Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Writer's Game of Tag

I was pretty fast when I was young, fast enough to avoid getting tagged and told, “you’re it!” But speed has gone the way of my hair. So, Mary T. Wagner, the author of When the Shoe Fits…Essays of Love, Life and Second Chances found it relatively easy to catch up with me. This is not to imply that Mary is super fast, although she’s certainly pretty quick with her wit and insight. If you’ve ever read her work or heard her read her stories at a live lit event, you know that. And it is also not to imply that I am so terribly slow that anyone can “tag” me. Let’s just say that running after and away from people these days is a far different game than it was decades ago.  

This little game of blog tag comes at a great time. This early autumn, the new Dream of Things edition of Any Road Will Take You There will be released. I’m so honored to be part of the Dream of Things family. Publisher Mike O’Mary is dedicated to offering “meaningful books” and I’m so thrilled that he believes Any Road Will Take You There fits in that category. Plus, this spring Dream of Things will publish my collection of essays: There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard. And once again, I am indebted to Mike and Dream of Things.

Still, Mary is the star here today. She’s the one who invited me into this blog tag and I am here to keep the game going!


“What am I working on?” – Lots! I teach college and I’ve got two classes underway this fall. One is a radio storytelling class where we take creative nonfiction stories written by the students and turn them into audio presentations, like something you might hear on This American Life. It’s really a wonderful process and the students have great stories to tell. I also continue to work as a reporter and anchor for CBS radio in Chicago. And I’m working on the final details for the new release of Any Road Will Take You There.

I also have a novel I’m hoping to get published soon. I’m now working on final edits and have at least one publisher interested. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. The novel is entitled Night Radio and revolves around a young man who has dreams of being the next great Rock n’ Roll radio personality at a time when music on the radio had cultural relevance. But his own demons and the mistakes of his father haunt him, eventually derail him, and then ultimately help to inspire him to host a special radio event that will be the most difficult and rewarding of his life

“How does my work differ from others in its genre?” – My work is different, I believe, in that the stories – true or fiction – revolve around the male experience. Most of my work is creative nonfiction, memoir, personal stories, with a uniquely male perspective to them. Believe it or not, men can be introspective and deeply emotional. I try to bring that out in my work. The books and essays are not the male version of what some call “chick lit” or women-centric stories, but rather they are tales of how men fit into the world, about their dreams, worries, mistakes, and miscues. I want to shine the light on vulnerability, a trait rarely acknowledged by men. I frequently encounter men who tell me how I have been able to put into words what they had not been able to say. And the women who read my stories say they have given my books to the men in their lives as gifts. I am truly honored.  

“Why do I write what I do?” This may sound trite or cliché, but I have to write what I write. It is part of who I am and what I want to be. Even if I were not being published, I would probably write the same stories. It is like breathing.

“How does my writing process work?” – There’s a process? LOL. Yes, I guess there is. First, I write nearly every single day. It may be very short, but I write. It’s important to stay limber. Like working out; you have to do it regularly.

I also keep notes on my computer and in several Moleskine journals. I refer to them often and when I’m ready, I start to write. Joan Didion once said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking.” This is exactly how I work. I write to discover my story. It’s not the other way around. I use no outlines, only the aforementioned notes, then I redraft over and over until I dig through the words and find what I’m trying to say.

And now it’s time to get back to the game…

I’m tagging two authors, both wonderful writers with incredible stories.

Madeline Sharples’ memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, is the harrowing but ultimately uplifting tale about her son Paul's diagnosis with bipolar disorder, through his suicide at her home, to the present day. It details how Madeline, her husband, and younger son weathered every family's worst nightmare.

In addition to Leaving the Hall Light On, Madeline co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994) a book about women in nontraditional professions and co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show,Volumes 1 (Muse Media, 2004) and 2 (2010). Her poetry accompanies the work of photographer Paul Blieden in two books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy as well as appearing in print and online on many occasions.

Madeline is now a full-time writer and is working on her next book, a novel, based in the 1920s. She and Bob, her husband of 40+ years, live in Manhattan Beach, California, a small beach community south of Los Angeles.

And there’s Eleanor Vincent. 

Eleanor has unbelievable courage to tell a story that is both heartbreaking and healing.

This is from the Dream of Things website. I couldn’t say it better:

Swimming With Maya demonstrates the remarkable process of healing after the traumatic death of a loved one. Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single-parent. Maya, the eldest, was a high-spirited and gifted young woman. As a toddler, Maya was an angelic tow-head, full of life and curiosity. As a teenager, Maya was energetic and independent – and often butted heads with her mother. But Eleanor and Maya were always close and connected, like best friends or sisters, but always also mother and daughter.

Then at age 19, Maya mounts a horse bareback as a dare and, in a crushing cantilever fall, is left in a coma from which she will never recover. Ultimately Eleanor chooses to donate Maya’s organs. Years later, she is able to hear Maya’s heart beat in the chest of the heart recipient. In a story that has been called “heartbreaking and heart-healing,” Eleanor Vincent illuminates the kind of courage, creativity, faith, and sheer tenacity it takes to find one’s balance after unthinkable tragedy.

Madeline and Eleanor…you’re now IT.

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