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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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First Love, by Violeta Barrett is a well-written, heart-felt and honest memoir, one that reminds us that “true love never dies.”

The author opens her heart and candidly shares with readers how she fell in love with her tour guide in Mexico during a holiday back in 1956. Not only that, but she also shares with us the 76 love letters that kept their relationship alive during the four years of their affair. Torn and yellowed, the letters speak for themselves in this upbeat, inspirational story.

Violeta had been working for more than a decade for a Wall Street investment firm before her trip. She was a modern, career woman, already married and separated for two years.

Stressed and overworked, she had gone to Mexico to relax and charge her batteries. But nothing prepared her for the outcome: her finding true love in the least expected circumstances. She was loved like a princess in a fairytale. How many women can say that in a lifetime?

Entertaining and uplifting, this memoir is full of ethnic, local flavor with all the sights and sounds of Mexico. The narrator’s voice is honest and sensitive. This is a woman who knew real love and who’s lived to tell her experience to others, to share her feelings and doubts.

Part of the book are the letters themselves, which she kept all this time, never knowing that one day she would write a book about them.

This is recommended to fans of memoirs or anybody who enjoys a good romantic tale.

To learn more about this book, visit the author’s website.

The book can be purchased at: Amazon, iUniverse and other online retailers.

Read more: http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-first-love-just-once/#ixzz1xNvn22rd

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Don’t Cry, Daddy’s Here: One Woman’s Journey to Recovery from Incest is a deeply disturbing memoir. At the same time it is an important book, one that offers a strong message of hope and renewal to victims of this terrible crime.

“My decision to write this book came from a deep desire to say, ‘You are not alone.’ I share some of my memories and some lessons I have learned to aid me in living a happier life,” writes Carey.

In her candid, honest voice and simple, straight-forward style, the author tells us what her childhood and teen years were like. It was hell, being abused by a manipulative father and raised by a mother who often beat her with a belt yet at the same time was–or seemed to be–completely oblivious and unaware of what was going on in her household.

While reading the book, I couldn’t decide whether I was more angry and disgusted at the father or at the mother. What makes me even more revolted is the fact that some of the relatives knew what was going on but never said or did anything to help. It’s so hard to accept that this kind of situation happens all the time. This is a brave, poignant account of a victim finally shouting out to the world the horrors of incest and its often inevitable consequences such as teen pregnancy and prostitution.

All I can say is that I take my hat off to this courageous author for having written this memoir. Don’t Cry, Daddy’s Here includes a lot of practical information and resources for victims. If you’re a victim of incest or you know someone who is, I recommend this book. If you suspect someone of being a victim, this is the right book for you as well. The author includes various checklists for signs, prevention and aftereffects.

To find out more about this book and the author, please visit Brinda Carey’s website.

Read more: http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-dont-cry-daddys-here/#ixzz1uG1kbIQK

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Getting Out of Dodge City, Heading for L.A. on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe is a short novel that reads like a memoir and that will appeal to those interested in black American history and the dynamics of poor black American families from the early 1800s to the 1960s.

The story begins in 1821 with our narrator talking about the origins of the Atchinson, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroads, how they replaced the old Santa Fe Trail, and the impact they had on the people of Dodge City, Kansas. Author Clifton E. Marsh describes the city as “the dust bowl queen of America,” a dry place where “the wind and sand blew so hard a man could catch sand pneumonia.” It is in the heart of this city where our narrator’s family come from, starting with General Burnie, the imposing grandfather who was a laborer at the railroad. The tale spans three generations, from the grandfather to his beautiful daughter Marguerite who eventually moves to Los Angeles and marries Clifton, to her two sons, Jesse and Hugo, born from different fathers and who both live different painful lives that reflect the lives of other Black men during the 50s and 60s. Homelessness, street gangs, sexual and drug abuse are just some of the subjects explored in this story. 

Because it has lots of narration and exposition and very little dialogue, Getting Out of Dodge City, Heading for L.A. on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe reads more like a memoir than a novel. I was a bit put off by several punctuation mistakes and by the use of purple prose in some love scenes, but on the whole, this is a poignant, honest and heartfelt account about a black family trying to survive and improve their lives in the midst of a decaying society that is full of obstacles. 

This review originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine.

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Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker
By Marla Martenson
Bettie Youngs Books (April 15, 2010)
http://www.bettieyoungsbooks.com/
info@BettieYoungsBooks.com
ISBN-10: 0984308105
ISBN-13: 978-0984308101
Paperback, 272 pages
Memoir

Author’s Website: www.MarlaMartenson.com.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be the head matchmaker of a high-class Beverly Hills dating service? In this her candid and witty memoir, Marla Martenson takes you on a humorous ride through the ups and downs of her life working for such a place, as she struggles with the often unreasonable demands of her wealthy clientele.

“I honestly had no idea how shallow, picky, selfish, and entitled some clients could be. After six years of feedback, demands, and expectations, I’m still thrown for a loop now and then,” says Martenson. But what can you do when her clients pay $40,000 and up to find the right woman?

The author starts off by showing us what a regular day for her is like, answering annoying emails and trying to understand her clients’ often incredible and unreasonable requests, as they continually find faults with their gorgeous, perfect Barbie-doll dates.

After this initial glimpse into her ‘regular day,’ Martenson goes back in time to recount how she got started, working at restaurant jobs and waiting on rude celebrities such as Joan Collins, who once barked at her for forgetting a fork. “For all my work, she left me a $2 tip on a $120 tab. The woman was clearly typecast as Alexis, right?” says the author.

She also talks about her dreams of becoming an actress, her marriage, divorce and remarriage to the perfect guy, her father’s death and, finally, taking charge of her life. Eventually all fell into place and she started earning good money making commercials and getting small parts in films and print modeling work. She even got a couple of lines in the Mel Gibson film, What Women Want. Then, finally, how she got started as a recruiter for the dating service, on the lookout for what she calls “a fresh supply of goddesses” and her life as an author—a calling she never suspected she had.

The book is full of interesting anecdotes about Martenson’s work in Hollywood with the stars. The writing is simple, straight forward, witty and honest. This is the perfect fun, beach read. I like the author’s satiric slant on beauty and the mystery of dating and relationships, as well as the shallowness of Hollywood and the pressure put on women to look good. The book, though a light read, makes you think about society and the role of women and men in it, and explores interesting issues of gender.

Martenson is the author of two best selling relationship books: Excuse Me, Your Soul Mate Is Waiting and Good Date, Bad Date.

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Set in Atlanta and the Ohio farm region before, during and after World War II, First Love, Last Dance is the touching, heart-warming true story of Elise and Peter, a couple who first fell deeply in love in their late teens/early twenties but weren’t able to reunite until their late seventies. It’s refreshing to read about such real life stories.

Told from the point of view of Elise’s daughter Nancy Rossman, this memoir begins in Atlanta in the late 30s and spans several decades all the way to the present.

Elise is a beautiful Southern girl from an upper-class upbringing. At the young age of 19, she meets Peter, the man who sweeps her off her feet. They fall in love. Unfortunately, Elise’s controlling, domineering and old fashioned mother has other plans for her daughter. Believing that Peter isn’t the right match for Elise, she does her best to influence her daughter’s decision until, tragically, she succeeds. Instead of marrying Peter, Elise marries a Navy pilot who, though handsome and smart, isn’t the right person for her. As a young bride, Elise’s life changes radically: her new husband takes her to rural Ohio to work on a farm. Elise is soon torn with bittersweet feelings of frustration and, at times, unhappiness. Then something happens… Each year on her birthday, Elise receives a mystery call from the South… Could it be her long lost love?

Though I’m not a big fan of memoirs, I must say I enjoyed reading this one. Written with special attention to detail, First Love, Last Dance is a celebration of love that will warm readers’ hearts. It is also a celebration of hope and second chances. True-love story lovers will relish the hope and optimism in it, while fans of Southern writing will take pleasure in the historical aspect of the setting and characters. The family dynamics in the story are interesting, too, portraying values and traditions particular to the South and the Ohio rural regions. Above all, this is the story of one strong woman, Elise, a woman who never gave up on a memory and a promise.

The author wrote the memoir as a gift and tribute to her mother Elise. What a wonderful gift to offer a mother! If you’re a fan of true love stories, you must pick this one up. This book will also make a lovely gift on Valentine’s Day.

About the author: Nancy Rossman has been a storyteller her entire life. Following a twenty-nine year career as a commercial real estate broker, Nancy turned to her first love of writing. Over the past eleven years she has studied with such notables as Alan Furst, Dorothy Allison, Abigail Thomas and Ann Hood. First Love, Last Dance is her first book. It is a memoir about hope and second chances.

Related links:

Website
Amazon
Preview this book on CNN and NBC

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Paula Meseroll is a public relations professional and award-winning freelance writer/editor/columnist whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, including Syracuse University Magazine, UB Today, Central New Yorker Magazine, and All Kids Considered. A summa cum laude graduate of Marywood University with a degree in communication arts/public relations, Meseroll is director of marketing and communications at Syracuse University. She’s here today to talk about Flossie Turner Lewis and their new book, Little Hot Mama.

Q: How did you first learn about Flossie Turner Lewis?

A: I met Flossie at the Laubach Literacy/Literacy Volunteers of America national conference held in San Diego in 2002. Flossie had won the National Award For Excellence as the Outstanding Student of the Year and as the editor of Laubach Literacy’s newsletter, LitScape, I had the chance to interview her. As a long-time reporter and freelance writer, I know a good story when I hear one and Flossie’s had everything—family conflict, the glamour of show business, a woman’s struggle to make a life for herself and her children on her own while being unable to read or write. I also saw her hold a room full of people spellbound as she gave her award acceptance speech, telling of her life in show business and her struggle with illiteracy. She is, in a word, amazing.

Q: For those readers who aren’t familiar with her name, please tell us who Flossie Turner Lewis is.

A: Flossie Turner Lewis began delighting audiences with songs and dances in 1935, when she was just two years old. Known by her stage name “Little Hot Mama,” she was the child of black show business stars Hot Papa and Dolly Turner. Flossie, along with her sister LuLu B. and brother Junior, traveled with their parents and performed as the Turner Family Revue. Her own show business career lasted for more than 40 years. She performed on the carnival and chitlin circuits, in speakeasies and minstrel shows, and in the swank nightclubs of Miami’s Overtown where the Turner Family shared venues with other black entertainment greats of the day. From the Deep South to Miami, Puerto Rico, and Los Angeles, Flossie lived her life as a performer, a mother, an eyewitness to racial discrimination and turmoil, and a woman who could not read or write—until she decided to learn how at the age of 65. She is now almost 78, has earned an honorary high school diploma, is the most requested speaker for the United Way in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has lobbied Congress and state legislatures on behalf of literacy organizations, and is much in demand as a commencement speaker.

Q: How did Little Hot Mama, your book co-written with Flossie Turner Lewis come about?

A: At the literacy conference, we exchanged business cards and I told Flossie if she wanted to work together to write her memoir, I would be happy to do so. When the conference was over, I went back home to Syracuse and got busy with other projects. Several months later, I found her card in a desk drawer and decided to give her a call. She told me other writers had offered to work with her to tell her story. She said she had to pray about me to see if I was the one she should work with and she’d let me know. A few days later, she called me back and said the answer was yes.

Q: Who’s your target audience?

A: Flossie’s story is interesting on so many levels that practically anyone would find it a great read. Literacy students, tutors, people interested in African American, black entertainment, and women’s history would all be especially enthralled.

Q: What would you like readers to get out of the book?

A: Most of all, I would like people to be entertained. That is the basis of everything Flossie did in her show business life—for the Turner Family, despite poverty, hunger, and her father’s gambling addiction, the show really did have to go on. I hope readers will be as deeply moved as I am by her story.

Q: What makes this woman’s story so special?

A: Flossie’s story is the inspiring tale of one woman’s struggle to make a successful life for herself and her children, despite the roadblocks of racism and illiteracy. Her first-person accounts of life on the minstrel show and chitlin circuit are a part of American history that perhaps no other living person can tell.
Flossie is an astoundingly strong woman who refused to be defeated by circumstance. She met everything life threw at her and overcame it all. The book has moments of intense pain and anguish—such as Flossie’s experience of being a poor, black single mother with a brain-damaged child, as well as the night when Flossie’s beloved mother died in her arms. But there are also parts where readers will literally laugh out loud—many of the hilarious plot shows that the Turner Family was famous for are described in detail. There are 35 pages of photos of Flossie, her family, and the entertainers they worked with.

Q: Tell us about the actual writing process of this book. What was it like working with Flossie?

A: Since Flossie lives in North Carolina and I live in upstate New York, we did all of our interviews by phone. Some nights we spoke for a few minutes, other times for hours. We laughed and cried together as she dredged up memories she’d submerged for decades—to get the details, I asked about many things she didn’t want to think about because the memories were too painful. Flossie likes to say that I know more about her than she does. Her recollections are intensely vivid—her family became so real to me that I actually dreamed about them at night. I have literally hundreds of hours of taped interviews which were made over the course of more than a year. During that time, we became more than collaborators. We are very good friends. Then came the hard part—organizing Flossie’s sometimes chaotic life into a readable manuscript and writing her story.

Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

A: Flossie and I could not be more different—she’s African American, I’m white. I’ve been reading since before I started kindergarten, words were just jumbles to her until she was in her late 60s. I graduated from college with highest honors; Flossie’s schooling was practically non-existent most of her life. There were times I had to research what she told me—names, dates, places—because she didn’t know how to spell them. Her life was so vastly different than mine that I literally had to submerge my own personality to write in Flossie’s voice. In that, I think I was successful—more than one person who has read the book has asked me if I am African American because I had the words and usage so right.

Q: Where is the book available?

A: Little Hot Mama: The Flossie Turner Lewis Story is available on Amazon.com as a Kindle e-book. It is also available as an e-book to libraries to purchase for unlimited lending to patrons.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

A: Flossie and I, our literary agent, Leticia Gómez, and our publisher, Stay Thirsty Media, have joined together to donate 50 cents from the sale of every digital copy of our book to The Flossie Turner Lewis Literacy Fund at ProLiteracy to support the most worthy cause of adult literacy.

Read more about Flossie Turner Lewis and “Little Hot Mama”:

http://www.prx.org/pieces/54066-lil-hot-mama-flossie-turner-lewis
http://www.syr.edu/news/articles/2010/flossie-turner-lewis-09-10.html
http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/al_focus/photos/little-hot-mama
http://www.thenewshouse.com/story/indomitable-spirit-little-hot-mama

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