1. Tell us a bit about yourself – something that we will not find in the official author’s bio?
I really like animals. In fact, my house feels at times like a mini suburban zoo. Almost accidentally we have a male and a female Dalmatian that eerily resemble in temperament, personality and appearance to Shai and Dolly, the heroes in What Didn’t Happen. Sometimes, when I look quickly at them it’s easy to get confused to time and place. During Covid-19 lockdown we got another Dalmatian puppy. He is the cousin of our current female Dal and the nephew of our male Dal and he is a bold, silly, independent character. We also have 2 rabbits, 2 parakeets, 4 betta fish, a small freshwater lobster that eats any fish that we house with him. During Covid quarantine we have also acquired 15 heritage breed chickens that we started as chicks. I never thought I would use or know, or need to use or know the term pasty butt in chicks, but I have and I will leave it at that. Somewhere on the wish list for the future there are also goats and an armadillo lizard. While much of our day seems to be tied to animal care, living with so much nature with us brings a level of noise and calm at the same time.
2. Do you remember what was your first story (article, essay, or poem) about and when did you write it?
When I was in second grade I wrote a poem for a regional poetry contest. It was a requirement of school and I was in a class with who would be my most formative teacher of my entire education. It was also just a few months after I had suffered my three concussions. It was a sad and dark poem that is easy to see now as a young girl being out of control and grief struck. But at the time I saw it as a poem about bees and the sadness and grief they experience about having to protect themselves and their hive and then also knowing that their stinging and protection would lead to their own death. My teacher was excited about the poem and returned a draft with slash marks where she wanted me to start a new line so it was written as a poem. I didn’t understand the slash marks that she made meant I needed to start a new line. Instead, I rewrote the poem inserting slash marks rather than starting new lines. My teacher was confused by my confusion and explained it again. I wrote it again with the slashes rather than the new lines. I was embarrassed and frustrated and finally understood the third time. I won the poetry contest but didn’t understand because in fact, I didn’t really like poetry. I did however like the feeling of people responding to my writing. That’s what stuck.
3. What is the title of your latest book and what inspired it?
What Didn’t Happen, is a title that came easily to me. As a therapist I was trained to see and label the trauma or what went wrong in my patient’s lives. But I’ve also always been inclined to understand that it’s often what didn’t happen in peoples lives that can be even more traumatic. In my memoir, it wasn’t just the trauma I experienced that was the problem. In fact it was the lack of recognition, understanding, connectivity and proper attachment that led to the bigger trauma. I often believe it’s what doesn’t happen in our lives that shapes us more than what does happen.
4. How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast do you write (how many words daily)?
It took me 2 years to write What Didn’t Happen. It was a series of starts and stops interrupted by life itself. Sometimes the words and thoughts flowed and sometimes they were void. Sometimes I wrote feverishly for days and then not at all for months.
5. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I’m not all that fond of small talk and I am a swim mom. This left me with the dilemma of forcing myself into small talk or finding something more productive to do. In some way, that’s why I started writing. As it turned out, I wrote every drafted word to What Didn’t Happen, on the notes section of my iphone while sitting at swim practices for my children and prolonged weekend swim meets. I then transferred the notes to my email and transferred the emails into working documents. Eventually, I had hundreds of pages of roughly written chapters that were in no particular order at all. I printed them all up, laid them out on the floor and moved the pages around like a giant chess board until I had cohesion.
6. Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than just writing?
I find that most of my creativity actually occurs when I am riding my bike, and training for track racing. At those times my mind is unencumbered, free and open. Writing is the portal for the thoughts to come out, but it’s not where or when they are created.
7. Authors and books that have influenced your writings?
One of the most influential books I have read is West With The Night, by Beryl Markham. Her descriptiveness of the freedom of flight and the expanse of Africa, offered me a connection with two experiences I have never personally lived through yet I felt intimately connected to and moved by. I was easily both Beryl, her plane, and her country all at once. I thought that was magical. I have also been deeply influenced by Kay Redfield Jamison’s, An Unquiet Mind. This book was permission for me to be both a patient and a clinician and not see oneself as a failure because of mental illness. She offered hope that in fact illness can be a gift and a tool to be better as a therapist, understand more of our patients, and persevere.
8. What are you working on right now? Anything new cooking in the wordsmith’s kitchen?
I am excited to be working on a YA novel called The Ghost Bike. Saddened over the past few years to have known many cyclists that have been killed by cars, I’ve also been inspired by the movement of ghost bike installations that have become grassroot streetside memorials to those killed. The book is about a cycling accident and how that impacts a group of young girls.
9. Did you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think – who reads and who should read your books?
I have two very different books right now. One a memoir and one a YA. In some way, like any book, they are both about overcoming a challenge or crisis. For What Didn’t Happen, my memoir, I imagine coaches, victims of brain injuries, and those who love those victims to read this book. As a society we are just beginning to see the wide reaching and amorphous impact of brain injuries. We still have limited understanding of them. I am hoping this book offers some understanding, and rather than putting people into boxes of diagnosis or problems it offers hope that the world is in fact bigger than those boxes. For The Ghost Bike, my readers are a YA audience or anyone who enjoys reading YA, myself included. I think this book is more geared towards the dynamics and difficulties of girls relationships with themselves and their peers.
10. Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
My advice for new writers is to never let anyone tell you that you are not a writer. If they do, ignore them. If you are compelled to write, then you have something important to say. And if you have something important to say, someone will experience this as important to hear.
11. What is the best advice (about writing) you have ever heard?
The best advice I have ever heard about writing is to just keep doing it. Even if you think you are stuck or you feel that you’ve lost your voice, just keep writing. Write about something else. Write about anything. This advice has helped me when I don’t want to write, or I feel disconnected from my voice, or I am blocked. Just keep writing through it.
12. How many books you read annually and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
To be honest, reading is a struggle at times. My attention span is terrible and so is my memory. I am also a chameleon and when I am writing I need to be careful not to be influenced by other writer’s voices because then I tend to lose my own. I am famous for reading parts of books and losing interest and abandoning them. Some of this happens because if I get distracted and can’t read every day I lose connection to the story or characters or plot. In these periods of my life I find it easier to read non-fiction where it’s less important to pay attention to details or plot twists. I enjoy adrenaline packed books such as Touching the Void, Into Thin Air, and Into the Wild. In another life I would like to climb Everest, or at least live deep in the wilderness.
When I read fiction and I’m able to concentrate, where I once wanted to read books that I could relate to, lately I have wanted to read books that have nothing to do with my life or my worries or struggles. This is evidenced by my recently being sucked into The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, which was a delicious book that has nothing to do with any of my personal experiences.
13. What do you deem the most relevant about your writing? What is the most important to be remembered by readers?
I want my readers walking away from my writing not just thinking that they will be okay, but also believing that they will be okay. Whatever you are going through, maybe the plot twist of your life won’t be the ones you expect, or plan for, but you can get through them, and there will always be people, even if you have to look hard for them, that can help you. I want my readers to learn how to find their own gut and own voice.
14. What is your opinion about the publishing industry today and about the ways authors can best fit into the new trends?
When I started this process I saw the world of publishing a series of walls. It’s a world designed and built upon rejection. Inherently this can be difficult for anyone, let alone a moderately introverted insecure writer such as myself. I found the process of publishing to be a profound power dynamic where the writer is left with little power. I think there are many more models for getting published and getting your voice heard. This model of publications from indie, to hybrid offer a route to reclaim your power. Ultimately, the walls have doors, you just have to keep looking and squeezing through.