Welcome to the blog Buddah and congratulations!Your poem, “Claiming Victory” was so uplifting it won you the #2 spot. Please tell us, what inspired this piece?
This poem was inspired by the challenges many of us face in believing in ourselves and doing what’s necessary to fulfill our purpose and achieve our dreams. Too often we think we’re not good enough. Too often we think we don’t have what it takes to make it. Too often we allow the noise, conditioning, and all the junk we’ve been fed by external forces to negatively impact our outlook and our ability to act. When we’re able to change our mindset, own all of who we are, and shed all of which hasn’t served us, we’re unstoppable. That’s when we can embrace abundance. And claim our victory!
“People get caught up on the highs, peaks, and successes They don’t see what went down in the valleys What it took to get up, get out, and rise again It’s what we’ve been through— the periods between life’s highs and lows— that make us so resilient We can’t concede We have to keep on”
-Excerpt from “Claiming Victory.”
As one of the top winners you get a full interview so go ahead and get comfortable. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Water…wine?
Thank you. May I have water please?
Now, let’s start from the top. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us your name and where you’re from.
My name is Buddah Desmond (aka BDez). I was born in Washington, DC. Was raised in P.G. County MD (primarily in Forestville, MD and Greenbelt, MD). I currently reside in Alexandria, VA.
That’s very specific Buddah lol.
LOL, yes. I know. I can’t help it. Just call me Mr. Specificity. LOL
Soo Mr. Specificity, are you employed outside of writing?
Yes, I am a User Experience (UX) professional with over 13 years of experience crafting timely, intuitive, and forward-thinking solutions to improve the overall usability / UX of websites, apps, and services for non-profit, commercial, and government clients. My specialties include user research and analysis, user-centered design, user experience design, usability testing, content strategy, and information architecture. I’m also a health and wellness coach. Finished my masters in Nutrition and Integrative Health earlier this year. I’m in the process of completing my hours and studying to become a certified Nutritionist, and in the very early stages of starting my health and wellness coaching practice.
Wow. Congratulations on all your endeavors! With all this, what was your childhood dream?
My childhood dream (and still my dream today) was to be a Renaissance man… To be able to pull from my many talents, do work that matters, and to make a difference. I’m striving to achieve this mission still to this day.
What’s your favorite TV Show? Movie?
A number of favorites here, but one show that continues to be at the top of my list is Queen Sugar. The writing, acting, cinematography, the landscape, and the issues that are addressed with each episode—it’s phenomenal. I love everything that Ava DuVernay has done. She’s a gem. A national treasure. The epitome of Black Girl Magic! In terms of film, Black Panther has been sitting at the top of my movie list since it’s opening weekend. What an inspiring, impactful, and empowering film. A classic. Ryan Coogler did that!
He did indeed. We love music on The PBS Blog. What kind of music do you like?
Music is my first love. I come from a family that deeply loves, appreciates, and respects music. A number of us, myself included, are musically inclined. I have an eclectic taste in music. I love Jazz, R&B/Soul, Hip-Hop, Gospel, Classical, Reggae, Dancehall, Afrobeat, Latin, Country, and Rock… Music is an undeniably powerful and universal art form. Life wouldn’t be the same without it.
We agree there. Speaking of the Universe, with a name like Buddah I have to ask, religious or nah?
No, I’m not religious. I’m more of a spiritual being. I believe in the Most High… The Divine Creator of our universe that ties us all together. I’ve always been fascinated by religion though, and learning about how people worship, where they worship, their sacred texts, and the similarities / differences between the guiding principles we abide by.
Let’s talk about writing a bit. Favorite writer. Go.
These questions are always tough because it’s a rarity that I can ever narrow down to just one favorite of anything. LOL!
I knew I’d get you eventually.
Okay. I’m done. Carry on.
I have so many favorite writers. Maya Angelou. Langston Hughes. Nikki Giovanni. Sonia Sanchez. Saul Williams. James Baldwin. Toni Morrison. Alice Walker. Terry McMillan. Yrsa Daley-Ward. Nayyirah Waheed. Lucille Clifton. June Jordan. Janet Mock. Ntozake Shange. Devon Franklin. Octavia Butler. Amiri Baraka. Haki Madhubuti. Zora Neale Hurston. I could keep going, but I’ll stop there.
What genre do you write in, why?
My primary genre is poetry. I also write prose, essays, short stories, song lyrics, and blogposts. There’s a universality and musicality to the language of poetry. I couldn’t deny it when I first started reading it. And definitely couldn’t deny it when I started writing it. I think Amiri Baraka said it best, “Poetry is music, and nothing but music. Words with musical emphasis.”
I absolutely agree. It’s like poetry has this ability to bring out the depth in us in ways nothing else can.
YES! Poetry gives us the freedom to get soul-deep to tell our stories in such extraordinary ways.
Soul-deep. I like that. Yess.
The beauty is that we can each write a poem in any form about the same topic, emotion, or experience, and it can be embraced and interpreted quite differently by readers. What we as writers get out of it may be worlds away from what our readers get out of it. And that’s amazing. Truly amazing. Poetry has the power to change minds, and change lives.
When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I self-published my first volume of poetry, Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics, in June 2012 through iUniverse. The experience was exhilarating, rewarding, frustrating, so many things. When I made the decision to publish my manuscript, I had a “no turning back” attitude. I was at a point in my life where it was imperative to go all in for the things I wanted. I couldn’t be mad at anyone but myself if I didn’t put in the effort or work to make my dreams come true. And I’m grateful I did. Publishing Prevail afforded many opportunities for growth and development, reading and speaking at a number of events, and connecting with other writers, creatives, and readers alike. Not to mention, many learning lessons about building a platform, social media, and book marketing and promotion.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
That’s a great question. Hmmm… The most difficult thing would be pushing through writer’s block. Or periods when you really want to write, but the muse, inspiration, or motivation is sorely lacking. The most exciting thing is the freedom of expression. Being able to create you own world or worlds. New possibilities. And the blessings of your work opening minds, speaking for those whose voices aren’t being heard, and making deep, meaningful connections with a larger audience.
Nice. Buddah, what is humility?
Humility is quiet confidence. It’s being comfortable in who you are, your abilities, and what you bring to the table without being rude, brash, egotistical, or narcissistic. It’s also about being open to change and possibilities. And knowing that your way, whatever it may be, is not the only way.
What is love?
Love is one of the greatest emotions. It’s more than just deep feelings for something or someone. It’s in the actions. It’s all in what you do (or don’t do). Love can be life changing. Life-saving even. It’s unconditional. As I wrote in a recent piece, “I am nothing without love. I am everything with love.”
Beautiful. Thank you Buddah for spending this time with us. We certainly enjoyed you.
Be Sure to Follow Buddah Desmond below and look out for his piece, “Claiming Victory” in the 2nd Edition Lit Mag Literary Magazine, 2020.
Dondi A Springer is a happily married man and has been writing for a lifetime. At 43-years-young he never took writing seriously until his wife told him he should do something with it. “I was mostly inspired by the strength of my mother,” he says, “and also my own life experiences. As a champion of the underdogs, I strive to constantly grow, and show that through personal growth anything is possible.”
We are certainly glad you kept writing Dondi!
“Faith has already brought you farther than you can see
You crawled before you walked, bumped your head, and scraped those knees
Tears burning, blurring your vision, and yet wiped from your cheeks..”
-Excerpt from “Look Within”
Springer’s submission, Look Within is a short inspiring piece about looking within to find the strength that we need.
Dondi, please tell us what inspired your poem.
“My personal mantra is Ignorance Does Not Open Doors (I.D.N.O.D.), and ignorance did not overcome me. You can find plenty of positive energy, and motivation on my social media pages, and stay tapped in for what’s coming next for me.”
Springer has had poems published by the National Library of Poetry and is working hard on several projects.
Keep in touch with Dondi by following him online at the Social Media handles below!
TODAY I’D LIKE TO EXTEND A WARM WELCOME TO BALROOP SINGH. WELCOME TO THE PBS BLOG! LET’S GET STARTED.
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Balroop Singh. ‘Bal’ means strength and ‘roop’ means beauty. My maiden name was Balroop Bal, which changed after marriage, as the tradition goes, to change the surname. I chose Singh, which is a common middle name in the Northern region of India. ‘Singh’ was adopted by tenth Sikh guru who baptized his followers as “real Sikhs”. Derived from the Sanskrit word for lion, it was adopted as a title by warriors in India and mandated by Guru Gobind Singh for all Sikhs. It was later adopted by several castes and communities.
I am from India, and have spent the best part of my life there, exploring the incredible magnificence of the Himalayas in the north, the grandeur of Thar desert in the west, dotted with historical towns, untouched beauty and splendor of the tea gardens in the east and the spectacular backwaters of Kerala in the south…all four directions offer myriad experiences, enriching beyond imagination and too hard to describe in words. Oh! I didn’t mention the poetry in marble – the Taj Mahal! Each time you visit, it evokes a different emotion and the moment you come back, the yearning to visit again sets in! I live in California now.
Awesome. Balroop, religious?
I won’t call myself an atheist but I don’t believe in visiting religious places regularly. I visit once in a while when I hear the call within. To me, faith is a very personal emotion, not to be worn on my sleeve. Probably because religion was never forced on me and since I had the freedom to choose it or leave it, I never made an attempt to understand it. But I was always curious to know how could it evoke such strong feelings in some people! I have gathered that it depends on how much it is instilled into a person at an impressionable age.
I respect those who pray regularly but my faith has been shattered a number of times. Each time, I have tried to rebuild it but I always had my unanswered questions, my moments of wrath and protest against blind faith; I always would wonder why God is so unreasonable. How could he be right in giving so much suffering to some and so much love and happiness to others, absolutely no rights to some and all the privileges to others? The unending self-confabulation continues.
I have been happily married for 40 years. It was an arranged marriage though I had no inkling what I was stepping into just at the age of 23! When there is an unwritten societal decree that you have to marry when you are asked to, just because it is convenient for the people around you, when the society values your muteness at such decisions, when you are expected to concur with what your near and dear ones decide for you, when you don’t want to displease them…do you have any choice? I happened to marry a kind and understanding gentleman though there was no permission to reject the groom chosen by my family.
That leads perfectly into my next question. In your own words, what is love?
There are many definitions of love. In fact it changes with the person as love is more of a perception. I have written a lot of poems about love and plan to publish a book about them one day.
There was a time when love was a petrifying emotion for me. Love was just a passing thought, a mirage that could only be seen in the movies. It was not real. It was never around. I could never touch or feel it. The society in which I lived didn’t give any importance to expressing it openly. Falling in love was equivalent to falling in a well. Romantic love was offensive. Sex was a repugnant word! I don’t belong to middle ages though!
Love was caring for others but only those who were valuable to the society. Love was sacrifice…giving all your time and effort for the welfare of others. Love was thinking what was expected to think. Love was listening to and complying with all the diktats of the family and society. Self-love was taboo. It was being selfish. Till I realized love is much more than all this, which had been drilled into my mind. Till I decided to break free and get access to free thoughts. Till I realized love is an invisible force that can transcend all the barriers.
Love is a natural instinct that grows if it is nurtured. It evolves itself but withers if it is not watered with affection, care, respect, and kindness. Romantic love morphs into a loving and eternal relationship if we understand what is love; why passion is such a sweet word. Love is a much wider term… encompassing friendship, family, and bonding.
Why is writing important to you?
Writing is one of the most amazing gifts that we receive with life. It calms down my emotions. It is therapeutic, it makes me happier, it inspires! The elation of recording our feelings is so fulfilling, so heartwarming that we can create our own world of fantasy, in which all the characters are mere puppets in our hands. We can unlock all the doors, as the keys are in our possession… isn’t it a wonderful feeling?
Writing gives clarity to those ideas, which are confusing or blurred. It leads us to self-discovery. Writing has given me wings. I can fly anytime, anywhere. I often perch on the branches of my favorite trees and can communicate with everyone without any reticence. All those who sit far away, in the comfort of their homes can hear me as I let my voice merge into the clouds that float around, merrily.
I like that, “writing has given me wings…” What genre do you write in?
Poetry is my first love, as it flows spontaneously and effortlessly from my pen. I don’t remember when I started liking poetry. Probably I was born with it or was fascinated by the lyrics of Mother Nature. Poetry is a painting that gets its hues from words. Just one metaphor can evoke emotions that could not be described in a thousand words. I like this genre due to its succinct style. It soars on the wings of words. Poetry touches your deepest cords effortlessly. It develops perceptions. It liberates us from the mundane. It gives us wings. Due to its ambiguous nature, it can be interpreted in more than one way, depending on how the reader discerns the thoughts.
I also write creative non-fiction and have published three books in this genre.
Speaking of publishing, when did you publish your first book?
When I published ‘Sublime Shadows Of Life,’ my first poetry book in 2013, I didn’t have a blog. I didn’t know that an author ought to plan. Writing to me was a natural gift, an innate ability to share what lies within our heart.
The allure of Indie world was so dazzling that I just waded into it like an enthusiastic adolescent, soaring on the wings of hope, unaware of the pitfalls. I didn’t know I would flounder and flail and almost get drowned! It has been a long journey of striving to learn and I am not the one who would give up so easily. Now I have a lot of support from bloggers and authors who have been kind enough to help me with my second poetry book ‘Emerging From Shadows.’
What would your perfect writing / reading room look like?
I just need a comfortable couch, cushions behind my back, laptop, peace of mind and peaceful surroundings. I like to read in bed before dozing off every night.
I know that’s right. What is the most annoying habit that you have?
I am outrageously outspoken, which has landed me in hot soups many times.
Outrageously lol. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
Water skiing though I don’t know swimming. What is the harm of dreaming? Thank you for hosting me. I am honored to be your guest.
Be sure to pick up your copy of Balroop’s new collection of poetry!
Book Blurb: Certain desires and thoughts remain within our heart, we can’t express them, we wait for the right time, which never comes till they make inroads out of our most guarded fortresses to spill on to the pages of our choice. This collection is an echo of that love, which remained obscure, those yearnings that were suppressed, the regrets that we refuse to acknowledge. Many poems seem personal because they are written in first person but they have been inspired from the people around me – friends and acquaintances who shared their stories with me.
Some secrets have to remain buried because they are ours
We do share them but only with the stars
The tears that guarded them were as precious as flowers
Soothing like balm on festering scars.
While there are no boxes for grief and joy, some persons in our life are more closely associated with these emotions. Their separation shatters us, their memories echo, we grieve but life does not stagnate for anyone…it is more like a river that flows despite the boulders. When imagination and inspiration try to offer solace, poetry that you are about to read springs forth.
THANK YOU, BALROOP, FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US TODAY, WE ENJOYED YOU!
Balroop Singh, a former teacher and an educationalist always had a passion for writing. She is a poet, a creative non-fiction writer, a relaxed blogger and a doting grandma. She writes about people, emotions and relationships. Her poetry highlights the fact that happiness is not a destination but a chasm to bury agony, anguish, grief, distress and move on! No sea of solitude is so deep that it can drown us. Sometimes aspirations are trampled upon, the boulders of exploitation and discrimination may block your path but those who tread on undeterred are always successful.
When turbulences hit, when shadows of life darken, when they come like unseen robbers, with muffled exterior, when they threaten to shatter your dreams, it is better to break free rather than get sucked by the vortex of emotions.
Balroop Singh has always lived through her heart. She is a great nature lover; she loves to watch birds flying home. The sunsets allure her with their varied hues that they lend to the sky. She can spend endless hours listening to the rustling leaves and the sound of waterfalls. The moonlight streaming through her garden, the flowers, the meadows, the butterflies cast a spell on her. She lives in San Ramon, California.
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If you would like to be interviewed on this blog, visit the original post here. All you have to do is choose questions from the list at the bottom of the post (choose at least 10) and email me your answers along with your author photo, book covers, buy links and social media links.
Welcome to Introduce Yourself, a new and exciting blog segment of The PBS Blog dedicated to introducing to you new and established authors and their books.
Today I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Sarah Zama. Welcome to The PBS Blog! Let’s get started.
What is your name and where are you from?
I’m Sarah Zama and I’m an Italian from Verona. Well, actually, I’m from Isola della Scala, which is a small town 20km south of Verona. I feel I should acknowledge it, since Isola is where I was born, I grew up and I still live. But honestly, I feel a much stronger affinity with Verona. And I know I should not brag about it, but let me tell you Verona is a beautiful city, with over two thousand years of history, no wonder it’s a World Heritage site. Aside from being Romeo and Juliet’s city, it’s just charming walking by the river, especially at night, or wondering among her narrow mediaeval streets and the plazas, or visiting the castles or one of my very best favorite places, the Roman Arena.
Fine, fine, I’ll just stop before you start thinking someone is paying me to advertise my city!!
I learned my English in Dublin, which I consider my second home. I lived and worked there for over a year, and even if I left almost fifteen years ago, I still visit as often as I can. I love Dublin nearly as much as Verona.
Sarah, you are definitely bragging. I’d love to visit. What was your childhood dream?
This may sound obvious – I mean, lot of kids have the same dream – but I wanted to be an archaeologist. I read a lot about ancient history and about archaeology and archaeologists’ lives. I loved the idea to go hunting for something that used to be alive and breathing and could still be the same if I could unearth it. Archaeological items aren’t dead. If we know their language, they can tell us so many things we’d never know otherwise.
In the end, it didn’t happen. I suppose my passion resided elsewhere. But I think writing, its pretty close. When it is any good, it also tries to unearth the unknown.
I like that. In your own words, what is humility?
It’s knowing that there will always be someone better than you at something. There will always be someone that will know more than you, in one field or another. You’ll always have the possibility to learn from other people, which is our good fortune, because learning and caring is the essence of life.
Nice. What do you wish you knew more about?
Folktales. I’ve been fascinated with folktales since I was a child, then, as an adult, when I learned what folktales truly are, I became even more fascinated. Thinking that some of the folktales we learned as children go back to Prehistory is mind-blowing. Can you imagine how much we can learn from them?
When I first read Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories, one thing he said stuck with me. He said we often wonder about what went lost over the millennia about those stories, things we will never know. And we should instead care about what did come to us though the millennia, because that’s what important to us.
Sarah, are you employed outside of writing?
I’ve been a bookseller for almost fourteen years, a job that I love. The company I work for not only owns the bookshop, but a publishing house too. I learned so many things in the years I’ve work there.
It’s a small independent company based in the university lot in Verona, run by man and wife. And I know it sounds clichéd, but really it is like a family, which – aside from the actual job – is something I really like.
That explains why you’re so well read. I am enjoying *listening* to you. What job do you think you’d be really good at?
Anything visual. I’ve always been a visual person, I used to draw when I was younger (ink was my favorite medium). Now I just don’t have the time to pursue that passion anymore.
Although who knows? Recently, I’ve been attracted to Photoshop. I’d like to learn to use it in an effective way. Maybe, sometime soon.
Indeed. I am striving to learn Photoshop better myself. What takes up too much of your time?
Commuting. Because I live in Isola della Scala but I work in Verona, I have to travel to Verona and back every day, which takes up some three hours of my day.
But I commute by train, which is good. I like travelling by train. I find public transports to be fascinating; you see all kinds of people. I’ll admit… err… that I like people-sighting and eavesdropping, but don’t tell anyone.
And on the train I can read. I do much of my reading on the train to and from work.
Eavesdropping huh? Are you nosy Sarah? Lol
Nosy? I wouldn’t say so. But I think that noticing things and especially details is a storyteller’s secret weapon. So I think that storytellers are naturally inclined to notice things… and of course, to notice them, you first have to watch and listen.
I suppose this makes us the Confucian creature with the big eyes and ears and the small mouth. LOL!
When did you publish your first book? What was it like?
I published my first book (which is actually a novella, not a novel) last year in March.
I self-published it, which surprised many of my friends because I had always said I wasn’t interested in self-publishing. Trad publishing is still my chief goal for my trilogy (which involves the same characters as Give in to the Feeling, my novella), but I think in the future hybrid writers will be the norm, so knowing both field is very important, I believe.
But this isn’t the reason I finally decided to self-publish.
Two years ago, when I had the first novel of the trilogy ready, I started submitting it to agents. I did two rounds of submissions, and nothing came of it. Agents are always very spare of comments, so I couldn’t really know what exactly was wrong with my samples, but they were of course not good enough. Besides, the first three chapters of the novel had always bothered me. I had in fact rewrote the first chapter at least thirty times, and it was my own fault, because at the very beginning I made a decision that then turned out to be wrong. Unfortunately, although the decision (regarding voice and information giving) was wrong, the inciting incident is right, so I had to rework the first chapter making it as different as possible, keeping it the same.
After the first round of submission turned out so disappointingly, I once again rewrote the first three chapters. It didn’t make much good, though, because, although the agents’ tone changed on the second round, they still turned me down.
So I decided I needed to go a step further and work with an editor, but I knew I couldn’t afford to edit the whole novel. I thought that I could edit a short story, though. If my writing had inherent problems, the editor would catch them in the short story and then I could apply what I learned on the novel.
It turned out to be a fantastic experience, I learned some very interesting things about my writing and when I had the novella ready I thought: well, why not going all the way through and experiment with publishing and marketing my work as well?
It felt like a waste to have this novella professionally edited and polished and just leave it in a drawer.
After a year, I’m not sure I have the characteristics to be a successful indie author (I’m a very slow writer, for example, and I don’t write in a definite commercial genre), but this doesn’t mean I’ll leave self-publishing. I do think in the future belongs to the hybrid authors, so I want to pursue this path still, though at my own pace.
But I’m very happy of the experience itself because it was very educational.
Thanks for sharing that experience with us! So, tell us more about the genre you write in and why.
I’ve always been a speculative writer, I think I’ll always be, though the way I express that speculation mind has changed over time.
I’ve been a classic fantasy writer for most of my writing life. I’ve read all the classics of fantasy and I’ve watched fantasy evolve in the early 2000s with great pleasure, though sadly I have to say that lately the genre seems to have taken a step back.
I’ve always been interested in history too (that was my favorite subject at school already) and when I started working in the bookshop I discovered anthropology (such fascinating subject). I think these two subjects in particular moved my interest to more modern settings recently, though – truth be said – I’ve been fascinated with the Deco period since I watched b/w mysteries on TV with my granny as a kid. So it probably doesn’t come as a surprise (it certainly doesn’t surprise me) that I ended up writing fantasy stories in a contemporary setting, particularly the 1920s.
I had been writing my trilogy for a couple of years when I stumbled upon the concept of dieselpunk and I immediately felt an affinity. I got involved with the dieselpunk community and I really feel that is my home, though the kind of dieselpunk I write is so soft and fantasy-oriented that even some dieselpunks don’t consider it such.
But I like to refer to one of the head figures of the community, Larry Amyett Jr. who has a more open concept of the ‘genre’.
Anyway, expect a lot of history and some very significant fantasy element in all of my stories.
Alright now. I love history so I am sure we’ll collaborate on some things in the future. What do you hate most about writing advice? What do you love?
One thing I hate about writing advice is the attitude of some writers towards rules. On the one hand, you’ll have writers that stick to the rules to the point it becomes flat. They won’t accept any creative use of the rules. But writing is creativity. I don’t think it’s wise to try to encage it into stone-written rules. It is also an evolving activity, so rules and conventions that were good yesterday might not be as good today. Many writers who give advice on workshops and forums don’t seem to grasp this and will question you even when you explain why you made an unconventional choice.
On the other hand, I also hate when writers are too slack with rules. I have read time and again writers who say they are not interested in learning the rules of storytelling because if you are a true writer you’re going to break them anyway. Well, personally, I don’t think you have any chance at creatively and meaningfully breaking any rules you don’t know and don’t muster. Rules are there to make storytelling stronger and more coherent, so it’s a writer’s best interest to know them inside out. Only in that case, when you do chose to break one, you’ll do it knowing why you want to break it and what the effect will be. Then it will become meaningful. Otherwise, it’s only a mess.
What I love about writing advice is that, when it is thoughtful, you’ll learn a lot. I’ve been part of an online workshop for seven years—The Critique Circle—and I can’t even start to tell you how much I’ve learned from being critiqued as well as from critiquing other people’s work. It’s an extremely educational process.
The first thing I learned is that my work isn’t perfect. No matter how much I work on it, there will always be things other people see and I don’t… until I’m pointed out. Being too protective towards our work makes a great disservice to us, to the story and to our readers.
The second most important thing I learned is asking questions. When we write, everything makes sense to us, both because we instinctively know much more about our story than will ever get on the page and because we know where the story is supposed to go, so we are focused on getting there. But when someone who knows nothing about the story reads it, he/she will have a lot more questions, some of which will be very ‘embarrassing’. Let’s face it, most of the time the answer to the question, ‘Why does this characters do this thing?’ is ‘Because I need him to go from point A to point B’ (that certainly is true in the first draft… at least for me). When you start to have your work critiqued, you’ll learn very fast that readers are a lot more attentive and demanding than you ever thought. They have lots of sensible questions you thought were not worth pursuing, and when you let people critique your work, you’ll learn how to ask yourself those questions before readers do.
And believe me; the story will come off a lot stronger.
I love it. Sarah, what’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
The most difficult thing is to keep believing in yourself and your stories no matter what.
We writers will always have doubts about our writing. We will always be scared that we are not good enough. That’s one big reason why some writers will never let anyone read their stories, let alone critique them. Which is a real shame, because I think storytelling is communication, and there is no meaningful one-way communication. A message (which is what a story is) needs to be given, but also to be received in order to exist. When the message is received, that’s when it comes to life, not when it’s issued.
Problem is, when we let people read our stories, more doubts will arise rather than be quenched. Many people won’t like our story, and often we will never know why. Even when we understand this is natural (and believe me, this is not an instinctive understanding), it will be hard to accept it.
The rejection (I don’t like your story) and the unknown (but I’m not going to tell you why) are very hard to manage, but let me tell you, we’re not going to learn if we won’t practice. We need the help of our readers in order to become better storytellers, but this mean we also need to face rejection and handle it in a positive way.
I won’t hide it, this is hard. We need to muster the ability to tell when a critic is objective and when he isn’t, when it has something to offer and when it doesn’t, which needs a clarity of mind unaffected by feelings. But when we achieve that mastery, we will be on the right way to becoming better writers.
On the other hand, when our story is received enthusiastically… well, I think there are few feelings which are better than this.
Wow. Very informative answer! *Takes notes*. Speaking of writing, does blogging help you to write?
I wouldn’t say it helps me to write, but I will say it helps me to be a writer.
For a great part, blogging is listening, it’s looking for a connection, it’s sharing, and this is a huge help when it comes to learn to accept the reader’s rejection as well as being more critic towards our writing.
Blogging will require to make lots of decisions and you’ll see the result of the decisions you’ve made pretty soon, so that you’ll have the possibility to act on it fast enough to see a result. This is often not possible when writing and publishing a book, and that’s why blogging may help.
When I first started blogging, I did a number of mistakes, both because I didn’t know any better and because I just made the wrong choice. The only solution is to keep learning, not just because there is always something new to learn, but also because blogging – as all things internet – changes very fast. We need to the attentive and flexible.
But sometimes, we just make the wrong choice and we need to be listening in order to realize it. I have a macroscopic example of this.
When I started my blog, I decided that I wouldn’t blog about the 1920s in spite of that being a subject I had researched extensively for my stories. I didn’t feel (I still don’t feel) I’m an expert on the subject. I’ve never done any academic study, I’m just very passionate about it and I like to learn about it. But when one year later I decided to take part in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge, I realized there weren’t many things I could blog about every day, therefore I was kind of forced to write about the 1920s.
It was a success. I was shocked! People actually liked what I was writing and found it interesting and informative. As for me, I understood my mistake and changed gear. 1920s social history is the main focus of my blog now, and blogs about 1920s life are still the most popular with my readers.
So blogging gave me the possibility to make a mistake as well as to see my mistake by trying something different. It has given me the possibility to listen to the readers’ reaction and act upon it. It has also given me the possibility to believe in myself that little bit more, though honestly I should have known better even before. I might not be an expert, but I do know a few things people don’t normally know about the 1920s, and I can definitely give what little I know.
Storytelling is mainly about giving, I believe, and though we cannot give what we don’t have, what we do have, small as it may be… well, why not give it?
There’s a quote from Leonard Peltier’s Autobiography that I love and that I apparently need to remember more often: “We don’t need to be perfect, we need to be useful.”
What a wealth of information you are Sarah! Thanks for spending this time with us today.
Sarah Zama was born in Isola della scala (Verona – Italy) where she still lives. She started writing at nine – blame it over her teacher’s effort to turn her students into readers – and in the 1990s she contributed steadily to magazines and independent publishers on both sides of the Atlantic.
After a pause, in early 2010s she went back to writing with a new mindset. The internet allowed her to get in touch with fellow authors around the globe, hone her writing techniques in online workshops and finally find her home in the dieselpunk community.
Since 2010 she’s been working at a trilogy set in Chicago in 1926, historically as accurate as possible but also (as all her stories are) definitely fantasy. She’s currently seeking representation for the first book in the Ghost Trilogy, Ghostly Smell Around.
In 2016, her first book comes out, Give in to the Feeling.
She’s worked for QuiEdit, publisher and bookseller in Verona, for the last ten years.
She also maintain a blog, The Old Shelter, where she regularly blogs about the Roaring Twenties and anything dieselpunk.
Are you a new (or not so new) author looking for more exposure? Introduce Yourself!CLICK HEREto learn more and to sign up. Remember, this is a FREE opportunity to introduce yourself to potential readers.
Welcome to Introduce Yourself, a new and exciting blog segment of The PBS Blog dedicated to introducing to you new and established authors and their books.
Today I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Jo Ann Maxwell. Welcome to The PBS Blog! Let’s get started.
What would your perfect writing/reading room look like?
It would have lots of windows and be situated in a forest area. Somewhere in the mountains would be perfect. And a beautiful lake or river outside as well. It would stay at a perfect 68° no matter the weather. The walls would be a pale robin’s egg blue. I would have a sound system that would play my favorite Christian music. I would have a sturdy couch with an ottoman when I want to put up my feet. It would have a small refrigerator with bottled spring water, and fruits and nuts. It would also have an attached bathroom. There would definitely be no TV or phone!
No TV or phone, I hear ya. What skill would you like to master?
I would like to learn how to fly a plane. Just a small plane. I don’t need to go fast. Just want to get up close to the clouds and look at the earth from that perspective. It would be a little like God looking down from heaven and seeing us. Our perspective is so narrow and immediate focused. He sees the big picture.
In your own words, what is humility?
Humility is choosing someone else over yourself. Humility is being willing to be wrong. Humility is making sure those around you are successful. Humility is the opposite of self-righteousness. Humility is not being submissive and allowing abuse to continue. Humility is grounded in love for yourself. When we love ourselves, we can love others! And as we love others, humility is a byproduct of that love. There is no competition, needing to be right, nor a desire to control others.
What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
I would like to travel around Italy and sample the wines and cheeses throughout the country.
That sounds lovely. Jo, tell us about when published your first book? What was it like?
My book was published in the fall of 2016. It is called Fearless. It chronicles my journey through grief and depression to rely on my faith to gain victory in spite of living with a chronic disease; multiple sclerosis.
Can you talk a little bit about what Multiple Sclerosis is for those who may not know?
After my diagnosis, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) was my first and continues to be my go-to source for information. According to NMSS, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. The exact antigen—or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack—remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”
Within the CNS, the immune system attacks myelin—the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers—as well as the nerve fibers themselves.
The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name.
When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms.
The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors.
People with MS typically experience one of four disease courses, which can be mild, moderate or severe
What small things makes your life easier? What makes it difficult?
I have been living with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis for a little over four years. What makes it easier for me is to have several rest periods throughout the day. I swim three days a week and do my physical and occupational therapy. This doesn’t necessarily make my life easier, but it doesn’t make it more difficult. I need to exercise and be strong in all the ways I can while I still can. Stress and busyness make it difficult for me. Before I was diagnosed, I was a teacher for 17 years and then a nonprofit manager for 19 years. So I’m used to a very high activity job that requires multitasking. Now looking at all the emails that come in to my two email accounts I get overwhelmed. I have to take a while to digest the information, regroup, and then tackle it. I was used to be able to go to three or four stores in the morning and still have lots of energy left over. Now I can only do two or three errands, especially if one is a drive-through. I think it is the fatigue that is the most annoying symptom that I have. The fatigue has caused me to radically change my lifestyle.
What is your favorite historical figure?
That would have to be Jesus, hands down. He has influenced my life in ways that I can only repay him by walking as closely to his word as I can. It is the amazing love of the father who sacrificed his son so we could have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Almost too amazing to even think about.
I take it you’re religious?
No I am not religious. Religion is a set of rules you have to live by. I have a relationship with Jesus my Savior. I love spending time with him, and he wants to spend time with me. Just like any relationship, it takes effort on my part to make it rich and meaningful.
What is the most thought-provoking book you’ve ever read?
It has to be Magnificent Obsession by Anne Graham Lotz. She goes through the life of Abraham and paints beautiful pictures of how we too can be sold out to God and his plans and guidance for our lives.
If you had one superpower that could change the world, what would it be?
It would be a research scientist with the power to find the cure for all of the currently incurable diseases in the world. That would include cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, dementia, polio, Parkinson’s, Lupus, influenza, diabetes, asthma, and mental illness. And I would also coordinate the research projects so that all scientists can work together rather than separate in their own little silos.
Thank you Jo for spending this time with us! Because of you we know more about Multiple Sclerosis!
I was suddenly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 60. Many of the symptoms I had throughout my life suddenly became clear. My faith, independence, and fearlessness were threatened. In my book I talk about my struggles to find hope again. I had a successful career as a teacher and a senior-level nonprofit executive. Since retiring I have been assisting my aging parents in North Carolina. I try to stay active as a volunteer at the Billy Graham training center in Asheville North Carolina, read, play mah-jongg, do puzzles, and exercise as much as I can. Right now my walking is very limited, but I get in the pool and swim three days a week, and I can work on a recumbent cross trainer. As a physical educator, I know the great advantages of exercise. It’s also important to stay as strong as I can and not let the MS get the better of me! My book chronicles how my faith was stretched and strengthened and how I find victory in spite of living with a chronic disease.
As you know, we be in here jamming it out on Throwback Thursday so I have to ask, what kind of music do you like?
Rock, reggae and blues, probably in that order. Also like some classical, but not opera or jazz.
Not Jazz!? What is wrong with you Stevie! Lol. Let’s get a little serious, what do you think of this world we live in?
Technology has advanced so much since I was a child in the 1960’s. It has now given us people addicted to social media who are looking down at their phones all day. What with online bullying of schoolchildren these days who are afraid to play out in the street, global warming, and terrible ‘music’ that just sounds like people shouting, I’m glad I was born in the late 1950’s, that’s all I can say.
Man, you are so right. I love hearing stories from that time. It is also why I loved your memoir. Can you tell us about some of the major differences you see between let’s say 1960 and 2017 that you haven’t already mentioned?
There were no mobile phones and microwave ovens in 1960, and not all homes even had washing machines or a landline phone (I was 18 before my parents got a landline phone and a washing machine). Our TV in 1960 had 3 channels, and the last program finished at 10pm, when the National Anthem played. However, children like myself didn’t watch a lot of TV. I played outside for hours in the streets with friends, roamed around my local area unsupervised, walked to school on my own, and stayed at home by myself from the age of 9 during school holidays while my parents worked, making my own decisions, right or wrong. Children were free. My granddaughters are guarded 24/7, and if the 11-year-old even goes across the road to call for a friend, her mother is constantly ringing her phone to make sure she is okay. My granddaughter complains to me that she is given no freedom. I feel so lucky that I was a child in the 1960’s!
Wow. I asked my in-laws this same question and my mom-in-law gave the same answer. She said that when she was little it was safer for her to go out and play. My dad-in-law said people treated each other better. I love hearing stories about the 50s and 60s. I will sit and ask you questions all day lol. What TV channel exists but really shouldn’t?
In your own words, what is truth?
Truth is how we are meant to live, to live true to ourselves. If we are living a lie it will make us unhappy. Truth is being able to sleep with a clear conscience. Truth is the way forward.
“Truth is the way forward.” I like that. What do you hate most about writing advice? What do you love?
I hate reading blogs about writing where the blogger has stated advice that is common sense and doesn’t really need to be stated, obviously because he / she cannot think of anything else to write about. Stop it! However, I love it when I actually read some great advice and learn something from it.
But common sense is anything but common, right? What if what is common sense to you is confusing and unclear to someone else?
Yes, you have a good point Yecheilyah. What is common sense to me might not be to somebody else. As with all the other answers, I have given my own opinion. However, there are some blogs which I read and I think to myself…does this really need to be said?
True, true. You’re right. Speaking of blogging, does it help you to write?
No, it distracts me from writing. Time has to be taken ‘building up a platform’ and that includes publishing a blog every day to gain a wider audience. It has to be done, but I’d rather be writing a novel.
Interesting. What skill would you like to master?
To play the piano. I could only master up to Grade 4.
I would LOVE to play the piano. What would your favorite writing / reading room look like?
A view out to open fields, air conditioning, and total silence. Hey, it seems I already have that in my front room!
What takes up too much of your time?
Marketing and promoting my books. A necessary evil I’m afraid.
I feel you. If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house look like?
At least 6 bedrooms for the children and grandchildren to stay in when they like, three or four bathrooms, a swimming pool, a gym, and a huge room for parties. My house would be in the arse end of nowhere in the countryside, all on its own. I’d have my own writing room as well!
What’s your favorite drink?
Water, closely followed by green tea.
Yea, I have to admit, green tea is the bomb.
Stevie, we learned a lot! Thank you for spending time with us!
Stevie Turner retired early from her post as a medical secretary in a busy NHS hospital to concentrate on writing suspense, women’s fiction, and humorous novels. She won a New Apple Book Award in 2014 and a Readers’ Favorite Gold Award in 2015 for her book ‘A House Without Windows’, and one of her short stories, ‘Checking Out’, was published in the Creative Writing Institute’s 2016 anthology ‘Explain!’ Her psychological thriller ‘Repent at Leisure’ won third prize in the 2016 Drunken Druid Book Award contest, and her thriller screenplay ‘For the Sake of a Child’ won a silver award in the Spring 2017 Depth of Field International Film Festival, and it will now be read, along with the other winners, by a major independent film production company in Los Angeles.
Stevie lives in the East of England with her husband Sam, and she signed a contract with Creativia Publishers in 2016. She has also branched out into the world of audio books. ‘The Daughter-in-law Syndrome’, ‘A House Without Windows’, ‘No Sex Please, I’m Menopausal!’, ‘The Noise Effect’, Lily: A Short Story, ‘A Rather Unusual Romance’, and ‘Waiting in the Wings’ are all available as audio books. Some of her books have also been translated into German, Spanish and Italian.