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SharonSharon van Ivan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her two cats, The Duke and Earl.  She was born in Brooklyn New York and couldn’t wait to move back to New York when she grew up.  Her parents divorced when she was a baby and she lived with her mother in Akron, Ohio, until she returned to New York in her early 20s.  There she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was a working actress for many years.  But she was always writing.  Her debut as a playwright was when she was 10 years old and living in Sacramento, California.  She wrote about the hardships of a young girl in Mexico.  The play was so good, it was presented to the whole school.  Sharon was mortified and did not write again until high school.  Then when she had a writing assignment, she would dream about it the night before, and write it just before class.  She was an A student in English.  Not the most popular person in school, however.

Growing up with an alcoholic and, therefore, mentally ill mother and a mostly-absent father (plus a slew of stepfathers) was a challenge that Sharon met head-on – as she had no choice. Later in life when she did have a choice, the patterns had already been set and she followed a similarly disastrous road until she found show business, a great psychiatrist and the love of her life, the renowned realist painter, Charles Pfahl.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Juggle and Hide. What was your inspiration for it?

A: I lived through the proverbial bad childhood, and then as a young adult, I started treating myself badly. Deeply ingrained patterns had been formed and I had to work my way out of them. I had a lot of help along the way, so Juggle and Hide ends up being a story of my search for love and – ultimately – my survival.

Juggle and Hide-BEAQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Since it’s a memoir, I’m the protagonist. I’m lucky to be alive. As a matter of fact, my mother’s sponsor in AA on the day he met me, about 40 years ago, said that very thing to me.  He said it every time he saw me or talked to me on the phone up until the day he died — about a year and a half ago. One thing that sticks in my brain is that I never realized my mother was mentally ill until I was an adult being treated by a psychiatrist myself. I just thought she’d had a rough life and was doing the best she could. Actually, she was doing the best she could do, but it was a fight for her every day.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: As this is my first memoir, once I started writing, it took on a life of its own.  It took about six months to complete, but there weren’t many bumps along the way.  The bumps had been in my own life and that’s what I was writing about.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: With my own life story, it somehow just flowed naturally.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I do, but I experience anxiety before sitting down to send an e-mail or text to a friend. Writing is that kind of struggle for me, but once I start, it gets easier, but I never get any less anxious.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I write in my journal when I first wake up in the morning – about 5:00 – and most of the time that’s all I write during that day.  Then I will have a spurt of energy and write for a few days or weeks at a time.  I guess you could say I’m a binge writer. My husband, the artist Charles Pfahl – who did the cover for my book – died recently – but he was always supportive of my work.  My cats, the Duke and Earl are very supportive, too, but you’d have to ask them why.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Being able to get through each day without too much angst or too much sorrow.  Life is hard and just getting through the day makes me feel successful.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Threaten to leave.  Leave.  Be supportive of them and their work and see if that helps. If it doesn’t help, then leave.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Not totally, but I’m no George Orwell either. I think it is invigorating to write. I think life is the struggle.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Just keep writing. Something good will come of it.  I hope Juggle and Hide makes its way onto your bookshelves or into your kindle, and if it does, I hope you find the dark humor in it.  And I also hope you always have a sense of humor about your work – or mine – or anyone else’s. Never lose your sense of humor.

 

 

 

 

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Faye_B_and_W_copyFaye Rapoport DesPres is the author of the new memoir-in-essays, Message from a Blue Jay. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College. Her essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews have appeared in Ascent, International Gymnast Magazine, Platte Valley Review, Superstition Review, In the Arts, Fourth Genre, TheWhistling Fire, the Writer’s Chronicle, and other journals and magazines. Faye was born in New York City and has lived in England, Israel, and Colorado. She currently lives in the Boston area with her husband, Jean-Paul Des Pres, and their cats. Visit her website at www.fayerapoportdespres.com. 

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About the book

From an astonishing blue jay to a lone humpback whale, from the back roads of her hometown to the streets of Jerusalem and the Tower of London, debut author Faye Rapoport DesPres examines a modern life marked by a passion for the natural world, unexpected love, and shocking loss, and her search for a place she can finally call home in this beautifully crafted memoir-in-essays.

Three weeks before DesPres’s fortieth birthday, nothing about her life fit the usual mold. She is single, living in a rented house in Boulder, Colorado, fitting dance classes and nature hikes between workdays at a software start-up that soon won’t exist. While contemplating a sky still hazy from summer wildfires, she decides to take stock of her nomadic life and find the real reasons she never “settled down.” The choices she makes from that moment on lead her to retrace her steps-in the States and abroad-as she attempts to understand her life. But instead of going back, she finds herself moving forward to new love, horrible loss, and finally, in a way that she never expected, to a place she can almost call home.

Readers who love the memoirs and personal essays of rising contemporary writers such as Cheryl Strayed, Joy Castro, and Kim Dana Kupperman will appreciate Faye’s observational eye, her passion for the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it, and her search for the surprising truths behind the events of our daily lives.

Purchase on Amazon and B&N

Interview

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Message from a Blue Jay. What was your inspiration for it? 

A: I was inspired by my daily life, my travels, the natural world, and some of the incidents and relationships that have been a big part of my life.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: The narrator of a memoir-in-essays represents the author to a strong extent. You are telling your own story – in this case the story of a woman who re-evaluates her life as she approaches the age of 40 and begins to search for an explanation about how her life turned out the way it did. That journey takes her to many places and to interactions with a variety of important people, and helps her take stock of both her life and life in general. This is not just a book about one woman’s life, or about women’s lives. It’s a book, I hope, about life.

Blue-Jay-Cover-10.2-for-webuseQ: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? 

A: It took me about four years to write Message from a Blue Jay and there were many bumps along the way. For a long time I worked hard to learn how to fashion the essays and improve my craft, and then I worked hard to put individual pieces together in a cohesive manuscript. Along the way I faced times when I couldn’t get an essay right, when a literary journal rejected a piece I really believed in, and when a publisher didn’t feel there was enough of a market for personal essay collections or memoirs derived from essays. I faced each obstacle, learned from it, and moved forward. 

Q: Tell us, how do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a memoir? 

A: This isn’t easy. In the case of a memoir derived from personal essays, I had to work at developing a narrative and a narrative arc and resolution. Memoirs that read more as direct narratives probably use all of the plot, pacing, and narrative tools that are used in fiction.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? 

A: Sometimes, but not usually. I only feel anxiety if life’s pressures are making it hard for me to carve out the time to write. I just have to work at finding the right balance.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: I usually write early in the mornings so that I can know I got my writing time in and it doesn’t interfere with other responsibilities or time with my husband. Sometimes, of course, when I’m facing deadlines, I have to write at whatever time of day works.

Q: How do you define success? 

A: Being happy with yourself and your accomplishments, whatever they might be. Touching other people’s (and animals’) lives in a positive way.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author? 

A: I’m not sure I have advice for that situation. My husband, whose father was a writer, has always been very supportive. The only advice I can think of is not to give up on your dreams because another person isn’t supportive.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree? 

A: To an extent, yes. Writing is tough, and one shouldn’t undertake the writing life lightly. On the other hand, if you really hate it, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to force yourself to do it.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 

A: I hope they will enjoy Message from a Blue Jay, relate to some of it and find other things thought provoking. I hope reading the book will be an enjoyable, absorbing experience so they’ll be happy they read it and recommend the book to friends!

 

 

 

 

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HamsterIsland_medTitle: Hamster Island

Genre: Memoir

Author: Joan Heartwell

Website: www.joanheartwell.com  or www.hamster-island.com

Amazon / B&N / OmniLit

Book description:

Hamster Island is Heartwell’s story of growing up ordinary in family that embodied dysfunction. Her childlike shame for her special needs siblings is balanced by a fierce love that, occasionally, enabled her to shed her diffidence and perform extraordinary feats of pluck and valor. Funny and heartbreaking simultaneously, Hamster Island is a coming-of-age in the tradition of such darkly comic memoirs as Mary Karr’s The Liars Club and Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors; it delights while exploring issues of identity, transformation, and responsibility.

My thoughts…

I was impressed by this talented author and her attention to detail as she takes us back to the sixties, as a teenager living amidst a truly dysfunctional family composed of an indifferent father, a religious fanatic mother, a kleptomaniac grandmother, and two special-needs siblings.

With her deft pen, the author offers the reader a glimpse into the heart and soul of a sensitive girl and her conflicting, contradictory emotions which range from intense rage to chilling sadness to heart-breaking love, and then some. At times painful, at times humorous, Joan paints a vivid picture of her world and her struggles as she tries to survive among unfit adults who instead of being there for her, supporting and guiding her, as they should, turn her universe into one where she herself must become the grown-up and caretaker.

Joan’s prose is smooth and fluid, often witty and at times truly beautiful. Her tone is dark, which fits the story and subject well. So many themes are explored in this memoir…religious fanaticism, duty, freedom, compassion, sacrifice. Hamster Island is a memoir that makes the reader ponder about life, the people we don’t like but whom we love, and the sacrifices that we must make for our family. Highly recommended for fans of memoirs!

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HamsterIsland_med

Joan Heartwell is a an award-winning author (with several novels published under another name) and a former indie publisher now working as a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and book consultant.

About the Book

 

Heartwell chronicles her heroic (and often hilarious) determination to live an unremarkable life as a member of a poverty-stricken, super-dysfunctional family that includes a mostly absent father, a religious fanatic mother, a kleptomaniac grandmother, and two special needs siblings, all residing more or less in the middle of a parking lot. The story moves from Heartwell’s lively coming of age in the sixties to her role as caretaker for both siblings after her parents’ deaths, at which time she must resort to extraordinary measures to locate the midpoint between their needs and her own.

Brilliant and magical, Hamster Island takes its rightful place among such darkly comic and original memoirs as Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors and Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Hamster Island. What was your inspiration for it? 

A: My life. Hamster Island is a memoir about growing up with a mostly absent father, a religious fanatic mother, a kleptomaniac grandmother, and two special needs siblings, all more or less in the middle of a parking lot. 

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: Well, since it’s a memoir I am the protagonist. Hamster Island is the story of a very ordinary girl, me, who just happened to have an extraordinary family. As a child who was painfully shy to begin with, I lived in dread of doing anything that might be construed as abnormal, because I was afraid the onlooker would assume something was wrong with me too. And you know what happens when you try very hard never to make a mistake; you begin to make them all the time. So there’s humor in my story. And due to the challenges my siblings were subjected to, there’s also heartbreak. I am hoping Hamster Island will appeal to people who loved Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, or Mary Karr’s The Liars Club

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? 

A: Because I write for a living, working for various clients, I didn’t have the option of writing daily. So it took quite a while, maybe close to three years. I have two friends who are great writers, one of them a multi-published, award-winning author and the other a really excellent novelist who just hasn’t gotten around to sending any of her work out yet. The three of us were in a writing group together during the time I was working on Hamster Island, so I got to read chapters aloud as I completed them, and that was very helpful. If you have good people who are willing to be honest about their reactions, being in a writing group can be a great experience. 

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a story? 

A: It’s easier to generate excitement with fiction. If I get stuck, I say to myself, What is the last thing in the world I would expect to happen now? And then I try writing it and see if it works. With the memoir it was different. Luckily our household was zany enough that there was always something unexpected going on. We were a colorful family for certain. And there is a strong dramatic arc because the narrator (it’s easier to talk about myself in the memoir in third person) must do the right thing by her siblings while simultaneously breaking the chains that restrain her and finding her own place in the world. 

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? 

A: No, I can’t say that I do. Again, since I write for a living, my situation may be a little different. Even when I have to write an article for a client, I feel a little tug of urgency about what angle I will take, how I will begin, and so on. But once I get going, it is usually okay. 

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: I basically steal my writing time. As a freelance writer, I almost always have client work. But I will often work long hours four days a week so that I can steal Friday for myself. 

Q: How do you define success?

A: My writing has enabled me to pay the bills, to put two kids through college, and to live a modest lifestyle that includes some travel. I wish that more of the money I’ve made had come from my books, but actually the bulk of it has come from client work. But that’s okay. Either way, I’ve made a living doing what I like. If we are talking about career accomplishments, then I’ve guess I’ve done pretty well.   

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author? 

A: That question probably should be more specific. Dump anyone who doesn’t support your dreams, of course. But I am reading between the lines that we are talking about money here too, as in, Should one spouse support the other so the one who is writing can realize his/her dreams. That only spurs more questions. Does the non writer make enough money to support both partners? Is the non writer giving up a dream of his/her own to be the breadwinner? 

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree? 

A: A lot of the early 20th century writers were trying to say something important about society, about oppression and poor working conditions, etc., so yes, in that sense, writers had to tell two stories, one that would be entertaining and one that would be political and move people to action. That can be exhausting. In some sense that is what I tried to do in Hamster Island. I wanted my story to be a fun, funny story about a bunch of colorful people whose lives collide like balls in a pinball machine. But there are serious issues too. I have some very strong feelings about government programs for the disabled, for instance. I hope I’ve been successful in raising such issues and that the issues raised never get in the way of the story. Hard to do. Hats off to Orwell. 

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: If you read Hamster Island and like it, or if you find that it is helpful to you in your understanding of your own family struggles, please go to my website www.joanheartwell.com and let me know.

 

 

 

 

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ImageBreak the Chains is an inspirational, compelling memoir about forgiveness.

Dr. Jay D Roberts takes the reader on an interesting and enlightening journey, from the time he was a little boy raised by a military father who abused him, to the time he studied medicine in the Philippines in the midst of communist insurrection, to the time he fell victim to a deadly disease and eventually was miraculously healed in Lourdes, France. Above all, the author takes the reader on an internal spiritual journey of the heart and soul, from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom.

I enjoyed reading this memoir. In a simple, straight-forward manner devoid of superfluous words or descriptions, Dr. Roberts states the facts and allows the reader to make his own conclusions about the meaning of life, faith, persistence, love and, of course, forgiveness, which is the central theme of this book. The story moves back and forth in time, showing glimpses of the author at different pivotal points of his life. I found the flashes to his childhood quite disturbing, especially the way Dr. Roberts’ mother rationalized  her husband’s abuse of their son. I also found inspirational the way the author persevered to become a doctor and help patients in spite of all the barriers he had to overcome. In addition, the segments about the political upheavals in the Philippines were like a little history lesson. I wasn’t aware of this particular time in history and was glad to learn about it.

This book is the poignant story of one man’s struggles to break the chains and find peace. Fans of inspirational and Christian memoirs should pick this one up.

Break the Chains book is available on AMAZON B&N / TATE PUBLISHING.

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ImageThis story begins in Arkansas with the nine-year-old Michael, and his younger brother, abandoned by their father, living with their strict grandmother who regularly beats them. The family attend church regularly, he discovers at a young age, he has a gift for playing the organ and it is the beginning of a lifelong love of music.
 
In 1969,after working hard in the cotton fields, at eighteen he finally ‘escapes’ to live with relatives in Kansas City. Moving to the big city has a profound effect on the young man from the Deep South, especially at such a time of change, the age of drugs, sex and rock and roll had definitely arrived.
 
The story, which follows, is of one man’s journey, his marriage, fatherhood, hopes, dreams and foibles’. It is frank and honest, brutally so sometimes. He openly talks about his relationship with his father, the driving forces in his life and the leaps of faith, which have made him into the man he is today. Throughout, this book runs a vein of the author’s deep religious belief and his faith in God, the importance of his church and love of music, which has sustained him through times of deep despair.
 
I have always loved reading memoirs, catching a glimpse into peoples’ lives and discovering the experiences, which have made them the person they are today. This is a very honestly written book, interesting and thought provoking, the journey of a young boy from the Deep South who ends up a father and grandfather living in New York, and all the bits in-between. 
 
Reviewed by Susan Keefe 

Available from: 

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Roberts_Jay-2491-EditJay D Roberts MD is a board-certified physiatrist, specializing in the treatment of physical disabilities with a focus of adding quality to life. He is currently in private practice in California. He is a member and lecturer at national and international conferences related to his specialty, a contributing author to Current Trends in Physiatry, and author of various scientific papers. In addition to his career, Dr. Roberts volunteers as part of a Christian ministry in maximum security prisons. He and his wife, parents of two grown sons, live in Indian Wells, California. Break the Chains is Dr. Roberts’ first book. Following in the long tradition of doctors who combine their passion for saving lives with their passion for writing, Dr. Roberts is currently at work on a novel, concerning children forced to work in mines. Visit http://jdrobertsmd.com/

BUY BREAK THE CHAINS ON AMAZON / B&N / TATE PUBLISHING 

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself, the person, as well as the doctor who treats patients?

I always wanted the love of my father, even just for him to like me or be proud of me. That is what drove me to be the best in what ever I did. But it did not work. He never told me once he loved me or that he was proud of me. It is “interesting” that I gravitated to treating people for their pain and wounds, while I could not heal my own.

I understand you went to medical school in a third world country against a dangerous political backdrop, and on your return, you had to deal with the demons you’d left behind. Could you expand?

I went to medical school in the Philippines, mainly to get away from my father. Living under martial law was challenging and threatening. It taught me how lucky are those who live in a free and democratic society. But the iron fist rule by Marcos was nothing compared to my tyrant reign of my father over me. While in medical school, my father was dead to me. Returning to the States and facing him again, reignited the terror that had been burnt into my being since my childhood.

There are many events which led to the writing of your poignant, powerful memoir, Break the Chains. Can you share with us some of these events?

So many- tortured by my alcoholic father; turbulent lifelong dialogue with God; cheated death from accidents; escaped attempts on my life by rebel insurgents in the Philippines; healed from a fatal disease; hating myself, God, and my father, until I learned the power of forgiveness in prison.

When did you start writing the book and how long did it take you?

I started about ten years ago. But it was awful. It read like an emotionless scientific paper, so I stopped for a few years. Then I bought books on the craft of writing, attended writing workshops, and started writing again. After a year I stopped again. This time because it was too painful to write of my past shame. I could not write for two years. Three years ago, I surrendered to my burning desire to write and dove head first into my memoir.

9781627467582medWere there times when you wanted to stop? If yes, what kept you going?

Yes. Every time I took down a stone from the wall around my heart, and exposed deep wounds that had been buried for years, I wanted to stop. But the burning desire, that flame that burned deep inside of me would not be extinguished. And Buddy, who you’ll meet in my story, told me I must continue. To trust him. And I did.

Was the completion of this work cathartic?

Immensely.  I never had any form of therapy as a child. First, during my time you never revealed to anyone what went on inside your home. Second, only crazy people or those rich movie stars went to therapy. The process was painful, as I broke down the walls around my heart that had protected me for years and years. In fact, I stopped writing it for two years because of the pain.

What themes do you explore in your memoir?

  • Mysterious power of forgiveness
  • Affirmation of faith in God and the human spirit
  • Physical, mental, and spiritual growth
  • Adapting to survive in two cultures 

In terms of craft, what did you find most challenging about writing the book?

The English language!  In my schooling, I shined in math and science, not English!!

What message do you hope readers will take away?

My hope and prayer is that my story will help others understand the importance and power of forgiveness to break their chains and be set free.

Is this a spiritual book a reader from any religious denomination can enjoy?

Absolutely! Forgiveness is for everyone, regardless of religious denomination, or absence of one.

Tell us about your publisher, Tate Publishing. How did you find them?

After many rejections, one glorious day, one of my mentors, Joan, found my book a home with Tate Publishing & Enterprises, a Christian-based, family owned, mainline publishing house.

I thank Dr. Tate for believing in my story and all the staff at Tate for their help in making my book a reality.

What’s on the horizon for Dr. Jay D Roberts?

I am currently finishing my first novel, Tin Kids, about the abuse of kids in tin mines. It is a medical, political thriller. I am very pleased with it. Can’t wait to send this baby out into the world!!

I plan to use proceeds from my books to help build an orphanage and return to medical missionary work to help heal the wounds of the less fortunate ones.

Any last words you’d like to share with my readers?

Never stop writing. Never take “no” for an answer. I was rejected- by many editors, publishers, and agents. I was even told to my face, “Even if you can write, which you can’t because you’re a doctor, and, anyway, no one will ever buy your book because you’re a nobody.” Believe in yourself. You are somebody!

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