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Linda Cardillo is an award-winning author who began writing fiction when she received the gift of her immigrant grandparents’ love letters and turned them into a story that has resonated with readers around the world. Since then, she has drawn upon her fascination with the far-flung places in which she has lived as she explores the complexity, pain and joy of women’s lives. She is currently writing her fifth book, a novel set in the political turmoil and artistic splendor of 16th-century Italy. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer? 

I have been making up stories ever since I could string words together. As the first child born into an extended family of busy adults, I relied upon an imaginary friend for a playmate and wove elaborate tales about her. When I wasn’t creating stories, I was reading them, devouring books that became my refuge and my inspiration. When I was forty my aunt gave me the letters of my grandfather, about whom I had known almost nothing. Reading them, written in a mellifluous Italian that revealed a passionate love of language, I understood that writing was in my blood.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?  The most frustrating? 

I love listening to my characters as they reveal themselves to me. I love the moments of discovery when a story takes me in a totally unexpected direction or a nugget of information that I stumble upon in my research becomes a spark that ignites my writing. I love immersing myself in a world apart. I love knowing that my stories have touched my readers.

I love less the demands placed on writers in the 21st century to “build a platform” and maintain a presence and a persona in social media.

Can you tell us a bit about your latest release? 

Across the Table is a story about family, forgiveness, perseverance, and food from the points of view of three women—a first-generation Italian-American who opens a restaurant in Boston’s North End, her artist daughter, and her Harvard-educated granddaughter.

What inspired it?across_the_table_cover_january_2010_145x225 

Two threads in my life came together with the writing of Across the Table. First, although I had once run my own catering company, owning a restaurant was a dream deferred until I created the fictional restaurant Paradiso in my old North End neighborhood and got to experience vicariously the challenges and joys of cooking for a living. Second, I had grown up around the tables of my grandmothers and aunts, hearing their stories as they evolved from eager young women to the matriarchs who anchored their families with food and love, and I wanted to celebrate what they had taught me.

You’re sitting on the Raising the Dead: Transforming History into Fiction panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference.  Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning? 

I’ll be talking about the challenges I faced in imagining the emotional life of a woman who actually lived and the process of distilling volumes of material into the dramatic arc of a story. My research took me from the stacks of the Mt. Holyoke College library to the MFA in Boston and a stone fortress on an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

What are you working on now? 

My latest project is a work of historical fiction set in 16th-century Italy and based on the life of a woman who was a celebrated poet, the confidant of popes and the Holy Roman Emperor, a suspected heretic, and the only woman Michelangelo ever loved.

Where can we find you online? 

You can find me at lindacardillo.com

Is there anything you would like to add?

I’m looking forward to participating once again in WriteAngles!

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Lisa Drnec Kerr is an assistant professor of English at Western New England University. She has published poetry in a variety of journals including: Green Mountains Review, English, Cold Mountain Review, Oxford Magazine, Kalliope, and others. Her manuscript Sky Lake Crossing received honorable mention for the 2011 May Sarton Prize for poetry. Her poem WALKING HORSES was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in western Massachusetts. Lisa was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer?

Did I become a writer? I know I became a mother (I remember that very keenly). I know I became a teacher, a dairy goat farmer, and a knitter, but a writer? I think writing stole me like a thief when I was very young and most unaware, and like a wild child, I’ve been practicing my own thievery ever since. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I write by accident.   My work is (now) full of intentionality, and I write for many reasons. I love the fluid sense of self that gets played out in the writing process. Each new project takes me through the whole of human psycho-social development.  I am neophyte, intern, attending physician, and specialist. Then I am neophyte all over again. I love being caught up in a rhetorical situation of my own making, and I love reading beautiful books.  Beautiful books make me want to be a writer.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

When someone “gets it,” when an email drops into my box from someone I don’t know saying, “Hey, I read x and y and thought Z!” — that’s a crazy payoff.  Once a high school teacher contacted me about using some of my poetry in his Midwestern classroom. I was elated and humbled to have one such reader, much less his 120 young students. (For crying out loud, he had 120 students!) Still, the steady, everyday payoff comes from what writing does for me personally.  Writing planes the day; it makes me into someone I might recognize in the window.

Frustration is almost always a function of loose perceptions on my part. Frequently (2 or more times per week), I lambast myself for slow progress on certain projects.  It is frustrating to be constantly squirreling away writing or revision moments.  I ask myself, why can’t I do this “for real”? Why can’t I quit the time drains and work full-time on my writing? But when I stop for a moment and think clearly, I realize that I am working on my writing full-time. The other major considerations in my life, those things that draw me away from the act of writing (family and students) actually provide the substrate for everything I write. It’s at those moments that I realize I am always writing.  I’m just not always working with computer screens or pencils.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

My latest “releases” are poems published in journals and magazines: Cold Mountain Review (forthcoming), Chronogram, and Naugatuck River Review. My manuscript, A Sky Lake Crossing, was named a finalist for the May Sarton Prize (Bauhan Press).

What inspired it?

A Sky Lake Crossing is a response to the geographies of childhood and the competing narratives that invariably grow out of a reminiscent perspective.

You’re sitting on the Revision Panel at this year’s WriteAngles Conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

I am planning to talk about the often forgotten aspects of revision! How’s that for being intentionally vague!

What are you working on now?

I am working on a manuscript tentatively titled, Blue Sky Science. Plus, I am 75 % through a multi-genre text about Parkinson’s disease.

Where can we find you online?

Facebook, Google+, Tumblr

Is there anything you would like to add?

I am very happy to participate in the WriteAngles conference!

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Corinne Demas is the award-winning author of 29 books for adults and children, including four novels, two short-story collections, a memoir, a collection of poetry, and two plays. Her most recent novels, THE WRITING CIRCLE and EVERYTHING I WAS (YA), are now out in paperback. Her new YA novel RETURNING TO SHORE will be published in spring 2014. She is Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and a fiction editor of The Massachusetts Review. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

When did you first get bitten by the Writing Bug?

I was bitten by the Writing Bug as soon as I was old enough to write, and long before I learned how to spell. I wrote my first novel when I was six—at least I called it a novel. It was a story about about a prince, a king, and an “evil lady,” and had many chapters  (which is why I thought it was worthy of being called a novel), some of them only a sentence long. I wrote it in a black composition book (you can see a photo of it on my website) and illustrated it in crayon.

Who gave you the most encouragement early on?

I was an only child of doting parents, and they were an indulgent audience for all my early writing. I was encouraged to give my parents handmade rather than  store-bought Christmas or birthday gifts, so I would often present them with poems or stories in little home-made books. I found them all carefully preserved in my mother’s bureau drawer after she died.

The family tradition of home-made books has continued.  When my daughter was little I wrote picture books for her (illustrating them with my amateurish water colors), and when she got older she’d get chapters of a novel. Now, the week before Christmas, I’m usually frantically making books for my little granddaughters. 

Comment on the adage “Practice makes perfect” in regards to writing…

That sounds so dreary! Writing isn’t something you practice—it’s not like scales on the piano. Dexterity comes with talent and life experience.  And writing should be something you love doing—not something you feel you have to work at.

Writing tends to be a lonely enterprise. How do you balance your “writing time” with the rest of your life to keep yourself sane?eiw paper

I am fortunate to have two careers that dovetail—my writing career (which my husband calls my “cottage industry”) and my academic career, as a professor of English at Mount Holyoke. I love teaching, and I appreciate having a reason to dress in something nicer than sweatpants and get out in the world.  My writing group—which I’ve been part of for many years—provides me with the company of folks who are doing what I do. It’s been my solace and my cheering squad (and we all need that!) 

Have you ever gotten writer’s block, and how did you snap out of it?

My problem has always been that I have more things to write about than time to write.  One advantage of being a writer who dabbles in different genres is that if I’m stuck on part of a novel, I can take a break and work on a poem or a play or a picture book.

What is your latest project about (recently published or about to be), and how long had you worked on it?  Does it take the reader in a different direction than your last published work?

My new YA novel, Returning to Shore, is coming out in March.  I went back to my notes to see when I had first started writing it and discovered to my amazement that it was before 2006! Which means I’ve been thinking about it, working on it, and fussing with it for more than seven years. Stylistically it’s similar to my previous fiction, but it deals with two subjects I’ve never tackled before: a girl dealing with the fact that her father is gay, and an environmental issue (the battle between landowners and people who want to preserve the habitat of the Eastern Diamondback terrapin.)

Where can you be found on line?

My website is www.corinnedemas.com

Connect with me on twitter @corinnedemas

Tz Author Photo-1Tzivia Gover is the author of LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE: A TEACHER, HER STUDENTS, AND THE WOMAN WHO INSPIRED THEM, and MINDFUL MOMENTS FOR STRESSFUL DAYS, among others. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and over a dozen anthologies. Gover received her MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University. She teaches poetry to teen mothers in Holyoke. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer?

Good question! I was writing poems at age 10, and have been journaling since age 12. I don’t ever remember deciding to be a writer, it seems I just was one from the start. I became a professional writer at age 25, because I had a newborn baby to feed and I needed a job. I’d tried other things, such as being a baker and a store manager, but frankly I wasn’t any good at anything else I tried. So, writing it was! I have continued because writing helps me understand the world and my place in it. It’s pretty much how I think constructively and how I investigate my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs … and anything else that catches my curiosity.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

The most rewarding part is the opportunity to craft a message and have it be received by an audience of one or many. I love trying to create lines of poetry or prose that are as clear, precise, and elegant as I can make them.

The most frustrating part is never feeling like I have enough time write, or to market what I’ve written—to get it out in the world.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

Sure, if you twist my arm.

My most recent book is LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE: A TEACHER, HER STUDENTS AND THE WOMAN WHO INSPIRED THEM (Levellers Press, Massachusetts). It is the story of my first year teaching poetry at The Care Center, and the tale I uncovered in our creative, colorful, and slightly chaotic school. You can learn more at http://www.learninginmrstowneshouse.com Towne_cov2

What inspired it?

In the spring of 2000, I decided to leave the world of daily journalism to teach poetry to teen mothers in Holyoke, Mass. White, suburban and Jewish, I couldn’t have felt more different from the urban, Puerto Rican students I met on that first day of class. Nor could I have anticipated the lessons I would learn from and with them.

LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE was my way of telling my students’ stories, which are otherwise only known in statistics and sensationalist takes in the media. The book was also my way to integrate all I was learning from my work with them.

You’re sitting on the Revision Panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

John Mcphee says you’re not really writing until the fourth draft. I like that. To me writing is re-writing. Revision is what it’s all about. I hear writers complain about revision, but I love the process. I’ll try to inspire others to love it, too!

What are you working on now?

What aren’t I working on? I write a couple of blogs, and I’m working on at least three different books: A collection of personal essays (I’m not sure what the book’s title will be, but the subtitle will be something about “love, sex, and solitude,” which is the theme of the essays). I’m also trying to sell at Young Adult novel about the world’s pickiest eater. I’m also a Certified Dream Therapist, and I’m working on a book to help people understand and work with their dreams.

Where can we find you online?

My web site is: http://www.tziviagover.com/I blog about dreams at: http://allthesnoozethatsfittoprint.wordpress.com/

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Channukah begins on November 28 (on Thanksgiving) and Christmas is close behind. Books by local authors make great gifts! LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE http://www.learninginmrstowneshouse.com/makes a great gift for the teacher, poet, or lover of social justice in your life, and it’s available in paperback and Kindle format. Just sayin’. :)

princess cover spread.inddJoan Robb worked professionally as a singer/songwriter and as a theater director/playwright for decades before turning to writing picture books and most recently, a YA novel. She founded and toured with the musical group Caribbean for Kids and also was founder/director of the Youth Theater of Stanley Park, Westfield, Massachusetts. In the last several years she has shifted gears. Her first picture book, THERE’S A PRINCESS IN MY LIVING ROOM, was published in 2012. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos

Why did you become a writer?

My nature is to always have a creative project in the works, otherwise, I feel as though a piece is missing in my life. I love making my mind go to imaginary places! It’s great brain work to think sequentially. When I write I think: “What should happen first? Then what? Then What? Resolution…

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

The most rewarding part of being a writer is coming up with a sentence, paragraph, or dialogue that you absolutely love! The most frustrating part is spending hours writing just to realize that what you’ve written is lousy or that it doesn’t make sense to the reader (or you, the writer)!

Can you tell us about your latest release?

My latest release is a picture book entitled There’s A Princess In My Living Room. The theme of this book is geared more for girls and it’s about enjoying not having to look perfect or act perfect all the time. That it’s fun to be messy and dirty and, that’s part of being a kid!

What inspired it?

I wish I knew what the inspiration behind this book. Many ideas just come to me as a passing thought!

What can writers attending this workshop glean from my panel contribution?Princess pag 1 with text.indd

For this panel I plan to share and discuss the “morphing” process from one genre to another, for instance;

What factor(s) were the impetus for easing into a new genre.

What steps I took/take to learn about that genre.

The (often painful) learning curve that accompanies an acquired understanding and proficiency in a genre other than the one you are comfortable/familiar with.

Learning about how to market yourself in each genre.

The fact that by the time you are ready to market the “new you” the industry standards and demands may have shifted.

How can conferees apply what you’ve learned to their own work?

I think patience with yourself as you explore a different genre is very important. The learning curve is usually a long, slow one, years perhaps until you hone your “newly acquired” skills. Also, study! Read lots of materials written by authors of the same genre you’re working in and try to analyze their approach. Practice! Good chance it won’t be right the first time, so don’t expect that your first novel, picture book, screenplay, or whatever is going to be a best seller unless you’re an incredible genius ( which I’m not!)

What are you working on now?

I am working actively on three different projects right now; a picture book entitled Stage Fright about the fear of performing in front of an audience; another picture book entitled KUGELICIOUS which addresses the importance of community and working together, and my first YA novel entitle DISS-Connected about a 16-year-old girl adopted from Guatemala into a white family. She searches for her identity.

Where can we find you online?

You can find my book There’s A Princess In My Living Room on the Levellers Press website! Also, find There’s A Princess in My Living Room on Facebook! Be sure to “like” us!

Happy Writing!

Joan Robb

janice

Janice Beetle is a long-time writer and editor for various publications in the Western Massachusetts area as well as the owner of Beetle Press. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer?

I have always been a big reader, and I think loving to write stems from knowing that I can create interesting stories for other people to read and enjoy. I get a kick out of entertaining people, and stories entertain.

My passion for storytelling traces back to my mother, Evelyn Beetle, who can turn anything into a tale – a conversation she overheard at the grocery store, an interaction at the bank, an afternoon at the bridge table. All of life is good fodder for her stories, which are rich in detail and told to evoke laughter, shared indignation or sympathy.

I like to think the tales I produce are as entertaining as my mother’s, and my stories tend to educate as well.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

The most rewarding? When people tell me they read something I wrote. That always surprises me still. They don’t often know what they read or where they read it, but they can always articulate why they remembered it – because it taught them something or made them laugh or made them cry.

The most frustrating? Not having the time to write about the things that dance inside my head because I need to write about the things that allow me to pay my mortgage.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

My first book, Divine Renovations: A Carpenter, His Soul Mate and Their Story of Love and Loss. This book is about my late husband, Ed Godleski, and is a poignant love story full of irony and transformation.

The book tells the story of falling in love with Ed and losing him only eight short years later to metastatic lung cancer. It is raw and personal and shows what a grief journey can look like.

What inspired it?

Ed’s death was the first real loss I experienced, and it completely undid me. In the months afterward, I could not put my hands on a book that helped me to recognize what grief looks like. I found books that told me about grief, but not books that showed me what grief looks like in a person’s life. I decided I would write the book I wished I could find. I wanted to help others. I wanted to offer hope. divine-renovations-front-cover-only_edited-1

You’re sitting on the Jumping Genres panel at this year’s WriteAngles Conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

I’m planning to talk about my work as a journalist and my jump into PR and then my later jump into creative nonfiction.

I will also talk about what it’s like to jump genres on a daily basis as a business owner, freelance journalist and blogger and the fact that I am considering yet another jump – into fiction.

What are you working on now?

A series of blogs on leaders in the Pioneer Valley that I hope will evolve into a book.

Where can we find you online?

JaniceBeetle.com and BeetlePress.com

LinkedIn

And on Facebook at Janice Beetle Author and Beetle Press

Is there anything you would like to add?

I wish I could spend every day in the warm dunes of a beach, reading and writing.

Pick up this week’s Valley Advocate to see a mini-feature on Pat Schneider, who’s reading from her poetry and her latest work, “How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice,” on Friday, Oct. 11, at the Augusta Savage Gallery, UMass, 7 pm — Free!  <a href=”https://fac.umass.edu/Online/October11″>Read more about it</a>.

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