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Forty years ago today

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It was a day like no other, one she would remember for the rest of her life. Maxine Foster clicked off the television, her eyes blurry with tears and loaded every single Elvis Presley album she owned on the Zenith record player and pushed the lever.

“Well, it’s one for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
Now go, cat, go.”

Holding her sides, she crumbled to the floor and cried inconsolably. It couldn’t be true. No, he couldn’t be dead.

 

Find out more about Maxine in Waiting available here.

 

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15 things you may not know about Renee Macalino Rutledge

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If you’re looking for a good summer read, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Renee Macalino Rutledge’s debut novel, The Hour of Daydreams. This book is a reimagined Filipino folktale where myth and realism inhabit the same house. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to know more about the author. Maybe you will, too.

Renee was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in California from the age of four.  She received her bachelor of arts in English from UC Berkeley and master of fine arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. Her articles on arts and culture, parenting, and lifestyle have appeared in ColorLines, Haute Living Magazine, Oakland and Alameda Magazine, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The East Bay Monthly, The Children’s Advocate, Parents’ Press, Red Tricycle, and others. Her reporting on minority issues facing Filipinos was nominated for a New American Media Award and New California Media Award by the editors of Filipinas Magazine. Her fiction and creative nonfiction can be found in Red Earth Review, 580 Split, Mutha Magazine, Women Writers, Women’s Books, The Ford City Anthology, and Literary Hub.

 

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

Like many writers, I’ve enjoyed reading and writing since I was a child. “How will you use your writing?” was always a question I was asked. When I decided to become an English major in college, the assumption was that I’d be a teacher. The truth is, good writing is an asset in many fields, from business to journalism to nonprofit work. I’d written for all of those industries before (and while) buckling down to write The Hour of Daydreams, my first book.

 2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

Last week, I wrote for an average of 20 minutes a day. The week before that, I wrote once, for a single block of about 2 hours at a very late hour. My writing routine feels rather skimpy and pathetic at the moment. But I try to be forgiving to myself, because I’ve spent a lot of my designated writing time doing things like completing this interview. I’m still invested in my first book, and helping it to succeed and find readers. But those rather skimpy writing sessions are starting to pay off—I’m thinking about my new book more and more.

 3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

I wrote four drafts of The Hour of Daydreams.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

It’s more like an accumulation of best things, and of bad, rather than a single thing from either category standing out above the rest. Of course, signing with Forest Avenue Press was a high, but working closely with publisher Laura Stanfill has been too, as has feeling the support from my community, hearing from readers, seeing the book in the bookstore, overcoming my fear of public speaking to do readings and interviews. There are also many darker turns, from worrying about sales/exposure to wishing I had more time to write to getting radio silence after a personal pitch to insecurity about how good I am. But I try not to spend much time in the darker moments. There’s too much to be appreciative of. My trick to “detoxing mentally” is to spend a day in nature. If you don’t have time for that, take a walk around your neighborhood, feel the beat of your footsteps against the pavement, your heartbeat, your breath. If you are a parent, humor is your best friend. Kids are so darn funny and endearing—not to mention that they are creativity in motion.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I’m a nonfiction book editor and I love reading books for a living. I hate that I can’t write my own books for a living.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

Love to read at all times. Many favorite authors, including Toni Morrison, Marguerite Duras, Italo Calvino, Haruki Murakami, Lysley Tenorio, Mario Vargas Llosa, Rene Denfeld, and Vanessa Hua.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

“Write the story you believe,” from Yiyun Li and referring specifically to The Hour of Daydreams in its infancy stage. Any advice that claims there’s something specific you have to do religiously is the worst, and really it’s up to each of us to find our own rhythm, pace, and discipline.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

Time, reading, and practice have been my most faithful mentors.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I once invoked the ghost of Gabriel Garcia Marquez to help me stay motivated, keep the fire, write like a beast. I like to think he heard me.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

A scientist or naturalist. Maybe an accountant or psychologist. Or an archaeologist or historian. Or perhaps a social worker or career counselor or zoologist. Or a realtor or librarian or ESL teacher. I’d still like to be all of these things plus many more.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” -Ursula LeGuin

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I’m working on a parenting essay on creativity, and a short story about a Filipino American child’s relationship with her grandmother and an older neighbor in the California suburbs, and novel research. The next novel is getting clearer in my mind the more I research. I’m learning so much about the world and the time. I’m really excited to start writing when the moment is right.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

Go to college again—relearn everything. Get my MFA again—make the most of that writing time. Life is a never-ending learning process.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write like only you can.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I’ve have strange pregnancy experiences while abroad. Got bitten by a monkey in the face in Costa Rica during my first pregnancy; was in the Gracia neighborhood of Spain when I was surprised by the knowledge of my second pregnancy. No more babies for me. But I’ve been dreaming of my grandchildren since I was in my twenties.

And, what would you like us to know about your latest release?

The Hour of Daydreams is now available online and in bookstores. Thanks for reading!

BONNIE DODGE VISITS THE BOOK DINER TO DISCUSS THE WEIRD BLESSING OF BEING A WRITER

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Today I’m talking writing with Sharon Zink at The Book Diner. Check it out.

This week’s Book Diner interviewee is the wonderful Bonnie Dodge. Bonnie is a veteran writer, with a stack of books under her belt. I first became aware of her work since I am friends with her author son, Trevor Dodge, who I interviewed recently. Literary talent clearly is part of the Dodge family gene and Bonnie has such amazing insights from her long experience as an author that I found myself pretty much agreeing with everything she said! Her books also sound right up my alley, so I can’t wait to start reading them all! Enjoy!

http://sharonzink.com/the-book-diner-interviews/bonnie-dodge-visits-the-book-diner-to-discuss-the-weird-blessing-of-being-a-writer/

 

 

My Oregon Love Song

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My fingers are puckered, my feet are webbed, and like most of my neighbors, I’d love to see the sun. But the weatherman just confirmed another week of rain. Oh, yay.

Coming from a town lucky enough to see ten inches of rain a year, here in Newport we’ve already endured forty-three inches of rain, and it isn’t even May. It’s hard to get and stay motivated when the days are gray, misty, and wet. Walks along the beach are anything but romantic and puttering in the yard only creates bigger messes. Maybe that’s why there is always so much going on indoors.

For instance, in the last thirty days I got to hang out with some pretty amazing writers. In March, Susan DeFreitas talked about environmental degradation and her debut novel Hot Season. Her landscape descriptions blew me away. I can still smell the river and feel the breeze on my skin. A couple weeks later Karen Karbo, author of a best-selling “kick-ass women’s series”, talked about writing personal essays and I learned how to put passion back into my work. And just last week Garth Stein came to town to discuss writing his novel The Art of Racing in the Rain. The room was packed and for two hours we didn’t care that it was pouring outside, Stein was filling the room with enlightenment and inspiration.

The place I used to call home was so isolated I’d have to drive hundreds of miles to attend book signings and writing workshops. Now all I have to do is go to the library or the Performing Arts Center, just a few miles down the road.

Newport brims with talented people I would have never met if I had stayed in my Idaho cocoon. So thank you Oregon for giving me a stimulating and verdant place to live. Thank you for welcoming me home.

(Sorry the pictures are so blurry. My phone doesn’t play nice sometimes.)

 

SELF-SABOTAGE, MY WORD FOR 2017

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Words of encouragement are flooding social media this month. Words like hope, peace, love, respect, patience, and even no. As a writer, I’d like to offer another. Self-sabotage. That thing many writers do to avoid moving forward.

I’m not the queen of sabotage, but I know how to procrastinate. Take this book I’ve been working on for almost twenty years. Ten years ago I shopped this book around thinking it was finished. But clearly it wasn’t or I’d be collecting royalties instead of avoiding revisions.

Why isn’t it finished? It isn’t because I don’t know how to write or deliver a product. It isn’t that I don’t love the idea of this book, I do. The only reason I can offer is that I’ve gotten in the habit of avoiding this project. Every time I set out to finish this book something gets in the way. Here are some of the ways I’ve sabotaged the completion of this book.

1) I can’t work on this book until I finish xxx. Insert clean the house, take the dogs for a walk, or do the laundry.

Life is messy and has a way of getting in the way of writing. There will always be something else that needs attention. Pretending I can’t write until the dishwasher is loaded only prolongs the project. Instead of waiting until everything is done, I need to make working on this project a priority. First thing in the morning I need to sit down and revise a chapter. Before anything else. Waiting until I have a big chunk of time to work isn’t the answer and is just a lazy excuse.

2) I need to do more research.

After twenty years I should have more than enough information to finish this book. And if I don’t I can make it up. After all, it’s fiction, not non-fiction.

3) I don’t have the skills to write this story.

Recently I listened to Alice Hoffman discuss writing. She said a writer needs to write every day. Only by writing every day do you become a better writer. So stop waiting until you have the skill level you seek. Start writing and it will come.

4) It’s not perfect, so why bother.

Good writing is revisions, lots of them. Anne Lamott says write a messy first draft. Get the story down and then do the work of revisions. That’s where skill and magic happen, in the honing of words.

5) I need feedback on this chapter before I continue.

Maybe, but probably not. Even if you are lucky enough to have friends and family who offer to read your work and comment, this can be a big way to sabotage your writing. Reading is subjective and you will get good comments and bad comments. The time for constructive feedback is after the book is done. When you know the ending of your story, you’re better equipped to identify weak plot points and motivation. Too much advice while you’re being creative and writing can stop your story dead. Rely on your gut and trust the process.

6) I’m not smart enough to write this story.

If that is true, than put it away and work on something else. Just because you don’t feel adequate to complete this story doesn’t mean you can’t produce a sexier, better story. Learn to let go. Not everything you write is golden.

7) I need to turn off the internal editor.

Often the fear of failing, or even the fear of succeeding, can prevent me from finishing a project. Yes, criticism is scary. But it’s part of the process. Don’t let fear prevent you from achieving your goal. Writing can be scary, learn to work through the fear.

8) I can’t write until I get in the mood.

The longer you work as a writer the more it becomes a job and there are days you won’t want to go to work. Waiting for the mood to strike could mean days without writing, a sure way to shoot yourself in the foot. Many times I sit down to write, in a bad mood because I don’t want to write that day, and like magic my muse shows up and I produce some pretty amazing stuff. If you want to be a good writer, write even when you don’t want to. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

9) Illness gets in the way.

My goal for 2017 is to finish this book. I had a good start, with four chapters revised before I ended up in the hospital with a nasty gallbladder. See, I told my son, this book doesn’t want to be finished. And, yes, sometimes I feel like that. But the book isn’t the writer, I am the writer, and no one else is going to finish this book but me.

Self-sabotage diminishes passion and energy. It’s just an excuse to keep you from moving forward. If you’re in the habit of self-sabotaging yourself, try to identify why. Then work toward reaching your goal. You’re in control. Only you can do it.

15 Things You May Not Know About Jamie Duclos-Yourdon

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Oregon has so many talented writers. Take for instance Jamie Duclos-Yourdon. Jamie, a freelance editor and technical expert, received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. His short fiction has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Underneath the Juniper Tree, and Chicago Literati, and he has contributed essays and interviews to Booktrib. Froelich’s Ladder (Forest Avenue, August 2016) is his debut novel. He lives in Portland, Oregon. Here are some things you may not know about Jamie.

 1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

 When I was a kid, my mom said to squeeze her hand if I ever saw anything unusual. She hoped to prevent an embarrassing observation (we lived in New York, after all; everything was unusual), but I spent my time scanning my surroundings—and if I couldn’t spot the obviously unusual thing, I’d identify the smallest discrepancy.

 2) What is your writing routine?

I wake up at 4:30 every day and write for an hour. I usually manage 300+ words, which is slightly more than a page. It doesn’t feel like much, but if you keep at it every day—seven days a week, with no exceptions—the material builds up pretty quickly.

 3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

Oh, gosh … I probably go through four or five drafts before I’m ready to share a manuscript with a publisher or an agent, and those drafts have already been vetted by my writing group. If a publisher or agent is interested, then I’ll undertake another two or three drafts. The story is always evolving (and, hopefully, improving).

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career?

Having my first five books rejected. Through Book #6, I was still doing my best Nick Hornsby impression—which isn’t necessarily a knock on Nick Hornsby. It took me a long time to recognize my own voice and even longer to trust it.

 5) What part of your job do you love the most?

I love Q&As with an audience. Even if I’ve heard a question before—and more often than not I haven’t—the context is always different, the underlying assumption is different, my mood is different, everything is different. I learn something new every time.

 6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel?

I’m always reading, whether or not I’m working on new material. I mostly stick to fiction, with a few news sources to keep me informed. I’m really picky, in terms of the former (and the latter, I suppose), and I don’t like to reread novels or short stories; additionally, I don’t feel guilty putting down a book after 50 pages. So my reading process is like no, no, no, no, no, YES, no, YES, YES, no, no, no …

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer?

A professor of mine once said, “Learn what you write and when you write.” If you write flash fiction, cool, write flash fiction. If you write 150,000-word novels, then do that instead. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Same goes for whatever time of day suits your creative process: find it and stick to it.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

I took a fiction workshop with Aurelie Sheehan when I was twenty-four. She read one of my short stories and said, “Oh, you write about responsibility!” That observation had a profound effect on my writing.

 9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I’ve had a storyteller on my desk since 2001—a ceramic figurine of a Pueblo Indian, mid-story, surrounded by her children. I’ll be devastated when I eventually, inevitably drop and break her.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I have absolutely no idea. Drunk?

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

Samuel Beckett said it best: Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

 12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I’m currently at work on my tenth novel, a Mesopotamian ghost story about death and grieving and talking crows and ancient Sumer.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

In January of 2002, an agent at ICM expressed interest in my first novel. I thought, “Yay, this is it! The big time!” and spent the next six months sitting on my ass. I’d love to get that time back.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Read everything. Write constantly. Be on the lookout for a mentor. Don’t assume debt for an MFA. Find community and earn your inclusion. Success isn’t zero-sum. Listen to what your readers have to say. There’s nothing wrong with adverbs. Writers make boring protagonists. Know what your characters want and what prevents them from getting it. Study screenwriting to learn three-act structure. What seems natural and obvious to you is completely foreign to the rest of the world. You are a writer. You are a writer. You are a writer.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I’ll be the Keynote Speaker at the 2017 South Coast Writers Conference February 17–18.

And: what’d you like us to know about your latest release:

Froelich nurses a decades-old family grudge from his permanent perch atop a giant ladder in this nineteenth century madcap adventure novel, Froelich’s Ladder. When he disappears suddenly, his nephew embarks on a rain-soaked adventure across the Pacific Northwest landscape to find him, accompanied by an ornery girl with a most unfortunate name. In their encounters with Confederate assassins, European expatriates, and a general store magnate, this fairytale twist on the American dream explores the conflicts between loyalty and ambition and our need for human connection, even at the highest rungs.

If you’re still scrambling to find the perfect Christmas present, consider Jamie’s new book from Forest Avenue Press.

Happy Holidays!

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454 Days Later

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I’ve been quiet and you probably think I fell into the ocean or got blown away by coastal storms. But no, I’m still here, learning all I can about my new home.

The reason I’ve been silent is that I’ve been busy. For a tiny dot on the map between Yachats and Lincoln City, Newport’s population is about the same as the town I left in Idaho. If you want a Costco or a Lowe’s you have to drive several miles, just like I did in Idaho. But unlike the town I left behind, there is so much more to do here I barely have time to read, let alone write.

Check out the latest issue of Oregon Coast Today and you will see there is always something going on. Add to that everything happening in The Valley between here and Portland and there is no time to be bored. Ever.

Take for instance last weekend. Since I don’t like to drive Portland traffic my son quietly obliged, taking me to Portland’s annual book festival Wordstock. I was so revitalized I’m still vibrating. My favorite author, Alice Hoffman, was in town and spoke about her new book Faithful. She even signed my copy and thanked me for stopping by. So many other talented writers attended, not to mention many Oregon presses including Ooligan Press, Tin House, and my favorite, Laura Stanfill from Forest Avenue Press. If that wasn’t great enough, admission to the event included admittance to the Portland Art Museum and the Andy Warhol exhibit. Now my son was vibrating, snapping pictures and studying one-of-a-kind art. Yes, it was raining. But in spite of the rain, it was a positive, energizing day.

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That evening my family took in The Drowsy Chaperone, a musical put on by my grandson Dante’s high school class. The students were top notch, high energy, and amazing. The day ended with dinner at The Ram and a glass of wine. Perfect.

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Many people told me I was crazy to move to Oregon. Several said I’d get depressed and miss the sun. And even though I miss my friends in Idaho, and sometimes I do miss the sun, mostly I love it here. Even when it’s raining.

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