Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a graduate of the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing. My first book, a memoir-in-essays titled Message From a Blue Jay, was published by independent press Buddhapuss Ink in 2014. I have published personal essays, short fiction, and poetry in a variety of literary journals and magazines. I’m also an Adjunct Professor of English at Lasell College.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Message From a Blue Jay is a collection of personal essays that were written over a number of years and that reflect on the events in my life (and the world around me) during what I call my “middle decade” — my 40s. I was inspired by everything from my personal history as the child of a Holocaust survivor and my start at a new life with my husband to travels around the world and the birds and animals I encountered in nature. Life has its ups and downs, its “wins” and its losses, and I reflected on all of that in my essays.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
My writing habits are pretty usual…I write early in the mornings whenever possible, and am most productive when an idea grabs me and keeps me thinking about it and working on it for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Sometimes I go through dry spells when I find it’s harder to write and nothing seems to work well, but I push through those times and try to keep writing whatever comes to mind as practice until the muse visits again.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I love classic literature…from Shakespeare to Jane Austen to the Russian classics. I’ve also been influenced by modernist texts and a variety of contemporary writers and essayists, and by mystery writers such as Tony Hillerman and Tana French. My tastes vary widely — I can become engrossed in everything from a Harry Potter novel to a book of poems by T.S. Eliot. My writing has also been influenced by some of the wonderful faculty members in my MFA program: Joy Castro, Michael Steinberg, Randall Kenan, and Laban Carrick Hill.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on both short fiction and more personal essays right now. I’ve been kicking around ideas for a fiction novel, but so far nothing has started in earnest.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
My publisher, Buddhapuss Ink, helped a lot with marketing Message From a Blue Jay. I think Bookbub was one of their most successful promotions.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Just keep writing, keep working to get better, and don’t let the almost inevitable rejection stop you. Find a reason you’re doing it for yourself and feel happy with following your own path, because if you’re doing it for reasons like money or fame or major literary success, the chance of being disappointed is much greater.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
“Get back up. You chose this. Keep writing.”
What are you reading now?
I’m reading a mystery novel right now that I’m not too involved in. I just finished a couple of books that I found to be more well-written: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and The Girl on the Train by Paul Hawkins. My Brilliant Friend had a very European feel and was fascinating and intellectually stimulating and somewhat unique….while The Girl on the Train kept me absorbed in the story, even though I know some people haven’t loved the book.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I am working hard to get a rhythm going with either some new essays and stories, or a novel. I had to take a bit of time off recently, so now I’m really trying to get re-focused on new projects.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Oh, I don’t think I can answer that question. It’s so tough! Taking a stab at it, I’d say I’d have to take the Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Pride and Prejudice. After that maybe I’d take War and Peace or Anna Karenina…and maybe the Norton Anthology of Poetry to get a lot of poetry in…and can I take all of the Harry Potter novels and count that as one?