Author Interviews - Pacific Northwest

Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

Monday, September 12, 2005

Interview with Mary Jane Nordgren - Quiet Courage & Early

Author Mary Jane Nordgren is talking to us
about her transition from Doctor to author.

Q: I see that you are a retired family practice
physician. What does the D.O. stand for?
(Doctor of Optometry?)

A: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, so I did a lot of manipulative
therapy as well as standard medicine. Sometimes it was
rewarding to have that extra skill. I remember the husband of
a patient who came in one Saturday morning hunched over in
pain after an accident in which he was bumped off of a railroad
car in the switching year. The thought I would be giving him
pain medication, which I did. But I also massaged and realigned
his spine and he walked out of the office upright and smiling.
That makes it all worthwhile.

Q: How do you combine doctoring and writing?

A: I worked with Maple Street Clinic in Forest Grove, Oregon
for several years until I caught a viral infection that left me with
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and a partially suppressed immune
system. I would get sicker than my patients would. We tried
to find a way for me to keep working, even part time, but in
1986, we gave up. I married Earl Nordgren and have been
happy in a totally different way.

Q: What came first – writing or doctoring?

A: I’ve always tried to write, since I was editor of our high
school newspaper. But I wanted to be a doctor and took
mostly science courses in college (Tufts University, Boston).
I’ve taught 6th grade up through college Freshman to help
my children’s father earn his Masters and Ph.D. Then, when
he left we tried nursing school. That one year convinced me
that the kids could handle my being a full time student, so I
dropped out of nursing school to bring my biology courses
up to date. (In Genetics I sat next to a sweet girl whom I told
that the last time I had taken Genetics, it was from Gregor
Mendel. She believed me. Ouch).

So when I forced to retire from family practice (with lots
of babies and mothers) I turned back to the writing. My
husband Earl would tell stories as we drove to southern
California for the winters. I don’t think he even knew I was
taking notes. He is a natural storyteller. His collection of
intrepid characters came together as Early: Logging Tales
Too Human to be Fiction
. Our son-in-law Bill Helwig, a
commercial artist in Salem, Oregon (Graphic Ingenuity)
prepared the cover for me and then again for Ivan and the
cartoon commentators for the booklets “Why They Call It
First Aid
” and “Puzzles From The Word”. He is amazing.
We put those out with our family business TAWK Press.

Q: When did you begin to write? When did you turn

A: The national Optometry Board in California published
the text I wrote for a Lake Oswego eye doctor, Robert C.
Pepper, O.D. Dr. Pepper had used visual training for many
years in education and perfection of sports skills. His
methods are unique.

Q: Why did you decide to write books?

A: I guess I’ve always been a people person, I listen
because individuals fascinate me. That was one reason
I loved Family Practice Medicine. I was in awe of many
of may patients as I learned what they’d been through
and how they were able to cope with spirit and courage.
I haven’t yet learned how to bring their stories to print
without intruding on the trust between doctor and patient.
But I used the same listening techniques in talking with
friends – and just people I’ve met and their stories became
Quiet Courage. So many of those stories sound like
good-reading fiction, but they are based on what real
people actually went through.

Q: What type of research did you do to come up with
your subject matter?

A: For Ivan: A Biography of Ivan U. Marble, I interviewed
his widow Muriel and their nine children. I read through
many newspaper clippings and even a large stack of
Christmas letters that had been sent to a relative on the
East coast over the years. That was invaluable because
the experiences and attitudes were timely. Muriel also
let me read her journal, which was as sparse as you’d
expect it to be raising nine little ones. But there were
some telling emotions there, some of which I used and
some of which I respectfully let sink back to oblivion.
Muriel took me out into the country to see the little
schoolhouse Ivan had converted into their home of many
years. I’d had no picture of where they were and my
first attempts to write about those years were invalid.
It’s funny how setting contributes both to lives and to
writing about those lives! Muriel and I also sat on the
floor in their attic tower and pored over old picture
albums. That was a treasure.

Q: What lies ahead for you? Is another book on the
horizon? If so, can you tell us what it’s about and
when it will be available?

A: The book I am working on now is tentatively called
All 4 Won. It collects many of the experiences of my
three kids and I going through medical school in
Kansas City in the mid 1970’s. I love writing fiction,
but I’m even more fascinated by true experiences. I
try to bring real people to life for a reader because I
find such enormous courage in so many people and
I think that human spirit should be honored and
celebrated more than it is.

Q: I see that you have 6 children and 10 grandchildren.
Do any of them participate in any part of the “arts?”
(Writing, singing, playing instruments)

A: Earl has three kids and I have three, both of us had
two girls and then a boy. We are all good friends. He
has four granddaughters and a grandson. I have three
granddaughters and four grandsons. Almost all of them
love music, especially singing and playing piano, strings,
some reeds. One six-year-old granddaughter enjoys
drawing and painting with me. She’s been known to
spill over onto walls but is getting better about confining
her enthusiasm. I don’t know that we’ll ever get a concert
pianist out of this bunch, but they use the arts to get
depths and soul-satisfaction in their own lives.

Q: Tell us about a typical day in the life of Mary Jane

A: I’ve always thought about myself as a fairly stable
person, but here I’ve had three distinct adult lives. I’ve
loved each one as each has forced as well as allowed me
to continue growing. I get frustrated by my lack of ability
to do more during a day. My bedtime is 8 or 8:30 now so
evening meetings are nearly beyond me. But my days are
filled with writing and being with precious grandchildren
or golfing or jaunts with my dear husband. I am teaching a
fun class in memoir writing and appreciate a critique group
for nonfiction writing that has accepted and supported me.
I’m active in the choir at our church in Forest Grove, Oregon.
I’m a deeply happy person. I’m always glad to listen and
talk things over with people.

Q: If you could talk to a fledgling writer, what advice would
you give them?

A: I don’t like to give advice, except maybe, “If you love it,
work for it!”

Nordgren’s books are available @
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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Author Interview-Sally M. Rogow - They Must Not Be Forgotten

Q: This is the second book that you have written about the bravery of everyday people during WWII. Why do you consider these stories so important?

A: This period was one of the great conflict and oppression. The persecution of Jewish people (Gypsies and other people) strangled German society and put an end to years of democracy. The bravery of those who opposed the Nazis and took action to save people restored faith in humanity. These stories are important because they demonstrate how courage and conviction can conquer evil.

Q: What have you learned about this period in time that did not know before?

A: In writing this book, I learned a great deal about the people who carried out these heroic tasks. It was both inspiring and educating.

Q: Is there any one thing that stands out in your mind about WWII and the Holocaust?

A: The one thing that stands out is how it is always possible to defeat evil….with courage and conviction. The Holocaust was a huge crime against all humanity….and can never be permitted to take place again. This calls for vigilance and intolerance of prejudice and discrimination.

Q: You have been used to writing about personal disabilities and Faces of Courage and They Must Not Be Forgotten are such different books. How hard has the transition been in writing these books?

A: It was extremely interesting to write They Must Not Be Forgotten. The stories are based on personal and documented accounts and it was a challenge to make them come alive.

Q: Did writing these two books take any kind of emotional toll on you?

A: I enjoyed writing both these books and found them inspiring and motivating

Q: What do you want the world to remember about this period?

A: The world needs to remember how easy it is to terrorize and destroy society. All people must be treated with dignity and respect for human rights. To do less is to open the door to terrorism.

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Bettye Johnson talks about writing Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls.

Q: Why did you write “Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls?”

A: I had been interested in Mary Magdalene for a number of years. I had begun several novels and something seemed to take away my focus and I didn’t complete them. In 2001 I went to France with a friend. We rented a car and visited the Languedoc region of the Pyrenees where I became enthralled with the Black Madonnas and all too soon the trip ended. When I came home I made a decision to write about Mary Magdalene and began researching even more. I actually began the writing in 2003 and chose to use the form of fiction because my research was heretical and would not be taken seriously. I did not make an outline and one day I sat down at my computer and began to write and the words began flowing.

Q: As you know, “The DaVinci Code” caused quite a negative stir. Has there been anything like that with your book?

A: To date I have not had the negative reaction that Dan Brown’s book has had. I am indebted to Brown for bringing truth out to the world. I find it astounding that so many books have sprung up decrying his research. His information stepped on the toes of entrenched beliefs and so will mine when it reaches a broader audience. I had never heard of Dan Brown until I was two-thirds the way through my manuscript and then I chose not to read The DaVinci Code until I had completed my book. I was delighted with what I read. Uninformed people and the Catholic Church who are attempting to prove Brown’s research as not factual are entrenched in their belief systems based on lies. This is quite threatening. Because of this publicity over a work of ‘fiction’, it stands to reason that there is truth in the book. I have also noticed that ‘experts’ seem to become threatened when their area of expertise is questioned.

Q: Please tell us how you did the research for this book and elaborate as much as possible.

A: Actually, my first interest was in researching history of the Knights Templar and I began reading as many books as I could about them. This led me to read Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, Bloodline of the Holy Grail by Gardner and Woman With the Alabaster Jar by Starbird. I took points from these books and began doing further research. I read every book I could find on Mary Magdalene and I found them all lacking. None began to touch upon the essence of who she was and why she has almost been wiped out in history. I came to the conclusion that there had to be a voice for her and to portray her as a great woman in her own right. Women of today need hope and they need a spiritual icon.

I learned that there is almost no history available that is reliable from the time of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. It became a journey of discovery for me and I learned a Pope Gregory around 500 C.E. made a decision to portray her as a prostitute and a whore. This lie was perpetuated upon Christianity for over 1400 years. I began wondering what other lies had been perpetuated. There is no concrete evidence that Peter ever went to Rome or was killed there. The only flimsy evidence of Peter’s relationship to the founding of Christianity is that Peter was designated a rock by Jesus and that could be interpreted as “you are so dense that this is what I have to build my ministry on.”

Flavius Josephus, a historian of that era was born around 40 C.E. and there is a brief mention of Jesus in one of his books and that is suspect. When I was in the ministerial school, my teacher said there was no factual evidence that Jesus ever existed and I am
finding that the only evidence is a New Testament that was created in 325 C.E. and was translated and changed many times over due to faulty interpretations. Monks were assigned the task of copying the Bible into Latin as well as copying Latin copies. Each monk had his own interpretation. If one were to reason it, it doesn’t make sense to give so much credence to unreliable history written by men.

I researched on the Internet and found more clues and information. I research the times of Jesus as to the color of skin and it certainly wasn’t white. I researched the language of that time and also what occurred from the beginning of the era of C.E to 500 C.E. I also researched different eras of BCE regarding the religions in the Palestinian era and also in Egypt. I also found evidence that the town of Magdala was not established at the time of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. It came later. I did, however
find out that there was a Magdala in Ethiopia and I began my research in that area. After that everything seemed to fall into place.

In ancient Ethiopia, only women could be the ruler of a country. Women were educated in the sciences and made many contributions to the evolution of society. This knowledge has almost been erased with the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria and later in 391 C.E. the Serapeum or Serape that housed the overflow from the Great Library by Christian fanatics. Thus the remaining historical records are suspect.

In April I took my books to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in Los Angeles. I had a tremendous revelation when I interacted with the throng of people stopping at my booth. When I mentioned to black people that Mary Magdalene was black, the response was “it’s about time the word got out. We already knew it.” I would also say to the black people that she had red hair and several of the responses I received was “my grandmother has long red hair” while another was “my father has red hair.”

Having once been an ordained minister with training in Divine Science, I do know the Bible. I also know the hypocrisy of religions. I am not anti-religion. I am anti-hypocrisy.

I have also had a deep interest in symbols and over the years have done extensive research. The knowledge I gained from researching symbols has helped me to decipher the obvious unobvious that unaware people miss. A grand example of that is Chartres Cathedral. I know because obvious things eluded me until I began understanding the symbols left for all to see.

I have also been a champion of women’s rights and the more I researched information about Mary Magdalene, the more I was determined to find out as much as I could.

I have an extensive library by now and I am still researching because I want the truth to be known. Men have written history and now it is time for the greatness of Mary Magdalene to be known as well as other great women.

Q: How close do you think your fiction is to the truth?

A: It is as close to truth as any put forth previously. By this I mean that so much false information has been put forth about the Magdalene. Even now, ‘authorities’ are scoffing at the figure sitting to the right of Jesus in DaVinci’s portrait, The Last Supper. Anyone with the eyes to see and the ears to hear can note that it is definitely a woman and the woman closest to him was Mary Magdalene.

I also have long pondered why in the New Testament that the father of Jesus, Joseph seemed to disappear from the scene. The only clue I had was the mention of Joseph of Arimathea and since there was no proof otherwise, I developed him as the father of Jesus. All known information regarding Joseph of Arimathea is only suppositions.

Regarding the hieros gamos, research has shown me that it was prevalent during those times.

I heard Laurence Gardner speak about the times of Jesus and titles were given priests such as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel and others. I read where the Church does not permit the names of any angel to be used unless it is in the canonical texts. The names of these titles have been distorted into being ‘angels,’ and an entire mythology has grown up around this.

It is difficult to separate fact from myth and my discoveries have only emphasized this.
In the Nag Hammadi documents, it is very clear that after the crucifixion that the disciples turned to Mary Magdalene for consolation and she taught them after the ascension. This in itself indicates she was a knowledgeable and powerful woman in her own right.

All I can add is that there is truth woven in the tapestry of the fiction. I strongly urge others to research. I placed my bibliography in the back of the book, which is unusual for a work of fiction and it is only a partial bibliography.

In retrospect, I can see I have always enjoyed reading mystery books and novels of intrigue. Perhaps this is due to me working in the code rooms of the embassies in France and Japan. I enjoy the way Dan Brown’s mind works.

Q: Is this your first book?

A: It is my first published book.

Q: Tell us about the Ramtha School of Enlightenment.

A: Hmm. The School. It is the school of the mind and ancient wisdom. Scientists have said that the human only uses one-tenth of the brain. In this school we are being taught to develop the other ninety percent. We are taught Ancient Wisdom which covers what was taught in the Mystery Schools of ancient times. The reason the schools were called a mystery is that it was heretical to current beliefs and attempts were always made to destroy the knowledge because it would destroy the power held over the common people. Therefore the ancient schools had to go underground. It is only in this era that a mystery school has become open available to all who want to come.

Ramtha chose to return through a woman’s body because women have been the most prejudiced against species on this planet. His message is that we all come from the same source and are equal and he wants to balance this equality. He tells we are gods and I know there are two verses in the Bible that state this.

We receive in-depth training on the mind, the brain, quantum physics, ancient history, what God is and how the power of God works, the history of religion and how religion has distorted the truth. The understanding of quantum physics is an important aspect of the teachings.

There are disciplines taught to help us work through our human limitations and to develop these other parts of the brain. Each discipline is to aid the student in removing the layers of self-deceit, ignorance, and to expand the mind. There is an open door policy for those who want to know more. One of the most important truisms we are taught is that no one is a victim and this in itself is a very difficult limitation to surmount.

One of the disciplines is to walk a field with blinders on and find a card that we had created with a symbol. The field is the size of two (2) football fields. At times there are 1,000 students on the field each with 2 cards on the fences for a total of 2000 cards. We are trained to focus and walk the field among 999 other students and find our card(s). I know because I have done this and found my cards.

Some years ago a member of my family was having a challenge with the mother of his child and the court battle was ugly. I attended a two-week event with Ramtha and made a card on justice using only the word “Maat”. Today this family member has full custody of his child. When I came to the scroll where the Magdalene was describing her time in the Room of Contemplation, those realizations of hers were mine that came to me when I spent hours walking the field and focusing on Maat.

We are taught and urged to be impeccable, tell the truth, not to lie or steal, to value life, to observe instead of reacting. In addition we are told over and over “the greatest of things are achieved with a light heart.” There is much more on the Ramtha website which expands on what I have just written.

I was present at an event where noted scientists tested JZ and Ramtha separately with equipment and they were shocked with the results and have written papers of their findings that JZ Knight is not a fraud. These can be read on the website.

Q: What led you to this school?

A: In the late 1970’s I had an awakening to seek my spiritual path. I explored many New Age modalities and became interested in the religions of Religious Science, Unity and Divine Science. I was led to visit a ministerial school in Arcadia, CA, which at that time was affiliated with Divine Science. I had been divorced for a year and it was at this school that I met my beloved Mr. Magic. He was the love I had been searching for and we married.

For our second anniversary we attended a spiritual conference facilitated by Dr. Brugh Joy and David Spangler at Asilomar, CA the last week in December 1982. The next to the last night the evening program had three people channeling their entities. I was not into channeling and thought it would be boring. We were all sitting on the floor, so I laid down and listened to the first 2 with their entities talking about peace. The 3rd one was a cute little blonde from Tacoma, WA who left her body and when the entity came in and said “Indeed,” I sat up like a rocket and I knew I knew him and that he was a Master Teacher. I didn’t know where I had known him, but I only knew I knew him.

This puzzled me, however I was in the throes of my wonderful relationship and my new career as an ordained minister and did not reconnect with the Master Teacher until 2-1/2 years later when I saw a video of JZ Knight and Ramtha. I have been a student of his ever since. My move to Washington State was not a conscious a choice because of him. My husband retired and I had a son living near Bremerton along with the move of good friends to Sequim. We came to Washington and liked it and the rest is history.

I have never regretted the move because I was ready to give up the ministry. I realized that if I was going to talk the talk that I had to walk the walk.

I know that these teachings work. In 1991 I had a serious fall from an 8 ft ladder and was told I would never walk again. I did not accept the doctor’s verdict and using the discipline I had been taught and with the healing energy from other students, I am now walking.

My husband passed this plane in 2000 and I began to seriously think of writing.

Q: You have a vast array of experience. You have picked cotton in Texas, worked in the Foreign Service branch of the U.S. State Department, with tours of duty in Paris, France and Tokyo, Japan, resigned your post and became a wife and mother of three, became a government employee, coordinator for the Federal Women’s Program, program director for a holistic center, a minister of a non-denominational church, a grandmother and an author. How do you feel about your life’s journey?

A: I gained enormous experience from all of my life. I grew up in segregated Texas and had a father who was a bigot and tyrant. I can now see that it was all for purposeful good and after his death I had an opportunity to contact him and true forgiveness occurred. I look back on my life as a tapestry of experiences, which has added to my journey of releasing prejudices, hatred, anger, victimization, unworthiness and insecurity. I have made peace within for unpleasant experiences and can see the wisdom of them and why they happened.

Q: Can you tell about the books “A Christmas Awakening & The Secret Behind the Door” both of which are about to be published?

A: A Christmas Awakening came from a story I wrote in 1994 because a friend was disenchanted with Christmas. I took what I had learned in the School and created a story to share about the true meaning of Christmas. The story is about a disenchanted woman who by chance meets an unusual older woman with the results becoming an awakening and magic happens.

The Secret Behind the Door is a book for children ages 9 – 13 and is science fiction. It is the story of a little girl who finds a key. She opens a closet door and falls through a wormhole to another reality and the book is about her adventures there.

Q: I noticed that your book was published by Living Free Press. I did not find a web site for this company. Please tell us about them.

A: Living Free Press is my business. I have had my business license since 1986 and am now putting it to use. There is a possibility of it expanding beyond my own books and I am facilitating a group called Writers Night Out. It is a networking group encompassing published authors, writers, wannabes, editors, illustrators, indexers, poets, web creators and other connected to the business of getting books published and marketed.

Q: What marketing techniques are you using?

A: Networking, word-of-mouth,, Barnes&, my web page, joining groups, book-signings, using bookmarks for business cards, seeking reviews, getting radio coverage, and presenting workshops. Presently I am finding word-of-mouth is one of my better forms of advertisement. I am registered with Bowker, and Bookwire. I am a member of PMA and I am also choosing to sell my books at various conferences. My next one will be in Sedona, AZ at the Celebrate the Divine Feminine Conference in September. I have developed a workshop on the Divine Feminine, the Black Madonna and Mary Magdalene.

Q: What do you do to make your book signings and/or readings successful?

A: I know my subject and have had many occasions where I have had to speak extemporaneously. I have the ability to speak well. I also can relate to my audience.

Q: I like the way you wove romance into this story. It is subtle, yet blatant. How did you come up with that formula and make it so successful?

A: The formula is: C+E=R as I have been taught or consciousness/creativeness + energy/experience/enthusiasm = Reality and/or the Outcome.

Perhaps it is the way I look at romance and also from my own experiences. All I can say is that it flowed and I never knew where the story would take me.

Q: Your enlightenment of: Truth, Intelligence, Balance & Justice are haunting revelations. Where did these come from and do you believe in them and live by them in your real life?

A: I think I have covered Truth, Intelligence, Balance & Justice in a previous answer. Yes, I do believe in them and I strive each day to live them. Ramtha has given students a way to create our day and I incorporate these in my day. I am learning to walk the walk so I can talk the talk. I have become aware of subtle prejudices and I address them. I recognize when I fall into hypocrisy and am overcoming that.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Interview with author Jo Brew

Jo Brew is talking about her new book Finding Clarice.

Q: How did the concept for Finding Clarice come about?

A: Group of unrelated incidents all came together to make a story: a neighbor who walked by my house carrying a cane and wearing shorts every day for a whole summer, an old theater in Portland being torn down while one in Salem was being restored, a really good mime performing at the Eugene Celebration, and a borrowed book on personality testing .

Q: How long ago did you begin working on it?

A: About five years and it’s been revised eight or nine times.

Q: Did you pattern any of your characters after anyone you know?

A: I did make the appearance of my male love interest similar to a doctor I admired. A few characteristics of several women I’m acquainted with may be blended into the mother in the story.

Q: How do you feel about this book compared to your other two (Preserving Cleo & Cleo’s Slow Dance)?

A: I had more freedom to let Clarice make her own choices–she didn’t have a young family to consider.

Q: Is any part of your real life in this book?

A: No, although I have several truly ambitious career women in my family or as friends.

Q: How long did it take you to write Finding Clarice?

A: Writing the first draft took several months but some of the research took longer and necessitated changes along the way.

Q: Tell us about some of your favorite marketing strategies.

A: My favorite is just to visit with someone, or a group, about the book but that opportunity doesn’t come up often. I enjoy public appearances, particularly in a panel.

Q: If you did not write books, what would you do with your writing talent?

A: I already write a column I enjoy for a small newspaper, The Creswell Chronicle. If I weren’t writing novels I would probably look for an opportunity to write personal essays or another column although I keep playing with the idea of children’s books and I’d love to tackle history if I had the opportunity to do the research. Too many ideas and never enough time.

Q: Is there another book on the horizon, and if so, can you tell us about it?

A: I am currently working on three separate stories about women starting a new life journey at retirement. Family ties, responsibilities and friendships influence the paths of the journey.
Finding Clarice is available @

Interview by M.M. Moore
M.M. Moore has written for both national and international magazines, local papers, and on the Internet. Moore is the author of Hunting For Mr. Good Bargain and founder of

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Author Interview with Jo Brew

Jo Brew is the author of Preserving Cleo & Cleo's Slow Dance.
Q: Are you a native Oregonian?

A: No, not quite a native Oregonian, I was born in Colorado but, after a dozen years in California, moved with my parents to Ashland in Southern Oregon in time to begin High School there. I graduated from Southern Oregon College and began my teaching career in the southern part of the state. My husband and I moved our family to the Eugene area in 1958 and both of us taught in local schools.

Q: When did you start your writing career?

A: The first earnings from my writing came in the third year of High School. I wrote a column about the school happenings for the Ashland Daily Tidings. I was paid the princely sum of a nickel an inch but the thrill was the real fortune. The other writing I’ve done through years has all been nonfiction until this recent venture into fiction. I still write personal essays for the fun of expressing my own viewpoint.

Q: Cleo, the protagonist in your two books is an interesting character. A lot of readers will be able to identify with her and the problems she encounters. How did you come up with the Cleo character?

A: The Cleo books began with the setting. We frequently drive the old highway between Eugene and Corvallis to visit grandchildren. I let myself play with thoughts of the isolation of the farms and who might live there. It was a short jump to think about the few teachers I’ve known who were also farm wives. They happened to be strong women so I could pick and choose from characteristics I’d seen in them to build my own woman. Of course, the woman I began took over and grew herself.

Once in awhile a secondary character rights an injustice. The mother-in-law in Cleo started as the mean field supervisor I encountered in the strawberry picking adventures of my first paid job. She too, grew on her own but I felt like I’d achieved some balance of power even if my nemesis is long gone and would never know.

Q: How do you map out your stories?

A: For me the story starts with the character and the basics of the setting. I spend a lot of time thinking about what needs put the character there, what she has to accomplish to satisfy her needs and finally, what may get in her way. The problems are drawn from life situations-friends, my own, family members or people I’ve known casually.

Q: When do you write? Morning, afternoon, evening?

A: I prefer writing in the morning but seldom get the opportunity. I’m of the sandwich generation so my days are often obligated to other people. The evenings give me the most uninterrupted time but if I’m tired I may be shocked at what I’ve written when I look at my work the next morning.

Q: Where do you write?

A: Since my home doesn’t have a spare bedroom or an office, I’ve appropriated our formal dining room. A closed off room probably wouldn’t work for my anyhow, I want to be in the middle of activity. I never more the bookcases or computer desk but I do make it a point of clean off the dining table at Christmas and for winter birthdays when gatherings have to be indoors.

Q: Before they begin to write, some authors clean, some take long walks, some meditate, etc. etc. What process do you go through before you begin to write?

A: Before I try to write I spend some time in a fairly mindless activity. Ironing is best but cleaning, riding the recumbent bike, folding clothes, pulling weeks any will do. By the time I sit down to the computer, I have the place to begin in my head. Sometimes a whole scene or a chapter.

Q: You have a nice way of making Cleo come alive and step off the page for the reader. Can you tell a struggling author how to bring their characters alive?

A: I try to put myself into the characters head and think through the actions and dialog as though I was living her life. When I think I have it right, I read it aloud. To myself first. Then I start scouting around for friendly readers and listeners who will pick it to pieces.

Q: How has writing enhanced your personal life?

A: Writing has given me the opportunity to make new friends I would never have met in any other way. It’s also let me give voice to my own feelings and reactions in ways that would never have been heard by voice alone. I hope that reading about a woman’s, even a fictional woman’s, struggle and growth in contemporary times will help someone along the line.

Q: Have you taken any writing classes?

A: My earliest writing class was probably journalism in high school and then I had the usual composition in college. I used those and more in my teaching career but none were about writing fiction of my own thoughts. When I didn’t have to work a full time job anymore I took Writing For Women as an Extension Course at the Community College, mostly as an experiment. From there I went on to classes in fiction, short story, essay and memoir. I still try to fit in workshops and short classes whenever I can.

Q: Talk to us about editing.

A: My first editing (or critiquing) always includes three key readers, a good friend who has an English major, my mother and my daughter. By then I can usually tell if it’s interesting and if I’m headed in the right direction. I took Preserving Cleo and the new book I’m working on now to John Reed of Writers Welcome for editing of the first hundred pages. I’ve gone to Jessica Morrell for essays, critiquing and inspiration. If I get something I’ve written through all that, I look for any volunteer readers I can find. Since my mother is good on punctuation, I try to get her to take a final look.

Q: I noticed that you published both of your books: Preserving Cleo, and Cleo’s Slow Dance through Publish America. What made you choose Publish America over all the other publishing companies?

A: After several years of interviewing agents at Writers Conferences and querying publishers who indicated they were interested in new writers I took a look at what I was up against. First, I am new and still learning. Second, I don’t write sensational big best sellers. I write quiet stories with somewhat regional settings. Not appealing to New York publishers or agents wanting to sell to that market. Third, I have an age problem that doesn’t click with the young representatives who attend the conferences. Fourth, I have never found any small presses looking for fiction authors at the conferences.

Feeling that my time to wait for publication is limited, I looked for other options. I talked to Publish America, looked at what they had to offer and decided it was a way to get started. They did what they agreed to do, publish a decent book, so it seemed sensible to stay there for the sequel and I am building a readership. I will look at other options before I publish again.

Q: What do you think an author should consider when looking for a publisher?

A: In my opinion an author needs to have a clear picture of what their own goals are, what the market for their book might be, and how much they are willing to do for themselves before they look for a publisher. I think I’d also add, how much time they have and money they are willing to put into the process.

Q: How important are your husband and your dog Elvis as your support group?

A: My husband supports my writing but not by reading every word. He doesn’t read for pleasure but for information so he tries to respect my time for writing and encourages me to keep going on with it. He does read my essays and seems to enjoy them but I know he’s never read either of the Cleo books.

Q: Do you recommend a support system for a struggling writer? If so, why?

A: I’m sure every person and every writer needs some form of support system but support systems come in various forms and so do writers. I got so much out of the critique in my classes; I tried joining a critique group. I discovered I spent too much time getting material ready for the meetings; I didn’t have much time left to work in my own project. I also discovered it’s hard for another writer not to take your story and turn it into something entirely different. For me a critique group didn’t work but I have a support system in readers who tell me I am a writer after all, in readers who tell me when something doesn’t work and leave it up to me to do the fixing, and in readers who believe I can succeed if I want to keep working at it. That’s vital to me.

Q: Do you keep a journal? If so why?

A: I don’t keep a journal. I do make lists. My lists guided me through my teaching career and then through a stint in Real Estate. They’ve helped me plot stories and plan menus. My current lists have more to do with marketing than story ideas but phrases and words I want to absorb show up frequently.

Q: Can we expect further peeks into Cleo’s life?

A: I’m not planning to write more about Cleo or her family. The project I’m working on now is a widowed teacher developing a life after retirement. I also have a stack of short stories I’d like to sort and revise into a viable collection.

Q: Do you consider your books to be your legacy?”

A: Legacy seems to imply lifetime achievement. When I think about a legacy I guess I’d have to come back with the corny old mother’s line. My children are my real legacy and I’m proud they are all good people and contributing members of society. It wasn’t always easy getting to that point. If there is more it would be in the hundreds of children I helped learn to read. Although I’ve enjoyed writing the Cleo stories and hope they have some impact, they are a work in progress, not yet the quality I’m striving for.

Cleo’s Slow Dance & Preserving Cleo is available @

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Interview with Barbara J. Hamby

We're talking with Barbara J. Hamby, author and poet.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

A: While searching for a partner, I discovered how much time it took me to find safe places to look. I didn't find any comprehensive information easily available. I found scattered resources such as classified ads (mostly for younger people) and matchmaking websites (also mostly for younger people). When I started putting information together, I decided to put it in a book.

Q: How did you do research for this book? (Please explain in as much detail as possible)

A: First, I designed a survey questionnaire to distribute by regular mail and by email to as many older single folks as possible. I asked for help from friends. A number of them took surveys to their friends. I took the surveys to senior centers. The Oasis Program in Portland allowed me to give a talk about the book and distribute survey questionnaires.

Q: What problems did you have with your research?

A: Men are extremely reluctant to fill out survey forms. Most of the men who finally agreed to do so, were friends or acquaintances. A few men I met online through matchmaking services filled out survey questionnaires for me. Some men friends distributed surveys to their women friends, but did not complete one personally.

A: When I was compiling the stories and advice for the book, I struggled to keep the contributors anonymous as I had promised to do. I hoped not to include information that might be recognized by their friends.

Q: Quite a few of your stories do not turn out successful for the senior daters. Did you find many success stories out there?

A: Yes, I found more success stories than the book indicates. Some of the people who are happily married and busy wouldn't bother to fill out a questionnaire. At the senior centers I have visited, there is almost always at least one couple who met there and later married.

Q: What is your opinion of being single today?

A: From my research and my own experience, I think being single today is much easier than in the past, unless you don't want to be single. Many seniors of both sexes live happily alone, enjoy their freedom, and socialize to whatever extent suits them. I lived alone for twelve years and was content to do so. After passing my 70th birthday, I began to want to have someone around most of the time. It makes me feel more safe. I enjoy the companionship and, in my case, also enjoy the right to "do my own thing." My significant other and I have individual interests and mutual interests. We each voluntarily give up a bit of our autonomy, while maintaining as much as possible.

Q: What advice do you have for the “single seniors of today” looking for a relationship?

A: First of all, be careful. That doesn't mean to avoid all risk. Getting out of bed every morning is a risk. Thoughtfully and carefully decide how much risk you are willing to accept, then go out and find whatever avenue interests you where you can meet people. My book is divided into chapters by the possible places to meet others.
Senor centers, dancing clubs and clubs of all kinds will allow you to meet people with similar interests. Classes, especially those specifically designed for people in your own age group, are excellent places to meet and mix. The most scary and risky are newspaper classified ads and matchmaking services on line. Many people have had excellent results with these resources, but some have been badly hurt. In most cases, the best success is achieved by talking or corresponding for a while before meeting, then meeting in a public place. Never give your phone number or address to someone you haven't met.

Q: You have a list of on-line dating services in your book. Do you recommend them highly? Why?

A: Those services that have a comprehensive profile on each subscriber are the ones I chose to use. Some services offer to screen people and direct you to the profile of anyone they think matches your interests and desires. A few of those I found to be totally "off the wall," but some were very good. Online matchmaking changes quickly. Some services disappear and new ones pop up all the time, so I would hesitate to recommend any at present without joining a lot of them and checking them out. When I was doing my research, there were some free services who offered good choices and some expensive ones that did not, so cost doesn't seem to be a criterion.

If you check Google or AOL Keyword for matchmaking services, a mind-boggling list appears. There are not only individual services, but other sites that list many individual matchmaking services. Clues to watch for when you visit a matchmaking site, are what information they include on the profiles, and how many people are using the site. Successful sites attract more people.

Q: I understand that you have a significant other in your life. What is your secret for finding the right mate and maintaining a successful relationship?

A: Ask me again in ten years. Seriously, I can tell you how I found the right companion. I spent about two years, while I was putting the book together, looking for a compatible companion. I had a lot of coffee dates, a couple of lunches, and many emails and conversations with prospects. One day I received an email from, saying they had found the "perfect match" for me. Right, I thought.

However, I read his profile and sent him an email. It was his first attempt to find a traveling companion, which was his major interest at that time. His email responses reflected his quirky sense of humor. That definitely attracted me. He told me that my direct answers to his many questions inspired him to continue getting acquainted.

As to how to maintain a successful relationship, I've been asked to write that book. I wouldn't presume to give advice on that subject solely from my own experience, although we have been successful for two and a half years. If I should decide to write such a book, I would do it the same way I did the first one, by accumulating data from many others. However, I foresee that it might be more difficult to find people to contribute their stories. Many successful late-life couples are on the road traveling, or living quietly at home, enjoying grandchildren and haven't the time or inclination to respond.

The most important knowledge when entering a late-life relationship, I think, is that neither party is going to change much. What you see is what you get. That said, both parties need to be willing to make some adjustments for a peaceful coexistence.

Q: You have a survey in the back of your book to be for your next book. Is this survey still needed or is the next book in progress now?

A: Actually, the survey in the back of the book is the one I used for Find Romance in Later Life. I included it for the information of those who might wonder what questions I had asked contributors.

Q: What have you learned from researching and writing this book?

A: Mostly that I may not have the energy or motivation to do another such book. I'm trying to talk myself into it. The responses I received on the survey questionnaires emphasized the great variety of behaviors and desires among senior citizens.

Q: What was your hardest challenge in writing this book?

A: Deciding what to include.

Q: What do you like about writing poetry?

A: Sometimes writing poetry is like channeling; it comes to the poet in a package. Other poems are more of a struggle. Either way, poems are shorter than books, so the feeling of completion is achieved more quickly. The real high is when, after reading a poem, a listener reports that they really related to my words.

Q: What do you like about writing a book?

A: Creating anything tangible has a certain satisfaction. Somewhere I read a quote from a writer that goes something like this. "Writing is Hell. Having written is Heaven."
When I picked up a copy of my poetry book in a library, I noticed a coffee ring on the cover. I thought at first I should offer to replace the book, but then I thought how appropriate it was that someone was reading my poems and enjoying a cup of coffee.

Q: Who published Find Romance in Later Life? (Musebooks or another publisher?)

A: Find Romance in Later Life was published by, a print-on-demand publisher. I chose such a publisher so that I might have more control over the cover and the content. I like the fact that my books are printed as ordered, so there is no wasted paper. There are some disadvantages as far as pricing and promotion are concerned, but overall, I'm very pleased with

Q: What is your age?

A: April 20, 2005 was my 76th birthday.

Hamby's books are available @

Interview with Author Cheryl Tardif

Our chat is with author Cheryl Tardif about her struggle to become a successful writer.

Q: Before you had your first book published, you walked away from your dream for 10 years out of despair. What led to this decision?

A: I had tried for years to become a published author. Years ago I attempted to get two children’s books published. I had invested in creating actual prototypes of each book, which was an expensive endeavor. I spent over two years on this project, sending out query after query, and doing successful readings in schools, daycares and other places. Yet, no publishing contract.

This was only one of many projects that I had tried to get published over the years. I noticed that the “catch-22” issue – publishers wouldn’t even look at you without an agent, and agents wouldn’t consider you if you hadn’t been published-was becoming more the norm. I lost faith in myself, and simply gave up. Or so I thought…

Q: What did you do with your writing during this time?

A: During that time, I put away all ideas for the “great Canadian novel” and focused on work and making an income. The strange thing is that in every J.O.B. I did, writing became an integral part of it (whether it was in my “job description” or not). It was only recently that I realized that I had been creating in every job; it just wasn’t the novel or work of fiction I had dreamed of writing.

As a manager for the telemarketing division of a home security company, I re-wrote their scripts although it wasn’t something I was expected to do, and this led to a job offer as a consultant for two other companies (one in home security, one in financial services). When I decided to home-school my daughter and run a home daycare, I put together a newsletter for my neighbors, just to let them know what we were doing in the community. When I worked as a consultant for The Pampered Chef Canada, I wrote a successful presentation which was adopted by other consultants. And when I needed time for myself, I worked on poetry and short stories and then posted them on my first

Q: During that 10-year period, what were your feelings about your gift to write?

A: The crazy thing about that time is that I knew I could write! I yearned to write! But I thought that the responsible thing to do was focus on my family and my job(s) and create income. The last time I remember making an income from writing was in 1986 when I wrote a Health & Beauty column in a small BC newspaper. In essence, I denied myself by not writing what I really wanted to write-fiction. And the longer I put it off, the less I thought I even had a gift. But I think somewhere in my mind, I knew that writing was simply being put on hold. I believe in synchronicity and serendipity. “Write time, write place!”
Q: What led you back to your dream to be published?

A: A friend. She told me: “Don’t worry if it gets published or not, Cheryl. Write it for yourself! Write it because you have to write it!” (Now here is someone who understands the soul of a true writer!) When my friend, Carolyn, was visiting, I somehow began telling her about this story that kept “haunting me.” Her words of encouragement were so empowering that I really started to get the “itch.” And any writer knows what that feels like. The story wouldn’t let go of me. I would dream of it in full color. I would think about it during the day. It played out in my head like a movie . . . all I needed was the popcorn!

Q: When did the idea for Whale Song, your first published novel take shape and how?

A: Whale Song grew from a native legend that I had grown up with on the Queen Charlotte Islands. If a killer whale shows up close to shore, it’s a soul coming to say farewell to family and friends.

A week after Carolyn’s words of encouragement, I began researching native folklore and legends and once again became fascinated with the stories. The novel grew out of a desire to show that there is beauty and hope even amidst the utmost despair. My characters’ and mine, I guess. It also deals with tragedy in a way that I hope leaves the reader with a sense of comfort. And of course, forgiveness is the key “lesson” in Whale Song. “Forgiveness sets you free…”

Q: How long did it take you to write Whale Song?

A: Three and a half months. It was completed, revised a million times and then edited by two others. I’ve never written so much, so fast. I couldn’t type fast enough. I guess it helps when the story has been in your head for almost two years before even writing a word. Whale Song is my “baby.”

Q: How many publishing companies did you research before deciding to self-publish?

A: I started sending out query letter to traditional publishers during the first week, then went online and researched my options. What I discovered was the print-on-demand form of publishing. Years ago I had considered self –publishing through a major vanity press, but the cost was astronomical. Who has that kind of money? Of course, technology has advanced and so has the entire publishing industry. In total I probably researched over twenty companies. And then I discovered Trafford Publishing, a print-on-demand company based in Victoria.

I had narrowed the field to about 4 different companies, but only Trafford was based in Canada. When I finally got to the top two companies, I realized that I couldn’t decide based on what these companies were telling me-I needed to go to the source. The authors! I began tracking down authors who had published through the US company and Trafford. I found many of the authors’ email addresses and sent out emails requesting information. I asked them to honestly describe their experience and tell me whether they would publish again with that company. The response from the authors of the US POD publisher was not good. No one seemed happy with the services. Issues of delays, cost and poor product quality were brought up. Then I received the emails from Trafford’s customers. No one negative comment! Authors were extremely happy with the quality, books were published in 4-6 weeks and their books were on Amazon within weeks. My choice was clear.

Q: What made you decide to go with Trafford Publishing?

I went with Trafford because their customers whom I corresponded with there genuinely satisfied. I was impressed that this Canadian company had offices in 4 countries (5 now…Canada, US, UK, Ireland and Spain). Trafford’s publishing packages are affordable and the company does their best to provide top-notch services. They also reward returning authors with discounts on future packages. Since choosing Trafford, I haven’t looked back. Last September I visited Victoria and was invited to tour Trafford Publishing. They made me feel like family. I recently had the pleasure of discussing the book industry with Bruce Batchelor, the CEO of Trafford, and found him to be a down-to-earth person who truly cares about his authors and who is striving to eliminate some of the roadblocks that Canadian writers face. From Christyne Learmonth, to Stacy Butterfield, to Michelle Bourne and everyone else at Trafford, Bruce has gathered a competent, caring and supportive staff. I have never once regretted choosing Trafford Publishing.

Q: Trafford Publishing has published Whale Song and Divine Intervention for you. How easy has it been for you to work with them?

A: It has been extremely easy for me to work with Trafford. You can control as much of the process as you want to. I found two people on my own to edit Whale Song, three editors for Divine Intervention, and because I like designing things, I chose to do my own layout. I hired a young graphic designer, Charles Biddiscombe from Grant McEwan Community College, to design the cover for Whale Song. The cover picture is from a painting titled Sanctuary, by world-renowned US artist, David Miller. The cover for Divine Intervention I designed completely on my own. Trafford took the covers and my stories, producing quality books that are comparative to anything else on bookstore shelves. The support I received, and still receive, was vital to my success.

The biggest advantage is that by investing in the Best Seller Package, I did not have to worry about hidden costs (as with other POD or self-publishers). Trafford took care of all the legalities (ISBN, listings, etc.), and in 6 weeks I had a published book in my hand. Both times!

Q: What do you like best about self-publishing?

A: I love the fact that I am now a published author, with two books available online and in bookstores in Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria. This was a dream that I had thought would never come true. I love the fact that the public does not really care who publishes your book as along as it is a well-written story by a talented writer. My fans have made me feel like I am on the same level as J.K. Rowling or J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts. I now have a track record of sales, and them what I’ve been told by many of the managers at Indigo, Chapters and Coles in Edmonton, my booksigning event sales are some of the highest they have ever seen. But most of all, self-publishing has restored my dream.

“Date to Dream…and Dream Big!!!” (One of my mottos)

Q: What do you like the least about self-publishing?

A: With self-publishing through a POD company, there is a non-returnability clause. This means that bookstores cannot return unsold books to the publisher. As a result they will not stock your books on their shelves unless you sigh a private consignment contract. I have books in Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria in the Indigo chain of stores by way of consignment. And consignments are a headache! I want my books to be available on the shelves of All Chapters, Indigo, Coles and Smithbooks stores, along with McNally Robinson, Greenwoods and all other independent stores, without having to do all the legwork. The business end of this takes away from my writing time…and I am not an accountant.

Q: What advice would you give to an author thinking about self-publishing?

A: If you have had no luck with query letters, or in finding an agent, what have you got to lose? By self-publishing, you will gather a track record of sales that you can present to a publisher or agent. Prior to self-publishing, I had never received a letter from a publisher or agent requesting more information; instead I received the standard form letter or rejection stamp. A couple of months ago, I re-approached publishers and agents, stating my sales, publicity and media coverage. Immediately I was contacted by a publisher and an agent…and am hoping to hear back from them soon.

What have you got to lose? How about your dream? Research the market, keep sending out the queries, and test the market and your talent by self-publishing one book. You will know within a year if it’s the right path for you.

“To be published or not to be published?” That is the question (You know my answer)

“Don’t wait for things to happen; Make things happen!”

Q: You now have two books published, Whale Song and Divine Intervention. How do you feel about your gift of writing now?

A: I am a writer. I was born a writer and I will die a writer. Writers write! But we also have a huge responsibility to the public and to our fans to produce something of value. In both Divine Intervention and Whale Song there are strong messages for those who will see them-racial issues, societal issues, abuse and health issues. It is also important to me to “keep it Canadian,” so my stories are proudly set mainly in Canadian locales.

I started by writing for myself, and now I write for my readers too. I am honored and humbled by the people I have met at my booksignings who have expressed that I have inspired them in some way. Years ago I worked as a motivational speaker for a well-known international company and although I knew that had I inspired many people to make life-changing transformations, it is even more satisfying to know that I have somehow inspired people to make soul-changing transformations.

Q: Do you think that your 10-year breather made you better writers?

A: Truthfully, I’m not sure if I am a better writer than I was ten years ago. I know that I am better than I was twenty years ago. I believe the ten years was no own personal test, to see if I was destined to do something else besides write. And as you can tell, from the writing I did at every job, the answer should have been clear to me. A couple of years ago, after starting Whale Song, I took a course through Peak Potentials that forced me to question who I really was…and what was holding me back from being who I was. I learned that I have a gift of writing and inspiring others. To combine them, that is my “passionate mission.”

Q: You have a third book, The River, on the way. How is it coming along and when can we expect to see it?

A: I am very excited about The River. Set on the Nahanni River in Canada’s NWT, my newest novel will be a mixture of possible and impossible. I want the end product to be something that will haunt you, make you question which part is fact and which part is fiction. And again, my messages should be loud and clear. The River will force readers to ask themselves: “How far do we go until we’ve done too far? At what point…have we become God?”

Anyone who joins my members only club on my website will eventually see a sneak peek of The River. Everyone else will have to wait until the summer of 2005, if all goes according to plan.

Q: What advice to you have for struggling writers who are on the brink of giving up?

A: If you wake up with stories crowding your brain, if you can’t sleep because the characters for a novel keep you awake with their incessant chattering, if you are distracted at work by a plot that plays itself out like a movie, then you are a writer! Don’t just dream about it. Take charge of it! Don’t wait for things to happen; Make things happen.

If your desire is to be published by Penquin, Bantam or Harlequin, then keep sending out those query letters. Read everything you can on “how to get published.” Research all editors and publishers, and find out what they are publishing. Don’t send your award-winning sci-fi novel to a publisher that only produces cookbooks! Know your market. Use the Internet-it has been invaluable to me! Email published authors. I’ve emailed Piers Anthony, a bestselling fantasy author…and he emailed me back! But above all, believe in “right place, right time,” and you will be surprised at whom you will meet or what will fall into your lap.

Someone once wrote: “Courage is contagious. So is fear. Fear can’t hurt you, unless you surrender to it,” For a writer this is so true.

But let’s look at it this way: “Fear is contagious. So is Courage. Courage can’t help you, unless you grab it with both hands!” There is no “try”; there is only “do!”

Q: Do you have anything else to add?

A: One of the most vital things a writer needs is support from family and friends. Some people may not understand the investments in time and money that you may have to (or want to) make. But as a writer you must invest in yourself. Think of it as starting a new business, for that is exactly what it is. You are the CEO of your enterprise. Spend time on your craft; spend money on the tools you need to write and get published. Remember that whatever you7 write, when it is published, that is your legacy. To your children, family, friends…and all future generations.

Is there a price for that? If you’re a writer – write!

Tardif's books are available @

Interview with author J.D. Kick - Children's Books

We never know where our inspiration will come from. J. D. Kick, author of children's books, gets her inspiration comes every morning when she watches the animals on her farm. We're having a chat with J. D. Kick about her life as a writer.

Q: Donna, your career began as a symphonic trombonist. How did you go from trombonist to writer?

A: The simple answer is I discovered trombonists are not a hot commodity--the standard line is "keep your day job.” Then came a family, followed by the dissolution of embouchure and family. It took nearly a lifetime to learn to stop racing with time.

Q: I see that you were also an editor, script reader, artistic consultant and a research analyst. What led to your involvement in these areas?

A: First came the research. Let me back up a bit. Around 1985, my husband began an epic piece of historical fiction (we called it hysterical). You can see where this is going, can't you?

At that time, my day-job was glorified bookkeeping. It was really, really boring, except for the computer part. Seeking a closer tie to this wave of the future, I scoured the nickel ads. My first computer cost $200 and looked like a portable sewing machine. I remember it had a 10-inch green and white screen and a floppy drive.

But it wasn't me that jumped on the computer; it was my husband, John. He wrote day and night. His storyline: the arrival of Cortez in the New World, circa 1520. The early Inca and Mayan people were research project #1...and I loved it. His characters came alive; they sat stone-faced on our couch, a part of the family. His literary agent railroaded me into editing--"do it or hire someone else to do it". She also represented a producer in Hollywood and" would you be interested in critiquing scripts for him." Would I ever! Then a film council in British Columbia needed a script consultant. Yikes, I didn't have to be a counter any more.

So, to answer your question, the process came first for me. It wouldn't be until we moved to the farm that the children's books pushed their way out.

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: Six years.

Q: When did you begin writing children's books and why?

A: Moving to the farm was both the when and the why. The animals told their own stories. Putting it down on paper was almost a necessity. The geese, especially the stately Isabel would sit in the front yard and wait. "Have you finished my story, yet? What's taking so long?" I watched their lives parallel human lives: birth, love, danger, loss, but most of all communicating. Isn't that how we all learn?

Q: How has living on a farm influenced your writing?

A: Patience. Nature is a matter of give and take. You just try to stack the deck.

Q: Downside Up is a goose tale and The Amazing Tale of Archie is about an alligator. What other animals have you written about?

A: Pigeons. Pigeons are the heroes of the next story.

Q: How do you decide what personalities to give to your animals?

A: It begins with the antics of the real animal. Then comes contact with the storyline and the character evolves by interacting within that framework.

Q: Who draws the illustrations for your books?

A: The late, great Greek, artist and friend, Bill Pappas was originally tapped to illustrate Goose Tale. To simplify the initial concept, my husband did a couple storyboards for him. Bill passed the buck back and asked John for more and then a few more. Sneaky, huh? Fifty drawings later and praise from the master, our joint venture began. It's been a collaboration of love.

Q: How do you want your books to influence children?

A: Effect curiosity. I want them to question everything, but more than that. Developing minds must be allowed to freely react and openly express even suspect ideas.

Q: Have you had any feedback from the children who have read your books?

A: Quite a lot. I was at the Author's Table at the Oregon State Fair for 3 years running. The most exhausting and gratifying 12 days an author will ever spend. Readers and authors are grouped together in close proximity and can really reach out and touch each other, not just in spirit, but in reality. My favorite was from a teacher who used the book and Read-Along Tape (we use CD's now) in a Special Ed reading program.

Q: How many books have you written and what are their titles?

A: Two: A Goose Tale--Downside Up and The Amazing Tale of Archie the Alligator.

Q: I noticed that you have two business names: Owl Creek Farm Books and Owl Tree Press. What is the difference between the two?

A: Owl Creek Farm Books is the imprint of our Children's Division. Owl Tree Press is the original publishing company.

Q: Do you publish books from other authors?

A: Yes. We have published two other authors: A Christmas Eve Ball by Margit Bowler, illustrated by Renia Ydstie, and in the historical fiction category, Ashes, Blue Gray and Gold by Leo Max. We are always happy to look at new authors in all genres and plan to publish 2-3 books this year. If we aren't able to publish an author's book, we offer links to other resources that can help.

Q: Is a new book forthcoming? If so, can you tell us a little about it and when will it be available for purchase?

A: It's about pigeons, the often-maligned birds of the city. Our story starts out with the accident of a truck carrying racing pigeons. They soon meet a group of city pigeons that teach our elitist friends about the common life...and in the teaching they learn about themselves. We expect it to be out for Christmas.

Q: What do you consider the most important piece of advice that you can give an author trying to break into the children's book market?

A: Opportunity happens in the darnedest places and never on a good hair day--be ready. Build a list of credits and a defining resume. Research your submission targets and submit, submit, submit. Submit to magazines, monthly papers, contests, and church bulletins. Get your writing and your name in print. Don't be shy! Don't quit!

J. D. Kick's book are available @

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Interview with the StoryMaster @

Q: What sparked the idea for

A: We originally started a small site for people to read and write interactive "choose your own adventure" stories online. As a programmer, I was interested in creating the site. We were surprised to see how much participation there was and as the site grew, we could see it needed to offer much more to writers. It's evolved over time to be the Writing.Com it now is.

Q: When did it go on-line?

A: The site was started September 1st, 2000. We're celebrating our 5-year birthday this year.

Q: What is the mission of

A: Our mission is to provide a stable online home for writers of all ages and interest, helping them to grow and improve in their craft.

Q: What are the benefits of joining

A: All of the benefits are too numerous to list! :-) But a few of the biggest benefits include: Online portfolios where writers can store their work, a feedback system that allows member authors to receive feedback on their writing and our community of writers to meet and mingle amongst.

Q: What do you think is the most important feature of and

A: Writing.Com's community is the most important feature. We have the best group of writers assembled anywhere! :-) They discuss a limitless number of topics and exchange ideas in our Forums and they exchange feedback and opinions through our rating and reviewing system.

Q: How has changed since it debuted?

A: Since the site started, the site has gone through many evolutions. We've grown from a small site that only offered those interactive stories, to offering over 10 different types of portfolio items, including the ability to create non-interactive writing, such as poetry, short stories and online books, but also images, word searches, forums and a lot more!

Q: Does have some new features in the planning?

A: We always have new features in the planning! :-) Our to-do list is miles long and always fueled by member suggestions, comments and experiences. We're always expanding our existing features and adding new ones... of course, the list of upcoming enhancements is secret, so I can't share any!

Q: How do you see the future of evolving?

A: Writing.Com's community will continue to grow, offering more writers to meet and more opinions to be had. Our services for writers will grow to meet the needs of a changing publishing landscape, as more content moves online and self publishing becomes more wide spread. We think the future is very bright for Writing.Com and it's members!

More information about in the "Links" area of

Interview with Isis Riley founder of Agent Query

Q: Please give my readers a brief overview of your website.

A: Agent Query offers the largest, most current searchable database of legitimate literary agents. Our literary agent database is updated everyday and is 100% free. It includes the detailed profiles of over 700 American literary agents. AQ users can perform searches based on specific criteria such as nonfiction or fiction genres, agency name, client name, AAR membership, and submission preferences such as snail mail versus email queries.

In addition to our searchable database, Agent Query offers tips about the literary agent submission process as well as an overview of the current publishing industry. Agent Query also provides links to various writers’ resources including national and regional organizations, writers’ residencies and conferences, and other helpful writers’ websites.

Q: What method did you use to gather your agent information?

A: When we first decided to create Agent Query, our biggest challenge was how to accumulate the data for the agents’ profiles in our searchable database.We had a choice. We could either A) solicit agents for the information or B) we could do the research ourselves. We choose option B, crossed our fingers, and whispered, “if we build it, they will come.” Then we embarked on the formidable task of building detailed agent profiles for over 700 literary agents. We researched each agent’s name and agency in reputable trade magazines such as Publishers Weekly and Variety and online resources such as,, and We also searched various press releases citing agents’ bios, client histories, and credentials. Finally, we culled information regarding the types of books each agent represents from the popular print literary agent guides. All initial information was crosschecked against multiple sources, including the agent’s current websites, before we entered it into each agent’s profile. 700 agent profiles later, Agent Query was born.

Q: How did you go about assembling your staff?

A: Agent Query was created with the help of a core group of writers, web programmers, and computer programmers—the AQ crew. We have known each other for years, and we are all professionals in our chosen fields who enjoy investing time, energy, and ingenuity into AQ endeavors. Daily operations are handled by a few, key staff members who have come aboard through professional referrals, and share a common desire to make Agent Query the best resource for researching literary agents.

Q: What criteria do you use to admit a literary agent into your AQ database?

A: All the literary agents in our AQ database are real agents with real book sales and real publishing contacts. Legitimate literary agents make their living from commissions on their sales, not by charging fees to their clients or potential clients. For this reason, we only list agents with verifiable sales. If the agent is younger and/or newer to the industry, he or she must be affiliated with an established agency or have previous publishing experience as an editor, editor’s assistant, publicity director, agent’s assistant, etc. to make the cut.

Q: How do you currently maintain the accuracy of each agent’s profile?

A: Updates on our home page. In less than a year since our launch in December 2004, we have become the premier resource for writers searching for literary agents, and we receive many updates from our loyal AQ users. Moreover, in the last few months, we've seen an explosion in the number of emails we’ve received from agents, requesting updates to their AQ profiles.Ultimately, we love updates straight from the agents, but what sets us apart from other agent guides is the fact that we don't rely on the agents to supply us updates. Through our loyal AQ users and my dedicated AQ staff, we continually find and replace old information in our database. We actively track resources for agency moves, recent sales, and mailing address changes—with the same diligent research skills that we cultivated to create the database in the first place.

Q: I did not see fees on your site. Do you have fees? If so, what are the ranges or are they per individual need?

A: Currently, Agent Query does not charge anything to access any part of our site. It’s all 100% free, and we intend to keep it that way for a long time to come. Agent Query’s goal is to provide the most current resource for writers seeking a literary agent. We achieve this goal by offering hundreds of users the opportunity to verify its accuracy and inform us of necessary changes or updates.

Q: You talk about Phase II. What does Phase II include?

A: Our current Phase II will include the paid services portion of our website, which will be separate from our current free database and literary links. Originally, we expected to offer query critiques and other paid services by the summer of 2005. But honestly, we were simply overwhelmed with query critique requests, even before we were officially offering them. We have limited staff and resources, and we are still trying to decide on the best way to meet the current demand. For this reason, my brilliant web programmers are creating web technology that will help us effectively and efficiently offer paid services as well as build an ongoing literary community that will nurture writers.

Q: Please explain what the paid services Agent Query expects to offer?

A: Because the development of our Phase II is still in beta testing, I prefer to wait to disclose the details of our paid services until we launch in the fall of 2005.

Q: What is your ultimate goal for AQ? What do you see the future holding for AQ?

A: Agent Query’s ultimate goal is to help talented, qualified writers find legitimate literary agents who will serve as their publishing advocate. Agent Query streamlines how writers find agents through our use of superior web technology and accurate information. But in the future, we hope that Agent Query will revolutionize how writers connect with agents. Right now, agents complain about being bombarded with unworthy queries from writers. And writers complain about their inability to get their foot in the door. Ultimately, Agent Query would like to break this paradox and fundamentally change how agents receive submissions from writers.

Q: What trends are you currently seeing in the submission process to literary agents?

A: More and more agents are accepting email queries, and more and more agencies actually prefer email queries over snail mail queries. In fact, we’re seeing more and more agencies state that they no longer accept snail mail queries. They are simply getting swamped with too much postal mail. Most writers love agencies that accept email queries, and writers often prioritize their submission list based on whether or not an agent accepts email queries. Personally, I think email queries save the writer time and money, but I think agents reject email queries much faster than snail mail ones. With email queries, most agents do NOT accept attachments, so agents immediately judge the merits of the proposed book by reading the query letter. However, with snail mail queries, you have the option of including the first five pages with the query, even if an agent says, “send query only and SASE.” Most agents like to skim a small sample of the writing.If your query is marginal, but your enclosed first five pages are stellar, hopefully your writing will “hook” the agent, and she will request a partial, or even a full. Isn’t that the goal? For the agent to judge the merits of your writing? So…do you really believe in your query letter more than your writing? If so, keep shooting off those email queries, and cross your fingers.But be aware: agents are expecting shorter and shorter email queries.Thus, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to “hook” an agent with a 150-word email query than a 300-word snail mail query and five sample pages.

Q: Talk about the honor you received from Writers Digest Magazine on being named as one of the Best Websites for Writers in their May 2005 issue.

A: We are very excited to be included in the Writers Digest Magazine’s 2005 list of top 101 Websites for Writers. Agent Query launched in December 2004 and WD’s list came out in May 2005, so it’s quite an accomplishment for our website to be included in their venerable list.

Q: What do you think is the most important factor for reaching success in any venture?

A: Originality. Credibility. Persistence. And offering the best product possible. Work hard, dream big, and have fun doing it.

Q: What advice do you have for authors seeking publication and success?

A: Make it a priority in your life and act like it’s a priority. Becoming a published author is not a fantasy. It can be a reality, but only for writers who treat it like a life-long goal and not a hobby. Writing is a hobby. Publishing is a business career. Writers who want to become a published author must make it a priority and advertise it as a priority to all their friends, family, and co-workers. Everyone in your life must understand that you are committed to the life-long goal of publishing. And just because you haven’t published anything doesn’t mean you can’t take yourself seriously as a writer. Are you attending writer’s conferences? Applying to residencies? Reading trade magazines? Reading contemporary fiction and nonfiction? If not, you should be.Bottom-line: if you wait until you’re published to take yourself seriously as a writer, you’ll never be published. Unpublished writers can get literary agents and become published authors, but it starts with the commitment to learn the craft of writing AND the publishing industry.Finally, always be generating new writing and seize all the opportunities that exist for new writers.

More information about Agent Query in the Writers Resource area of

Interview with author Alicia Thom - Being Human

Being Human invites you on an expoloration of the life forces that can lift and inspire you to realize your full potential. Let's let Alicia explain further.

Q: In you book Being Human you introduce the reader to their inner selves and the life they can have by recognizing and pursuing that part of themselves. Why do you consider that to be so important?

A: We all spend our lives driven by familial, cultural or religious patterns, our feelings, our instinct, habits, and our beliefs. All of these are useful, however if one area becomes dominant we then tend to operate predominantly from these old patterns, or from our instincts or power, and become out of balance or alignment with our inner selves. When we have an understanding of how we are influenced by our material nature (our DNA, cultural and religious history) our vegetative nature (our feelings and senses) our animal nature (power, instinct, sexuality, movement, territoriality) our human nature (beliefs, choice making, thinking) we can recognize how and why we get out of balance and act in ways that may not support us in our life. When all these different parts are integrated with the noble aspect of ourselves our inner self guides our outer actions which enables us to be fully human.

Q. Subud has been an important part of your life. Please explain what Subud is and the part it plays in your life.

A: Subud is a worldwide spiritual association of people from all races, cultures and religions. It is a way to renew contact with the Divine, the Source, God. It is a direct spiritual experience, which arises from within and connects you with your own guidance. I joined Subud at 17, so it has always been a very important part of my life. This practice has helped me to keep my inner connection at the center of my life, rather than it sliding out to the periphery, which can happen so easily in today's world where we have so many demands on us and our time.

Q: We are all looking to enhance our lives. Can your workshops help us to do that? If so, how?

A: Yes, our workshops certainly enhance our lives and those of our participants. I think that for most people it is a time to really explore themselves, to get to know the different aspects of themselves and how each of those affect, drive, hinder, or support them in their lives. Many express that surrender, the capacity to become quiet and allow Grace to be present, show them what they need to see, clarify a situation or relationship, has been transforming and empowering for them. It gives them an experience and understanding that they can take home and use in every area of their life, giving them the tools to move out of, or change old patterns, habits, beliefs that restrict them and gain a sense of real aliveness and joy and possibility.

Q: I understand that “Being Human” is being taught in other countries as well. Can you name them?

A: We teach regularly in England, Austria and Russia. Every year or so we do a "Living the Life Forces" workshop, which is a weeklong intensive in another country where we explore our surroundings and the culture while journeying within. We have done those workshops in Morocco, Bali, Rajasthan, and Tuscany. This year we have been invited to teach at the Skyros Center on the island of Skyros in Greece, as well as in Crete, the cradle of western civilization, in October. What I love about those workshops, or taking a group to another country, is seeing how the initial fears, prejudices and concerns all shift during the week as the person sees the value in a culture that may be very different to their own, as they open to experience it and get to know it. They see that nothing changes in the environment around them, but how they see and experience it changes as they change inside, and this of course reflects into our daily lives and relationships as well.

Q: What do you consider to be the most important part of “Being Human” and why?

A: For me it is to live a parallel life, where my inner and outer life are aligned and my actions, thoughts, and feelings are guided by my inner self, so that I treat myself and others with love, compassion and respect while remaining true to myself.

Q: The book “Being Human” was a collaboration of three people, yourself, Solihin Thom, your husband, and Alexandra ter Horst. How and why did the three of you decide to collaborate in writing this book?

A: Solihin and I have been teaching this work since 1989. About ten years ago Alexandra began to work with us, in registration, administration and studying the work. We had know for several years that we needed to write a book but could never make the time to see it through. In one of our meetings we had the idea to expand on a workbook for a one day workshop and Alexandra offered to do it. It was to be very simple, a little workboook. As she began she realized it needed to be much more than that and that we should all be involved in the process and so the idea of a 'real' book grew from there. We felt there was a value in the three of us doing it together, as it provided both a masculine and feminine perspective, as well as the experiences of Solihin and myself, and Alexandra, which had all been quite different, and we hoped that would broaden what we were able to offer in terms of personal stories and experiences.

Q: Alexandra lives in North Carolina, so how did the collaboration work? In person, by mail, by e-mail, a combination?

A: Yes, she does and we used email and phone, (we are very grateful to MCI's unlimited long distance, which made this possible!) sometimes wearing our headsets and on the phone for hours at a time, sometimes just two of us, others all three.

Q: What challenges did you have in collaborating?

A: There were times when it was extremely challenging. Writing a book with one's spouse is not the easiest thing in the world and it brought up many issues for us, even after almost thirty years together. For Solihin, writing a book with two women sometimes created an over-abundance of the feminine, which was challenging for him. There were times that were very difficult, but we decided early on that if this book was about being human, then we must be human ourselves in the way that we approached the writing of it and dealing with the challenges we faced. We began each session working together with a few moments of quiet and surrender. If something came up for one or more of us during that time we would address it together. When we hit a hot spot or things were getting tense, one of us would suggest that we surrender, and we would all stop and become quiet and then work through the issue from that place. It was a great intensive training in repeatedly coming back to that place of quiet and surrender during the day and allowed us to discover new things about ourselves, each other and the book.

Q: I notice that each person has written some parts of the book. Who put all of it together?

A: Apart from the personal stories we all worked on the rest of the book. It was mostly myself and Alexandra who did the arranging and pre-editing. We had regular read-throughs with all three of us and all had equal say about what we would like to change or alter.

Q: In 2002, you presented this concept at the Guerrand-Hermes Foundation for Peace Conference, in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Tell us about that experience and how it came about.

A: The founding members of the GHF are also Subud members and have been working for several years in the field of peace and youth projects. They approached us to present our understanding of the life forces, as they wanted to see how they could integrate that understanding into the work that they do more effectively. For me, it really awoke me to the connection between this work and peace. I hadn't necessarily seen it in that context before. At an individual level it helps us to bring a harmonious relationship between the different aspects of ourself, bringing personal peace. In relationships it is a very helpful model for finding the common ground and understanding between two or more parties. It can be applied to national, religious and cultural relationships as well. I have become active in the Holistic Peace Institute here in Portland, and Solihin and I presented at the Edinburgh Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace, in February with a workshop entitled "Finding the common ground between different spiritual and religious traditions". We are doing another version of that workshop at Subud world congress in Austria this summer.

Q: What other countries have you presented this concept in and how is it being accepted?

A: I mentioned the other countries above. What we have seen wherever we present this and whatever the cultural or religious background or beliefs of those present, it makes sense. There is a feeling of universality and recognition for this concept.

Q: How did you begin marketing this concept and this book? By yourselves or through a PR firm?

A: So far we have done everything ourselves, which has been an enormous amount of work. When we were writing the book and wondering how we would ever manage to finish it, I read somewhere that "if you think writing a book is hard, it is only 10% of the effort required to market the book". I think there is a certain amount of truth in that! I did take a workshop in putting together a press kit, we read every book about self-publishing we could find and referred back to John Kremer, Dan Poynter, et all on a regular basis. One of the most useful things I did was to join the Northwest Association of Book Publishing, a wonderful group that meets once a month and has been a rich resource for everything to do with creating a book and taking it out into the world. ( I also joined PMA (Publishers Marketing Association) and went to their Publishing University prior to BEA last year, and PNBA (Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association) and went to many of the events that they hold. I have so enjoyed this adventure in the book world. I have always loved books and reading, but to be involved in the other side has been wonderful and I have been so impressed with everyone's willingness to share information and resources and support one another.

Q: What have been some of your challenges in marketing and how have you overcome them?

A: Mainly time, or lack thereof. I am aware of how much more we could be doing to promote the book but we are already so busy with our other work that it doesn't leave much for this. I think one of the most important things I learned was to follow up, follow up and follow up. In the beginning I would be a little hesitant about it, but then I realized that everyone is so busy and its not that they are not interested, they may just not have managed to get to it. Almost invariably when I did follow up something positive would come out of it. We try to do something for the book every day, however small. Having a limited budget also makes a difference, although the book has covered all its expenses, and we have almost enough from sales for the second printing which we will do this summer. We are also printing a German edition next month, as we have a wide following in Austria and hopefully Germany soon!

Q: Are you working on any other books?

A: Like most of us I have ideas for a number of books. I lead a women's workshop called Sacred Woman and I would like to develop that workbook into a book. I have one other that I have begun, on Living the Life Forces at home, but it has been on the back burner for a while. It is really focusing on how we can bring awareness, change and growth into our daily life, relationships and work, using the model of the life forces as described in Being Human but with a different emphasis. Solihin has a draft in process on Allergies, looking at the underlying causes, again using the same model of the life forces. His work with allergies has been very effective and we would like to make this new understanding available to a wider audience.

Q: Your web site has a lot of information about your workshops, consultations and sacred oils. What importance do you place on oils?

A: We have put together a set of oils that each have a particular quality and use in supporting or helping us shift state, particularly when we are in a feeling or emotional state, as oils are the highest essence of the vegetative kingdom and therefore relate directly to our feelings. When we use them, we ask the person to become quiet and surrender, asking to be shown the oil that they need at this particular time. They are a useful tool to have available when needed.

Q: Is there any advice that you would like to impart of our reader?

A: If you have a book in process or want to write a book, learn everything you can and stay true to the vision you have for the book, both content and physically. I remember having a very clear sense of the shape, feel and look of the book and how important that was. Everyone who sees the book has responded very positively. Stay true to your vision while also listening and being open to potential change, or things you may not know or see. Enjoy! It is a wonderful thing to share something that you have created and that can truly touch the lives of others.

"Being Human: Exploring the forces that shape us and awaken an inner life,” by Solihin and Alicia Thom and Alexandra ter Horst may be ordered @