Friday, July 25, 2014

Entry # 222 - "The Roses"


Sometimes on summer afternoons my thoughts turn to poetry. Although I see myself as a writer of mostly fiction and a bit of nonfiction, reading poems gives me insights into linguistic effects possible in fiction. This morning I reread Mary Oliver's wonderful poetry collection: American Primitive and all afternoon I hear her words as music - almost as a new language - when I look about me at the ordinary things of a summer day. For example, her short poem, The Roses is running though my head as I look at the ravages of summer heat and Japanese beetles on my roses.

Even ruins have a particular beauty. Here is the poem.

The Roses

One day in summer
when everything
has already been more than enough
the wild beds start
exploding open along the berm
of the sea; day after day
the honey keeps on coming
in the red cups and the bees
like amber drops roll
in the petals: there is no end,
believe me! to the inventions of summer,
to the happiness your  body
is willing to bear.

Writing Days often benefit from Reading Days. This seems especially true on days when I must deconstruct and revise a new piece of work in the second or third draft stages.
About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. 
A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com  (note: homepage under revision right now) so visit blog: http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com

Friday, July 18, 2014

Entry # 221 - Interview with Jeanne N. Ketley, Author of Happy Homes: A Consumer's Guide to Maryland Condo and HOA Law & Best Practices for Homeowners and Boards


Background: 
After retiring from the National Institute of Health (NIH), where she worked as a Scientist and Administrator, Jeanne N. Ketley, PhD, joined Maryland Homeowners' Association in August 2004. She served as president of the MHA for the past five years. MHA is a consumer advocacy group dedicated to promoting the rights of unit owners and homeowner associations. She has been chairperson of the MHA Legislative Action Committee and editor of the MHA E-Communicator.

Jan:   What inspired you to write Happy Homes?

Jeanne:   The need for such a book became apparent to me from my volunteer work with the Maryland Homeowners’ Association (MHA.) After I retired from NIH, I joined MHA when I realized that MHA was the only group in Maryland that provided answers to both Condo and HOA owners and board member questions and complaints.  As Vice-President and then President of MHA, I answered telephoned and e-mail questions from both homeowners and boards and I came to realize that many in both groups had no idea of what it means to live in a common ownership community.
 
Jan:   Some of the terms used in the laws of MD and most states are rather daunting to read and understand. For example what is an HOA and a Condo Association?  

Jeanne:   Although both are common ownership communities, your ownership of your home is very different in an HOA (homeowners association) versus a Condo (condominium association). In an HOA you own your lot and home and the HOA association owns common property such as green space or a shared swimming pool. In a Condo, you as a unit owner, own and have use of the space within the walls of your unit, and the condominium association owns the building itself.

Jan:   What percentage of MD residents live in these shared communities?

Jeanne:   Since most HOAs and Condos are not registered with Maryland, it is hard to get an exact answer to this question but it is estimated that approximately 20% of Marylanders live in these communities. Estimates from Community Associations Institute (CAI) data from January 2011 suggested that more than a million Marylanders are owners in Common Ownership Communities. 

Jan:   How did your volunteer work with MHA and your earlier career as an NIH scientist, researcher and administrator prepare you to write this book?

Jeanne:   My work with MHA gave me an idea of the problems that can arise when one doesn’t understand both the nature of shared communities and the laws that regulate these communities. My background as a scientist gave me the patience for doing tedious research into Maryland law.

Jan:   Who would benefit from buying and reading Happy Homes?

Jeanne:   Anyone who owns or rents property in a Maryland HOA or Condo should read Happy Homes. For most of us, our home is our most important investment. We all need to make sure that association managers, lawyers and boards are dealing straight with us. Certainly, since the legal responsibility for the management of an association falls on the Board of Directors, every board member should read and refer to it.

Jan:   How can people in other states benefit from reading Happy Homes?

Jeanne:   Many state laws in this area are the same and certainly the “best practices” for living in a shared ownership community are identical. The topic headings address problems commonly encountered by people living in these communities and most often cause misunderstandings. I believe Happy Homes can help HOA and Condo owners in other states understand how to best navigate their state laws.

Jan:   What did you discover during the process of writing Happy Homes?

Jeanne:   I discovered it’s really hard to write a book. And I learned what writers mean when they talk about writers block.  For example: I must know dozens of examples of each issue mentioned in the book from people writing into MHA, and yet I spent endless hours staring at my computer unable dredge one up. My solution? I would go on to another section and then remember a case that proved a suitable example. Also since I am scientist by training, I tended to approach my writing like a scientist and put the evidence first and then identify problem and solutions, but that gets in the way of writing a readable, user-friendly book.  So I had to rethink my writing approach.  I also arranged for very fine editorial help, secure in the knowledge that while I don't think of myself as a natural writer, my editors would polish the glitches.

Jan:   I would have thought people serving on boards would know all of this. Why do you think there is such a gap between what people know and what they need to know?  

Jeanne:   Board members are volunteers with real lives and they don’t have the time to take courses on how to be a board member. However, because board members are responsible for millions of dollars worth of property, I believe most of them want to help their communities and do a good job. And  I’m hopeful that an easy to read book like Happy Homes will make their job easier.

Jan:   And yet, the laws of most states continue to change. Will regular updates be available and how can people find out about changes in Maryland laws?

Jeanne:   I plan to put yearly legislative updates up on my web site, www.jeanneketley.com as well as update the book every few years. I’m very excited the Kindle version of Happy Homes is now available at a bargain price of $4.99 and is accessible to more people.    ((http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Homes-Consumers-Practices-Homeowners-ebook/dp/B00LR37PZ2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1405348791&sr=1-1&keywords=Happy+Homes)

The neat thing is that the e-book version has live links in the Contents page to each section, and if you are connected to the Internet, live links to the web sites of the organizations referred to in the Resources section.

Jan:   Thanks for taking the time for this interview.  Full disclosure - you are my spouse.  But I must say, The Resources section, as well as the Best Practices Appendices for Hiring a Management Company and Hiring an Attorney give essential information to Maryland HOA and Condo Boards. Please provide links and information for readers who need to buy a copy of Happy Homes, either for themselves or their boards.


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About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.

A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com  (note: homepage under revision right now) so visit blog: http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com







Friday, July 11, 2014

Entry # 220 - Tom Glenn Talks about his New Novel, No-Accounts


Tom Glenn
Tom Glenn has worked as an undercover agent, a musician, a linguist (seven languages), a cryptologist, a government executive, a federal budgeteer, a care-giver for the dying, and, always, a writer. Many of his prize-winning stories came from the thirteen years he spent shuttling between the U.S. and Vietnam on covert assignment. Nearly all his writing is, in one way or another, about fathers and children (he has four) and is haunted by his five years of work with AIDS patients (all gay, all died), two years of helping the homeless, and seven years of caring for the dying in the hospice system. His stories have appeared in The MacGuffin, Potpourri, The Baltimore Review, and Antietam Review among many others. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and a Baltimore ArtScape Literary award and won the Hackney Literary Award. Four of his novels have won Maryland Writers Association awards, including the grand prize in 2004 and first prize for literary/mainstream in 2010. His web site is http://tom-tells-tales.org

Tom Glenn's new novel, No-Accounts published by Apprentice House of Baltimore describes the bonds that develop between a straight man (Martin) who acts as a caregiver, and a gay man (Peter) who is dying from AIDS. Set in the 1980s, before the hope of antiretroviral drugs, the novel explores the complex nature of love and redemption.

Jan:  Although No-Accounts is described as a novel, I wondered why you chose to write it as a novel rather than as a memoir since you experienced, firsthand, the inner world of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s when you worked as a volunteer caregiver, a role that you've cast as Martin?

Tom: First of all, I’m a novelist by trade. That is, I’m an artist rather than a journalist. Second, I chose fiction as the way to convey the story because it allows me the freedom to order events and place them in locales that strict adherence to the facts wouldn’t permit. And I can express what’s going through the minds of the characters—internal monologues—in ways that would be dishonest in straight reporting. I see my job as moving the reader and allowing her to understand rather than to convey information. That said, nothing in No-Accounts is invented. It all really happened. I fictionalized the events to protect real people involved.

Jan:   What led you to volunteer as a caregiver, an AIDS buddy, when so many people were shunning people with AIDS?

Tom: When the AIDS epidemic started in the early 1980s, no one knew how the HIV virus was transmitted. As a result, nearly everyone, including doctors, nurses, and medical technicians, was terrified of being in contact with gay men infected with AIDS. A few men actually died on the street because no one would rent to them or come near them, let alone touch them. I watched what was happening and couldn’t tolerate it. So I told my wife I wanted to volunteer to help people suffering from AIDS. Because we didn’t know how AIDS was transmitted, there was an unknown likelihood that I’d contract the disease. If I did, then she would, too, simply because she lived with me. She agreed to take the risk, and I signed up at Whitman-Walker to be a caregiver to AIDS patients.

Jan:   And tell us about the title.

Tom: “No-accounts” is a southern term for a worthless person. Early in the story, Peter, the young man dying of AIDS, tells his caregiver, Martin, about his mother’s use of the term and says that he, Peter, is worthless and therefore a no-account. He tells Martin that he’s a no-account, too. Otherwise he wouldn’t be wasting his time taking care of “a fag dying of AIDS.” The sub-title, “Dare Mighty Things,” comes from a Teddy Roosevelt quote talking about the need to take on heroic missions, even though checkered by defeat. Peter as a teenager found that quote in his father’s study and concluded that he was a poor spirit incapable of daring mighty things and that his father, consequently, didn’t love him. By the end of the book, Peter has taken on mighty things.

Jan:  No-Accounts presents a straightforward account of the terrible personal reality of the medical and social issues in the public and private response to AIDS. What do you see as critical governmental, medical and social mistakes made initially in addressing the AIDS epidemic?

Tom: Our mistakes came from bias. We as a society were so condemning of homosexuality that we were, frankly, willing to stand by and let gay men die of the “gay plague.” The more religious among us declared that the disease was God’s punishment for unnatural and sinful acts. As it gradually became obvious that AIDS wasn’t a gay disease, that attitude changed. In the beginning, I shared, albeit unconsciously, that bias. But as the only straight volunteer at the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C. caring for men dying of AIDS, I discovered that the gay men working by my side were willing to risk their lives to help others. The only other place I had seen such bravery was in combat. My bias dissolved.

Jan:  Previously you’ve written about the Vietnam War, in particular the long-term impact of traumatic events on the “self.” That is difficult to write about, whether witnessed or experienced. It seems to me that most people manage to survive by denial or repression. How does writing help you deal with trauma and catharsis?

Tom: Soldiers who seek to survive their unbearable memories by denial or repression only make their trauma worse, especially as they grow older. That intensifies nightmares, flashbacks, irrational rage, and panic attacks. We now know that the indelible experiences must be faced, and we must find ways to come to terms with them. Writing down what happened forces me to remember and own my responsibility for the unspeakable things that happened. That allows me to channel my despair into my writing, not into my living.

Jan:   What do you see as some differences and similarities between an individual traumatized by war versus disease?

Tom: The similarities are far greater than the differences. After Vietnam, I used writing and public speaking to make peace with the awful stuff that was in my head. After five years of taking care of AIDS patients and another seven years working with dying people in a hospice, the very same symptoms were coming back. The deaths I faced, particularly in the AIDS epidemic, were sometimes pretty grisly. Those memories, like the ones from combat, never fade or weaken. They must be faced and owned. Fiction helps in a way nonfiction can’t. It has allowed me to tell the stories of what I wanted to do to act out my rages rather than actually doing it.

Jan:   If you could go back in time now, knowing what you know, what do you think Martin would want to say to Peter?

Tom: Nothing he didn’t say in No-Accounts. Two reasons for that: First, I wanted to show how Martin learned and grew, just as I had. I let him make the same mistakes I did. Second, I spent fifteen years writing No-Accounts. It went through three different critique groups and twenty-one drafts. By the time I was finished, I knew I had said what I wanted to say. That hasn’t changed since.

Jan:  What do you hope readers learn and experience from reading No-Accounts?

Tom: Two things really. The first is how gruesome AIDS is. We as a society romanticize. I wanted to put the unvarnished truth before the reader, just as I have done in my writing about war. Second, I wanted to chronicle the profound love that comes when two men face death together. It happens in combat, and it happened during the AIDS crisis. The bond that people form when death is imminent are the strongest love I’ve ever witnessed.

Jan:  Readers have commented on the straightforward and yet lyrical style of your writing. I wondered to what degree do you think your love of opera and musical training has affected your writing style?

Tom: In the broadest sense, the same aesthetic rules apply to music and writing. In music, simplicity, economy, directness, and proportion are the hallmarks of greatness. Put differently, it’s all form and content with a minimum or even an absence of showiness. Writing uses a different medium, but the rules are the same. One way to express that in writerly terms is the old acronym KISS, that is, keep it simple, stupid. Another is show, don’t tell. In both arts, the purpose is to transport the listener or reader so that one forgets that he is listening to music or is so wrapped up in the story that she forgets she’s reading. In Bach and Mozart, there is not a single unnecessary note; in Shakespeare not a single extra word.

Jan:   Finally, what advice about writing have you found helpful and what advice have you chosen to ignore?

Tom: First, only write about what moves you to the core. Second, hone the craft. Both are life-long endeavors. Least useful to me have been admonitions about being disciplined—write every day, set goals for how many pages you’ll write, work from an outline. I have to write, so I don’t need to harness myself. What works best for me is to unleash my subconscious so that it is as if I’m watching a scene and writing down what I see as fast as I can. At the best of times, that means I write for fourteen hours straight. Only later do I bring orderliness to bear. In sum, my sense is that if one is inspired by a subject or story, the discipline will take care of itself. That of course assumes that one has perfected writing craftsmanship to the point that it is second nature and all but unconscious.

Jan:   Thanks for the interview, Tom. How can readers obtain a copy of your book, and contact you to speak?

Tom:  No-Accounts is on sale at Amazon.com, BN.com. and Powell’s Books on line and in many independent bookshops. As for speaking, I do readings from my books, a presentation on fiction craftsmanship, and another on healing through writing. But my most popular presentation by far is “Bitter Memories: The Fall of Saigon.” I was stranded in Saigon doing undercover intelligence when the North Vietnamese captured the city at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. I escaped by helicopter under fire when the North Vietnamese were in the streets of the city. Since the information about my work was declassified, I’ve given the fall of Saigon presentation more than thirty times. You can email me at tomglenn3@comcast.net. My four web sites are http://tom-tells-tales.org; http://vietnam-tragedy.org; http://friendly-casualties.org; and http://no-accounts.com

Thanks for the interview, Jan. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Tom Glenn is the author of a new novel, "No-Accounts" (Apprentice House of Baltimore), drawn from his years of caring for AIDS patients and ministering to the dying in the hospice system.He is also the author of a Vietnam novel-in-stories, "Friendly Casualties," and 16 published short stories, many of which came from the 13 years he shuttled between the U.S. and Vietnam on covert intelligence assignments before being evacuated under fire when Saigon fell.These days, Tom writes reviews for The Washington Independent Review of Books, for which he specializes in Vietnam and war books. 

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About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.

A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com  (note: homepage under revision right now) so visit blog: http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com



Friday, July 4, 2014

Entry # 219 "The Phoenix Effect in Revision"

Recently I revised a story and the process required the surgical removal of a character I particularly liked, and as a result, I needed to remove three scenes and find another way to get into the heart of the story. Although I hoped to avoid this painful process, the reality of what was needed would not let me rest, until I had altered the focus of the story. I believe the story is stronger as a result.  I still dream about the earlier story, but a Phoenix has risen from the ashes of that earlier story and I am truly humbled by this process.

I often wait - although not as patiently as I should – to revise and to leave room for those acts of the spirit that carry a story into a stronger version of itself.
In Ursula K. Le Guin’s wonderful essay, “Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?” Le Guin said:    
“Writers have to get used to launching something beautiful and watching it crash and burn. They also have to learn when to let go control, when the work takes off on its own and flies, farther than they had ever planned or imagined, to places they didn’t know they knew. All writers must leave room for acts of the spirit. But they also have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.” 
I call this “The Phoenix Effect” because out of the ruins of a story under revision, a newer version rises from the ashes and it grows beyond anything I might have anticipated initially.  But it’s hard – for me as a writer – to let go and trust that something stronger and better will rise from those earlier, well-formed scenes and characters.  Cutting scenes and characters I’ve labored over and come to love is part of the hardest work in my writer’s day. 
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About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.

A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com  (note: homepage under revision right now) so visit blog: http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com
 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Entry # 218 - "Surviving & Thriving from Workshop Feedback"


2014 At Tinker Mountain - Hollins University
Often when I get home from a workshop and look through peer review comments on a draft, I feel overwhelmed. Having recently returned from a week at the Tinker Mountain Workshop, I am once again faced with the question of how to begin my revision process. Sometimes I spin around for weeks or months deciding where to begin and what to do.
A Beautiful Campus & A Great Group of People
Joni B. Cole, has a wonderful book on the topic: Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive (2006) that I have found useful in thinking about the revision process. One of the topics she addresses is what to do with the feedback you get from others. 
In her section, Tips for Processing Feedback, she offers these useful suggestions:

Be Open - In a workshop setting – listen thoughtfully and curb your desire to defend your work.  You may - in your heart - disagree and that’s okay, because the ultimate decisions about your work rest with you.

Resist the Urge to Explain - Remember that readers can only work with what’s on a page – so you need to know where it’s not working.

Little by Little -  “It is easy to get overwhelmed when processing feedback, especially if you try to take it all in at once.”  Cole suggests that writers sift through all the comments once then put them away and select one of those things to focus on for the next revision.  “For example: it your plot is slow and main character shallow – on your next draft move your plot forward and tackle the character issue on a next draft.”

Ignore Feedback -- until you’re ready for it“The value of feedback, and then putting it in your mental lockbox as you push forward, is that this allows your unconscious to quietly process the outside information in a way that informs your writing in sync with your instincts –without slowing you down.”

Try Out the Feedback - For example:  “If your main character isn’t likable, write a scene inside or outside the story that shows him doing something endearing. Even if you decide not to use the scene, this is a great exercise in character development. No writing is a waste of effort."

Give Yourself Time - If you can’t tell if you’re making things better or worse, Cole says, --- "STOP! Take a break. Take a walk. Start something new. Let your subconscious work on it again." You should be able to see when feedback is useful to improve your vision for the work.  If it’s not helping, wait a while and come back to it.

Cole makes a strong case that after finishing a draft and subsequent revisions writers need to find a suitable reader for the work. A suitable reader is rarely someone who loves you unconditionally, but instead, the suitable reader is someone who gets what you’re doing, and who is willing to give thoughtful, insightful impressions; someone who reads carefully and who understands the struggles writers face, but who has sufficient tact to be honest and perceptive; someone who is not inclined to be unkind.

Cole's book is a gold mine of useful insights. Processing feedback effectively means being receptive to hearing a variety of opinions, but filtering it all through your own writer's lens. 


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About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.

A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com  (note: homepage under revision right now) so visit blog: http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com





Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Entry # 217 - Interview with Dr. Eric S. Mondschein, Author of Life at 12 College Road

Dr. Eric S. Mondschein is an author and education consultant. He has taught law and education, worked for the US government, published and edited numerous articles and books, directed an award-winning program for the New York State Bar Association, and served as advisor to an international NGO in Haifa, Israel, on external affairs, government relations, security, and analysis of human rights. His book, Life at 12 College Road is published by Something or Other Publishing and is available on Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. He currently resides in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York with his wife, Ginny.  They have two grown children Adam and Emily, a son in law, Kamal, daughter in law, Yaani, and grandchildren, Annie, Nate and Eli.
Jan:   Tell me about your new book, Life at 12 College Road. Why will readers enjoy reading it?
Eric:   Life at 12 College Road is a collection of thirty-three “real life” short stories that, when taken as a whole, paint a mosaic of a time and place both familiar and distant. Each story can be read and enjoyed on its own, and each provides a different glimpse into the world of growing up in 1950s and 60s America. We all have memories—those that make us smile or laugh, others that bring anger or tears, and some that we’d just as soon forget. But those memories help to make us who we are today—and in some ways, who we will become tomorrow. While reflecting upon my past to write the book, I found that it was not the major earth-shattering events that were truly significant for me. Rather, it was the small things, many long forgotten until recently, that deeply touched me. The book is not really so much about me as it is about those feelings and emotions that we all at one time or another share; feelings of joy, happiness, sadness, anger, fear — and yes, loss — that each of us, in our own yet similar ways, do inevitably encounter. And if their retelling can help the reader connect with similar moments from their lives, then it was worth the time and effort in my writing Life at 12 College Road and their reading it 
Jan:   What inspired you to write this particular book?
Eric:   I am glad you asked this question. I had not intended to write this book at all.  I was on a mission to write an adventure/action thriller and was attending a writer’s retreat in Maine several years ago to do just that. But as fate would have it, I had decided to take a break, as I was just not getting anywhere and take a short nap. I was either dreaming, or it was during that period of time just before awakening that the idea came to me.

I recalled sitting at the dining room table where I had shared Sunday dinners with my family growing up. As I sat at the table, I realized the other three chairs had been tilted forward so that their ladder-backs rested against it. They were obviously no longer of use. And it was then that I remembered what had been bothering me: I was alone. You see, my mom, dad, and younger brother have all passed on without me. They are exploring new worlds and I have been left behind. Heck, even my dog is gone. It was that realization, those memories, which formed the impetus for me to write Life at 12 College Road.  So I put my novel on the shelf and proceeded to write this book. I may in time get back to the novel, as every once in while I think I hear the characters trying to talk to me.

Jan:   Why do you write?

Eric:   First, no one makes me write. In professional positions I’ve held over the years, I have been required to file reports, write memoranda, even treatises, but I was never required to publish law-related articles, write poetry, or Life at 12 College Road. I wrote those because I wanted to.

It certainly was not because I had nothing better to do. The time spent away from family and the activities that were sacrificed along the way attest to that. It was more often a feeling of being compelled to write. Not for others, although most writers do want people to read their work, but to feed a need or a desire coming from within.
Through this writing experience, I have come to recognize, dare I speak a universal truth, that even in the solitude of writing, we are not truly alone. Our memories of loved ones, friends, and those we admire are always with us, some closer to the surface of awareness than others, but they are there nonetheless. And if we are really willing to listen, they have much to offer.

Jan:   What do you need in order to do your best work?
Eric:   On one level I need the peace, quiet and solitude of just being alone. On another, I need to feel compelled not by others, but from within to write, whether it is a poem, a random thought or the monograph I am currently co-authoring with a friend, Ellery (Rick) Miller Jr. on sexual harassment and bullying, or the sequel to Life at 12 College Road. 
Jan:   As you aspire to improve as a writer where do you begin?
Eric:   I read a lot. I read newspapers. I read professional journals, magazines, short stories and novels in as many genres as I can. From fiction to non-fiction, historical, adventures, thrillers, science fiction, children’s stories to yes, even romance. Never thought I would say that, but I read Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s Snow Fence Road, and thoroughly enjoyed the story, the plot and the characters. The more I read the more I learn about writing. What works and what frankly does not. My parents were both prolific readers and would often share what they were reading during dinner and encouraged my brother and I to read. I also had a professor in College who told us “if you want to write you have to read, read, read.”
Jan:   What writers do you read?
Eric:   As I indicated I read a lot and in many genres, but I must admit I have truly enjoyed reading books by Dean Kootnz, John Sanford, Gary Pulsen, Dale Brown, Robert Ludlum, Clive Cussler, W.E. B. Griffen, and Wilbur Smith. And as a young boy I loved Ian Flemming’s James Bond books and Herald L. Goodwin’s Rick Brandt Science adventure stories.
Jan:   What is the best advice you ever received and what advice have you chosen to ignore?
Eric:   As it relates to writing, the best advice was to “read, read, read” and the advice I chose to ignore was that I probably should not try to write.
Jan:   When you review your work over the past couple of years what do you notice?
Eric:   The first thing I notice is that I think that I have now found my voice.  The second is that my writing is still evolving and improving, and will most likely continue to do so. At least I hope so. I also have learned so much working with other writers and attending writing workshops and just writing more and learning to accept criticism. That one I am still trying really hard to learn.
Jan:   Finally - What question do you wish I had asked?
Eric:   When you are not writing what do you like to do?  And my answer is that I truly enjoy being with the love of my life, my wife, Ginny. I also like being with my son and daughter and their dear families.
Jan:   How can readers buy a copy of your book and contact you? 
Life at 12 College Road is available on Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. For those who live in upstate New York you can also pick up my book from Northshire Books Saratoga Saratoga Springs, NY and The Bookstore Plus Lake Placid, NY.
Life at 12 College Road
The Bookstore plus  http://www.thebookstoreplus.com
If readers are interested in some of my other works I invite them to visit my website at:      http://www.ericmondschein.com

Additional Notes on this Author:   Dr. Eric S. Mondschein is an author and education consultant.  He has a Doctorate in law and education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  He has taught law and education at the undergraduate and graduate levels of education.  He has worked for the US government in various capacities, published and edited numerous articles and books in various areas of law and education and written and managed numerous grants from the private and public sectors.  He directed an award-winning law-related education program for the New York State Bar Association from 1980 through 1994.
 
From 1995 to 2006, he advised the governing board of an international non-governmental organization in Haifa, Israel, in the area of external affairs, including government relations, security and provided analysis of human rights situations in selected countries throughout the world in general, and in Iran and the Middle East in particular. He also served as the citizen representative of The Post Star editorial board, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. His book, Life at 12 College Road is published by Something or Other Publishing and is available on Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. 


He currently resides in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York with his wife, Ginny.  They have two grown children Adam and Emily, a son in law, Kamal, daughter in law, Yaani, and grandchildren, Annie, Nate, and Eli.
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About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.

A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com  (note: homepage under revision right now) so visit blog: http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com