Interview: An Interview with Larry Burns

Book Name and Description: 100 Things to do in Riverside, CA Before You Die

book cover 100 things

Riverside is a city founded by abolitionists, teetotalers, and other advocates of social justice.  Their ambitious hopes for humanity created a place that was forward-thinking, artistic, technologically progressive, and different from the status quo.  What I put together here was designed to illustrate the achievement of that vision.  Driving it is an economy that came into its own by creating and sustaining a citrus industry with the navel orange as its cornerstone.

Decades ago, Riverside grew under the shadow of Los Angeles, starting as little more than a pit stop along the road from LA to Palm Springs for Hollywood celebrities. From these humble origins, Riverside is now an arts and innovation corridor. By car, by foot, or bicycle, the city has an eclectic collection of artisan shops, regional foods, and one of a kind things to see. 100 Things to Do in Riverside, CA Before You Die is your local guide that cuts to the chase, saves you time and shows you what’s unique, fun, and simply worth doing in Riverside.

This Book is Available for Kindle and Print on Amazon: Click Here.


What gave you the idea for 100 Things to do in Riverside, CA Before You Die?

While completing my Humanities degree, I took an LA Lit course.  I left wondering, “Who’s telling the Inland Empire’s story?” Answering that question led to me joining a merry band of artists, writers, and bibliophiles and creating the Inlandia Institute.  My purpose was to present an image of my hometown as a place where the DIY and DIT ethos supports a thriving and diverse mix of arts, foods, and industries.

I wanted the contrasts in Riverside celebrated, not hidden.  Smog hangs against the San Bernardino Mountain range north of here, its omnipresence only broken by the hot Santa Ana winds that knock down trees and other regional ambitions in the Fall.  But, we also have some of the largest protected open spaces you will find in Southern California.  We are a community formed by the social justice movement and a strong military presence.


What got you into writing in this genre? 

Some credit goes to the Target Corporation.  My friend, the poet Cati Porter, was helping Reedy Press find a writer for this project.  While pondering that puzzle, we had a fortunate meeting of carts in the grocery section.  Later that day, she sent me a note. I spoke with the publisher, they liked my ideas and my sample.  I then spent the fourth quarter of 2016 writing the book.


How long have you been writing? 

In my 20’s I wrote often but was almost never published.  I let the rejection slips dictate my happiness and I eventually stopped.  I returned in my 30’s, finished a graduate degree and a novella, Being Wendall.  A few years and several rejections later, I stepped away again.  I found more happiness and purpose helping my fellow writers, so I focused on publishing and supporting them in the mid 2000’s.  In 2015, I jumped off my academic management career track to be a full-time dad, part time professor, with a shaky plan to write and publish somewhere in between. So far, it’s working better than expected.


Tell us about your past books and stories? 

I wrote a novella in 2006 called “Being Wendall”. It was about a young man who works hard to achieve the American Dream – loving family, fulfilling job, supportive community – only to lose them one by one. He must create a new dream for himself and chooses to make do with the discarded bits of society – rural dwellers, housewives, activists, and old people.  When I returned to writing in 2015, much of what came out was poetry.  I wrote poetry before but never this much. I found poetry expressed my emotions and values most effectively. I became fascinated by flash fiction.  I was scratching notes in the car or while feeding an infant. It was an exhilarating period of sleep deprivation, role reversals, and self-discovery. No matter the genre or decade, nearly everything I write come down to an exploration of what happens to human beings when they rub up against something.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing? 

The writing process is a chore.  Like a chore, it must be scheduled and reminders are needed.  I wake up most days at least an hour before the rest of my family.  I use that period to write. Some days that space gets taken over by grading papers, or reading, or more sleep.  During the day, I will jot down ideas while taking care of my 2 ½ year old daughter.  She still naps, so I can expect another solid hour of writing, and another hour reading things that interest me.  My domestic tasks influence me the most.  When those dominate, I don’t write.  Spending so much time with a child does support my imagination and creative thinking, but I don’t always get those ideas on paper in time.


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?

Right now, I am reading the collected works of Frederick Douglas.  I started it shortly after the election in 2016 and I appreciate and value seeing just how much of the struggles today were problems he described nearly 200 years ago – specifically blacks seen as inferior, sub-human, by the majority culture, and the poverty perpetuated by severe inequities in criminal justice, economics, and education.

I love the collection from a writer’s perspective as well.  Since it captures all his writing and speeches, it often repeats stories and themes.  I see how his ideas changed over time, and how he adapted his approach to his audience while not watering down his message.  It’s a near impossible task to achieve in writing.  But the attempt entertains.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I look for more collaborative projects now than in the past.  I talk to more artists than I used to, and those conversations have resulted in workshops, art exhibitions, and biographies in the last two years.  I need reminders that I am not the smartest person in the room.  Talking to others, getting outside my little sphere artistically and socially will keep me creative.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? 

One, a writing community – You need at least two in the modern age. One digital and one analog.  The digital can keep you engaged across many genres and places.  You can get details fast and I use my digital engagement to find out what’s happening creatively around town, so I can join in as a consumer or participant.

Two, you must have deadlines. I find I cannot finish much of anything without a deadline.  I did not finish my first novel until 2006, and it was only because I made it the capstone project of my MA degree.  I’ve started several novels since then, but it was my culture guidebook about Riverside that was my second completed project; it was because the publisher had a deadline I needed to hit so it would be in stores on time.


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

In Carolyn See’s book, Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, she advises writers to keep all their receipts.  This is not a get rich-game, the writing life, so a person must find all the places they can to save money and lower the small amount of taxes we do pay. Along the way, she entertains and shares her compelling writing philosophy.  It’s everything I love about writing – direct, honest, and useful.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre? 

My published work these next few years will be of regional interest.  I reluctantly joined social media several years ago.  Currently, the two channels that engage my readers and buyers are Facebook and Instagram.  Because my books use local sights, they lend themselves well to linking and photography, two things enjoyed on social media.

I also create on average two events per month where I am reading from the book or providing useful information about the community through service clubs, museums, retails shops, and special community events.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

I am proud of the way I have represented my community in my work.  In my fiction, I create characters that don’t love everything about home, but choose to make it work.  My non-fiction has created a distinct voice for this region that reflects our diverse history (strong military and very active social justice movement).


For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

do your chores, love dad is my poetry chapbook and I think it illustrates what I think about most of the time.  That is, how am I doing as a dad (am I creating monsters or good upright humans?) and what kind of world will my children grow up in?  I also believe nearly any moment in our life can be valuable lesson times, and I have several moments captured that helped me understand larger truths about reality, purpose, and my place in the world of other people.


What are you doing next? 

I have two books in the works.  The first is open ended and a collaborative project with a local artist. We are attempting to capture the 15-year history of Riverside’s Día de los Muertos festival he created back in 2004.  We are just starting to put together enough material to send some queries. The second is called Secret Inland Empire. It covers many of the odd histories, foods, people, mysteries, and cool hidden places around here, scheduled for release Summer of 2018 with Reedy Press.


What advice would you give aspiring writers? 

Make friends and get out of the house. Go experience as many art forms as possible. It will keep you engaged and prevents boring work as much as any other practice.



Larry Burns is a writer, artist, and teacher who draws inspiration and ideas from the heady mixture of sights, sounds, peoples, and places of his hometown, Riverside CA. He enjoys writing that employs simple themes and language, allowing the reader to participate by establishing for themselves what the writing means.  Living and creating from this part of the world has its pros and cons – “As a lifelong resident of the Inland Empire, sometimes my lungs seize from the diesel fumes and my eyes tell me there are no mountains to the north.  But beneath the dirt lies treasure.  And that treasure is mine, mine all mine!”

For over two decades, Larry Burns has been an active community leader, booster, and all-around fan of the recreation and art hidden across the (82-square mile) small town he calls home. He was a founding member of the Inlandia Institute, a non-profit publishing house that recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. He teaches writing and humanities courses as an adjunct professor at Riverside City College and University of Phoenix. Most days you can find him in Riverside CA, chasing his young daughter along Main Street or keeping her on the trail up Mt. Rubidoux.



Official Website

Facebook Author Page 

Larry’s Amazon Author Central

Twitter – @Larry_M_Burns


© The Literary Librarian 2017



Interview: An Interview with A.E. Chandler

Book Name and Description: The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood

TSF Cover 2

​            You are invited underneath the great greenwood tree to hear how a young man became a hero, and a hero became a legend. When Robin takes a shortcut through Sherwood Forest, the path he chooses leads not to Nottingham’s archery contest, but to a life on the run from the law. Unable now to become a knight, and joined by his childhood friends, Robin Hood leads the most infamous outlaw band ever to evade the king and his sheriff.

​            Blending true history with new stories, popular inaccuracies, and some almost forgotten medieval legends, The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood brings a new life to the greenwood, which here feels as fresh as it does traditional. With an academic background in medieval English studies, A. E. Chandler captivates with this unique and nuanced reinterpretation of Robin Hood’s struggles and adventures. The forest is waiting.

This book is available on Amazon, Booktopia, and Chapters Indigo. See the Links section at the bottom of the interview for direct links to books.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of? 

For published work, The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood.  It has always held a special place in my heart, not least because of all the study I’ve done on Robin Hood.  Overall, probably The Book of the Damned, which is part of a horror series.  It’s about Reya, an ex-cop, figuring out how to live her life, which draws her into the world of Alex and Zack, whose family hunts down the paranormal and keeps it in check.  Reya believes in angels and demons, and not much else; it was interesting to get inside of that clash of beliefs.  Another reason I like this book is the structure, with the chapters alternating between the present and the more and more recent past, until the two collide.  It took a long while to settle on that structure, but it was worth taking the time to slog through so many options, because this one was definitely right for this story.  While she projects a tough outer shell, Reya is chin-deep in powerful emotions, and I enjoy going back to The Book of the Damned when struggling with another piece and reading some of the conflicts Reya has with her friends and family members.  The characters have a chemistry with one another that I’m very proud of, but can’t entirely take credit for; to some extent, characters always have minds of their own.


What are you doing next? 

A historical YA series set in nineteenth century London called The Collected Curiosities of Colonel William Creighton.  Curio cabinets contained antiquities, minerals, dead animals (or at least parts of them), machines, and more.  Their popularity started in the Renaissance.  Colonel Creighton collects only the weirdest of the weird, things that are truly one of a kind, that you can only find referenced in a single footnote in a single historical text.  Since he spends most of his career in India, the first book is set there.  His daughter Lydia, two privates named Joshua and Sam, and Sam’s secret Indian girlfriend Chandra help in adding to the collection, and in doing so see plenty of brushes with danger.  The second book explores Africa, and the others will look at China, Europe, Oceania, and more.


What are some of the differences between the medieval and modern versions of Robin Hood?

Robin Hood’s legend has proven to be amazingly durable. It has been added to and subtracted from for over seven hundred fifty years. You hear more about new characters like Allan a Dale and Maid Marian than you do about medieval characters like Red Roger, or the social satire that pervades the stories. The most fundamental difference between the medieval and modern versions of Robin Hood is probably the modern conception of him as a rebel. The medieval character is much more complex, and oversimplifying him is doing him a great disservice. In the extant medieval stories, Robin Hood is a satirical character who, despite being an outlaw and thus exiled from society, enforces the law and the social order better than the corrupt higher-ups within that social order, who are his enemies. Robin Hood is not a rebel at all, but actually the opposite. What he fights against is the corruption that perverts the social order he loves. There are nuances in how this is portrayed in the medieval stories that are unfortunately missing from modern retellings.


Why is Robin Hood’s legend still relevant?

Robin Hood’s legend has changed over time, but one of the constants has always been that he is a hero. He stands for something. He stands for a fair social order, in which everyone upholds their social responsibility toward one another (Chandler – The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood 1). He stands against corruption, and promotes the rule of law. He is devout, and respectful of those deserving respect. These are still values that we need in our society, and Robin Hood gives us an example to live up to. All around us we see instances of corruption, especially when it comes to those in positions of power; we see people out for themselves rather than helping others; and we see people ready to throw right and wrong out the window whenever it suits them. We are facing many of the same problems faced by people in Robin Hood’s day, making his example still very relevant.


What does the Robin Hood legend say about medieval women?

The image we have of medieval women has been heavily coloured by the assumptions and prejudices of the Victorian Era. Many people think that in the medieval period women could be forced to marry against their will, couldn’t marry without their fathers’ consent, or could be raped by their lord with impunity – all of this is false. The women in the medieval stories of Robin Hood are more empowered than most people would expect. The Sheriff of Nottingham’s wife invites a disguised and charming Robin Hood to join her and her husband for a meal, flirting with Robin as she pleases, proving to be the reason her husband’s life is spared, and openly laughing at her husband for becoming Robin Hood’s victim. The Prioress of Kirklees is Robin’s cousin; she is in charge of a nunnery, takes a lover despite her vows, and enacts a plan to kill Robin that ultimately succeeds, though numerous men have tried and failed. The Virgin Mary is the woman most often mentioned in the medieval stories; Robin is completely devoted to her, credits her with a number of good deeds, and because of her never harms another woman. These are just three short examples of medieval women exhibiting influence and behaving however they wish. They were individuals with their own minds, and portrayed as such, rather than the meek objects that Victorian misconceptions have tried to turn them into.


Why did you choose to write a novel about Robin Hood? 

When I was four years old, I saw the Disney cartoon of Robin Hood, and since then he has been one of my heroes. I did my first history project on him when I was in grade eight, which led to a love of history and eventually an MA with Merit in Medieval Studies from the University of Nottingham. I’ve gained a lot through exploring his story. Historical research is one way of finding out about something, and writing a novel is another. These two methods have some things in common, but each also allows you to examine aspects that the other doesn’t. Writing a novel is a great way to immerse yourself in a different world, and that’s what The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood does. Robin Hood being a figure in historical literature, finding out more about him from both a historical and a literary point of view makes sense in order to gain a fuller picture; using one or the other exclusively would significantly limit the ability to understand the legend.


Most retellings use Richard I as their king; why did you choose Edward I? 

Richard I was added to the Robin Hood legend in the sixteenth century. He wasn’t a very good king. He spent his time and England’s money on foreign wars, rather than on looking after the country. Medieval records show that some form of Robin Hood’s legend had spread to southern England by 1262. In The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood, I have Robin outlawed in 1260, which gives him the legendary “thirteen years and something more” to make a name for himself by 1262, and receive a pardon when Edward I returns from crusading in the Holy Land. Richard I reigned during the twelfth century, while Robin Hood’s legend portrays him as being active during the early or mid thirteenth century, during the reigns of either John or Henry III (Chandler – The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood 2). The Scarlet Forest has the best of both worlds, starting Robin’s outlawry under Henry III for historical accuracy, and ending it under Edward I, a crusading warrior king who genuinely cared about England and its governance, and left the country better than he found it.


Could anyone have really been as good an archer as Robin Hood is claimed to be? 

The biggest obstacle to answering this question is knowing what kind of bow an English archer would have used. We can place the origin of Robin Hood’s legend sometime during the early to mid thirteenth century. Many people believe that the longbow came to England from Wales sometime after the middle of the thirteenth century, but this is false. It is also false that there was a weapon called a short bow that preceded the longbow. Until shortly before the end of the medieval period, there were only the terms bow and crossbow. A bow was as long as it needed to be to suit the archer using it. What we now call longbows – what people at the time simply called bows – were present and in use in England long before Robin Hood’s legend was beginning in the thirteenth century. Every amazing feat of archery in the extant medieval stories is possible with a longbow, assuming the archer had the necessary skill.


Medieval stories depict Robin Hood as being devout, but also as having churchmen as some of his most bitter enemies; how is this possible? 

This issue confuses many people. Robin Hood is following the same pattern here as he does with secular society: he respects the institution, and fights anyone who seeks to subvert or corrupt it. It’s been pointed out that the legend takes a harsh view of the regular clergy (monks who shut themselves away from society), while not criticizing the secular clergy (parish priests and others who interact with and help common people). In The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood, I’ve included characters and events that further explore this contrast. Robin Hood’s enemies are monks and bishops more concerned with accruing wealth than with helping people. These enemies can’t lessen his devotion because part of being Christian is acknowledging that no person does the right thing all of the time. Even if that person doing wrong is a bishop, God’s Word is still true, just as the Sheriff of Nottingham breaking the law doesn’t mean the law itself is changed or not worth fighting to uphold.


What was it like living in Robin Hood Country for a year? 

While I was working on my graduate degree in Medieval Studies at the University of Nottingham, I got to live right in the heart of England. I loved it, but it was an adjustment, from the food to the weather to how the light switches worked. Quite a bit of the time it was lonely, since my family and friends were back in Canada, and the time difference dramatically stilted communication, even with the Internet. That’s the necessary downside, but it was honestly the best year of my life. Not only did I get to study at one of the top universities in the world, but the number of sources and experts I was given access to was a dream come true. Most weekends I caught a train or a bus to another town or village and explored. Researching Robin Hood, and then actually being able to travel to the places portrayed in the legend, gave me a more complete view than I could have gotten anywhere else.


When studying sources, how do you separate fiction from fact?

The historical method is all about critical thinking. No source can be taken at face value, as writers naturally impose their point of view on their accounts, whether intentionally or unintentionally (Chandler – The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood 3). It was considered acceptable in the medieval period to record events as they ought to have happened, rather than as they did happen and, in that cultural mindset, this wasn’t considered lying. You also get sources that are created decades or even centuries after the fact, a number of sources promoting the same falsehood because they all have a common source, or writers trying to court favour by portraying a patron or potential patron’s family in a more flattering light. The best way to deal with these issues is to collect as many sources on a subject as possible, and be aware of any possible prejudices the writers might have, taking everything with a grain of salt and using common sense. I’m also a strong proponent of taking an interdisciplinary approach, and looking at not just historical accounts but literary ones, drawings, archaeological artefacts – anything that’s available. The more sources you have, the less likely you’ll be fooled by one unreliable one. Research and critical thinking are key to finding out the truth about anything, including current events.


Could Robin Hood have been a real person? 

The most energetically debated question surrounding Robin Hood is whether or not he was a historical figure as well as a literary one. A good case can be made for both sides of the issue. When looking at the five known extant medieval Robin Hood tales, we can see that, unlike stories about other outlaws from the same time, the events portrayed have a literary twist but are realistic, though occasionally farfetched. Every amazing feat of archery that Robin Hood is said to have performed is actually, physically possible with the equipment available in early to mid thirteenth century England, assuming that the archer had the skill. The places in West Yorkshire where Robin Hood is said to live and travel are all described accurately, and with a level of detail that would only have been known to locals. The adventures we are told about were obviously meant to be understood as happening in the real world, though whether or not they did actually occur we still don’t know for sure. It is possible that Robin Hood was a real person.



A.E. Chandler holds a Master of Arts with Merit from the University of Nottingham, where she wrote her dissertation on the social history behind Robin Hood. While earning a BA in Ancient and Medieval Studies at the University of Calgary, she also took courses in publishing and creative writing. Living in England, and travelling in Europe, Asia, and Africa have also contributed to her stories and characters – she has been chased by a camel rider through the Sahara Desert, skated down a volcano in Sicily, and gotten unintentionally locked inside of a medieval prison in France. Chandler has had short stories, poetry, and articles published, in addition to a book of collected non-fiction entitled Into the World, and the novel The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood. Currently, she lives in Calgary, where she teaches, volunteers with the Glenbow Museum’s military collection, and writes historical fiction as well as contemporary fiction concerning history.




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The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood on Amazon in Canada

The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood on Amazon U.S.

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The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood on Barnes & Noble

The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood on Booktopia for Australia

The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood on Chapters Indigo


© The Literary Librarian 2017


Interview: An Interview with Poet Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios

Book Name and Description: Special Delivery

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This is a book about the loss of our son on the Pan Am 103 Flight that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988, the events surrounding it that impacted the family, and our grieving process.

This book is available in print on Amazon: Click Here.


Back at the Music School Office after Christmas Vacation
by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios

I climb from the car,
stretch my legs like a wintered spider,
and blink to accustom myself
to the new slant of  light.
The leaves in the parking lot rush to greet me,
brush against the tops of my shoes
and swirl around my ankles.

As I push through the heavy glass doors,
I see the secretary’s desk
too early for her arrival.
No sound
save the driving arpeggios
of a lone pianist in the distance.

Only a month gone.  Who am I?
Who is this grey mouse
who drags her wet wooly heart behind her,
and now tiptoes down the long hallway
as if walking were a sacrilege
and breathing a sin?
When did the block walls fade to grey?
When did the rooms grow so far apart?

The last month has curled up and tumbled away,
yellow giving way to brown,
to black,
leaving me startled at the jumble of unopened letters,
the piles of red-pocked term papers
stacked on my desk,
the tethered phone
blinking incessantly.

I remove the sign on my door:
and scrape off the sticky remnants
of tape that still outline the now empty square.
I take down the helter-skelter posters,
and the out-of-date notices
that jostle each other for attention,
leaving the nude cork raw,
stubbled with thumbtacks.

The clock snaps to attention at 9:00.
The students begin to arrive
in streams of loopy yellow,
barging through the front doors,
red knots of giggles
and unintended rudeness.
I feel ragged and soft,
unfamiliar in this familiar world,
still trying to shake off  images of a burning plane,
and a fog-shrouded bagpiper climbing the hill
next to an empty hole in the ground.

How strange it is to be here,
for I have returned  like a prodigal daughter
from a distant shore,
having been garroted by the cruelty of the world. 

The first student of the semester
knocks sharply on the door and as she enters
lowering her self-conscious eyes,
I swallow deep into my bones.
I straighten my skirt,
look up
and smile.


What gave you the idea for Special Delivery? 

Special Delivery was a result of the experience my family went through when we experienced the Pan Am 103 crash over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.  It has taken me many years to be able to speak about the tragedy and to write about our experiences beginning with his phone call before we left to pick him up, through experiencing the tragedy, watching the reactions in the airport and dealing with the overwhelming crush of press and grief we experienced from those around us. Originally  we thought the loss was completely ours, but discovered very quickly it belonged to the world.  The title comes from the discovery of a large picture of Nicholas, which miraculously escaped the fire, explosion and torrential rain that accompanied the crash, only to be snatched from the air by an Umbrian hunter 300 miles away and sent to Lockerbie.  The picture is on the cover – a self-photo of Nicholas sitting on a precipice of a Scottish crag,


What got you into writing in this genre? 

One day, a few years ago, I participated in a group conversation in which the question was asked, “What would you be in your next life?”  People answered in the usual way: “I’d be a famous tenor who gets all the girls”, “I’d be a famous movie star” etc.  I thought a bit, and astounded myself when I answered “I’d be a poet.”  Everyone laughed, but I began to think: “Hey, I’m not dead yet!  Why not?”  That is when I began to seriously put myself on a self-study campaign to take classes, read poetry voraciously, and write every day.


How long have you been writing?

I have written all my life, but not seriously – I was a musician -a singer who taught and concertized all over the world. When I was a little girl – about 5, I believe – I wrote what I think was my first poem – written while I played the chords on the piano. “Cracking nuts by Candlelight, on the very darkest night.  It’s so fun for me you see, because it’s by our Christmas tree.” I wrote poems secretly in diaries but hid them as they expressed my personal thoughts.  As a singer I always felt I was a re-creator, singing other people’s poems and thoughts, but always wanted to be a creator, expressing what I felt in my own words.


Tell us about your past books and stories? 

I began to write about being raised in Northern California in the 50’s and about my mentally ill, abusive mother.  I collaborated with my brothers in this memoir in a book called Party Line.  This is a collection of short stories – before my full transition to a poet.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing? 

Whew!  Those are three big questions in one!  My writing process has to come first from silence.  I need full quiet and solace to fully access what I have to say.  The stiller I am (and the earlier in the day I access this) the easier the words appear.  I begin my day with coffee (!!!) and sit to read whatever new poetry book I have garnered.  I usually read for about an hour or more and then begin to write in my journal.  I don’t try to write poetry – just whatever is in my mind, and in whatever form it decides to appear.  I try to write without stopping – sometimes for a half hour, sometimes longer.  I put this away to return to later.  I always write a “bad poem a day”,  perhaps 5 or 6 lines – a free write, giving myself permission to be crazy.  These I return to periodically for ideas as well.  Later in the day, I peruse some of my past writing to see if I can garner an idea for a poem.  I spend some time every day editing something – either someone else’s poems, or my own. The evenings are reserved for reading sites on the computer and sending out poems.  The biggest influences on my writing have been Bach, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Lorca, W.A. Merwin, Seamus Heaney, Billy Collins, Ellen Bass, Ocean Vuong, Paisley Rekdahl, and sometimes the last poet I have read.


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why? 

This is perhaps the most difficult question you are asking.  It is like asking a chocoholic her favorite bon bon, or picking out your favorite tune when you love music passionately.  It often is the latest book I have read, such as the latest issue of Rattle, Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay or Black Country by Liz Berry. Then I pick up Jane Hirshfield or  Brigit Pegeen Kelly or Hailey Leithauser and I am in love all over again. Books that disappoint are those that purposely obscure meaning for a posture or an experiment, or those which employ self indulgent writing by poets who don’t give the reader the benefit of the doubt that we will feel something.  I enjoy well-crafted poetry just as I enjoy well- crafted music.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? 

I have studied and read extensively, taken many writing courses, (I try to remain in one constantly),  write daily and have begun to be more observant of the wonder in the world around and beneath me.  I have learned economy, brevity, color and form.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? 

I truly appreciate writers who have craft and who can write emotionally without being self-indulgent, employ image and metaphor that move me beyond the words on the page.  Craft is essential – to have control over meter, music, internal rhyme, know what a volta is, how to begin and end a poem,  how to break a stanza and when to use punctuation and when not to use it.  Tone, color and voice are important as well.  Tools are important in any craft – the more you have, the subtler you can be and the easier you can induce the reader to feel what you feel. As a matter of fact, the more I write poetry, the more I realize how integrated all art is – these qualities are important in music, art, and sculpture as well.


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author? 

Let go of your little darlings.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

At the moment I am seeking publication through the journals on line and submitting as much as I can.  It is important to have an audience if you write – and acceptance or rejection helps me to perfect my voice.  The more often the voice is “out there” the more people will begin to seek you out, and the more you may have a reason to write.  We cannot express art in a vacuum.  I now have many friends on Facebook who follow my poetry – a huge surprise, given that no one knew I wrote until a few short years ago.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of? 

At the moment it is my chapbook – but there are numerous poems that (self indulgent as it may be) I truly enjoy.  Perhaps the work I am most proud of at the moment is my son, Christopher who is finding his creative life writing words and music and producing in the Reggae vein.  It is a great privilege to observe a beautiful blossom.


For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

Heavens – much of my work are on e-sites.  Some is in print in anthologies (but I am not so certain about those) and for goodness sake – don’t read Party Line.  At the moment – the work I am most proud of is Special Delivery because it reaches into my depths of feeling about loss and how I was able to come up on the other side after losing my 20 year old son.  People have said that it helped them through their own grieving process.


What are you doing next?

I am compiling a book about my abusive childhood.  I have several projects in mind and that is what drives me to work every day.


What advice would you give aspiring writers? 

Write! write! write!  Study the masters and find your own voice and style.  If you have something to say – say it!



Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios’ poetry has been featured in such online poetry columns as Form Quarterly, NILVX , Passager Journal, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Hollins Critic, Foliate Oak, Scissors and Spackle, and in issues of Poeming Pidgeon, Unsplendid , Stories of Music and The Edison Review. Her prize-winning chapbook, Special Delivery was published by Yellow Chair Press in the spring of 2016.  Elizabeth is a professor emerita from American University in Washington DC, having chaired the vocal and music departments. She has taught workshops throughout the US, and is well known for her interpretations of contemporary music, having premiered  over 100 works, many of them composed for her. Vrenios’ solo recitals throughout the United States, South America, Scandinavia, Japan and Europe have been acclaimed. As the artistic director of the Redwoods Opera Workshop in Mendocino, California, and the Crittenden Opera Workshop in Washington D.C. and Boston, she has influenced and trained students across the country. She is a member of the international Who’s Who of Musicians, and is the past National President of the National Opera Association.



Elizabeth’s Facebook 

Elizabeth’s Official Website 

Special Delivery on Amazon


Links to Poems:

See Saw Marjorie Day  

Practice Makes Perfect 

Spring’s Birth Announcement Issue 50 on HaikuJournal Collaborative Poem

Two poems on Beltway Poetry Quarterly

Two More Poems: Practice Makes Perfect and Communion

Alternate Truths 

While Eating an Apple

Dark Star 

When Death Splits the Air, Dandelion, Hi, Noon

Elegy for Mother 


Singing Villanelle to a Collage of Pleated Cows

Piano at Five (Contributor)


Ode to a Purple Onion, also on


Poems without Direct Links (only viewable by members of these sites):

I Hold My childhood Picture is on

Song of the Suomalainen is on

The Oldest Living Thing in Maryland is on

Sealed Casket is on

Darling Icarus, Diabolical Clock is on

The first Year Without You is on

Every Other Thursday, on


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Poet Lynne Viti

Book Name and Description:  Baltimore Girls (2017)

Baltimore Girls - Lynne Viti (1)

The Glamorganshire Bible (forthcoming 2018) poetry collection with a focus on my maternal grandmother, and my mother’s family in Cumberland Maryland and Baltimore from the late 19th century through the 1950’s. 

Available on Amazon for Print: Click Here.


What gave you the idea for Baltimore Girls?

About six years ago, I joined several poetry workshops at the Boston Public Library, with poet Sam Cornish, then poet laureate of the City of Boston. Some of the prompts Sam gave us inspired me to write about my family. Sam entered one of my family poems in a juried competition, and my work was selected for an exhibit at Boston City Hall.  Sam encouraged me to begin sending out my work, and I was astonished at the result—within three years I had three dozen poems accepted for publication, and had won two poetry prizes.


What got you into writing in this genre?

The short answer is that two of my high school teachers, Sister Augusta Reilly, RSM and Sister Carol Wheeler, RSM, inspired me. They required me to write poetry as part of a Creative English class in my senior year of high school. I wrote in college and into my twenties, and published a few poems. But it was only after my children were grown and on their own that I wandered back into writing.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

In the beginning of my late-in-life writing career, which began about five years ago, I wrote mostly about the deep past. Lately I have situated my work more in the present, often with poems about nature or people I observe in the moment.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I try to write a poem a day, as my best poet-friend Heather Bryant does, but I rarely meet that challenge. I am a teacher, and during the school year, there is so little time, so I don’t write each morning, as I do in summer and on semester breaks. My goal is to write a poem a week. If I can do that, and if I can revise until I’m satisfied with the poem, I feel I am being as productive as I can be.

Biggest influences range from the poets I studied in school—Donne, Yeats, Plath, Lowell, Sexton, William Carlos Williams, Spender, Auden, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, —to contemporary poets, both obscure and famous. My current favorites are Alice Notley, Louise Gluck, and Frank Bidart.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

In my twenties, I was so self-focused  and the poetry was  hard for almost anyone else to relate to. Now I think—I hope— that my work has a broader appeal—across genders, ages, countries.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?    

That room of one’s own to retreat to, as Virginia Woolf said. Some notebooks. A few first readers who will give honest feedback on early drafts. A day job, to pay for food, shelter—and those reading fees. A small, faithful audience of readers who will buy your books and show up for your readings. Venues for reading one’s work—libraries, book clubs, coffee shops that hold poetry readings, community centers, poetry festivals.


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

You have to believe in your work. Once you’ve revised and revised and know it’s as done as it will ever be, send it out. If it’s rejected by a publication, send it out again. And again. If you receive feedback from an editor, take it to heart, see if more revising might be in order. Eventually, it will find a home.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Poets and Writers, Facebook groups listing submissions opportunities, writers groups, workshops, libraries, open mics, suggestions from fellow poets.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

Right now, I’m most proud of the first section of my forthcoming collection, The Glamorganshire Bible, the poems that focus on my grandmother and her Welsh forebears.


For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

For fiction, “Tony Bennett, Aldous Huxley, and Eddie,” my short story, published in Connections Literary Magazine. I think I capture what it was like for people in their late teens just as the late ‘Sixties  were blowing the doors off traditional sexual mores.

For poetry, Baltimore Girls.


What are you doing next?

I’m working on a set of poems about the summer and the winter solstices and the way in which gardens reflect these points in the calendar year. I’m especially interested in light and darkness and their effect on human emotions.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Send out your work. Read it aloud in any venue that will have you. Ask for feedback. Enjoy participating that great body of human effort we call poetry.



Lynne Viti is a senior lecturer in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. Her first chapbook, Baltimore Girls, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017.  Her second, The Glamorganshire Bible, will be released in early 2018. Her writing has appeared most recently in The Maynard, I Come from the World, The Thing Itself, Stillwater Review, Bear Review, In-Flight Magazine, Tin Lunchbox, Lost Sparrow, and South Florida Poetry Journal.   She was awarded Honorable Mentions in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Competition and the 2017 Concrete Wolf Louis Chapbook competition, and was named a finalist in the 2016 Grey Borders Wanted Works Poetry Chapbook Contest. She blogs at



Lynne’s WordPress

Wellesley Writing Program

Baltimore Girls on Amazon


© The Literary Librarian 2017


Book Review – Roma Gray – Haunted House Harbor

Amazon Review: Haunted House Harbor

5.0 out of 5 stars
October 8, 2017
A Must Read!

This is a wonderful book, full of suspense, high tension, and great storytelling. Roma really instills a deep-seated, insatiable NEED in the reader to know what is coming next. The reading is fun, full of killer bees, zombies, last minute escapes, and honest-to-God spookiness. This is no run-of-the-mill horror story, and even the zombies are very original. Roma’s imagination captures us again, and oh! there is nothing more enjoyable than being caught in the net of her narrative weave. After reading this book, you will wish for more, and await the sequel with a hungry desperation…




© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Sharon Kay Penman – Well-Known Historical Fiction Author

“I inhale hope with every breath I take.”

― Sharon Kay Penman, When Christ and His Saints Slept

An Inspirational Authoress

Article originally posted in Graceful Grit, November 2018

As women, we all have role-models – women we look up to; women we admire for both their successes and their positions in society as strong women of character. For some of us, those women may be models, actresses, lawyers, politicians, media hosts, or hold various other professional positions in society. For me, she is an author, and her name is Sharon Kay Penman. In case you have not heard of this incredible historical fiction author, here is her biography, given to us by Sharon, herself:

“Sharon Kay Penman was born in New York City and grew up in Atlantic City, NJ in its pre-gambling days. She has a B.A. in history from the University of Texas and, in her misspent youth, she also earned a JD degree from Rutgers School of Law. She practiced tax and corporate law for several interminable years, which she considers ample penance for sins past, present, and future. These days she is fortunate enough to be able to write full time. She has written ten historical novels and four medieval mysteries, one of which was nominated for an Edgar. She considers writing historical fiction to be the next best thing to time travel. Her first novel, The Sunne in Splendour, is a revisionist history of the Yorkist king, Richard III. She has written what readers call her Welsh trilogy, set in 13th century England and Wales. She has also written five novels about the wonderfully dysfunctional Angevins, Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their Devil’s Brood. She has just finished The Land Beyond the Sea, set in the 12th century Kingdom of Jerusalem. She currently lives in New Jersey and spends as much time as she can in France, Wales, and England” (Penman).

Sharon is a role model for me, because she writes for a living, and does an incredible job of it. From my viewpoint, it seems as though she has the freedom to enjoy amazing things in her life, such as travel, having homes in other countries, and enjoying a commitment to researching history. We get a glimpse of who a person is, to an extent, in their writing. Between her books, and my social media connection with her I have seen is that she is kind, gentle, and compassionate. Strong, with a deep sense of justice and morality – and she is highly intelligent. It’s not surprising to learn that Sharon was a lawyer at one time in her life. There is much to admire in Sharon. Some of my fascination with history has been sparked by Sharon’s books – long before I ever attended college, I was reading her work avidly and with strong admiration.

I highly respect Sharon’s writing skills: she performs magic with her pen, breathing life into people long-dead, and even making battles interesting. Statistics in the publication world show that women enjoy historical fiction more than men, but men enjoy battle scenes more than women. Sharon manages to appeal to both genders of readers in nearly equal measure, and it’s an unusual feat. The people she writes about actually lived, and she writes their stories in such humanizing ways, showing us their passions, their emotions, their complexities – their conflicting loyalties, moments when they wrestle with their demons and their consciences – and she makes her readers laugh and cry. She moves us and makes us love people who died hundreds of years ago. In other words, she spins her stories in ways that fascinate, and she does it without deviating from Truth, and there really is a magic in that. I greatly admire what Sharon Kay Penman does with her skills and her craft, and it’s made me an enormous fan of her and her work.

For Graceful Grit, I asked Sharon about some of her experiences as a writer, as well as asking her whether she ever faced any mistreatment as a female writer. I know that some women really do, and I wanted to know if that had ever happened to her. Even if it hadn’t, her perspectives on these points matter. My interview with Sharon is as follows. For this interview, I am LH and Sharon is SKP.

LH: What was your age when you began writing, and how did that dream and development grow?

SKP: I wrote my first story at age six, about a horse named Queenie. My mom, bless her heart, saved it for years. I was always drawn to writing, even wrote a novel when I was in my teens, which mercifully did not survive. My dad was a writer, too; he had several short stories published. So perhaps it just seemed the natural road to take. My parents were also avid readers, so I developed a love of words at an early age.

LH: Did you encounter obstacles to your writing, in life events, or emotional upheaval?

SKP: They were not obstacles per se. I was attempting to be realistic, I suppose, for I did not think I could make a living as a writer, so I ended up going to law school and I did practice law for several years. But life became complicated for me once I stumbled onto the story of Richard III. I think I was born with the urge to write. Now I had a story I wanted —needed— to tell, and so I no longer had a choice. I felt that I had to write this book, even if only for myself.

LH: Who were some authors who inspired you in your writing development years?

SKP: There are many writers I admire greatly. But I do not think I was influenced by any one author in particular. I was always fascinated by history and so I naturally gravitated toward historical fiction. I read the books of Anya Seton and Pearl S. Buck and the Brontë sisters, just to name a few. Fast-forward to today and I enjoy the historical novels of Margaret George and Elizabeth Chadwick and Larry McMurtry, among others. I am a huge fan of Bernard Cornwell; I even wrote a blog once called “Why I love Bernard Cornwell.” (No one writes better battle scenes.) I also enjoy historical mysteries, especially those by Priscilla Royal, P.F. Chisholm, Steven Saylor, and the late Margaret Frazer, who was a wonderful writer and a good friend.

LH: What are your aims in writing, and is there a balance between commitment to truth and wanting to inspire an interest in history within your readers?

SKP: I would say I have dual aims—to entertain and to inform. I am always delighted when a reader tells me that he or she has become interested in history after reading one of my books. I don’t think that human nature has changed much over the centuries, so I want my readers to be able to identify with the emotions of my characters, and to realize that history is very important, that our yesterdays matter. Too many politicians today are alarmingly ignorant of our past and the consequences can be disastrous. And I feel very strongly that writers of historical fiction need to play fair with the historical figures they are writing about. Naturally, we have to fill in a lot of blanks, but I don’t think we should use history as a mere backdrop for our stories. I write of men and women who once lived, and I feel I owe it to them to adhere to known facts, not to turn their lives into pure fantasy. A fellow writer, Laurel Corona, put it perfectly when she said, “Do not defame the dead.”

LH: Did you doubt what you were doing, early in your writing career?

SKP: I suppose I did, for I did not intend to have a writing career. As much as I loved to write, I did not see it as a viable profession. When people talk of artists starving in their garrets, they usually have writers as roommates!

LH: Did anyone make you feel like you couldn’t achieve your dreams as a writer, or make light of your skill and your craft, or did you always enjoy the support of your peers in following your writing goals?

SKP: I was very fortunate in getting total support from my family. My brother bought me my first electric typewriter. My parents were always in my corner. After I got a small insurance settlement, I decided to quit my job—I was practicing law at the time in Los Angeles—and move to England to research my novel on Richard III. I’d been trying to write it on the side, which proved to be very challenging, so when the opportunity arose, I chose to gamble on King Richard. Many parents would have been disquieted, even distraught, to be told that their child was going to risk a career in the law, all in order to chase a dream. Mine told me to go for it. My friends at the time did not offer encouragement, but they did not try to discourage me, either, and the same was true for the men I was seriously involved with during these years. I would have gone ahead even if I’d encountered opposition, for by that time, I was obsessed with telling Richard III’s story. But it made it much easier to be cheered on from the sidelines and I remain very grateful for that.

Sharon at Middleham Castle, when she led a Richard III Tour to England a few years ago.

LH: Did anyone ever discourage you specifically because you are a woman, or try to redirect you or your writing due to societal gender roles?

SKP: I encountered it fairly often during my years practicing law. But I do not think my writing career was held back because I am a woman. It may have helped that my primary editor in the US and both of my agents are women. However, I attended a writers’ convention some years ago and remember a panel discussion in which several other writers discussed the gender bias they’d run into in the course of their careers. I don’t want to name them here, but one very successful writer told us that she’d initially been discouraged from writing a novel about an English king; apparently, doubts still existed that a woman could write about a man and make it credible. Several other women writers on the panel had similar experiences. But a male writer discovered that editors were skeptical that he could write about female characters, even projecting their skepticism onto the readers, and he ended up using his initials rather than his given name.

LH: What are the achievements of your career and your writing that you feel best about?

SKP: I was very honored when my first medieval mystery, The Queen’s Man, was nominated for an Edgar and was also chosen as one of the best young adult books of that year. The most unusual recognition that one of my books has received came some years ago in an e-mail exchange with another writer. She informed me that she taught a class in “erotic porn” and asked my permission to use a scene in my second mystery, Cruel as the Grave, as an excellent example of what she called “angry sex.” Once I stopped laughing, I pointed out that there was nothing explicit in that scene; when writing sex scenes, I believe in leaving something to the reader’s imagination. But she insisted that it would be perfect for her class and so I agreed.

On a more serious note, I am delighted whenever I hear that one of my books is being used by teachers, both at the high school and college level. That has to be the ultimate compliment.

LH: How much has writing infiltrated your life and helped to define who you are as a person?

SKP: I cannot imagine how my life would have turned out if I had not chosen to gamble all on the novel that would become The Sunne in Splendour. I feel truly blessed that I’ve been able to make a living doing something I love, which also allows me to indulge two other passions—reading and researching history and traveling to distant places.

LH: Has there been a challenge in getting into the writing field and making a niche for yourself there? Has any of that challenge been gender-related that you could discern?

SKP: I tell aspiring writers that they need perseverance and determination and imagination. Talent helps, too, of course. But so does luck. I was very lucky to find an editor who was willing to take a chance on an unknown author with no track record and a Moby-Dick sized book about a long-dead English king. If not for Marian Wood, I am not sure my career would have gone as well as it has. As I indicated in an earlier answer, I honestly don’t think I’ve encountered roadblocks because I am a woman, even a woman writing of so-called male topics—warfare, battles, crusades, etc. In fact, my editors told me that my readership is unusual, for it seems to be balanced between male and female readers and the conventional wisdom was that mainly women read historical fiction. I was always very happy that my books have been able to attract men and women, too.

LH: What are some things you enjoy in life that are directly because of your career as a writer – in which ways has being a writer enriched your life, overall?

SKP: I am able to travel extensively, primarily to Europe, although I was able to make a research trip to Israel for my new novel, The Land Beyond the Sea. And these trips are tax-deductible! I do have to battle with Deadline Dragons, but I need not punch a time clock; since I am a night owl by nature, I can follow my instincts, staying up late and sleeping in. I have been able to form some very special friendships as a result of my writing, both with readers and my fellow writers. The only aspect of practicing law that I enjoyed was the research, searching for the perfect case to prove a point of law. Now I get to research history to my heart’s content.

LH: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors, especially young women who want to enter the writing field?

SKP: I am asked this so often and I so wish I had some helpful answers. It has never been easy to become a published author. I personally think it helps greatly to have an agent, but it is as challenging to find an agent as it is to find a publisher. In some ways, it has gotten more difficult since I began writing. There are not as many publishing houses now as there once were. And we are living in the midst of a revolution, where all the rules are changing. That can be a huge benefit for writers, as for the first time in history, we have options. If we cannot find a publisher, we can publish our books ourselves. Vanity presses always existed, but were the last resort for the desperate. That is not the case now. I have several writer friends who chose to go the self-publishing route, for various reasons, and they have no regrets. Amazon makes it fairly easy for writers. So does the Internet, of course. But it is very time-consuming and writers often find it frustrating when they attempt to promote and publish their books on their own. I would tell an aspiring writer to decide if she wants to go the traditional route via a publishing house or to strike out on her own. In either case, she must be willing to do promotional work that was once the bailiwick of publicists; publishers today expect many of their writers to act as publicists for their own books. I would suggest setting up a website, doing a blog, becoming active on Facebook and Goodreads and other social media. I am not on Twitter yet, but writer friends insist it is necessary in this brave new world of ours. My last bit of advice is the most difficult to follow; try not to take rejections personally. A book can be rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with its innate quality. It may help to remember that some of the most talented and celebrated writers had doors slammed in their faces, too.

From Sharon’s British publisher; they republished Sunne on its thirtieth anniversary, in hardcover and then in this paperback edition.

Much of what Sharon has said in this interview resonates with me: Feeling like she was born to write; the need to write, even if only for oneself; and a love for historical mystery, as well (her suggestions here give me new reading material). There is also what she said about starving artists and their writer roommates. I, too, want to keep myself grounded in reality, which is why my career aim is to be an editor and not a famous author. I find her last paragraph with her advice for aspiring young authors to be invaluable. It is good to know that we are stuck with self-promotion even if we go with a traditional publisher. It is good to know that rejection is par for the course and not to take it seriously. It’s very helpful to know that an agent really can be an asset in the writing industry. These are things that aspiring authors often debate about, but Sharon is a tried and true, famous author – she has made it beyond the door and into the actual world of writing for a living. I, myself, will be taking her advice to heart.

Sharon did face an obstacle of a particular kind in her writing – one that did not take the form of discouragement, but rather, of loss. Her first manuscript for The Sunne in Splendour was stolen out of her car while she was a student in law school. She was unable to write after that for five years, and when she finally did begin to rewrite The Sunne in Splendour, it took her twelve years after that to publish it. This is what Sharon had to tell us about it:

“I was in my second year of law school, and my parents drove me from their home to my new apartment. Whenever I’d traveled with the manuscript, I’d treated it like the Holy Grail, carrying it aboard the plane when I flew. This time, I casually put it in the back seat of the car; I actually remember thinking that there was nothing to worry about in an hour’s drive. And I never saw it again. I cannot be sure, but the only logical explanation is that while we were unloading the car, one of the children playing on the lawn nearby wandered over to the unlocked car and his eye was caught by the bright pink binder with a peace sign on it; ironically, I’d just bought it the week before. I think he snatched it on impulse, dumped the contents, and went off to school with a new binder. How else explain it? I cannot really imagine vengeful Tudor ghosts hovering over Lindenwold, NJ…. It was definitely a horrific setback, for it was the only copy and I’d been working on it for more than five years.

“After that, the well just dried up. I continued to research the book, but the words wouldn’t come…..until one rainy weekend in southern California when I sat down at the typewriter and discovered that the log jam had finally broken. Needless to say, when I started to rewrite the book, I had copies everywhere, farmed out to friends, nestled in bank vaults, buried in the backyard! The story has gotten a lot of publicity over the years, and I discovered that a surprising number of writers had lost manuscripts and did not have copies. Pearl Buck had one burned in a fire. Ernest Hemingway’s wife left his manuscript on a Paris train; they were later divorced.”

To me, this story is every writer’s worst nightmare: you spend years of your life working on something special – building it up with care and love; pouring yourself into it – only to have all your work vanish in a puff of smoke. I think it’s heroic that Sharon was able to start over again, even five years down the road. It takes guts to start over. It’s not easy, at all – that kind of loss is surely discouraging. Certainly, Sharon must have felt like Sisyphus, rolling that boulder all the way up the mountain again. Determination can now also be added to the things I admire about Sharon.

Sharon has also told me in the course of our discussions that she is definitely a feminist. Wikipedia also confirms this, saying, “During her research for Here Be Dragons, the first book in the [Welsh Princes Trilogy] series, she became fascinated with the complexity of the role of women in medieval society; for example, Welsh women at the time had a great deal more independence than the English women. Whether in Wales or in England, a noble wife had responsibility for a household, complete with household knights, whom the wife relied upon to keep the household safe” (Wikipedia). I have noticed and rejoiced in her attention to these kinds of details within her books, as well – Sharon is heartily invested in discussing the rights of women, and does make it a part of her focus in her medieval history writing. After all, how can we know how far we have come if we cannot see where we have been?

I have been a fan of Sharon’s for many years. I first discovered her books in the Denver Public Library around 2003, and I fell in love with her work, immediately. I am rather ashamed to admit that I did not return those library books – I paid for them, instead. Back in those days, it was harder to get books than it is, now, and I didn’t want to give them up. I was terrible, but I was also still in my twenties and not necessarily a very responsible person. Her books were my first taste of historical fiction, and those books opened up a whole new world for me – the medieval world of England, Wales, and France – that existed long before I was born. I found the experience of reading about that world, in her style of writing, to be awesome. Her books educated me about many things of that time period, and I would say they even primed me for college, because they were my first hint that I actually could enjoy history; that I had an interest in it, and that I liked the level of research I sensed behind her writing.

In 2009, I got on Facebook for the first time, and I went looking for her, and to my surprise, she was there! I sent her a friend request and incredibly, she actually accepted! That completely blew my mind – I remember literally dancing around my house with happiness for a few minutes and raving to my guy about how wonderful it was – I mean, really, how many people get to be friends with their favorite author, even if only on Facebook? I think it’s a rarity, even now! Today, she has a Facebook page, in addition to her profile. On both, she shares posts where she talks about historical events that occurred on the day she is posting, helping to refresh the rest of us on memorable days in British, French, and Welsh history. Getting to know her – having the privilege to read about her computer struggles while she tries to meet deadlines, and about her pets – is an honor I never expected to have. Sharon is a wonderful person – a very personable person – an incredible author, and a powerful story of womanly success; and I applaud her!

Further information about Sharon Kay Penman and her books can be found in these places:

Sharon’s Website

Sharon’s Facebook page

Sharon’s Amazon Author Page

Sharon’s Wikipedia

© Lorraine Hall 2018, © Sharon Kay Penman 2018, and © The Literary Librarian 2018, Interview Article, originally published in Graceful Grit

Original article:

Photos, biography, and interview responses provided by Sharon Kay Penman, all rights reserved.

External source: Wikipedia, where quoted.

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