Renee interviews author Pat Stanford

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Pat wrote about her sister in Fixing Boo Boo: A Story of Traumatic Brain Injury, which won a gold medal in the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards. It’s an inspiring story of one family and the struggles they face when a sibling with a brain injury comes to live with them. Sadly, Pat’s experience resonates with nearly 9,000 families in Florida, who devote their lives to caring for brain-injured loved ones every year.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I was born in Philadelphia, simply because that was the nearest hospital to my father’s farm in New Jersey. When I was a year old, my father and grandfather bought land in south Florida, wanting to farm year-round, so I grew up in the town of Delray Beach, which is now quite the artist’s colony. After two years at Palm Beach Community College, I transferred to Florida State University, where I received my B.S. in Secondary Education, a degree I never used, since I ran off and joined the Air Force.
Most people don’t realize that I cut my teeth, so to speak, on writing poetry which I have been doing pretty much since I could hold a pencil. This came naturally enough since my mother wrote little ditties and sometimes serious poems in a little “write in book” that had blank pages. I will have a collection of mine published by year’s end.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
After my sister passed away in 2012, I was left with notes that every caregiver most likely keeps. These are lists of medications, who you spoke to and when, emails back and forth between my husband and me, and between doctors’ offices and both of us. Then there was the saved information for just about anything that could and probably would eventually have to be dealt with. In cleaning out my computer files, I was going to delete them, but then really started looking through them and thought maybe someone else could benefit from them. I started organizing them into a timeline of sorts and thought I’d write a memoir about my experience with brain injury. My critique group wanted dialogue “to move the story along” and after arguing with them that that would make it fiction, my creative non-fiction book was born.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
The biggest challenge was thinking “Why am I doing this? Boy, this is stupid – no one is going to read this thing.” Well, apparently, there are people who were helped because I get comments at festivals and signings, thanking me for writing something they cannot do and that is to let others know they aren’t alone in their struggle. So basically, my biggest challenge was…me!

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
That would have to be when I received the gold medal at the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Book Awards. I thought I would get the bronze, but someone else’s name was announced. I was in shock when the silver medal was announced and it wasn’t me. I looked at a friend at the dinner table with a sort of silent scream because I knew I had the gold. Talk about taking doubts away about writing ability!

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I love all books and – both fiction and nonfiction. I try to read at least 60 books a year and track it on Goodreads. Nonfiction include “technique books” for improving writing skills and then I also read biographies. I am currently reading the biographies of all the presidents in order. Being a Civil War nut, I also like almost anything written on that subject.
Fiction I like to read is more of the Action-Adventure type – think Clive Cussler – and that is what I will want to write when I am finished with the follow-up to Fixing Boo Boo.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
Ummmm…I write most days. I tend to binge read and then binge write. I don’t have any rituals aside from always having a little notebook with me, just in case a thought strikes me.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I have a rose garden I tend to when it isn’t so blazing hot. My husband and I have a boat that we take out in Apalachee Bay for fishing and sometimes snorkeling for scallops, reading (duh), art museums, which sometimes inspires me to draw and paint, something I used to do a lot more of. I used to be OCD about cleaning, but this writing thing has pretty much cured that.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
What I’d do differently – Not waste as much time thinking that what I write isn’t good enough and just write better, using some sort of guideline. While I’m not an outline kind of girl, if I had something more than the timeline in place, it would have helped. Also, I would have studied what to do before the book was published – what marketing works and what doesn’t. Do some advance work like social media marketing, creating a buzz about it and then, what to do after the book was published. I had no idea that I’d be putting myself out there one on one and talking to people. But, I can tell you, having been an insurance agent, I would have to say this is easier and a LOT more fun!
What I’d do the same – I was writing for a specific audience and they are getting the message, but others are also finding out what it was like living with a brain-injured person.
I would also still have a critique group – these people were the reason my manuscript ever got finished. Not only were they expecting me to write, they gave me (mostly) positive criticism about what did and didn’t work.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

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Renee interviews author Jenny Nazak

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JNprofilepicI met Jenny at an alumnae gathering of our shared women’s fraternity. Her passion for the natural environment impressed me almost as much as artistic flair! Her e-book, “DEEP GREEN, Minimize Your Footprint; Maximize Your Time Wealth and Happiness”  is a how-to manual on green living that was recently published in paperback,too.

 
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
Being in a military family (Navy), I grew up moving every couple of years, and pretty much loved every place in its own way. The place that made the deepest impression on me (even though I was only four years old when we were stationed there,) was Japan. We traveled a lot too, driving cross-country several times and camping along the way. I now live in a historic neighborhood near the ocean in Daytona Beach, my adopted hometown.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, and visiting national and state parks with my family, I experienced breathtaking natural scenery while at the same time getting the message that the environment was in danger from human excesses. As an adult, I traveled in Europe and lived in Japan, where I observed people living at a much lower footprint than the typical United States resident. It seemed to me not just eco-friendlier, but also an altogether richer, more satisfying, and, not incidentally, more BEAUTIFUL way of life than the harried, car-centric, money-focused lifestyle of my native culture.
I’ve intended to write books since I was a small child. At age 55, I’m just getting started a bit late! My favorite subjects as a kid were art, languages, and English literature. My college major was English with a minor in sociology. Later, I got an associate’s degree in graphic design. And I went on to study a field called permaculture design, which is a nature-based approach to the design of human living environments. Basically, permaculture is nature-based efficiency principles. It’s very powerful stuff, with great potential to not only mitigate environmental damage, but actually IMPROVE the health of ecosystems.
My career path has been a winding one, from magazine editorial staffer when I first got out of college; to English conversation instructor in Japan; to Japanese translator; to permaculture designer/educator; to artist and writer. I also teach a course on consciousness. And I’ve certainly done my share of odd jobs along the way to pay the bills! For simplicity’s sake, the umbrella title I use on my 1040 forms is “Sustainability Educator, Self-Employed.”
It’s taken me a while to figure out that I’m primarily a writer who also happens to make art, rather than an artist who also happens to write. Given my love of the natural environment, and my belief that it’s everyday people, in our many millions, who have the power to make the biggest difference in the world, it was inevitable that my first book would be a practical “how-to” manual on green living. Actually, I wrote a children’s story a couple of years ago, but I never illustrated it (or found an illustrator) and haven’t published it, so I don’t count it (yet). In addition to having other books on sustainable living in the works, I’m also planning to write short stories and a novel.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Continuing to believe in myself over the years, when my heart and intuition guided me away from a more accepted mainstream path. Also, once I wrote my book, MARKETING was a far bigger challenge than the writing itself had been.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
Realizing that the book is good! Realizing that even longtime environmentalists dedicated to living a low footprint are getting new information and new ideas from my book. And realizing that the book has a very large secondary audience, of people who aren’t necessarily “green” but really want to save themselves money and take back their time, and add more beauty and joy to their lives. A low-footprint lifestyle gives all of these benefits.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I am a devourer of books, fiction and nonfiction alike. My favorite fiction writers I can think of off the top of my head right now are Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, and D.H. Lawrence. In nonfiction, A Pattern Language (an incredibly rich, dense book about what makes urban spaces comfortable and functional) rocked my world, as did The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins, and Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands by Brad Lancaster. It’s hard to pick — so many books and writers have influenced me!

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I write most days. I let days go by too often without writing. I’m trying to get more consistent. What’s helping me is just having a “current notebook” in which I give myself permission to write ANYTHING that comes to mind, be it fiction fragments, reactions to news items, or whatever emotion is going on in my head.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I love the beach, walking, reading, exploring on foot and by bicycle the forgotten corners of whatever city I’m living in. I’m fascinated with traditional urban design; what makes urban environments functional and beautiful. And when I see something and think it’s “ugly,” I always stop and analyze why. One seemingly unexpected passion I have is decluttering and organizing. I’m kind of obsessed with cleaning fridges; making sure there aren’t two bottles of ketchup that could be consolidated into one.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
What would I do differently? Not waste so much time listening to negative voices in my head! We all have a message to share, and we have to trust that there are people who need to hear it. It’s impossible to please everyone, but at least I can stop giving so much weight to my own negative self-talk.
Also, one piece of advice I’ve heard from many sources, and tend to agree with, is, “Only write a book if you can’t NOT write it!” Writing isn’t easy, at least not for most people I know, and sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is your own inner conviction that you CAN’T NOT write this book. Deep Green was a book I literally HAD to write. I couldn’t NOT write it. So, all those negative voices in my head, telling me every day to give up? They lost!
And one final thing I would do differently, and will do differently next time? Override my aversion to self-marketing, and jump in! A big thing I had to learn as a writer was, If I don’t love my book enough to market it, why should anyone else? On that subject, I’ve started a low-footprint lifestyle blog at http://www.jennynazak.com

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Diane Sawyer

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Diane Library

Award-winning author Diane Sawyer is a mystery writer extraordinaire! Published by Thomas and Mercer – the mystery division of Amazon – her novels include The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, The Tomoka Mystery, The Cinderella Murders, The Treasures of Montauk Cove. Her latest novel, “Trouble in Tikal,” is about to be released by Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I grew up in Greenport, a tiny resort town located on the eastern tip of Long Island, 100 miles from New York City. I graduated from Greenport High (K-12, salutatorian of the class; SUNY at Albany, cum laude, (New York State Regents Scholarship) Latin major, French minor. Seton Hall University (M.A.) in French. Summer Program in French pronunciation at the Sorbonne, France. PhD in Medieval Studies, areas of specialization: French, Latin, and History, Fordham University, New York City.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I saw a classical musical production featuring the Florida Orchestra two years ago. The solo instrument was the “erhu,” often referred to as a Chinese fiddle. I had never seen nor heard nor heard of an erhu, but the program stated that many people when hearing the erhu for the first time, thought it sounded like a woman…a woman crying. By the time I left the theater, I had an idea for a story, about a musician kidnapped after a local concert. Tons of research and a desire to write a story with two heroines kept me busy creating and writing for many months.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
My biggest challenge was finding motivation for each and every character to complete his or her role in the story. In my opinion, it was worth the effort. I wanted believable characters and an emotional reaction from the readers. And on top of that, smart and capable heroines who could tell their story and win over every reader. I apparently received that and more because the FAPA (Florida Authors and Publishers Association) awarded “The Tell-Tale Treasure” first prize in all three categories: adult mystery, thriller, and suspense.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
My biggest aha moment or success was when I received that FAPA award. I was immediately inspired to do as well on my next novel.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I read across the board, often following the advice of friends. Most of my favorite books have a strong heroine. I once won a writing award (as an adult) for an essay/short story about Anne of Green Gables.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
Yes, I write every day. I wouldn’t say I have rituals, but I often find when walking that I think of my characters and what will they do next to get out of the jam I left them in. When I get home and to the computer, I try to advance the story to keep the momentum going. Basically, I answer the age-old question, “What happens next?” However, anything, no matter how unrelated to my story it seems to give me an idea and I try to work it in. An example: While I was writing The Tell-Tale Treasure, a competitive Chinese boat race was held here in St. Petersburg, not far from where I live. That gave me an entire scene, one of my favorites, set near USF and the former Dali Museum.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I enjoy fitness, friends, family, movies, being outdoors, travel (especially alone but with a tour group to find out everything I can about a country.)

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
If I could recommend one major thing that would help your writing, is to (helpfully) critique another author’s work. When I started writing in Florida, I took a writing class and three of us – Grace, Peggy, and I – critiqued every word the other two wrote. All three of us improved drastically and began to win writing awards. I have a critiquing partner now too. We are both happy with the results.

 
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Lee Ann Mancini

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LeeAnn ManciniAward-winning Christian children’s author Lee Ann Mancini writes whimsical stories, with characters who pray to Jesus, giving thanks or asking Him for guidance. She hopes that her books, including A Servant Like Jesus: Adventures of the Sea Kids , I’m Not Afraid!: Adventures of the Sea Kids, What a Bragger!, and Fast Freddy: Adventures of the Sea Kids will help children learn to be loving, kind, and Christ-like.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

I grew up in Aurora, Ohio, a small suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. I now live in Boca Raton, Florida with my husband of 30-years and I have two grown children. I met my husband when I was a rental manager at Kelly Tractor. I rented my husband earth-moving equipment! I started out as a receptionist, and after seven years I was the rental manager. After we were married, I sold real estate for a while until the birth of my son. After that, I was a full-time mom and volunteer for their schools and a few outside organizations. I have an AS degree-paralegal, a BA in Religious Studies, and three Masters in Biblical Studies. I received my BA and Masters in my late 40’s and early 50’s! It’s never too late. I started my publishing company and writing my books in my 50’s as well. A few of my children’s stories I wrote when my children were little, but always had a desire to have them published.

What inspired you to write these books? What is the story behind the story?
I wanted books that helped children see how to be loving and kind to others, and to pray to Jesus asking guidance or giving thanks during a difficult situation. I could not find any of this type of book when my children were little. It is my mission to create products for children under seven that help them to build a strong foundation in Jesus and to learn how to be loving, compassionate and kind to others.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Learning how to become a successful writer and publisher. I knew nothing about the industry. The biggest obstacle is finding the time to do it all. I am an Adjunct Professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary, and I volunteer on a few other boards.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
Receiving my first award from IBPA and since then receiving over 25 awards for the series. Also, I sent out a questionnaire to the local Christian elementary school teachers with a galley of my book to get their opinion if they thought this was a book that should be published and/or any suggestions that they may have. It was an excellent conformation that what I was doing was the will of God. They were so kind to make some great suggestions and told me they, and the children loved the book and hoped I would publish it and write more like it!

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I love Max Lucado and anything that deals with Christian Theology. I have a vast amount of children’s books in my collection, some from when my children were young and also many from recent authors.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I write every day for many different reasons (blogs, magazine articles, my new book). My ritual is to pray often and always before I write!

What are your interests outside of writing?

Jogging, teaching, going to my lake house and reading. I am currently working on a book for parents that will help them raise little ones to love Jesus like they love Mommy and Daddy.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
I think the biggest thing is to know your audience and your competition, but most importantly, write from the heart because you love it. Don’t expect to become wealthy or have your book turned into the next movie. Understand the industry and connect with other organizations like the Florida Authors and Publishers Asso. If you decide to self-publish, educate yourself! Double check everything! Learn the business! And pray often!

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Rosemary Gard

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_MG_4737 crop (5) (1)Rosemary Gard never intended to write a series of books about Croatian immigrants. She simply wanted to write a history of her family for her adult children. At 80-years-young, she continues to delight readers with “Danica’s Destiny,” published last year, and frequent speaking engagements. (How many women can say that their portrait – with three friends in evening gowns – hung in the entry of the Chicago Playboy Club?)

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, when it was known as the melting pot. Croatian was my first language and I grew up in that ethnic community. I was the Croatian Queen during the Gary Golden Jubilee in 1956. Tom Harmon, father of NCIS actor, Mark Harmon, was Grand Marshall of the parade! I finished high school, but my Croatian parents felt an education was wasted on girls. I was sent to Communist Yugoslavia for three months to my father’s village outside of Zagreb, where I lived the life of a peasant girl. Later, I lived in Vicenza, Italy, (near Venice) for a year with my G.I. husband.
One summer I worked for a local newspaper, interviewing interesting people. The editor of the paper helped me greatly with my writing and word usage. Even while my husband and I owned a Coffee House and an Art Gallery, I continued to write – most of which I threw away.
My husband and I are antique appraisers for attorneys and individuals. I’m also a jewelry designer and sold my pieces in stores from Martha’s Vineyard to Davenport, Iowa.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I decided to fictionalize the facts and the book, “Destiny’s Dowry,” won my first award. That first book started what is now a series of seven, including “Destiny Denied,” “Destiny’s Dance,” “Destiny Delivered,” and “Destiny’s Design.” Each follows the lives of the characters in the previous books. These are stories of people from the “Old Country” and how they lived going back to 1892 in, what is now, Croatia. The last book, “Stefan’s Destiny,” is currently being edited.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
When I start to write, the characters take over and tell me their story. I do not work from an outline. The first paragraph of each book, sets the tone for the story. When I start to write a book, I have no idea how it will end. The journey is interesting to me.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
My biggest “Aha” moment was when I won the first of my three awards. Then I knew that I was a writer and any rejection slip I had received in the past no longer had any effect on me.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
In the past I have read, Ayn Rand, Faulkner, Studs Turkel, (who stopped in the coffee house we owned in the 1970’s) Louis Adamic and many writers you may not be familiar with. I never read books while I am working on a novel, I feel it interferes with my writing flow and even my writing style.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I do not write every day. However, once I start a book, I continue every day with it. I sometimes delete entire chapters because my characters are going in a different direction. You see, my book characters are based on real people, people who were part of my past, so I know what they would think and feel in a given situation.

What are your interests outside of writing?
Travel and collecting all forms of art, from Primitive African to Modern Mid Century and current. My husband buys out estates to resell. Recently I was interviewed for the Chicago Tribune, and the journalist said (as do many others) that our house looks like an Art Gallery or a museum.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
I feel that wanting to be a writer is not something you decide to do. You either are a writer or not. It is in you to write stories, anecdotes or articles. Almost every writer I’ve met has written or told stories going back to their childhood. The best advice I was ever given was from a New York literary agent. He said to study people. Watch someone from across the room, a stranger. By the way they sit, behave, etc. you can get an idea who they might be and even of their personality. For me, this has been great advice.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Mark Wayne Adams

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18-Mark Wayne Adams-Headshot 5-www.markwayneadams.com

A prolific children’s author and illustrator, Mark recently published a new book, “King for a Day: the Story of Stories.”

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know.

Growing up in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, I wanted to be something. However, I had no clue what that might be. Other kids my age wanted to be doctors, athletes, and president. I wanted to draw. I remember watching Walt Disney’s Fantasia at age five. Right then, I realized that what I wanted was possible.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?

King for a Day, the Story of Stories is a wonderful adventure about discovering your passion through friends and actions. Teachers and students continually ask me how to write books. I wrote this story to let young readers know how I do what I do, and to encourage them to create their own stories using the tools within themselves.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Many times, people tried to discourage my drawing dream. As I grew older, I learned to listen to the positive influence of people who told me I could. These people taught me to listen and to learn. I found many answers and kept notes along the way. Observing others meant it was possible for me.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

My biggest “aha” moment came when I hid family members as townspeople extras in King for a Day. With my author and illustrator successes, family and friends request to be characters in my books. By hiding my immediate family in one book, I’ll never need to draw them again. Ha! Ha!

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

When illustrating children’s books, my best resource book has been How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books and Get Them Published. Many self-proclaimed authors claim they’re the best, but How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books is a timeless resource written by professionals. I keep my copy handy for every project.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

Yes! I carry writing tools with me everywhere. I never know where my next idea will be found! I carry these two things: (1) Something to write with (three Prismacolor pens) and (2) Something to write on (a Best Sketchbook). Using permanent ink and a hardbound journal to hold document my story ideas has created my library of over 100 journals. The ritual I follow is signing the start date, my contact info, and the end date. I do this in case I lose it, it can be returned.

I also never write or draw anything that I wouldn’t share with my parents. My name is the most important thing I own. Offensive drawings or harsh words diminish a person’s name.

What are your interests outside of writing?

For eight years I’ve traveled as a public speaker in schools and professional events. Approximately four months of my time is spent in hotels each year. I recently converted my Texas Trailer cargo trailer into a tiny studio. The cargo trailer mainly warehoused our children’s books, while traveling to book events. I felt the space could be much more useful as a working studio space and sleeping camper. The conversion will now allow me to visit state and national parks – an interest I’ve had since childhood.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

Listen to readers and professionals for writing inspiration. They request books based on topics that don’t exist or that interest them. Reader inspired books are my best sellers!

 

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her:  rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Melody Dimick

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Melody Dimick

Melody and I met in a café writers’ group, where I discovered that she is President of the Florida Writers Foundation, Inc. a non-profit corporation formed to promote literacy, as well as enhance the writing skills of children, youth, and adults. Foundation volunteers visit elementary schools for reading days, sponsor poetry contests, donate books to underprivileged schools, and contribute funds to middle school writing contests. Her new book, “Backpack Blues: Inspire the Fire Within,” is a young adult story in verse.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

I grew up on a poultry farm and graduated from Beekmantown Central School in the Plattsburgh, New York area. I am a Castleton State (now Castleton University) graduate. I met my husband, a Vermont native, while studying there. I taught at Northern Adirondack Central School, DeLand High School, and at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. I am the proud mother of one son and live in Central Florida with my husband (and fellow writer,) Barry.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?

Three things inspired me:
• First and foremost, poignant essays from former students. As a teacher, I found my students believed their problems were singular, and they struggled alone.
• Second, Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters provided a format. My students loved reading and performing some of the poems from this book.
• Third, issues in the news and our society. For example, the spreading of the human trafficking of teens, the violence on school campuses, and the high rate of divorce and its effect on children.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Finding the elusive agent and writing the New York Times Bestseller.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

Obtaining both a copy and content editor taught me how to better revise my books. My biggest “aha” moment came when I read their criticism. Chosen to speak on the First Books Panel at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Miami Conference spelled success for me. Winning a Royal Palm Literary Award, being a finalist in this year’s contest, and being asked to serve as the president of the Florida Writers Foundation are also big moments in my life.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

I’ve been accused of reading everything, but the toilet paper roll. Janet Evanovich influences me to incorporate humor, even in serious writing. Carolyn Keene influenced me to write a series. I gobbled every one of her Nancy Drew mystery books when I was in middle school. The literary quality of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden helped me learn to use figurative language in my books. John Griffin, Carl Hiaasen, Daphne DuMaurier, Pearl S. Buck, Marge Piercy, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, and Maya Angelou influence me. Stephen King’s On Writing challenges me. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird taught me how to use similes, metaphors, and personification. Workshops conducted by Darlyn Finch Kuhn, Elizabeth Sims, Lorin Oberweger, Madeleine Kuderick, Adrian Fogelin, Alma Fullerton, and Peter Meinke pushed my writing forward. My good friend and mentor, Peggy Miller (Margaret Wolfson) taught me a new poetry form. Her poetry encourages me to aim for brevity.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

After starting the coffee pot and putting a load of laundry into the washing machine, I turn to my computer every single day. I write until my husband Barry and I have breakfast. I return to the computer after breakfast and write until lunchtime (about 2:00). I’ve never written with a pen or pencil, except when forced. I used a typewriter before I started using Word.

What are your interests outside of writing?

Pickleball, playing Pinochle with my son and his lovely wife, traveling with my husband. My ultimate goal is a trip to the Canadian Maritimes. Going out to dinner with my college roommate and her husband once a week and watching a play at the Shoestring Theatre or at my friends’ house after dinner. Since my family owns a Sugar Bush (maple trees), I value trees. You may call me a tree-hugger. I feel like crying when someone cuts a live oak tree.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

• Attend writing conferences—make them mini-vacations.
• Learn what a platform is and get one.
• Join writing groups.
• Read as many books as you can in your genre.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers.  

To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

One year later

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computer website

Last August, I won a Gold Medal for my debut Young Adult novel, The Anchor Clankers. Since then, I’ve been writing a sequel, spending most days alone at my computer.

However, this year I understand that when the manuscript is finished, the hardest part begins: telling people about it.

My isolation disappears as I ask folks to read and edit my words, ask literary agents if they might represent me, ask readers for blurbs, post on Facebook (again and again), and eventually ask people to show up at some bookstore on a Wednesday night to listen to me read an excerpt from my work.

This author life is not for the timid.

I’m grateful to the people who read my book. And sometimes a friend from high school will surprise me by showing up to a reading or posting a review online. Sometimes a stranger will email me out of the blue and say they loved it, and in those moments, it feels like I’ve accomplished something impossible. Maybe not the Nobel Prize for Literature, but it feels better than I ever thought it could.

(Fortunately, the average age of Literature Laureates is 65 – I’ve still got time.)

Precious metal

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Daniel ring 2

There’s something startling about seeing a wedding ring on your child’s hand – a hand that never wore a high school or college ring, or jewelry of any kind.

It is a larger version of the pudgy little hand that so often reached for mine. The same toddler’s hand that dragged a chair across my kitchen floor to reach the counter and put pieces of bread in the toaster. (C’mon, we let him use a toaster, not fire up a barbeque grill.)

Today, his fingers are longer and carry more responsibility. They nurture a career, a home and a wife.

And now, they wear a ring.

 

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of “The Anchor Clankers.

 

 

Renee interviews author Angelina Assanti

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Angelina Assanti

Angelina and I laughed over a cappuccino together during the Florida Library Association’s Annual Conference near Walt Disney World last month. Her quirky sense of humor (full disclosure: my family is from Boston) should serve her well as President-Elect of The Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

I’m from a small town in Massachusetts that no one has ever heard of. I just tell people I’m from Springfield because everyone from New England knows where that is. I moved to Florida to attend college in Orlando, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. I live in Fort Myers now. I went back for my high school reunion and was reminded how funny everyone is up there. Sometimes when I give a speech in Florida, people don’t know I have a background in radio and stand-up comedy and I deliver a funny line straight and they don’t know if it’s a joke or not. (Massachussians always get it.) I write the copy for the shows and always loved writing. I just never thought it was an actual career option. I’ve had several regular jobs in my life, but I would get bored and quit. I’m a quitter. My parents can’t believe I finished a few books. I guess I quit being a quitter.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I got cancer a few years ago and went I went to the bookstore at the cancer center and asked for a funny book. The woman I asked looked at me like I was an alien and snapped, “No one wants a funny cancer book!” I’ll never forget her saying that to me. I proved her wrong. What a sucker! Not only did Thank God I Got Cancer…I’m Not a Hypochondriac Anymore! go on to win several awards and become a #1 bestseller in three categories on Amazon, but that very same cancer center carries the book and a few months ago, they gave me a beautiful, large crystal award for it. The pages in this book are literally ripped from the journal I kept while I was in treatment. I was never close to anyone who had cancer, so I wrote it like a playbook for cancer.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
I hate to sound like a jerk but looking back, I didn’t really have many obstacles. I joined a writing group in 2012 when I realized I wanted to write a book and got lots of sage advice from people who had been both traditionally and independently published and asked people questions. I wasn’t afraid to admit I had no idea what I was doing. The writing community is very strange in that they want to help other writers succeed. You don’t find that in many professions. So, I’ve heard. I never stayed in one long enough to find out.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
I’ve had a few but my favorite was in 2014. I was writing a book about recovery and Betty Ford allowed me to tour rehab and talk to the counselors and residents. They made me promise in return that I would write an upbeat, funny story about recovery. No pressure, there! I did win a national award in humor for Mark Taylor’s Checkered Past: Recovery Road (The Lottery Heiress) (Volume 2) the next year. Many people have contacted me and asked me when and where I went to rehab because they wanted to know I was in with them. I reply that I only did the research there and am not in recovery. I know that seems strange but people thinking I was in rehab is the compliment of my life!

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I love anything by Dave Barry or Nora Ephron. I miss her. She was a great storyteller.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I don’t write in my manuscript every day. I do however carry a journal with me at all times and write in that every day. I used to keep digital notes in my smart phone until it crashed on me one day and I lost everything. I don’t chance it with technology anymore. I have heard several authors tell me their writing rituals but I’ve never heard any author have the same ones. We are all unique in our processes.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I used to be heavily involved with a rehab for homeless people but the cancer book has become the focus for my life right now. It’s hard to go through what I went though and come out the same person. When you’re in cancer treatment with the same people every day, some who are terminal, you wonder why it wasn’t you. It’s important for me to take the message out that early diagnosis saved my life and I had no symptoms of cancer. It was found on a routine exam. In Florida, someone is diagnosed with cancer every five minutes, so it’s important for people to know there are more survivors now than ever!

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
The first thing you need to do is join a writing group. I recommend you go to an actual group and not an online one. You need to network and meet people. That’s a huge missed opportunity in the writing business. The second thing to do is hire a professional editor. I can’t tell you how many people tell me, “Oh, I don’t need an editor, my spouse said it was good.” An editor will tell you the truth but they will also know how to analyze things such as continuity problems, character development, point-of-view issues, etc. Your spouse will lie to you and say your manuscript is perfect to avoid being smothered. Then, hire a copy editor. They will make sure there are no glaring mistakes in the actual book format. You don’t want the same person doing those two jobs and most people don’t know that.
I wouldn’t say I’d do much differently than I did. One thing I do (that most people I know won’t do) is I travel two hours every month to go to one of my writing groups. It is filled with NY Times and USA Today Bestsellers. If you want to be successful as an author, you have to be with people who are more successful than you. They don’t mind sharing their knowledge. You can’t expect everything to come to you. You have to be willing to go after what you want. Lastly, I know an author who was in her 70’s when she wrote her first book and she has had several made into movies. It’s never too late to go after your dream!

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com