Author Interview: Multi-Published Author Sharon Maas Tackles Diversity In Publishing And Writes A Story About A Family Of Women, Healing, and Love

dorothea qToday I’m pleased that the insightful and generous Sharon Maas is back with us on Women’s Fiction Writers. Sharon struggled to find a home for her novel that features Guyanese women, a story not set in the US. But she held fast to her belief that “Diversity in publishing seems to be hot at this time, and publishers are waking up to the fact that brown people read too, and white people don’t mind reading about brown characters in foreign countries!”

While it’s not the same thing, in the early stages of getting feedback for The Glass Wives, I an editor told me no one would read it or understand it unless they were Jewish. (Soooo not true!) That really made me mad and I realized there would always be people who wanted to read only about what and who they knew. Luckily, most people want to expand their horizons through reading, not limit them. 

Sharon Maas deserves your attention. Grab a cuppa, read, and share your thoughts in the comments.

Amy xo

Author Sharon Maas Tackles Diversity In Publishing And Writes A Story About A Family Of Women, Healing, and Love

dorothea q

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Guest Post: When Is It Time To Consider Yourself A Real Writer?

Med_you'llbethinkingofme2_505x825It’s a new year. Do you have the same old attitude? Is it time for a shift?

Are you struggling with whether you’re a real writer? A novelist? An author? Read author Densie Webb’s (and no, it’s not Denise, it’s Densie) account of how bad she had to feel in order to get a place where she could feel better. Many of us have been there. I feel like I’ve known Densie FOREVER, and it’s great to feature her here today, and to celebrate the release of her debut novel, YOU’LL BE THINKING OF ME. 

 And to answer the question “When is it time to consider yourself a real writer?” I’d say: Any time you damn well please.

But that’s just me. ;-)

Please welcome Densie to Women’s Fiction Writers and share your stories in the comments.

Amy xo

When Is It Time To Consider Yourself A Real Writer?

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Author Interiew: Debut Author Sonja Yoerg Rises From The Slush Pile After Querying 100+ Agents

House BrokenHappy New Year fellow women’s fiction writers and readers. New year, new author. Apropos, right? 

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Sonja Yoerg, who’s debut novel, HOUSE BROKEN, is a riveting family saga strewn with secrets. It’s deftly told from three points of view, and that’s no easy task! I was impressed by the distinctness of the three voices from three generations. I loved that HOUSE BROKEN is set in the present. I enjoy historical fiction but have just been itching to read a slew of contemporary books, since that’s what I write. HOUSE BROKEN did not disappoint. Plus, look at the face on the cover! How could I resist? 

Please welcome Sonja Yoerg to Women’s Fiction Writers and tell us about your journey to publication in the comments. (When I read Sonja’s answers, I emailed her immediately because I’d queried well over 100 agents as well the first time around.)

Here’s to a productive 2015 for us all!

Amy xo

Debut Author Sonja Yoerg Rises From The Slush Pile After Querying 100+ Agents

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If You Give A Mom A Memory…

A few days ago when I was driving home, I saw something walk across a lawn right around the corner from my house. My thought was vague, yet concise.

That is not a dog.

So I pulled over, made sure my doors were locked, and called the police. I mean, really. I live in SUBURBAN CHICAGO.

The response to my claim that I’d seen a wolf?

“Oh, you mean a coyote? Yes, they’re everywhere.”

I’ve lived here for fifteen years. Never seen one before. Bunnies? Feral cats? Raccoons? Yes. Wolves? Coyotes? No.

Just another reason I’m moving when my daughter graduates college.

But, this blog post isn’t about the safety of my senior dogs in our backyard or even the fact that I’m living here with one foot far out the door. When I was repeating this story to my kids late at night, I remembered another story of unwelcome wildlife. And then I had a realization. With a mouse it might be cookies*, but with a mom, it’s memories. Once you get started, you just can’t stop.

So I’m sharing an old story here (and maybe more in days to come), and a reminder to watch where you step!

Amy xo

Killer Sandals

By Amy Sue Nathan

4f35fb88d580dd6bbddd7d34a251ac55“I killed it with a Birkenstock ,” I said, beaming, as l described having whacked a light brown fuzzy tarantula, the size of half a tennis ball, in defense of the bathtub toys. Then I explained how brave with the fortitude of motherhood, I scooped the still beast with a shoe box lid into a shoe box and threw it over the wall into the wash – the wildlife area behind our house in Tucson that was supposed to keep creatures out, not let them in.”You’re not supposed to kill them,” my neighbor said slowly, as if to scold me.She had her hands on her hips and very well may have said we weren’t allowed to kill them, but I tuned her out after “not.” If anything besides my two-year-old and six-year-old were going crawl around that bathtub, I was going to have something to say about it.

When I saw that tarantula in the tub, I knew Tucson was not the place for me.

It had been our fourth interstate move in eight years. I relocated with ease – packing and unpacking boxes, driving cross-country, finding schools, kids’ playmates, dry cleaners, take-out Chinese — but acclimating to the desert mentality was a different story. It wasn’t so much the tarantula as the fact that I wasn’t supposed to have killed it. That brought me face to face with reality. I was indifferent to the wildlife around me, and not only was I at odds with nature, but with my neighbors.

I grew up stepping on ants and over cracks, squashing spiders, and spraying bees in the brick cityscape of a Philadelphia row house neighborhood. The view consisted of attached rooftops, telephone wires strewn with Converse sneakers, and a limited sky. In the desert Southwest it was still all gray and brown all around me, but it was nature, not construction. Above my faux adobe home was where the sky wrapped around the world – I was sure of it. Every night magenta and mandarin sunsets cascaded over the western horizon and looked like a water color painting. It took my breath away in much the same way as a childhood game of hide and seek. I knew what was coming, but each time met it with excitement and authentic surprise. If I could have lived there and never looked down to the ground  it would have been close to perfect.

Backon the ground ,my neighbors — all transplants from other states — adopted the Southwest as their home. It was never clearer to me than one winter weekend afternoon when from behind the safety of my double-pane, locked windows I watched as the lot of them stood on their driveways in their non-arachnid killing Birkenstocks, riveted, watching as a six-foot snake wriggled up the road. It was not a garden snake. I shook my head as one man swept it to “safety” with a kitchen broom. I swept a dead field mouse – a gift from the dog – out of one of my kitchens years before – but I drew the line at serpents.

While the nights were cool enough for merely a sweater, even in January, we took walks with flashlights, not only because there was nary a streetlight in the Santa Catalina foothills, but because snakes like to take walks at night too, as did the javelina. The black wild pigs also liked to eat out of trash cans and made a mess that would have brought my faraway friends’ suburban raccoons to their knees.

Wildlife sightings were like candy to the adults I knew. They collected their stories of mountain lions sightings on the way to Safeway, and doled them out carefully. Like treasured war stories they were embellished for effect, with the animals getting bigger and closer and more wild in each telling. I always wanted to ask if they drove faster or slower when all that happened, because I knew what I’d do.

Growing up in a city I imagined that “making it” meant you had a front lawn and a back yard and a lawn mower — two other things that eluded my childhood. But the desert landscape twisted my perception. The most expensive homes were the ones with the most rocks and the most varying shades of gray, white and brown. And these desert dwellers adored their sodded quilt square of grass just as we, on our stoops, adored our own measly patches. To me the color of opulence was green. Not dollar green, but grass green, and that didn’t change no matter how many neutral rock gardens I encountered.

I did develop an appreciation for the beauty around me when I learned to see it — the way the dessert bloomed in the fall with orange and yellow flowers sprouting from the gray green saguaro cacti, so in contrast to its smooth skin and verboten spines. The way wildflowers scattered themselves magically across the brown mountainside, emerging from rocky dry soil. I often had to remind myself what month it was, because the desert did not have the same calendar as the rest of the country. The jagged tips of the bordering mountains met the blue sky every day of the year.

But even with the emergent and subtle splendor, I never got used to geckos darting out from nowhere to run across my path, or having an exterminator once-a-month to keep the tiny clear deadly scorpions at bay. It was their home I’d invaded, I realized. How I longed for the familiarity of a crawly black ant to scamper across the sidewalk, and not the microscopic red ones that nipped once at my daughter’s feet and kept her in shoes the entire time she was two.

Living there was a beautiful dream, but I was ready to wake up.

And along with a passion for wildlife came a casual essence that saturated the desert community in an equally ardent way. I realized over and over again, as I dressed my daughter in coordinated outfits to play outside on the playground in late December, that other toddlers looked as dusty as the desert floor and their moms were more hippie than PTO. God, I yearned to be someplace it wasn’t always ok to wear flip flops. I did not see my own reflection in any mom I’d met in the two years we lived there. I began to forget what I looked like.

I raised the white flag. As much as I enjoyed watering flowers in January I was just not the lizard or insect loving kind. I preferred my nature in a vase in the middle of the dining room table. What surrounded me in the desert did not feel natural to me at all.

Months later, while packing boxes for my family’s recoil to life with a fenced-in backyard and snowy winters, a three-inch curled tail reddish-brown scorpion raced across my Saltillo tile foyer. With half of a five-dollar pair of flip flops I smashed it, and then flicked it out the front door to its final resting place among the sandy white rocks. It epitomized my life’s brief desert backdrop.

I told no one, and packed faster.

Slightly edited, but originally published on The Imperfect Parent
*If you don’t know the book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, you should, whether or not you have kids.

Holiday Flashback: A Jewish Mom’s Christmas Poem

You might remember this, you might not. I wrote it quite a few years ago and post it every year, when I remember to do so. And I’m remembering! Hanukkah doesn’t rival Christmas on the holiday scale. Jewish “big” days are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and I’d add Passover. But it’s hard to ignore a holiday that’s everywhere, even (or perhaps especially) when it’s not your own. It’s also hard to ignore a holiday that shuts down publishing for weeks.

I’ve always loved the secular Christmas hoopla that surrounds me. And yes, sometimes I covet it. (I don’t have any way or reason to be involved in the religious aspects.) I delight in Christmas in the malls, on the radio, on houses, on plates. I love to drive around and look at Christmas lights, and if someone says, “Merry Christmas,” I say, “Same to you.”

In my opinion, there is nothing bad about this time of year, except that all my network TV shows are on hiatus.

Amy xo

 

The Gingerbread Mensch

The Gingerbread Mensch

A Jewish Mom’s Christmas Poem

I’ve never had Christmas, it’s to my dismay
As I love all the lights, and the trees and the sleigh

I long for the red and the green M&Ms
There’s a hole in my heart, where a caroler stems

I have a bay window, where a tree would look grand
And not one but two fireplaces, where St. Nick could stand

I would cook up a dinner, put Thanksgiving to shame,
I would revel in guests, endlessly entertain

Yet my heritage dictates, and beliefs coincide
That memories of Maccabees, bring December pride

It’s not a big feast, it’s a festival just
But celebration and eating, are a Hanukkah must

It’s not Jewish Christmas, it celebrates light
And a small and strong army, that fought with much might

Though I love all the fuss, that is Christmas each year
I hold my own holidays steadfast and dear

I do not miss, what I never have had
So when others are puzzled, thinking I’m sad

I assure them I’m happy, it does not take a toll
To watch Christmas pass by, while eating egg roll

I’ll unpack the menorahs, make a final gift run,
Hanukkah here, will be nothing but fun

But I’ll stand at the window, on your Christmas Eve
And watch out for Santa, because it’s good to believe.

Author Interview: Multi-published author, Mingmei Yip, Says Sometimes, It Is A Single Word That Brightens A Whole Paragraph

mingmeiOnce again, we welcome author Mingmei Yip to Women’s Fiction Writers. Her novels come from history, culture, and her passion for her subject and for storytelling. That’s a lesson right there! But her advice to aspiring authors really hits home. Tell me if you agree. You’ll also find the trailer for her new novel at the end of the interview, I hope you’ll take a look!

Please welcome Mingmei Yip back to WFW!

Amy xo

“Sometimes, it is a single word that brightens a whole paragraph”

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How to Write When You Don’t Have Time (or have had too much egg nog—or Hanukkah gelt)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? It’s cold, wet, gets dark at 4:30, and most of us have no time or energy to write.

Let me explain. We’re entranced during this season. I don’t even celebrate Christmas, and Hanukkah/Chanukah/Hanukah is technically classified as a festival, and while important, it does not, in any way, have the heft of, let’s say, Passover or Yom Kippur, yet it gets all the good press. I digress. There are lights, food, and happy faces. People want to chat. They want to know your plans, about your kids, about your life (which has given way to those Xmas letters). What’s not to feel good about? Don’t forget Christmas decorations. Because lights. Need I say more?

What’s not to feel good about is falling behind on a deadline or a work-in-progress. It’s not bad to take a break. At one point while writing The Glass Wives (which seems like a lifetime ago) I stopped for six months for some life-tending. But if you don’t want to take a break, but feel like it’s time to spend your time on other things, remember that you can’t really write without living your life.

So go live it!

When people would ask me if the characters in The Glass Wives were based on real people, I answered honestly. Yes and no. Did I know people exactly like the characters? No. But were they snippets or truth stirred with pure imagination? Yes. But one of my favorite stories to tell is how one day I was waiting for my daughter to come out of junior high (she’s a college sophomore now) and I saw another pick-up lane mom get out of her car. She was dressed just the way I’d imagined my character, Laney, to dress. So I watched her. I watched the way she walked in her books and the way her coat swayed. I watched her push her long curly hair off her shoulders then scoop it back again. And, creepy as it may sound, every time I wrote about Laney I thought of this woman, this scene. But at that moment, I wasn’t writing a thing. Nor did I take a note, or record a voice memo. I simply had the experience and used it later.

You know, in my writing.

Nowadays I’m working part-time at a friend’s restaurant. Every day I talk to a hundred people if not more. Most are friendly, some are not. A few are rude. Some are in clothes that tell me what their jobs are, like a policeman or road worker (it’s the fluorescent vest that gives it away). Some are in clothes that tell me nothing except that the person cares about style, or doesn’t. I also know that I don’t know much about any of them but that it doesn’t matter because I write fiction. And when it’s time for me to write about something icky — I’ll likely remember the guy who handed me his credit card after holding it in his mouth.

When I want to write about confusion I’ll write about people who don’t leave a tip (I don’t waitress, but please, if someone is cooking your food, delivering it to you, and cleaning it up, leave a dollar on the table).

When I want to write about entitlement I’ll likely try to channel the woman who is never satisfied, never has enough crackers, or pickles, or mustard, and always wants something free to make up for it.

Maybe if I want a little angst, I’ll write about the bathroom lock that gets stuck every time I’m in there.

Perhaps one of my characters will wear a lovely hat with a purple flower, like a woman I met yesterday. Or maybe I’ll describe the reaction to someone having matzah ball soup for the first time. Or kreplach.

So, in the season of parties and shopping and family gatherings lies your opportunity to gather up all of the goodness and save it for a time when you do have time to write. When you have a character who requires a joyous demeanor, or an overstuffed belly, or even a Grinchy mood. Or a fancy hat. Or food on his face.

The best part is, no one knows what you’re doing. And you won’t be writing about these people, just your experience of them.

Don’t forget about the feeling you get when you wait in line for an hour, or get caught in a two-for-one sweater frenzy. Don’t forget the excitement of seeing someone you haven’t seen all year—or maybe that’s worry.

Whoever you see and whatever you do, if you need to, just pack away the pen and the smart phone and enjoy the season. Take it all in, but don’t take notes.  It will all be there when you need it, ready to be retrieved, and when your belly is filled with food, your calendar is filled with plans, your closets are filled with hidden gifts—hopefully your head will be filling with ideas!