Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start writing.
I grew up in a small town on the plains of eastern Montana and attended college at Montana State University, earning a B.S. in Education. After college, I left the state for 8 years, living in Michigan and then Washington before happily returning to my home state in the 1980’s. For over 30 years, my passion was teaching, working with thousands of women and babies as a breastfeeding educator. During my career, I co-wrote many lactation articles and case studies, which have appeared in different lactation journals and been referenced in books.
Apparently, I was born with a need to document events that happened in my life, which I deemed important, although it soon went beyond that initial compulsion…I began to journal in an attempt to make some sense of life in general and my life, in particular. I originally began investigating the writing process when I received a diary for my birthday, around the time I was 12 or 13. Diaries were most unsatisfactory, however, as there was never enough space to hold my thoughts. By the time I was 16, I’d abandoned diaries for ledgers, whose blank pages were open white space waiting to capture my thoughts, many times filled with teenage angst, along with my often probing questions about the meaning of it all. Over the years, during times of stress, it wasn’t uncommon for me to fill an entire journal. When life flows more smoothly, far fewer entries will be found.
Tell us about your books.
In 2004, after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and my father with Parkinson’s-related dementia, I became the nearest family caregiver. As we traveled down what I call the “rabbit hole of dementia,” writing continued to provide an outlet and a way to cope with the emotional ups and downs of our lives. I felt very alone as I struggled to find practical and helpful information to help me as a caregiver, so as time went on, my diary eventually morphed into my first full-length work, Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia. I wrote the book I wished I could have found to help guide me along the caregiver path. Written in a conversational style, laced with humor and pathos, I share the lessons I learned along the way, often through my own missteps, with a goal to offer hope to others whose lives have been intimately affected by dementia, letting them know they aren’t alone. I’m pleased to report that this summer I was nominated as 2015 Best Woman Writer for this book in the High Plains Book Awards, which encompasses entries from 7 western states and 3 Canadian provinces.
How did you go about getting published?
Traditional Publishing route:
When my editors and I felt the book was at last ready to be born, I researched traditional publishing. I bought the reference book, Writer’s Market, researched where to send my query letters, compiled a spreadsheet and proceeded to be receive an ample share of rejection letters or worse, simply silence. It was a discouraging experience, so decided instead to print spiral-bound Kinko copies as a memento for each of my family members and walk away from the thought of publishing. The manuscript then languished on the hard drive of my computer for several years, with sporadic downloads for friends and friends of friends in similar circumstances. After hearing these readers tell me over and over how much reading this book helped them on their own journey, I started to investigate self-publishing. It was during this time that the publisher of one of the journals I’d written for in my former career expressed an interest in the manuscript. Within 2 weeks, I suddenly had a contract with her independent publishing house, Praeclarus Press and one year later, Somebody Stole My Iron was finally published, exactly 9 years after
What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?
If possible, I write every day. The amount of time spent at my computer each day depends on life’s persistent demands and distractions. I’d like to institute the practice of “untouchable time” each day when nothing interrupts—no social media, no distractions or demands. It’s only a matter of discipline, right?
My first book was a memoir, so my notes were from my journal, as well as my recall of the different events. My second book is a work of biographical fiction, so I inserted events from known documents and vital statistics onto a timeline. This book was written linearly, scene to scene. I stopped along the way to do research whenever necessary to give authenticity to the situation. Whenever I hit a block, I’d leave the manuscript for a day or two and then come back and reread the last 10 pages, often editing and nearly always finding my inspiration to continue moving forward with the narrative. Ideas often come to me when walking my dog, or wake me in the middle of the night. Sometimes when I write, I’m not sure where I’m going and the characters carry me through the scene with their conversation or thoughts, often with surprising results that I hadn’t anticipated. I’ll suddenly realize why something happened previously that ties the scene together. This never ceases to amaze me.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?
When I’m not writing I’m attending to the details of living! I retired from my former career in January 2014. I’m the mother of three grown children, and the proud nana of seven grandsons and a granddaughter, three of whom live nearby with my son and his wife. My husband, Mini-Schnauzer and I live in south central Montana, where I enjoy writing, reading, photography, cycling, long walks and the “Big Sky” of Montana. I also enjoy traveling–exploring the world, whether I’m in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, taking a hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, biking/camping down the entire coast of Oregon, digging for artifacts in Israel, exploring South Africa or cycling/trekking through much of Europe. I delight in learning and exploring new places around the world.
Any advice for authors about book covers?
Only that it’s the first things a potential reader sees visually, to it’s worth having a professional designer create the perfect cover to envelop your words.
Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?
Begin the marketing process at least 4 months before the book is published. Develop your “brand,” engage and stay active on at least 2 social media platforms, develop a website to showcase your work, find your target audience, and be persistent.
What’s your favorite book?
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
What are you reading now?
I’m always reading other books related to Alzheimer’s/dementia, including Stars Go Blue by Laura Pritchett (High Plains Book Award winner), Jean Lee’s Alzheimer’s Daughter, Marianne Sciucco’s Blue Hydrangeas and Shannon Wiersbitzky’s What Flowers Remember. Currently, I’m reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.
What’s your next book project?
Although this is still my working title, I recently finished the first draft of Overcoming Maggie. This biographical work of fiction was inspired by the life of my great-grandmother, a spunky and determined woman thrust into marriages of abuse, not once, but 3 times. I’ve the actual divorce transcript from one marriage, which inspired much of the first half of the book. This story, which begins in Michigan and ends in Montana, is a testament to her determination, courage and spirit. It takes place around the turn of the 20th century, when women had few, if any, legal rights.