thank you for participating in this interview. Good luck with your career. You’ve certainly got a great start.

 

 

Surf’s Up! Rebecca Heller is Hitting the Waves – Three Random Questions Interview

Rebecca  Heller is the quintessential surfer girl. The bio on her website begins “Rebecca Heller is a Los Angeles-based high school counselor. She like totally lives in the Valley with her surfer husband and precocious daughter. She occasionally ditches school to go surfing.” She even has long blonde hair.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Rebecca. It’s not surprising that your first book, published in 2005, was Surf Like a Girl. How old were you when you started surfing?

Rebecca Heller: In 2001, I moved from New York City to Los Angeles, within the month I had taken my first surf lesson and have been in the water ever since. I was 28 at the time—an old lady by surfing standards, but you are never too old to learn!

Ferrante: The book includes practical information on surfing, such as how to ride the waves and safety, but it also includes etiquette and what to wear. Basically, it explains the whole package of the surfer girl persona. Was this based on personal experience or observation?

Heller: Definitely personal experience. When I was learning, I was asking a million questions. There were very few books and this was in the early internet days and there was just very little information out there. Especially for girls.

Ferrante: Skater Girl is in a similar style. It includes the basics and advanced techniques with step by step instruction. When did you start skateboarding? Do you still participate?

Heller: I skated a bit as a kid and got back on a board around the same time as I started surfing. The two activities have a lot in common. My skateboarding skills are nowhere near my surf skills so I co-authored Skater Girl with an expert, Patty Segovia, who runs the All Girl Skate Jam.

Ferrante: Are these two books mostly read by young people beginning the sports or the sports audience? How do you prepare yourself to write for that particular readership?

Heller: When I wrote Surf Like a Girl, I was in a way writing for myself when I was a beginner. It’s funny, my voice just skews towards a young audience. It is no surprise that I continued writing for young people. I also work with young people as a high school college counselor. It is definitely my comfort zone!

Ferrante: Kids must  think you’re the coolest counselor ever.

Your publishing company is called “Like a Girl” press. I assume you are poking fun at the denigrating saying “she throws/runs/etc. like a girl.” Would you tell us about your mandate to empower girls?

Heller: Absolutely. I have never once in my life thought there was something boys could do that girls could not. (Okay, maybe peeing standing up, but otherwise…) I feel passionately about empowering women to do whatever they set their mind to, whether that is athletic, academic, or creative.  For me, “Like a Girl” translates to “Like a Badass!”

Ferrante: You have a fiction book, Gilbert and Louis Rule the Universe for middle grade readers. Why did you choose that age level and that topic?

Heller: : Gilbert and Louis Rule the Universe had been in my heart for a long time. It is a semi-autobiographical story about me and my best friend in middle school. (We really did call ourselves Gilbert and Louis)  As the saying goes, “God writes poor fiction.” So I had to give it structure. I love Jane Austin and the plotline of Pride and Prejudice fit with my story and gave it a stronger narrative.

Ferrante: You also have two picture books, Falling Rock and your latest book Elephants. Why did you change from chapter books to this style?

Heller: The sweet spot for Falling Rock is second grade. I wrote Falling Rock over 18 years ago, and my mother did the artwork.  The story was based on a tale my camp counselor once told us about how Falling Rock was a Native American and wherever he was spotted they put up a sign with his name. Once my daughter was born I pulled out the story, dusted it off, rewrote it, re-photographed the artwork, and created the book. 

I have been reading tons of picture books with my daughter and I am absolutely in love with them. I have always been drawn to visuals (I was an Art History major in college and my mother is an artist), so I love the combination of a good story and great artwork. I also love animals and feel very strongly about animals in the wild being conserved and protected.

Ferrante: The illustrations are wonderful? How did you connect with Susie Mason? Did you collaborate or did you just hand over the words to her?

Heller: I found Suzie on the internet while searching for illustrators. I had a very strong vision for the book. If you ask anyone who knows me they know I have a real sense of what I like and don’t like. I saw Suzie’s work online and was like “this is it.” I sent her an email asking if she wanted to illustrate Elephants and happily she said yes. She is based in the U.K. so we have never met in person, but we collaborated on it greatly. She brought a lot of wonderful ideas to the table that made it better than I had even imagined, and all the time we stayed true to my initial vision. She is amazing.

Ferrante: Part of the proceeds from Elephants goes toward the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (www.elephanttrust.org). Why did you choose that particular charity out of all the elephant charities?

Heller: The Amboseli Trust for Elephants aligns perfectly with my goals of elephant conservation and protection as they are a non-profit organization that aims to ensure the long-term conservation and welfare of Africa’s elephants. I was turned onto ATE by Colleen Kinzley, Director of Animal Care, Conservation, and Research at the Oakland Zoo, who helped me fact check Elephants. The Amboseli Trust for Elephants is also the legal entity that administers the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, the longest-running study of wild elephants in the world. Since 1972, they have followed the lives of the Amboseli elephants; the results of their research has profoundly altered the way we think about, conserve, and manage elephant populations. They are doing fantastic work.

Ferrante: Are you working on another book? Would you like to share?

Heller: Yes! Suzie Mason and I are currently working on a series that feature threatened or endangered animals. The next up is an animal that is close to my heart, Dolphins! We are also working on books on Polar Bears and Whales.

Ferrante: Now for your three random questions:

If you were a natural disaster, what would you be, and why?

Heller: As a surfer girl, I would have to say a tsunami.

Ferrante: As a teenager, who was your idol?

Heller: Hmm, I am not sure I had one. I would say though that my idol since childhood and still has to be Eloise from the Kay Thompson series.

Ferrante: Is there a childhood keepsakes that you treasure or wish you had saved?

Heller: I am rather sentimental although also a minimalist, which is a tough combination. Two of my favorites are Skinny Bunny (a stuffed rabbit that looks exactly like the name implies), that is now in my daughter’s room, and my “Becca Books” a series of books my aunt made for me that feature photographs of me and my family along with fantastical stories that my aunt created.

Ferrante: It’s wonderful when we can pass on something precious from childhood to our own children. Thank you for answering my questions. Best of luck with your animal picture books in the works. I hope all your waves are perfect.

Social media links

www.rebeccaheller.com

Twitter: @rebeccaheller

Instagram: @rebecca.heller

Facebook: rebeccaheller.549

Elephants was reviewed on this blog.

Click  on the covers for the information and buy links.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Author Jessica Boyd – Three Random Questions Interview

Bear Hockey is Jessica Boyd’s first published book. She worked as a senior creative writer/creative lead for Webkinz World (webkinzworld.com) for eight years. She was inspired by reading to her two and four-year-old daughters to begin her own publishing company, Buttertart Books.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Jessica. Why did you choose hockey as the subject of your first picture book?

Jessica Boyd: The title came first – I loved the sound of ‘Bear Hockey.’ The story told itself! It’s all about having a good time. It doesn’t matter if you happen to be a bear who excels at sports or, like me, happen to be a bear that just likes hanging out with their friends on skates.

Ferrante: How did you decide to use bears and hibernation as the central subject of Bear Hockey? It’s a clever and unusual idea to choose an animal that hibernates throughout the winter.

Boyd: I liked the idea of hibernation being the ending. The whole book reads like an actual hockey game – it’s fun, fast-paced and exciting. Until the last pinecone is scored, that is. At that point, the bears quiet down. They get cleaned up and ready for bed. The final two pages show the bears sleeping, which is the perfect ending to a bedtime story.

Ferrante: Do you feel children today get enough opportunity to play unstructured sports?

Boyd: I think unstructured play in general is something kids don’t get enough of. When I was younger (I was a child of the eighties), I’d roam the neighbourhood with my friends and just kind of meet up with other kids. Games were generally loose and made up of whoever happened to be around at the time. Kids need that freedom and time to use their imagination.  

Ferrante: You didn’t just write a book, you also started a publishing company. I see you used Kickstarter to finance your first enterprise. How has that gone?

Boyd: Kickstarter was a terrific learning experience! The most important thing I discovered was that it’s crucial to tell as many friends/loved ones/acquaintances/well-wishers about your plans ahead of time. People generally want to support your dreams – they just need to know in advance. (This seems obvious, but when you’re in the throes of getting a book written/published, it’s easy to forget the marketing part.)

Ferrante: You have two small girls at home. Do you have a structured time for writing?

Boyd: Not really! My writing time (and the time I use to work on marketing/running Buttertart Books) is when my girls go to bed. Occasionally I get an hour or two on the weekends, but most of my writing is done by the light of my computer screen in my dark office.

Ferrante: I have four adorable hockey cards representing four bears on the team. How can readers obtain these? Are there more?

Boyd: The hockey cards were an add-on we did for Kickstarter. People really liked them! If anyone orders a book through Amazon, I will send along two random hockey cards with it.

Ferrante: Maurizio Curto did a stellar job with the illustrations. How did you connect with this artist?

Boyd: Maurizio and I worked together in Webkinz World. He’s still there, actually! We worked on another book, Forgetful Eddie, a number of years ago. The book turned out really well (and will be one of the next books Buttertart Books publishes), so I knew who to turn to when Bear Hockey needed illustrating! Maurizio has a terrific style and his illustrations worked perfectly with the story.

Ferrante: You have a second book in the works, Duck Fort. Would you like to tell us a little about that?

Boyd: Duck Fort is about a clever duck building a fort to relax in…and then having all her friends drop by and ask for forts of their very own. It’s really funny, but there’s a little bit of a lesson at the end about appreciating our friends and thanking people for their hard work.

Ferrante: Is there any advice you can give to beginning picture book writers?

Boyd: Read, read, read. The more you read picture books, the more you’ll understand what makes them so special. I absolutely LOVE Phoebe Gilman (“Something from Nothing” and any of the Jillian Jiggs series are read quite often around here), Mo Willems (anything he writes is wonderful) and Jeff Kinney (I’m a total Diary of a Wimpy Kid fan). I have a gigantic picture book collection and I love perusing the children’s book section at my local bookstore to see what’s new (one of my youngest daughter’s newest favourites is “No, No Kitten!” by Shelley Moore Thomas).

three random questions

Ferrante: As a child, what was your favourite treat?

Boyd: Anything chocolate. Actually, anything with sugar in it. I have a huge sweet tooth.

Ferrante: What character flaw would you like to get rid of?

Boyd: My dentist would say the huge sweet tooth. I would say my inability to keep my office neat and tidy/my apparent need to work in a chaotic (but creative!) environment.

Ferrante: If you had limitless courage, what would you do in the next few days?

Boyd: Limitless courage? I’d go dancing, probably. Or speak in public! Or go skydiving. Or maybe all three. If my courage is limitless, let’s go big!

Ferrante: Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your writing experience with us. Good luck with Duck Fort.

Bear Hockey will be reviewed Friday, September 8.

https://buttertartbooks.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ButtertartBooks/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-boyd-3b7a042/

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Author Timothy Gwyn Three Random Questions Interview

Timothy Gwyn writes science fiction stories and has recently finished his first novel, Avians.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Timothy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your novel, Avians. It is quite apparent that you are extremely knowledgeable about flying and can discuss gliders and airships with great expertise. Can you tell us a little about your experience with flying?

Timothy Gwyn: I first rode in an airliner, a Pan-Am Boeing 707, when I was six, and my brother took me up in a glider before I was eleven or so. I learned to fly when I was eighteen, and quickly took it up as a career. On the fun side, anytime I can get a ride in a balloon, a helicopter or a hovercraft, I’m having a good day.

Ferrante: I was very impressed with the world building in Avians. Both the environment and the social structure were unique and interesting. Can you tell us how you went about creating this fascinating world?

Gwyn: I wanted to write about aviation that was greener than the kind of flying I do, so I set out to create a world that had low technology, but needed flight. The lack of metals and complete absence of fossil fuels – both of which could stem from Celadon not having a moon – oblige the inhabitants to build gliders. Putting the settlements high on mountain sides makes them ideal for launching sailplanes, and also creates a scarcity of habitable land that leads to all sorts of social consequences.

Ferrante: You chose to write from the point of view of several women, most young teenagers. Why did you choose girls instead of boys as your protagonists?

Gwyn: I wanted a utopian society with gender equality, but that begs a fundamental question: if everything is so perfect, why would a fourteen-year-old run away from home? Because the landowners consolidate their grip on their property not just through trade alliances, but also with strategic marriages, and Raisa wants no part of that. Also, I wanted characters who were not the biggest or strongest, but who have to accomplish their goals despite that, by finding courage and determination within themselves.

Ferrante: I don’t want to give away too much of the book but I really want to know why you made Raisa anorexic. You make it quite clear why she refuses to eat and it suits the narrative perfectly but what was the impetus for your decision to give her an eating disorder? How did you research this?

Gwyn: I don’t like to apply the term anorexic to Raisa, because I’m sure she’s never heard the word. She would claim her reluctance to eat is a protest, a hunger strike. It seemed the perfect flaw for Raisa: she has no idea how privileged she is, and she is a rebellious and contrary character. But yes, her attitude towards food is distorted, and experience with anorexia in my own family shows through in some of her specific issues.

Ferrante: Because this is such a rich and well thought-out world, I could easily see you setting more books in it. Do you have any plans for a sequel or other novels that take place in this world?

Gwyn: I do! There are already two prequel short stories published: “Far Gone” at NewMyths.com is about the trip to Celadon, and “Freezer Burn” at Antipodean SF is about one of Raisa’s ancestors coming out of the long sleep. I’m working on the first sequel to Avians, in which bandits worsen a refugee crisis, and Mel and Raisa must work together in new ways to prevent a disaster. I’d like to create a series of novels that follow Raisa and Mel’s adventures as they mature in different ways.

Ferrante: You live in a fairly small town in northern Ontario, Canada. I know you belong to the NOWW, Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop, and that there is an active writing community in Kenora. What else do you do to connect with other writers, improve your writing skills, and gather feedback on your work?

Gwyn: Since attending my first workshops in Kenora, I’ve become a regular at conventions in Winnipeg, Ottawa, and now Calgary. I put a lot of work into an Odyssey online course one winter, and I also belong to a speculative fiction critique group in Winnipeg; I get a lot of mental writing done on the drive home.

Ferrante: What advice would you give to new authors who are writing their first science fiction book?

Gwyn: Make connections. Start with Beta readers. Then, if you can manage to get to a convention or workshop, put your brave face on and sign up for a Blue Pencil Café because those short critiques often go straight to the heart of the matter. Look into online courses such as Odyssey’s, because they teach you to critique. Follow the Prix Aurora Awards: enrolling to vote is just ten bucks each year and you get to read all the shortlisted works.

Ferrante: What you working on now? What are your future plans? Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Gwyn: I’m working on that first sequel, Bandits, and roughing out some plots for later books. I have enough ideas to keep me going for many years. I have two blogs that can be reached through timothygwyn.com: Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol displays aerial photographs to chronicle the spring thaw in Kenora’s cottage country, and Timothy Gwyn Writes covers my adventures and misadventures pursuing writing and publication.

Three Random Questions

Ferrante: If you were a science-fiction character, who would you be?

Gwyn: Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. This Hiyao Miyazaki anime is perhaps my favourite movie ever. Princess Nausicaä is brave but pacifistic, and strives to understand nature to better her world. And she’s a pilot!

Ferrante:  The morning after a nuclear catastrophe, what would you be able to reinvent or re-create?

Gwyn: Coffee. There will be no civilization rising from the ashes until I have coffee. I’ll get around to building a printing press out of the slag and putting out a newspaper in the afternoon.

Ferrante: What kind of clothes would you absolutely never wear?

Gwyn: High socks, with or without shorts. I fold my socks down to below the shin. And flood pants: I’m still traumatized from my growth spurt in junior high. Captain Kirk’s uniform pants that end with a flare above the ankle make me cringe.

Ferrante: Thank you so much for participating in my interview series. It was a pleasure getting to know you.

Timothy Gwyn can be found through his website at www.timothygwyn.com, and Twitter @timothygwyn

Author Illustrator Claudia Marie Lenart Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Claudia. I’m so excited to be interviewing you. I love your illustrations.

I first encountered you when I reviewed Prince Preemie, written by Jewel Kats and illustrated by you using your fiber technique. Could you tell us what exactly you use in your illustrations?

Claudia Marie Lenart:  Thank you Bonnie! My illustrations are created from wool and other natural fibers, such as alpaca and mohair. In the books I illustrated for Jewel, I sculpted characters out of wool, through the needle felting technique, and posed them in scenes made primarily of wool or against a wool painting backdrop. Needle felting is a technique in which you use a barbed needle to repeatedly poke rolled up wool, which felts the fibers together. In Seasons of Joy, the book I wrote and Illustrated, all of the images are wool paintings, which I created through needle felting, and some pressed wool painting, a technique that comes from Eastern Europe. In pressed wool painting, wool fibers are laid out on a wool canvas; a heavy piece of glass from a frame is laid on top, and then you press against the glass to bind the fibers. The techniques are similar, except that the wool paintings can easily be framed and exhibited.

Ferrante: Where did you learn this technique? Have you used more traditional arts styles before developing this or did you go straight into fiber work?

Lenart: I am self taught. I did start with a book that described the basics of needle felting, but then taught myself after that. A friend on Etsy, from Eastern Europe, shared the basics of pressed wool painting with me and I took off from there. I have dabbled in art since childhood, drawing, watercolor painting, and colored pencil drawing. My mom taught me to knit, crochet, sew and embroider from an early age. I think the arts and crafts came together in needle felting.

Ferrante: Why did you decide to write a book on your own, Seasons of Joy: Every Day is For Outdoor Play? Will you be writing more in the future?

Lenart: I can remember always thinking “someday I’d like to write and illustrate a children’s book,” and that was long before I became a professional artist. I was a journalist, so I think my friends might have expected me to write a children’s book. It was a surprise that my first published works were as an illustrator. Some years ago I created a wool painting for our local Waldorf school. It depicted children playing outside throughout the seasons. People really connected to the work and I sold several more re-creations to families across the world, as well as prints. I thought it needed to be a book, so I sat down and wrote verse to capture the feel of the painting and then created 12 wool paintings, some based on the original painting.

I have other children’s books in various stages, however, my next will be another in the Seasons of Joy series. Where Seasons of Joy: Every Day is for Outdoor Play encourages children to get outside, explore nature and engage in imaginative play year round, Seasons of Joy: Growing Our Food in Backyards and Farms will encourage preschoolers to connect with whole and natural foods, to form a concept on where food comes from, to encourage future sustainable food growing and healthy eating.

Ferrante: I think your work would make wonderful prints for nurseries. Do you sell these on your Etsy page or do you keep all your book illustrations?

Lenart: Yes, I do sell prints of my wool paintings on Etsy and they do make lovely nursery art. I am not currently selling the original paintings, but I would take commissions to make a similar wool painting.

Ferrante: The stuffed animals on your Etsy page seem more like works of art than toys. Is that how you are marketing them? Do they stand up to rough child’s play or are they meant to be set on display? The animals and children are absolutely enchanting. Have you ever had a “show” of your artwork?

Lenart: Yes, the animals are more for display than active play. They would hold up to very gentle play and storytelling. I have not had an official art show – something to look forward to someday.

Ferrante: I was very pleased with the prose in this book and relieved you did not try to make it rhyme like many indie authors do. It was readable and poetic. What is your writing experience?

Lenart: As a young adult I wrote a lot of poetry and took a couple of college classes. Of course, I worked as a journalist for many years. Yes, I wanted the verse to feel very natural; where the verse rhymes, it happened naturally in the writing process.  I did revise quite a bit and consulted with a poetry editor.

Ferrante: Is there something new in the works that you would like to tell us about?

Lenart: My next book with a food growing theme. Seasons of Joy:  Growing Our Food in Backyards and Farms All Year Round

Ferrante: As a child, what was your favourite place?

Lenart: The beach. I grew up in Chicago near Lake Michigan, so had lots of opportunity to walk in the waves, build sandcastles and I love swimming in the cool waters.

Ferrante: If you lived underwater, what aquatic animal would you be?

Lenart: A mermaid or a dolphin.

Ferrante: What’s your worst obsession?

Lenart: For worst, I would say social media, because, while it has many benefits both personal and for my business, I am guilty of spending too much time and wondering where the hours went.

Ferrante: Thank you so much for answering both my serious and random questions. I learned a lot today. I’m looking forward to your next book. It is definitely an important and timely topic. Best of luck with all your projects.

Note: Seasons of Joy: Every Day is for Outdoor Play was reviewed yesterday on this blog.

https://business.facebook.com/ClaudiaMarieFelt

https://twitter.com/clwords

https://www.instagram.com/clwords/

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudiaMarieFelt

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Author Rita Blockman – Three Random Questions Interview


Rita Blockman is the co-author of Listen to the Wisest of All. Men and women aged 88 to 104 years old were interviewed for the inspirational stories in this book. They were from differing backgrounds but all were willing to share their life stories, values, and accumulated wisdom.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Rita. You spent 2 1/2 years interviewing people for this book. When you began this project, did you think it would take that long?

Rita Blockman: No, I predicted l l/2 years and didn’t realize initially that it takes time to develop a real relationship when you are interviewing people for a book. One has to establish rapport with an individual or couple, establish trust and ensure that what I wrote was clearly what was intended by the interviewee and approved by family and friends.

Ferrante: How much time after the interviews did you spend writing and editing?

Blockman: During the entire 2 l/2 years, we were simultaneously writing, editing and interviewing people. During the last six months our copy editor was meticulously refining the vignettes which are highlighted in the book.

Ferrante: How did you select the people to interview?

Blockman: It was our intent from the beginning to select people from different backgrounds because interviewing people from different ethnic groups, different religious backgrounds (or agnostics) and different socioeconomic levels, we felt would be more interesting to our readers. We followed different leads from several sources to find individuals in the age range in which we were interested. It is our feeling that each person (or couple) brought to life a universal theme of human nature which is actually a microcosm of the world in some sense.

Ferrante: What was the most difficult about writing this kind of book? What was the most rewarding?

Blockman: It was difficult to ask some questions which I was very curious about such as wanting to know if different individuals had “death anxiety” because of the advanced age of our interviewees. Once I got over the fear of this type of questioning, I was pleasantly surprised that it appeared that the more satisfied an individual was with their life, the less they thought about subjects such as this. The most rewarding aspect of writing this book was it made us conscious of how we wanted to live our life which included living with more intention and realizing the limits of status, ego, and materialism in the final analysis. Although I know this intellectually, it was refreshing to hear our beloved interviewees talk about different topics: how they valued different things in each decade, how they developed an optimism in spite of physical limitations and aging issues, how being poor “has nothing to do with money”, how important nature was and how it nurtures your soul, and how meaningful traditions make lasting impressions and generational memories.

Ferrante: Many interviewees had similar beliefs and attitudes. Did anyone ever say anything that really surprised you, that was unexpected or unusual?

Blockman: One individual stressed how important he thought it was to surprise people when they least expect it. He felt (and I do now) that it is much better not to wait until someone dies to send flowers, but to anticipate the needs of others and find things that might be meaningful to them when there isn’t necessarily a holiday associated with it either. This individual would surprise people with a rose from his garden when they arrived at his door. It might seem like a little thing, but it brought joy to a lot of people.  I have followed his advice and love doing this and love the feeling it gives me when I surprise someone. I actually have fun thinking about this type of thing during the year when the hustle and bustle of holidays isn’t an issue and one can focus on specific people at various times.

Ferrante: A common thread in the book is the importance of family. Do you feel that has changed for this generation?

Blockman: Most definitely. People engaged in conversations more, enjoyed family dinners more while cooking from scratch and overcame obstacles such as the Great Depression by banding together. There wasn’t as much mobility among families as there is today, so families had more day to day exposure to one another which led to celebrating more important events together. The lack of social media helped promote this type of interaction among families in my opinion.

Ferrante: Tell me about the photographs in the book.

Blockman: The photographs were purposely taken in black and white to reflect the period in which the individuals lived. We wanted the photographer to capture people in a spontaneous way and try to capture the “essence” of the individual and his or her interests.

Ferrante: One of the keys to longevity seems to be making oneself of service to others. For example Lloyd Dees serves as a parish visitor who calls on shut-ins, patients in the hospital, and people in grief. He also visits his homebound sister every day. The amazing thing is that he is 88 years old. Do you feel being of service to others helps people to live longer, happier, and healthier lives? 

Blockman: Mr. Dees demonstrated in his actions and good deeds that spiritual maturity is giving to others and letting go of your own wants and needs to some degree. I do think when we look outside ourselves and meet the needs of others, we feel better, and it strengthens our own sense of self.

Ferrante: one thing that struck a chord with me is when Lucy Gray spoke about the loss of innocence for children. They are exposed to so much, so early, that childhood is severely shortened. How would you recommend children’s innocence be protected without exposing them to risk of exploitation?

Blockman: I attended a lecture last night in which an older gentleman described an idyllic childhood for all children. He was getting ready to introduce an artist who had drawn pictures of her recollections of visiting her grandparents during the summer on a farm. I liked what he said…”Every child should have the opportunity to run and absorb nature, play hide and seek, explore, pretend, draw without specific instructions, listen to good music, learn how to plant flowers and vegetables, interact with people of all ages and be free of worry. “ Things are very structured for children now, and children are facing much trauma and pressure in our contemporary world which forces them to grow up prematurely and miss out on the innocence and beauty of childhood.

 

Ferrante: Joe Hamburg “stressed how important it was to be a good person: to have good morals and to be kind, understanding, helpful, charitable, and also to have an appreciation for the arts.” How do you feel the arts fit in with being “a good citizen of the world.” To feel children today are exposed to enough arts?

Blockman: Our society, in my opinion, views the arts as a frill or extracurricular activity. Art, in its many forms, reflects the human spirit in a way that can’t be duplicated in any other way. It enhances people’s creativity, allows them a safe way in which to express themselves and share their perspective. It is just as important as any subject in our educational system today, and yet it is being cut out of every program because of lack of funds. In addition to the soulfulness of any artistic endeavor for individuals, it helps us understand our world historically and culturally. I always love the feeling I get when I go to a museum and participate in a docent tour where a small group of people give their perception of a painting. Often times each person has a completely different perception which is so enlightening. I think this type of experience broadens one (and as Joe said makes us better citizens) so that we don’t get too narrow minded in our views about things. It also helps us participate in the world at large which teaches us how to “feel” and appreciate good works of art which reflect  the human condition in the most poignant way.

Ferrante: if you were being interviewed for this book, what would be the most important thing you would want to say?

Blockman: Although it might sound trite, I would have enveloped myself more in nature and offered more of this to our children, taken more time out to meditate on how to live with intention, actually visit and learn more from people from different cultures and backgrounds and never do anything that didn’t feel authentic to me.

(From a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking)

Ferrante: What song do you wish you had written?

Blockman: A song about the beautiful insights that are gained and sensitivity to others —even when emotional deprivation is pervasive in one’s early life.

 

Ferrante: What is the oldest object in your home?

Blockman: It is an old clock on our mantle that my husband and I purchased 45 years ago from a gentleman who was passionate about clocks. We associate the beauty of the clock and its chime with the beauty of the interaction we had with this gentleman.

Ferrante: What food could you absolutely not live without?

Blockman: Chocolate, without question! And, especially chocolate of the finest caliber!

Ferrante: In that, we are definitely agreed. Thank you for participating in this interview series..

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Women in War and More – Author Joan Leotta Three Random Questions Interview

Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood in Pittsburgh. She is a writer, story performer and lifelong beachcomber whose own dad got up early to hunt shells with her.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Joan. You seem to be a rather eclectic author, romance, mystery, essay, poems, short stories, and children’s books. Do you have a favorite type of writing?

Joan Leotta:  My favorite kind of writing is the one I am doing at the time. That’s not very informative, except to say I simply love to write. However, I write for children as a high calling—what is done for children, lasts. Poetry, the same. Touches the heart. I also read just as widely as I write—more so. I write non-fiction in the form of journalism (health and food) though I have , in the past,  written a travel book and many travel articles as well.

Ferrante: How do you decide what type of writing you going to do next? Does the topic choose the style or vice versa?

Leotta: The topic and the style need to be on the same track. I look at a topic and say—wow! Then my head begins to shape that WOW into a story or a poem, or perhaps I want to track it as an article. The idea is that WOW is something I want to share with others.

Ferrante: This blog focuses on children’s books so let’s talk a little about your picture books, Whoosh!, Summer in a Bowl, Rosa and the Red Apron, and Rosa’s Shell, which celebrate food and family. Why did you decided to focus on that topic? What do you hope to get across to your readers?
  

Leotta:  I want readers to see that ordinary family moments bring great joy. Of course, with my own background (Italian-American) food is often a part of that. My dad is the dad in stories, my Aunt Mary, the Aunt in Summer, a version of my Mom (she was a bit complex) is the Mom in Rosa and the Red Apron and while my Grandma could not sew, she gave me many intangible gifts, including a love of story, that have enriched my entire life.

Ferrante: The family in Rosa and the Red Apron are of African descent but you don’t seem to be. Did you choose this or did the illustrator? Do you try to include diversity in all of your books?

Rosa and the Red Apron was reviewed on this blog April 28, 2017 LINK

Leotta: Actually, they are not supposed to be of African descent in particular—the idea was to make them ethnically ambiguous. They could be anyone whose coloring is deep olive or brown: Some Hispanics, some East Asians, some African-Americans, some Middle Eastern folks and some Italian-Americans(old family photos of  mine show people of that coloring ). I am often asked, “What are you?” and I occasionally answer, “human, how about you?”

These ordinary experiences are not the particular “property” of any one ethnic group—all want, need and take joy in loving families. Yet, there are not many books out there showing such for anyone not blonde unless the characters are animals. I hoped Rosa would fill that gap. As a story performer, I often tell tales from many ethnicities, but on the same topic, subtly showing my audiences that each group has an interest in same basic things and each has value.

Ferrante: Your Legacy of Honor for book romance/mystery series features strong Italian-American women during the time of war. Tell us a little about the series. Why did you choose this topic?

Leotta: I grew up hearing stories of things my family did during wartime to support the efforts of the USA—both in combat (my father and uncles) and on the home front. I wanted to tell the stories of the valiant women. Desert Breeze wanted a set of four stories, so I started with WWII, then Korea, then Vietnam (where the woman serves in the war zone as a nurse!) and then Desert Storm (where women hold several roles, Journalists, home support and more). These stories are very close to home for me.

 

 

Ferrante: What kind of research did you to in order to write the books with authenticity?

Leotta: Research, research, research! I love research. As I shaped each story, I combed through books, newspaper articles, and sought first person accounts from people who lived through the eras in question so that details of things going on, places, would be accurate. For the first one, Giulia is the Italian spelling of a friend, named “Julia” who told me her story of leaving home and marrying a man who was not Italian-American. The research on the Wilmington shipyards—well, that was a lot of fun and I was already familiar with the resources. I had written several short stories about Wilmington history that took prizes from the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. An elder in my church provided me with his slides of Korea from when he was stationed there and a lot of anecdotes that appear in the book as things that happen to my main characters. For A Bowl of Rice, the Vietnam tale, I drew on the experiences of my former roommate,  who was a nurse in Vietnam. I read about the ways in which women journalists were working during the 90s and then also drew on Civil War history for the last book as well as lots of maps and a couple of recent visits to Rome to craft that tale.

Ferrante: What type of essays do you write? Are they about personal experiences or current events?

Leotta: I write personal experience essays. My work has been published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, Sassee magazine and SKIRT.

Ferrante: Are you working on more than one thing at a time? Or do you like to focus intently on a single piece of writing?

Leotta: I have a short attention span so I am always working on more than one thing. Often I am preparing something for a performance while writing as well. I used to write a lot of business articles. I kept only one client when we moved to North Carolina (that was my version of retirement) and now fill my time with poems (am revising at least one or starting one or both at all times). I am deadline driven (journalist habit) so my large projects are spaced out. When I get “stuck” I take a walk and tackle something in another genre.

Ferrante: You identify as a “story performer.” Tell us a little about what you do.

Leotta: I go to schools, libraries, and festivals and perform stories (often folk tales, sometimes notable women from history) as one woman shows. I love interaction, so I try to include my audience as much as possible. Even if the main stories are serious, I try to find places for humor too.

Ferrante: What is your latest publication and why do you think it’s worth buying?

Leotta: Rosa’s Shell is the latest—buy it for a good beach week tale for little ones. Great father-child bonding too.

Ferrante: What is the best advice you could give to a beginning writer based on your own experiences?

Leotta:  Pay attention to craft, look at rejections as stepping stones, and persist.

CLICK ON THE BOOK COVERS FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO BUY THE BOOK.

Ferrante: If you could invent a brand-new flavor of ice cream or sorbet, what would you choose?

Leotta: Lime vanilla swirl

Ferrante: If you could learn any dance perfectly, traditional or ethnic, which one would you choose?

Leotta: I can’t do any dance at all—I am without rhythm. Hmm, that makes this one soooooo tough. Anything I can dance with my husband maybe just the simple waltz so I wouldn’t step on him. (He is a good dancer)

Ferrante: If you were a colour what colour would you be? Why?

Leotta: I like blue the best, it’s my favorite. So I guess the blue of the sky so I could bask in the love of the sun and make my lap a play space for clouds

Ferrante: Thank you for participating in this interview series. Good luck with your new publications.

Joan Leotta’s Social Media links.

www.joanleotta.wordpress.com  (A series there on the birth of a picture book and photos of  the real Aunt Mary)

@beachwriter12 , Joan’s twitter handle

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Power Without Wisdom – Author Linda Yiannakis Three Random Questions Interview

lindabk

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.

smallcovererasable

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.

Ferrante:  Interesting.

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.

Click on this link to buy Erasable

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).

three random questions

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.

Click on this link to buy Erasable.

www.lindayiannakis.weebly.com

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Author Darren Groth Three Random Questions Interview

Darren Groth writes powerful and insightful young adult novels. His work has won several prestigious awards and has been a finalist for the coveted Governor General’s Literary Awards in Canada.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Darren. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to interview you.

Darren Groth: Thanks, Bonnie. Great to be with you.

Ferrante: You are originally from Australia and came to Canada in 2007. How does the literary landscape for young adult writers compare in Canada to Australia?

Groth: Writing-wise, both are at the cutting edge of YA. Fine work from any number of brilliant authors abounds in both countries. In terms of the industry, the category is robust and agile and leads the way in the quest to bring greater diversity to the shelves. One Aussie initiative that has been highly successful in spotlighting the category is ‘LoveOzYA’, which started as a humble hashtag and is now a vibrant movement attracting the attention of publishers and booksellers alike. It would be great to see ‘LoveCanYA’ or something similar put together here.

Ferrante: You have teenage twins, do they ever inspire your topics or approach to writing? Do you think they help you to reconnect with your teenage self?

Groth: As a writer who looks close to home for fictional fare, my twins have been very inspirational. My novels KINDLING and ARE YOU SEEING ME? are dedicated to my son and daughter respectively, and arose out of fundamental questions I grapple with as a father and parent. Do they help me reconnect with teen me? In some ways. More so, I think they give me a window on the young adult of today; the stuff that I never had to consider or deal with when I was their age, and the stuff that never changes and remains constant from generation to generation.

Ferrante: ARE YOU SEEING ME? was a powerful book about love, courage, and sacrifice, putting a sibling’s needs first. Although the protagonist was autistic, it was easy for the reader to relate to his inner landscape. You must have done a great deal of research to acquire such an intimate knowledge of this condition. What advice would you give my readers on interacting with people on the spectrum?

Reviewed on this blog April 15, 2017.

Groth: Thank you for those kind words – I’m thrilled you related so well to Perry. I did do quite a bit of research, but I’m also father to a fifteen year old son who is on the spectrum, so my intimate knowledge is also derived from lived experience. My advice for hanging out with ASD folks? Be open of mind, heart and spirit.

Ferrante: Justine cares for her autistic brother and is viewed with sympathy and admiration by others. She sees herself differently. What, if any, misconceptions would you like to see corrected about the family and support systems of people on the spectrum?

Groth: You nailed it with the sympathy and admiration associated with Justine. Viewing neurodiverse families primarily through such lenses is a symptom of ‘otherness’. We need to move beyond otherness and focus on the characteristics and the motivations and the joys and the challenges that are shared. We need to find and embrace ‘anotherness’.

Ferrante: Your newest release, MUNRO VS. THE COYOTE, is about grief and guilt manifesting as an inner critical voice Munro names the Coyote. Why did you choose this animal as the symbol of his psychological struggle?

Groth: Munro’s therapist, Ollie, names the voice ‘Coyote’ and it serves as a nod to First Nations folklore. Aboriginal tales often depict Coyote as a trickster and a deceiver – that was the perfect identity for the destructive presence plaguing Munro’s mind.

Ferrante: Munro goes to Australia, your previous home, on a student exchange. Do you often use Australia as the setting for your books? Does it feel more familiar for you than Vancouver, Canada?

Groth: I’ve largely used Aussie settings to this point in my career, but I’m gravitating more and more towards ‘home’ here in Canada. Interestingly, in MUNRO VS. THE COYOTE, Brisbane felt very foreign to me and I was much more comfortable writing the Vancouver references.

Ferrante: Several of your books feature protagonists who are a little different or have unusual characteristics such as autism and Down’s Syndrome. Could you tell us how and why you choose these particular subjects and what you do to ensure authenticity in your writing with regards to their abilities, challenges, and life experiences?

Groth: Between being an ASD parent and a former special education teacher, it’s no surprise that disability and neurodiversity feature prominently in my writing. It’s also important for me to tackle these subjects due to their poor levels of representation in YA and adult fiction. In this age of #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #OwnVoices, it’s vital that those marginalized groups with little or no agency to tell their stories still have a place on the shelves. Regarding authenticity, it requires immersed experience and quality research. And even with both of these things, the decision to write in first-person POV requires very serious consideration and, in some cases, rejection.

Ferrante: Is there anything you would like to share with us about your work or upcoming projects?

Groth: I’m very proud to say that my next book is a novella I co-wrote with my younger brother, Simon. It’s called INFINITE BLUE and will be released Fall 2018. Simon and I also do a podcast called ‘Fireproof Garage’ where we rant, lie, crack up, and generally talk all sorts of bookish stuff. You can find it at simongroth.com.

Ferrante: Now, for a bit of fun.

(From a bit of banter.)

Ferrante: Of all the movies you’ve seen, which one made the strongest impression?

Groth: ‘The Usual Suspects’ is my all-time fave. Iconic bad guy, and the finest example of unreliable narrator you’re ever likely to see.

Ferrante: What proverb best sums you up?

Groth: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Ferrante: If you were a natural disaster, what would you be, and why?

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages