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Interviews | March 17, 2014

Shawn Donley: IMG Peter Stark: The Powells.com Interview



Peter StarkIt's hard to believe that 200 years ago, the Pacific Northwest was one of the most remote and isolated regions in the world. In 1810, four years... Continue »
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Susan Cushman has commented on (2) products.

The Weight of Memory by Jennifer Paddock
The Weight of Memory

Susan Cushman, April 29, 2012

I met Jennifer Paddock during the Fairhope Writers Colony Retreat in Fairhope, Alabama, last June. She was one of several local authors that Sonny Brewer brought in to talk shop with me and the other “colonists.” But I had already read Jennifer’s first two novels before I ever met her�"A Secret Word and Point Clear. I was drawn to her voice, her characters, and the stories she wove through those characters’ lives. I was also drawn to the setting�"the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida�"where I’ve spent many vacations over the years.

So I was excited to learn that the characters I came to care about in her first two books would continue their journeys in a third novel�"The Weight of Memory. Jennifer agreed to an interview on my blog, "Pen and Palette":

P&P: Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for agreeing to “chat” with us today. I’m so excited about the release of your third novel. My first question is this�"did you know you were going to write three books about Chandler, Sarah and Leigh when you wrote A Secret Word?

Jennifer: I did. Chandler, Sarah, and Leigh had become very real to me, and I missed them. I like the idea of checking in on them every five years or so. I didn't know that Walker from Point Clear would be a major character. That was a nice surprise.

P&P: Are the characters in your novels based on friends and acquaintances�"especially the three girls and Trey and Walker? I couldn’t help wonder if Chandler was based on your own life in some ways, since she was a tennis instructor.

Jennifer: They are, and they aren't. I almost always start from something real and then let fiction take over. I am most like Chandler, but my family life, especially when I was growing up, is like Sarah's, and my often feeling like an outsider is like Leigh.

P&P: Sarah’s father, “C.H.” has such an abusive attitude towards women’s bodies and eating. My mother was like this, so I was especially sensitive when I read that part. Do you think this is a common problem in the South? Did you experience this personally?

Jennifer: I do think it's a common problem. I teach tennis to a lot of young girls, and they are all overly concerned about their weight. They shouldn't be. They're perfect. I did not have this experience in my family, which is good, but I developed some bad habits--my addiction to Coke is one. My father gave it to me in my baby bottle with a little crushed ice--I loved it!

P&P: Did Leigh’s Cherokee heritage in the book come from something or someone in your own life, or just your imagination?

Jennifer: It came from a friend of mind who was searching for her birth mother and found out she was Cherokee. I went to visit the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, which is close to my hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. It was an inspiring, mystical experience.

P&P: Who are your favorite authors or role models/mentors for your writing, and why?

Jennifer: My favorite writer is Susan Minot, for the beauty of her language. It's spare, poetic, and very visual. I also love Anthony Doerr, especially Memory Wall, which is definitely my favorite long short story. It's hard to beat the honesty of Raymond Carver. I love Brad Watson, Ann Hood, Michelle Richmond, Michael Knight, William Gay, Jay McInerney, J.D. Salinger, Richard Yates, Grace Paley, Richard Bausch, Tobias Wolff, and so many more.

P&P: What’s next? Will there be another sequel?

Jennifer: Maybe. I don't want it to be my next book. I've been reading the wonderful novel The Art of Fielding, which is about baseball and so much more, and I'd like to write a tennis novel--a shorter Infinite Jest (which I still need to read!).

You can friend Jennifer on Facebook to learn about readings and events.
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The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life by Dinty W. Moore
The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life

Susan Cushman, April 10, 2012

The Mindful Writer is so much more than a collection of great quotes by writers and artists. Moore's reflections on those quotes, and his application of this collective wisdom to our creative lives is spot on. I love the way he applies what he's learned from writing (and teaching writing) to his spiritual journey in Buddhism, and then cycles back from the spiritual to the practical with tenets for every day living. I read The Mindful Writer while in the throes of finishing my first novel, and it fueled my enthusiasm here at the end of the journey. My favorite quote in the books isn't one Moore shares from others, but something original with Moore himself:

"It is wise to remind ourselves on occasion why we write, and why it matters so much. There is too much left unsaid in the world, either because what needs to be said is seemed impolite, because it is deemed dangerous, or because it contradicts the accepted version put forth by family, government, religious leaders, or the society we live in."

The late (great) Madeleine L'Engle said that governments are afraid of writer, poets and artists because they see the truth and tell it. I think this is part of Moore's message, and he says it well. I have ten published essays, and The Mindful Writer fueled my desire to write more.

A wonderful, short, readable book for writers, readers, artists, and anyone interested in enriching their life.
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