Finding a Writing Community – Guest Post by Karen Mann

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Finding a Writing Community
By Karen Mann

We know writing is a solitary occupation. Writers are often introverts and like being alone. But most of us don’t want to keep our writing to ourselves. We write in hopes someone will read our writing. It’s important to find a writing community with which to share your work. If publication is your goal, you’ll want to get opinions and tips from other writers before sending out a submission or approaching an agent or editor. Here are some tips for finding a writing community that benefits you.

Find a writing group. Writing groups are usually 4-6 people who meet regularly and exchange writing. Members critique other members’ work, and members revise based on suggestions. Check your community news for local groups, or search online to find one in your area. Writing groups are usually free to join unlike the next suggestions.

Go to a writers’ conference. A writers’ conference offers various features, such as talks by authors, agents, or editors; mini-classes; workshops; manuscript critiques; plus connection with other writers. Writers’ conferences often have themes, such as mystery, romance, fiction, screenwriting, etc. Newpages.com has a list of writers’ conferences and events under Writers Resources.

Take a writing class. You may find courses through adult education, community colleges, or universities. If you take a class to improve your writing and find a community, enroll in a local class rather than taking an online class.

Join a writing association. Many states or large cities have writing associations that offer many opportunities for writers. Search for lists of writing associations, and you’ll find one near you. Associations often have conferences, classes, groups, and readings.

Attend an MFA in Writing program. MFA in Writing programs not only give you the chance to work with an author instructor, but also a chance to cultivate a community with others who have a passion for writing just like you. Low-residency MFA in Writing programs allow adults to improve their writing by earning a degree without moving to a college town. Each semester begins with a residency, usually 7-10 days, after which students return home to study through an exchange of writing, or perhaps online workshops, with an experienced mentor. Through an alumni association, MFA program connections last longer than you’ll be a student; they can last a lifetime. You’ll make friends who not only share your love of writing but also care about you.

Finding a community is essential to nurturing your love of writing. Take a break from the writing and find some writer friends—for critiquing, for a literary discussion, for sharing, or maybe just for lunch!

karenmannphoto-2Karen Mann is the author of The Woman of La Mancha and The Saved Man. She is the co-founder and Administrative Director of the low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program at Spalding University (www.spalding.edu/mfa). She is also the managing editor of The Louisville Review, a national literary magazine since 1976 (www.louisvillereview.org). Having lived in Indiana most of her life, she now lives in San Jose, California. See more about her books at http://www.karenmannwrites.com.

About The Woman of La Mancha:

coverauthorbuzz-2The Woman of La Mancha, a companion book to Don Quixote, tells the woman’s story of Don Quixote by recounting the story of the girl he called Dulcinea, the woman he loved from afar.

It’s 1583. An eleven-year-old girl wakes in the back of a cart. She has lost her memory and is taken in by a kindly farm family in La Mancha. She adopts the name Aldonza. She doesn’t speak for quite some time. Once she speaks, there is a family member who is jealous of her and causes a good deal of trouble, even causing her to be forced to leave La Mancha in tragic circumstances. Having to create a new life in a new location and still unaware of her birth family, she adopts the name Dulcinea and moves in the circles of nobility. While seeking her identity, she becomes the consort of wealthy men, finds reason to disguise herself as a man, and learns herbal healing to help others.

There is a parallel story of a young man, Don Christopher, a knight of King Philip and the betrothed of the girl, who sets off on with a young squire, Sancho, to find the girl. Christopher’s adventures take them across Spain and force him to grow up. Does he continue the quest to find his betrothed or marry another and break the contract with the king?

Both young people have many experiences and grow up before the readers’ eyes. Floating in and out of each other’s paths as they travel around Spain, will they eventually find each other and be together?

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Author Spotlight – K. P Gazelle

 

The_Color_of_Happiness_KINDLEFaith Lane is the girl who has everything.  At least, that’s what everyone thinks when they see her rocking a killer dress while laughing with her best friend, Tiffany.  But Faith’s life is far from flawless.  Her peers torment her relentlessly, and her parents expect her to be the epitome of perfection.  Criticized and pressured at school and home, Faith retreats into silent acceptance and finds an escape in her passion of dancing.  Then she meets Alex – quirky, forever with a pass, and concealing a mysterious secret of his own.  And through his encouragement, Faith starts believing in her gift for dance and gains courage to stand up for herself.  But will she be able to keep her footing when the events of one night consume her with the need to jump off the rocky cliffs near her coastal home?  And what has pushed her to the edge of reason?

 Author Bio:

K.P Gazelle has been connected with young adults in some way for as long as she can remember.  She’s obsessed with coffee, books, and big dreams.

Author Websites:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

 

In the hot seat – an interview with K. P Gazelle

1.  How did you come up with the title?

The title was inspired by Faith’s love for fashion.

  1. Are experiences based on someone you know or events in your own life?

There definitely are some elements in the book that are inspired by people and events from my own life. I’ve been blessed to have friends who support me, which is one of the themes of the book.

  1. What book are you reading now?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I loved Eleanor and Park, and I’m SO excited to get into Fangirl as well.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Hmm . . . editing was definitely a pain. Revising, revising, revising!

  1. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

To always keep faith no matter what you’re going through life! This is one of the central messages of The Color of Happiness.

  1. Do you suffer from writers block?

Oh, yes! Sometimes, I’m just not feeling it and it shows in my writing, which I promptly delete!

  1. Do you use an outline or just write?

I just write. Although, I do have a general idea of where I want the story to go.

  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another writer?

To keep writing and reading.

  1. Do you start with character or plot?

It just depends; it really can go either way.

  1. What kind of questions do you ask yourself when you get an idea for a project?

I like to get to know my characters, so I’ll ask myself questions about him or her. What are her hobbies? What’s her favorite food? Etc. The answers don’t necessarily always pop up in the story, but they’re important in building the character.

Bound by Fate – Episode 7 of the Shadow Stalker Series by Renee Scattergood

It is my great pleasure to introduce Episode 7 of the Shadow Stalker series by Renee Scattergood. In Bound by Fate, we follow Auren into unknown territory as she undergoes compulsory treatment within a Reconciliation Centre. It is an emotionally fraught episode, with danger at every turn. Just when it seems that Auren might find her loved ones and gain information to help fight against the war, her worse nightmare comes true – her true identity is discovered. It is an episode which will leave your hungry for more.

 
E7 KindleAuren escapes the Dark Isle to find things are worse on Appolia than she imagined. Very few have survived the invasion of the Galvadi Empire, and even her best friend, Jade, has gone missing.

While attempting a rescue, Auren is captured and faces abuse and torture at the hands of her enemies. She knows as long as she can hide her true identity, she might succeed in helping the Coalition, but one of the Galvadi knows she is the delohi-saqu. For his silence, she is forced to pay the ultimate price.

Purchase at Smashwords

Shadow Stalker: Bound by Fate (Episode 7) Excerpt
By Renee Scattergood

Once inside the office, I closed the door behind me and felt my way to the computer. I didn’t want to risk turning on a light, so had to figure out how to turn on the machine in the dark. As it turned out, the computer was in standby mode. It came to life as soon as I touched the screen. I’d used similar computers in school, so it wasn’t difficult to navigate. It was simply a matter of finding the right file.

I spotted one labeled “Residents”. Really? They called their prisoners residents? I opened the file and, sure enough, I found a list of detainees assigned to this reconciliation center, which was apparently called, Brynn. I scrolled down, barely breathing when I came to “Z” and saw my father’s name. He was here. They were keeping him in a cell in block D. I was in E block, which meant he couldn’t be too far. I felt a nagging pull in my gut, but I dismissed it as the effect of knowing my father was close by.

As I was closing the folder, another file labeled “Shadow Stalker Attenuation” caught my eye. I opened it and saw a folder labeled “Recinder”. A recinder is a circular collar worn on the neck by shadow stalkers. The alloy, Beryllonium, contains properties which interfere with a shadow stalker’s ability to use their powers. All captured shadow stalkers, if not sentenced to death, are fitted with a recinder. Once locked in place, the recinder cannot be removed unless cut with a specific tool.

I flicked through the file. Apparently, the alloy was also used to make weapons against the shadow stalkers, something Kado had referred to. If I could somehow get the information to the Coalition, there was a chance they could find a way to counter it. But I knew my time had run out as soon as I heard voices in the corridor. I switched the computer to standby, wondering at the pull inside me. It was stronger than before. I hesitated in the dark, reluctant to reenter the shadow world, especially after reading about the recinders, and the alloy used to make them.

The door swung open before I made my decision, and by then it was too late. They saw me before they switched on the light. Two guides stood in the doorway, gazing at me from beneath their robes.

“Well, well,” one of them said, dropping his hood.

It was Makari. But how? And why was he dressed like a guide?

“If it isn’t my little lizard.”


Renee ScattergoodRenee Scattergood, author of the fantasy series, Shadow Stalker, and novella, Demon Hunt, lives in Australia with her husband and daughter. Aside from writing, she loves reading (Fantasy, of course), watching movies with her family, and doing crafts and science experiments with her daughter. Find out more about her, and sign up for her newsletter on her blog: http://reneescattergood.com

Author Pages:

Renee Writes: http://reneescattergood.com/ – my personal website and blog.

Renee’s Author Spotlight: http://reneesauthorspotlight.blogspot.com.au/ – a blog where I feature indie and small press authors.

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00NTJY1W2

Smashwords Author Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/rscatts

Social Media:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/reneescatts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReneeScatts

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/118427336236369690813/+ReneescattergoodAuthor/posts

 

 

 

Take Me Tomorrow – Review

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Click on the image to be taken to Amazon and get your copy!

Two years after the massacre, the State enforces stricter rules and harsher punishments on anyone rumored to support tomo – the clairvoyant drug that caused a regional uprising.

But sixteen-year-old Sophia Gray has other problems.

Between her father’s illegal forgery and her friend’s troubling history, the last thing Sophia needs is an unexpected encounter with a boy.

He’s wild, determined, and one step ahead of her. But when his involvement with tomo threatens her friends and family, Sophia has to make a decision: fight for a future she cannot see or sacrifice her loved ones to the world of tomorrow.

Review

Take Me Tomorrow is the kind of tale you want to finish in one sitting. It is so easy to get lost in the excitement of Sophia’s journey. Told in first person, Sophia’s voice is so engaging she gets in your head. She faces danger and uncertainty at every turn, and you’re right there with her until the end.

The setting is an intriguing one, throwing the reader into unfamiliar territory and because you’re already invested, this adds to the feeling of uncertainty when Sophia’s world is turned upside down. It is a marvellous mystery, a real page turner. Even the chapter headings are a hook, teasing the reader into one more taste!

Take Me Tomorrow deals with difficult issues in a rather unique way. The author flips these topics on their head, forcing her readers to think about immigration and drug addiction from an entirely different perspective.

At its heart, it is a story of friendship and survival. Those friendships are expertly told, so that each character stands out in their own right. It is a highly enjoyable read.


You can find out more about Shannon and her work here.

Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson

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Today I have the great pleasure in welcoming Shannon A. Thompson, author of Take Me Tomorrow and Minutes Before Sunset (part of The Timely Death Trilogy). Shannon kindly agreed to an interview, and I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion. Later today I will be providing a review of Take Me Tomorrow, but for now, here’s Shannon to tell you a little more about it.

 

 

Interview with Shannon A. Thompson

I read in one of your articles that, growing up, most of your friends were guys. I can relate to that. Do you think that’s why you felt so comfortable writing about male experiences? Because you shared a number of close friendships at a pivotal age?

It’s difficult to say why I write more about males than females, but on top of being friends with more males, I was also (mainly) raised by males. My mother died when I was eleven, so I spent most of my teenage years with my father and my brother and my brother’s friends, so I gravitated toward befriending more males. So, yes, I think growing up around males has affected my writing in the sense that you will see more males around the females, and you will see males that are simply just friends with females (no romantic feelings), not just because I feel comfortable writing stories that way but also because I think it’s important to show those relationships in fiction since male-female friendships get a lot of judgment in society. On that topic, I wrote an article called Why Most of My Characters Are Male: http://shannonathompson.com/2014/10/08/why-most-of-my-characters-are-male/

Thanks for sharing the article. As I said, I can relate to your experiences, and I agree that it’s important to reflect positive male-female friendships. You certainly did that in Take Me Tomorrow – I enjoyed the dynamics of the group. The ending left me wanting more (in a good way!) How many novels will be in the series?

There are three novels in The Tomo Trilogy: Take Me Tomorrow, Take Me Yesterday, and Take Me Now. That being said, my original publisher for this series closed down, so these books are no longer under a contract. I do have a new publisher – so there is still hope for this series – but for now, I’m concentrating on re-releasing The Timely Death Trilogy with Clean Teen Publishing, and I will keep everyone updated about all of my novels via www.ShannonAThompson.com

I’m sure I can speak for my readers when I say, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the new publisher offers a contract for The Tomo Trilogy. You mentioned in an article that the idea came to you after a discussion with your father. Did this include the characters or did they only begin to take shape when you decided on the plot?

The characters definitely came later. My father and I were discussing drugs and addiction and what it might look like in the future if we keep treating drugs and addiction how we treat it now. Drugs and addiction is very close to my heart. My mother died of a drug overdose, so I spent many years of my childhood trying to understand drugs – legal and illegal – and how they affect society. This post is probably the most important post I’ve written about Take Me Tomorrow: Why I Write About Immigration, Drugs, and Addiction: http://shannonathompson.com/2014/07/18/why-i-write-about-immigration-drugs-and-addiction/

I can image that the series is close to your heart. I enjoyed the article. You found a unique way to tackle the subject of immigration and drug addiction. 

Let’s talk more about your process. Do you plan out a novel (or series), or do you take a more flexible approach?

I am definitely a planner, but I like to look at novel writing as a road trip. I have a beginning, ending, and a few spots in-between in mind, but I am always up for a detour. The characters are always in charge, and they often change my plans, but I do have a detailed plan before I begin. I even write a screenplay before I write the novel. 

I love the idea of writing a screenplay, that’s certainly one way to get your characters communicating! One thing I found compelling about the novel, was undoubtedly the mystery. It was a definite hook. Did you struggle with the balance at any point, or did you know exactly when to drop vital information?

The mystery happened naturally. It’s confusing for me to say this, but since I knew more than Sophia, it wasn’t really a mystery to me. In fact, many times I was fighting myself because I wanted to include more information. In fact, originally, Noah told half of the story, but he was either on drugs – and didn’t make sense – or sober – and told too much – so his parts were ultimately cut out in order for the rest of the trilogy to make sense. The next two books, for instance, explain the massacre, how Phelps came into power, and who Sophia is – all of which were things that I think people expected in the first novel (and, trust me, I wanted to include it). But The Tomo Trilogy is written a little backwards. It’s set up so that the first novel is in the present, the second novel is in the past, and the third novel is in the future, and there’s a reason for the lack of information. I promise. I can actually admit that many of my novels work this way. Call it my style. But The Timely Death Trilogy had much of the same mystery in the sense that the creatures existence isn’t explained until the last book, but there was a reason for it, and that reason couldn’t be said earlier or it would’ve ruined the entire story. 

Well, it was certainly an exciting journey, and you have me intrigued. You’ve talked about your planning, but what does your writing schedule look like? Tell us a little about your habits.

My writing habits recently changed because I went through a huge transition. I moved to Missouri, and I started editing and marketing book reviews for authors full-time via my Services (http://shannonathompson.com/services/). Currently, I write on my days off in a local coffee house. I’m working on an exciting project too! And it’s nice to have a giant cup of Americano coffee next to me while doing so.

That certainly is a big transition. I’m sure the authors you work with are grateful for your support. It must be an interesting balance between editing and writing. Speaking of which, how long does it take you to write the first draft?

That depends on what someone considers the first draft. I spend a couple of months (sometimes even years) just letting an idea unfold in my head, but I consider the first draft the prose part, and that takes me anywhere between 3 and 6 months, but – again – I have a ton of planning before that, not to mention a practical screenplay. Writing is different for everyone. I try not to worry about how long it will take. I only try to enjoy it and be honest to the characters and tale.

That’s the most important thing, I think – enjoying the process. It reflects in the story itself, which benefits our readers.

Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview, Shannon. It was lovely to learn more about the novel and the experiences which influenced the series.


Shannon recently revealed her cover for the second edition of Minutes Before Sunset, book one in The Timely Death Trilogy.

CoverTwo destinies. One death.

“Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates.”

Eric Welborn isn’t completely human, but he isn’t the only shade in the small Midwest town of Hayworth. With one year left before his eighteenth birthday, Eric is destined to win a long-raging war for his kind. But then she happens. In the middle of the night, Eric meets a nameless shade, and she’s powerful—too powerful—and his beliefs are altered. The Dark has lied to him, and he’s determined to figure out exactly what lies were told, even if the secrets protect his survival.

Jessica Taylor moves to Hayworth, and her only goal is to find more information on her deceased biological family. Her adoptive parents agree to help on one condition: perfect grades. And Jessica is distraught when she’s assigned as Eric’s class partner. He won’t help, let alone talk to her, but she’s determined to change him—even if it means revealing everything he’s strived to hide.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

A Song for All Seasons now available!

Congratulations, on your new release, Kay. I’m thrilled for you 🙂

Suddenly they all died. The end.

ASFAS-EcoverI’m pleased, excited, and every other happy word you can think of to announce that my new poetry book, A Song for All Seasons, is now available!  You can find it on Smashwords, Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Createspace, and more!

TD-SWI’m also stoked to announce that the print copy of Tuesday Daydreams is now available at a new lower price.  Both the e-book and print copies now have a shiny new cover, and you can find them wherever fine books are sold (read: all the above)!

Aren’t Fridays just the best? 🙂

(c) 2015.  All rights reserved.

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Shadow Stalker: Destiny Reconciled Part 2 (Episode 6)

Shadow-Stalker-ButtonIt’s Shadow Stalker time! Episode 6 is out today, which is the second part of Destiny Reconciled. You’ll find all the relevant links below. But first, Renee would like to share with you some of her writing experiences.

My Five Biggest Distractions While Writing

By Renee Scattergood

I have ADHD, so I am very easily distracted. Quite often I need to multitask just so I can distract myself from the distractions. Some are just unavoidable, though, and they seem to get to me regardless of what I do. Here are five of them:

1) My daughter. She is probably the biggest distraction I have. She has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD as well, and right now I am the only person she seems to want attention from. That means every time she needs something, even if her dad is available, she insists on coming to me. Anyone who knows about ASD knows it’s hard to sway a kid like this once they get something in their head, and you learn that they have a reason for it, even if you don’t know what that reason is (in other words, they’re not doing it to annoy you…in fact, that is something they would never consider doing). So I try to encourage her to go to her father, but if we start hitting the meltdown yellow zone, for now I have to just humor her and take care of things myself.

2) Outside noise. Any little bit of outside noise is a distraction to me, whether it’s a car going by, the ice cream truck, or kids playing. Generally I have to wait for the noise to pass before I can concentrate on writing again.

3) The clouds. Yes, the clouds. If I can see the clouds through my window while I’m writing, they will distract me. I love watching the clouds and the minute I see them passing by, I either have to turn myself around or allow myself to succumb to the momentary distraction until the cloud finally passes. Sometimes I get some good ideas while cloud watching, though, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

4) My husband. If he finds something cool on the internet he just has to show me right there and then. No, it cannot wait. I’ve even told him to email things to me and I’d look at it when I’m done, but no. It’s easier for him to just tell me about it right then. Sigh…

5) My own thoughts. You know, it just happened right after I wrote that. LOL My brain is always going a million miles a second, and it’s hard for me to keep up sometimes. Most of the time multitasking helps with this, but other times even that’s not enough. I might have other things on my mind, in which case I will need to take care of those things first, or I’ll never be able to write. Other times the story I’m working on plays through my head so quickly, I can’t keep up with the typing. I can end up three or four chapters ahead before I realize I’ve got to catch up with the actual writing.

There are other things that distract me as well, but these are my five biggest distractions. What things distract you from writing, or doing what you’re supposed to be doing?


Renee ScattergoodRenee Scattergood lives in Australia with her husband, Nathan, and daughter, Taiya. She has always been a fan of fantasy and was inspired to become a story-teller by George Lucas, but didn’t start considering writing down her stories until she reached her late twenties. Now she enjoys writing fantasy. She is currently publishing her monthly Shadow Stalker series, and she has also published a prequel novella to the series called, Demon Hunt. Aside from writing, she loves reading (Fantasy, of course), watching movies with her family, and doing crafts and science experiments with her daughter.


Destiny Reconciled Part 2

Cathnor has been arrested by the Council of Elders and everything is out of control on the Dark Isle. As the future Foramar of the shadow stalkers, Kado is determined to return to his village and help his people, but he won’t risk Auren being captured.

On their way back to the village, Kado prepares Auren for the possibility that she may have to leave the Dark Isle without him, but will Auren have the strength and courage to leave her foster father behind and face her destiny alone?

Author Pages:

 Renee Writes: http://reneescattergood.com/

Renee’s Author Spotlight: http://reneesauthorspotlight.blogspot.com.au/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00NTJY1W2

Smashwords Author Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/rscatts

Social Media:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/reneescatts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReneeScatts

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/118427336236369690813/+ReneescattergoodAuthor/posts

Introducing Myrna J. Smith – author of God and Other Men

godandothermen1500x2400Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Myrna J. Smith. You will find details of her novel, God and Other Men, and how to get your hands on a copy, below. But first, I’d like to share an interview, and let you get to know Myrna a little better.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am fortunate to have lived in four different parts of the country: Oregon, Indiana, Wyoming, and New Jersey, and to end up in the one I like the best, New Jersey. I live in the western part of the state in Frenchtown where there are farms and open spaces, yet I can be downtown New York City in an hour and a half. I go there not only for the theater and the opera, but also for the energy emanating from the variety of people on the streets.

For over thirty years I taught English, and for the last few years, Comparative Religion at Raritan Valley Community College. During that time I was able to complete my Doctor of Education at Rutgers and to attend Princeton University on Mid-Career Fellowships, once in English and once in religion.

Besides reading and writing, I have two hobbies: playing duplicate bridge and traveling. I like concentration required to play serious bridge—like writing, you can’t think about anything else. I also like the excitement of going some place new, especially if the trip is not too planned. I just returned from five weeks in Asia, the last two being in Vietnam on my own.

To balance my competitive nature that comes out in playing bridge I am a daily meditator and attend a Unity Church. Luckily I have a great family—three children, five grandchildren, a sister and a brother and some valued in-laws.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began keeping a journal in my early thirties. By that time I had completed an MA program in English and, therefore, had written lots of papers, but I didn’t really express myself, just fulfilled the professors’ requirements. I had not talked about feeling with my parents, nor did my husband and I communicate well about anything but our studies and our drive for material success. We couldn’t even talk well about our three children.

In my journals I first began writing little verses then moved to my personal issues. I started looking forward to my morning session with my journal, a place where I could say what was on my mind.

When I wrote my doctoral dissertation, I made rules for myself—as a good puritan, I responded to self-imposed rules: I had to be at the typewriter (no computer then) by eight o’clock and had to stay there until one o’clock or until I had written three pages. I did that every day for two months, although one day I let myself be diverted by the laundry, and didn’t write a single word.

I saw that I liked the process: the discipline, the pages stacking up, the figuring out both what to say and how to say it. When I finished the dissertation, I wrote a note to myself and put it in my desk drawer: “I want to be a writer.” I couldn’t tell anyone because I didn’t have enough confidence that I could ever become one.

A few years later I took a temporary administrator’s job. Being out from under the heavy teaching load at a community college, I found time to write more than the occasional essays and poems in addition to my journal. I published articles and chapters in books during those two and a half years, giving me the impetus to keep trying to fulfill my secret dream.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I did not have the courage to call myself a writer until after I published my book.

A conversation I had with an elderly professor at the university where I held the administrative job contributed to my feeling of not being up to the task of being a writer. Everyone in the building knew I would be returning to my position as an English Professor at the community college from which I had a leave of absence, but this scholar asked me about my academic plans. I told him I intended to continue to write. He asked me a series of penetrating questions about my knowledge of languages, my research specialty, etc. When he found out I had no special skill, he made a disparaging remark, “How can you write; you have nothing to say.”

Fortunately, I was able to recover from his comment by finding that I do have something to say and can now comfortably call myself a writer.”

What inspired you to write your first book?

I have written only one book, my spiritual memoir, God and Other Men. I had made other attempts at big writing projects, but none of them took root. After I made my long trips to India and had such unusual experiences, I decided I needed to write a book at least about the teachers I had met there and the mystic I had studied with here in the US. When I decided to turn those experiences into a memoir, the idea just took off. I wrote every chance I had.

How did you come up with the title?

I like to ponder ideas as I walk, and since I live on near a path on the Delaware River, I walk there often. I had determined early on that I wanted to write about my spiritual teachers. My father, a follower of the work of Edgar Cayce, owned his series “The Search for God.” I thought that would be a good title for my book. Then when I decided to write a spiritual memoir instead of a religious book, I recognized that I had to include my search for another husband. But a title “Searching for God and a Second Husband” didn’t sound so appealing. On one of those walks, “God and Other Men” just popped into my head.

Coming up with the subtitle took much more work. My editor and I went back and forth for several months. At first she wanted something about India in it. I said it was more about overcoming abandonment. Finally, she came up with Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love, which expresses exactly what the book is about.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Though I should not choose Russian writers because I cannot read them in the original, but Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky are the writers I admire the most; however I have learned more from Tolstoy. Both deal the big existential questions, questions that have dominated my life for the last forty years.

Like many persons my age I was caught up in both the women’s and civil rights movements and the literature that came with those societal shifts. But that literature seems ephemeral compared to the universal questions that Tolstoy considers.

Even though he develops complex characters, his moral compass stays on his north star. In Anna Karenina Kitty and Levin contrast sharply to Anna and Vronsky on one hand and Anna’s husband on the other. Readers may not buy his romantic vision of country living, but he does have an ideal. In the novella The Death of Ivan Illych Tolstoy not only critiques the values of the middle class, but also lays bare the pain of dying after an unreflective life. Illych faces not just the agony of a painful death, but the realization that he has not, in his desire for material success, cultivated any meaningful relationships or spiritual awareness. In both of these texts Tolstoy is able to offer social criticism while considering life’s ultimate meanings.

In my writing I have tried to keep in mind exactly what it is that I am trying to say. In my memoir I left out many great adventures that I would have enjoyed writing about simply because they did not add to my main idea.

What books have influenced you the most?

The books that have influenced me the most are all religious. Most importantly is A Course in Miracles, which presents a complete philosophical system written in Christian language, but is more Buddhist in thought. It has a text and a 365-workbook for students. In addition there is “A Manual for Teacher,” but since we are all teachers and all students, that too is written for all.

The Indian text the Bhagavad Gita has also been important. Written in dialogue between Arguna, the reluctant warrior for the “good” side in an epic battle, and Krishna, one of the gods in the Hindu pantheon, we hear the words of wisdom in story form. Krishna tells Arguna he must fight because his spiritual path is one of action, but that he must not be concerned with the outcome of the battle. Krishna also points out three other paths to god, guides for any spiritual seeker.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Once I had in mind the form of the book, the only chapter I really suffered over was the one on A Course in Miracles. How was I to explain three things: (1) The unusual way it came into being. It was channeled in the voice of Jesus through a Ph.D. psychologist who proclaimed to be a militant atheist. (2) Its message with emphasis on forgiveness, but not the way most of us understand that word. (3) Most importantly, its influence on my life.

What was your favorite chapter to write?

The first and easiest Chapter to write was the one about Satya Sai Baba, fifth in the book because I knew what I wanted to say. The one I had the most fun with was Chapter one. Once I came to the idea of going around my house looking for what my ex-husband had taken with him when he moved out, I felt I had struck on a device to convey my feelings without being sentimental. I named kitchen objects and pieces of furniture that were missing, showing how fair he had been. I was intent on not blaming him for the demise of the marriage, yet still showing my devastation.

I also enjoyed incorporating a part of Ann Sexton’s poem “Live” and a reference to Emily Dickinson’s “white sustenance, despair” because they expressed some of my own thoughts. I had taught both of these poets in my college English classes and found they spoke to both men and women.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing?

Writing dialogue is the most difficult part of the process for me. In my memoir, I rely on one or two spoken lines to emphasize an important statement and make a character come alive. Though I tried, I was not able to write even a half page of conversation. On the other hand, I have just read a memoir in which the writer uses a lot of dialogue that seems to have no other purpose than to show that people are talking. In my book I was intent on making sure every sentence gave new information. I could not figure out how to do that in dialogue, something I know I will have to do if I turn my hand to fiction.


myrnajsmith2493x2825Myrna J. Smith held a faculty position in the English Department at Raritan Valley Community College, Somerville, N.J., from 1970-2004, where she took leave for two and a half years to serve as Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning housed at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. She received a Ed.D. from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in New Brunswick, N.J. Smith also had two Mid-Career Fellowships to attend Princeton University, one in English and one in religion. Smith, who was 74 years old when she published her memoir, now resides in Frenchtown, N.J, a small town on the Delaware River.

She recently returned from a five-week trip to Asia: two weeks with a small group to Myanmar and a few days in Hong Kong, where she has friends, and Vietnam for 10 days. The year before Smith traveled to Thailand and Cambodia and the year before that to Indonesia, both with small groups. She also travels in Canada and the northeast U.S. with her sister, brother, and their spouses most years.


godandothermen1500x2400About God and Other Men: Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love:

Myrna Smith opens her story one Sunday night when she returns home from a ski weekend with her three children. While she was on the slopes, her husband had moved out. That had been the plan.

Yet her story, though it encompasses her divorce, is much larger. Ultimately, Smith sets out to love herself, to find an inner place where she can rest and grow.

In this search-for-the-holy-grail memoir, Smith traces her travels toward enlightenment as a middle-aged American woman with a wry humor and heartfelt longing. On the journey she discovers spiritual fulfillment doesn’t come easily, or all at once. For her, it is quite elusive.

The quest really started, she realizes, in her childhood on an Oregon farm where she and her older sister were once “converted” in their father’s pea patch by two young Bible summer school teachers barely out of their teens. The school was part of the tiny church their mother attended while their father stayed home, read Edgar Cayce books, and mused on reincarnation.

Later, drawn by the mysticism of the Hindus, Smith’s journey leads to Bangalore where she touches the robes of Sai Baba, the Indian saint. Back home in New Jersey, she finds herself in a country farm- house getting prescriptions channeled through a medium for every- thing from her back woes and diarrhea to an obsession with money.

She also writes of the demons that surface during a years-long love affair with her beloved Charlie and what A Course in Miracles stirred within her.

Smith’s story is one of adventure and effort that, in the end, reveals three simple yet essential truths that are both the journey and the destination.


 Book Details:

Paperback: 240 pages

Genre: Spiritual Memoir

Publisher: Cape House Books (October 23, 2014)

ISBN-10:1939129044

ISBN-13: 978-1939129048

God and Other Men is available in paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace, and Indie Bound.