My friend and I went on a super day road trip yesterday (avoiding any human contact of course!) It was a day of nature, history and some surprises. Our main destination was Hard Luck Canyon, which has a time line to show the human events that occurred as the canyon gradually continued to form. I loved this sign noting the beginning of writing. Something unique to humans and without which we would not have stories.
I will share a little writing history with you, if I may. It is generally agreed that the earliest form of writing appeared almost 5,500 years ago in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). Early pictorial signs began to be substituted by a complex system of characters representing the sounds of Sumerian (the language of Sumer in Southern Mesopotamia). It is not clear which civilization invented writing first, but Egyptian writing has some Sumerian influence. The earliest proof of language existed in the Kish Tablet found in Iraq. The first written story was the The Epic of Gilgamesh. It is a mythologized account of an historical figure, Gilgamesh, a ruler of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk, believed to have ruled sometime between 2700-2500 BC.
This has given us a written, rather than verbal history, along with tales of Gods and Goddess’, fables, fairy tales, history and knowledge of the world around us. Just for fun I am also sharing the longest words, currently in circulation.
The current champ!
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis – refers to a lung disease contracted from the inhalation of very fine silica particles, specifically from a volcano; medically, it is the same as silicosis
Welsh place name.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch), a Welsh word (place name) that translates roughly as “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave”.
This one is fun and ironic!
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – the fear of long words.
And one we all know and practiced until we could say it as children.
The longest word in Shakespeare’s works is Honorificabilitudinitatibus
Some of the delightful surprises on our trip were – Minions, a Tinman, a castle and a lighthouse.
What inspired your latest novel? A few years ago, I worked with a personal growth mentor on a workbook for telling life story as a myth. I gathered the stories I wrote and from them created The Storyteller: Tales of Enchantment which was recently published by Dream Write Publishing. My weary Gypsy traveller is an elder who shares tales of magic and wonder while passing on wisdom in these short, fanciful pieces. I am currently at work on an autobiographical novel.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Maturity and aging are ripe with gifts. Elder tales are to be respected as much as traditional fairy tales, which focus on the courage to venture out into the world and seek their fortunes. Instead, my Gypsy Storyteller elder tales touch on the archetypes common to all of us as we age. I hope readers will grasp the deeper message of the stories, seeing in them the courage to confront the challenges of growing old. Our culture is youth-oriented and so I want the reader to appreciate that elders are heroes too.
How much of the book is realistic? These tales are symbolic of the lessons I’ve learned in life. In that respect, they are realistic. The themes are my own observations of loss, self-confrontation, masks, transcendence and seeing wonder in the world, all timeless insights learned by growing old.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Each story is a fanciful description of values and strengths I’ve come to accept in myself, and a way to reflect using active imagination and reflection.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? I have an author page and a story page on Facebook, and a website with a blog at www.kathiesutherland.com. My blogs are few and far between lately as other writing projects have taken up space in my mind.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? Most of my writing is “life writing” in one form or another. My work is Self-centered, soulful and focused on wholeness although some think it is self-centered and ego driven.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? I believe each of us has a story in which we are the protagonist. My Gypsy Storyteller has created these tales to affirm my favorite voices. The Blind Gardener, The Good Wife, Grandmother Spider are all wise characters from my inner world.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I’ve tried many writing genres, all of them focused on life story. Even as a child, my favourite books were fables, songs, fairy tales and classic stories, such as Heidi and Little Women. As an adult, I’ve embraced journaling for personal growth, become a certified journaling facilitator, written poetry and published it in chapbooks and bound books, gathered personal essays into a memoir collection, submitted articles to magazines, had my short stories published in anthologies; all of these works based on life events and family history. I’m currently working on an autobiographic narrative and two novels. I have recently been assisting elders and others at the end of life to identify the values of a lifetime and leave these insightful stories as a “Letter of the Heart” legacy for family and friends.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? Definitely seat of the pants but the stories are usually based on true events. Having a structure into which the story falls helps me plan.
What is your best marketing tip? This is not a question I feel comfortable with because I quickly lose interest after completing books and hurry off into new projects without marketing the published ones. Its the writing I love. I could use the help of a marketing assistant!
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? I like social media as a way to reach out to others but I have to limit my time with it. My favourite self-expression methods are stories and poems in book form. I love using the computer to write and edit.
What do you enjoy most about writing? Writing is “the way to me.” Every time I write, I learn something about my values, beliefs and strengths. This lifelong learning is very important to me.
What age did you start writing stories/poems? My mother brought our faraway relatives to life with family stories. As a child, I took on the role of correspondent and wrote letters to friends and family. I surprised myself when I wrote a good short story in 10th grade and later, found poetry could express my feelings as an adult in my early 30s. I became serious about life story writing in 2000 after attending a seminar focused on the lives of girls and women. Once I realized I had a story to tell, I embraced life writing.
What genre are you currently reading? Memoir and autobiography mostly. I love a good novel and love to encourage other writers in their efforts to create with words and enjoy acting as first reader for them.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both. I love to learn more about my current interests, and this strength serves me well in my research. For example, I am reading books about building on my innate strengths, accepting my dark side, aging with wisdom and dying with dignity.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? Other writers and writing groups. My mother is my biggest fan and has read all my books. I have worked with personal coaches and other “balcony” people, including my psychologist.
Where is your favorite writing space? In my office/sanctuary. One of my favourite activities is taking a writers’ retreat whether with others or alone. Solitary time is essential to my writing.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? Two, one in Sherwood Park and one in Fort Saskatchewan. I like to feel I belong, and writers groups are definitely the place I find community.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? I am in awe of all writing efforts, because as I said earlier, we all have a story of some sort within us and I’m interested in how we express them.
Do you see writing as a career? I believe my life purpose is to grow into myself. Writing is a way to give my life meaning. Success in a career is simply loving what I do.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? When I write, my tea gets cold, and the ice in my drink melts. I’m not a snacker at any time!
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? I am working on giving myself credit for completing projects and enjoying the fruits of my labour because I don’t do that often enough. I’m usually off on the next bit of writing. My greatest reward is hearing someone say, “I can relate to this character and your writing.”
Other books by Kathie:
Kathie Sutherland has recently published a collection of Elder Tales “The Storyteller: True Tales of Enchantment.” She is also the author of Things We Keep: A Memoir, and poetry books balancing Act; Shadow Girls in the Spotlight;Wind in the Trees; and Seeking Asylum. She has several large writing projects in the works including three novels.
Kathie is a well-travelled and observant student of life with 30 years of writing experience. In the past, she has facilitated journal writing workshops and is active in her local writing group. Currently, she encourages others as a story listener and writing companion to elders and those at the end of life as they articulate their values stories to share as a legacy in “Letters of the Heart.”
In short, Flash Fiction is a fictional piece of prose in extreme brevity but still offering character and plot development. They can be defined by word count, which includes the six-word story, the 280-character story; commonly known as twitterature’, the dribble or minisaga, 50 words, the drabble or microfiction, 100-words, sudden fiction (750 words), flash fiction (1000 words), nanotale and micro-story. This genre possesses a unique literary quality, in its ability to hint at or imply a larger story. In the 1920s flash fiction was referred to as the “short short story”.
Flash fiction roots go back into prehistory, recorded at origin of writing, which included fables and parables, the best know is of course, Aesop’s Fables in the west, and Panchatantra and Jataka tales in India. In Japan, flash fiction was popularized in the post-war period particularly by Michio Tsuzuk. In the United State early forms were found int he 19th century by such notable figures as Ambrose Bierce, Walt Whitman and Kate Chopin.
There are many internet sites and magazines that accept flash or micro fiction. I have submitted micro stories before and found them to be great fun!
Folk literature is the culmination of folktales passed down through generations and then written down. It includes myths, legends, epics, fables, ballads and folktales. The authors of the traditional literatureare usually unknown or unidentifiable.
These tales are largely about animals and people, of cultural myths, jokes, songs, tales, and even quotes and often take on the characteristics of the time and place in which they are set. In short they describe a culture, which has been preserved by verbal telling. Folklore is also known as “folk literature,” or “oral traditions.”
The main purpose of folklore was to convey in an easy way a moral lesson, present useful information and everyday life lessons for common people, who were illiterate. The tales tended to sugarcoat hard life lessons giving the audience pointers about how they should behave. It is one of the best mediums to pass on living culture or traditions to future generations.
Currently, many forms of folk literature have been transformed into books and manuscripts, which we see in the forms of novels, histories, dramas, stories, lyrical poems, and sermons. Folk literature is not merely a carrier of cultural values, it is also an expression of self-reflection. It serves as a platform to hold high moral ground without any relevance to present day reality. Instead, writers use it as a commentary or satire on current political and social reality. In the modern academic world, folklore’s and folktales are studied to understand ancient literature and civilizations.
For example, Rudyard Kipling was keenly interested in folklore, he wrote many English works based on folklore such as, Rewards and Fairies and Puck of Pook’s Hill. His experiences in the Indian environment led him to create several works about Indian themes and tradition. His most popular work, The Jungle Book, consists of plenty of stories about traditional folktales.
When I write it is effortless and energizes me so much, I can write for hours at a time. I have always thought out my plot for months before I write, so when I do, it just rushes to my fingers and onto the paper. I do not edit when I write, I get the story written as fast as I can, and then I go back once it is complete.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I am not sure what you mean, but Kryptonite-weakened Superman. The only thing that could slow me down was trying to write something without hours of thought. I would have to think about something for hours, days, weeks or a month or so before I begin writing. Then once I get going, I am a force to be reckoned with, and little will stop me.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I am writing all of my novels under my maiden name. VJ Gage for the Chicago Heat series and Vaunda Lynn Gage for the kid’s books. The adult books are explicit, and I did not want to confuse the reader by using the same name.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have not stepped out into the world to know many other authors, but this year will be different. I need the support of others and to find out what has or has not worked for them. I am just starting on marketing etc. and now is a great time to meet other authors.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Yes, I have a seven book series called Chicago Heat. I have published two with a third out this March. The children’s book is seven novella’s about seven cousins who have adventures with mythical creatures in the Okanagan Valley. I am working on a second series.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Linda at Dream Write Publishing, she has been great, and she has helped to make my children’s book educational as well as a fun read. Her art for the book has been exactly as I imagined and she was priced right, and we met our deadline.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
As a child, I never slept much, so I began to read early. By the time I was ten or twelve, I could write a book report “likity split,” and, I could write several in a very short time. So I began to sell extra book reports for those who did not read.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Anything that was written by Janet Coldwell.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My first thought is an Eagle, it sores high and has a great view of its landscape. But in thinking further, I am more like a busy beaver. When I get an Idea, I will go to work on it until I have completed my task, or I have figured out it is not worth my time. I can be deadly when I get an idea into my head.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have four in my “Chicago Heat” series. One romance, and two for my children’s series.
What does literary success look like to you?
It would be that many thousands of people have read and enjoyed my books. I would want them to say they could not put my books down and that my plots are unique and clever, and that I have a great imagination. Then I would like to make lots of money.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
What would we do without the internet? When I am writing, I have my tablet close by, and I can look up any information I may need. When I need some information, it is close at hand.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
I may not be able to write for days or weeks at a time. I still have a full-time job, and I took care of my mother and dad full time for the past ten years. Both have passed and now my time is open to many more hours to write.
How do you select the names of your characters?
My main characters in my “Chicago Heat” series are based on the personalities of my own family. Dennis Kortovich is a profile of my husband. Veronica, his wacky wife, is a profile of me. Many other characters are based on the personalities of my family or friends. The children’s novels are based on real children and adults.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I found out I am great at killing and that I have a unique ability to be in the mind of the killer. I like exploring both sides of the crime. I don’t like a soft “Who Done It” I think fast and hit hard.
17. How long have you been writing?
I started in earnest when I was fifty.
18. What inspires you?
Writers, like Dan Brown.
19. How do you find or make time to write?
I may not write every day or sometimes not for weeks. When I do sit down to write, I can go at it for several hours, and I have done up to twelve thousand words in one season.
20. What projects are you working on at present?
I just finished the final edit of The Bible Killings, and this novel should be out by March. I am trying to figure out how to market my books at this point, and I am putting most of my time and effort into this for the next while.
21. What do your plans for future projects include?
To edit and publish at least one more book next year. They are all written, but I need to edit the other four. I will also putter away at the children’s novel. I am writing a second on for Mysteries at the Lake.
Visiting family at the lake during the summer is a wonderful tradition for Canadian cousins: Wyatt, Kadence, Nyomi, Jack, Sophie, Cash, and Cruz. Join them as they share their vacation with you. Discover the secret of Lake Okanagan. Hike the trails and spend time in the amazing forests and cliffs as the seven cousins make friends and solve mysteries with mythical and magical neighbors.
Ride the waters and take in the sun—whatever story they share around the evening’s campfire with hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows, it’s sure to be a memorable one!
V.J. Gage has been writing for over three decades. “Celebrity Lunch,” her weekly column in the Sherwood Park News, featured mini biographies about members of her community. Her column “As I See It” commented on contemporary social issues. A successful businesswoman, with many diverse interests, Vaun is also a recording artist, an emcee, and a stand-up comic, all of which serves to fuel the fast-paced, action-packed, serpentine plots of the “Chicago Heat” series. Vaun has lived in Sherwood Park since 1956. My father was the first fire chief for the county and my mother was one of the first women real estate agents. I have owned a business in Sherwood Park for over forty years. I now have a home based salon and I work there with my daughter. At one point I owned five salons, a clothing store, restaurant, I recorded with R. Harlen Smith and did Stand-up-Comedy and was an emcee for hundreds of events. I was also the first in Alberta to have my own Karaoke show. I went home-based almost twenty years ago.
Vaun is currently working on a series of seven novellas, featuring seven cousins, who have adventures with some of the most fantastic, creatures to ever catch the imaginations of children and adults alike.
Thank you Vaun for an enlightening glimpse of your writing life and it’s inspiration.