Tuesday, April 28, 2009

 

Interview with Nancy A. Jackson, Runner Up in our Fall 2008 Essay Contest


Nancy started writing as soon as she could pick up a crayon, doing poetry books and a "newspaper" for the neighborhood. She was an English major at Ohio State, where she also got a law degree. She practiced law for about 25 years, then worked as executive director of a Michigan nonprofit. She also worked as the single mom of two girls, Katherine and Jenna.
Now that she's retired from 80-hour workweeks, she's writing again, and her daughters, as well as her husband, Tim, are her constant cheerleaders. She also sells out-of-print books online, and she writes articles for Internet content providers. In the past few years, she and Tim have traveled to Japan, Greece, Turkey and South America. Her cats, Bart and Charlie, wish that she would travel less and play with them more.

Visit her website at: http://www.nancyhira.com/

If you haven't read Nancy's winning essay, " The Price of a Room," you can do so here.

Interviewed by: Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on placing in WOW's Fall 2008 Personal Essay Contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Nancy: I loved the subject. It really got me thinking about how hard it’s been for me to get a room of my own and use it in a meaningful way. I think that a lot of really talented women are done in by the pressures of the many demands on them, and the difficulty of finding time and space to write. I think of Sylvia Plath and Zelda Fitzgerald as just two examples.

WOW: You have made not one, but two, writing spaces for yourself in your home. Can you describe these spaces for us, as well as your writing routines?

Nancy: One space is in the kitchen/ dining room area, and it’s really more open, more for routine work. The lower level is a long desk with all my reference material on it—that's where I go when I need to concentrate. I tend to do my writing in the afternoon and at night. I’m really a night owl.

WOW: It's always interesting to hear about a writer's routines, thanks. From your essay, it sounds like your first husband wasn't supportive of your writing, although your current husband is very encouraging. What has this difference meant to you? How important is family support to a writer?

Nancy: Family support is crucial, and I find that it’s harder for women to come by. For one thing, when your children are young, you can’t just tell them, “I’m taking 4 hours off now to write, so talk amongst yourselves.” Also, I had to work to support my children, so I was exhausted a lot of the time while they were growing up. My first husband had to put up with the full brunt of my emotional collapse, so it was harder for him to be supportive, I think. My present husband is wonderful about my writing—but then, it’s just the two of us at home, so I’m not balancing many different roles anymore.

WOW: I love that "talk amongst yourselves" comment. If only! Are you working on any other writing projects? What are some of your writing goals for the future?

Nancy: I want to be able to earn enough money with my writing to support the work I really want to do – finishing a nonfiction book on choosing senior housing options for our elders (or ourselves). Then, of course, every writer has a great fiction idea floating around—I've got a few myself. That will come in time.

WOW: Switching gears, I notice that you've done a lot of traveling around the world. How did you decide where to go?

Nancy: All my life, I’ve wanted to see the Greek islands. After that, I was very intrigued by South America, particularly Brazil. I saw Budapest with my younger daughter. We had a fabulous time!

WOW: Any favorite places?

Nancy: Oddly enough, the Black Hills of South Dakota. I found them to be a very peaceful, spiritual place.

WOW: We don't always have to go far to find lovely places to visit, do we? Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Nancy! Before you go, what one bit of advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Nancy: It’s never too late to start writing. It’s one thing you can do regardless of age.

***
To find out more about WOW's quarterly contests, please visit: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

 

Interview: Fall Contest Runner-Up Maria Chythlook

I had the privilege of talking to Maria Chythlook, author of A Teddy Bear Prayer, which won honorable mention in the Fall WOW-Women on Writing Essay contest. The story centers around a promise Maria made to herself as a young girl and the application of her prayer in her current situation. Maria currently has several children's books in progress centering around a young character that has many adventures within Alaska.

LuAnn: Congratulations on your winning entry! Your faith boldly shines through your story. How did your faith help guide your family to make such an important decision?

Maria: Thank you. Our faith was the main determining factor in our decision. We asked ourselves a question, “What would Jesus do?” I know this may sound over simplified for such a big decision. Matthew 18:5 says, “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.” We live to love God, to love others as Jesus does and as we want to be loved. We felt then, as to this day, that Jesus gave us our son. It was an easy decision.

LuAnn: The power of prayer can be miraculous. What feelings did you experience after remembering your girlhood prayer to adopt children?

Maria: When I remembered my girlhood prayer concerning adoption, I literally had goose bumps. There are certain times in my life upon which I look back and see the hand of God orchestrating everything. This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest event like that. I still get goose bumps thinking about it.

LuAnn: Your story gives me goose bumps, too! As a former counselor, I've been involved in several similar situations. Sometimes, the foster system doesn't always move at a fast pace. Were there any difficulties in adding a new little brother to the family?

Maria: We had no difficulties at all adding a little brother. In fact, the Sunday I wrote about was the only day during which we had time to think. The next day, at 10 am, the state social worker came to our home. At 6 pm, eight hours later, I went to pick up our new son. We did not know it at the time, but that Monday was his second birthday. What a birthday present for us all!

LuAnn: You live in Alaska, which many people consider "God's country." Do you ever include the landscape of the land in your writing?

Maria: I love living in Alaska. I was born here and consider it a God given gift. When I write I love to include as much of Alaska as I can, especially in children’s stories. When I write poetry it always includes Alaska, the landscape, the wonders and the wildness of it all.

LuAnn: What inspired you to enter the contest?

Maria: I was inspired to enter the contest on a whim. I am a certified teacher, and have recently opted to home school my children instead of teach everyone else’s. As I have no income now, I was looking for writing jobs on the Internet. Little ones I could do on the side which would not detract from home schooling four children. I stumbled upon the WOW website and began devouring it. I did not even consider the contest at first. I later mentioned it to my children, who eagerly prompted me to write the story. They would not let it rest. So, I wrote and God has blessed me.

LuAnn: Kudos to your kids for encouraging your writing. Have you entered or won other writing contests or awards?

Maria: I have not entered any other contest, previously or presently. I do some local freelance work and web site content writing, and a few technical jobs over the Internet. My reward is reading what I have written to my kids.

LuAnn: You lead an extremely active life! How do you make time to write?

Maria: How do I have time to write? As it is currently 2:30 am, this may give a clue! I used to keep a notebook with me. Now I carry my laptop with me everywhere. I took it to the doctor’s office with me the other day and got in a whole 45 minutes of writing time, uninterrupted! Writing relaxes me, and as we have no television here, I write for my fun/free time. My mom has always encouraged me to write, especially about the antics that go on in our home. Thank God for giving me a talent which is also a stress relief. What could be better?

LuAnn: I understand you are a thespian at heart. I used to teach drama! Do you have any plans to adapt your children's books for the stage? Or perhaps, write a screenplay at some point?

Maria: Yes, I am a thespian at heart. The stage gets into your blood, like an addiction. When my children are older I am going to join our local playhouse. They have a wonderful time. For now, we are content to watch plays, both local productions and the ones that come up to the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage (a three hour drive from here). I encourage my children to participate as well. As for incorporating my children’s books into plays, I have never thought about it before. Most of the action takes place outside in the great Alaskan wilderness. That might be hard to put on the stage. I do think writing a play would be a blast. As with every true writer, I have my own set of ideas constantly running through my head. Time will tell.

LuAnn: Good luck with that project! I understand you are an ASL interpreter. How did your interest in American Sign Language develop?

Maria: My interest in American Sign Language has always been a part of me. I have family members that are deaf, and who taught me the basics at an early age. In college, I decided to take ASL courses as well. As time progressed, I have used my signing ability with the school district and in the community as an interpreter, with deaf friends, and in church with our worship team. ASL is a beautiful language. I think it is much more expressive than spoken languages.

LuAnn: What authors inspire you and why?

Maria: I have many favorite authors. I will mention four here, but they are by no means the only ones. When I was a child, my dad would read me Jack London stories. I still reread them today. His style of writing is so poetic and dramatic. The words bring your imagination to life. I can feel the air he describes, the sound of the snow is audible, and the tragedy is as if it were happening to my loved ones. His words can be daunting, but they are pleasurable to the ear. During my young adult life I began to read Anna McCaffrey’s works. I love her fantasy series Pern the best. Four out of six members in my family have read the entire series, and we relate life to them at times. We even call our coffee ‘klah”. Ms. McCaffrey makes her characters come to life so vividly, as if they were standing right next to you. She has created an amazing world in Pern, intricate to the last detail. Another author is Dana Stabenow. She writes Alaskan murder mysteries, which brings her work dear to my heart. Her Alaskan content is very accurate and she has depicted the social climate within Alaska very well. Growing up in Alaskan villages, I can appreciate this. Her characters are real, like the people I know here in Alaska. (Yes, we are a different world up here in the frozen north.) The next author I would like to mention is Max Lucado. His work has touched my soul. He writes so poetically. He delivers his message by enveloping you with his words, bringing you into the presence of Christ. His children’s books are some of the best I have ever read. I truly believe his gift of words comes from God.
The truth is, I can find the good in everything I read. When I find the works that move me, I feel satisfied, contented. When I read ones that don’t, I think to myself, “If this got published, then there is hope yet!” So, even the works I personally don’t like, they inspire me too. It’s all in how you look at it.

***

If you haven't done so already, check out Maria's award winning story A Teddy Bear Prayer.



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