Why I Write by Barbara Solomon Josselsohn

BarbaraJosselsohnIn my earliest memory—I guess I was two or three years old—I am stepping through a doorway into the most amazing room I have ever seen. The carpet is thick and soft, the couch is trim and ladylike with its red floral fabric and curved wooden legs, and a small hallway leads to the biggest bed I have ever seen, dressed in dainty blue bedcoverings and piled high with overstuffed pillows in crisp, white pillowcases.

“This is our room!” my dad says, and as my sister and I giggle and pounce on the bed, I tell myself that we must be the luckiest family in the world, to have both a regular home and also this special, extra room that belongs just to us.

The next memory I have of this room takes place when I am about five. We are coming home from a restaurant on a cool autumn evening, and I suggest to my parents that we spend the night in “our room,” since we haven’t been there in a while.

My parents seem to agree—but then I realize we are walking right into our regular old apartment building. “No, not this one. The room!” I say.

“That’s where we’re going,” my father tells me as he unlocks the door.

“No, not our apartment. Our room. Our room!”

“Here’s your room.” My mother points to the bedroom I share with my sister. “Your room. Right here.”

To this day, I have no idea if that room from long ago was real or if I just dreamed it up. But the one thing I do know is how lost and alone I felt that night, as my parents took off their coats and went about their business. I was the only one who remembered an amazing, magical room with thick carpet and an enormous bed, a room that had made me very happy. I realized I would always be the only one who remembered.

I didn’t think about that room again for many years. But then one night, in a way, it returned.

It happened soon after I left my job as a writer with a fast-paced business newspaper to move to Scarsdale with my husband and two-year-old son. I was truly grateful to be a stay-at-home mom and wouldn’t have had it any other way—yet this new life of tying and untying shoelaces, buttoning and unbuttoning coats, pulling mittens on and off, and and filling and emptying sand buckets took adjusting. The days were long, and the moments of delight were interspersed among hours of mind-numbing routines. There were times when the predictability of it all felt like living on a planet with too much gravity.

And then one evening when my husband was working late and David was asleep, I happened to turn the TV on to a reunion special about the Monkees, that Hollywood-manufactured sixties-era boy band whose members rocketed to stardom thanks to a hit television show, teen-idol looks and tuneful pop songs.

Now, nobody remembers the anguish of being a teenager more than I do, but watching that TV show, I suddenly felt only the good parts of being thirteen years old. How thrilling life could be when you still didn’t know who you were, which meant that you could become anybody. The world was huge, its arms wide open, and dreams could change in a flash to real life. Back then, I truly believed that one day I would travel to Hollywood and meet Davy Jones, and he would fall in love with me. Who could say it wouldn’t happen? Curled up on the living room sofa opposite the warm glow of the TV, I experienced all over again the sweet agony of infatuation, when even the shine of your crush’s hair is so beautiful, it can bring you to tears.

It felt a bit like going back to that room from long ago.

With single-minded determination, I schlepped David to various Blockbuster stores over the next few days, looking for cassettes or CDs with old Monkees songs, for DVDs with old Monkeees episodes, so I could come home and listen and watch some more. And sure enough, the songs and episodes kept all those feelings fresh—but only for a short while. Then they lost their power. I wondered: Was there no way I could save those amazing feelings of potential and possibility? Was there no way I could package them, to take out whenever I needed a lift?

And that’s when I realized the solution was to write.

It was back then that I started my novel, about a woman whose life is upended when she gets the chance to meet the teen idol she adored as a teenager. In my story, the woman is a magazine writer whose career has stagnated, and she learns while doing some article research that the teen idol from her past is now a small business owner living a few towns away. Through artifice, she arranges to meet him. And over the course of a few clandestine encounters, she begins to recapture the excitement for life she used to feel—but at what cost?

I finished that novel for the first time many years ago. I finished it for the second time a few years later, and I’m now working on my third rewrite. Of course, when my non-writer friends hear this, they look at me with disbelief: Why spend year after year rewriting the same story? And I understand their point, since they no doubt believe the only goal of writing a novel is to publish it. But I know there’s much more to writing.

Why do I write? I write to reenter those wonderful rooms from the past that exist in my head and my head alone. I write to feel all those thick carpets under my toes and jump on all those cushy and pillow-packed beds. I write to rediscover wonderful thoughts I once had and amazing things I once felt, because once I write them, I own them. I can revisit those places and those feelings whenever I want, and if my words don’t quite capture all I think they should, I can rewrite until they do.

Don’t get me wrong—I’d love to see this manuscript get published. Why wouldn’t I? But I decided a long time ago that even if it never ends up on a publisher’s list, it still means the world to me. It has brought so much back to me. In fact, I have this little fantasy that one day a gazillion years from now, when my life has slowed down and is nearing its end, I will have refurnished and repopulated all the far-off rooms I once knew and loved. And I’ll just sit back and enjoy them, one by one.

I write to find that that enormous bed with its dainty blue bedcoverings and overstuffed pillows. I write so I can make it mine for good.

Barbara Solomon Josselsohn is a freelance magazine writer specializing in home and family topics. Her articles and essays appear in Consumers Digest, Parents, American Baby, The New York Times, Westchester Magazine, Mamazina, and Big Apple Parent, as well as online at Consumersearch.com. She has studied novel writing at Sarah Lawrence College and is in the process of completing her first novel, The Last Dreamer, about a woman who meets the teen idol she adored as a teenage.

Why I Write by Ginger McKnight-Chavers

mcknight_chaversPat asked me to tackle this question some time ago, and it has taken me a long time to work up to a response. Probably because I don’t have a clean and simple answer. Is that a mark of a writer? It may not be a universal trait of the literary-minded, but it is certainly mine – I write the things I cannot explain verbally or cleanly or neatly (to use far more adverbs than is permissible for anyone who aspires to “good” writing).
Contrary to my current personality as a chatty, former lawyer who shed most of her self-consciousness a long time ago, my early years were quiet, contemplative ones.

I was a shy Black kid in Dallas, Texas, a loud, extroverted community of cheerleaders, beauty queens, oil barons and barnyard barkers. Folks who loudly slapped dominoes onto card tables, bleached their hair to blinding levels of brassiness and bared their navels and most of their asses in skimpy suits to salute their favorite football teams. Everything’s big in Texas, I learned at an early age. But I shied away from big, at least verbally. All my biggest, bestest, brassiest work, worthy of my lengthy Texan heritage, was on paper. What I could not, would not say with words from my mouth, oozed from my pencil like so much Texas crude, literally and figuratively. On paper I could at least attempt the salty flourish of my Texan heroines, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, my mother (who happens to be in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame); women with superior smarts and dry wit as searing as the Chihuahuan desert. When I have a problem to resolve, a gripe that’s eating away at my gut, pea-green envy, herkey-inspiring flashes of joy, dark doubts, dips into despair, or just random, itinerant commentaries on everything or nothing; for some reason that I have yet to understand, I am best able to process it, react to it and then keep my life moving forward and not mired in it, by writing it down, whatever the “it” happens to be.

At some point, not long after I left graduate school, my random, written-down musings made their way into stories that enabled me to blow up my observations and sentiments into surreal statements that both amused me and helped me to cope with the world around me. As I have grown older and not entirely wiser, these stories have moved from hobbies to necessities to keep me going – kind of like exercise. What I used to do only for fun when I felt like it is now what keeps me alive. I write because I can’t not write; because it’s my one, true voice, however imperfect. Because it is the one place I can be myself, think for myself and remain utterly, imperfectly human. And Texan, to the extent that humility, humanity, thoughtfulness and Big Brash Texan can ever peacefully co-exist (for this transplanted New Yorker, that contradiction only resolves itself on paper).

Ginger McKnight-Chavers, a Dallas native, is a graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School.  After sixteen years practicing corporate and arts/entertainment law, she became a full-time writer and was the 2008-09 Gurfein Fellow at Sarah Lawrence College.  She resides in the New York City area and recently completed her first novel, Messages From Midland. She has also contributed articles to New York Family, SheWrites.com and Scribe, the blog of the Writers League of Texas.

Why I Write by Holly Rozner

Why do I write? And when did I begin? I think I remember writing on my own when I began to compile my high school diary, cataloguing the heartbreak I endured when I was stood up or deserted at a party. Why did I bother to write down these events when they are indelible in my minds sixty years later? Did I write all that stuff because I thought I would want to read it years later, when in fact, I have never read it again because I don’t need to. I lived it. It’s part of my persona. And I certainly didn’t want my mother to read it. Or have my kids find it in the basement after I died. Did it give me distance? Did distilling my events into words help me feel better?  I have no recollection of feeling better after I kept track of my life like that. Yet putting feelings into words have an effect.

Certainly the words are a factor. I suppose they are the reason I write.  I have a love affair with words and I enjoy searching for the right one, playing with it, looking up its meaning to find another word that might be better, add more punch, help the story soar. Yes, of course, it’s the words and the rhythm of the words and how they play off against each other. Then there is the jealousy when someone else has thought of a word I know I could never find, as I wonder how I could ever be as good as writer when he has all the right words, the perfect sentence and I do not.

There were essays I had to write and even an occasional story when I was growing up, but it wasn’t until much later that I decided to make up stories and leave behind the diaries of my woes. Then I could to add dialogue and pretend I was creating a scene with actors we wish we could be, or are, or may have once been. By myself, with a notebook or a computer I became an author.  Such a powerful word. Isn’t that the word I was searching for among all those other unimportant, nondescriptive words? Omniscient, the producer, the director, the set designer and the stage manager.  Like Zeus? Nothing happens without him and the story stops when he says so.

And what about those endings? How do I stop when I had no idea when I began what the end will be? Sometimes it feels as if the story will just go on and on and on and on, but then no one would buy the book and I am, after all, truth be told, looking for an audience. So I have to find an end or I am finished. Could it be that I have always been looking for an audience, even when I wrote those secret diaries? Could I have been that intuitive beneath those girlish confessions?

Some writers claim they write for themselves or to make sense of their reality; to remember; to coagulate their thoughts. But I know that this is not altogether true or we wouldn’t kill ourselves to get published. We are seeking the validation that comes when someone else reads what we write. And likes it.  No one wants a bad review.  Some keep their stories to themselves, so that no one will judge them or invalidate them. The fear of rejection prevents a lot of us from putting our work out there, but the desire for acceptance lets us plow on against unspeakable odds.

So I’m a whore, looking for attention. That’s the fun of it.  Searching for the words that will bring fame. Creating an ending that will knock readers off their feet. Discovering a conclusion that no one will forget: “Tomorrow will be a better day.” Remember that one?  Even an essay has a final sentence. But words are endless, like stars in a vast universe. There are so many choices; which one will trigger the story or propel the characters and which word, finally, in the end, will be the end; that is the challenge. And meeting that challenge is why I write.

The diary is put away when that day is over but stories don’t have a required finish line. Maybe a series of deadlines.  For writers, it’s never really over. There’s another story, another poem, another sunset, another full moon.  There will never be the last word. It will only be the last word of that sentence. Or the last word we selected for that story. Or for that thought.  Or for that song. Melody lingers because we can hum the tune, but words are not like that. After the last dance, when the music stops, and band leaves because no one is paying the performer, there is still a goodbye.

And if the goodbye cannot be a kiss, the finish has to be a word.

Holly Rozner traded S&P options for five years and was a member of Chicago Mercantile Exchange for twenty-two years, serving on the Leasing, Member Services, and Finance Committee.

A native Chicagoan, Rozner was educated at a private girls’ school in an elite neighborhood where President Barack Obama now resides. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Speech from Northwestern University and was later granted a CPA certificate by the University of Illinois; she was a tax specialist before beginning to trade. Today, Rozner holds an insurance license, a real estate broker’s license and has retained her teaching certificate.

Her unique experiences in a male-dominated world inspired her debut novel Trade Secrets (October 2, 2012), a romance about two women whose lives intersect on a trading floor during the crash of 1987 and the subsequent FBI investigation into trading infractions at the Chicago exchanges.

Rozner spent many years leading Financial Education seminars for women. She and her husband of 47 years live in the northern Chicago suburbs, and have two daughters and four grand children.

TRADE SECRETS is the financial story that has never been told – it takes the reader on the trading floor of the world’s largest Exchange where money was pocketed before a trade was processed.

When Remy Masterman becomes a member of the Exchange to unearth the details about her father’s car crash, she comes head to head with Zach Silverman, once her father’s partner and now Chairman of the Exchange. During the crash of 1987 when Zach’s bagman, Jason, faces bankruptcy, his high-heeled wife, Sarna, learns to trade in order to save their mansion from foreclosure. As the lives of these two women intersect, Remy falls in love with Ken Baldwin, never imagining how their careers will collide. Sarna begins a steamy affair with another trader who turns out to be an undercover agent for the FBI during its probe into trading infractions at the Chicago exchanges. When Jason’s clerk is pummeled, along with those investors who misplaced their money with their faith, he and Sarna create a bold, sexy scheme to save Remy and rid the Exchange of those who try to get away with murder.

Why I Write by Matt Cavallo

Have you ever found yourself standing at the crossroads of life facing a difficult, life-changing circumstance? For me, I found myself standing on these crossroads when I was twenty eight years old and lost my ability to walk overnight. I was later diagnosed with the chronic condition, Multiple Sclerosis. This was a devastating diagnosis for me both physically and mentally. It also took an emotion toll on my wife, Jocelyn.

We were only three years into our marriage and everything was going according to plan. We had great jobs, great friends and a promising future in Massachusetts where we hoped to raise a family one day. This was all put on hold in the spring of 2005 when I lost functionality from the waist down. As I lay in my hospital bed, I was thinking that the future we had planned together was over and that we may never be able to have kids.

I would like to say that I handled the circumstances around my diagnosis better, but I didn’t. I spiraled into a deep depression. I couldn’t work, I didn’t want to see my friends and date night with my wife was all but a distant memory. All I wanted to do was stay in the house and wallow in my own self pity. I even convinced myself that a song from my childhood, Moon Shadow by Cat Stevens, was about Multiple Sclerosis and describing my impending fate of physical demise (http://mattcavallo.com/blog/being-follow-by-a-moon-shadow-ms/). The only way I knew how to cope with my emotional turmoil was to stay alone in my house and disappear from the outside world.

After living in this depression for a while, I thought that reading a story about someone else’s diagnosis and how they dealt with their circumstances would make me feel better. So, I found myself wandering the aisles of my local Barnes and Nobles. I was pulling book after book off of the shelf in hopes to find a story that would motivate and inspire me to move forward from the moment in which I was stuck. I was disappointed that I couldn’t find a story which resonated in my soul. I left Barnes and Noble empty handed, feeling more dejected than when I had entered the store. At that point, it was an affirmation that I was alone and that I was never going to be the same again.

When I returned home, I sat on the couch and started flipping through a journal that I had been keeping through my hospital experience. I started to cry as I recalled the words that I recorded during my hospital stay. The heart wrenching detail captured on each page brought me right back to my hospital bed. The color, description and vivid portrayal of the hospital experience captivated me as I read my own words for the first time since I had left the hospital three months prior.

Then, I found something that I never expected to find in the pages of my journal: hope. I was surprised at how upbeat and positive I was in the face of great adversity. Even though my body had betrayed me, my mind was sharp and found humor in the face of despair. Now, typically I do not get so engaged in my own writing, but I couldn’t put it down. I read my journal from front page to back page reliving the entire experience. When I was finished, I realized that the words in my journal were the words of inspiration that I needed to accept my condition and move on from my depression. Then, I started to think that if my words could help me in my current condition that they could also help others.

So, I started to write. I started to transform my hospital journal into a full length narrative non-fiction account of my diagnosis. When I started writing, I took an oath to be open, honest and to address tough physical and emotional situations that most people typically internalize and tackle alone. Topics like depression, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction that were plaguing me during this ordeal were captured with brutal honesty. While my approach made me vulnerable, I thought it was more important for anyone who picked up my book to understand that they are not alone in the struggle.

Eight years after my initial diagnosis, The Dog Story was published. In releasing this story to the world I felt the same anxiety rush back to me. Much to my surprise, it was my readers that made me feel like I was not alone. Emails started coming to me from all over. People were sharing their story with me and thanking me for sharing mine. I even got an email from a woman who told me that The Dog Story helped bring her closer to husband. She said that he became distant and depressed when he was diagnosed and he was unable to articulate his internal struggles, so he pushed her away. Then they read my book together and used my story as a vehicle to discuss his struggles. Knowing that I inspired this person and helped him not only overcome his own diagnosis, but also rekindle his marriage was incredibly meaningful to me.

Today, I am happy, healthy and feeling great overall. I have overcome my disability to go on and lead an extraordinary life. I have been flown all over the country to motivate and inspire audiences with my story. I have been featured in documentary film and Yoga DVD for people with Multiple Sclerosis. I graduated with a Master’s of Public Health Administration and have dedicated my life to helping others. I published The Dog Story which has been more successful than I could have ever imagined. But my greatest accomplishment is that today I have two boys and I get to be the dad that I always wanted to be.

Thank you very much for having me, Patricia. I also wanted to thank your readers. If anyone out there is standing at a difficult crossroad of life, think of my story and know that if I can do it, you can too.

 

 

At age twenty-eight, Matt Cavallo was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Seemingly over night he went from a fully-functioning, healthy man to someone who was numb from the waist down and unable to walk. His story of being diagnosed and overcoming the physical and emotional challenges associated with having a chronic disease can be read in his memoir, The Dog Story: A Journey into a New Life with Multiple Sclerosis.

As a result of his diagnosis, Matt has dedicated his life and career to healthcare and the fight against MS. Matt delivers motivational patient experience lectures all over the country for a variety of MS patient events, as well as inspiring organizational presentations for companies using his story as a platform. Matt has appeared in a MS yoga DVD that is free for MS patients, is active with MS charities, and appeared in The Future of MS documentary about for the MS Cure Fund. His story has been featured in the Boston Globe, and he writes a popular blog on his website as a resource for MS patients.

Matt’s dedication to healthcare led him to work at a Neuroscience Clinic, helping patients like himself every day before taking his current position training clinicians on how to use medical software in order to improve the patient experience. He also recently finished his Master of Science in Health Care Informatics from Arizona State University. Most importantly, however, Matt is the proud father of Mason and Colby, the loving husband to his wife, Jocelyn, and the best friend to his dog, Teddy. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Matt currently works and lives with his family in Chandler, Arizona.

Why I Write by Tony Hubbard

Writing comes to us in many forms: through song lyrics, a poem, a post on a blog, a short story, a novella, a novel, an article in a newspaper or magazine, in addition to countless other ways.

I find the act of writing is a lonely one by its nature. A person, pen in hand, a blank piece of paper in front of them, or hands hovering over a keyboard, a blank page on a computer screen staring back at them. At that moment it’s just you and the blank canvas, waiting to be filled with your words. As authors we literally bash our brains in trying to come up with a likeable story.

The act of writing means countless hours alone formulating your thoughts and ideas to somehow fit into a narrative that you hope others will find, enriching, enjoyable and satisfying.

Honestly, off the top of my head I have no idea the amount of hours that I spent writing/editing my debut novel, A Demon Lies Within. If I had to guess I would imagine the number of hours would be in the thousands. It would be pretty staggering.

Seeing the all the hours that went into creating A Demon Lies Within one would be expected to ask the following question:

Why do you write? Why subject yourself to the countless ups and downs, to its diabolical whims, which more often than not, result in either nothing being produced or something that won’t make the final cut of the book.

I write because I want to get better at writing.

Once that happens, the stories I’m trying to create will be infinitely better than my first story. As hard as that is to admit, it’s true. Based on the lessons learned from the first novel my second novel should be an improvement. Whether or not that happens is far from being determined.

I write because there are many ideas I want to explore and be able to do so through the written word.

I write because I’m interested in connecting and intertwining the lives of my characters. I’m interested in exploring personal relationships. I want to delve into the deeper connection of one person to another and how and why that connection exists.

Have you ever wondered why such a strong bond exists between you and the person closest to you? Why is it with this special person and not someone else? What is it about them that make them special over someone else? Why is that connection there? That’s what I want to investigate and explore further.

I want to be able to explore how events shape our lives and how being involved in certain events or missing certain events shapes our future. While this avenue has already been explored (see movie Sliding Doors) I want to put a horror spin on it.

I write for the times when I see something, whether it’s a person, or something else and try incorporate it into a story element.

I write for all the times that I look up from the keyboard and see several pages of text looking back at me and the feeling inside that’s the result. Of all the days, nights, late nights, weekends, early mornings (by early morning I mean 2, 3 am) spent writing A Demon Lies Within the one writing session that stands above all others happened in February, 2010 on a Sunday night following a USA Olympic Men’s Hockey game.

What was originally going to be Chapter 4 of the book was written with such ease, clarity and quickness (around 30 minutes) that the powerfulness of the story on those several pages quickly made itself apparent that it should become Chapter One of the book.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I write for the perseverance that results from staring at the blank screen that is secretly laughing and taunting me as it remains blank for several hours while I try to come up with the perfect thing to say.

I am able to write as a result of the many scraps of paper, notebook/journal entities and all the web pages that I bookmarked, thinking each one held the key to future scenes and would be the springboard needed to transition to subsequent situations.

I write because of the belief that there’s a story inside each of us waiting to be told. That’s the premise with which this novel began all those many 18 years ago.

I write so that my characters, in some ways, can have the life I’ve wish I’ve had.

I write because I want to finish my next novel.

Finally, I write for those people who have offered their unwavering support along the way, telling me to follow my heart, to publish the novel that I doubted would ever be published; saying that I can do it and that I’ll be a success no matter how it turns out.

 

Growing up and reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, he one day aspired to publish a novel in the horror genre as his ‘writing heroes’ were famous for. After many years away from writing, leaving his professional writing career behind to make a move into the production and advertising side of the publishing business, Tony makes a return with his debut novel. Eighteen years in the making, A Demon Lies Within, releases November 2012 from Two Harbors Press.

A follower of Greek Mythology, he sees himself in the same vein as the Greek God Dionysus, the Greek God of wine, parties/festivals, madness and merriment. Dionysus not only represents the intoxicating power of wine, but also its social and beneficial influences. According to Tony, we should strive to be like Dionysus.

Massachusetts born and bred, Tony has lived all across the state throughout his life. Today he is settled in Dracut with his wife and son.

Following his murder, Andrew McMurray finds himself transported to the depths of hell. There he is indoctrinated as an apprentice to a demon master, Sonneillon. Exposing Andrew to the dark reaches of his evil powers, Sonneillon demonstrates a demons’ ability to posses, torment and control the thoughts and actions of the living. Andrew’s ultimate goal following his apprenticeship? Revenge on his wife, Katelyn and young son, Joshua, both of whom he holds responsible for his murder.

As Katelyn rebuilds her life, following her husbands’ death, she meets Michael Gordon, a recent escapee from Corporate America, who has his own troubled, tragic past. As their relationship grows, they realize they share something more than their burgeoning love for one another — the powers of hell have deeply impacted their pasts. Evil continues to insinuate itself into the pair’s lives, bringing with it haunting and unspeakable horrors.

Andrew’s plan of revenge begins to materialize once he inhabits Joshua, having him act out in often violent and disturbing ways. With possession of Joshua’s mind and body complete, will hell’s ultimate evil goals come to pass, or can the local priest of a small Maine town exorcize Father from Son? At stake, doom-laden repercussions for all involved…and perhaps the world as a whole.

Why I Write by C. L. Stambush

It started with trips to the library––my mother loading my brother and me into the family station wagon and carting us over to the neighborhood branch where I’d indulge in stories ranging from children living in boxcars or attics to a girl sleuthing and solving mysteries. With each book I’d slip into a world far from the one I knew, journeying along with the characters. The adventures showed ways and shades of life I could never have imagined without the aid of books. Moving like a shadow in the stories, I stole through those narratives with my eyes and mind opening wider as the ideas of others filtered through me, instilling in me new possibilities.

I was a shy and reticent child, so it was natural for me to find solace in the imaginary worlds of books. I wasn’t a tragic loner, just a little timid. The worlds in books, however, filled me up in ways my own ordinary childhood never could. But beyond the excitement delivered by the heros in the stories I coveted, I found particular inspiration and strength in the female protagonist. Those girls were strong and capable and confident, the mirror opposite of my vulnerable, clumsy, unsure self. They believed in themselves and the world never doubted or questioned their possibilities or accomplishments. And in reading about them, I began to believe in myself. It took time, but little by little, as the unquestioning acceptance of those girls’ capabilities seeped into me, so did their power. My mousy manners eroding bit by bit, each strong-girl story adding a steel rod to my spine that I would one day grow into. And I did, going from a shy wall-hugger to being the first and only woman to have ridden a motorcycle solo around India. An accomplishment borne out of confidence instilled by books.

I come from a long line of storytellers, so I suppose that, coupled with my love of reading, it was inevitable that I would want leave the world of passive reader and step through the mirror to try my hand at creation. To let others learn a thing or two from my experiences (even the ugly ones…especially the ugly ones).

I’ve got a kinda grrr in me when it comes to letting the world know how capable girls are. But more than that, I want girls, no matter what their age, to realize their strengths and competencies. To rise up from the sidelines society secretly shoulders them to and shout I Can, I Do. So the reason I write is two-fold: as a girl stories empowered me, now as a woman I want to empower others with stories, filling them up with possibilities never before imagined.

 

C. L. Stambush is a writer, national motorcycle instructor, international traveler, and feminist who has lived, worked, and meandered through more than 20 foreign countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

She is also one of the few female motorcycle adventure riders, having ridden a Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle (in 1996) solo around the edge of India––five months and nearly 7,000 miles on a 350cc Thumper. She has written a book about the ride titled Naked on the Edge: a Motorcycle, a Goddess, and a Journey Around India that she hopes to publish soon.

Her writing has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, Far Easter Economic Review, Travelers’ Tales and a handful of national and international newspapers, as well as a few literary presses and regional magazines.

She is an Indiana University Bloomington graduate with a BA in Journalism and a Sarah Lawrence College graduate with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing.

She blogs about opportunity, risk, passion, transformation, and empowerment. You can read her blog at www.clstambush.com.

The Un-Obvious Within the Obvious by Stephanie Alexander

I’ve been asked, as all novelists are at some point, where do you get your ideas? Some stories have vague beginnings, but I have a specific answer about the thought that first lit the idea for The Cracked Slipper in my mind. It wasn’t so much a flickering thought, but a conflagration.

I was driving ballet carpool, and my daughters, then roughly six and four, were listening to an audio version of the Cinderella story. They were, as usual, transfixed from once-upon-a time to happily-ever-after. As the narrator, she of the soothingly canned, Fairy Godmother-ish British accent, came to that predictable finale, I had a simple thought: “Yeah, sure. Cinderella probably died in childbirth.”

These two mental sentences opened up a whole new angle on Cinderella for me. Wait, here we have an abused, orphaned teenager marrying a man she hardly knows. A man from a completely different background. She’s then thrust onto the national stage with no means of coping with the pressure.

This is the path to eternal bliss? Sounded more like a potential carriage wreck to me.

The mental questions kept coming, as if that precarious carriage had somehow come detached from its team of four white horses, and started careening downhill on a cracked axle. Cinderella has whole life before her. Life goes on beyond the wedding vows. This is a young woman living in a pre-industrial, patriarchal society. Who will explain the nuances of sex and childbirth? Of courtly loyalties and politics? How will the trauma of her childhood losses affect her personality? Will her dysfunctional family relationships follow her? In regards to Prince Charming, history hasn’t exactly provided us with many examples of exemplary moral fiber amidst those assigned the Divine Right of Kings…is he a noble savior or a privileged despot? I added a twist that sprung from my love of Jane Austen’s feisty female characters…what if our Happenstance Princess is highly educated and has been taught to express her opinions?

Maybe she has more in common with Elizabeth Bennett, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, or possibly Anne Boleyn, than she does with my daughters. The little girls of today who internalize her fortuitous snaring of a special boy as the means to their own happy endings.

I’m a sociologist. I’ve been trained to examine the things we take for granted as the truth, or common sense, and see the reality behind the everyday. At the beginning of each semester, I tell my Sociology 101 students that my ultimate goal is to make them see the world as a little less black and white. How outside forces work on the individual, and how the individual in turn works on the greater social whole around him or her. In re-examining the Cinderella story in the context of women’s lives within the constraints of patriarchy, the possibilities of happily-ever-after look more grim…but more realistic.

This is the great beauty of fiction to me. It’s not only about the happy symbiosis of a well-executed sentence, or the tickle of discovering just the right metaphor. It goes beyond the rush of dialogue that flows from your head to your typing fingers so quickly you feel as if you’re having a screaming match within your own brain. I write because I hope to make the reader look at something familiar in a different way. If I can package introspection…the wow-I-never-thought-of-it-like-that…within a story that sparks imagination and emotion, I’ve succeeded.

My books are high fantasy. They are meant to be an escape of sorts. A colorful world of things that could never possibly be, but seem weirdly familiar. If I can suck in the reader with a combination of familiar and bizarre, hopefully I’m teaching a lesson without anyone realizing it. I’ve recently reread Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and realized that few writers have ever  captured the everyday, quirky exoticism that Lewis Carroll insidiously inserted into every page of a children’s story. It can be difficult to identify the absurd inside the obvious. As Alice so astutely puts it in a moment of confusion, “I can’t explain myself…because I’m not myself, you see.”

I can’t explain why some stories change the way we look at things we assume to be plainly understood, but I know those stories when I see them. And that’s my hope, as a sociologist and a novelist. Rather than passing out surveys to and running statistical analysis in an attempt to understand our most commonplace suppositions, I use my imagination as the scene of my fieldwork. Yes, it’s less scientific, but when we’re analyzing something as near and dear to the collective consciousness as the idea that a good girl will always find her happy ending if only she’s sweet and compliant and does as she’s told, maybe a more philosophical approach is better.

So that’s why I write. I adore the poetry of words, but even more so, I love the potential of a flexible mind.

Why I Write by David Ebenbach

The thing is that I’m confused. Deeply, seriously confused. And I don’t mean just right now; I mean generally. I mean that I was a confused little boy and that I had a confusing adolescence and young adulthood, and now here I am: full-grown confused. I mean morning, noon, and night.

In my opinion, this is a pretty understandable way to be, given this astonishing and complicated world of ours, this world of natural forces and societies and life and death and everybody making their way from sunup to sundown in all their incredibly peculiar and hopeful and dazzling ways. There are billions of people on this earth, doing billions of things for billions of reasons right now, and reacting to the billions of things other people are doing all around them. It’s nuts out there!

But, writing? Writing makes sense. And that’s why I do it.

First of all, writing just makes sense to me as an activity. Me and the page or me and the computer screen: I know what I’m supposed to do. Sometimes I can’t get it done, can’t get the words down, and certainly a lot of times the words I put down aren’t the best ones for my purposes—writing is hard, after all—but even that makes sense. I know it’s all part of the process. Frustration, blockage, bursts of fluency, words pouring out all over the place, getting them in the right order and doing the right things—those are all aspects of what it means to be a writer. I’ve seen them before and I’ll see them again. My relationship with words is not always straightforward, not always easy, but it always feels like I belong in that relationship. And that’s what it means to be me.

On top of giving me that personal sense of purpose and rightness, writing also helps me to make sense of the confusing world around me. I once saw a little girl playing in the snow and, when her hands got cold, she started crying and she said, desperately, “Nobody loves a snowy girl.” What an amazing and baffling thing to say! What could drive a little girl to a line that despairing? I wrote the short story “Nobody Loves a Snowy Girl,” about a fictional (and very different) little girl, in order to figure it out. Another example: I once attended a baseball game that was being held on the stadium’s “Jewish Heritage Day,” and the whole game was themed around that: lineups announced in Yiddish, the mascot dancing the hora, dance-club versions of Hebrew prayers played between innings. What a strange event! What could it mean to celebrate Jewish culture in the context of a baseball game? I wrote the short story “Jewish Day” to find at least one answer to that question. Yet another example: at some point it struck me just how many different choices and accidents have led me to where I am in my life right now, and how different my life would be if I’d gone in a different direction at any one of those moments. How baffling, thinking of all the possibilities! I wrote the short story “Counterfactual” to start to get a grip on them.

Honestly, I think that every half-decent thing I’ve ever written represents an attempt to turn confusion into understanding. One of the most amazing things is that the understanding lingers. In fact, when I’m writing regularly, I go out into the world and somehow it doesn’t seem quite as confusing anymore. I watch people do the things they do and suddenly it all makes more sense. I see a couple fighting and I can glean some sense of the dynamic that led them to that fight; someone asks me an unexpected question and I have an idea where it came from; I see a parent bend down to a child and I think I might know what’s going to happen next. I also find that, when people start making sense to me, I also start seeing them through a kinder lens. It’s hard to understand without also sympathizing.

Conversely, when I get too busy and don’t make time to write, the confusion rolls back in like a tide. With that confusion comes frustration—frustration and a dangerous lack of sympathy. Why are those two fighting? I don’t know; maybe they’re just jerks. Why is this person throwing this weird question at me? Does that parent even know what to do next? Given how unpleasant these lines of thinking are, a stretch of not-writing will eventually send me running back to writing. Running fast.

What I really hope is this understanding not only lingers but also carries. I hope that anything half-decent I’ve ever written has a chance to help readers understand things a little better, too. I know that the great work of other authors has always done that for me. I think the very best of our art suggests that, however nuts it all might seem, the world isn’t ultimately confusing. That people do make sense and have their sympathetic reasons and that there’s some powerful purpose in all of this. I think the very best literature—and writing itself—helps us to see that for ourselves.

David Ebenbach was born and raised in the great city of Philadelphia, home of America’s first library, first art museum, first public school, and first zoo, along with his very first stories and poems – though those early efforts went on to become (deservedly) less famous than, for example, the zoo.

Since then David has lived in Ohio, Wisconsin, Philadelphia again, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, and Ohio again, picking up some education (formal and otherwise) and more than a few stories along the way. He has a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

In addition to his short-story collection Into the Wilderness (October 2012, Washington Writers’ Publishing House), David is the author of another book of short stories entitled Between Camelots (October 2005, University of Pittsburgh Press), and a non-fiction guide to creativity called The Artist’s Torah (forthcoming, Cascade Books). His poetry has appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Subtropics, and the Hayden’s Ferry Review, among other places.

He has been awarded the Drue Heinz Literature Prize; fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center; and an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.

David currently teaches at Georgetown University and very happily lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and son, both of whom are a marvel and an inspiration.

“For the very real people in David Ebenbach’s vivid and emotional stories,” says author Jesse Lee Kercheval, “becoming a parent—as Judith, the single mother in four of the stories, says— is going ‘into the wilderness.’” The collection Into the Wilderness explores the theme of parenthood from many angles: an eager-to-connect divorced father takes his kids to a Jewish- themed baseball game; a lesbian couple tries to decide whether their toddler son needs a man in his life; one young couple debates the idea of parenthood while another struggles with infertility; a reserved father uses an all-you-can-eat buffet to comfort his heartbroken son. But the backbone of the collection is Judith, who we follow through her challenging first weeks of motherhood, culminating in an intense and redemptive baby-naming ceremony. Says author Joan Leegant, “Ebenbach takes us deep into the heart of the messy confusion and terror and unfathomable love that make up that shaky state we call parenthood. These stories are fearless, honest and true.”

Why I Write by Emily Ford

Quite simply, I write when I have something to say.

Growing up, I always loved telling stories.  Absolutely nothing made me happier at summer camp than telling scary ghost stories at bedtime.  In fact, I gauged the success of my tales by how many bunkmates were crying at the end!

Fast forward to my own children, and the bedtime stories we would spin.  The older they became, the more detailed our stories became.  Sometimes the stories would last days or even weeks, and would only end to begin another.  I’m pleased to admit they listened to these stories long after it was probably cool to want one, and this is how The Djinn Master’s Legacy was born.

I had this story that was just itching to get out of my head, and it wasn’t going away. But my kids, who were having constant sleepover, were no longer home long enough to tell it at night, so I decided to write it down and give it to them as a present they would always have.

The tale spun around concepts like good versus evil, love versus hate, anger versus forgiveness and action versus consequence.  Initially when I began writing, I kept visualizing this one scene about a teenaged girl who is offered the gift of magic.  It became intriguing to contemplate under what circumstances one wouldn’t want the gift of having magical powers.  Especially in the life of a teenager!  So I kept going with it.  That one scene turned into another and another until I’d written clear to the perceived end of the story.  It felt incomplete though, so I went back and added another dimension to the saga, and that became the beginning of 2:32 A.M. Only when the two parts merged somewhere in the middle, did I know the story was complete…

Ironically, that initial scene I wrote made the full round of extensive edits, and remains nearly smack dab in the middle of the book!

But then I realized the story wasn’t over. The tale was still weaving possibilities, questions, situations, and repercussions in my head.  As it was, the merits of having special powers were diminishing for my teenaged protagonist, and quite frankly, I could seriously see the downside.  Several months and a thousand pages later, I was exhausted and the story really was complete.

The tale was told, and I knew my kids, both of them, would think it was a most excellent bedtime story!

Debut novelist Emily Ford has always been a storyteller. As a kid at summer camp in Maine, she’d make up ghost stories at bedtime for her fellow bunkmates.

Her Djinn Master’s Legacy trilogy also began as a simple bedtime story, intended for Ford’s then adolescent children to have in writing and use to tell their own kids one day. By the time she finished writing, she had three very full books.

2:32 a.m., Ford’s first installment of her young adult series, caught early readers’ attention as a fiction book minus the typical vampire and werewolf characters.

The Texas writer interned each summer with KHOU-TV in Houston while gaining her bachelor’s degree in radio and television at The University of Arizona. She worked on the copy desk at The Dallas Morning News, and eventually started the marketing company KapsMark, Inc.

AND THE STORY BEGINS…

In the early morning hours nearing her 17th birthday, Cat Townsend woke to the sudden blur of a mysterious unknown man sitting on the edge of her bed. She did not feel fear – rather a strange calmness overtook her. In an instant their eyes locked, he lightly touched her hand, and then he disappeared into the nothingness of night.

Caught in that undefined place between asleep and awake, the moment felt hazy and surreal. A chill ran down Cat’s spine as she glances at the time – it’s 2:32 a.m.

What unfolds in the first book of The Djinn Master’s Legacy trilogy, is young Cat’s personal struggle with the overwhelming choice to accept a destiny of magic. As she contemplates the merits of unparalleled power, her new and ordinary world in Savannah, Georgia is understandably shaken.  The closer her decision gets, the more twisted her life with family, friends and boyfriend becomes. Will she choose to give up everything she cherishes?

Find out, in 2:32 A.M. The time everything happens.

Why I Write by M. Mariz

We’re all formed by the small, unexpected and even weird moments of our youth.

One night, when I was around 4 years old, I decided to disobey my mom’s order to sleep early and sneaked into the kitchen instead to have some sweet desert. As a green chili burned my mouth mercilessly, I learned that looks can be deceiving and that bad decisions can bring consequences hard to digest.

On that same year, I finally got the hang of riding my bicycle after many, many, MANY falls, learning that perseverance and determination were needed for happiness and confidence. And when I got my favorite chocolate – which came with COOL animals’ pictures and that I was saving for a special moment – stolen from my Care Bears backpack at school, I learned that people could be selfish and envy what you have, even if their actions make a little girl cry.

It was another unexpected, weird moment that made me realize I wanted to be a storyteller. My two-years-older brother took up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and decided to draft me as his “sparring partner”. As much as I tried to escape, I’d always find myself keeping my dogs company on the floor after his sweeps. But one night, surprisingly, he left me alone. He didn’t search the whole house for his victim. How come? After getting up the nerve to look for him instead, I found my brother glued to the couch watching The Goonies. His eyes locked on the TV, his mouth half open, breathing deep and slowly. He didn’t even bother to cast me a sharp look when I borrowed some of his popcorn. I wanted to channel that power, the power of a great story!

Later, I noticed that same hypnotized look when my mom was reading a novel. Everything was going wrong for her that day, but the book somehow managed to extract a grin from her and then even a laugh.  I felt like I was witnessing a magic trick. The book had not only grabbed my mother’s attention, it had completely cheered her up and made her forgot about her troubles. Could I ever create something similar?

Soon, I found myself smiling while holding books too, and preferring to go to the bookstore rather than to stay home playing Mario Bros. It wasn’t long until I had some paragraphs and then a story of my very own. I wish I could say that one day I felt inspired while watching the birds singing and a strong force compelled me to grab a notebook to share my thoughts with the world… but, no… It wasn’t that poetic. I was coerced to write my first story – I wanted to buy some candies and, to solve my problem, I offered my dad to clean the car for spending money. He liked the idea but ended up giving me a different assignment: write a small story about the city where we lived, Rio de Janeiro.

I accepted the challenge, angry with the audacity of my dad’s proposal, but it paid up a lot more than a box of gummy bears. I realized that seven year old me was able to perform some magic myself. The feeling of being able to combine words into a story was so overwhelming that I didn’t want to let it go. Now it was just missing the second part of the trick – inspire people with my stories or just simply make them smile.

That goal made me start paying more attention to my surroundings to use them as a source to my stories. The housekeeper’s black clothes and strong laugh made her into a character of one of the horror stories that I created to terrify my friends. Their high-pitched screams told me I was on the right path.

As I developed my story-telling abilities, I realized that no matter how crazy my life was, or how stressed I was, writing could always make me feel cheerful. Time could pass, Santa Claus didn’t exist and my housekeeper no longer seemed scary, but the magic of story telling has only grown.

The pleasure of writing and the idea of brightening another’s day inspired me to create theater plays, then screenplays, then finally to my first novel – The Chosen of Gaia, a book that combines everything I’ve loved in a good story: deeply human characters living out adventure with humor, suspense and personal growth.

Check it out, and let me know if I brought some magic to your day.

M. Mariz is an actress, lawyer and writer with more than 20 plays produced. Her debut novel The Chosen of Gaia (Sept. 28, 2012) was inspired by her own Revelation dream.

Born in Rio de Janeiro and currently living in Southern California, Mariz writes screenplays and novels in both Portuguese and English. The artist has more than 15 years of acting experience, encompassing works in theater, television and movies. She has multiple plays and sketches featured in theaters, including a teenager play that was performed by young Brazilian celebrities all over the country, and has written many other plays for different Brazilian companies to present work-related themes in a funny, entertaining way.

She lives with her husband in Orange, California, where she is constantly developing ideas for new stories to tell.

Fifteen-year-old Albert has just received an invitation that could transform his disappointing life completely – a chance to belong to an advanced and hidden society that only reveals itself to a select few.

Immersed in a new world of mind-boggling technology and intriguing peers, Albert will overcome his fears enough to ignore a few suspicious details. But soon he’ll find his family dragged to the center of a scandal that threatens to tear them apart and erase their very identities.

A conflicted Albert must find the strength to challenge authority by relying on his newfound allies and gift for Revelation.

Prepare for adventure, humor and suspense in this fast-paced tale of a “normal” family striving for their place in a “perfect” world.