A lot of us are in the midst of writing new (or completing old) projects for the challenging NaNoWriMo month. Some find it too challenging, others a great way to write to a deadline, while others utilize the month for beginning or finishing a project. No matter why you participate, the structure gives us all a commitment to write at least 1667 words a day.
Obviously, there are other commitments – work, home & family – but making time to write is a bonus. We have the ‘excuse’ that we must write in order to achieve the goal of 50,000 words. Once our family understands your need for this writing time, why not carry it on after November?
With a full month of specified ‘writing time’ becoming the ‘norm’ for those around you, why drop it after November. If the family can accommodate you for one month, why not twelve?
Writing is our passion. We need to write. So make the time to do it. Wake up earlier, go to bed later, write while waiting for children’s activities to finish or write a scene in a small notebook in your purse waiting at appointments. There are always opportunities to allow your Muse to create. You may have to be creative in how we work it out, but it is worth investing in your writing time. It is a writing commitment.
Halloween means that the internet is awash with spooky costumes, books and trick or treat candy. For many of us it is has been an enjoyable evening of dressing up and scaring each other on doorsteps or at themed parties. This year with the COVID19 pandemic, it will be a more muted affair. Social distancing, hand sanitizers, gloves to dispense treats and the wearing of masks. I’m sure there will be a plethora of decorations though, to make the streets look spooky.
There are other people who actually fear Halloween. There are several phobia’s associated with it. Phobia of Halloween is called Samhainophobia. Others are Wiccaphobia : fear of witches, Phasmophobia : fear of ghosts and Coimetrophobia : a fear of cemeteries.
Of course this is the time of year my little monster, Rumble is at his most popular. Rather than being scary for children, he is a cuddly cute monster and they can read about his adventure on his first All Hallow’s Eve.
Why did you decide to write an autobiography? For many years, existential questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” have haunted me and challenged me to go deeper into myself. My search for answers to these questions led me to journaling about life moments captured on the page; writing these short pieces called out for expression. Exploring poetry and essay, fairy tale and short life stories helped me find my “real writer” voice. Self-help books, spiritual retreats, talented mentors, friends and a personal interest in storytelling, psychology, image and myth fuelled my appetite for words. Gathering these stories together into an autobiographic novel took a long time. Now that my book is complete and ready for publication, I am more aware of the gifts and talents I can bring to the world through writing.
How long did it take you to write it? I began capturing moments of my life at a women’s writing seminar in 2004. When the instructor said I had an unusual story – growing up female in the macho world of the military – I was surprised; my upbringing seemed “normal” to me. Many of the stories in my book began back then.
What difficulties did you experience in writing it? Because of the transient nature of my childhood, I saw my early life as chopped into segments and filed in my memory by location. Recently when working with an editor, I began to see links and patterns in my life and finally, story connections were forged and fashioned into a smooth narrative. I had difficulty identifying the genre of these stories because they are based on authentic flashes of memory, and reimagined with fiction writing tools. My goal was to reveal my authentic emotions in short life stories and connect with other kindred souls through them.
How did you come up with the title? In my childhood, our family was in constant transition, and my tools for coping with goodbyes and hellos and consequently with loss and resilience. Alternate titles I considered included “Permission to Speak, Sir!”, “Nesting Places”, “Home and Away”, and “Finding Home Without a Map.” These titles spoke to my developing comfort with being at home in my heart and belonging in my own skin. At one point, the title was “Saying Goodbye is Easy – Letting Go is Hard”. The second half of this title was dropped because it became obvious to me that letting go of the past was getting easier.
As a child of a military family – what can your story teach others? The stories we tell ourselves and others influence what we believe about the world. The military has its own myths, my father’s story included World War 2 events, and my mother told stories connected me to generations of extended family and how the military influenced them and my own childhood. All the legends and myths to which I was exposed inspired my narrative of leaving the sanctuary of home and seeking independence. I believe that many women experience loneliness and isolation when they choose to leave their parents’ home and grow into their own lives. Reframing my life story allowed me to understand that it is a universal story.
The book is a collection of short stories – why did you chose this format? Short stories stand alone, and a collection of short stories are sometimes linked but not always; a novel-in-short-stories has a narrative arc even though the stories stand alone. It is not a memoir because that genre covers a set period of time. Autobiography is factual but many of my stories were imagined to make a point. My research revealed that short stories are more likely to be accepted by a publisher if the author’s stories appear in literary magazines or their writing is well known. This format seemed to work for me because it suited my experience in life.
Do you write in any other genre? I began writing poetry in the 1970s, and I was seeking inspiration for poems when I attended the women’s writing classes in 2004. With encouragement, I began writing prose and personal opinion essays for magazines. Poetry continues to intrigue me and I hope to add to my published books of verse but I also have a novel on the back burner (which is also told in segments!), two based-on-real-events historical fiction books and a non-fiction book. I do not write fantasy or romance and tend to lean towards literary fiction.
Do you have other books? Since 2004 I’ve created several handmade poetry chapbooks, and published two books of poetry. I’ve also self-published a book of essays and a volume of personal fairy tales. All of them are inner focused, and intended for kindred spirits who are interested in myth and metaphor.
Where can your readers find you on social media? On FB as Kathie Sutherland Author, on Twitter as Kathie.Sutherland aka wordpainterpoet, on LinkedIn, Instagram and on my website kathiesutherland.com where my books and writing companionship services are available. I offer Inner Child workshops, Reminiscence and Listening Services, a scuba diving-inspired workshop focused on going deeper into emotions and create “Portrait Poems” as personal gifts.
Do you have a blog? Since writing “Saying Goodbye is Easy”, I have gain clarity about the purpose of my writing. I want to give back through coaching and writing companionship. I have renewed my blogging practice.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this autobiography? The whole of my writing life has been about acknowledging and accepting myself. This autobiography has been narrative therapy for me. Each piece I worked on required me to come to terms with the theme of the story I was writing. One of my greatest strengths is my love of learning. That love brings me back to the greater life questions and my search for answers. I love learning through research. I love learning about words. I love inner work. I love writing to grow.
Firstly, it seems obvious but set a goal for your writing session. Do you know what your objective is? Are you brainstorming, creating a character description, outlining a plot, starting a new project or completing one?
Secondly, prepare for what you will be writing, do your homework for locations, period etc. Brainstorm ideas before you start, make notes. Create a inspiration list and find images for your story’s setting and characters. Make up a board, either physical or digital that you can have in front of you as you write.
TIP: Don’t be too ridge, let the story flow – it doesn’t always go to plan! But that’s the joy of writing.
Thirdly, gauge how committed you are to this piece of writing? Are you excited to start or is it feeling like a chore? If the latter, try something new or another project.
TIP:Use word or picture prompts to ignite your Muse to get you started and in a writing mood.
Also make sure you are in a good writing spot. Have you minimized distractions? Do you need quiet or music, a cafe or library setting. Or is your home space best for you or will there be too many interruptions?
Decide on how long you will write for. Don’t make the session too long or it will dampen your enthusiasm. Ensure you have breaks for refreshments, to stretch or even go for a walk.
Once you have these elements in place check your clock and set the timer. Don’t look at it constantly – just write. Lose yourself in the narrative. Enjoy the process. Don’t edit as you write – let the process flow. Let your imagination expand.
TIP: Don’t edit or revise – just write.
I like to sit in my living room with my laptop on a little table – in the warmer months, I can look out at the lawn and watch the birds & bunnies and in the cold months, I enjoy the fireplace. When we go on road trips, I usually sit at the desk or on the bed with my little table.
Please tell us the story behind your new book, Home.
My new book is the bookend of the Friends and Family series about Fluffy the cat and Levi the mouse. This book in the series was more challenging to write than the others because the series was written for my mom, and she passed away two years ago. My mom was my hero, and my best friend. She always provided me with a sense of security and home. As a family, we shared a love of reading, and my mom made sure, whether I was staying in the hospital or at home, that the routine of reading to me before bed was a constant.
As an adult, my mom’s macular degeneration made reading a challenge so I would read out loud to her. Then as her dementia progressed, she found a renewed passion for children’s literature. This series was based on a childhood pet of my mom’s and has a diverse character, which I wish I had to identify with when I was a child. Despite dementia stealing my mom’s words, the smile on her face and her reaching out to grab and hold Don’t Eat Family communicated her love and appreciation.
Mom would’ve wanted me to finish the series despite the fact that during the writing process and now the launch of Home, she would not be here in person. My illustrator, Katherine Restouiex, who also knew my mom, made the human character a cartoon version of her. While writing this last book in the series, memories mom and I shared and the lessons that she taught me were reminders that she will always be with me.
As the third in the series, does it complete the series?
Yes, Home completes the Friends and Family series.
How did you come up with the idea for the series?
My inspiration for this series came from a childhood cat Mom had and the fact that cats and mice don’t usually get along. This series was an exploration into each character’s ability to make their own decisions based on who they want to be and not who they are told to be by society. I wanted my characters to travel through the world with kindness, respect, and a belief in the goodness of people.
Can you tell us about the characters and how you created them?
The character of Fluffy is based on a grey Persian cat that my mom had as a child. The character Levi is based on some of the strong and independent individuals I have met who experience disability. Maybe even a little part of myself is in the character of Levi.
In Don’t Eat Family what is the message you wanted to convey?
The main messages that I was trying to convey in the book Don’t Eat Family were that, just like Fluffy and her decision to be friends with Levi versus be a mouser as some cats are, you could be who you are and not give in to peer pressure. Also, individuals experiencing a disability may experience challenges but have other abilities and should not be judged by the way they get around in the world.
In Help from Friends do the characters follow on from the first book?
Yes, the characters in Friends and Family continue along the journey to find their way home, a journey that started in the first book.
Did you start out planning a series, or did the story and characters dictate more stories?
No, I didn’t start outlining a series, but the characters and the story dictated more books because their adventures required more pages than I wanted to squeeze into one book.
Tell us about your writing life – what other books/plays have you written?