Sometimes we are attracted to books for unusual reasons. I recently read Miss Benson’s Beetle, which is a delightfully eccentric account of a woman who leaves everything in search of a gold beetle in the wilds of New Caledonia. I have read this author’s work before and enjoy her style and character development. However, there was another draw to the book due to the title. My daughter, from a very early age has been fascinated with all animals including insects. So a story centered around a beetle was too good to lose in my mind. Through my daughter’s eyes I came to know a whole new world of creepy crawlies beneath our feet.
The book ends with another character and I am hoping the author continues with a sequel.
What unusual subject , interest or hobby has drawn you to a book? Do let me know in the comments.
I am continuing to read a fictional memoir, which centers around the life of a child living in a military family. As the author calls it, life as a military brat.
I had the opportunity to ‘swap’ author interviews with a New Zealand author and this was my interview with her. You will be able to read Elise Brooke ‘s interview on 6th May here on my blog.
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.
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.”
1. Does writing energize or exhaust you? It depends on the project and on my readiness to tackle the subject. To be open and vulnerable in my poetry and life writing requires risk and that frightens me sometimes. On the other hand, my best work helps me let go of my fears. 2. What is your writing Kryptonite? Family crises, mood swings and poor self-discipline.
3. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? No, but now that you mention it, it might be freeing. 4. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? Writers Foundation of Strathcona County are encouraging, accepting and creative. 5. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? All of my writing is focused on writing as a tool for personal growth. 6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Too many! Poetry (Pipers Dream); Family history and memoir (Home and Away); Novel (Mile Zero); Nonfiction (Writing with Inner Child; Diving the Sea of Emotion; Process of Perspective). 7. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? Research is one of my favourite activities because it reflects my love of learning. Non-fiction and fiction – reading on the subject. Google on specific aspects. Symbolism.
8. How many hours a day/week do you write? Not enough. I’m aiming for 2 hours every morning. I am very inconsistent and that is something I am trying to correct. 9. How do you select the names of your characters? Usually some symbolic aspect of their personality. For example, in my novel the main character Claire is becoming more enlightened. 10. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? Personal writing is self-expressive and spiritual. Poetry is symbolic. All my writing is aimed at finding life’s depth, meaning and purpose.
11. How long have you been writing? Poetry since 1974 and life writing for at least 30 years. 12. What inspires you? Nature. People. Mindfulness. Life events. New ideas. New insight. 13. What projects are you working on at the present? Blogs. I’ve neglected my website for the past few months so I want to update and add new ideas. Final edits to my book of fairy tales, which is coming soon! It is called “Life is Not a Fairy Tale” and will be released by Dream Write Publishing before Christmas. 14. Share a link to your author website. http://kathiesutherland.com/
Kathie Sutherland is the author of Things We Keep, a memoir in essay form, and a self-published author of several poetry books: balancing Act; Shadow Girls in the Spotlight;Wind in the Trees; and Seeking Asylum. She is presently completing final edits on a collection of Fairy Tales, and has several large writing projects in the works including a “self-help” book and two life writing workbooks.
Kathie is a well-traveled and observant student of life with 30 years of writing experience. In the past, she has facilitated journal writing workshops. Currently, she acts as a Story Listener for elderly Lodge residents as they share life stories and she facilitates a reminiscence group there.
Last week I also attended a grant presentation for my writers group, Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. This grant will assist us in publishing our Canada 150 book, which tells stories of Canada, whether it is memories, wildlife, landscape, seasons or any other ‘Canadian’ theme. County Clothesline are always so generous with their grants to local non-profits and organizations. http://wfscsherwoodpark.com/wfsc-canada-150-book-project
This week is less eventful (pardon the pun) so writing is my goal.
Other upcoming events:
30 June at 19:00 to 2 July at 17:00
The Bennett Center, 9703-94 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T6C 3W1
The children’s festival WordPlay takes place in conjunction with the grand opening of Sheree Fitch’s dreamy new venture, Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery, on July 3 in River John, NS, with Alan Syliboy, Marie-Louise Gay, and plenty of celebration.