Ever feel like hanging up your ‘supermom’ cape, shuttering the house and moving the family to India and Nepal? That’s what Dena Mose did in THE BUDDHA SAT RIGHT HERE

By Leslie Lindsay 

Family, adventure, connections, and generosity abound in Dena Moses’s THE BUDDHA SAT RIGHT HERE, an American family’s travel odyssey to India and New Delhi.

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I’ll admit it: I’ve often thought about selling the house, pulling the kids out of school, and high-tailing it to…where? I don’t know, exactly. Ireland? The Tuscan hills of Italy? Some bucolic mountain meadow in Switzerland? Any of those places would do. Maybe someplace more remote, more gritty. But would I? Really?

Dena Moes does. She and her husband and two daughters head for India and Nepal, where they have a spiritual awakening, see a better way of living their life…it will challenge your parenting and how you look at the world. And her luminous new memoir, THE BUDDHA SAT RIGHT HERE (SWP, April 5 2019) delves right into this.


“Prepare to be Inspired! The Buddha Sat Right Here will open your heart, crack you up, and maybe even change all the ways you engage in parenting, adventure, and spiritual path. Dena’s writing is magical.”         

– Ariel Gore, author of We Were Witches and Hip Mama’s Survival Guide


Here we are at the height of spring. It’s a time of reflection, of renewal, and perhaps a time to make a new start. You don’t have to go on an eight-month odyssey to another country–but maybe a smaller, more powerful change will do?

I’m so honored and grateful for this lovely essay by Dena–it’s an inside look at her journey–personal, spiritual, and literal. So, grab your favorite beverage and settle in.

THREADS OF ENLIGHTENMENT

by Dena Moes

I was trying to be an American Supermom, and failing. From the outside we looked like a perfect family, but on the inside I struggled with anger, resentment, and dissatisfaction. I was a midwife, providing home birth care for women in our community, and on top of that I was trying to “ do it all” – keep a beautiful house, cook organic healthy meals, have my kids in enrichment activities, and keep a marriage going. I was overwhelmed by handling all the details. I loved my work, I adored my kids, and yet – I would look at myself in the mirror, dark circles under my eyes, and wonder, “Is this it? I have everything, so why do I feel miserable?”

When I first recognized this unhappiness, I thought, “There must be something wrong with me. I am not trying hard enough.” Women are so good at that. Maybe I can take a pill, or lose ten pounds, or clean out the closets to fix this. Then I blamed my husband Adam, who did not care like I did whether or not the kids had broccoli with their rotisserie chicken dinner, or how clean the house was. But because I had studied Buddhism for many years, I eventually turned to the Buddha’s teachings: The wheel of Samsara is interminable, phenomena are illusory, and will arise and pass. There is something already perfect and whole within everyone. It is merely covered by distractions, like clouds hide the sun. I yearned to explore what this meant. Someday. When things quieted down and I had time.

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, a remarkable thing happened to my childless sister, a foreign correspondent living in New Delhi. At the tender age forty-five she gave birth to a daughter – a  miracle –  and I went to visit and help with the baby for a couple weeks. When I returned, all I could think about was going back to India, for longer, with the family. “India is a fire in my blood!” I would tell people. India is rich in ancient religions – Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, the Jains. These traditions have unbroken lineages over centuries of practice and study. In a temple beside the sacred Ganges river, a place where people have prayed daily for five thousand years, something deep within me opened, and the clouds of distraction briefly parted. I came home with a crazy idea – to pull the kids out of school, rent out the house, and take the family on an eight month pilgrimage through India and Nepal.

My husband, Adam, had spent a year in India in his youth, and was open to my wild scheme. Our vision: In the places where the Buddha lived, the mountain village H.H. the Dalai Lama calls home, and the ashram of Amma the Divine Mother, we would gain valuable perspective on the purpose of this beautiful, precious life.

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So in 2014 we did it – we shuttered the house and went. With backpacks on our shoulders, we criss-crossed India by train, bus, and rickshaw. We trekked in the Himalayas, walked along the Ganges in Varanasi, and sat by the tree where the Buddha sat and awakened to enlightenment. Our daughters Bella and Sophia, then ten and fourteen, were intrepid travel companions, and magnetized beautiful connections wherever we went, the way only children can.

Our experience was incredible –  from the people we met, to the spiritual teachings we received, to the beautiful and chaotic adventure of traveling India by rail. We saw ourselves as ambassadors of peace from the United States and my children developed deep respect for cultures and peoples different from our own. This is vital in a time when walls are being built to separate us.

We were on a pilgrimage, traveling with the intention of getting closer to what really matters. The messages of the teachers we met, and the holy places we visited, is that love and compassion are at the heart of everything.  Money, fancy cars, and possessions are not what lead us there – our own openness and presence does.

When we returned home everyone asked “How was India?” I couldn’t possibly explain. This was not a journey most Americans could easily relate to – A year in India, exactly, that is what I want for my family too.

Not so much.

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I wrote the book to share what we learned, broaden my readers’ understanding of India, and inspire others to follow their hearts. But it became much more than a how-to-travel-in-India book. Our marriage problems resulted in a dramatic reckoning in the remote Himalayas near the end of our trip. I intended to leave all of that out, but as I wrote, I could not tease our relationship issues out of the story. This was the grist for my spiritual mill – and added another layer to our exploration of love.

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I see this memoir as woven, like a rug, or a shawl. Threads of seeking enlightenment, threads of a midwife, a marriage, a mother. This makes my book hard to categorize. Foreword reviews called it “…a vibrant travelogue, a heartwarming family tale, a spiritual study, and a comedy sketch” and I think they got that right. It is a travelogue, a feminist rant, and a love letter to India. People ask if my book is just for Buddhists. My book is for anyone who dreams of travel, for parents who thirst for adventure, for women tired of their hamster-wheel routines, and for people who are open to seeking meaning in their lives beyond the acquisition of material things. Buddhist philosophy is woven in too, but the themes of love, compassion, and peace are universally relevant.

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For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE BUDDHA SAT RIGHT HERE, please visit: 

Order Links:

DSC_0041ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dena Moes is a Hollywood born, Yale educated midwife with a BA in literature and an MS in Nursing. She is the author of The Buddha Sat Right Here: A Family Odyssey Through India and Nepal, publication date April 2, 2019. Her book is a memoir of adventure, motherhood, and love, woven into a spiritual journey. Dena’s writing has been published in Midwifery Today, Minerva RisingMuthaGrown and Flown, and The Wisdom DailyAs a nurse-midwife Dena has provided compassionate healthcare to women, mothers, and babies for twenty years. Learn more about Dena , and order the book, at http://www.denamoes.com

 

 

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#family #mothering #travel #India #Nepal #enlightenment #memoir 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Dena Moes and used with permission. Family of four in India retrieved from the author’s website on 3.09.19]

Inspired by the evils that lurk on social media, Heather Gudenkauf talks about her newest book, BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND, tween aggression, mental health, and more

By Leslie Lindsay 

Gripping small town thriller about three young girls, a horrific accident, social media and social aggression in Heather Gudenkauf’s newest, BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND. 

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I’ve been a fan of Heather Gudenkauf’s work since THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE (2008), and always, always look forward to her new releases. I love that she continually writes about Iowa, a gentle reminder that the Midwest has so much to offer–and so much can happen in these small, seemingly ‘boring’ towns–the communities are close-knit and geographically gorgeous with craggy cliffs overlooking river bends, winter wheat fields, and steel-gray sky. Maybe because I’m a Midwesterner at heart, too.

BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND (Park Row/HarperCollins, April 16 2019) features three girls, all aged 12. 

Violet: She’s new to town, having recently relocated to Pitch, Iowa from Arizona with her single mother and other brother, Max. She’s eager to fit in and make friends.

Jordyn: The ‘bad egg.’ Jordyn lives with her grandparents, Thomas and Tess because her parents abandoned her when she was young. Thomas and Tess own a local bar and are doing the best they can to raise Jordyn, the daughter they never had. But she’s troubled and often runs hot and cold.

Cora: The ‘good’ local girl. Plays by the book. Sensitive and emotional. Has difficulty fitting in, but generally does the right thing. Lives with mother, father, and older sister, Kendall.

Read an excerpt from WHERE SHE WAS FOUND. 

When the girls are placed in the same social studies group at school, the dynamics shift. They have been assigned a project looking at urban legends. Jordyn suggests the group researches the legend of Joseph Wither, a young man who purportedly abducted girls in the 1940s. The legend comes to life, especially for Cora. She is convinced he’s real–but how could that be?

I love this little infographic of Heather’s books. I wasn’t sure if Pitch, Iowa was a real town. Now I know!

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BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND starts off with a grisly scene at the train tracks. We then work backward to find out just what happened that night at the train yard via various types of social media: texts between the girls, Cora’s journal entries, police interviews, chat room discussions, and multiple character POVs.

The urban legend of Joseph Wither takes center stage, creating a sense of community claustrophobia, where anyone and everyone could be a suspect. I found the writing eerily compelling and themes of social aggression among girls frighteningly authentic. 

Please join me in welcoming the lovely Heather Gudenkauf back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Heather, this book is so eerily creepy. I’m struck by the authenticity of the turbulent relationship between the three girls—Violet, Jordyn, and Cora—and also the draw of this urban legend of Joseph Wither. What was the seed for BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND?

Heather Gudenkauf:

Just like many of my novels, the idea for BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND was inspired by the headlines. Not far from where I live the story of two young girls who were obsessed with an online character called Slender Man that originated as an online meme, hit the news. Over the years, Slender Man, a frightening figure with a blank face, has been the subject of short stories, videos, art work and video games. The girls, believing the entity would hurt them and their families, lured a classmate into a wooded area and attacked her. The attack not only had a devastating impact on the victim and her family, but on the perpetrators, their families and the entire community.

As I began writing the novel, I became more and more aware of many accounts of those who have misused social media by trolling and harassing others from behind a keyboard –  sometimes anonymously, sometimes openly. Through my writing I wanted to explore how social media, the lack of mental health services and family dynamics can impact actions and decisions that have life-altering costs to all involved.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I think as long as there are preteen girls, there will be social aggression. But I think the forms of aggression can vary. We’re now living in a digital age where social media can wreak havoc on young lives (and not just girls). In fact, I overheard a news story indicating that teens ages 12-17 are more depressed and anxious than any other age group. That mostly is because this age group hasn’t developed the abstract thought processes to accurately disentangle social media ‘slights.’ What more can you add?

Heather Gudenkauf:

You are right. A new generation has grown up with social media and it has become so ingrained into day to day life. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says one in five children ages 13-18 have, or will have, a serious mental illness and this isn’t news to the educators who work with kids. In fact, when asked, teachers often say that the mental health of their students is their number one concern. Many educators and advocates believe that the increase in the number of students with anxiety and depression comes from social media and its 24-7, looming presence and influence.

This makes sense when we look at social platforms and their ultimate goal – the number of likes and views garnered. This need for approval, especially from peers, can become a source of self-worth in tweens and teens (adults too). This is why it is so important for parents to monitor their child’s online activity and to have conversations about the reality – or lack thereof – behind social media.


“Eerily page-turning and wonderfully twisty, Before She Was Found is the riveting story of one troubled group of young girls struggling to belong, and the frighteningly blurred boundary between where urban legend ends and real danger begins.”

Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia and Where They Found Her


Leslie Lindsay:

You’re a mom and a former teacher, which helps, because much of the writing in BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND is told from a 12-year old’s POV. And also texts and chat rooms. This makes for a unique reading experience—what did you do to get the voices ‘just right?’ Did you feel challenged by this structure or invigorated?

Heather Gudenkauf:

I did find it challenging to get Cora’s voice right. It was so important to me that I portrayed the inner thoughts of a young girl struggling with finding her place in the world. I kept journals as a child and as I wrote the novel, I tried to channel my inner sixth grader but those days are long gone so I reached out to my now adult daughters as well as younger family members for their insights. I’d ask if a twelve-year-old would say this word or that word and often I’d be met with a bit of laughter. They reminded me of how conflicted tweens can be. They want to be accepted by their peers and the important adults in their lives. It’s easy to forget the angst of trying to fit in with classmates while trying to rise to the expectations of parents and teachers – what a difficult tightrope for young people to walk.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I know you’re an avid reader—so I have to know what books—classics and forthcoming—are you most excited to read (or reread) this spring/summer?

Heather Gudenkauf:

There are so many books I’m looking forward to reading!  I’m anxiously awaiting SHAMED by Linda Castillo – the next installment in the Kate Burkholder mystery series. I’ve been a fan of Castillo’s books from the beginning.  Sitting on my bedside table right now is National Book Award winner, THE FRIEND by Sigrid Nunez. The book seller at my local indie recommended this one so I know it’s a must-read – plus it’s about the special bond between a woman and her dog.  A book I’m determined to reread this summer is THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers. When I read it years ago, I remember turning the last page and thinking that I had just experienced a work of beauty. I recently learned that McCullers was only twenty-three years old when she wrote this novel. Twenty-three!

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Leslie Lindsay:

What’s obsessing you now? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Heather Gudenkauf:

Podcasts! I binge-listening while I’m hiking or in the car. Some of my favorites are:

In the Dark ~ an investigative journalist examines the case of a man who has been tried six times for the same crime.

True Crime Obsessed ~ the hosts of this true crime/comedy podcast recap true crime documentaries with their own unique brand of humor.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin ~ Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft discuss and share life hacks that are inspiring, smart and manageable enough for even the busiest people.

Leslie Lindsay:

Heather, it’s been a joy—as always. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Heather Gudenkauf:

Thank you, Leslie! I always enjoy talking books and writing with you! Readers can sign up for my newsletter to get exclusive access to news, giveaways and other bookish fun!

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For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND, please visit:

Order Links: 

HeatherGudenkauf credit Morgan Hawthorne (1)ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Heather Gudenkauf is the Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden and Not A Sound. Heather lives in Iowa with her family and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading and hiking. She is currently working on her next novel.

 

 

 

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#socialaggression #tweens #smalltowns #Iowa #fiction #authorinterview #urbanlegend

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 [Cover and author image courtesy of Park Row and used with permission. Iowa infographic retrieved from author’s website on 4.9.19. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram.]

Elizabeth Garber talks about her relationship with her architect father, Modern architecture, mental health, & how poetry shaped her as an author

By Leslie Lindsay 

Propulsive, poetic, and courageous, Elizabeth Garber’s IMPLOSION is the best kind of memoir: you experience right along with her and leave it feeling a sense of renewal. 

Final Book cover with Kirkus quote.jpgBut that’s not to say everything in IMPLOSION (SWP, June 2018) is glorious; it’s not. This is a subtle, intense exploration of a young woman’s survival through psychological oppression, as she (and her mother and two brothers) are raised in a glass house, a prison, constructed of her father’s mental illness.

Woodie Garber was a famous Modernist architect, designing structures that would rise from the earth resembling glass cubes. He builds the family’s home–a glass house–in a privileged area of Cincinnati in the 1960s. The family leaves behind the 1870s Victorian where the Garber family has resided for many generations. But it’s not all sunshine and mirth in that glass house.

At first, Woodie just seems eccentric. He’s brilliant and bursting with ideas. He loves jazz records and good wine, racing cars, and art. Elizabeth has a connection with her father–they share many of the same interests and she so wants to emulate him–visiting his office and making models of her favorite Modernist house.

Yet, something deeper and dark is brewing. Woodie’s mood becomes destructive, pulling his family into a tight spiral of strange, insidious experiences, which are challenging and confusing on so many levels.

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There’s something large and looming in the horizon –I certainly felt the impact as the whole family–and Sander Hall–came tumbling down. It takes years of reflection, therapy, and more to get to the final resolution, but oh–we get there. 

The writing is crisp, clear, and wise. Garber shows the shadows and the light of the toll mental illness–specifically bipolar–can take on a family. Well done!

Please join me as I welcome the lovely Elizabeth Garber to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Elizabeth, I am so glad to chat. This book feels so very personal—for many reasons—it’s a memoir of course, but we also sense your vulnerability, your confusion, your loyalty to your father. My editor tells me that all books have to have a ‘why now,’ hook. What was yours?

Elizabeth Garber:

My “now” is a long one, a decade to complete this book. I had written poetry about my life in Maine for decades and didn’t want to write or remember much about my childhood, until this book demanded to be written. In 2008, in my mid-fifties, I had a heart procedure and as I healed for five weeks, staying still and quiet, a river of memories of my childhood surfaced, and I was compelled to write these vivid moments. For the next 3 years I wrote steadily until I had a big messy confusing first draft. The next seven years I researched, layered, edited, refined, revised through many drafts. I am so glad I took the time to wait until it was a polished full telling of a family’s story. And suddenly when the book was released in the Spring of 2018, it seemed a book that coincided well with the stories surfacing from the #MeToo movement.

Leslie Lindsay:

I so related to almost everything in IMPLOSION. Of course, our time periods are a little staggered—but my mother was mentally ill. Like your father, one of her diagnoses was bipolar. Also, similar to your father, she was an interior decorator. And well, she died. Do you have any sense of what it is about the creative personality that often goes hand-in-hand with mental illness? I think you say some really wise things about this toward the end of IMPLOSION when you speak of your father’s psychiatrist.

Elizabeth Garber:

I have come to understand that when someone is in a manic episode that they can be functioning at a kind of internal 220 volts instead of the regular safer 110 voltage we live used for daily life. A mind on high voltage makes connections faster that the rest of us, and the fortunate people who are catapulted into this rapid mind state turn to creative expression. The unfortunate people often move into self-destructive patterns to manage the intensity.

I experienced a mild or hypo-manic state in my forties, and I was often stayed up til 2am every night, painting and writing poetry and creating performances. When the manic state ended, I felt both relief to be back in my ‘normal’ self and also grief to lose that state of rapid brilliant connections. I loved that intensity of feeling and creativity but it was hard to manage in the midst of my daily life as a mother and acupuncturist. I had been in that state the last few years of my dad’s life and it helped me gain so much compassion for the exhausting intensity he lived in, the creative highs and the dark immobile depressions.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Let’s shift gears a minute—kind of—to talk about the cover design. Which is gorgeous. It’s black and white with a tiny bit of red. I am wondering if there are multiple interpretations there—your first love was with an African-American boy. There was a good deal of civil rights going on in the 1960s and 1970s, which you touch on, plus, also the depression and mania you dealt with at home. And the red…oh! What does that represent—rage? Can you talk about this, please?

Elizabeth Garber:

I wanted the cover to have the feel of 60’s modern, so the black and white photograph of our “modern” living room with the iconic furniture and art was the first step. The room seems so serene and quiet, but the title IMPLOSION shouts a strong contrast to the calm room. Our family looked so good on the outside but was anything but. I wanted the feeling of an *implosion* rocking that world. The red was personal. My father’s and my favorite color and we had a lot of red in the house. If the photo had been in color it would have blared a lot of dramatic red. I also think of the red being the intensity of energy in the house.

The actual glass house we grew up in, is still a beautiful place for the couple who lives in it. Interestingly all the red has been cooled down to a lot of greys and whites.


“I was riveted by this story of an adoring daughter struggling to escape the dominance of her brilliant, charismatic  father. Garber writes beautifully about the layered complications of family love.”

–Monica Wood, author of The One-in-a-Million BoyWhen We Were the KennedysAny Bitter Thing, and Ernie’s Ark.


Leslie Lindsay:

Here’s another similarity with our stories: you become a healer, an acupuncturist, and I became a child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. We did not become architects or interior decorators like our parents, yet the thoughts once crossed both our minds. People will ask me still (I gave up nursing twelve years ago), if I went into it because I was trying to save myself. No. Not really. I think it was all I knew! Also, I wanted to help. Can you talk about your career path as an acupuncturist?

Elizabeth Garber:

People have also asked me why I didn’t become an architect or painter. My father devoted to his life to design and aesthetics because that was what was most important to him. What had most affected me in my life was the suffering of my father’s mental illness and for me the depression that settled in over me starting at age 17. It wasn’t until I was 26 and experienced acupuncture treatment that the grey fog of depression lifted. The relief to emerge from depression was the most important thing that had happened to me and changed my life. I decided two months after I started treatment that I wanted to be an acupuncturist to help people emerge from depression and mental illness. Acupuncture treatment continued to help me recover from my history of abuse, and trauma over many years. I’ve been practicing for thirty-five years and still feel such gratitude to have found my work and to be released from depression.

I am so glad to both treat patients and to live my creative life as a writer.

Leslie Lindsay:

I’m also interested in your writing journey. You’ve written poetry and for literary journals—what was your process like for IMPLOSION? It took a good deal of time, I understand.

Elizabeth Garber:

I’ve written since I was a kid, writing summer vacation journals, and I continued writing in journals to find myself through my teens to forties! I started writing poetry in my twenties and kept at in for the next forty years. I always thought of myself as a poet and never imagined writing prose until the heart surgery and recovery pushed me onto a new course. Many poets have written fine memoirs know for beautiful lyric prose. Decades of writing poetry hones skills in writing lean well chosen lines, and poetry is also known for zeroing in on particular vivid moments. But when I realized I was writing a memoir in prose I realized I needed to study memoir and learn how to craft a book length story. Fortunately I was in the midst of an MFA, and I switched from poetry to creative non-fiction to study how to structure a narrative arc, create scenes, write dialogue, and discover what was the heart of my story.

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Leslie Lindsay:

In the end, you come to peace with your relationship with your father. Does it stay that way? Do you vacillate between feelings for him even now, nearly twenty five years since he passed?

Elizabeth Garber:

I continue to feel at peace with my father, and especially since the process of writing this memoir seemed to release me from the history of what we lived through. In my research and on my book tour, I went back to Ohio and reconnected with friends and family from my childhood, people who worked with my dad, I revisited his buildings, and it this process I felt like I got to celebrate what was great about my dad, and also speak the truth out loud about the impact of his madness. Being able to acknowledge both was a tremendously liberating experience.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I understand you have a new grandbaby on the way! How exciting. What can you tell us about this exciting time? And if there’s anything else obsessing you?

Elizabeth Garber:

I just wrote my first poem about my daughter’s pregnancy! But mostly I am totally immersed in writing a new book about the year I was eighteen when my younger brother and I were sent away to an alternative high school on a square rigged sailing ship, and the ship ended up being held hostage in Panama. I am completely obsessed!!  Researching and interviewing classmates and teachers. So much fun to be at the beginning of a big project!

Leslie Lindsay:

Elizabeth, it’s been such a delight and I am so glad we were able to connect. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Elizabeth Garber:

I am looking forward to your memoir about a creative mother dealing with the issues of design and mental illness! Thanks for this conversation!!

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For more information, to connect with the author, or to purchase a copy of IMPLOSION, please visit:

Order Links: 

Elizabeth Garber Author photo 1ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth W. Garber is the author of three books of poetry, True Affections: Poems from a Small Town (2012), Listening Inside the Dance (2005), and Pierced by the Seasons (2004). Three of her poems have been read on NPR by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, and her poem “Feasting” was included in his Good Poems for Hard Times. She was awarded writing fellowships at Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Jentel Artist Residency Program in Wyoming.
Garber studied Greek Epic in the Mythology and Folklore Department at Harvard, received a BA from Johns Hopkins, a MFA in creative non-fiction from University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Masters Program, and a master’s in acupuncture from the Traditional Acupuncture Institute. She has maintained a private practice as an acupuncturist for over thirty years in mid-coast Maine, where she raised her family. Visit her at http://www.elizabethgarber.com

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#Modernism #architecture #IMPLOSION #familysecrets #mentalillness #fathersanddaughters #memoir 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of SWP and E. Garber; used with permission. Photo of Garber home under construction retrieved from author’s website on 3.5.19. Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @LeslieLindsay1]

Dave Patterson talks about his sublime coming-of-age, which reads like a memoir, his wavering faith, brotherhood, and so much more in SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT

By Leslie Lindsay

Two brothers struggle to survive a traumatic summer in rural Vermont is as haunting as poignant. 

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Buzzfeed included Soon the Light Will be Perfect on their list of 37 Amazing New Books this Spring

SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT (Hanover Square Press/HarperCollins, April 2 2019) is one of those books that’s just so gorgeous and authentic, you forget you’re reading–and then you question if it’s truly fiction because the author does such a fantastic job of pulling the reader right into the story with tiny observations that feel very accurate.

Our unnamed narrator is a 12-year old boy on the cusp of young adulthood. He lives with his family in a poverty-stricken area in Vermont. But the family has done well enough that they are able to move away from the trailer park. His mother is a homemaker and his father works at a weapons manufacturing plant. The date is never specified, but we glean the story is set in the late 1980s or early 1990s because 1) it’s a coming-of-age novel and 2) The Gulf War is just beginning. We start out with a rough scene–and then things spiral from there–the boy’s mother has cancer.

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But the family finds comfort in faith–both brothers are alter boys at the local Catholic church, the father frequently prays with the mother, and tradition seems to keep the family afloat. Meanwhile, the 15 year old brother is experimenting with cigarettes, drugs, girls, and general mischief.

I found the storytelling very swift and sparse; SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT is a tightly-woven tale with an underlying sense of doom. I desperately wanted to learn what was going on–but mostly what was going to happen, a distinction, I think to your typical coming-of-age stories.

The end is most appropriate, inevitable–and I think there’s so much metaphor here for a political, social, and familial downfall. 

Please join me in welcoming Dave Patterson to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Dave, I am so impressed. This is your debut book—but you’ve written for other publications, short stories and newspaper—I am intrigued with the seeds of SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT—what got you writing? Was there a question you were seeking to answer? A theme you wanted to explore?

Dave Patterson:

I’m so excited for this opportunity to talk with you! The seeds of this novel were firmly planted in my childhood. When I was a kid, my mother had cancer and my father lost his job. The experience marked me, and as a writer, the story of my childhood beckoned with a constant whisper, “Write me. Write me.” I ignored the call to write this story initially because 1) it was painful to relive and 2) who would want to read a book about a poor kid and his family from rural Vermont? I’d spent years at expensive liberal arts colleges pretending I wasn’t raised poor, why would I want to expose myself in this way? But all the while there was that hushed voice in the background: “Write me. Write me.” So after a collection of short stories I was working on began to flounder, I said, That’s it. Tell your story.

Once I was inside the narrative, I knew I wanted to explore the themes that had been tugging at my curiosity all my life: brotherhood, family, death, and the complexity of religion. Writing this book allowed me to attempt to clarify the way I felt about these themes.

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Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

The writing is so true, so raw and authentic that I had to double-check that I wasn’t reading a memoir! I think a lot of folks would agree—there’s a fine line between memoir and coming-of-age. Did you play around with form or did you always know what genre SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT would be?

Dave Patterson:

In my twenties, I discovered the tradition of the American short story that grew out of the late 60s and 70s. I plowed through every collection I could find by the masters: Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff, Annie Proulx, to name only a few. There was a sneaky subtlety to all these writers. It was a quality Hemingway had in his stories. A feeling that the narrator was just a neighbor leaning over a fence, telling you a simple story that slowly turns into something beautiful and terrifying. It’s a narrative form that catches the reader off guard. They let down their defenses and think, Well, this is just an ordinary story. Until it’s not. The artistry in this style is wonderfully understated. It’s dazzling for its refusal to dazzle. If that makes any sense.

A few years ago I read the novel, MONTANA, 1948  by Larry Watson. I was so drawn in by the conversational tone. I couldn’t put it down. When I finished, I immediately Googled the book, thinking it had to be a memoir. It wasn’t. The effect of that voice was haunting. I still think about the way Watson lays out horrific details in a plainspoken voice. There’s no hiding behind literary flourishes or over-the-top scenes. This approach strips everything away allowing a writer to lay out the essence of a story. Since SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT takes place in a rural setting that isn’t particularly literary, this approach felt perfect. Like someone sitting you down in a country diner and saying, “Let me tell you about my childhood.” By the time the check comes, something profound has happen without any warning.


“Soon the Light Will Be Perfect is so deeply moving because it is so achingly true.
You will not soon forget these people, this place.”

—RICHARD RUSSO


Leslie Lindsay:

Faith and Catholicism play a big role in SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT. Can you talk about that, please?

Dave Patterson:

Oh, I can talk about Catholicism for days! I grew up in a kind of Evangelical Catholicism of abortion protests, no MTV or trick or treating, and a deep belief in the existence of eternal damnation. For years after leaving home, I could only think about faith in Catholicism–or any hardlined religion for that matter–in negative terms. And for good reason. I found my early years in Catholicism to be stifling in terms of critical thinking, creativity, and a healthy sense of self. But in writing this novel, I knew I couldn’t take such a simplified approach to faith and religion. I was forced to reflect on the good sides of my religious upbringing. And it kind of annoyed how much good I found. I had learned about charity and grace from helping with the church’s food bank. I learned that it’s good to think big existential thoughts about God and existence for at least an hour a week. I learned that when someone in your community is hurting, you bake them a lasagna and deliver it to their front door, even if your own family is hurting. And I learned that in times of despair faith in a religion, for some people, can be a grounding anchor to help them survive the chaos of tragedy. Writing this novel helped me shed my binary thinking about the role of faith in one’s life. But don’t get me wrong, you won’t find me in a pew anytime soon.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

How do you challenge yourself to grow as a writer? What are some of your rituals and routines?

Dave Patterson:

Great question. The biggest way I challenge my own craft as a writer is to read. I’m always searching for writers who are working on the highest levels of craft. I try to dissect technique on the page to discover what I don’t know about writing. I try to read all different kinds of authors. I read books about writing, too, but I find that a brilliantly written novel or story collection teaches me more about writing and pushes my conception of story much further.

As far as routines, I’m a write-everyday-no-matter-what kind of guy. I have a small writing studio in my backyard. It allows me to escape my house where my two beautiful, wild children are often screaming out with the pure joy of being alive. I go to the studio every afternoon during the week and write for two hours. David Huddle, a writing professor of mine at the Bread Loaf School of English, once told me that inspiration was bullshit. He insisted that a fiction writer must clock in, do the work, and clock out every day. Some days you’ll write great stuff, some days you won’t. But do it enough, and the great stuff really starts to pile up, and the bad stuff can be edited or discarded. I’ve been following that advice for a decade now and continue to do so with the new novel I’m writing.

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Photo by 嘉淇 徐 on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Dave Patterson:

I am obsessed with bipartisan tribalism in America. Who isn’t? But here’s where my obsession gets personal: my father lives in Florida and voted for Trump. He and I had many debates about this in 2016, and what I found fascinating was that at our core, my father and I have basically the same values. Yet, somehow I thought Trump spelled doom for the American Republic (and still do), and he thought the same about Hillary. I was baffled that our conversations could start by talking about the importance of charity and end with us yelling about a border wall.

In the new novel I’m working on, I explore this strange bifurcation of America. Throughout the story, there’s always some kind of news media playing in the background either on television, the radio, or social media, eating away at my characters. Two of the characters even attend a fever-pitched Trump rally in Virginia where the narrator has to face the humanity tucked inside the desperate faces of the ravenous crowd waiting to ingest the lies of a red-hatted billionaire barking from a stage. I want to burrow inside this psyche to figure out how Americans with similar values can veer so violently far apart. I’m obsessed with this idea because I love this country, but mostly because I love my dad.

Leslie Lindsay:

Dave, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Dave Patterson:

No, that was brilliant! Thank you for having me and for asking such great questions about SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT. I’m so thrilled to have the chance to talk about the book I’ve been thinking about and working on for years.

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT, please visit: 

Order Links: 

DavePatterson_Credit_Matthew DelamaterAbout the Author: Dave Patterson is an award-winning fiction writer, journalist, musician, and high school English teacher. He studied at the Bread Loaf School of English and the Stonecoast MFA Program.
His work has appeared in numerous publications, and currently he pens a weekly beer column for
Maine Today. A native of northern Vermont, Patterson lives outside Portland, Maine with his
wife, two kids, and dog. SOON THE LIGHT WILL BE PERFECT is his first novel. For more
information, please visit and follow @PattersonWriter on Twitter.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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#fiction #comingofage #debut #summer #Catholicism #brotherhood #family #death #Vermont

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[Cover and author image courtesy of HarperCollins/Park Row and used with permission. Artistic cover image designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow for more like this on Instagram].

Can you find the power to heal? And maybe that comes in quirkier ways than expected. Twins, NYC, & more in this interview with Marcia Butler

By Leslie Lindsay 

A tale about siblings, architects, New York City, and so much more, PICKLE’S PROGRESS (April 9, Central Avenue Publishing) is about healing, getting what we want, and so much more…but maybe in some quirkier ways.

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Oh! I have a fun treat today–instead of me doing the interviewing, the lovely Amy Poeppel is. Amy is a writer and author of two novels, SMALL ADMISSIONS (Atria, 2016) and LIMELIGHT (Atria, 2018) her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Working MotherBookishIn The Powder Room, and Literary Mama. Pop over to her website and learn more.

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So a bit about PICKLE’S PROGRESS:

“Renowned architectural team, Karen and Stan McArdle, are drunk again and driving home over the George Washington Bridge to their Upper West Side brownstone after a tedious dinner party with suburban friends. A young woman, Junie, flags them down, frantic because her boyfriend has just jumped to his death. They call Stan’s identical twin brother, Pickle, to rescue not just Junie, but also help them avoid a potential DUI.

Karen invites Junie to stay in the perfectly decorated lower level of their brownstone, partly because she feels sorry for the distraught young woman and but also as a buffer for her dysfunctional marriage. Pickle immediately takes advantage of the situation. A guileless Junie becomes the object of his affections and serves as an unwitting psychological pawn for the dysfunctional McArdle clan. As the novel barrels toward its surprising conclusion, long-held alliances are threatened and shocking secrets are exposed. Love is the poison, the antidote, the devil and, ultimately, the hero.”

I’m totally inspired now to read this and hope you are, too. 

Amy Poeppel:

Two of your main characters, Pickle and Stan, are twins. What inspired you to write a story about twin brothers? And how—in good ways and bad—does their relationship complicate and enhance the family story you wanted to tell?

Marcia Butlter:

Rare are the identical twins who remain indistinguishable into adult life. Typically, one might gain more weight, or go grey at a different rate; the aging process seems to progress independently from genes. I’ve known one set of identical twin sisters for about 40 years, and they still look exactly alike! Years ago, one twin asked her soon to be husband if he was attracted to her sister. Of course he denied it. Call me a cynic, but I was skeptical. (Both twins are still happily married.) But this idea of attraction was an intriguing notion, and what better way to explore it than through twinship. PICKLE’S PROGRESS takes many comic twists and disturbing turns because the brothers, Pickle and Stan McArdle, desire the same woman. Yet, they are bonded to each other, as only twins can be. The pull and push of these emotional conditions and constraints propels the reader along, always wondering which twin will come out on top!

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Photo by Umar Mukhtar on Pexels.com

Amy Poeppel:

Pickle, Stan, and Karen are wonderfully far from perfect! How did you manage to make the reader root for these flawed characters (whom Richard Russo described as “more alive than most of the people we know in real life”), in spite of their bad behavior? In what ways did you show their humanity?

Marcia Butler:

We all have thoughts that never go from our brain to our lips. We tend keep our jealousies, schadenfreude, and revenge plans to ourselves, which is just reasonable and acceptable societal behavior. Recklessness is a predominant theme in my novel. Pickle and Karen, particularly, cannot seem to help themselves with regard to acting out in impulsive ways; they hurt each other, but mostly themselves. Their questionable and confounding behaviors are rooted in childhood experiences, and as such can be forgiven (mostly) because they themselves were victims. Pickle’s mother, like Rachel in the bibilical Jacob and Esau story, has destroyed his ability to feel truly loved. And Karen’s mother, who vanished at an early age, continues to impose her will on adult Karen, eerily so. The reader can only sit back and observe the freight train barrel by, wondering what Pickle and Karen will do next to get the love they think they want.

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Amy Poeppel:

Your acclaimed memoir THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE is described as “meticulously nuanced, daringly honest, and utterly inspiring.” What was the experience like when you made the shift from writing personal nonfiction to creating fictional characters and the world they live in?

Marcia Butler:

Fiction and memoir have more in common than might be imagined. Both are story telling, and must include both dramatic arc and narrative drive. The goal for any writer is to bring the reader around to an emotionally satisfying conclusion and hopefully experience a transformation in the process. I began my novel as soon as my memoir was sold and approached it much the same way, in terms of craft. The difference was I knew the plot of my life, but not the trajectory of my characters in PICKLE’S PROGRESS. This, though admittedly a major and daunting difference, was in many ways exciting. And a relief! I no longer had to tack strictly to the truth of my life experience. I could manipulate my characters and bring them to emotional and physical places through the abandon of my mind. Challenging, yes. But it proved to be the freeing experience I was longing for: to tell a story that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with my crazy imagination.


“How does healing happen? Sometimes in quirkier ways than you might expect. Butler’s blazingly original novel debut (her memoir THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE made me want to run away and join an orchestra) is a quintessential moving, witty, New York City story about the love we think we want, the love we get, and the love we deserve, all played out with symphonic grace. I loved it.”

 —Caroline Leavitt

New York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World


Amy Poeppel:

I am so excited to know what you’re working on next! Is there anything you can share at this point?

Marcia Butler:

I like to keep busy. My documentary film, The Creative Imperative, will premiere at The New York Society Library in NYC on June 9th. This film attempts to explore the essence of creativity through the narratives of musicians, actors, dancers, writers and artists, as they speak about being a creative person, both through their private experience and in the world. And, just as with my memoir, I began writing my second novel as soon as PICKLE’S PROGRESS was acquired. This story takes place in Maine and one of the characters is a moose named Bindle. She roams the rural acreage of two families. One is a long time generational Mainer and the other a relatively recent (20 years) transplant. Through the prism of social and class perception, I tell their complex and intermingled stories, and how Bindle ultimately plays a role in exposing long held secrets.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of PICKLE’S PROGRESS, please see:

Order Links:

Marcia Butler Photo Matt DineABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marcia Butler has had a number of creative careers: professional musician, interior designer, documentary filmmaker, and author. As an oboist, the New York Times has hailed her as a “first rate artist.” During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre Watts, and composer/pianist Keith Jarrett. Her interior designs projects have been published in numerous shelter magazines and range up and down the East coast, from NYC to Boston, to Miami. The Creative Imperative, her documentary film exploring the essence of creativity, will release in Spring 2019.

Marcia’s nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, was one of the Washington Post’s “top ten noteworthy moments in classical music in 2017”. She was chosen as 2017 notable debut author in 35 OVER 35. Her writing has been published in Literary HubPANK Magazine, Psychology TodayAspen Ideas MagazineCatapultBio-Stories and others. Marcia was a 2015 recipient of a Writer-in-Residence through Aspen Words and the Catto Shaw Foundation. She was a writing fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a writer in residence at The Betsy Hotel. Her debut novel, Pickle’s Progress, will be released on April 9, 2019 from Central Avenue Publishing. She lives in New York City

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

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#fiction #authorinterview #NYC #amreading #twins #memoir #siblings #creativity #secrets

[Cover and author image courtesy of ShreveWilliams and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram]

Can bees save you? Absolutely. Meredith May talks about her glowing memoir, THE HONEY BUS, what we can do to save the bees, and how hard writing can be

By Leslie Lindsay 

A glowing, powerful memoir about one girl’s courage to overcome her mother’s dysfunction under the tutelage of her bee keeper grandfather. 

honey bius

I was absolutely entranced by THE HONEY BUS (HarperCollins/Park Row April 2), which is a memoir at heart, but so much more. Meredith May is 5 when her parents divorce and she, her mother, and younger brother leave Rhode Island for California where May’s grandparents live.

The setting–Big Sur, Carmel, and the Palo Colorado Canyon–oh! I could taste the sea salt, smell the wild sage and eucalyptus. These sensory details were like a warm, languid summer’s day. But things weren’t all that great for Meredith and her younger brother, Matthew. Living with their maternal grandparents in a small home was tense. Meredith had to share a bed with her highly dysfunctional and despondent mother. Still, she had something–and someone–her rugged and caring grandfather, Frank, a beekeeper.

Through a very touching narrative, Meredith leads readers through the ‘honey bus,’ and we experience, through her young eyes, the miraculous abilities of bees. Part ‘bee-keeping 101,’ THE HONEY BUS is about the wisdom and magic of nature, how sometimes other things can save us when we’re drowning, and the tender relationship of a girl and her grandfatherI found this story so warm and touching. I loved the grandfather–and saw glimpses of my own–a stirring and ultimately uplifting story. Plus, I learned so much about bees!

Part family memoir, part beekeeping odyssey, THE HONEY BUS is a such a captivating read about finding home in the most unusual places, and how a tiny, often misunderstood insect could save a life—could save us all.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely Meredith May to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Meredith, I loved this story. I found myself worried and thinking about you and your grandfather even when I set the book down. I think that’s a good thing. What propelled you to write this story—why now?

Meredith May:  

Everyone has a soundtrack to their life … a steady beat of memories and emotions playing on loop inside their head. For me, I had to get it out or it would turn into a very demented earworm. I write to make sense of myself, and actually began this book almost a decade ago when I was finally putting some connections together between my childhood and a disastrous pattern of dating people who wouldn’t make room for me. The first draft was so very different from the final because at first I didn’t know what I was writing about, I just needed to write and a lot of the early drafts turned out like “monster-mom memoirs” which is not fair, or frankly that interesting. I re-wrote this book three times. It was not until Grandpa passed away that I began to see my life as blessed rather than cursed because of what he had given me, and when I became grateful that I had been saved in the most unusual way, I finally realized what my book was about.

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Photo by Karol Wiśniewski on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I love, love how you braid in bits of beekeeping with the social lives of, well, people. There’s so much we can learn from nature. Can you give us a few ‘bee facts’ that you found particularly moving?

Meredith May:

Oh so many … each time I open my hive those little buggers teach me something new. My office window faces my backyard where I can see my hive. Every day about the same time, 1pm-ish, a cloud of bees comes out and makes little practice circles in the yard. It’s flying school time – when the older foragers teach the young-ins how to fly. They mentor each other – and practice memorizing the landmarks of the yard, the fountain and the trees and the deck chairs, until they feel confident enough to go out far and forage. The analogy for me is that we all need to work up to things, and ask for help when we need it. Once they gain confidence, they fly in a radius of up to five miles gathering nectar and pollen. And they always come back to their hive, even bees that live in apiaries with dozens of hives know how to find theirs. They navigate by the angle of the sun, and by memorizing landmarks, and by scent. Each queen in each hive has her own pheromone. All of that blows my mind.

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Photo by Thijs van der Weide on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

THE HONEY BUS is mostly about your relationship with your warm, supportive grandfather. But it’s also about your mother. She spent most of her time hidden in her bedroom, and then when she was around, she lashed out. We get a sense that she was depressed and she also admits to having had a challenging childhood, but was there something else going on? Like, maybe she had a mental illness?

Meredith May:

Bingo. I very much believe that my mother and grandmother were in a folie à deux – they reinforced a shared delusion that the world was crazy and they were sane. My mother never sought help for her depression, agoraphobia, violent impulsivity, or narcissism because she didn’t see those things in herself. Granny was complicit in normalizing those traits in her daughter – and in fact amplifying them – by reinforcing the idea that while Mom was difficult sometimes, her moods should be tolerated because she was an unwitting victim of supreme bad luck. I understand now, as an adult, that Granny felt guilty for not protecting Mom when she was a girl and being physically abused by her own father. But their relationship was so insular, and so un-challengeable, that there was no room for anyone else’s emotions in the house. When I first saw the movie Grey Gardens – the original documentary version – about a mother and daughter locked in a shared insanity – my skin went cold. I’m not sure where my mother and grandmother would fall in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but their behavior was not healthy for themselves or the people who lived with them. 


“A fascinating and hopeful book of family, bees, and how ‘even when [children] are overwhelmed with despair, nature has special ways to keep them safe.’ ”

Kirkus Reviews


Leslie Lindsay:

Yet, you managed to find your way. Much of that is because you had such a gentle relationship with your grandfather, because of the bees. You found a purpose, something bigger than your pain. Can you talk a little more about that? Does it all come down to resilience, or is it something else?

Meredith May:

I think everyone needs, at bare minimum, one person who loves them unconditionally. Kids who grew up like I did walk a very thin line between survival and giving up. I’m fascinated by what makes some children keep trying, and what makes others collapse into themselves. I was incredibly fortunate that the one person who made sure I didn’t fall was an eccentric mountain man with deep ties to the natural world, who didn’t give a fig about money or power or rank. He cared very deeply about his bees, and understood that without them, we don’t eat. He showed me by example that humans should be stewards, not dominators, of the land, and he didn’t keep bees to make money or to have honey. He kept them because they are amazing creatures that made him happy and reminded him of the wisdom of nature. Grandpa embodied the principles of spiritual meditation before it was a thing – of sending loving kindness into the world on the daily. When I am in Big Sur and meet someone new, I always say I’m his granddaughter for a point of reference, and people break into smiles and instantly treat me like family. He’s like my Big Sur VIP pass. For me, it comes down to hitting the Grandpa jackpot. 

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Photo by Scotty Morris on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Memoir can be a tricky genre. It’s vulnerable, it’s painful. Was there ever a time you felt you just couldn’t tell this story? Did you have to find yourself at a ‘certain place in life’ before you could?

Meredith May:

I laugh because it took me three tries to write this book because yes, memoir is freakin’ hard!  The first pass, I tried writing in child voice and it came out really awful because, well, I’m not Mary Karr and I’m not a kid anymore. My wise editor Erika Imranyi at Park Row Books directed me to put adult reflection in. Version two came out like a manifesto, with exhibits A, B and C why I wanted you, the reader, to side with me against my parents. But everyone is mad at their parents on some level, so it’s just not that interesting. I wasn’t mature enough to write my memoir when I began it. It took my grandfather’s passing. Before he died in 2015, he asked me if I would take care of his bees. What he was really asking was if I would step into his shoes. I felt legacy for the first time, and it was a powerful feeling of incredible safety, luck, and love. That’s when my book finally made sense to me. I’d always known my family was unusual and the characters were interesting, but I didn’t understand the higher point of my book until I brought in the life lessons from grandpa’s bees.

Leslie Lindsay:

You’re a beekeeper now. I love that. What can we do to save the bees? And why is this important?

Meredith May:

Plant wildflowers. Plant wildflowers. Plant wildflowers. Everywhere – on rooftops, in street medians, in parks, as crop borders. It’s the number one, easiest, most helpful way to bring back habitat diversity for bees. They need a much more varied diet than we are giving them by paving over the meadows and trucking bees to agricultural farms and forcing them to eat a mono-diet. There are these wildflower seed balls that you can toss in your yard that will sprout pollinator-friendly flowers. Kids love them.

Build an insect hotel – a little chateau of pinecones and hollow reeds or drill holes into wood for all sorts of solitary bees, ladybugs, moths, and other pollinators to move in. There are pre-built ones online, or you can make your own.

Switch from using pesticides and herbicides in your garden … yes, RoundUp especially – to natural methods such as neem oil and diatomaceous earth. Chemicals destroy the neurological systems of bees and other pollinators, and remove the flowers they need from the landscape.

Invite a beekeeper to keep a hive on your land in exchange for a little honey, or start keeping bees yourself under the guidance of a mentor beekeeper.

All of this is vital because we are facing an Insect Apocalypse. This year, the journal Biological Conservation conducted a meta-study and found that 40 percent of insect species are threatened with extinction, due to habitat loss, chemical exposure, and global warming. Without pollinators – and honeybees far and away are the biggest pollinators, directly responsible for every third bite we put in our mouths – we face unthinkable diversity loss and collapse of our food chain. Imagine losing two-thirds of what’s currently in the produce section at your grocery store. 

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Leslie Lindsay:

What’s one thing I should have asked, but may have forgotten? It can be about your next book, your pets, what you had for breakfast, your weekend plans…

Meredith May:

You didn’t ask about the funniest reaction to my book. A journalist and Mom on Twitter said she was explaining a passage from THE HONEY BUS to her 10-year-old son, the part about how male bees die during intercourse because their “male part” snaps off during mating. The boy, quite pleased with himself, said “You mean their bee-nis falls off?” 

Leslie Lindsay:

Meredith, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you!

Meredith May:

I’ve had fun with this – thank you for your excellent questions!

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Photo by NO NAME on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE HONEY BUS, please visit:

Order links:

Meredith MayABOUT THE AUTHOR: Meredith May is an award-winning journalist, author, and fifth-generation beekeeper.

Her memoir, THE HONEY BUS, reveals the life lessons she learned in her grandfather’s Big Sur bee yard that rescued her from a difficult childhood. Published April 2019 by HarperCollins/Park Row Books, the book is translated into eleven languages.

Her 2017 book: I, WHO DID NOT DIE, tells the true story of an Iranian child soldier who risked his life to save a wounded enemy fighter during the brutal Iran-Iraq War – an astonishing act of mercy that changed the course of both their lives.

During her sixteen-year career at the San Francisco Chronicle, her reporting won the PEN USA Literary Award for Journalism, the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, and first place feature writing awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Associated Press. Her series about an Iraqi boy wounded during the second Gulf War was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize.

Meredith is a former professor of journalism and podcasting at Mills College in Oakland, CA. She lives in San Francisco, where she rows on the Bay and cares for several beehives in a community garden. You can reach her at thehoneybus.com

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#memoir #beekeeping #mothersanddaughters #grandparents #California #savethebees

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Park Row/HarperCollins and used with permission. Author photo credit: Matthew May. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Intstagram]

Deliciously dark domestic debut from Samantha Downing will have you reading at break-neck speed and looking at your neighbors differently

By Leslie Lindsay 

5 juicy stars to this tautly paced, all-encompassing deliciously dark domestic suspense, MY LOVELY WIFE (Berkley, March 26 2019) will capture and ensnare and have you looking twice at your neighbors. 

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Truly stunning, jaw-dropping, and so engrossing, you simply cannot look away. That’s what debut author, Samantha Downing, is so skilled at in her debut–this is a debut, people!–and you absolutely have to read it.

Here’s the thing: it’s dark. It’s twisted, but on the surface, it’s oh-so-saccharine. Married for 15 years, Millicent and her unnamed husband, the protagonist/narrator have found themselves in a slightly boring marriage. They have two kids, a boy and a girl who are on the cusp of adolescence. It’s a nice life in a nice suburban area of Florida where everyone goes to work and then home for a pre-planned dinner. There’s soccer and tennis lessons and Millicent sells real estate.

But MY LOVELY WIFE (Berkley, March 26) is a powerhouse of a novel. It’s about drama, a marriage, kids out of control, and the news media; it’s also about the folks next door, who just happen to be killing women for sport. 

Or, are they?
There’s definitely some planning and premeditation. And maybe someone in this partnership is more sinister than the other. Or maybe they’re just in over their head? MY LOVELY WIFE is an effortless page-turner. I simply couldn’t put it down. The way Downing braids past and present and keeps the reader sort of brooding in the past is masterful.

The writing is simple, but the plot is complex, the structure is intense and the pace, relentless. 

Plus, the media is RAVING about this book, it’s on many ‘Most anticipated’ lists of 2019, plus it’s Library Reads #1 Pick for March 2019.

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Do yourself a favor and buy this book. Now.

But first, please join me in welcoming Samantha Downing to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Samantha, oh my Gosh! This book! So you’re a bit twisted—and I like that. The seed for MY LOVELY WIFE was first planted when you watched a documentary about a husband who abused his wife and forced her into helping him with his dirty schemes to kidnap women and hold them hostage. It sounds like an episode of “Criminal Minds” (one of my top favorite show—so good for helping with plot problems!), can you talk a little more about that?

Samantha Downing:  

Absolutely! When I saw that documentary, it struck me that we’ve never seen a woman initiate a crime like this. It’s always a man working alone or a man who has coerced someone—like his wife—to go along with it. I wanted to explore it the other way, and that’s how I came up with the character of Millicent.

And I agree with you about Criminal Minds!


“Wow! My Lovely Wife is a stunner – full of twists, well-drawn characters, and riveting suspense.”

-Harlan Coben

#1 New York Times Bestseller


Leslie Lindsay:

I’m interested in your writerly journey. It might seem like this book was an overnight success…but can you tell us where you started as a writer? Have you always written? Was this something ‘new’ to you? Can you tell us a bit about getting an agent and how MY LOVELY WIFE was acquired, a sense of the timeline?

Samantha Downing:

I don’t think a true “overnight success” exists, at least not that I know of! I am certainly not. I’ve been writing for over twenty years. It’s been a hobby and a passion, something I’ve always looked forward to doing in my spare time. The publishing industry always seemed like this unsolvable puzzle, so I basically stayed away from it.

I wouldn’t be published if not for a friend of mine, Rebecca Vonier. She is one of my critique partners, and she loved this book enough to send it to a friend of hers who went to school with an agent in New York. He referred me to Barbara Poelle, who then sold MY LOVELY WIFE to Jen Monroe at Berkley on a 48-hour exclusive. It was—and still is—a wild ride!

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Leslie Lindsay:

As a first-time published author, what do you think you did ‘right,’ and what do you wish you had known more about?

Samantha Downing:  

So far, what I’ve done right is trust the people who know what they’re doing. I don’t try to tell my agent, editor, publicist or marketing team how to do their jobs. They know how, so I just stay out of their way! Another thing is to be professional about everything—be on time, on schedule, and prepared. Claiming that you are tortured creative soul will get you nowhere in life or in publishing!

What I wish I had known is how long the process takes. The book was purchased almost 18 months ago and is just now being released. Patience is key! Even if you think nothing is happening, a lot can be happening behind the scenes.

Leslie Lindsay:

Was there ever a period where you were ready to thrown in the towel? And what got you over that hump?

Samantha Downing:

Throw in the towel on writing? Never. Because it was a hobby, I did it because I enjoyed it. Some people enjoy cooking or knitting or playing a musical instrument. I enjoy writing. Why would I stop?

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Leslie Lindsay:

How about research? I am sure you had to do plenty for MY LOVELY WIFE…and gosh, did you worry if the Feds would come track you down based on your browser history?!

Samantha Downing:  

I’m pretty sure I would be locked up in a mental ward if someone looked at my search history! There were a lot of things I had to research about dead bodies and preservation of bodies and…well, I shouldn’t say too much. But I do think writers should have their own special browser, so when the NSA or the CIA sees what we’re searching they can just say, “Oh no worries. Just another writer.”

Leslie Lindsay:

Can you give us a few facts about you—like, what do you do when you’re not reading or writing? If you have any strange obsessions (ahem), and maybe what’s next for you?

Samantha Downing:  

Let’s see…I’m a dork, really. I read a lot, I binge-watch good and bad TV, and I have to watch Big Brother every summer. It’s a thing, really. I’m also a black belt in karate, just in case a psychopath comes my way (or a mugger, more likely!). Also, animals. I love all animals and wish I lived in a big country house filled with them, but instead I live in a small city apartment. Someday!

My next book is another thriller and I hope it’s as disturbing as this one. That’s all I can say for now!

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Leslie Lindsay:

Samantha, it’s been such a pleasure. Please tell what I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Samantha Downing:  

Not that I can think of. Just want to say thank you so much for having me! I really appreciate it.

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For more information, to connect with the author, or to purchase a copy of MY LOVELY WIFE, please visit:

Order Links: 

#1 Library Reads, IndieNext, and Amazon Best Book of the Month in Thriller

Samantha Downing high res credit Jacqueline Dallimore 2018ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Samantha Downing currently lives in New Orleans, where she is furiously typing away on her next thrilling standalone. My Lovely Wife is her first novel.

 

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#thriller #domesticthriller #amreading #debut #crimefiction #marriage 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Berkley and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram]

 

 

 

Famous French-Canadian Quintuplets becomes roadside attraction in the Great Depression. Debut author Shelley Wood talks about THE QUINTLAND SISTERS

By Leslie Lindsay 

Historical debut about the famous French-Canadian quintuplets born during the Great Depression, THE QUINTLAND SISTERS (William Morrow, March 5 2019) is about love, heartache, and resilience.

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I am stunned and amazed that I never knew so much as a peep about the first surviving identical quintuplets. Journalist and debut author, Shelley Wood, tackles the vast amount of research in bringing these tiny miracles to life.

Born in 1934 to French farmers in a hardscrabble area of Northern Ontario, readers will experience firsthand the harrowing birth, the precarious first days, and then the scandals-how the babies are removed from the parents’ custody, put on display (for profit), and more.

The writing is largely first person, told from the POV of young Emma Trimpany, who is 17 in 1934, and a reluctant midwife to the babies. She has no training but is there the evening Mrs. Dionne goes into to labor. This beginning was absolutely gripping and had the ring of the BBC show, “Call the Midwife.” 

Emma stays with the Dionne family and helps raise these girls–Annette, Yvonne, Emilie, Cecile, and Marie
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even when other nurses are fired or leave, and when the Dafoe Nursery is built to house the children. Emma has an eye for art and detail and takes scrupulous notes (and sketches) in her ‘scribble’ journal. It’s largely through this media that we get an inside peek at ‘the girls’ and their development.

Peppered throughout THE QUINTLAND SISTERS is also newspaper articles and various (fictional) letters back and forth between Emma and her beau, Lewis, but also Emma and the first nurse, Yvonne “Ivy.”

THE QUINTLAND SISTERS is certainly a unique story, one which captured their own country and the world beyond, drawing tourists from the U.S. and also interest from the King and Queen of England; a slice of history I was unaware of and became truly enthralled in learning more.

Please join me as I welcome Shelley Wood to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay:

Shelley, this is your first book, but you’re a journalist and editor, and your writing has appeared in various literary journals. Can you tell us how your past experience informed your writing of a novel? How do the types of writing vary—or do they?

Shelley Wood:

As a medical journalist and editor, I’ve been writing about health research and policy for the better part of two decades, so my day-to-day writing hasn’t been particularly lyrical or evocative. But I do think that having to write engaging sentences about life-or-death topics has been good practice for writing fiction because it made me care about words and precision, about capturing things just so. Writing fiction is different, of course, because I can allow my imagination to take over in ways I obviously can’t do with medical reporting, and this is both freeing and daunting.

Ultimately when it came to writing this novel, I actually relied heavily on other people’s journalistic work—newspaper articles, as well as books by journalists like Pierre Berton and Ellie Tesher—even using real articles in the novel. This allowed me to play with notions of ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ for a story that has always provoked very strong and disparate points of view: ultimately I hope readers will come away from this book puzzling over what ‘really’ happened and will seek out what the quintuplets themselves have written or said in all the years since the years covered in my novel.

Lastly, I think my training and experience as a journalist—always on the look-out for topics that others have overlooked or forgotten!—is a big reason I was drawn to this strange, sad story in the first place.


“Wood cleverly combines fact and fiction in a fast-paced novel that will leave readers contemplating how the best intentions of government intervention can have dire, unanticipated consequences.”
– Publishers Weekly 


Leslie Lindsay:

I have to admit: I had never, ever heard of the Dionne Quintuplets. At all. So, I was quite intrigued. I found myself looking them up on the Internet, and finding more about them. First, what drew you to the story, and can you tell us a little about your research process?

Shelley Wood:

I hadn’t heard of them either! This is exactly why I felt I’d stumbled on a story that was on the verge of being forgotten. I had quit my job with the sole aim of trying to write a novel, but had no idea what to write about. So, I took myself to the library hoping to find some kind of inspiration and stumbled across an old-fashioned photo of five identical girls, clearly born before fertility drugs and IVF. I started asking people whether they knew the story of the Dionne Quintuplets and so many people hadn’t that I figured: here was a story worth telling. I’ve since learned that this is partly generational and partly geographical: if you were born in the Canadian province of Ontario or Quebec, you’ve likely heard of the Dionnes; if you are over age 60, you know parts of this tragic story. But if you live somewhere else, or you’re aged 50 or younger, this is a story that was really falling through the cracks of history.

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I began by trying to track down everything ever written about the quintuplets and learned that they co-authored two separate biographies—they’re not easy to find now, but I would encourage anyone interested in this story to try to get their hands on these old books. There are also a handful of other non-fiction books that have been written, from quite different perspectives, as well as a few documentary films and one television miniseries, all of which helped me understand the early years covered in my novel. The jackpot, for me, was the newspaper coverage of the girls during their youngest years, because newspapers across North America were infatuated with the Quints, as they called them. As I’ve said, I relied heavily on these while researching and writing this book.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Also, just the oddity of quintuplets in the first place! Back in the 1930s—during The Great Depression, no less—people certainly were not using IVF. What did you learn about the incidence of quintuplets? Do they ‘run in families?’ Did Mrs. Dionne come from a family of multiples? And then—oh my!—she went on to have three more babies, so the Dionne family’s grand total of children was 13! Can you talk about that, please?

Shelley Wood:

Without the benefit of fertility drugs, the chance of identical surviving quintuplets, occurring naturally, is estimated at one in 57 million. And at that time, in the 1930s, born in an isolated farmhouse, this truly was a miraculous tale of survival, which is partly why the world was so enthralled with their story. The fact that this was a French, Catholic, working-class family, up against an English, Protestant government also played a huge role in dividing Canadians over who was right and who was wrong, and what could have been done differently to ensure the protection of these little girls, both around the time of their birth and in the years and decades to come.

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Leslie Lindsay:

How about a fact or two about the sisters that didn’t make the book?

Shelley Wood:

Some people would be interested to know that while the quintuplets were the first genetically identical quintuplets to survive to birth, there were actually six identical girls, originally, not five. Elzire Dionne, their mother, is believed to have miscarried the sixth early in the pregnancy.

The other thing worth mentioning is that, as bizarre and abhorrent as it now seems that these little girls were taken away from their family, gawked at by tourists, and exploited by their guardians, their lives did not improve once they were reunited with their parents—a period not covered in my novel. They never grew close with their brothers and sisters and, in explosive revelations detailed in a 1995 biography, accused their father of sexual molestation and their mother of physical abuse, allegations their siblings vigorously disputed.

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Leslie Lindsay:

In some ways it seems as though the Dionne quintuplets were the first ‘reality show’—they were essentially put on display behind a glass-walled nursery and playground until they were about nine years old. People from all over came to see the quints—and paid a fee—to do so! Wow! And now we have reality TV shows doing much the same. What can you tell us about the Dafoe Nursery? Is it still standing?

Shelley Wood:

In fact, tourists were never charged a fee to visit Quintland; rather, it was the millions of dollars in tourism revenues for the province as well as the money made through advertisements and product endorsements that made the Dionne quintuplets such a cash cow for the government, their parents, and their appointed guardians. Many, many people grew rich off the spectacle that was the Dionne Quints.

What’s extraordinary is that the Dafoe Nursery—the purpose-built home and tourist attraction where they spent those first nine years—is still standing, but there isn’t anything to mark the site as significant, no signpost indicating that this was one of the biggest tourist attractions in North America. I have the sense that the government is slightly ashamed of this dark chapter in history and would prefer people forgot that it ever happened.

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Leslie Lindsay:

What is obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary?

Shelley Wood:

Oh, but it is! As thrilled as I am that my book is out in the world, sparking fresh debate about this sad story, I’m already obsessing about my next project. This isn’t super-easy, because I’m back working full-time as the editorial director for the Cardiovascular Research Foundation in New York. But I’m committing a few hours in the evening and on the weekend to plug away at my next novel. This time around I’m hoping to draw more on my knowledge of medicine and the pharmaceutical industry to explore society’s fascination with genetics and aging, and how that’s evolved over the past century. That sounds deadly dull when I saw it aloud, but I’m loving the research and marveling at the fact that I have a new idea and new characters inserting themselves in my idle thoughts.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Shelley, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Shelley Wood:

I always feel like I should remind people that THE QUINTLAND SISTERS is a work of fiction: Emma Trimpany and others were my own invention and people who once lived are used fictitiously in my book. It’s also an epistolary novel, meaning that it’s made up entirely of documents: diary entries, letters, and newspaper articles. This type of novel always requires a bit more work on the part of the reader, to fill in the gaps and be vigilant about what the (very subjective) narrator might be omitting. And in this case, even the newspaper articles could hardly be construed as objective! My hope is that readers will get a sense of just how polarizing this story was—and is, to this day—and will be moved to find out more once they set down the novel.

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For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE QUINTLAND SISTERS, please see: 

ORDER LINKS: 

Shelley Wood Author Photo_credit Tyler DyckABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelley Wood is a writer, journalist, and editor. Her work has appeared in the New Quarterly, Room, the Antigonish Review, Causeway Lit, and the Globe and Mail (UK). Born and raised in Vancouver, she has lived in Montreal, Cape Town, and the Middle East, and now has a home, a man, and a dog in British Columbia, Canada.

 

 

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#debut #Canada #Quintuplets #GreatDepression #FrenchCanadia #historicalfiction

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[Cover and author image courtesy of HarperCollins and used with permission. Early images of Dionne Quintuplets retrieved from on 3.25.19. Artistic cover photo designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram]. 

Family Estrangement is very real and very hurtful. Harriet Brown talks about this, plus forgiveness and writing with an open heart in SHADOW DAUGHTER

By Leslie Lindsay 

An interwoven tapestry of personal story and research, SHADOW DAUGHTER: A MEMOIR OF ESTRANGEMENT  sets out to uncover the guilt, trauma, rage, betrayal, and more when it comes to family estrangement. 
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Research shows that seven percent of all people are estranged from a parent or sibling. But what, exactly, does estrangement consist of? No contact whatsoever? A greeting card here and there? What if you just try to avoid that person? And what about the shame factor? What kind of person breaks ties with their family? And so it goes.

Harriet Brown deftly interweaves her personal story of estrangement with her mother, along with anecdotes, plus research from clinicians and researchers, giving a broader definition of ‘estrangement.’ SHADOW DAUGHTER (DaCapo Press, November 2018) reads a bit academically–that is, it’s packed with much research–but don’t let that fool you. Brown is sympathetic, intelligent, and nurturing. She and her mother have gone in cycles of connection and estrangement nearly all of her life. On the day of her mother’s funeral, following a battle with cancer, Brown is 5,000 miles away, hiking in Hawaii with her husband and two daughters.

I completely identified with Brown’s experience. My own mother ‘died’ when I was ten and she had her first psychotic episode. Over the years, her illness would improve, and so would our relationship. We were estranged when she died by suicide.

In SHADOW DAUGHTER, Harriet presents dozens of narratives from people who have been estranged–men and women, young and old, and those of all professions–she uncovers many of the causes of estrangement–physical or sexual abuse; others from emotional or psychological trauma, manipulation. I found myself nodding at the stories because I ‘got it,’ I had lived it.

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Harriet Brown is a journalist and author of numerous previous books, including Body of Truth and Brave Girl Eating. She has written for the New York Times Magazine, O Magazine, Psychology Today, and many other publications.

I am honored to welcome her to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Harriet, I started in on your prologue and already knew SHADOW DAUGHTER was going to resonate. My mother also died. We had been estranged. And while I did attend her funeral, my husband, two daughters, and I recently hiked in Hawaii, a place where my mother ‘ran away’ to live. I felt her there. And the problem with estrangement is, it never really goes away. Can you talk about that a bit, and also a little of why this book, why now?

Harriet Brown:

Starting with the why now—I guess because my mother has been dead long enough for me to do a lot of the processing work I couldn’t do while she was alive. It took about a year after her death for me to feel safe enough to let myself feel the full range of emotions I had about her and our relationship.

In terms of estrangement not really going away, well, that’s true in the sense that the relationship with a parent or sibling or child never really ends. You have to process it and work through the feelings that come up whether you’re in touch with the person or not. But sometimes it’s the best choice in the situation.


“With fascinating insights and deep intelligence, Brown’s brave, profound and oh my God, yes, gripping memoir turns everything we’ve been taught about dealing with impossible family members on its head. This is a must-read for anyone who needs to loosen up tangled family knots—or cut those cords forever.”

—Caroline Leavitt, author, Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow


Leslie Lindsay:

You speak about this haunting type feeling throughout SHADOW DAUGHTER. I was especially drawn to a dream sequence you tell—you and your mother are on opposite sides of a door. You are trying to push is closed with all of your weight and she is trying to wrench it open. I have had the exact same dream. Multiple times. There’s so much metaphor there. Quite literally, ‘I’m closing the door on you.’ Can you talk about that, please?

Harriet Brown:

One of my mother’s most common phrases used about our relationship was “My door is always open to you.” And I think over time I came to have negative associations with that image because our interactions were so painful and toxic for me. I’m sure she meant it as a positive idea but by the time we formally estranged it had come to feel like a threat to me. I think that’s what’s behind that dream for me. 

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Leslie Lindsay:

When I started writing about my mother’s life—her tumultuous childhood, her even wilder teen years, her family of origin (and yes, I learned there’s a bit of a family history of estrangement), I started to feel a sort of complicated tenderness for her. There’s a lovely quote you mention in SHADOW DAUGHTER from Mother Theresa:

“We cannot hate someone whose story we know.”

That’s so profound. What more can you share on that?

Harriet Brown:

I’m not sure I agree fully with Mother Theresa but I take her point, and I think that compassion and tenderness are so important. They’re the qualities I aspire to as a human being and I think every one of us deserves them. I don’t hate my mother. But I do hate some of the things she did.

One of the people I learned from along this long journey, who I wrote about in the book, is Dr. Frederic Luskin, whose work focuses on forgiveness. I took a day-long workshop with him years ago and something he talked about really stuck with me. I was explaining to him that to protect myself I felt I needed to put distance between my mother and me, physical and emotional, and he asked:

“Yes, but can you do with an open heart?”

That question helped me envision a way in which I could be compassionate toward my mother but still protect myself. It helped me see that I could let myself feel some of that complicated tenderness but still choose to keep my distance.

Leslie Lindsay: 

What bits of self-care might you offer to someone who is estranged from a family member? 

Harriet Brown: 

First, trust your feelings. People who estrange themselves from a family member nearly always have good reason to contemplate taking that step. Gaslighting and other emotional manipulations are often part of the reason people choose to estrange, and it can be very easy to doubt your own feelings and reactions when that’s happening. Second, let yourself feel those feelings, whether it’s anger, hurt, grief, sorrow, or others. Trying to repress those feelings or deny them only leads to other kinds of problems. You can feel rage or hurt without acting it out. Third, understand that it’s not only OK to prioritize your own needs in the situation—it’s crucial. And finally, remember that you’re not alone. As a culture we don’t talk about estranged families, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. You’re not the only person who has had to face a difficult family relationship and who’s made this choice.

Leslie Lindsay: 

Harriet, thank you for taking the time to chat with us on this very important topic. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? 

Harriet Brown: 

We often hear experts and others talk about the problem of estrangement. And it’s certainly a fraught topic, and one that can cause pain and inspire guilt and other difficult feelings. I’m not advocating for casual estrangement. But in my experience, and for so many of the people I’ve talked to, estrangement isn’t the problem; it’s the solution to an otherwise unresolvable problem. Sometimes the best thing you can do is keep yourself safe, whether from physical, emotional, or financial harm. Many of us feel a huge sense of relief and liberation after estrangement from a family member, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of SHADOW DAUGHTER, please see: 

Order Links: 

download (2)ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  I started my writing life at age 12 as a poet, and eventually made my way to nonfiction. The truest thing about me as a writer is this six-word story: I write so I’m not alone. I’ve lived in New York City, Madison, Wisconsin, and now Syracuse, New York, where I teach magazine journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

 

 

 

 

 

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#memoir #selfcare #estrangement #mothersanddaughters #family #forgiveness #secrets 

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website on 3.12.19. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram]

Jessica Strawser is back with her third book–FORGET YOU KNOW ME–about adult female friendships, being in over your head, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay 

Friendships grow stale, a marriage erodes, and a woman is in over her head in this domestic drama/women’s fiction, the third from the very talented Jessica Strawser. 

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FORGET YOU KNOW ME is about crackling life-long friendships, eroding marriages, precarious health, and the wobbly years of mothering young children. It examines the tumultuous evolving relationships between girlfriends, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, women and men/just friends, and even neighbors–maybe that single dad could be an object of your affection?

Strawser is definitely a talented writer and absolutely ‘gets’ the busy mom-life of raising two young children. She’s snappy and highly observant ala Jennifer Weiner meets Emily Giffin so if you like their work, I think you’ll find a nice cross-over appeal.

Molly and Liza have been best friends since childhood. But Molly gets married, settles down and raises her children in their hometown of Cincinnati while Liza remains single and leaves for Chicago, though she’s really not happy. Meanwhile, things are growing stale with Molly—mom to Grant, 5 and Nori, 3. Her relationship with husband, Daniel, is strained and well, she’s not feeling all that healthy these days, either.

There are plenty of secrets and stress and lies and how they all tie together in the tangled web of being at our best-or not. FORGET YOU KNOW ME has an ongoing underlying theme of ‘getting in over your head.‘ 


“Strawser is a clear master of the craft, drawing together a plot that seems at once impossible and fully believable. The novel’s pulsing anxiety continues through the triple narration … The tapestry of story and character will lure book clubs and lovers of emotionally complex fiction.”

Booklist


Told in multiple POVs, we get a glimpse of how all these relationships work. Or don’t. I enjoyed the small-town setting of the book and appreciate Strawser’s snappy dialogue and acute skills of observation.

Please join me in welcoming Jessica back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Jessica, I am always so interested the seed of a book for an author—was it a situation, a character, a setting…what got your wheels turning?

Jessica Strawser:

Usually I write from a central question or a theme, but with this story, it was the opening scene—or, rather, the rapid-fire opening sequence of scenes—that came to me and would not let go.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I think it’s normal for people—women in particular—to grow apart from once-close girlfriends. Sometimes we meet because of circumstance—we’re in the same high school bio class, for example, or college roommates, neighbors—at the time it works, but then we just sort of grow apart once the stress of marriage, work, and kids come into the picture. Have you experienced this personally?

Jessica Strawser:

Well, I’ve reached a stage of (bracing myself to say this word…) midlife where I’ve observed a lot of once-close relationships growing apart, often in spite of the best efforts of all involved. Particularly if you have young children and if your closest friends are not in the same city or at the same life stage, as is true for the characters in FORGET YOU KNOW ME, those tend to take a backseat as we put our families first. It’s wonderful to get together with old friends and pick up right where we left off, but I sometimes feel a little sad afterward, because it punctuates that we aren’t in touch with each other’s day-to-day the way we once were, the way we might still wish to be.

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Leslie Lindsay:

I love the cover of FORGET YOU KNOW ME and find it reflects the intimacy of relationships and small-towns. Can you talk a little more about that—and the danger of being ‘too close?’ And also—that tiny little airport—like a blast from the past!

Jessica Strawser:

FORGET YOU KNOW ME isn’t exactly set in a small town, but in the suburbs of Cincinnati, where I live—though I took care with the location, featuring some outlying points that are meaningful to me, and thus become so to my characters. There’s a lot of forced intimacy, particularly between Molly and her neighbor—who is present (physically and emotionally) in ways that her husband is not—and between Liza, her brother and his pregnant wife, who end up taking her in. Tiny Lunken Airport, where Liza takes a job, really is like stepping back in time, and she meets some inescapably influential characters there. And the Cincinnati Nature Center pivotal to Molly’s story line thrives with a close-knit community of members, volunteers and visitors.

Leslie Lindsay:

But there’s a darker, slightly more sinister aspect of ‘being in over your head’ for almost all of your characters in FORGET YOU KNOW ME—was this a theme you wanted to explore, or did it just sort of evolve?

Jessica Strawser:

I set out with this in mind. They’ve been in over their heads for a while, and what happens in that opening video chat is going to force everyone to face up to the things that have come between them—whether being honest with themselves as well as the people they love means finding a way to reverse course, or parting ways.

gray bridge and trees
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Leslie Lindsay:

What do you think of when you find yourself avoiding the page? Is there something—or someone—who seems to ground you? Maybe that Nature Center that appears in the book?

Jessica Strawser:

I actually write at the Nature Center quite a bit; I love the library there and the freedom to walk the trails when my mind needs a breather. I’m bullheaded about forward momentum, so tend to write through frustration more than I avoid the page—but usually when I’m procrastinating it means there’s something I haven’t thought through enough, some plot points I haven’t connected yet that are holding me back. That’s when I often need to step back, take a macro rather than micro view of the story, and regroup.

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Jessica Strawser:

My kitchen! Thanks to a random electrical storm, the overhead light fixture died the same day FORGET YOU KNOW ME came out, and it turns out replacing this particular fixture isn’t so simple. Naturally there were also some related upgrades we’d been putting off… But home improvement projects and book tours don’t mix!

two black wooden bar stools near table and french door refrigerator
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For more information, to connect with the author, or to purchase a copy of FORGET YOU KNOW ME, please visit: 

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Jessica_Strawser_credit Corrie Schaffeld (2)ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Strawser is the editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade and became known for her in-depth cover interviews with such luminaries as David Sedaris and Alice Walker. She’s the author of the book club favorites Almost Missed You, a Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction pick, and Not That I Could TellBook of the Month selection now new in paperback. Her third novel, Forget You Know Me, released to raves in February 2019 (all from St. Martin’s Press).

Currently serving as the 2019 Writer-in-Residence at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Strawser has written for The New York Times Modern Love, Publishers Weekly and other fine venues, and lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children. She tweets @jessicastrawser, enjoys connecting on Facebook, and speaks frequently at book clubs, libraries, writing conferences and events that are kind enough to invite her.

Let’s stay in touch. Join my email list for (very) occasional updates and hellos.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and used with permission]