I recently had the opportunity to commit some "live lit" in Chicago at the "That's All She Wrote" reading series staged at the Great Lakes Tattoo Parlor on Grand Avenue. I wrote about it at my Running with Stilettos blog, since it lets me put in more photos throughout the essay that this one does for some reason!
At this age—let’s just say “over thirty”—you don’t get too many invitations to play a game of “tag.” You remember those! Running across summer lawns and darting around trees and bushes, trying to outrun your buddies to get to the “free” zone before someone caught you and then you were IT.
But being invited to join a virtual “blog tour” has been just as much fun for this grown-up author…and didn't even require breaking a sweat!
That’s what happened recently, just in time to promote my new book, When the Shoe Fits…Essays of Love, Life and Second Chances. This would be my “best of” collection of essays from my first three books, and includes riffs on turbo-dating, power tools, shoes, motherhood, and the view from the back of a Harley.
I got “tagged” for the tour by author Catherine Fitzpatrick, author of Going on Nine, a YA novel that’s a “coming of age” story set in St. Louis in 1956. While Catherine and I haven’t met YET, the wonderful thing about the world wide web is how you can get to know folks anyway. I’d describe Catherine as a “dame,” in the sense that Lauren Bacall was a “dame”—accomplished, incredibly smart, talented and FUNNY! As a kick-ass journalist, Catherine was in Manhattan to cover New York Fashion Week for Wisconsin’s largest newspaper on September 11, 2001. At first word of the terrorist attacks, she rushed to Ground Zero and filed award-winning eyewitness reports. A front page of the newspaper edition containing one of her 9/11 dispatches is among those memorialized in Washington D.C.’s Newseum. Now she writes fiction, and she and her husband will be exiting the Midwest soon for a new life in Florida.
THANK YOU CATHERINE for inviting me into this tour!
NOW THE BLOG TOUR AUTHOR QUESTIONS...
“What am I working on”—several things at once! But at this exact moment, I’m under the gun in the next two weeks to create an exhibit catalog for “Resting Places,” a joint art show between moi and artist Erico Ortiz that opens October 4, 2014 at Inspiration Studios in West Allis, Wisconsin. I’ve developed a minor obsession with taking photographs in small rural cemeteries, and the show will feature twenty-one of my graveyard photos matched up with Erico’s abstract and impressionistic paintings inspired by nature.
After that, I’ll pick up where I left off in writing (1) a YA novel that contains NO vampires, werewolves, mermaids or dystopian societies, (2) a first-in-a-series suspense novel featuring a female prosecuting attorney (go figure!), and (3) a children’s book revolving around a kitten and…oh, I need to keep some things secret!
“How does my work differ from others in its genre?” Well, the genre for all my books up to now would be considered a mashup of slice-of-life essays and memoir. Some are about the happy stuff, others about the heartaches, and all are about what we take away from those things. I can’t remember who he was quoting when I interviewed him many years ago, but Bill Moyers told me that we all look at the world through the lens of our own experience. So while I often say that I write about things that are common experiences—joy, love, motherhood, divorce, reinvention, death, chocolate and shoes—it’s MY cracked lens you’re seeing them through! I've been compared to Erma Bombeck, Ernest Hemingway, and Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex and the City." Go figure! I'm still trying to figure out the Hemingway thing...
But one thing…there are many extremely gifted writers who peel everything back to the bone when they’re writing their memoirs, and lay bare a lot of ugly and painfull stuff. I tend to focus more on the positives, or at least to draw a forgiving screen across some of the worst. I don't want my readers to wince. Though once in a while they may want to grab a hankie...
“Why do I write what I do?” That’s an interesting question! I have often joked that with these essay collections, I was an “accidental author.” My life as a professional writer started when I was about 21 and began writing for the Milwaukee Sentinel daily newspaper as a stringer. Then I worked for the larger Milwaukee Journal on staff for a while, and turned to freelance magazine when I started a family. Then, years later, the horseback riding accident that broke my back and put me in a body cast for a while turned me toward law school and I thought writing was behind me.
Then the writing itch came back a few years later, and I started working on that novel about the female prosecutor. I got about eight chapters written, but then kept getting interrupted by serial family emergencies, some of which were taking me out of town on a regular basis. The novel got set aside, naturally. But some friends dragged/pushed/pulled me into starting my “Running with Stilettos” blog. I found I could sit and write short stuff, and it kept the top of my head from flying off. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the emergencies are behind me and I can once again pick up a project that requires a long-running train of thought!
“How does my writing process work?” Ha ha ha ha…catch as catch can!! When the kids (who are now all grown up and out of the nest) were small, I would write when they were napping. Or, if I was really cramming for a deadline, I’d get up at four in the morning to finish a project. Waiting for inspiration to strike while an editor somewhere was tapping her foot on the floor was never a luxury I could afford. Now, years later, I still feel like I’m fitting it in around the edges of everything else—work, commute, pets, yard work, connecting with my children. BUT…if something has to come out, sometimes I’ll just drop everything and write notes on anything that’s within reach. Like the back of a manila envelope in the car. Or the “notes” section of my iPhone. And I get a lot of inspiration from nature, which I get a slow-motion tour of every day while I’m walking Lucky and The Meatball in the woods.
And NOW, to pass the torch to three other accomplished writers who I am privileged to know and recommend! First at bat…
Angela Lam Turpin, a self-described “California girl” who spends her days working in real estate and finance and the hours before dawn writing literary short stories, paranormal romance, crime thrillers, and effervescent women's fiction better known as chick-lit. Her short stories explore the depths of human emotion from hope to despair, and the heroines in her novels fight the challenges of their lives with pluck and courage. (The literary apples don’t fall far from the tree, since Angela is one of the most resilient people I know!) She is best known for her wry humor, realistic plots, and engaging characters. Her latest book is The Human Act and Other Stories, a collection of short stories that explore sexual identity, poverty, romantic love, parenthood, eating disorders, infidelity, and family relationships, effortlessly carrying the reader from the inner city to suburbia.
Next up, David W. Berner, a Chicago-area college professor and broadcaster who I first encountered when we were both reading essays to a crowd at The Beauty Bar on Chicago’s near North side on a Sunday night. David’s first book, "Accidental Lessons," is a memoir drawn from his mid-life decision to spend a challenging year as a public school teacher with kids would could politely be called “at risk” and the profound lessons he drew from it. His most recent book, Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons, is drawn from his 5,000 mile road trip with his teenaged sons as they retrace Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” adventures. I’ve always been a big fan of time spent in a car with my own children, and the emotional tributaries that reveal themselves when the rubber meets the road.
And finally, here’s Holly Sullivan McClure, who I first met in the enchanted environs of St. Simons Island, Georgia several years ago when I attended my first Scribblers Retreat Writers' Conference as a guest speaker. Holly could be the dictionary definition of “eclectic,” inasmuch as she is an author, a story-teller, a literary agent and writing coach, and an ordained priest in the Celtic Christian Church! Raised by storytellers, preachers, and bluegrass musicians, a child of the Smoky Mountains with a Cherokee mom and a father whose people came from the Scottish Highlands, Holly draws on her heritage for inspiration. In her latest book, The Vessel of Scion, warrior priests protect an ancient blood line from an enemy determined to eradicate it from the world. Faith and reality collide as final prophecies come to pass, and two children hold the key to whether good or evil will win out.
Now Angela, David and Holly, officially you’re “IT”!