Interview: Follow-Up with Marjorie Maddox on New Books!

New releases 2020:

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (April 2020)

“Marjorie Maddox knows poetry. If I had to pick one book to introduce students to the joy of writing poems, this would be it. Maddox creates a book full of original poems to show us the inside out of every kind of poem you could ever want to write. I dare you to read a page or two without reaching for your pen and composing a poem of your own. From alliteration to sonnets and the villanelle, Marjorie Maddox makes metaphors meaningful and memorable.”—Charles Ghigna – FatherGoose®

For additional reviews and blog posts, see

I’m Feeling Blue, Too! (August 2020).

“What do you get when you take a morsel of midnight, a pinch of sky, a splash of sea, a flower petal, a bee-kissed mulberry, the hum of blue firs, and a season with lollipops and a brave knight? . . . .Maddox leads young readers across mood-lifting, make-believe landscapes. Feeling blue has never felt so good!”
—David L. Harrison
, author of After Dark: Poems about Nocturnal Animals

For additional reviews and blog posts, see

Recent Re-released Books:

Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems (re-released by Wipf & Stock, Dec. 2019)

“Baseball is a game of fine points and grand gestures, small blunders and bold accomplishments—the hook slide into second, the humble bunt, the unexpected wild pitch, the bases-loaded home run. Poet and baseball fan Marjorie Maddox pays tribute to these and other details that make the national pastime an enduring and engaging sport for players and fans alike. Surprising wordplay and keen images offer a unique perspective of the classic American game. John Sandford’s memorable characters and scenes play up the drama.”

Maddox is the great grand-niece of Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson.

A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (re-released by Wipf & Stock, Dec. 2019)

“You’ve probably heard the phrase a school of fish. But what about a rumba of rattlesnakes, an army of ants, or a crash of rhinos? Derived from both oral and written traditions, collective nouns go back centuries. These terms not only charm us with their sound, but they provide a bit of insight into animal behavior. Readers can find these and other terms—from alley cats to zebras—in fourteen thought-provoking poems by Marjorie Maddox. She and artist Philip Huber create a wonderful combination of rich wordplay and captivating art that piques the imagination.”

Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize, 1 of 3 finalists for the Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes; re-released by Wipf & Stock 2018)

About my father’s unsuccessful heart transplant:

Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation is a luminous collection, navigating the human from the body’s blood and muscle to flights of the spirit. In these compelling narratives and taxonomies, Marjorie Maddox accompanies the reader on a harrowing and joyous journey.”


What gave you the idea for these books? Or what inspired you to write them?

  1. Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises:
    This book is based on my 30+ years of teaching poetry at the university, secondary, primary, and community levels and encourages young adults and their teachers and parents, as well as poets of any age, to step “inside” the poem to experience the joys of writing and reading poetry. Chat with personification, dance with iambic, fish for sestinas, and text with a triolet. In 27 poems plus Insider Exercises, this book focuses on reaching both those already in love with poetry and those intimidated by the form. For a sampling, here’s the Table of Contents of poems about various poetic techniques and forms. I dare you not to have fun!

And here’s a sample poem!


Bash! Crash! Smash!
Onomatopoeia makes his splash of sound
with each squishy step or booming pound
of movement. He moans, hisses, murmurs, and swishes
his way across the poem.

Boisterous, he usually forgets to whisper.
Instead, he shakes, rattles, and rolls his bellowing voice
until each letter shivers with anticipation
at what soon will be darting, soaring, or swooping
noisily toward the ear.

For more on the backstory, go here:

  1. I’m Feeling Blue, Too!:
    Although artist Philip Huber began this book many years ago, I am proud to have come on board to create the narrative for these stunning illustrations. The challenge and delight was to uncover the story between the brushstrokes! By doing so, I was able to write poems that detail this young boy’s journey as he escapes “the can’t-do nothin’-blues” to encounter the world’s many glorious blues. So the illustrations were my map for writing! In addition, in I’m Feeling Blue, Too! I want to encourage young readers to use their imaginations, whether it be through writing, painting, dancing, building, etc. This is a book that acknowledges sadness but also celebrates creation, adventure, life!
  1. Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation:
    While I love writing for children and young adults, most of my poetry is geared toward adults. Those of you who write about the intersection of body and spirit and/or the medical may be interested in this collection of poems that focus on my father’s unsuccessful heart transplant. Perhaps the most personal and most difficult to write of all my collections, this book chronicles my family’s journey as my dad waits for and receives his transplant. It continues through our grief over his death. The book also contains a long series of poems based on the medical text Gray’s Anatomy, and has been used by medical students to teach empathy for patients and family members experiencing such trauma.
  1. Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems:
    During these strange Covid times, when baseball players strut their stuff to empty stadiums, it’s hard not to be nostalgic for the good old days (last year?!) of the game. Enter Rules of the Game, a poetic take on the rules and terms of baseball, from balks to line drives to grand slams. The great grandniece of Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford in 42, that amazing movie starring the great Chadwick Bosemen), I come to baseball with an historical eye. And living in Williamsport, PA, home of the Little League World Series (sadly cancelled this year) doesn’t hurt! I wrote these poems sitting in my backyard in Williamsport, overlooking a ballfield. Here’s an example. This is a perfect fit for anyone who loves the game, including kids and coaches.

Grand Slam

Dreams brimming over,
childhood stretched out in legs,
this is the moment replayed on winter days
when frost covers the field,
when age steals away wishes.
Glorious sleep that seeps back there
to the glory of our baseball days. 

  1. A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry:
    Another collaboration with artist Philip Huber, this book focuses on bringing to life collective nouns: a school of fish, a band of coyotes, a murder of crows, a crossing of zebras, and the like. I am very excited to have this collection back in print as it’s been a favorite during author visits to elementary schools. A play was even created and performed by the Odd Act Theatre group and performed at libraries and schools. Once again, Philip created the illustrations; I then used his detailed scratchboard pictures to create a lively, interactive narrative for each animal grouping. I love reading this one aloud!

What was it like to have TWO books come out during the pandemic?

This was a difficult challenge that contained some surprising blessings. After having worked on I’m Feeling Blue, Too! and Inside Out for many, many years and then sending the books out for over 12 years, I was excited to FINALLY have these texts enter the world. And then came COVID-19 with its cancelled readings and book launches!

What also entered, though, was the generosity of friends and strangers willing to host blog tours and virtual readings. To all these folks (including the host of this blog!), I am very grateful!

Please tell us your latest news.

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises was “an award-winning finalist in the Children’s Education Category” for the International Book Awards.

Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation recently was a finalist for the Philip H. McMath post-publication book award.

•My circulating book, Seeing Things (about, among other things, my mother’s early stages of dementia) was recently a finalist for the Larry Levis Book Award from Four Way Books.

When did you begin writing, what prompted it, and when did you first consider yourself a writer?

I ‘ve always loved writing, primarily because I’ve always loved reading. My first published poem (it was terrible) was in Campfire Girl Magazine when I was 8. I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged the arts. My mother, for instance, would type up my poems into a “book.” What an affirming gift! May we give such encouragement to all young writers and artists!

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

For me, this is a very different hat to wear than being a writer. I’d love to hand everything over to an agent and say, “Go at it,” but that has not happened. Nevertheless, there is something creative about the process of marketing as well. What’s hard is to balance what’s too much and what’s not enough.

In addition, I’ve found that when I am procrastinating writing, I market, and when I am procrastinating marketing, I write. Both take a type of bravery that I don’t always possess because both can be infested by a fear of rejection. Still, I persevere. For marketing, I prefer to work through established relationships. A latecomer to FB (when others were leaving, I was just coming on board), I’ve found it helpful to read others’ posts and learn from their marketing experiences and advice.

What are you doing next?

I have several manuscripts currently under consideration by publishers:

Seeing Things (mentioned above) explores the ways that we distort or preserve memory, define or alter reality, and see or don’t see those around us on both a personal and national level. Woven throughout the collection is a series of odes.

Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For is a collaboration with photographer Karen Elias, based on her composite photographs of a cracked heart-shaped stone and my corresponding poems.

Any additional books coming out soon?

Yes, my poetry collection, Begin with a Question, is slated for publication by Paraclete Press in 2021. Originally due out in Fall 2020, the book has been postponed a bit because of COVID; however, this has allowed me to generate and include new poems!

Do you have a blog or website where readers can go to find updates, events, and special offers relating to your writing?

Yes! I have several upcoming book readings and launches, which I will post here:

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Write, read, write, read, write some more; don’t give up. 


Winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize, finalist Philip H. McMath Post-Publication book Award, finalist Brittingham and Felix Pollak Book Awards); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite Press); four children’s and YA books—including Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards), A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry ; Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems; and I’m Feeling Blue, Too!Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Her book, Begin with a Question, is forthcoming from Paraclete Press in 2021. She was the chair of the jury of judges for the 2019-2020 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Book Award for the best children’s poetry book that year. For more information and reviews, please see

Additional links for reviews, interviews, books, etc:

Twitter: @marjoriemaddox

Marjorie Maddox’s Facebook Page

© The Literary Librarian 2020

Interview: An Interview with Poet Megan O’Keeffe

Book Name and Description: Where I Ache

Where I Ache Cover

This collection is broken up into six chapters ranging from themes such as depression, jealousy, grief, and strength. These delicate subjects can be difficult to talk about and most people avoid them because of the uncomfortable vulnerability. This collection features content that can be triggering for some. I’ve always written and shared my poetry with the hope that readers would relate and feel less alone. I hope you feel a sense of community to all of those connected throughout this collection.

This book is available on Amazon: Click Here


Love Song
By Megan O’Keeffe

When times get hard and I’m losing myself
you sing the song my heart needs to remember itself.
I hope you’ll always be here
because through the chaos you’re all I hear
even when the darkness scared my love away
you gave me yours and promised it will always stay.


What gave you the idea for Where I Ache? Or what inspired you to write it?

Where I Ache focuses on various aspects of mental health, such as depression and self esteem, which are definitely important to me and my writing. Mental health can be such a delicate topic and often gets avoided because of that. In fact, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to publish this book because I didn’t know if I could put that vulnerability out there. But then I reflected that because of the silence, people with mental illness feel even more alone, so then I knew I wanted to publish this collection, so that the readers could be their own little community of support and unity.

Tell us about your past books and stories?

My first book focused on a journey of love lost, then found. Not all poems are happy, as not all of love is. But the poetry is vulnerable, real, and honest. And in that honesty, I hope each reader can find comfort, community, and strength to continue on your own journey of love.

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

There’s definitely an ebb and flow to my writing process – weeks without writing and then days with 4-5 poems in one sitting. I tend to think of poem lines while driving or they’ll just randomly come to me during the day, in class, in conversation, etc. The first 6 years of my writing were heavily influenced by love and now I have some more influences: like nature, mental health, and grief are also present.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I definitely think I’ve branched out my topics for my poetry more. I’m also playing with the real estate of the page a lot more and emphasizing words more for impact. Lastly, I’m working hard on getting rid of cliches in my poems, trying to be original and as creative as possible.

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

I do most of my marketing through social media, mainly Twitter (@Ddateable) and Instagram (@megokeeffewriting). I’ve started working on email newsletters as another marketing tool. My best avenue is probably my blog, Debatably Dateable. I can really connect with my readers there, and have been growing that connection for the longest.

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

I really do love my piece, ‘War Cry.’ It’s in the form of a pantoum, which is hard to explain, and makes more sense when you see an example, but it repeats two lines from each previous stanza so you have to take the readers on a journey with not much material to do so. I think the creativity needed for the form could go unnoticed if you haven’t tried it before. I also love the world news topic I wrote on for that piece.

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

I think Cracked Open represents the poet I started out as, which is very much the foundation of my work. But I think Where I Ache shows where I’ll be going as an artist, so I would recommend Where I Ache to new readers.

What are you doing next?

Obviously, I’ll be marketing Where I Ache for the rest of the year. But I’ve also been organizing my next collection, which I hope to publish in 2020 – but one thing at a time, haha.



Up and coming Poet, Megan O’Keeffe has been writing poetry for the past decade and published her first collection, Cracked Open, in 2018. The love and support Meg received from her blog, Debatably Dateable, encouraged her to make to make this leap yet again for Where I Ache. When she’s not writing, Meg is bingeing “Brooklyn 99” or walking her dog, Maverick. You may spot her touring the newest spot on Long Island, NY with her sisters and boyfriends…



Where I Ache on Amazon

Megan’s Instagram

Megan’s Twitter

Debatably Dateable (Megan’s Blog)

Megan’s Amazon Author Page

Megan’s Goodreads


© The Literary Librarian 2019

Interview: An Interview with Lucie Guerre

Book Name and Description: Land of Memories Forgotten, Shattered Memories, A Day for the Living, and Soulstice.

4 Covers

Land of Memories Forgotten: In the American Southwest is an antique and souvenir shop owned by the elderly Muriel Adams. When a stranger breaks into her store, Muriel is confronted with a decision from her youth. As she struggles with the important choice of her past, it is her present-day and future that hang in the balance. Lucie Guerre’s debut short story will leave you wanting more.

Shattered Memories: Vanessa and her father live in the heart of the desert, the perfect place to sell repurposed goods and forget about her mother. As Vanessa digs through other people’s memories, she never imagines her own would come back to haunt her.

A Day for the Living: Though they may look alike, twin sisters Maria and Isabel could not be any more different than one another. Maria is still mourning her mother’s death and trying to make sense of inhabiting a world without her whereas Isabel would steamroll over her if at all possible. She destroys Maria’s every attempt at keeping her mother’s legacy alive, but when the two are forced to be around each other for just one day, their emotions collide and together, they learn what it truly means to be alive.

Soulstice: A collection of poetry moving through the seasons of life, accompanied by full-color photography.

Please Visit the Links Section Below to Access Her Books.


What gave you the idea for Land of Memories Forgotten, Shattered Memories, and A Day for the Living? Or what inspired you to write them?

Honestly, my husband and I took our honeymoon out in the Southwest – Arizona, to be exact – and while he was driving, I snapped a bunch of pictures of certain scenes that inspired me: a dilapidated jewelry stand, a souvenir store, and nature. Oh my gosh, the nature out there was so unusual to me, a girl from the Midwest. Suddenly, as he was driving, I yanked out my tablet and began writing stories. Stories that just spilled out of me.


What got you into writing in this genre?

I struggled for a long time in identifying my genre. I hated calling it “Fantasy” because that didn’t seem accurate. I called it “Slipstream” for a while because that seemed to work. “Weird Fiction” also seemed to work, but it was never a perfect fit. Finally, upon re-reading some “Magical Realism,” I realized that’s what I wrote. I just like the idea of magic in everyday life. I like the idea of it running through the normal events of the day. I don’t always write magical realism. I don’t choose the genre. It chooses me.


How long have you been writing?

I began writing when I was seven years old. I was struggling to differentiate between the letter g and the letter j (actually, believe it or not, this is something I still struggle with from time to time; the word, “jig,” is a trick for me, haha), and I was practicing writing my letters. I got so comfortable writing my g‘s that I wrote an entire short story and illustrated it. It was called, “Gum Drops, Gum Drops Make me Hungry.” So, I’ve been writing for around twenty-five years, now.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

I have published a volume of poetry, called Soulstice. It explores the seasons of my life in a metaphorical sense. Each season represents a different phase of my life, but hopefully, the poems are ones that most people can relate to: love, heartbreak, loss, passion, friendship, memories. Since then, I have published my three short stories: Land of Memories Forgotten, Shattered Memories, and A Day for the Living – as described above.


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

I wish I had more of a process. However, right now, I am in college, so I squeeze writing in where I can. I enjoy fitting it in early – if I can – before classes, but my most productive creative hours are later in the evening. In the early mornings, I’ll drink a cup of coffee and my dog will rest her head on my leg, and I’ll write. In the evening, I usually just fall into the story. The biggest influences on my writing are my life, itself, but various authors have also inspired my style. My life has inspired my writing in the sense that my poetry tends to be semi-autobiographical, whereas my fiction utilizes metaphors and similes. I would not use as many metaphors if it weren’t for my background. I was taught to hide my stories and my feelings, so I think part of me still hides behind metaphors like they’re security blankets, shielding me from the fire of truth.


What is your favorite book, as a reader, and why? What book has disappointed you and why? Has any author(s) influenced and inspired your work?

Absolute favorite? That’s tough. I really like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon van Booy, and the short stories of Jeanette Winterson. I don’t like to speak poorly of other authors, but I am sometimes shocked at what becomes “popular” in fiction, whether it’s the Twilight series or 50 Shades of Gray. I just don’t understand commercial literature. Jeanette Winterson influenced my work, years ago. I had never heard of her, and a friend handed me her book of short stories, and I was enthralled. My friend compared my writing to hers – and of course, the compliment went to my head – so I read everything she had ever written and scoured her website. Similarly, I read White Oleander years ago, and I constantly re-read it. The language in it feels familiar, yet it pivots the reader into a new way of thinking. I had the pleasure of having an email exchange with the author, and she is kind and wonderful. Another influence is Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of Speak and Shout, in addition to other pieces. I was so excited this past March, when I met her and got her autograph. I listened to her speak, and she just inspires me as a human being and an author. She does so much good, and someday, I want to write, instead of from my imagination, something that comes from the heart. I want to write something to change people’s lives.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

My style has improved so much, over the years. I have tightened it and honed it. When you write poetically, as I do, sometimes, it comes across as purple prose, and I wanted to avoid that. So, to make my writing more succinct, I had to practice. It’s still not perfect, but there are certain pieces that I look at objectively and am proud of. Also, my basic mechanics of novel-writing have greatly improved. I am in a few writing groups on Facebook, and their tips challenge me to be a better writer. I am still learning to incorporate more of the senses, but I think my writing has a lot of great creativity.


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

  • Access to a good dictionary
  • An open mind that’s always willing to learn
  • A story to tell
  • The Emotion Thesaurus
  • A good support system that believes in them
  • Also, a good group of critics that teaches them how they can improve


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

“The thing is, the average reader doesn’t care about how a book is written, only that the story is good.  If you do both, you’re in great shape.  They won’t know why they love it so much, only that the story is so compelling.” That’s advice on balancing lyricism and telling a good story, directly from Janet Fitch. Although I’m sure I have other gems saved on my phone, that’s the first one that popped into my head.


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

I’m not the greatest at self-promotion (raised not to brag, and promoting myself feels a lot like bragging), but I do post excerpts and graphics relating to my content on a lot of social media. I usually use Twitter and Facebook, but sometimes, I use Instagram, as well.


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

I’d have to say, I am really proud of my volume of poetry, Soulstice. A lot of heart and soul went into writing those poems. I cried over some of them, and it is amazing to me to see how strongly others react to the poems. My favorite is the first poem in the whole collection. It’s called, “Arson.”


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

A Day for the Living, my most recent work, best represents my work. It has compelling characters, a good balance of plot and lyricism, and an interesting story … in my opinion.


What are you doing next?

I am working on finishing my novel. It’s with my editor right now, and then it’s up to me to fix what needs revising. While I am sending that off to publishers, I plan on working on a second volume of poetry. I already have part of it started. I’m organizing it, as we speak.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. Don’t take rejection personally. If the story is important for you to tell, for God’s sake, find a way of telling it. Don’t give up. Never give up. It might feel like Hell, but finishing it is so rewarding.


Bio: Lucie Guerre is a pseudonym. Lucie is derived from a Latin word meaning “light”, and St. Lucy lost her eyes either through her own volition, through torture, or due to an admirer’s liking of her eyes. I personally love the idea of my writing providing vision to the blind.  Guerre stems from the phrase “nom de guerre”, which essentially means a name of war. Generally, it comes from names chosen in times of combat. Idiomatically, it is another word for a pseudonym. My pseudonym is used mostly with pieces I’m too ashamed (or too afraid) to write under my real name, but I feel like I am stepping into war with a pen as my weapon when I write.

This is where my pen rests as a sword. This is where I do my best to snuff out the shadows and make darkness light.


OR (“If you prefer a more traditional bio,” she says, chuckling):

Lucie Guerre Author PictureLucie Guerre (born in 1987) was raised in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. She began writing at the age of seven, starting with her original work, “Gum Drops, Gum Drops Make Me Hungry and Other Stories.” She has been married to her wonderful husband since September of 2017. They enjoy hiking and cooking together. Lucie enjoys discovering new music and creating collage art and pen-and-ink art, in addition to reading and writing. Since 2017, she has published a volume of poetry and three short stories. She hopes to release her novels, soon.



Lucie’s Facebook Author Page

Lucie’s Twitter

Lucie’s Website

Lucie’s Instagram

Land of Memories Forgotten on Books 2 Read

Shattered Memories on Books 2 Read

A Day for the Living on Books 2 Read


© The Literary Librarian 2019

Interview: An Interview with Tammy Ruggles

Book Name and Description: Starsky and Hutch Next Gen.


Description of Starsky and Hutch Next Gen

Not only are Davis Starsky and Kent Hutchinson young, single detectives with the Bay City Police Department in California, they’re brothers only a year apart, as they share the same mother, who died in an auto accident when the boys were young teenagers.

Other characters in Starsky & Hutch Next Gen include Captain Shaw (female superior), Tasha Brown (Huggy’s daughter), her boyfriend Tony (Phys Ed teacher), Mo (Davis and Kent’s snitch and psychic friend who runs a grungy gym), and Lucky (Davis and Kent’s hooker friend trying to go clean).

Davis drives a black Mustang with twin white stripes running down the hood, and Kent drives a white Audi. 

This book is available on Amazon: Click Here.


What gave you the idea for Starsky and Hutch Next Gen? Or what inspired you to write it?

It came from being a fan of the original TV show, and even the movie later on. Starsky and Hutch were my heroes: I liked what they stood for, justice and mercy, and they were one of the main reasons I wanted to be a social worker. They knew how to kick some criminal butt, but they stood up for the little guy too.

A lot of my writing comes from asking what-if questions, and this was one of them. What if Starsky and Hutch had sons who were detectives too? What kind of cases would they have in today’s society? What challenges would they face in their personal lives?

I wanted the characters to have their own identities, not to be just Xerox copies of their dads. What they do have in common with their fathers would be their integrity, their concern for victims, and their tenacious attitude, regardless of the obstacles they encounter.

What got you into writing in this genre?

I think this genre, the detective/investigation/social issue genre comes from my background as a child/adult protection social worker. I was accustomed to intense situations, actually thrived on them, so it just seemed natural to write about it. Also, I started writing fanfiction years ago, and it was cop stories I wrote even then. But with a human twist.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve been writing professionally for 17 years, so that’s a good question. I think I still have the same style, but maybe it’s a little more polished and relaxed than it used to be. I try to be as disciplined and proper with my fiction as I am with my non-fiction, but I write them so differently. With fiction, I can release my imagination a little more, it’s kind of like a bird escaping from a birdcage. It just wants to be free, and I have to rein it in. I think another way I’ve evolved is that I can take what I’ve learned about writing and publishing—my experiences—and pass them on to others.

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

Some sort of market guide, like Writer’s Market, to know where to pitch your material once it’s finished. That’s all I had when I first started writing professionally, and it served me well. Pair that with a simple query letter, and you are on your way to publication.

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

I use social media, do call-in guest spots on podcasts or radio shows, and interviews, when invited.

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

It sounds cliché, but it’s this newest book, and I’ll tell you why I’m so proud of it. Number one, it’s a full-length book. It has 8 episodes, but it’s still a full-length book, and I had to make sure the story arc worked, and the character arcs worked for the duration of 287 pages. That is far different from my 1000-word articles and 3-10 page short stories. It was a real challenge to weave all 8 stories into one cohesive story line. But I think, and hope, that I achieved it. It felt like it when I was finished. I don’t have any regrets or second thoughts about it. It came out the way I wanted, and that was a relief. I just generally don’t do long works like that, so it was a big deal to me. Thank goodness it’s my last.

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

Again, probably this one, because it has all the elements I love to write: Drama, angst, tragedy, friendship, family, social issues, and unexpected events. My son jokes that it’s a Lifetime movie waiting to happen, and he was my main sounding board for it. That’s another thing I rarely ever did while writing. I never bounced ideas off of someone. I knew exactly what I wanted to write. With this one, since it was so long, and had all those moving parts, I wanted a sounding board.

What are you doing next?

No writing planned, just promoting the work I’ve finished, or helping new or young writers on their way to publication.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Put the story first. Keep yourself out of it.



Tammy Ruggles is a freelance writer based in Kentucky. Her first book, Peace, was a paperback published traditionally by Clear Light Books, while her latest, and final book, Starsky and Hutch Next Gen, is an Amazon Kindle eBook.



Tammy’s Amazon Author Page

Tammy’s Facebook Author Page

Starsky and Hutch Next Gen on Amazon

Starsky and Hutch Next Gen Facebook Book Page


© The Literary Librarian 2019


Interview: An Interview with Mystqx Skye

Book Name and Description:
Currently published book: Bared – Beneath a Myriad of Skies
WIP: A book about self-publishing and book marketing

Description of Bared

Bared – Beneath a Myriad of Skies is a unique find. Revel in the exquisite art of prose and poetry composed of intense imageries and intriguing visuals. Every page evokes a different emotion. Every leaf leads you to a different discovery.

Bared hopes to give you: consolation – if not a friend of your mind; refuge – if not an escape; to find a piece of yourself – if not your soul’s companion. And above all, Bared wishes to give you a relief of heart.

This unique 117-page poetry book inspires and encourages love for self and others, inner self-discovery, understanding relationships and appreciating the beauty of life. The visuals in the book (mandala art, the essence of a woman, beauty of nature) awaken a sense of creativity leading to an inspired mind. The blank writing pages can be used as your diary/journal to help you express yourself.

Come and experience the sensations of Bared – Beneath a Myriad of Skies. Get your hands on it and feel the passion, longing, rage, fear, darkness, hope, strength, exhilaration, happiness, peace, love –  written with beautiful honesty on the pages.

 This poetry chapbook is available on Amazon: Click Here

– My Love Affair with Writing –

The impulse to hold a pen
The feel of fibers as I skim my fingers
On pages where moist ink are deeply engraved
To see the words slowly awaken
To form phrases that spread through the sheets
Immersing it with meanings
Yet unwritten to curious eyes
Gradually heightens my senses
Only to be consumed in that moment
Of ineffable bliss
That mystery… that thrill
And the liberating feel
Of finding my heart
Engulfed in all of it.


Mystqx, 2019

What gave you the idea for Bared – Beneath A Myriad of Skies? Or what inspired you to write it?

There were these days in my life last year when everything was too much to handle. Talking to someone did not alleviate the anguish so I caved in and started to write more and more about it. Writing created my breathing ground and it carved my way out of that darkness. One might think that I am too busy to be depressed but that is not the case. I nearly didn’t have time to breathe and yet every sigh that escaped my body was that of giving up. Then I decided to collect all my writings, musings, ramblings (some that even dated back twenty years) and put it together. This has been my therapy ever since.

What got you into writing in this genre?

I remember these sheets of beautifully-cut paper with typewritten poems in it which I took from my mom’s memorabilia boxes that she wanted to put away. Since I love reading, I started reading them aloud, and the rhyme and rhythm made me fall in love with them.  I started collecting them, tearing pages from magazines and making a scrapbook out of them.

How long have you been writing?

My love for writing started when I was in the second grade – when I had to write love letters for my friends. Romance was the motivation, and the feel of reading and receiving handwritten letters was just exhilarating. Then, my love for writing developed into different genres. My mom was a paralegal and she always took me with her to her office. That gave me lots of legal background. During the time I spent there, I was reading books and hearing legal advisers all the time. So that skill and talent was needed by my friends and I started specializing in writing fake parents’ excuse letters to teachers and stuff like that. Of course, it was nothing like breaking the national law or whatever.

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

There are days when you are motivated, days when you have to find motivation, and days when motivation finds you. A typical writing routine for me is first getting myself in the mood. Music plays a big role in setting the right atmosphere. Latte or tea – depending on what I crave accompanies me at my writing nook. Then the excitement builds up in me as soon as I open my laptop and read articles I wrote before starting with my current writing project. My favourite writing time is during the break of dawn: around 4 to 6 am. There is just something mysterious, magical, and a settling feeling around that time.

The biggest influence on my writing are the myriad of emotions from stories I heard from people coming from all walks of life, my memories, and my dreams. I source out all the words that flow into my writings from these wells.

What is your favorite book, as a reader, and why? What book has disappointed you and why? Has any author(s) influenced and inspired your work?

Being a bookworm, having a favorite book is difficult to say. It’s like choosing one ice cream flavor from your favorite ice cream store. But if I have to name one, it would be The Notebook. I’m a die-hard fan of love that transcends time.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Slow and steady. After pouring my heart out into Bared, now I am ready and moving slowly out of my comfort zone by trying to write in different genres.

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

I’m all for paper and pen next to a good writing app.

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

Didn’t receive it but read it: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”― E.L. Doctorow

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

I’ve been in the marketing and advertising industry for years now and have followed the fast-paced changes in the digital and social media scene. I find that Instagram works for me. I think when one knows how to utilize its features, prepares a good content strategy, and distributes it at the right time, one can reach a targeted and very interactive audience.

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

My poetry book – Bared. It’s my first.

What are you doing next?

My next book is about self-publishing and book marketing. Marketing is actually one of my favorite things to do. It gives me an opportunity to express my creative skills from a whole new angle.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Just write.

Keep the fire within you alive. It takes a very special kind of person to be a writer – so you are very special. Be proud of your passion, regardless of whatever people say about your work. People always have something to say anyway, so why not just write and do what you want?


MS bio mag


Bared Video Trailer

Bared – Beneath a Myriad of Skies for purchase on Amazon

Mystqx Official Website

Mystqx’s Instagram

Mystqx’s Goodreads

Mystqx’s Twitter

Mystqx’s Pinterest

Mystqx’s Facebook


© The Literary Librarian 2019



Interview: An Interview with Wesley Butler

Book Name and Description: Passage to Portrainia

The world of Portrainia is like a fairy tale where things you never thought imaginable exist – a common ground for lucid dreamers. It is seen through an unconscious body, mind and soul, where three young teens discover their dreaming lives are just as real as their waking lives.

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


What inspired you to write Passage to Portrainia? How has this published work evolved throughout your stages of writing?

While the concept of dreams has always fascinated me, Passage to Portrainia has gone through about five or six drafts before it reached its current, published form. I remember the first time I began to write it (around 2008), it was a fan-fiction based on a well-known (within the gaming community) video game that had been cancelled, and eventually transformed into a different story. I decided to turn that around.

I had written a full story from start to finish set in the world of Portrainia, although, at the time, it was not a literal dream world; rather, I had taken the “high fantasy” route and created a world set in an entirely different place other than Earth. The format for the story was blog post-like and episodic: I would post a new “chapter” every few days until the story ended. For the most part, I got positive feedback from it.

About a month later, I planned a sequel to this “draft,” (how I consider it now), which would be more interactive in nature. People who signed up to this gaming forum could “role play” their own characters, but the project never took off. At that point, proud that I had published an entire story (even in a non-formal way), I was becoming more interested in dreaming – lucid dreaming especially. I would borrow dream dictionaries and books from my local library and analyze certain elements I’d experience in dreams. It’s amazing to think about how accurate “meanings” are. Not necessarily paranormally, but, for example, if you’re experiencing undue stress in your life, and you dream of murky water and sky, that “illustrates” your feelings in real life.

This was the real inspiration for Passage to Portrainia. I always loved the name of this world and wanted to incorporate it into one of my writing projects. About four years ago, I decided to marry my interest in dreaming with this fantasy world, and create a place meant only for those who had the willpower to lucid dream. A literal dreamworld is not a concept explored widely in fantasy and science fiction, so I wanted to present how something like it could potentially play out.

What got you into writing young adult fantasy?

It’s a genre to which I’ve been attracted ever since I could remember. In my spare moments growing up, I would spend hours daydreaming of make-believe places, even drawing full-color maps of different landmarks, locations, dungeons, etc., that a protagonist in a story would travel to.

When I’d play video games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask (the latter of which I believe to be the most compelling story I’ve ever seen in a video game), which I’ve owned for nearly 18 and 17 years, respectively, I’d be enthralled with the thought, attention to detail, and creativity that went into the development of storylines, and how different locations and fictional creatures interacted with each other.

As a genre, fantasy can have various categories (young adult, general audience, and more mature themes), and children’s literature is still my most favorite to this day. It allows for important morals to be incorporated and taught to its audience, life skills that can be used in the real world. Throughout my childhood, I would think to myself, “Wow, I hope I can create a rich world and story just by using my imagination.” That’s what really got me into writing young adult fantasy.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pencil. I can’t begin to tell you how many unfinished drafts I have stored in my home, from the ages of 5 and 6 to the present. Professionally, I’ve been writing for many years, on a freelance basis and in my current role. I have experience writing journalistically, mainly feature stories with human interest.

What is your favorite book, as a reader, and why? Has any author(s) influenced and inspired your work?

Although I equally admire all seven Harry Potter books, one of the most significant turning points occurs in The Goblet of Fire, the fourth in the series. The atmosphere is foreboding, almost as though you expect something dastardly to happen at any moment. Although the main event (literally, the Triwizard Tournament) is meant to showcase the power of wizards and witches, and have them compete against one another, its outcome was manipulated to resurrect one of the darkest, sociopathic villains ever created. Even rereading the book for the third and fourth time, I still get a sense of panic that a formidable force is about to terrorize the world, as if I was reading it for the first time.

J.K. Rowling, Ransom Riggs, Charles Dickens, and Roald Dahl have influenced my creativity, because their works have challenged me to build multi-dimensional worlds you can lift off the page. A lot of mental labor goes into creating a fantasy plot, because you must establish a living, breathing society of its own, just like we do in the real world.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

By exposure to new ideas and life experiences. I find when I write, I’ll first spend time “researching” my credibility to the topic, even if it’s fiction. When I read a new fantasy book, watch a movie, or play a new video game, I think about how the writer/creator drew on their own hardships or positive “flashbulb” moments in their lives (which happens frequently in literature) to tell the story.

Writing and publishing a novel has granted me the practical experience needed to hone my skills.

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

I’m proud of my debut novel, Passage to Portrainia – particularly the fantasy world I’ve built with my imagination. I’ve always admired the raw talent authors possess and I feel accomplished that I’ve done something similar. As fantasy authors, I believe it’s our duty to create safe havens to which people can escape. Reality can be harsh at times, so it’s important to be able to lose ourselves in a world separate from our own. It’s a good way to recharge.

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

Passage to Portrainia best represents my work. I lean towards “high fantasy” worlds connected to the real world in some way, but not accessed by normal means. When it comes to the places themselves, I try to introduce fantasy elements seldom or never seen. I build them up to the best of my ability, including places to travel to and quests to complete.

What are you doing next?

I have a couple of writing projects in progress. At one point, Passage to Portrainia’s plot was going to be merged (although I didn’t know it yet; I hadn’t separated the stories) with another idea I have, and that would have served as its own story. For now, I’m working on a plot that incorporates this idea as the main theme.


Residing in Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada, Wesley Butler works in academic administration & communications for higher education. Passage to Portrainia, his debut novel, was released December 2018 under Amazon Kindle Self-Publishing. A former freelance writer, Wesley has served as associate editor of FAME Canada, a music and cultural news website, and as a columnist/reviewer for Independent Music Promotions.




© The Literary Librarian 2019

Interview: An Interview with Andrew Birch From the Birch Twins

Interview: Andrew Birch (writing as The Birch Twins)

Book Name and Description:     Book one:  The Life of Lol

                                                            Book Two:  Poohsticks Bridge


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

What gave you the idea for Poohsticks Bridge? Or what inspired you to write it?

It started in 2016, when I was told by family that I originally had a twin sister, who didn’t live.  In fact, for a short time, we both died, as our mum couldn’t support both of us.  Helen gave up her chance so that I could experience life.

And so, searching for an outlet for this grief, Helen gave me Poohsticks Bridge.  It was the story of a lonely little boy growing up on an old ranch house, who meets a special little girl.  And so begins a friendship that will last their whole lives.  Their closeness and fierce protection of each other throughout all the tribulations in their lives is what I’d been denied.  Put simply, John is me, and Melissa is my Helen.

The inspiration to write it, have it professionally edited, to seek an artist to do the cover, and to market it in the best way I could, all came from my twin.  The desire to get people to see the dedication to her at the start of the book was a motivation.  Back in 2016, she was only a forgotten name from 1974 that nobody knew.  And now, everybody who buys the book knows who she would have been and what she would have been capable of.  She remains the driving force in my life, and my inspiration; hence the author branding is “The Birch Twins.”

How did you come to write Poohsticks Bridge after The Life of Lol?

I’ve always thought of each book as a reaction to the previous one.  The Life of Lol was loud, action packed, brashly fun, and the locations vary from coast to coast.  By comparison, Poohsticks Bridge is still, quiet and only features one house at its location.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for my whole life.  I started as a child writing little stories, and coding quests for my videogames.  That led to proper stories, poems, and eventually novels.

Tell us about your past books and stories?

Between 2000-2005, the company I worked for held a short story writing competition every year.  I won it three times and was featured in an anthology of stories.  Sadly, I no longer have copies of any of them.  My first completed novel was Travels with a Barbarian, a fantasy epic dealing with the relationship between a female warrior and an apothecary in a changing world.  I decided against publishing it in its then-current form.  Travels will appear at some point, but it’ll be rewritten first.

My first published novel was The Life of Lol, the story of an orphan girl that grows up to be a gangster and con artist.  Violent with plenty comedy and action, Lol was a learning process.  What to do next time, and what NOT to do.

And then came Poohsticks Bridge, my current novel.  Three years in the writing, it was inspired by Helen, my twin sister that was lost at birth.  Helen has been with me throughout the process of making Poohsticks Bridge come true.

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

I plan quite extensively.  I’m a detail-planner, and I always leave gaps in case another story needs to come into this one, or a sequel is planned.  So the world always has spaces open.

When I know what’s going on, I write the novel in my head.  I’m a massive fan of sitting staring out of the window.  At first glance, it appears that I’m doing nothing, but in fact I’m playing the story through in my head and checking to see whether it makes sense  and it holds together well.  Sometimes, new things come to me, and they get jotted down.

Only when it’s watertight does it get committed to paper for a first draft.  As I work at a job as well, writing time can sometimes be limited.  I’m better in the mornings, rather than at night, so I can get up between four and five if serious writing needs to be done.

What is your favorite book, as a reader, and why? What book has disappointed you and why? Has any author(s) influenced and inspired your work?

The biggest reading disappointment for me has to be Treasure Island.  I’ve always loved pirates and pirate movies and TV shows, but never managed to read this classic, until recently, and sadly it’s left me cold.  I was hoping for rich description and characterization, but it really isn’t that good.  The plot doesn’t make that much sense.  I’m a lover of what used to be called “adventure stories for boys”, my favorites are the H. Rider Haggard tales, and I’d hoped this would have been the same.

My favorites have to be the Fleming Bond novels.  I love the lengthy descriptive passages.  I love the way he spends twenty-five pages on a game of golf, and always gives us a description of what’s on the characters’ sandwiches.  I love that so much.  I can’t write that way, I’m much faster paced than that; but for relaxation, that’s my guilty pleasure.

Other than these, I’m a massive fan of Golden age comic book stories.  I’m a fan of Gotfredson’s Mickey Mouse detective, Bark’s Disney ducks, Segar’s Thimble theatre Popeye, and Marston Wonder Woman stories. I love them, especially if they’re episodic, long-winding tales.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I have more confidence now.  I don’t try to be something I’m not.  I’m just a normal guy from the back end of Manchester, I’m  not some super-intelligent professor type.  That used to bother me, and I never felt I fit in with writers and the writing crowd, but it’s different.  Some success with the second novel gave me enough confidence to say, “I don’t give a shit what people think, I’m me, and I write my own style.”  Apart from that, I’ve spent time listening to and reading writers that I admire.  I even enrolled in a writing academy to tighten up my skills.

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

Well a PC with a copy of Word helps.  I’m also a fan of notebooks, spreadsheets, and even a sketchbook for drawings and maps.

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

I’ve done everything possible for Poohsticks Bridge, from going on a blog tour, to appearing in the local paper, being on the local radio, posting in Facebook groups, and even advertising at work.  Links to books and The Twins’ website are always included on short stories that get published.  I think a brand name is important, too.  Most of the time on Facebook, I usually operate as “The Birch Twins” and try to get the brand name out there.  It’s important to know how Facebook postings work and to make the postings aspects work for you.  When talking about my work, I never say “the book”; I always use the title.

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

Poohsticks Bridge is the piece of work that I love above all others.  There are still things I’d do differently if I were to write it again, but it’s my best writing, to date.

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

The work that best represents my work is probably my short story, “The Coyote.”  It’s violent, atmospheric, funny, and fast-paced;  plus, you can get through it in under ten minutes.  Most of my main characters are female, and this story is no different. It was published by The Literary Yard.

What are you doing next?

Next, I am doing a prequel to Poohsticks Bridge, entitled Tales from Belle Starr House.  In fact it’s the first of two prequels to Poohsticks.  This book goes back to the days of the Yukon gold rush, and will feature actual people who were around Dawson and Skagway at the time, who will interact with the ancestors of the characters from Poohsticks Bridge.  Apart from that, whenever I get time, there are always short stories and flash pieces over at The Birch Twins Facebook page

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Keep writing.  Learn the rules, but never be afraid to go your own way.  Be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.  Remember that no creature on earth has a greater right to life than any other.  Always be courteous and polite, but remember to be firm. You’re a special person, too, with talent.  Listen to advice, but be prepared to disregard it.  Apologize when you’re wrong.  Be humble, but never too humble.  And if you drink bourbon, always drink it neat.  Most of that was from Helen, but she’s wise and worth listening to.


Andrew Birch is a forty-four-year-old professional artist, writer, poet, designer, and one-half of the creative duo known as “The Birch Twins.”  His interests include comic books, action figures, machinery and engineering, sitting looking out of the window, and having picnics in the rain.


The Birch Twins Author Central on Amazon

“The Coyote” on the Literary Yard website

Poohsticks Bridge on Amazon

The Birch Twins Facebook Page  

© The Literary Librarian 2019

Interview: An Interview with JP Meador (Author and Poet)

Books List:

JP Meador has written over twenty books. A small portion of them are listed here: The Wagon Wheel, Strada Almaden, 32 Ounces of Wisdom, A Place I Call Home, Are You Supposed to be Taken Seriously?, Love Unfolding, Observing What is Not Seen, The Atrium, Off the Top of My Head, Subterfuge, No Need to Bleed, The Light Stream, and more.

See the Links section at the bottom of this interview for links to these works, a link to JP Meador’s listings on Amazon, and the link to his Facebook author page.


What made you decide on Strada Almaden as an author name?

I don’t want people to be confused. I am Jon Meador, JP Meador and love every aspect of Almaden so my author page is Strada Almaden. Strada Almaden means in Spanish, the road to Almaden. JP sounds much better than Jon when you publish books so I use JP. How can I explain this, Strada Almaden is similar to a metaphor, my poems and stories open the door to the memories I carried while I lived in Almaden. I still live there, even though I live in Fresno. Most of my family live there still, I go back whenever I can. I have walked on the roads and cleared many trails in the foothills that many people have hiked in Almaden. I may be absent from Almaden but I still call it home.

What made you want to write?

What gave me the inspiration to write comes from singers and songwriters. I am a poet first and foremost. The ideas that I get for my books comes from my personal experience.  

What got you into writing in this genre?

I have always enjoyed listening to songwriters and I wanted to write just like them. Poetry just arrived naturally. Poetry came to me like Pablo Neruda wrote in his poem, “Poetry.” I believe poetry is born within a person rather than practiced. It takes a while for that part of a person to be known. It may sound strange but I’m still developing as a poet.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for the past twenty years. I wrote my first poetry book in sixth grade because it was an assignment and I didn’t know anything about the subject. I didn’t pick up a pen and write another line of poetry for eight years.

Tell us about your past books and stories?

The first book I ever wrote was called, The Darklight Café. I spent a lot of time writing about girls and my experience with relationships. Then I grew out of that and wrote about other subjects that mattered to me at the time. I feel that the world wants you to be something other than what you were meant to be. I don’t like being under a label and I find myself misunderstood by other people. I am poetry but don’t know any other way to explain it.

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

The process of writing can’t be forced. It will arrive when you least expect it. I’ve learned you need to have a pen and paper with you at all times. I used to walk to work with a small notebook because you never know when true inspiration will strike. It begins with a funny line or a thought than you put the time into it and it will transform to something you can use in a poem or it may stand alone as a storyline for a short story or a novel.

As I said, my influences are not from literary figures but songwriters. I just think they are more interesting and real.

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

I have always been interested in autobiographies because people interest me. The book that caught my attention and couldn’t put down was a book written about Jim Morrison by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman called No One Here Gets Out Alive. I read a lot of books about famous celebrities like Elvis but I also like reading books from Lee Child and his character Jack Reacher. Those types of characters interest me.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I no longer think about what may or may not be interesting to the reader. I just write what interests me the most.

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

Stephen King covered what tools you need to be a successful writer was a vocabulary and good sense of grammar. I would add to the list that a writer must have a great imagination as well.

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

I learned from David Whyte that you need to feed your longings and desires.

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

I market my work on my author’s page on Facebook.  The best way to advertise is the traditional way, doing readings and word of mouth.

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

I feel I’m still growing as a poet and a writer. If there was a work I’m most proud of, it would be the book, Observing What Is Not Seen.

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

Observing What Is Not Seen is a book of poetry and I feel it reveals more than what was written. It was dedicated to my late brother Gregg who taught me the importance of observing the world around you and to appreciate music.

What are you doing next?

I have published two books in July. I wrote a book on understanding poetry called Poetry Abounds and another book called Creative Joys that talks about writing and the need to keep at it. My next book I’ll publish will be three short stories called, Bound to Nowhere.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

The advice I would give aspiring writers would be keep writing. Don’t ever give up. Listen to your instincts and be careful who you ask to look at your writing.

Favorite Quote:

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


JP Meador has worked as park aide, security guard, computer technician and federal contractor. He was born and raised in Almaden, located in south San Jose, CA where he developed and indulged his interests in poetry and American History.

His first poetry book was called Forgotten Sentinels published in 2012 (now titled, A Place I Call Home) poems about abandoned military installations along the West Coast, which he visited throughout the decade of the nineties.

Since 2012, he has written over twenty books of poetry, novellas and a memoir called, “Are You Supposed to Be Taken Seriously?

He’s been married twelve years to his wife Debbie. They live in Fresno, CA with their grandson Matthew and a German Shepard pup named, Sasha.


The Wagon Wheel

Strada Almaden

32 Ounces of Wisdom

A Place I Call Home

Are You Supposed to be taken Seriously? 

Love Unfolding

Observing What Is Not Seen

The Atrium

Off the Top of My Head


No Need to Bleed

The Light Stream

Complete Amazon Books Listings for JP Meador 

JP’s Amazon Central

JP Meador’s Facebook Page


© The Literary Librarian 2017


Interview: An Interview with Roma Gray

Book Name and Description:

Celebration of Horror 1: The Best of Roma Gray

 Holidays, vacations, birthdays, anniversaries: all times to celebrate, all times to cherish—all times to fear!

In this book you will find a collection of Roma Gray’s best horror stories, each one focused on these special times of the year. Find out why you should think twice before going to mom’s house for Christmas dinner or venturing out into the woods on that camping trip. You might just decide it’s best to stay home…assuming, of course, you are safe even there…

Available on Amazon for Kindle and in Print: Click Here.


What gave you the idea for Celebration of Horror series?

I created this book series for two main reasons:

First of all, I did it to pull together all of my best short stories. When you publish short stories, it feels like you’re scattering them out on the wind. They all fly away in different directions, landing in various anthologies or magazines, easily forgotten over time. It’s nice to have them together in one single place. Not all of my stories end up here, of course, just the cream of the crop. And since they’ve been previously published, I know which ones the readers enjoyed the most and which ones are the best of the best.

Secondly, I wanted to create a small, inexpensive sampler of my work. Each book in the series will be only five or six stories, and they will be sold in Kindle format for only $.99, and for under $7 in audiobook (I have no control of audiobook price, that’s up to Audible).

Truth be told, I planned out this series before I ever published a single book or story. That’s why most of my short stories have a holiday theme.


What got you into writing in the horror genre?

My happiest memories of my childhood were of Halloween. While walking to school with my friends, we’d make up spooky tales. That’s why I call them Trick-or-Treat Thrillers. To me, it’s like being a kid all over again.


How long have you been writing?

Since I was eight. My first novella, The Claw, was about a plantation in Africa where people were getting killed by some unknown animal. The plantation was owned by a duke and duchess from England who had built a very British-style, gothic mansion. I needed that Halloween feel, after all. Anyway, the police couldn’t identify the claw marks and thought it was actually a human killing people, using a man-made replica of a claw to throw them off track. Nope. It was a dinosaur, still alive in the jungles of Africa, that the natives called, “The Grishla”.

I never quite forgot the Grishla, and he is in my first novel, The Hunted Tribe: Declaration of War.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

My first book is a slightly unusual anthology called Gray Shadows Under a Harvest Moon: Six Trick-or-Treat Thrillers. Each short story represents an upcoming novel. I had a lot of fun with this, I even blurred the line between fiction and reality by interviewing the characters about their upcoming books. It was the first time (probably the last time) I have ever interviewed a fruit bat.

My first novel is The Hunted Tribe: Declaration of War, which was first introduced in Gray Shadows. It is the start of a ten-book series. The first book starts out with a Native American teenager who has been told he is a witch and is destined to save his tribe from a dinosaur animal spirit (the afore mentioned Grishla).


What is the writing process like for you?

I’m definitely a ‘pantser’ (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) because I like to be surprised by the story as it unfolds. I might have a general idea of where the book is going, a high-level mental outline, but that’s about it. After I get the “zero draft” done (I like to start with zero, first draft feels too serious), I then do another two drafts to patch up holes and make sure the plot is solid, then on the third and fourth draft I build up the scenes. This part is a lot of fun, because as I reach each chapter I ask myself “What is important in this scene? What am I trying to communicate to the reader here? Did I achieve it?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to “twist the knife” as I like to call it, which is when I punch it up (through description, dialog, or adjusting pace) to meet the intent. This is also probably the hardest part, because this is when each word really counts.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

My draft system is a vast improvement over the days when I used to try to write an outline first. It sucked out all the joy, and by the time I got to the writing, I didn’t feel like working on the story or book anymore. Outlines turn writing into work. Who needs that?


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

The Hunted Tribe: Declaration of War. It has received a lot of recognition, which is satisfying for a first novel. In short stories, The Easter Feast (in Celebration of Horror 1) would be one of my top choices as well. I won a contest with that story, and it’s probably the top favorite story among my readers.


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

Even though Celebration of Horror 1 was created to be a sampler of my work, I’d still say it is The Hunted Tribe. Being a larger piece, it allowed me to explore the characters and build in foreshadowing, suspense, and other complexities.


What are you doing next?

In 2017, I have three books coming out.

Jurassic Jackaroo: Jasper’s Junction, which is a prequel to The Hunted Tribe. It takes place in the old West, about a hundred years earlier. A retiring gun slinger has decided to hunt the Grishla, and he holds a contest where he pits criminals against criminals to see who will join him on his little safari. It will be a two-book series.

My second book due to come out this year is Haunted House Harbor: Humanity’s Hope. In this story, the “Perfect Apocalypse” (nuclear bombs, killer bees, zombies and other terrors) has occurred. The world is in complete chaos except a small coastal town called Haunted House Harbor. For some unknown reason, all of the terrible threats are stopped at the town’s borders. People flock there, of course, but the refugees soon realize this town has its own hidden horrors that may be worse than the zombies, killer insects, and radiation, combined. This will be a three-book series.

Last but not least, The Hunted Tribe 2: Rocket’s Red Glare. The main character, Sean, believes his grandmother is insane. He has to figure out if the Grishla is indeed real or if she is, in fact, the one behind the murders.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

 If mom, dad, little sis, big bro, and your best buddies are fans of your genre, it might be ok to let them take a peek at it. Otherwise, keep them far away. I’ve seen too many writers get discouraged because they had a close friend or relative read their book and hate it, never taking into account that the book was sci-fi or horror and the person only liked romance or mysteries or some such thing. I’ve even seen horror writers trash a perfectly good horror novel simply because it wasn’t their type of horror and they just didn’t get it.

The truth is, for a book to be a best seller, it only needs 1% of the reading market in the United States to buy it. And in the end, even Stephen King, Nora Roberts, and any other best-seller you can name will never do much better than that simply because each person has very specific tastes in reading material. Think about what this means; for every best-seller out there, if only 1% of the readers in the US like their books, then the numbers dictate that most people (99%) will dislike their work. And yet, they’re a best-seller! So, if that is true for them, how likely is it your friends and relatives will fall into that 1% that likes your book? One in a hundred, right? (the math isn’t too difficult here). The numbers are against you, so why put them and yourself through that?

In my opinion, people turn to beta readers because they want validation. My advice: forget validation and focus on your writing. Do your due diligence, get a good editor (a professional, not an amateur which is what a beta reader is) to evaluate your work, read about how to improve character development, pace, etc. After that, though, get the work done, get it published, and move on. Stop looking for the applause.


Author Bio:

Roma Gray writes what she refers to as “Trick-or-Treat Thrillers,” stories with a spooky, creepy, Halloween feel to them.

Currently she works at J. Ellington Ashton as a Staff Editor and Director of Marketing, as well as for her own editing company, Night Sky Book Services.

She lives in a haunted house in Oregon with her black cat, her Chihuahua, and her parrot.



Amazon Author Page

Audible Page (audiobooks)

Official Website

Night Sky Book Services (editing, formatting and cover creation)


© The Literary Librarian 2017


Interview: An Interview with Poet, Trish Hopkinson

Book Name and Description:

Footnote (a chapbook of response poems) –

Footnote is a collection of response poems by Trish Hopkinson written as an homage to some of her favorite artists.


Praise for Footnote:

“She holds a handful of earth— / she must say it to understand it.” This scene, from a poem that engages Rainer Maria Rilke as well as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, is a gorgeously emblematic and enigmatic moment in Trish Hopkinson’s Footnote. This collection is obsessed with the miracle of words and the mouths that say them, the bodies that carry them out and back in, deliciously, deliriously. From Emily Dickinson to Amiri Baraka to David Lynch to Sylvia Plath to Pablo Neruda to Janis Joplin, these poems perform erasures, palimpsests, collages, ventriloquisms, haunted monologues, dreams in which the physical dances with the metaphysical so that the stormy dream of language can enter us. And then we see how “we are driven by our own ceremonies, / by whirling words.” Hopkinson understands that the best conversation is a transformation, in which the words one has inherited are reinvented. Footnote reminds us that the act of saying is something we may never fully understand—and that is cause for whirling joy. 

–Chen Chen, author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities

Footnote can be purchased here: Lithic Press: Footnote


Waiting Around

by Trish Hopkinson, after “Walking Around” by Pablo Neruda

It so happens, I am tired of being a woman.
And it happens while I wait for my children to grow
into the burning licks of adulthood. The streaks
of summer sun have gone,

drained between gaps into gutters,
and the ink-smell of report cards and recipe boxes
cringes me into corners. Still I would be satisfied
if I could draw from language
the banquet of poets.

If I could salvage the space in time
for thought and collect it
like a souvenir. I can no longer
be timid and quiet, breathless

and withdrawn.
I can’t salve the silence.
I can’t be this vineyard
to be bottled, corked,
cellared, and shelved.

That’s why the year-end gapes with pointed teeth,
growls at my crow’s feet, and gravels into my throat.
It claws its way through the edges of an age
I never planned to reach

and diffuses my life into dullness—
workout rooms and nail salons,
bleach-white sheets on clotheslines,
and treacherous photographs of younger me
at barbecues and birthday parties.

I wait. I hold still in my form-fitting camouflage.
I put on my strong suit and war paint lipstick
and I gamble on what’s expected.
And what to become. And how
to behave: mother, wife, brave.

–original published by Wicked Banshee Press


What gave you the idea for Footnote?

In 2015, after teaching a community poetry writing workshop on response poetry, I realized I had quite a few response poems of my own. So in this case, the collection was a surprise waiting for me in already completed work.


What got you into writing in this genre?

I’ve always loved poetry. My mother read me nursery rhymes when I was very young and gave me my appreciation for verse. I wrote my first poem when I was 5 or 6 and haven’t really stopped since. I set it aside for a while when my children and work and such took over my life in my early 30s, and quickly realized I am not content without writing poetry. When people ask me why I call myself a Selfish Poet, that’s exactly why—I write for me, the rest is just a bonus.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

The topics and forms of my poems vary, but most seem to have a feminist tilt. Several of my poems have been published in literary magazines, journals, and anthologies. My first two chapbooks were early projects and I share those on my web site. The first is a self-published collection entitled Emissions. It received an honorable mention award in the Poetry Anthology category in the League of Utah Writers annual writing contest. The original art included was created mostly by my son, with one by my daughter. The second is entitled Pieced into Treetops, finished summer of 2013 for a local 30 Poems in 30 Days contest. These 30 poems were based on daily prompts and placed second in the competition. The cover art is a photograph taken by my daughter. I hope to collaborate more with my son and daughter in the future; both are exceptional artists.


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

I seem to be most productive in the evening, but I usually write my blog posts in the morning. I probably spend equal time running my blog, submitting poems, and writing poems. The writing process is typically to get the initial draft into a document—then I look for ways to revise and finish the poem. Often revision means trying new forms, adding in another metaphor, researching details for a metaphor, workshopping with my local poetry group, or just letting the poem sit and simmer for a while. Some poems pour out nearly complete with the first draft, while others take several revisions and sometimes months to become finished. I say finished lightly, because finished may never really be finished.


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

I’m a Sylvia Plath fan. Ariel was life changing for me when I discovered it in my early teens. I still have “Daddy” memorized. Ginsberg’s Howl is another favorite.


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

I think the most important tool is community—at least that’s the case for me. I think it’s difficult to improve as a writer without feedback, encouragement, and learning from the experiences of others. Sure, you can probably get all that from reading books on your own, but it’s not nearly as rewarding and I think it’s a lot harder to be a writer alone. I love the local and online communities I’m a part of and I’ve made some incredible connections and some even better friends.


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

Read. Reading will make you a better writer. See what’s out there; see how you measure up; see if you can create something new. I get the most of my inspiration to write from reading other poets.


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

Aha! Now we’re getting into my specialty. I run a poetry blog where I share information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community. I post almost daily and share no fee submission calls for literary magazines, journals, and other markets, as well as free poetry contests. I started my blog as a way to keep track of the places I wanted to submit to and other writing tips and resources. What I found is, a lot of other writers are looking for those same things, so when I started sharing my blog posts on social media, I got a lot of positive feedback and I’ve been blogging almost daily ever since.

Marketing my new chapbook Footnote has been a bit different. It definitely helps to have a blog with followers to sell/promote new work, but I’ve also done a couple of readings and have another scheduled in November. My plan now is to get a press kit together so I can approach the local indie bookstores in Utah and try to do readings there as well. Since I sometimes travel for my day job, I may check into readings in those areas as well in the future. I also set up a little online store and have promoted the book by offering other perks, such as signed copies and poetry critiques. So far it’s going well!

I always jump at the chance to be interviewed or to exchange guest blog posts with other writers and honestly, some of those experiences have been the best part of this whole poetry adventure.


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

I’m really proud of my poem “Waiting Around” which I wrote in response to a Neruda poem entitled “Walking Around.” It’s been published several times—more than any of my other poems, and won awards as well. It’s also included in Footnote.


What are you doing next?

I’ve been working on poems about my childhood as well as poems about my son and his recovery from an accident that nearly took his life. I’m also working on the materials and lesson plan for my next free community poetry workshop. Utah Humanities makes it possible for me to teach these once a year as part of their book festival and part of the workshop includes publishing a collection of poems written by the participants. I’m also working on the third annual issue of Orogeny, which is a collection of poems written by the members of my regional poetry group, the Rock Canyon Poets.

I’ve always got a lot going on and wouldn’t have it any other way. Poetry nourishes me.



Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. A Pushcart nominated poet, she has been published in several anthologies and journals, including Stirring, Pretty Owl Poetry, and The Penn Review; and her third chapbook Footnote was published by Lithic Press in 2017. Hopkinson is co-founder of a regional poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets, and Editor-in-Chief of the group’s annual poetry anthology entitled Orogeny. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow Hopkinson on her blog where she shares information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community at



To buy the book: Lithic Press: Footnote

Poetry blog

Trish’s Facebook Page

Trish’s Twitter: @trishhopkinson

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Trish’s LinkedIn

Trish’s Google+

Trish’s Amazon Author Central (for other books listings)


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Daniella Levy

Book Names and Descriptions:

By Light of Hidden Candles

(Kasva Press, coming October 2017; historical romance/new adult): In 16th-century Fez, a dying woman hands her granddaughter a heavy gold ring—and an even heavier secret. Five hundred years later, Alma Ben-Ami journeys to Madrid to fulfill her ancestor’s final wish. She has recruited an unlikely research partner: Manuel Aguilar, a young Catholic Spaniard whose beloved priest always warned him about getting too friendly with Jews. As their quest takes them from Greenwich Village to the windswept mountain fortresses of southern Spain, their friendship deepens and threatens to cross boundaries sacred to them both; and what they finally discover in the Spanish archives will force them to confront the truth about who they are and what their faiths mean to them.

By Light of Hidden Candles:
Available for Pre-order for print and Kindle on Amazon: Click Here.
Available for Pre-order for print on Kasva Press: Click Here.

Previous book: Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism (Guiding Light Press, 2016; nonfiction/Judaism): It began as an extraordinary correspondence across the Mediterranean. Josep, a secular Catholic from Barcelona, wanted to learn about Daniella’s life as an American-Israeli Orthodox Jew. Her enthusiastic response to his curiosity resulted in this collection of entertaining and enlightening letters. With nuance, candor, and warmth—and a liberal dash of humor—Daniella paints a vivid picture of observant Jewish life. She explains complex concepts in a manner so unassuming and accessible that even the most uninitiated can relate—but with enough depth that the knowledgeable will find new insight, too. Whether you’re a curious non-Jew or a Jew hoping to expand your knowledge, Letters to Josep will charm, inform, and inspire you.

Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism:
Available for print and Kindle on Amazon: Click Here.


What gave you the idea for By Light of Hidden Candles?

Like many of the wonderful things in life, it began with another book.

Well, sort of. I think, as with any creative work, it’s impossible to pinpoint every factor that contributed to it, but if I had to point to one of them, it would be The Spanish Jews by Felipe Torroba Bernaldo de Quirós. I received the English translation as a gift from my then-new friend Josep (of Letters to Josep), who knew about my long-standing obsession with the Jews of Spain and the Spanish Inquisition. It was the first real history book I had consulted on the topic, and I read it with great interest. (Now that I’ve read a lot more, I would not recommend it as a resource for several reasons, but that’s for another time.) As I read about the “reconquest” of Iberia by the Christians and the subsequent migration of Jews toward ever-shrinking Muslim areas, an image formed in my mind of a Jewish family fleeing the advancing Christians and eventually ending up in Morocco. I wondered about relations between Christians and Jews during that period, and imagined a Christian family helping the Jewish family, much like “righteous gentiles” during the Holocaust.

The idea further developed inspired by a particular Judeo-Spanish folk song, “Hija Mia,” about a daughter who wants to throw herself into the sea “to save her from love,” and her mother who is trying to convince her not to. Like many Ladino songs, it’s kind of melodramatic and dark, but it got me thinking about the overwhelming power of love that sometimes forces us to make very difficult choices. The lyrics to the song are featured in the book’s epigraph, and appear at key points in the story.

I’ll elaborate more on how the book came to be, below.


What got you into writing in this genre?

Simply put, I’m a history nerd—particularly Jewish history, and particularly Spanish Jewish history. This was my first time writing historical fiction, but it seems to me now that it was rather inevitable that I’d end up in this genre. The worlds recreated in historical fiction are not only completely different from the one I know, but they actually existed—and left evidence you can read, touch, and smell. Of course, this also means it requires a ton of research, and that’s very daunting; but when it’s a period that fascinates me, I’m going to be reading about it anyway!


How long have you been writing?

Since I was four. Literally. That’s when I taught myself to read and write, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer.


Tell us about your past books and stories.

So, I wrote my first “chapter book” in a school notebook when I was in fourth or fifth grade. It was called To Keep the Peace and it was a ridiculous and adorable tale starring myself and my British friend who travel the world to stop a war (by visiting world leaders and asking them nicely, of course). This was a short time after my family immigrated from the USA to Israel, and writing was a powerful coping mechanism for me.

When I turned twelve, I used my bat mitzvah money to buy my first desktop computer, and the first thing I wanted to do with it was write a full-length novel. So I did! I completed my first novel at age 14, and my second (which I had started in the meantime) a few months after that. I averaged a novel a year throughout my teens.

I sent my first query letter at age 15, and spent a large portion of the next five years trying to find an agent. I did better than you’d expect for a teenage wannabe, but nothing ended in a contract. By the time I was 20 I was burnt out and discouraged; it was around that time that I first had the idea for By Light of Hidden Candles, but I felt unequipped to write it at the time. I took a long break from writing fiction that lasted about six years, during which I started and quit college, got married, and had three kids! In the course of that dry spell, I hardly even thought of myself as a writer. I considered writing novels a sort of teenage hobby, not necessarily something I’d do as an adult.

Then, in August of 2013, I was putting my youngest son down for a nap when the idea I’d had for By Light of Hidden Candles just… hit me like a freight train. I have no other way to describe it. I was sucked into the world I hadn’t yet created, drawn deeply into the emotional lives of the characters in a way I hadn’t been in years. I dug up the beginnings of a draft I’d written years ago, and added some touches here and there, but I didn’t really think I’d get back to it. After all, I was an adult now; I had commitments and responsibilities and three little kids running around… I couldn’t write a novel! But then a series of other strange coincidences led to a conversation with a dear friend of mine, where I confessed that I’d been thinking about this idea for a book, and she told me in no uncertain terms that I had to write it. So I did! In a little over three months from that point, the first draft was done.

It took a very, very long time to find a publisher, and in the meantime, I started pursuing other projects, one of which was my blog, Letters to Josep, which eventually turned into my first published book. I self-published Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism as a sort of experiment; for the longest time I’d been so stuck on the idea that I needed to have an agent or at least the approval of an editor for my work to be proclaimed worthy of publication. Self-publishing was a sort of declaration that I no longer needed that approval. Paradoxically, it was only once I shed the need for external validation that publications began accepting my work. First, my short story Immersion was published by the Jewish Literary Journal; then, The Olive Harvest by Reckoning Magazine; then, Shattered Glass by Newfound Journal; then, The Wedding Dress by Rathalla Review. (My short story Scarf Sisters is going to be published by arc-25, the literary magazine of the Israel Association of Writers in English, but they’re running behind schedule and I have no idea when it’ll come out.)

My short stories tend to explore closer to home: contemporary life in Israel and the Middle East conflict. For some reason, I find it easier to write about those topics in short fiction.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like?

I’m a bit of a rebel. I’m aware of the common wisdom that we need to be structured and disciplined about writing, not only writing when we’re inspired, but I just can’t work like that. I write when I’m inspired, and given the fact that I’ve already written six novels, a novella, a nonfiction book, more than a dozen short stories, and countless poems, and that I’m still regularly maintaining two different blogs, I think it’s fair to say that it works for me!

My writing process involves a lot of daydreaming. And talking to myself. Preferably in the shower. Much of the work is done away from the computer, when I’m doing dishes or driving or otherwise spacing out. That’s convenient, because I’m a work-from-home mom, and I don’t have unlimited, uninterrupted time to just sit and write at the computer!


What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I think in terms of life experience, making aliyah (moving to Israel) with my family as a child had a very deep impact on my inner life. I explore grief and loss a lot in my writing, and I used to think that was strange, since I didn’t experience the actual death of a loved one until relatively late in life. But the truth is that I’ve experienced a great deal of loss, not least of which was the loss of the first home I remember, my friends, my community, the relative proximity to my extended family, and the identity I had and left behind when we moved here. I noticed recently that many of the main characters in the stories and novels I’ve written are immigrants or children of immigrants. In By Light of Hidden Candles, Manuel Aguilar—the modern Christian character—is a Spanish immigrant to the US, and the main character of the historical narrative, Míriam de Carmona, is forced to leave her home not once, but twice. Their characters and experiences were certainly influenced by my own immigrant experience.

In terms of writing style, I was completely obsessed with the Harry Potter series as a teenager, and I’d like to think that my writing was influenced by J. K. Rowling’s style—particularly the subtle humor of her dialogue. I am also inspired by the work of writers like Amy Tan, who submerge their readers in their culture in a very engaging and relatable way, and particularly Jewish authors who do that effectively. I like to say that I want to be Dara Horn when I grow up.


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

This is like asking me which of my kids is my favorite. I love them all uniquely and for different reasons, and I can’t possibly compare! If I had to choose one of the books I’ve read in recent years, I’d pick The World to Come by Dara Horn. I think her later books were “better” artistically, more compelling, etc., but it’s The World to Come that I find myself coming back to and rereading passages from again and again. I think it’s because of the deep way the book explores that topic I am so drawn to—grief and loss—as well as the relationships between parents and children, and what death and immortality mean, what love and trust are made of… all from a very Jewish perspective.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I think I’m only just beginning to discover myself as an adult writer. Even By Light of Hidden Candles was first conceived when I was still barely out of my teens. I’m finding myself torn between the teenager who loved lighthearted, humorous banter and the adult who is drawn to a more serious, “literary” tone. My hope and prayer is that I’ll be able to synthesize them. I think I bring those two tones together to some degree in By Light of Hidden Candles, but they still remain mostly distinct, the former dominating the contemporary narrative and the latter, the historical narrative. I hope to make it more seamless.


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

Something to write on. That’s about it. A laptop, a notebook, a granite slab, whatever you’ve got! Nothing else is really necessary.

That said, I personally cannot live without a thesaurus (and I use it all the time. For everything. Even, like, Facebook comments); I’m perfectly happy to use for this purpose, with occasional forays into I have done an unbelievable amount of research using Google and YouTube. The Internet is an amazing thing.


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

When I completed the manuscript of By Light of Hidden Candles, I wrote to author Naomi Ragen to ask for advice about submitting it to agents, since her book, The Ghost of Hannah Mendes, is in the same genre and explores similar topics. She wrote back very promptly and started with: “Congratulations! Writing a book is a tremendous accomplishment.” She reminded me that no matter what happens, whether I end up publishing it or not, the fact that I completed a manuscript is something to celebrate and be proud of.


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

I’m still blundering through this, so I wouldn’t claim to know what works at all, let alone best! This is an area that is particularly challenging for me. So far, people have found me primarily through my blogs or through social media (mostly Facebook; I hate Twitter, and I’m only just getting the hang of Instagram). Occasionally I write articles for popular Jewish platforms like Kveller or The Forward and those get shared around. I just try to be myself and put out compelling content that people enjoy reading and that helps them get to know me.


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

This is also like asking me which of my kids I’m most proud of!

My passion has always been fiction, but I think I’ll take this opportunity to mention my second blog, The Rejection Survival Guide. I started writing it after publishing Letters to Josep and while I was still trying (and abjectly failing) to get my fiction published. The Rejection Survival Guide is the fruit of a very deep and important process I went through in learning how to be truly resilient in the face of years and years of rejection. Many writers are told they have to have thick skins and that they shouldn’t get their hopes up about their chances of having their work accepted. This didn’t work for me, and frankly, I don’t think it really works for anyone. You can’t selectively numb your feelings, and when we suppress hope, we can’t use it to inspire us. Numbing ourselves to rejection isn’t resilience, it’s denial and emotional suppression.

The Rejection Survival Guide takes a radically different approach to coping with rejection. I advocate facing the tough stuff head-on, cultivating hope, redefining what success means to you, and recognizing and rewarding yourself for your acts of courage even when they don’t bear the fruit you would have liked. Most of all, I try to help writers and artists find and nourish the little voice deep inside them that whispers, “I believe in my work.”

I’m proud of the blog because it’s bold, and unique, and an expression of a personal revolution. I think it would have helped me tremendously if I’d read something like it several years ago.

Since this question is about a particular piece, I will point to this post, which is an elaboration on what I call the “Creative Resilience Manifesto,” a set of affirmations that express the core philosophy of the blog: The Creative Resilience Manifesto: How to Stay Strong in the Face of Rejection and Criticism.


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

This is tough because I feel that my work is still evolving. If I had to choose one short story that represents my work well, I think The Wedding Dress is it. It’s got some humor, some whimsy, some heavy stuff, a main character who’s a child of immigrants and struggles with grief and loss, and a sort of indirect exploration of issues of race, prejudice, and politics in Israel.


What are you doing next?

I’m working on something a little unique: a collection of short stories revolving around the evacuation of a fictional Jewish settlement in Gaza during the disengagement in 2005. Each story is told from a completely different perspective: from a left-wing journalist who reluctantly covers the evacuation, to a Holocaust survivor settler haunted by memories of his past; from an ex-religious soldier who must evacuate his long-lost love, to a mother of four who must accompany the body of her murdered husband to a new grave. The result I’m aiming for is a kind of sweeping panorama of many different, and sometimes conflicting, perspectives on this wrenching historical event that seems to have been forgotten by most of the world. I have seven stories written at the moment.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

I’m going to quote from a post on The Rejection Survival Guide called Someday Your ‘Yes’ Will Come, which I wrote when I finally found a publisher for my novel:

“Keep going. Keep doing what you love. Keep listening to yourself. Keep creating when that is right for you. Keep engaging with your work and embracing constructive criticism and opportunities for growth. Keep taking breaks when you need to. Keep your mind open to other possibilities and solutions—and be humble enough to try ‘lower-prestige’ opportunities. You gotta start somewhere. Keep trying new things. Keep putting yourself out there. When you do this, when you are persistent and flexible and in love with what you’re doing, eventually, magic will happen.”



Daniella Levy is a mother of three, rabbi’s wife, writer, translator, self-defense instructor, bridal counselor, black belt in karate, and certified medical clown—and she still can’t decide what to be when she grows up. Her short fiction, poetry, and articles have appeared in popular and literary magazines such as Writer’s Digest, Reckoning Magazine, Newfound Journal, the Jewish Literary Journal, Rathalla Review, and Pnima Magazine, as well as online platforms such as The Forward, Kveller,, Ynet News, J-Wire, and Hevria, and in the international poetry collection Veils, Halos & Shackles. She was born in the USA and immigrated to Israel with her family as a child, and currently lives at the edge of the Judean Desert.



Author website

By Light of Hidden Candles (Kasva Press)

By Light of Hidden Candles (Amazon)

Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism

Letters to Josep (the blog)

The Rejection Survival Guide (blog)


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Poet, Elaine Reardon

Book Name and Description:  

The Heart is a Nursery for Hope – a chapbook of poetry

Cover3 copy 2

The overarching theme of Elaine Reardon’s poetry chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery for Hope, is life’s transmutations, life in all its quirkiness, from small moments in the day to life- changing events. Whatever the heart holds can nourish and transform. 

This book is available on Amazon: Click Here.
This book is also available on Flutterpress: Click Here.


Canning Jars
By Elaine Reardon   

I had need of the old jars this morning
went to the cellar to retrieve them
from the bottom shelf
the empty jars still had bits
of your faded handwriting

Twenty two years ago you sat with me
writing lavender, thyme, anise hyssop
on stickers with neat calligraphy
a row of garden for the herb shelf

It was difficult to loosen faded labels
to fill the jars with something new
they now sparkle in the dish drainer
aside from rust on the hinges

Like what changes the heart
what charges iron to rust
can’t be removed easily


What gave you the idea for The Heart is a Nursery for Hope?

At the center of things, for me as well as for so many other folks, is hope.  We have difficult situations in our lives, and we need to cope, to get through the difficulties. Kind of like after a big snowfall, one shovel-full at a time – soon you can get down the stairs and out the door.

And somewhere in that process, you may notice how beautiful the snow is, how the flakes stick, and how the moon-shine lights the landscape.  I’m a practical optimist!  Also, I’ve noticed that perspective can change how we feel about things.  Many people have told me they feel spiritually inspired by the poetry.  That both pleases and inspired me, because that feedback has come from folks of many differing religions.


What got you into writing in this genre?

My Dad is from the old country (Ireland).  I grew up in the oral tradition of story and song… Every day was a wonderful story.  Even his WW2 stories about getting ready for D-Day on the moors of England, were fashioned for a child’s hearing.  I remember one story of how he saved a chocolate bar from his rations, but the mice got to it before he did.  He could bring a sense of wonder to the mundane. And I don’t think I’ve ever lost that sense of wonder.  If I could carry a tune, I might be singing!

How long have you been writing? I began when I was four, but I couldn’t actually write, yet.  I then took it up again in the second grade.  Again, my teacher dashed my hopes, as she wanted me to do math instead.


Tell us about your past books and stories? 

I’ve been published in Three Drops from a Cauldron Anthology, and in their journal. They have an interesting website to explore.  Also, I’ve been “Poet of the Week” on, and featured on,  Halcyon Days Journal, and Poppy Review.  I’ve directed the work for and edited a Vernal Pool Poster, published by Vernal Pool Association. As an educator, I’ve been published by University of Massachusetts Press, as part of a book about global education.  Finally, I have a picture-book that I’ve recently submitted to several places, and this is another first, for me.  I’ve had support from my local Society of Picture Book Writers and Illustrators as I’ve worked and revised.


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

My family started off my life with song, story, and nursery rhymes, and these have been a large influence. My mom and her sisters loved to croon along with old jazz tunes and big band favorites.  My critique group meets monthly, and that kind of support is wonderful, so I’m always learning to refine.  My writing day is a bit like riding on a see-saw!  I usually begin trying to get email submissions and glancing over journals and online communications early in the day. But then, other days I dash off to yoga first. At some point, I need to go outdoors and be in nature. To listen, walk, or work.  My days are not as organized as I’d like.


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

Poetry books: Night Walker by by Thurston. Her poetry is just gorgeous. Very simple, very deep. Every line is in place, both technically and emotionally. Billy Collins, for his searing commentary, observations, and humor. I’m enjoying Horoscopes for the Dead right now.  Also, A Moment in the Field, by Margaret Lloyd.   Books are sacred things to me, and reading is a sacrament.  In writing this, I realize I have the first book my grandmother gave me, of fairy tales, before I was old enough to read it, and the second and third books given to me, when I turned eight years old.  One is poetry, and one is about Paul Revere.  It’s interesting that history and poetry have journeyed through my years with me.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I take chances, and listen to wise insight from my poetry elders.  I think it’s a responsibility to birth what you can into the world.  You do what you can to better the world.  I’m new at painting, and have been in some local shows. I dash around taking photos when I write my blog, to pair pictures with words. Twelve years ago, I wasn’t doing any of this! I also became a solar coach for my town, and learned a lot about solar /alternative energy. Every day brings new possibilities.


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

For me, a laptop.  I’m a messy writer – I need a dictionary and quiet. Also, books to read, writer friends, and a sangha to meet with.


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

The idea that we are always evolve, it’s through all the experiences of writing that we see how we can refine our work. Writing is like learning a language, or math, or riding a bike.  You have to do it for yourself.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre? is my blog, I have a Facebook page for the book, and an author page on Goodreads.  Marketing is tricky when you are published by small presses. I’ve done readings at libraries, bookstores, poetry venues, and literary festivals like the Brattleboro Literary Festival, and the Orange Garlic and Arts Festival.


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

Ha! Perhaps my unpublished children’s story, The Star Keepers.  Two of my poems were finalists in contests, Memories of Vietnam, and Thanksgiving.


What are you doing next?

My neighbor recently found some primary documents, letters from the man who lived where I live, on this land, before we were a country, in the late 1700s.  Reading them makes history come alive for me, from a serious hailstorm, to the Boston Tea Party.  I’ve downloaded some historical documents and want to begin to research and write about James Ball, and that time-frame in my town. I can almost feel him here, and can almost see him looking into the stream.


What advice would you give aspiring writers? 

Write, read, don’t self-judge – not everything will be wonderful. Put writing away, and look at it in a couple weeks. You’ll see what to tweak.  Find a sangha of writers be connect with.



Elaine is a poet, herbalist, educator, and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Her chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, won first honors from Flutter Press. Most recently, Elaine’s poetry has been published by Three Drops from a Cauldron Journal, MA Poet of the Moment, Nature Writing, and  Elaine lives tucked into the forest in Central Massachusetts and maintains a blog at



The Heart is a Nursery for HopeAmazon

The Heart is a Nursery for HopeFlutterpress

Elaine’s WordPress

Elaine’s Twitter

Poetry Host: Mass Poetry Poem of the Moment

Poetry Host: Nature Writing


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Poet Kai Coggin

Poem Name and Description: “hoUSton” 

Covers 2

“hoUSton” is a poem that I wrote as the horrors of Hurricane Harvey were unfolding in my hometown.

by Kai Coggin

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

My city became an ocean overnight,
floodwaters drowned thousands of homes,
swallowed whole neighborhoods with one rising gulp,
brackish brown bayous
and rain,
so much rain,
a trillion gallons
pouring from the broken open sky,
this is what unfathomable looks like,
6.5 million people wondering if they can float,
people swept out of their lives
in the currents of swirling water,
where do you go when your whole world sinks
to the bottom of a hurricane’s slow dance of doom?

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

I watched for days
from too far away
to do anything but pray
as the water rose over the places of my youth,
I put a golden dome of light around my mother’s home,
texted her through tornadoes overhead
as she hid in the closet,
visualized her safe and dry,
safe and dry,
safe and dry,
and she is…
but how do I not cry
for the 32,000 Houstonians sleeping in shelters tonight?

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

This indiscriminate life breaker of a storm
ravaged the poor, the rich, the middle class
with no thought of separation,
hispanics, asians, whites, and blacks,
christians, muslims, republicans, democrats,
these false lines we use to divide ourselves break down
until all we can see is human.
How can I help another human being survive?
Where can I take my boat, my canoe, my kayak and float
to a family with water rising to their necks,
arms flailing from water level rooftops,
street rivers, trapped cars,
and the mental emotional scars
that have not yet come our from under the rubble
of this unprecedented disaster.

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

A friend of mine lost 99% of her possessions
in a house she moved into two days before the storm.
She posts her gratitude on facebook for
the man she loves saving her and her three dogs.
Another friend’s little boy is always a little chatterbox,
she worries because he is so quiet since they were evacuated,
his eyes looking at the passing water.
Another friend walks five miles with her little girl in a floaty,
hitchhikes on the back of a truck,
jumps on a boat to get to a shelter accepting survivors, she praises dry socks.
Another friend, former student, is now a police officer,
teenage boy turned gladiator diving into harm to truly protect and serve.
Another friend and another friend and another friend
millions of stories because Houston
is a city of stories,
Houstonians helping Houstonians
now more than ever before,
a Navy of Neighbors knocking on every flooded door,
finding their own humanity on the other side.

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

There is a reflection of all of US in this tragedy,
it unfolds on this national scale
in the fourth largest city in the country
to remind us that we are stronger in our togetherness,
we are better when we care for our neighbors,
we are greater when we open up our hearts instead of build walls,
when we are stripped down of everything
but the rain-soaked shirts on our backs
drowning in overtaking oceans,
we reach out our hands from under the water
just wishing someone…
another human being…
would grab hold and say
“I’ve got you.”
“You’re safe now.”
“You’re going to be alright.”

Our hands are out to you Houston.

In the middle of Houston, there is US.


Kai Coggin, 2017

What gave you the idea for “hoUSton”

I am a Bangkok-born, Houston-raised poet, who now lives in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. My mother still lives in Houston, and there is always a huge soft spot in my heart for my hometown. Watching The Weather Channel’s coverage a few days before Hurricane Harvey hit, I knew that Houston was going to be in tremendous danger from the slow stalling of the storm that was projected to occur. I watched religiously as the continuous coverage started on Friday – as the storm barreled into Rockport and Corpus Christi. The outer bands began to pummel Houston, and the rain started, and didn’t stop, and didn’t stop, and didn’t stop. I was on the phone with my mom as she ducked in the closet while tornadoes swirled overhead. Houston was going to flood, and The Weather Channel kept throwing around words like “epic,” “catastrophic,” “unprecedented,” and “we have never seen a storm like this.”

I visualized my mother being safe and dry, kept texting her every few hours to make sure she was ok, and kept praying that my city would be okay through this never-ending rain. I felt helpless watching this all unfold on TV, while hundreds of my old friends and former students on FB were updating, live, the devastation that was occurring. I couldn’t just sit on my hands and watch in an anxious state; I had to write. That’s what poets do in times like these; we write.

On the Saturday of the first pourings of torrential rain, I visualized the word, “Houston,” in my mind’s eye and the “US” stuck out to me like this: hoUSton. I posted a FB graphic with the blue background and two hands holding across the bottom with the word “hoUSton” in the center. It was like a prayer, a visualization, a meditation for all of us to see the humanity of US in what was about to happen to the fourth-largest city in the country, Houston… and to hold them in our thoughts.

That is how the poem was born; from that image. A few days later, as the waters swallowed the city of my youth, I wrote the poem. My mother stayed safe and dry – miraculously – and I finally had a moment to process what was going on in my poet heart. The line that circled in my head and kept repeating was “In the middle of Houston, there is US.” The rest of the poem flowed together in one sitting as the waters continued to rise.


What got you into writing poetry?

Poetry was a means for survival for me, and didn’t truly emerge as a pillar in my being until I was about 18 – even though I had written stories and poems for most of my young life.  I was going through some extremely difficult circumstances, and I felt completely alone in the world. Poetry was my diversion from suicidal thoughts. Poetry was the safe, in which I could lock away my secrets. Poetry was the heart that could answer back my unrequited love poems. Poetry was there for me in every way, in those days, but I took from poetry more than I gave. It was a sounding board and a shoulder to cry on and the one I ran to when the darkness enveloped my thoughts.

Now, I give to poetry. I give my whole heart and listen to what bounces back. Poetry is a medium that allows me to microscopically view situations, people, and moments, and dissect them with precision, craft, and beauty, to offer perspectives that others may simply miss. I always try to offer a silver lining, a ray of hope, a deeper meaning in my poems. Though I write many poems on social activism, political poems, environmental poem (all poems that seem like they would be somewhat depressing), I always leave the reader with something to think about, a call to action, or a call back to what matters most: love.


How long have you been writing?



Tell us about your past books and stories?

My debut collection, Periscope Heart, was published in 2014, after my manuscript won a contest put out through Swimming with Elephants Publications. The poems in Periscope Heart deal with love, body image, spiritual striving, metaphysics, and more. It is the first sounds of my essence truly spilling out into the world. My second full-length collection, WINGSPAN (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016), contains poems that reflect “fight” or “flight” themes reflected in many different personal, community, global, and sociopolitical realms.

In February of 2017, I recorded my first spoken-word album, SILHOUETTE, complete with musical accompaniments with talented friends I have around the country. I did it all on the Garageband app on my mac (the recording, mixing, layering, editing, and producing). It was such a fun and different creative process than putting together a manuscript.


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

I am stimulated by heart. My writing follows suit. I am inspired by beauty or destruction, pain or pleasure, life as it unfolds every day. I do not follow a strict writing regimen, but write when I am moved by something I cannot contain, until the passion around a thought bubbles out of me.

There is a time every year that I really strictly write, and that is during National Poetry Month every April, where I lead a 30/30 challenge in my poetry community, to write 30 poems in 30 days. Some of my best work comes from this time every year.


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course)?

I love anything by Jeanette Winterson or Paulo Coelho.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I evolve constantly, always, in relation and response to everything around me. As a poet, I like to become a deep part of whatever I am writing about. I give myself to the subject, to reveal the voice that the subject contains: the humanity waiting to be revealed, the divine spark waiting to be lit with recognition and acknowledgment in poetry. If you write with an open heart, you will continue to evolve, to grow, to understand the many facets of life all around you.


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

An open heart. A keen eye for observation that notices tiny nuances others would ignore. Courage.

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

Sandra Cisneros, internationally acclaimed author of The House on Mango Street, leaned over her kitchen table, over the Corona we were sharing and the steam rising from the quesadilla she made me, and told me, “Tell your story. Someone needs every word.”


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

I shamelessly market myself on social media. I believe that if you are not excited to share your work, no one else will be. I use Facebook more than other platforms, and it has been a really successful way for me to sell my books and CDs. There is a plateau that is ultimately reached, though, and I haven’t figured out the solution for that yet. I also do readings and book signings that get my work out there into the community.


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

I am proud of every piece that I create, even the half-done, wonky pieces, the epic poems that shoot straight to the heart, and the sappy, longing, love poems. Everything is something that I birth into existence with my thought. It is an act of magic, really, this process of making something out of nothing, simply by stringing letters together and breaking lines and building pictures out of words. I love it. I am proud of everything that I create.

As for my poem, “hoUSton,” I am really thankful that The Weather Channel and The Houston Chronicle shared the poem, only because I feel like there are millions of people who need to hear the message that is intended in that poem; “In the middle of Houston, there is US.” It is the idea that we are all reflected in this tragedy and what is shining so brightly about Houston is its people coming together and helping one another.  We all need to hear of unity and togetherness during this time of divisive political agendas and hate on the rise.  This current administration will not be the end of us. We must come together with our hope for a better tomorrow for our children, and we must create that in our actions and in our words. We are still all Americans, humans, citizens of the world.


What are you doing next?

I will continue going into every day, armed with my open heart and my words, to bring, share, and spread Light with my poetry.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Don’t quit when someone tells you “no” or when you get a rejection letter. Keep writing, even if it is just for you. Your story is important.



Kai Coggin is a former Houston Teacher of the Year turned poet and author, now living in the valley of a small mountain in Hot Springs National Park, AR. She received her B.A. in English, Poetry, and Creative Writing from Texas A&M University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Sinister WisdomAssaracus, Calamus Journal, Lavender Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Luna Luna, Blue Heron Review, Yellow Chair Review, and elsewhere.

Kai is the author of two full-length collections, PERISCOPE HEART (Swimming with Elephants, 2014) and WINGSPAN (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016), as well as a spoken word album called SILHOUETTE (2017). Her poetry has been nominated twice for The Pushcart Prize, as well as Bettering American Poetry 2015, and Best of the Net 2016.


Links:    If you would like to order signed copies of my books or CD, please order from the first link below, and they will go straight from my hands to your heart. Thank you!

Kai Coggin’s Official Website

Kai’s Facebook Page

Instagram: skailight

Twitter: @skailight



Review of PERISCOPE HEART – Yellow Chair Review

Review of WINGSPAN by Erica Charis – Yellow Chair Review

SpokenHeard Radio Show Interview about WINGSPAN
If you would like to read more poems by Kai Coggin, here are some links to a selection of publications in which her work appears.

“ten thousand wishes” – Elephant Journal

“Paris Accord” & “surrender” – Calamus Journal

“The Pulse of a Rainbow”- Crab Fat Magazine

“Keys” – Luna Luna Magazine

“Déjà vu,” “How to be Fat and Beautiful,” and “Once in a Blue Moon” – Dragon Poet Review

“palette” – Rise Up Review 

“grey horse” “this is a painting” “this is how to eat your past” – Anti-Heroin Chic

“Every black boy is a Lion” – Yellow Chair Review

“There Will Be An Orchard / I Throw Fruit into the Gully” – Drunk Monkeys

Dad & The Dalai Lama – ELEPHANT JOURNAL

“Becoming Vapor and Rain” & “You Become Me Become You” – Women’s Spiritual Poetry


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Mary Langer Thompson

Book Name and Description:  Poems in Water, and How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue

Poems in Water (Poems that make the ordinary extraordinary), published by Green Fuse Poetic Arts of Loveland, Colorado.

How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue, published by Another Think Coming Press.  (“Traveling a hero’s journey, Dinky overcomes bullying, tries to save us all, and gains a unique blue tongue in the process,” Loralie Pallotta, Preschool Owner, 26 years)

Poems in Water is available on Amazon: Click Here.
How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue is available on Amazon: Click Here.


Poem in Water
by Mary Langer Thompson

By Lingering Lake
I watch a Chinese poet
with sweeping brush strokes
write characters
in water
upon the pavement.

Disciples follow in silence
under the willow trees
reading retextured liquid,
the path an impermanent context.

I can’t decipher the message
of this groundling poem,
but feel unmoored
then embraced, bent and baptized,
evaporating verse
washing the dust from my heart.


What gave you the idea for Poems in Water?

The book is a collection of my poetry going back to about the mid-90s. I taught poetry for several years as a secondary English teacher. Poem ideas and lines began to “descend” on me after I left the classroom. The title comes from one poem, “Poem in Water.” While visiting China, I observed a poet write a poem on pavement with a brush full of water. A crowd surrounded him. I was very moved by his effort, because this verse would evaporate soon. It reminded me of the transiency of life and while we in the west strive to get published, here in China attention was paid to this moment making art, with an acceptance it would be gone in moments. So I look at all my poems in this collection as most likely transitory, like life, yet hoping a few will survive because they’ve touched people. My mother, June Langer, who is in her 90’s, painted the picture on the cover.


What gave you the idea for How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue? 

That book was a convergence of several ideas. On a business trip with my husband to Australia in 1980, I looked all over for children’s books for my then 7-year-old son, Matthew. There were few, and one about a dingo dog scared him silly. I decided someday I might have to write my own. Years later a friend told me he sold his rare blue-tongued skink to make a house payment. I looked the animal up and discovered it was a lizard native to Australia. Then I was teaching Steinbeck’s The Pearl to a 10th grade class and no student knew what the reference to The Garden was. I got upset. They knew all the myths but not this story? How would they appreciate or understand any American or English literature? So my tale is about a skink, native to Australia, set in a garden, similar to the one in the Bible.


What got you into writing in these genres?

I wrote a poem or two and took a class. The instructor invited me into his critique group that met bi-weekly. I was hooked. My children’s book sat for a number of years, and when I moved to the high desert there were no poets at that time in my California Writers Club branch. I dusted off the Dinky the Skink story and they loved it and asked me to read it at a Barnes and Noble reading. Both books won Indie Excellence Finalist Awards.


How long have you been writing?

Since 1974, the year my son was born, on my maternity leave. I published the first educational article I wrote and wrote more. But I soon discovered it wasn’t going to help pay my mortgage (and I had no skinks to sell), so I went back to teaching, which continued to inform my writing even to this day.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

In my schooling, I never was taught fiction, so decided to teach flash fiction to 7th graders and it was a lot of fun. Teaching is a great way to learn if you take it step by step (or bird by bird as Anne Lamott would say). I kept reading and writing and I have had some short stories published, many poems and have completed a memoir and two young adult novels that I need to start pitching.


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

I’m retired but I volunteer, teaching writing workshops in schools, colleges, and prisons, so I budget my time carefully for writing every day. I’m in a critique group for poetry that I founded, the Poemsmiths, so I need to come up with a poem every two weeks. I write book reviews for and San Diego Book Review, and those have writing deadlines. My schedule gets a little crazy sometimes and I have to remind myself I’m retired and need to take time with my family. But then, they give me writing ideas!


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

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is my favorite because I taught it to high schoolers, and it’s such a beautiful book that teaches empathy, even while exposing students to racism, all from a child’s point of view. Scout goes from innocence to experience.

The sequel, Go Set a Watchman, in 2015 was a disappointment. I loved Atticus too much to see him portrayed as a racist.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’m more disciplined and intentional about my own work, and because I’ve read so many other writers’ work in critique groups, I’m more willing to take risks with different forms and even rhyme in poetry and try different genres.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Prompt books when inspiration is lacking, time management skills to balance writing and living, and the willingness to ask for help from computer, editing, and marketing experts.


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

You can’t write for the money. You have to write because you can’t not write.


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

Each genre has its own culture and groups of people who love that type of writing. Find those people and reach out to them. Join groups like Society of Children’s Books and Illustrators, read journals like Poets and Writers, be on Facebook, Twitter and read, read, read, and write book reviews, look up the authors, and communicate with them and ask them for book reviews. I used to think teachers were the kindest people on earth; now I’ve added writers to that group. We understand the struggle.


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

Right now, my children’s book, which is also available in Spanish, because others have become enthusiastic about it. When my illustrator, Samantha Kickingbird, first showed me her drawing of Dinky the Skink, I fell in love with him. His anti-bullying message and message about the importance of choices is basically what I want to say to children and the world. So, Go, Dinky! It’s also been a lot of fun to have family members and friends get involved. My son suggested kids eat a blue raspberry Tootsie Pop while they read so their own tongues turn blue, and my husband became my publisher with Another Think Coming Press. Friends who spoke Spanish (Thank you, Brad Langer, Spanish professor, and Rebecca Galonski) edited the Spanish version and I would use my illustrator again and my translator, Ana Morris.


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

I published a short story called “The Cut-ups” that shows a young man about to graduate high school who tries to get in touch with his junior high English teacher who inspired him to write, to invite her to his ceremony. He finds her on Facebook, but discovers she’s dead when he goes to her house. Her husband wants him to write a poem for the eulogy, a poem made of cut-out words, a found poem, at her funeral. He doesn’t want to grieve on his own special day. Now what? The teacher of course is me. I hope I’ve inspired both young and older writers to write.


What are you doing next?

I’m editing my young adult novel about Mary Lou who moves with her family from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1958 along Route ’66. She learns a lot about our country, family secrets, and herself along the way.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Don’t give up your day job, and don’t be disappointed when your book isn’t an instant best seller. Go on to the next one. Keep writing.



Mary Langer Thompson’s award-winning poems, short stories, and essays appear in various journals and anthologies. She is a contributor to two poetry writing texts, The Working Poet (Autumn Press, 2009) and Women and Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching (McFarland, 2012), and was the 2012 Senior Poet Laureate of California. Her children’s book How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue was recently released by Another Think Coming Press. A retired school principal and former secondary English teacher, Langer Thompson received her Ed.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. She continues to enjoy conducting writing workshops for schools, prisons, and in her community of the high desert of California.



Poems in Water on Amazon

How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue on Amazon

Mary’s LinkedIn

Mary’s EarthLink

Mary’s Facebook Page

Mary’s Twitter


© The Literary Librarian 2017



Interview: An Interview with Marjorie Maddox

Book Names and Descriptions – New Releases:
What She Was Saying
True, False, None of the Above
Wives’ Tales
Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises


What She Was Saying: collection of short stories, flash fiction, and micro-essays all told from the points of view of women of diverse ages, backgrounds, and experiences (Fomite Press, 2017).

In these powerful stories, What She Was Saying softens the already thin line between hope and hopelessness, between perseverance and despair, between what can and cannot be said. Throughout the collection, diverse women startle, question, comfort, and proclaim, compelling readers to confront a company of others. A finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter and Eludia book awards—as well as a semifinalist for Black Lawrence Press’s Hudson, Eastern Washington University’s Spokane, and Leapfrog Press’s book prizes—What She Was Saying gives voice to the lives we all need to hear.

What She Was Saying is available on Amazon: Click Here.
What She Was Saying is available on FomitePress: Click Here.

True, False, None of the Above: poetry (Poeima Poetry Series, 2016; Illumination Book Award Medalist)

True, False, None of the Above poetically explores what it means to write, read, and teach literature in a world that—at turns—rejects, embraces, or shrugs indifferently at the spiritual. This is a book on the intersection of words and belief, on how books mark and mirror our lives, and how sometimes the journey we experience on the page leads us to faith. 

True, False, None of the Above is available on Amazon: Click Here.

Wives’ Tales (Editor’s Series, Seven Kitchens Press, 2017)

This chapbook is divided into two sections: “The Tales,” retellings of fairy tales in the same vein as Anne Sexton’s Transformations, and “The Wives,” poems told from the points of view of the wives of famous men named Peter (Peter the Great, Peter Pumpkin Eater, Pete Rose, St. Peter, and the like).

Wives Tales is available on Seven Kitchens Press: Click Here.

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises (Schoolwide, Inc.)

Welcome to a world of mind-doodling, eye-dazzling, ear-bending, new-fangled, old-fashioned fun! Inside Out teaches writing (and reading) to 4th through 9th graders from inside the poem, with plenty of tips and tricks for everyone inside and outside of the classroom. Chat with personification, dance with iambic, fish for sestinas, and text with a triolet. In twenty-seven poems plus eight Insider Exercises, this book will jump-start your writing. This book is marketed to teachers and their students across the country through Schoolwide’s new Zing program.

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises is available on Marjorie’s Website: Click Here.

On Defining Education
By Marjorie Maddox

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond;
cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”
-Mark Twain

Isn’t the seed better,
its tough, hard case
beneath the juice?
Flesh? Just so much puffing up,
skin gone soft with too much rouge.
Better to be tossed out than consumed,
lusted after by the colon.

Or what of that lower-class cabbage
shredded to bits, thrown haphazardly in soups?
Whole, she’s the Cinderella that steals the show
for the truly hungry.

Nobody likes cauliflower
cowering on fine china,
the ugly sister decorated
with a sterling ladle’s worth of cheese.

Please, feel free to confront.
I’m not talking about who you should be
but are. Let’s start with the essence of seed
and see what sprouts from there.

Marjorie Maddox

What gave you the idea for your books?

What She Was Saying

Although primarily a poet, I have always been fascinated by the blurring of boundaries between genres. This collection of short fiction, flash fiction, and brief creative nonfiction allowed me to explore in a new way power, silences, and spirituality through the voices of thirty-three women of diverse backgrounds, ages, and experiences as they face the struggles and successes of being female. What, the collection asks, are women saying about careers, art, health, religion, relationships, strength, survival, childbirth, infertility, parenting, aging, and care of elderly parents? What do these women also tell us of perseverance and hope? Ultimately, What She Was Saying is both about finding your voice and listening to the voices of those women who’ve gone before you.

True, False, None of the Above

As a professor of English, I believe literature has very much to do with our daily lives. It is not an escape from, but rather a confrontation with reality, a reality that includes the overarching struggles of the soul. Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write to discover what I know.” Joan Didion echoed, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” True, False, None of the Above examines how writing, reading, and teaching lead us to discovery by bringing us face-to-face with the world we live in and the world to come. Many of the poems in the collection are responses to texts I teach in the classroom, and, in turn, what such works have to do with our lives here and now.

Wives’ Tales

I’ve always been fascinated by the dark underside of fairy tales. Such stories instill fear but also wisdom. The first section, “The Tales,” allowed me to retell the familiar in an unusual, often feminist, sometimes humorous, and hopefully thought-provoking way. The second section, “The Wives,” allowed me to look into the lives of the women married to famous men named Peter. How, I asked myself, would the stories of these husbands be told differently from the wives’ points of view?

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises

A fun collection to write, for this book I drew on my experiences of both writing and teaching (in addition to my college position) as a visiting author at elementary and middle schools. The Table of Contents will tell you a lot about this book—poems on how to see, smell, hear, taste, and touch a poem; an English sonnet on how to write an English sonnet, a villanelle on how to write a villanelle; a Frankenstein poem on personification (and much, much more), plus a helpful glossary and detailed writing exercises for in and outside of the classroom.

What got you into writing in this genre?

I write poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature. All writing is creative. Composing in several genres gives me different ways to approach a topic or audience.  Plus, it’s just plain fun to switch things up a bit!

 As far as the children’s books (my most recent venture), I owe that to a children’s librarian! I was giving a poetry reading at Penn State University, after which the head children’s librarian, Steven Herb, loved the way I “played around with words.” He encouraged me to write and submit a book for children to Boyds Mills Press. Soon after, with Steven’s encouragement, I wrote, submitted, and had published Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems and (on collective nouns) A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry.

How long have you been writing?

I was fortunate to grow up in a family where writing was encouraged. My mother used to type up my poems and stories into little “books” when I was young. My first “publication” was in Campfire Girl Magazine when I was eight. (It was pretty bad!) I’ve been writing ever since and went on to get a Masters with a creative thesis at the University of Louisville (where I worked with the fiction writer Sena Jeter Naslund) and an MFA in poetry writing at Cornell (where I worked with A. R. Ammons and Bob Morgan). I now teach English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University.

Tell us about your past books and stories?

Each of my books has a slightly different focus.  My first book Perpendicular As I , which won the Sandstone Book Award, explores identity and relationships. Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation, which won the Yellowglen Prize, examines my father’s unsuccessful heart transplant. Weeknights at the Cathedral  details my spiritual journey. Local News from Someplace Else looks at living in an unsafe world.  The children’s book A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry centers on collective nouns like “a school of fish.” I love Philip Huber’s powerful illustrations! Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems  poetically describes various baseball terms: balk, strike, double-play, grand slam, etc. I live in Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series, and wrote these while sitting in my former backyard, which overlooked a ball field.

There are other books as well. Please see for descriptions and reviews.

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

As a university professor and director of a creative writing program and reading series, I have a very busy schedule. Add to that the roles of wife and mother, and the large slots for writing disappear quickly. Before having children, I fiercely protected several days as “all-writing” days. That just didn’t work with the added role of mother. However, I find that I get almost as much written these days over winter and summer breaks. The ideas are always percolating in the back of my brain and bubble up once a larger block of time is available.

Once I do have that time, my preferred place is in my house (without distractions) on our sun porch, where I can look outside and let my mind wander. I often compose out loud, so it can help not having someone else in the room or someone nearby needing my attention.

My other preferred place to write is anywhere where I am anonymous: a coffee shop, an airport, etc. In these spaces, I am not tempted to procrastinate by doing anything besides writing…

But now we are empty-nesters. It will be interesting to see how that will affect my writing.

The biggest influences on my writing? I am particularly intrigued by the intersections of body and spirit both in my everyday life, in my relationships, and in what I am reading and discussing with others, including my students.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I think most writers keep coming back, in different ways, to the same themes. I do think, though, that it has helped me grow as an author by experimenting with several different genres. It’s helpful to keep pushing your writing self in different directions and beyond sometimes self-imposed boundaries of theme and style.

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

For me: time alone, time with others, a cup of coffee, a laptop, Submittable, some good books, some good music, and a place to stretch your legs and your mind.

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

Not sure about the best, but here are some that come to mind:

You can’t be a writer unless you actually write.
Take risks with your writing.
Don’t be afraid to let your writing sit for a while before you come back to it.
Be persistent. Don’t give up. (This one is really hard.)

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

I’ve always been able to switch between the business-of-submitting-writing-hat and the more important actual-writing-the-writing hat. (More often than I care to admit, the submission process occurs when I am procrastinating and unable to face the harder task of composing.) I am even good at teaching these necessary “business” skills to my students.

But now there’s the added hat of marketing.  I am not a cocktail party conversationalist. I am not good at hobnobbing.  It’s not part of my personality. Walking into a large room where I know absolutely no one still terrifies me. At heart, I am an introvert.

And yet, I am very comfortable (and animated) as a teacher. I direct a reading series and am good at marketing others’ work. I love to give readings of my own work and interact with others. I am an email junkie; I like the one-on-one correspondence. It has to do with rapport and connection, I think.

These days writers need to market and promote themselves. I prefer to first build the relationships and let the rest follow. That’s not always, though, how the world works. And so, I’m becoming braver. Just this past year, I came very late to the game called Facebook. I should have tried it earlier. I’ve already learned some strategies from others about marketing.

I see where the writers I most admire publish their work, and I try there. I see where they give readings, and I write an email to the host. I use Submittable. I take more risks. I try not to let it bother me when I am rejected or when I never receive an answer. I give readings where 50 people show up and where 5 people show up. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Sometimes I am sorely disappointed. Often it is hard to predict which event will lead to something wonderful; I try to see all as opportunities to meet other writers and readers. Because writing is such a solitary act, it can be invigorating and encouraging to connect with an audience.

So I’m learning to put on the marketing hat, too.  I’m even having fun.

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

That depends on which day you ask. Because it is my very first collection of fiction, these days I am excited about the publication of What She Was Saying.

In addition, my book Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiationwhich is dedicated to my father and his transplant donor—is especially important to me. My father had his first heart attack when he was 39; as one poem’s title puts it, “Growing up Dying” was part of my childhood. He died at the age of 65 after an unsuccessful heart transplant, and the book addresses this on medical, physical, emotional, metaphorical, and spiritual levels.

As a teacher, I’m also excited about True, False, None of the Above as it pulls together poems about my day job—that great joy (and sometimes tribulations) of discussing literature and writing with students. I was excited that this collection was an Illumination Book Award Medalist in the field of EDUCATION!

And there’s some humor in there as well!

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

Books on baseball, relationships, faith, medicine, teaching and writing—all of these “interests,” of course, make up who I am. Perhaps the more important question might be, what most interests the reader? I address a large range of topics and interests, so I hope there’s a little something for everyone.

What are you doing next?

This past summer I wrote a number of poems and book reviews. I also, as part of my visiting author position at Chautauqua Institution, wrote a long essay entitled “Confronting This World One Poem at a Time.” Writing is a process of discovery, so I am always discovering more about the world, others, and myself. That, in turn, gives me other ideas for writing new poems, stories, and essays. Writing and reading feed more writing and reading.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Most people, I believe, grow up loving words—the rhythm of a story, the music in the nursery rhyme. That love and passion can be encouraged (and I was fortunate in this aspect) or, unfortunately, sometimes squashed. Too many times, I’ve heard even teens describe the arts as impractical. But the opposite is true, isn’t it?  Literature has very much to do with our everyday lives.

My philosophy: stick with your passion. Find a way to make it work. It may or may not be the same as your “day job”; you may or may not have the support of family, but find a way to develop that interest and talent. Advice? Most writers will tell you the same: Read! Write! Read! Write! Revise! Revise! Read! Write! Give yourself the foundation of strong and diverse literature. To paraphrase Emily Dickinson, see what makes you feel as if the top of your head were taken off.  Write something like it. Write something completely different. Get together with others and talk about it. Write some more.

Popular Reviews for Marjorie’s Books:

For What She Was Saying:

“From the ingenious title to the last story, What She Was Saying is a study of the gap between the covert and the overt. Alienation, isolation, desperation are here writ both small and large; their echo is a humanistic plea for inclusiveness, community, friendship, and simple love and kindness, one to another. Wonderfully crafted, honest, and bold, Marjorie Maddox’s work always brings her readers to new levels of perceptiveness about the big picture as well as minute moments.” –Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife and The Fountain of St. James Court, or Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman

“This collection reveals a beguiling new voice in contemporary fiction. . . . Maddox s stories open up unexpected, little noticed corners of our world. . . . Some read like fables; some surprise with bold humor. All celebrate the mystery of the familiar, the strangeness of the ordinary, and the humanity of marginal lives.” –Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek

“These are luscious stories, packed with unflinching honesty and the earthshaking kind of beauty that makes us brave.” –Fiona Cheong, author of Scent of the Gods and Shadow Theatre

For True, False, None of the Above:

“In True, False, None of the Above, Maddox offers us a brilliant, witty, and vulnerable garland of poems. Here is the voice of a teacher, a poet, a mother and wife, a woman of faith bearing witness to a deep and lasting Truth, summoning–among others–the likes of Dante, Hopkins, Dickinson, Eliot, and Frost, each calling out to the other, often at scintillant cross-purposes, all set choiring to this magisterial teacher’s gentle bidding.” –Paul Mariani, University Professor of English, Boston College, author of God and the Imagination: On Poets, Poetry, and the Ineffable

“In the preface to her book True, False, None of the Above, Maddox describes the experience of literature–whether reading, teaching, or creating it–as a ‘confrontation with reality.’ And her poems indeed confront a range of uneasy truths, from adultery and natural disasters to tooth extraction and raising teens. Maddox builds on the shared imagination of writers and readers, richly and deftly, to deepen and challenge our spirits.” –Tania Runyan, author of Second Sky

“In some of these poems, Marjorie Maddox riffs on the poetry of other writers. Sometimes she sings like an angel, even about illness and death. She wields forms brilliantly, and she tells delicious stories about what goes on in her classroom. Everybody who relishes good poetry should buy this book. But if you’re a teacher–or if you’ve ever sat in a classroom anywhere–True, False, None of the Above will make you laugh out loud.” –Jeanne Murray Walker, Professor of English, University of Delaware, coeditor of Shadow & Light: Literature and the Life of Faith

“In poem after poem, Marjorie Maddox creates a rich environment in which the best teaching (and she is always a teacher) takes place in dialogue, even though conversations are not always neatly resolved. But she also consistently and convincingly points to what we need: ‘The real, the spiritual, the Real.’” –Jill Baumgaertner, author of What Cannot Be Fixed


Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published eleven collections of poetry—including True, False, None of the Above (Poeima Poetry Series and Illumination Book Award Medalist);  Wives’ Tales (Seven Kitchens Press); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf & Stock); Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award); Weeknights at the Cathedral (WordTech); and Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize and runner-up for Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes)—and over 500 poems, stories, and essays in journals and anthologies. In 2017, Fomite Press published her story collection What She Was Saying, a finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter and Eludia book awards.

In addition, Maddox is co-editor, with Jerry Wemple, of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press) and has three children’s books: A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry, Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems  (Boyds Mills Press), and Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises (Schoolwide). She is the great grandniece of Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson. For more information, please visit her web site at


Marjorie’s Official Website

What She Was Saying: Amazon

What She Was Saying: FomitePress

True, False, None of the Above: Amazon

Wives’ Tales: Seven Kitchens Press

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises

Poetic Lines: Marjorie Maddox – YouTube Video

© The Literary Librarian 2017

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.




Author website

Goodreads author page

Amazon Author Central page

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

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

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

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


Interview: An Interview with Poet Sarah Nichols

Book Name and Description: She May Be a Saint

2016-11-26 14.28.39

She May Be a Saint is a chapbook of centos (poems which use lines and phrases from the work of other poems to create new poems), which use the work of C.D. Wright and Sylvia Plath as sources. It was published by Hermeneutic Chaos Press in December, 2016.

This Book is Available on Hermeneutic Chaos Press: Click Here


What gave you the idea for She May Be a Saint?

I discovered the work of C.D. Wright in 2013, while reading the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry. There was an excerpt from her book One Big Self,  a project in which Wright traveled to Southern prisons. She utilized the voices of inmates for this book, but also used her own. When I read, a line, “I had a head full of bees,” jumped out at me. I thought of combining her words with words from Plath’s “Bee Sequence” poems that appear in Ariel. I started with the one poem that came from that encounter, and every now and again I’d decide to create more Wright/Plath poems, but most did not have my voice in them—they belonged too much to Wright and Plath. In May or June of 2016 I submitted some of these poems to Hermeneutic Chaos (the journal), but they were also turned down. However, the rejection letter from the Editor in Chief, Shinjini Bhattacharjee, was so loving and encouraging. Ironically, that message cleared the way for me to write more poems; ones that sounded like me.


What got you writing in this genre? 

I’ve wanted to be a writer since childhood, but I never saw myself as a poet, and, I think, there is still that part in me that says “what are you doing ?” In 1998, I entered a college writing contest with a poem about Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. The results were posted in the cafeteria, and I had won first prize. I was stunned. I had a creative writing teacher at the time who encouraged me to go forward with poetry. That was the beginning.


How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since childhood. I don’t have any stories or poems or journals; I destroyed a lot of what I wrote in adolescence, and I regret that. Keeping a journal as a teenager sustained me. I don’t keep a journal now. This is something that I’ve wanted since I was 10 or 11. I wanted to see my books in libraries; to be published. It took a long time to figure out how that happened, and once I did, getting through the fear of sending work out. I remember I sent a short story out to a magazine when I was 16 or 17, and it was rejected, but it was encouraging; the editor told me to keep writing.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

My first chapbook of poems, The Country of No, published in 2012, came from a dark and wounded place in me. It’s a chronicle of loss, I think, and it’s hard to look at those poems today. My second chapbook, Edie (Whispering): Poems from Grey Gardens, was published in 2015. It’s a collection of found poetry taken from the transcripts of the 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens, which chronicles the daily lives of Edith Bouvier Beale, and her daughter, also named Edith. They were the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, and they lived in a decrepit East Hampton mansion known as Grey Gardens. It was also occupied by raccoons and cats; uninhabitable. But there they were, living their lives, and being filmed. The way these two women spoke and interacted with each other, and spoke to the camera alone has a cadence. It sounds like poetry. This is a movie that I’ve known for a long time, and it came to me while watching it: I have to do a book of poems on this. It was the easiest thing I’ve ever written.

It didn’t feel like work at all. I don’t have stories, but I do have flash essays that were written for an ongoing online project, The RS 500, which is a collection of micro essays and stories inspired by, or in direct conversation with, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of all time. I’ve been lucky to write on some of my favorite albums and artists, from Depeche Mode’s Violator to David Bowie’s Low. I started writing for it in 2016, and I will have other essays with them. I had never written about music (but I had wanted to) before then. The project’s editor, Brad Efford, gave me a wonderful opportunity. I have also, sporadically, been a film critic.


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

I would say that my process is haphazard. I metaphorically throw things at the wall to see what sticks. If I find something that I can work with, I tend to get obsessed. I have to step away. I would also say that a typical writing day looks like writing in long hand, making notes, looking for the right line or word. I don’t plan to have a writing day; it’s more when it strikes, and I have to be there, and use it. My biggest influences on my writing so far are seeing other women writers do the work of telling their stories. This ranges from being a part of a community of contemporaries, to looking at Emily Dickinson’s or Sylvia Plath’s work and processes.


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

This may be the most difficult question !  My favorite book is Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. It is his first novel, and it is perfect. It is so tightly written. It is also an extremely painful book. Yates condemns the demands of mid-century American culture, setting it in 1955 Connecticut. He writes about the absence of love, and the missed connections of damaged people. In some ways it reminds me of Ingmar Bergman’s movie Scenes from a Marriage, where this seemingly happy, bourgeois couple fall apart under a seemingly merciless camera eye. You need to be in an okay place in your head to read it. It never gets stale.  There have been many, many books that have disappointed me, but I’ll go with one; The Humbling, by Philip Roth. I find myself in a curious position of being a feminist and yet liking a great deal of his canon. American Pastoral is one of the great American novels; however, The Humbling is a failure after a brilliant first paragraph. It is self pitying and miserable, and asks the reader to believe

problematic (at best)  sexual situations that are laid out. I want to warn people away from reading it, that’s how much I hate it.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I still write about parts of myself or my life all the time, but I come at it differently than when I started. I use persona in my poems. As one who writes a lot of found poetry, I look at other authors’ words to write my experience. I have a forthcoming book that is all ekphrastic poetry, using the work of Diane Arbus as inspiration. I think I’m more determined to see a project through. The Arbus book, for example, had been brewing in me for a long time. I would look at her photographs, and wonder about the way “in.” I felt like it would never unlock for me, but then it did, and it got finished. I did not write any poetry from 2002 to 2007. That’s a long time to be silent. I take breaks between projects. I experience burn out, just like everyone else, no matter what they do. I’ve gotten better at knowing when to stop.


What is the best advice you ever received from another writer?

In high school, I was able to meet the novelist Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, who lived in my hometown. She inscribed one of her books with this: “Write all the time even when there is no time.” I don’t know that I understood it then, but I understand it now. I’m writing in my head, or making notes on my phone; bits and scraps that somehow turn into a poem. I might not be doing the physical act of putting words on paper, but it is happening.


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

I market my work largely through social media. I belong to several writing groups on Facebook, and I share links to recently published work, or my books, which have been published by small presses. I’ve gotten better at promoting my work through Twitter. I think the next step is creating an author page on Facebook, or a website. I actively seek out people to review my work. That, I think, is the most difficult part of promoting my own work. I have a feeling of “who would want to review my work, and what if they don’t like it ?” I did nothing to promote my first book. No reviews; nothing. That has changed as I’ve gone forward.


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

In 2015, I had a poem accepted for the anthology Emily, which was published by Porkbelly Press, and was inspired by, and in conversation with, Emily Dickinson’s work. My poem, “Recipient Unknown,” is a found poem in three parts, using Dickinson’s “Master” letters as source material. I revere Dickinson. It made me happy to have a connection to her. It was a poem that resonated with others; writers and people close to me who aren’t poets. It’s a gorgeous book, not only for my piece, but also for the other writers included in it.


What are you doing next?

My next project, which started today (October 1st) is a month long collaborative project called The Poeming. It is the second year that I have been a participant and an administrator. This year, 35 poets are making found poems out of the novels of Anne Rice (there is a writer for every one of her books.) It is entirely online, using Tumblr and Facebook. Last year, we used the novels of Stephen King as source material, and the results were incredible. One writer made gorgeous erasures using collage. Another used glitter to make erasure poems. So many of the poems written in that have been published. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.


What advice would you give other writers?

Tell your story. If you are true to it, it will come out in some way. Don’t be in a rush to get a book out. It’s wonderful when it happens, but it’s better to build solid work. It will be ready when it’s ready. It’s not going to adhere to your timetable. It has its own.



Sarah Nichols lives and writes in Connecticut. She is the author of five chapbooks, including Dreamland for Keeps (Porkbelly Press, forthcoming, 2018) and How Darkness Enters a Body (Porkbelly Press, forthcoming, 2018). Her third chapbook, She May Be a Saint (Hermeneutic Chaos Press, 2016), was selected for the Chapbook Exchange collection associated with the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University. She also serves as co-editor of Thank You for Swallowing, an online journal of feminist protest poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in Luna Luna Magazine, Rag Queen Periodical, Thirteen Myna Birds, Calamus, Rogue Agent, and the RS 500. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015.



She Maybe a Saint on Hermeneutic Chaos Press

Edie (Whispering): Poems from Grey Gardens on Dancing Girl Press’s shop, a small press that publishes only women writers.

Sarah’s Essay on David Bowie’s Album, Low, at the RS 500

The main Tumblr blog for the Poeming project, going on for all of October, 2017.


© The Literary Librarian 2018


Interview – Martin Willitts Jr. – How to Be Silent

Book Name and Description: How To Be Silent


This is a collection of meditative spiritual poems. Martin Willitts, Jr. lives by the simple Quaker principle of “God is everywhere, in everyone,” seeing both the good and bad, but also the awe of waking every day. He turns inwards with silent meditation and outward with his own version of psalms. He knows the small objects are just as important as the large for our own survival. This book will be appreciated by people who like poets such as Rumi, Hafez, Thomas Merton, Emily Dickinson, Lalla, Rilke, Dogen, Yeats, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Blake, Kabir, Mirabai, St. Augustine, William Stafford, George Herbert, Meister Eckhart, Li Po, St. Teresa of Avila, Simone Weil, St. Francis of Assisi, Kahlil Gibran, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, and D. H. Lawrence.

Psalm by Martin Willitts, from his book, How to Be Silent

All day, inside me, your voice was saying,
wake up. But I was not sleeping.

Wake up, you insisted. But I continued
to nibble at life.

At night, your voice would not let me sleep.
Someday, I will rest, but not today.

I am stirring. Your voice is gnawing inside me.
I have been rowing in circles and did not know it.

Can you tell us about your books? 

I had several books that came out within a year of each other. Each one was different. “How to Be Silent” (FutureCycle Press, 2016) was spiritual poetry like Rainer Rilke or Denise Levertov. “Dylan Thomas and the Writer’s Shed” (FutureCycle Press, 2017) was about my trip to Swansea, Wales after winning the 2004 International Dylan Thomas Poetry Award, where I was able to see Dylan Thomas’ birthplace. “Three Ages of Women” (Deerbrook Editions, 2017) is poetry based on paintings about women or paintings by women, arranged by youth, middle age, and elderly, interrupted by sections about Georgia O’Keeffe and her desert paintings, and Andrew Wythe’s paintings of his nude neighbor. By the way, it is the 100th anniversary of Andrew Wythe’s birth, and his model, Helga Testorf is still alive in her 80’s.

You’ve won several awards. Can you tell us about them?

The first award was the 2013 Bill Holm Witness Poetry Contest. It was a contest to write a series of five ecology poems, and I was judged on all the poems, not  just on a single poem from five submitted like most contests. This was an unusual contest.

When I won the 2014 International Poetry Dylan Thomas Award, it was a one year contest for

Dylan Thomas’s 100th birthday. The prize included tickets to his birthplace in Swansea, Wales, plus $3,000 and a large engraved bowl (the college judging the contest is famous for teaching glassmaking), and a poetry reading.

I won a Central New York Individual Artist Award and provided “Poetry On The Bus” which had 48 poems by children and 20 adult English As Second Language students writing in 7 different languages. The poems appear inside local transit buses. It began as a one year grant, but it is so popular that it has been approved for its third year.

My full-length collection, “Searching for What You Cannot See” (Hiraeth Press, 2013), won a National Ecological Award. I recently won the Turtle Island Editor’s Choice Award for my chapbook, “The Wire Fence Holding Back the World” (Flowstone Press, 2016). Both poems are about nature.

During our earlier conversation, I discovered you have a very interesting background. Could you share some of the highlights?

As a child, I lived in a city, and every summer I worked on my Mennonite/Amish grandparent’s farm until I was 17 years. I know old-time work like blacksmithing, what it is like to be without electricity or working a hand plow or slaughtering animals. When I was 10 or 11, I went with my father in the 1960’s to register Blacks to vote during Civil Right. The bus was firebombed while we were in it. I still have teeth missing from being hit with brass knuckles. I played classical piano for a local orchestra when I was a child. I was a Conscientious Objector who went to Vietnam as a Field Medic. I was a Children’s Librarian for about 40 years.

What attracted you to writing?

I never took a course in poetry writing, but I write poetry  anyway. I published a lot from 1974-1982 and walked away from writing when my son was born. I was encouraged to write some poems for a 9/11 anthology, but the editor also asked me if I was still alive. That comment stuck with me as ironic and also as a wake-up call that I needed to start writing again.  I am extremely prolific, so I really do not seem to have a choice: either I write and submit, or I go stir crazy.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

The best I can suggest is follow the submission rules. If they say a limit of 3 and you send 4, that could be an automatic rejection. If the rule says a line limit of 40 lines, do not send a two page poem. Some magazines do not accept multiple submissions. Read each rule carefully.

There are thousands of magazine and there are thousands of poets, but each magazine has a limit how many poems they accept and how often they are published. Each magazine can see about a thousand poems a year.

I am a poetry editor for Comstock Review. We only publish twice. One is an open submission, and the other is a national contest; plus we have a national chapbook contest. Since there is more than one person reading the poems, a poet has to impress the majority of the editors. Other magazines operate differently. If a poet gets rejected by a magazine, the poet has three choices: keep sending to another magazine; edit the poem; or reconsider getting rid of the poem.


Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian living in Syracuse, NY.  He has been a professional musician, oral storyteller, field medic in Vietnam, worked on over one hundred Habitat For Humanity houses. He is the winner of 2013 Bill Holm Witness Poetry Contest; 2014 Broadsided award; 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Award; and, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, June). 2015, Editor’s Choice. Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, Artist’s Choice, November 2016. He won a Central New York Individual Artist Award and provided “Poetry On The Bus” which had 48 poems in local buses including 20 bi-lingual poems from 7 different languages. He has over 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, “The Wire Fence Holding Back the World” (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 11 full-length collections including National Ecological Award winner for “Searching for What You Cannot See” (Hiraeth Press, 2013), and recently “How to Be Silent” (FutureCycle Press, 2016), “Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed” (FutureCycle Press, 2017), “Three Ages of Women” (Deerbrook Editions, 2017). His forthcoming full-length collection is “The Uncertain Lover” (Dos Madres Press).


How to Be Silent on Amazon:


© The Literary Librarian 2018



Interview – Victoria Howard – Romantic Suspense Author

Book Name and Description:

The House on the Shore

Heartbroken Anna MacDonald leaves Edinburgh to find peace at the edge of a Scottish loch. Safely ensconced in her late grandmother’s cottage, she can finally heal her heart and write the novel that has burned inside her for years.

Her peace is short-lived. When debonair artist Luke Tallantyre’s yacht gets stranded in the loch, he seeks help at the nearest residence – Anna’s croft. She finds him annoying. He instantly dislikes the stunning but cranky hermit.

But there’s indisputable evidence that a hit man is on the prowl in the village. Is he after Anna? And what is Luke keeping from her that could deepen the danger? Against their wills, they join forces and embark on an adventure neither ever imagined…including a chance at true love.

Ring of Lies

Daniel Elliott dies in a single-car accident one rainy English night. His wife, Grace, is grief stricken. Although their marriage was imperfect, sheltered Grace doesn’t relish the future alone.

She soon learns how little she knew about Daniel. There are secrets: an alias, a strange list of numbers, a house in Florida – and a mistress who’s a dead ringer for Grace.

Terrified but determined, she flies to Florida. Underworld figures stalk her…and so does the other woman. To her surprise, handsome FBI man Jack West takes the case. Grace has a past with the troubled agent. Despite her efforts, she finds herself falling for him all over again.

With danger around every curve, Grace and Jack navigate the criminal world of south Florida to find the truth behind the Ring of Lies.

Three Weeks Last Spring

Friday Harbor, a picturesque small town in the Pacific Northwest, and a haven for fishermen and yachtsmen. For Skye Dunbar, it is a
place where she can overcome the pain of a broken heart and put her life back together. Renting a cabin by the shore, the last thing she expects is to be accused of computer hacking.

Jedediah Walker is investigating the dead marine life washed up on the island’s beaches. When he discovers the fish contain a high concentration of toxic chemicals, he suspects someone is deliberately dumping them in Puget Sound. Swift to jump to conclusions, he suspects the auburn-haired woman renting his cabin is somehow involved.

Skye tries to ignore him, but necessity throws them together as they struggle to find those responsible for the environmental atrocity.

 Interview Questions:

What gave you the idea for The House on the Shore?

I always wanted to set a book in Scotland, especially as I had lived on a croft in rural Aberdeenshire for twenty years. At the time, I managed a small company involved in the offshore oil and gas industry and worked part-time as an administrator on a local estate. I used my knowledge of the offshore industry and the difficulties of managing a large estate as the basis for the plot of The House on the Shore.

What got you into writing in this genre?

I’m a voracious reader – historical novels, crime, and yes, romance.  When I was younger I read a great number of Mills and Boon and Harlequin romances, but these are only 55,000 words long and have a shelf life of three months. Rather than write a boy-meets-girl romance where they fall in love, fall out of love and fall in love again, I decided to write a romance with a much stronger plot. Romantic suspense fit the bill as it combined my love of romance with a mystery that my characters have to solve.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, although I think my English teacher might be surprised by that statement!  As I child I found the task of writing essays on a given subject boring, and it was only when I started writing to friends, sharing travel adventures with them that the idea of writing a novel came about.

Tell us about your past books and stories?

I’ve written three novels and am working on a fourth.  The House on the Shore, a 2009 Joan Hessayon Award finalist and 2009 London Book Festival Honourable Mention: Fiction, Ring of Lies, and Three Weeks Last Spring.  I’ve also written several short stories that have been published in various anthologies.

What is your writing day like?

I try to write each day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. We have a small office in our home – large enough to hold two desks, computers, and all my reference books. My Border collie usually lies in the doorway, keeping me company and ensuring I have peace and quiet to concentrate! I also think she likes to make sure I don’t forget to take her for a walk.

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

There are so many books that I read and re-read!  Where do I start? Susanna Kearsley, Diana Gabaldon, Mary Stewart, Valerie Fitzgerald, Daphne Du Maurier, Milly Johnson, Katie Fforde, Ken McClure, Ian Rankin, Lee Child, as well as Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.  I could go on, but the list would take up too many pages.

As for favorite books, I would have to put Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ near the top of the list, along with Susanna Kearsley’s Slains series.

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

Apart from a good dictionary and thesaurus, the ability to listen. Ideas are all around us, you just have to let your brain absorb them.

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

The first draft is just that and is not ready to be published. Do your research, especially if you set your novel in an actual place or are considering writing a crime novel.

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

That’s a difficult question to answer as most authors will respond by saying their last book.

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

The House on the Shore. I travelled extensively while living in Scotland and know the area well. It’s the reason I set Anna’s cottage on the shore of Loch Hourn. In 1975 Howard Doris was granted permission to use Loch Kishorn, the loch to the south of Loch Hourn, for a deep-water construction facility for the production of oil platforms for the North Sea Oil industry, which gave me the idea for The House on the Shore

What are you doing next?

I’m currently working on another novel set in Scotland.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Learn your craft.  If you are able, sign up for one of the many writing courses available both online and locally. Read ‘how to books’, on structure, characterization etc.


 Victoria Howard lives in South Yorkshire, with her partner Stephen, and her 8 year-old Border collie, Rosie. She is the author of three romantic suspense novels; The House on the Shore, (a 2009 Joan Hessayon Award finalist, and London Book Festival Honourable Mention: Fiction), Three Weeks Last Spring (a Pushcart Prize nominee), and Ring of Lies. Several of her short stories have appeared in anthologies, including the Kindle short, A Little Protection.

Although born in Liverpool, her heart is always in the Scottish Highlands. She lived on a remote croft for twenty years, managing a company involved in the offshore oil and gas industry.

During those rare times when she isn’t writing, Victoria can be found curled up with a book, gardening, designing knitwear, walking Rosie, or travelling the world.

Victoria is a member of Romantic Novelists’ Association and Sheffield Authors






© The Literary Librarian 2018



Interview – Mansu Edwards

Book Name and Description: Emojis Vs. Punctuation Marks: Battle Of The Keyboard. The Punctuation Marks are feeling neglected and unwanted in a digital world controlled by the powerful Emojis. They are trying to stay relevant in this new age. A war occurs. An African American girl, Danna, and her family are caught in the midst of the conflict.

 Interview Questions: 

What gave you the idea for Emojis Vs. Punctuation Marks: Battle Of The Keyboard? I was in one of those writing zones and the idea popped in my head while sitting in the kitchen. It was an idea from God. He used me as a vessel to create the story.

What got you into writing in this genre? I choose stories to write and and decide if it’s worth publishing. I don’t think about the genre.

How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing for 9-10 years.

Tell us about your past books and stories?I’ve written “The Disappearance Of Hate”, “Mental Diet”, “Biscuits And Yogurt Vol. 1”, “Texting In New York City” (1st and 2nd Ed.), “Vertical Algebra” and “Exotic Ignorance: Ep. 8 Camouflage Pizza. Each book is different. The themes range from poetry, personal development, a self esteem cookbook, a satirical self esteem handbook, sci-fi personal development and a dating forum mystery.

What is the writing process like for you? I’ll write for a certain amount of time. I don’t give myself a set amount of hours. I go with the flow and try not to force the creative flow.

What is your writing day like? I’ll spend time writing and reading. I try to be in a relaxed state. I’ll eat a meal and write during the day or at night.

 What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? The tools I feel that are must haves are pen, paper, pc, phone, tablet, imagination, fearlessness and ambition. I believe you can’t write and publish anything without ambition, fearlessness and imagination. You have to believe in yourself before you write or type a word, well at least if you want to become a successful author.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author? The best piece of advice I received was from a book entitles killing the sacred cows of publishing by Dean Wesley Smith. He mentions the importance of writing fast and not being bogged down with writing one novel. It keeps writers from obsessing over reviews and writing the perfect novel.

What are you doing next? I’m working on the novel: Can I Help You Please?

What advice would you give aspiring writers? Believe in your gift and never be afraid to add your unique spin to storytelling. Keep writing and read everything.

bio: Mansu Edwards is a prolific artist who continually challenges art forms with boldness and creativity. He delights in using autonomous monikers to signify a transformative experience when engaging in innovative artistic creations. In 2016, Mr. Edwards produced, wrote and directed his first short film, “Texting In New York City”. A work inspired from people’s responses to the street marketing of its paperback (text) edition. Later on during the year due to positive feedback from the Harlem Writer’s Group in regards to the movie script, he released a literary screenplay version of “Texting In New York City”. A film trailer would soon follow. Past works by Mr. Mansu include; The Disappearance of Hate (2009), Mental Diet (2010,2011), Biscuits And Yogurt Vol. 1 (2014) and Texting In New York City (2014,2016). He has appeared on Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s Max And Natalie LIVE! and several podcasts including: The Citizen Heroes, Julio And Dr. Chan, The Curious World Of Vandal Truong, Lawrence J. King’s Book Talk Radio and Let’s Talk Books With Lady Essence. He’s currently working on the experimental novel, “Can I Help You Please?” and a multitude of book projects.



  4. instagram: Mansu Edwards


© The Literary Librarian 2018

Interview – Holly Lyn Walrath – Glimmerglass Girl

Glimmerglass GirlBook Name and Description: Glimmerglass Girl

Glimmerglass Girl is about femininity and feminism, how we negotiate our past as women and our present, how we other ourselves into creatures and what we pass on. VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts calls this book “. . . an intersection between ethereal loftiness, humorous speculation, and poignant consideration . . . a collection of poetry and images that encourage readers to be more than they perceive themselves to be.”

Interview Questions:

What gave you the idea for Glimmerglass Girl?

The title of this book comes from the lead poem, “Espejitos,” (appears in Isacoustic: which refers to the Spanish name for the glass-winged butterfly and translates to “little mirrors.” When I started to research this butterfly, I discovered that although it appears to be delicate and fragile with transparent wings, it’s actually quite poisonous and capable of pulling up to 40 times its weight. I thought this was a fitting metaphor for womanhood because women are often expected to be fragile or more sensitive when, in fact, we are quite resilient. Butterflies also have a long tradition in folklore as being representative of the souls of the dead, so this mascot appealed to my love of dark things.

 What got you into writing in this genre?

I’ve written poetry since I was in high school. Poetry is my first love, and my friends can tell you that I will try to convert anyone I meet to the cult of the poetic. Poetry wraps all my favorite things about writing into a neat package: lyricism, imagery, voice, sound, rhythm, and concise word choice.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve worked at a jeans store, as a financial advisor, at an ice cream shop, at a print shop, as a receptionist, any number of odd jobs. About four years ago, I told myself I was going to commit to my writing. It just happened to happen at a time when my life was shifting and I was able to quit my job. I started freelancing and writing full-time. I don’t regret that decision at all, I just regret that it took me so long to get there.

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

My writing routine changes all the time because my schedule as a freelance editor is constantly shifting. On a good writing day, I sit down to read on my patio and get some inspiration from books I love. Then I’ll write for an hour or so, sometimes working from prompts or just playing around. There are times where I write every day, but for the most part I have to take the time for my work. It’s not easy to juggle all the demands of the world. I also like to play with writing every day in NaPoWriMo and NaNoWriMo.

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

One of my favorite books is The Lord of the Rings. When I was a little kid, my mom would read The Hobbitto me and do all the voices. In middle school I got obsessed and read the whole series, but I was so devastated when Gandalf “died”! Now when I look back on those books, I realize that they have shortcomings too. These days I’m reading more women’s voices and trying to widen my scope of reading experience. But I still have a soft spot for Gollum . . . my precious.

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

One of my favorite stories that I’ve written is “The Joy of Baking,” which first appeared in Luna Station Quarterly and is available in audio version on my website. ( I wrote this story for my spouse, who is a physical therapist in a cardiology unit at a children’s hospital. He deals with death, and in particular the death of children, on a daily basis. I like to bake and James will often help me out in the kitchen. One day, I was looking for a new story idea and he begged me to write a story about baking . . . which quickly evolved into a little tale that answers the question: What if purgatory came with free cake?

What are you doing next?

I’m working on several projects at once because I get bored easily. My ongoing project is a series of erasures of male canonical authors like Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy. I’m also working on a series of tiny poems, trying to compress my writing as much as possible. And of course, I’m always working on short stories in the science fiction and fantasy realm.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

I love the writing advice of Chuck Wendig, “You do you.” I think being yourself and advocating for the things you love is one of the best ways to approach writing. We all want to be successful, to get our names out there, but if you’re not doing what you love, what’s the point? Even though the things I write are often cross-genre and intersectional, combining art and words or realism and the fantastical, I don’t mind that these are considered “experimental.” I write what I love, what excites me, what feels true. That’s the best advice writers can follow, as corny as it sounds.


Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Liminality, and elsewhere. Her chapbook of words and images, Glimmerglass Girl,will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas and a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. She is a freelance editor and host of The Weird Circular, an e-newsletter for writers containing submission calls and writing prompts.


Author’s Website:

Author’s Twitter:

Author’s Instagram:

Order Glimmerglass Girl:

© The Literary Librarian 2018

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.