Posts Tagged ‘interviews’

shenkmanHarriet Shenkman, Ph.D. is a Professor Emerita at City University of New York.  She serves on the Advisory Board of the Women’s National Book Association, NYC.  She was awarded second place in poetry in the Women’s National Book Association National Writing Contest, 2013.  She is proud to serve as Poet-in-Residence at Boomer Cafe and to have a poetry page on Verse Wrights.  Her poems have been published in a number of publications and she is working on a poetry collection, Sweet and Sour Soup.  She is also completing a novel entitled The Camel Tamer.  She lives in New York with her husband Jerry and they have three children.

How long have you been a member of the WNBA-NYC? How did you get involved with the organization?

I have been in the New York chapter of WNBA for several years.  Last year I became the Academic Liaison on the Board.  This was a suitable position as I am Professor Emerita at CUNY and was director of a literary arts center within my college.  I am excited about our new partnership with the NYU Creative Writing Program and we hope to launch our first joint event in March of 2014.

Congratulations on “Mirror, Mirror” placing in the First Annual WNBA Writing Contest! What was the experience like? Will you enter next year’s contest?

It is an honor to win a national award.  It’s very useful in building credibility as a serious writer. I am thrilled to have also just won second place in the 2013 Women Who Write contest for my poem “The Possibility of Teetering.”  It will appear in Calliope 2013: the 20th Anthology. I will also have the opportunity to read it in Louisville, Kentucky at their annual conference.

Where can our members find your other published works?

My latest poem “Fourth Date” will be published in August at Boomer Cafe. Previous poems have been published at When Women Waken, Verse Wrights, Jewish Mag, Jewish Renaissance Magazine, and The WNBA Bookwoman Anthology.  And forthcoming are poems in Third Wednesday, a quarterly journal of poetry, prose and art, and Jewish Currents, a quarterly journal.
Is your background in poetry, or have you written in other genres?

My background is not poetry.  I have written over thirty academic articles and my creative writing began with novel writing.  However, I find satisfaction in the briefer form of poetry to express what I want to say.  You work at getting at the essence of things

From where do you draw inspiration for your writing?

For my poetry, I may start with an image or an experience that is startling or exceptional in some way.  And then I explore it, what it means, and how to capture its essence in words. For my novel, I have characters in my head that I want to see interacting in a challenging context. I am also passionate about situations in the world I want to reveal and explore.

How different is the publishing process for poetry? More or less difficult?

Publishing poetry in the mainstream press is difficult. Agents and editors are more interested in novels and nonfiction.  But my poetry is very accessible and I hold the position of Poet-in-Residence at Boomer Cafe.   I want to put together a collection of verse called Sweet and Sour Soup for the Over Fifty Soul.  There is a huge market for readers in the baby boomer generation and older that has not be tapped.

Do you have any projects currently in the works?

I also have a novel in the works called The Camel Tamer.  I am working on revisions.  You could say it is a hunt for a terrorist narrative within a coming of age story.  I am striving for a tragic/comic effect and my two main characters, a hardened Mossad agent and an innocent American kid, are polar opposites.  Most of the story takes place in Jerusalem and other places in Israel.

What’s your favorite word and why?

I do not have a favorite word.  I love to put words together into unique constellations that convey feelings and meaning.  One reader of my poetry said it is provocative without being sentimental.  I like that description.

What are you currently reading? Any great recommendations for our members?

I am reading Ruth Ozeki’s new novel, A Tale for the Time Being, and I am looking forward to hearing her in conversation with Carole DeSanti at the WNBA event in September.  I love the new novel by A.M. Homes, May We Be Forgiven. She is a master at combining darkness and wit.  She won the Women’s Prize for Fiction over several respected women authors.  I would recommend both books.


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As we gear up for the upcoming season of the WNBA-NYC, we’d like to remind you of one of the benefits of our blog available exclusively to chapter members: the Member Monday interview. These are our most popular posts, and they’re great in showcasing you! Whether you’re an author, agent, or editor, this is your chance to be in the spotlight. Take a look back at some of our recent member interviews. And if you want to be featured in a Member Monday interview, email Tqwana at blog@wnba-nyc.org.

Pauline Hsia

Pamela Milan

Quressa Robinson

Heather Allen

If a full interview isn’t your thing, your personal blog can also be featured in a Member Monday Blog Roll Call.

The Things She Thinks About

The Literary Leotard

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deborahDeborah Batterman is a fiction writer, essayist, and teaching artist. A story from her debut collection, Shoes Hair Nails was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her stories and essays have appeared in anthologies as well as various print and online journals, and a selection of her essays, Because My Name is Mother, is now available as an e-book. She recently finished a novel, Dancing into the Sun. Website/blog:  www.deborahbatterman.com. Facebook page: deborah.batterman.

How long have you been a member of the WNBA-NYC? How did you get involved with the organization?

September will mark my third year as a member.  Basically I had begun developing relationships with different writers online via blogs and writing communities. I’d already published my short story collection, and I was looking for that give-and-take of ideas between writers as well as affiliations that might enhance my presence. That’s about when I discovered WNBA.  It immediately felt like a great fit – an organization focused on women in the world of publishing but also with a broader view re: the place of books in our lives.

From an author’s perspective, what are some of the advantages of being a part of an organization like the WNBA?

First, there’s the sense of community – a very welcoming one at that.   Then there are the really wonderful programs the chapter puts together – everything from strategies for marketing on Facebook to tips from literary agents to panels of writers reading from their work and talking about their processes.  Speaking of interesting programs, I’m really looking forward to the one at the New York Public Library on ‘Why Children’s Books Matter,’ just for the pure pleasure of seeing the exhibition and learning a thing or two.

Congratulations on All Mine placing in the First Annual WNBA Writing Contest! What was the experience like? Will you enter next year’s contest?

Thank you.  It’s pretty exciting to place in a national contest—maybe even more gratifying since it’s the first for WNBA.  The process was very user-friendly and, yes, if I have a story or two that falls within the word count next year, and if I’m not excluded as a result of having a winning entry this year, I’ll certainly consider entering.

What inspires your writing? Do you draw ideas from real life?

The stories I write often begin with an image, or a first line that pops into my head. Sometimes it’s an item in the news that captures my attention. All Mine, for example, grew out of a news story about a string of art thefts from museums in Europe.  One man was behind the thefts, and how he got away with it —not  to mention the roles his girlfriend and his mother played in helping him steal and hide the art—had me thinking there was good material for fiction here. The very notion that someone could take possession of a portrait because of his fascination with her beauty, and her eyes in particular—and that he got away with stealing so much art so easily—completely intrigued me. A story started to form around this triangle—man/girlfriend/mother.  If it’s not something in the news that grabs me, it’s something I see—pairs of shoes lined up on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, a girl sitting on a seat in beauty salon with no idea that her mother has walked out on her, a man who thinks he can jolt the dementia out of his father by taking him to Las Vegas.

I’m always fascinated by authors who say that characters live inside their heads and can take over the narrative. How true is that for you?

Absolutely.  My best moments in a story occur when a character does something I did not know he or she would do.

Any future projects in the works?

Well, I’m thinking about compiling another short story collection, as well as a book of essays derived from my blog posts.  And there’s another novel brewing, but I don’t want to plunge in untll I have an agent/editor for the one I recently finished.

What’s your take on the rise in the popularity of self-publishing vs. traditional? Would you consider becoming a hybrid author?

The publishing world is in a state of flux—that’s a given. So the question for any writer these days is which way to go: Do I take everything into my own hands via self-publishing, with the array of packagers, etc., now available? Do I hold fast to a traditional route, hoping to find the right agent/editor/publishing house? Self-publishing is a good thing in that it allows a writer to take over the means of production and distribution. It’s not a good thing when it tempts writers to put their work out at least one draft too soon, just because it’s so easy to do it.  Some middle ground is needed, and that might be a hybrid publishing paradigm where, conceptually speaking, a writer’s work is vetted by editors even if she’s the one doing the financing. Would I consider that?  Maybe.  More to the point—as the market becomes glutted with self-published books, I think the role of agents and editors stands to become more important than ever.  So nothing would make me happier right now than finding an agent who appreciates/understands my work and gets my novel into the hands of the right editor.

What’s your favorite word and why?

I can’t say I have one favorite word, but I’ll give you the first one that popped into my head as I began thinking about this: bittersweet.

What are you currently reading? Any great recommendations for our members?

Right now I’m alternating between The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.  I recently finished Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie, which had a very powerful impact on me as a writer. It’s an important book that speaks to the times we’re living in and what it means to be able to freely tell our stories.

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Pauline Hsia

Pauline Hsia is the Literary Agent Assistant at Doris S. Michaels Literary Agency in New York. She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association, Association of Author’s Representatives, and Young to Publishing Group.

How long have you been a member of the WNBA-NYC? How did you get involved with the organization?

Doris Michaels of DSM Agency actually sponsored my WNBA-NYC membership in early 2012 when I was a publishing newborn; she encouraged me to get more active with this distinguished organization. I attended a neighborhood lunch last May and met with several members, including Valerie Tomaselli, current national president, and Jane Denning, current president of the NYC chapter (of course, at the time, I had no idea who they were).

I felt completely at ease with these women—everyone was so warm and welcoming. Even now, whenever I attend events thrown by the WNBA, I am still struck by their authenticity and hospitality. When I was invited to the next board meeting, I had already decided that I wanted to learn more about these women and their goals, and I’ve been involved ever since.

Congratulations on becoming the chapter’s new treasurer! What made you want to take on the position?

Thank you! I took on the position because I like to take on lots of responsibility.

Sarcasm aside, I am extremely honored that the chapter members voted me in as treasurer and have that kind of confidence in my abilities. I was contemplating how I could get more involved with the WNBA and it just so happened that the treasurer position opened up. This is a great opportunity to learn firsthand how a non-profit organization functions financially.

What are some of the advantages of being a part of an organization like the WNBA?

Besides the obvious advantage of obtaining a few books here and there from the WNBA  parties (I took home The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin one night!), members get the chance to mingle and network with publishing professionals, book lovers, and aspiring writers—you never know who you’ll meet at events like Open Mic Night and Query Roulette. In addition to staying up-to-date with publishing trends and popular books, it’s also about building a community that promotes literacy. And if that’s not enough incentive, then please be aware that wine and cheese are often served at events.

What’s a typical day like as a literary agent assistant?

I wouldn’t say that there is a “typical” day at a literary agency. All kinds of things come up. I jump between answering questions from authors, editors, and foreign co-agents to evaluating contracts and editing manuscripts and proposals. It varies, depending on how our projects are progressing.

How do you balance reading for work and reading for pleasure?

During the busy seasons of publishing, I read more for work. When summer rears its head, I am in pleasure-reading mode!

What’s the best advice you can give aspiring writers for querying agents?

Do your research! Don’t send erotica to a literary agent that normally represents business books. It’s like hitting a piñata with a chopstick. There are so many agents out there, why waste your time on ones that would never be interested in your writing?

What’s your favorite word?

Flint. Since I don’t have a favorite word, I offered a word that I’ve been thinking about lately.  I was reading a book where an author used flint to describe the eyes of her character, which I absolutely loved because it gave away the personality without elaborating too much.

I find the word attractive and powerful; it’s used in so many different ways. It can be associated with unyielding stone and yet it can also bring images of sparks, striking fire. When I think of flint, I am also reminded of [the ending] of this poem that I read in 2008, I Go Back to May 1937, by Sharon Olds:

I  take them up like the male and female   

paper dolls and bang them together   

at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to   

strike sparks from them, I say

Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

I love this poem in its entirety.

penonfireWhat are you currently reading?

Pen On Fire by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, In the Shadow of the Banyan Tree by Vaddey Ratner, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

A better question would have been, “When do you plan on finishing the books you’ve started?”

by Tqwana Brown

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3 Sepia Headshots 7 4 2011 016Pamela Milam, a member of the New York Chapter of the WNBA, is a reader, author, and therapist living part-time in both Dallas and New York.  Represented by Jim Levine at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, her most recent book takes a closer look at what happens inside the therapy office.  You can find her here:  http://asdpublishing.com/our-authors.htm.

Welcome to the WNBA-NYC! How long have you been a member and what motivated you to join the organization?

I’ve been a member of the New York Chapter for about 6 months.  Prior to that, I attempted to join the Dallas Chapter of WNBA and discovered that it no longer existed.  I was motivated to join WNBA-NYC after reading a tweet about Great Group Reads.  Since I split my time between living in Dallas and Hell’s Kitchen, it made sense.

What do you do as a committee member for Great Group Reads?

For the 2013 GGR Selection Committee, what I do more than anything is read.  Our group reads between 20-25 books starting in March, comments about each book in a private blog, and then votes on our favorites in August.  We’re looking for books that are worthy of being known and read by book clubs, the kind of books that generate robust and interesting discussions.  This is my first time participating on the committee, and I’m enjoying every second.

gilam coverTell us about your book Premarital Counseling for Gays & Lesbians:  Case Studies and Helpful Questions. Is this your first published book? What was the publication process like?

I wrote Premarital Counseling for Gays & Lesbians very quickly – worked fast to have it ready in time for the Rainbow Book Fair in New York last year.  In the past, I’ve seen any number of opinion pieces about whether gay people should be allowed to get married and books about the legalities involved, but not many about the relationships themselves – the common problems and issues that arise prior to making a lifelong commitment, along with suggestions for how to communicate more effectively.  In an interview with Kergan Edwards-Stout, Human Rights Campaign 2011 Father of the Year, I discussed the book in greater detail (What to Consider Before Tying the Knot: An LGBT Primer Courtesy of Marriage Counselor Pamela Milam).

It is my first book and the process was so easy that I fear I’ve been spoiled.  My publisher, ASD Publishing, offered so much guidance and individual attention.  I’m impressed by how helpful and capable they have been.

What advice do you have for our members who are trying to get published?

If you have a good idea, write it down and start working on it right away.  I’ve experienced several different sides of the publishing process — self-publishing, working with an indie publisher, and signing with an agent to find a home for my second book (What Your Therapist Really Thinks About You, which is currently under submission) with a traditional publisher.  I’ve enjoyed the learning process in all areas and none of it would have happened without my willingness to notice when I had an interesting idea, move efficiently toward exploring what to do next, and be persistent.

Your work as a therapist is obviously your motivation for writing. How do you decide what topics you want to put into a book?

I look for a gap in the market.  What topic isn’t on the bookshelves that should be?  What kinds of things would I want to read?  What is needed and what is missing?

What future projects are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m freelancing for Rewire Me. I’m a big fan of personal growth and this website is really onto something.

Periodically, you might find me on Huffington Post, like in this article about Counseling Awareness Month. But most of all, I’m in the very beginning stages of talking my mom into co-writing something with me about how families can cope with mental illness.  My mom doesn’t realize it, but she’s an excellent writer with original thoughts and a wealth of knowledge about coping and managing life’s surprises.

What’s your favorite word?

This month, my favorite word is “Yes.”  I worked in a clinic at the beginning of my career, and the owner’s motto was, “Say Yes when you can and say No when you have to.”  It’s good advice for customer service and even better advice for anyone at midlife, realizing that time is finite and there’s still so much to do and experience.

What are you currently reading?

After I finish the tall stack of GGR books on my nightstand, The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud is waiting for me.  Next up, I want to read every play Richard Greenberg has ever written.

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Barb best closeup (640x606)Barbara Foster is an Associate Professor and research librarian at CUNY. She is co-author of three highly acclaimed books, including the biographies Forbidden Journey (Harper/Collins) and The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel (third printing Overlook, 2007). Her biography of Adah Isaacs Menken, America’s first superstar, A Dangerous Woman, was published in 2011 by Globe Pequot Press. Barbara is a world traveler in the tradition of the heroic women she writes about.  She has written numerous articles, for print and the web, both scholarly and popular. Barbara has also published dozens of poems in journals in every English speaking country.  She is included in Contemporary Authors and Marquis Who’s Who of American. Barbara is joint author of Three in Love: Menages a Trois from Ancient to Modern Times (HarperSF, 1997), which is presently an Authors Guild Selection available on iUniverse and Amazon. She is at work on a sequel to Three, which will be the definitive study of the history and psychology of plural love. Barbara has completed her intimate memoir of her experiences in New York and other exotic locales: The Confessions Club: the Secret Life of a Sexy Librarian.

How long have you been a member of the WNBA-NYC? How beneficial has the organization been for your career?
I have been a member of the WNBA for more than ten years. I have so much enjoyed and found the meetings practical. The once a year luncheons are divine and I have made excellent contacts there and at the meetings which address topics across the spectrum, very many of interest. People are friendly and helpful, ready to go out of their way for you.

Tell us about your memoir, The Confessions Club: the Secret Life of a Sexy Librarian. Has the publication process been more difficult because it’s a memoir?
Memoirs are difficult if you are not a celebrity. I am nevertheless currently submitting the Confessions Club to agents. I expect the process to be difficult, because I deal with erotic subject matter. I am a married academic who dared to have erotic adventures in various parts of the globe, which are now almost impossible to visit because of terrorism, etc. I did not write a Fifty Shades of Grey, which is in the porn category. My models are Erica Jong, Anais Nin and Toni Bentley – serious authors with a literary slant. My attempt is to tell a true, heartfelt story, which may offend some people. I led a double life: serious academic librarian by day, bohemian adventuress by night. I am now out of the closet and feel quite relieved. I will continue to circulate the work and hope to have good results.

What future projects do you have in the works?
I am currently working on a Sci-Fi book set in New York in the year 2050. It is a dystopian tale, which oddly enough was inspired by my library career and love of books. In my story there are no books, people are robotic after all the books have been burned. I am also preparing to put together a collection of my poetry which covers many subjects, written over a long period, and published in many journals in the USA and abroad.

dangerous womanYou’ve previously written biographies about pioneering women like Alexandra David-Neel. What was your inspiration for writing about these women?
I want to tell the story of adventurous women who are not necessarily known by the general public. These projects take years of research and enormous work. They are labors of love. To quote Alexandra David-Neel, the explorer of Tibet: “I wanted to show the world what the will of a woman can do.” I to want to highlight remarkable women so they will not be lost to history.

My latest publication, A Dangerous Woman: the Life, Loves and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835-68, America’s Original Superstar (Lyons Press, 2011) is another  case in point. I fell in love with Menken:  her daring, originality, her poetry, her modernity, although she’s from the Victorian period. She defended Walt Whitman when everyone reviled him, was multicultural before the fashion, and was a precursor of Marilyn Monroe.

I have presented lectures on David-Neel as far away as Australia and am currently doing the Menken show in PowerPoint; she is the first superstar photographed by Sarony—the first celebrity photographer. I love doing the Menken show and am actively seeking speaking engagements.

What’s your favorite word?

What are you currently reading?
Doris Lessing’s Shikasta and Ursule Le Guin’s Lavinia.

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IMG_0420_1Canadian Gila Green’s debut novel KING OF THE CLASS is published by Now or Never Publishing (2013). Her novel in stories WHITE ZION, nominated for the Doris Bakwin Literary Award, will be released in spring 2014. She teaches fiction at: www.womenonwriting.com and lives in Israel with her husband and children. Find out more about her at her blog www.gilagreenonline.com.

How long have you been a member of the WNBA-NYC?

This is my first year and I’m really pleased I took the plunge and joined. At first, I wasn’t sure if it made sense to do so from Israel, but it’s definitely worthwhile, and I’m grateful that they allow overseas writers to join the chapter.

Tell us about your involvement in Women on Writing Flash Fiction course.

I’ve been teaching short fiction and literary devices on the WOW site since 2009. They are great to work with, supportive and professional and I love the ongoing opportunities to meet writers from all over the world. Some participants have become valuable friends and colleagues. This year a long-time participant suggested I offer Flash. I immediately took her up on it. The sign-up was even more than I anticipated and I’m offering another Flash course in June.

Your debut novel King of the Class just released in Vancouver and is now available for purchase on Amazon. Congratulations! Tell us about your book and what the publishing process was like for you.

King of the Class takes Israel’s deep internal religious and political divisions to their logical dystopian conclusion. The novel is satirically set in the near future in a post-civil war Israel divided into two states: the religious fundamentalist state of Shalem and the militant secular state of Israel. As writer Michael Chabon asks the question, what if the Jewish people made a state in Alaska? King of the Class asks: what if the real enemy of the Jews is not without, but within? What if the population of Israel wakes up one day to find itself separated into two groups, living across hostile borders? Against this backdrop is a love story between Canadian Eve Vee and South African Manny Meretzky. Their relationship slowly becomes a microcosm for the religious divide around them. Ultimately, Eve and Manny must unite if they want to prevent a tragedy, but can they put aside what divides them when harmony seems to be a thing of the past?

King-of-the-Class-Cover-Gila-Green-187x300After two years of solid work, the manuscript was complete and finding my Vancouver publisher was remarkably painless. I already had five full years of experience from publishing and I knew the basics: how to query agents, publishers, how to deal with the non-stop rejection and the endless waiting. I also knew that as an overseas writer I was up against it. I’d been told  for years that my chances of traditional publishing these days were low enough and as an overseas writer, practically non existent. I had a few initial rejections and each time I revised accordingly if the suggestions spoke to me.  Within a couple of months I found Now or Never Publishing while surfing the internet, and I knew my chances were higher with a Canadian publisher than with anyone else, so I sent in my manuscript. I still remember my acceptance e-mail: “I think I’m crazy to go for an overseas writer, but what the heck!” I’ve been very happy with them.

What future projects do you have in the works?

I am delighted to tell you that my novel in stories White Zion is coming out in the spring of 2014 with my Vancouver publisher. The collection spans Yemen, British Mandate Palestine, modern Israel and Canada of the 1980s and deals with themes of racism and alienation within the family unit. I am particularly excited about it because my father is a Yemenite Jew and I have written a lot in both a male and female Yemenite Jewish voice, something I believe is sorely lacking in Jewish literature, which is dominated by the Ashkenazi Jewish voice of Eastern Europe and North America. I’m also working on a sequel to King of the Class.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

My advice is to decide on your goal with your writing. Second, find a mentor, someone who has accomplished more than you in the writing world. It is very important to have at least one person who not only believes in your work, but who has also “been there”. Third, persevere, persevere, and persevere. Be professional. Remember that no one is rejecting you; it is your work that does not meet their needs at the moment and there could be dozens of reasons for that.

What’s your favorite word?

My favorite word balagan. It’s a slang Hebrew word many English speakers have adopted. It means disorder, disarray, confusion or mess, but somehow still manages to have both a positive and negative connotation. If a party is a balagan it would be a really fun enjoyable mess, but if the kitchen is a balagan, that means a lot of clean up. I like that balagan can be both positive and negative because in English it’s always negative and a little disorder isn’t always bad, is it?

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading  Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys.

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