A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cool Cat Chat with Susan Kane

          Today I'm pleased to be joined by Susan Kane of thecontemplativecat and  Susan Kane, Writer.  I've enjoyed reading her contemplations and stories on her blogs and she has left frequent comments on mine.  It's good to get to know a little bit more about her.  She's stopped by to share some of her thoughts about writing memoir.

The family photo was taken in 1967.  Dad insisted that we would not smile.  Consequently, we all had giggle fits, and the photo shoot took an hour. 

Arlee:  I guess one question writers should get asked is:  When did you start writing?

Susan:  In third grade, I had grown into a voracious reader and absorbed books.  The only books available were the classic books, biographies, and Readers’ Digest Books.  The language level was challenging and intriguing.  When I finished all the third grade books, the teacher let me go to the fourth grader’s library.  By sixth grade, I had read all the books in the school, and was working through the Britannica Encyclopedias.

     Part of reading for me was responding to the book.  I wrote in a journal as I read, recording unknown vocabulary and copying down great sentences.  This was how I always read.  My writing branched off on its own, and I wrote the most awful love stories and mysteries. But I wrote volumes.

Arlee:  What inspired you to write as an adult?

Susan:  My paternal grandmother died four days before I married.  She was a brilliant gifted woman, who had told me stories of her generation, 1890s - 1972.  Five years after her death, I wrote a few pages about things she had told me about her fascinating life.  I typed on an old manual Smith-Corona, with my children playing/fighting around me.  It was great.

Then I wrote a romance novel (packed in a box in my office).  That showed me I could write anything lengthy.  I also got pregnant with our last child—too much research, I guess.

I have kept journals about everything:  trips, thoughts, prayers, everything.  Just the habit of writing as a response to life formed my own life as a writer.
My paternal Grandmother Amy is in her rocker; she was a highly educated woman, and loved to write poetry.

Arlee:  Your current work? What inspired this work?  

Susan:   In Preacher’s Creek takes place in a small rural farming town in the early 1950s. The time period is important because WW II is over, veterans have come home, and there is tremendous growth—in number of children and economically.  The town of Preacher’s Creek was established in 1820 and most of the residents are descended from the original settlers. 

       Family history and stories are part of life in this town.  The main character and voice is Ellen Jo Carter, with her brother Kent James.  Both are young children and are blessed with vivid imaginations, adventurous spirits, and insatiable curiosity.  The sleepy town that was content with its predictable life is faced with the issues and unspoken prejudices that the Carter children discover and uncover.

       I am a child of this era in America, born and raised on a farm, and part of the ‘Boomers’.  The events in the book may have a spark of truth in them, but mostly they come from my life experiences.  As an elementary teacher, I do know children and the actions they would take in any given situation. 

      The book is finished; I am currently editing.  This is the most frustrating part of writing, I think.

Arlee:  Why did you decide to write this book now?  Why not years ago?

 Susan:   I was teaching until 2008, and that consumed my creative passions. Two of my brothers died unexpectedly at ages 46 and 44.  My youngest brother’s death pulled my feet out from under me and dragged me in the sand.  Grieving for them and then my husband’s father, “Dad”, had left me emotionally numb. 

        Finally, my pastor suggested that I write, like I always have-- in response to life.  That was the genesis of this book. 

Arlee:  Is there any particular piece of literature that impacted you, as a writer?

 Susan:   Actually, there is one book among all the influential books I have read: The Source by James Michener.  This was published in 1965 just as I was heading into high school.  I had never read such a huge book.  I had study hall in the library; every day I would pull that monster of a book down from the shelves and be carried away by the quality language and events.  History can grab me and amaze me. 

      It was the idea of “layers” of archeology as applied to the layers of writing in a piece of literature that was an epiphany.  Characters are really complex people, multi-dimensional.  Going back in time through the archeological dig was parallel to discovering the characters through their ancestors. 

      The importance of understanding history—our own family’s history, as well as world history—is vital to growth as a person.  I am beginning to appreciate that more and more as I ‘mature’.
The Mark Twain Cave photo was taken in 1959; we were so eager to run to the cave entry, and instead forced to get the photo taken.

Arlee:  What personal characteristics affect your writing? 

Susan:    My sister has informed me that I am positively “dripping with empathy”.  It is true.  I am also compelled to write, not as an obsession, but as a way to make sense of being.

Arlee:  Well, the time is almost up.  Last question:  What can writers do to improve their own writing?

Susan:   My suggestions:  Read quality writing; and, read literature outside one’s own genre.  Too many writers limit themselves to their own area of interest, and that can make their prose stutter to a stand-still.

Arlee:  Well, then.  Let’s stop here.   I gotta go check my dashboard.

Susan:   And, I have to go to the bathroom.  Great talking with you.

        That was abrupt, but when ya gotta go ya gotta go.  It was nice having Susan Kane join us here today.  Be sure to visit her blogs and become a follower if you like what you see there.  

          Thank you, Susan Kane.

           Next week I have a visit from memoir blogger and author Deanna Hershiser .  Please come back to hear Deanna's take on the topic of writing memoir.   


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  1. Thank you for that, loved learning more about Susan.

  2. A wonderful interview Arlee, really enjoyed the read.


    ps: Do you know any other music sites other than Hypster as I can no longer get it on my site.
    Much appreciated.

  3. Hi Lee and Susan .. that was great - and so interesting you'd read the library and were reading through the Encyclopedia Britannica ..

    Your memoir certainly sounds an interesting read - as the layers are peeled away, or covered over .. While The Source sounds fascinating too .. I must have a look for it ..

    Good to read this Lee - these intros to authors are so inspiring thanks - Hilary

  4. Thanks for another fascinating interview and introducing us to another writer.

  5. Arlee, thanks for hosting Susan.
    Susan: I share your values and interests and always look forward to reading your blog. Your family photos are a pure joy and what a void the loss of your 2 brothers must mean to your family unit. My kindle awaits your memoir.

  6. Great interview and definitely agree that one should read all genres, not just what they are comfortable with.

  7. Great interview! I follow Susan and she is a great writer. I love when she posts her family pictures too.
    Blessings, Joanne

  8. Thanks, Arlee! How exciting to see my very own interview in print!

  9. Thank you Susan for this delightful post on Wrote By Rote.

    And thanks to all who have read and left comments so far and for the comments I would expect to see in the upcoming week. Susan has been a great guest here and I hope you will visit her blog if you haven't done so yet.


  10. Susan,
    You are a natural writer! It's so fun reading about your love for it. Inspiring really :0)
    This is an awesome interview.

  11. Dear Arlee,
    I am new to your blog, having come to visit because of your interview with Susan, whose blog I read faithfully.

    This interview taught me so much about the rigor of writing. Like Susan, I've read voraciously since childhood--except for when I was in the convent. And it probably was the words on those book pages that led me to my own writing. I so agree with Susan about the influence of history on writing.

    I'll return to your blog. You've given me a real gift with this interview. Thank you.


  12. Ooh Lee I love your new blog. :-)

    Susan I agree with you that reading quality writing is an excellent way to write, but then I always think that reading less than stellar writing also teaches me a lot, because then I know what not to do. ;-)

  13. Another insightful interview Lee! I enjoyed Susan's story along with her excellent advice. How sad that she lost both of her brothers, but I admire her for moving forward with her writing. Julie

  14. Great interview!

    I agree with your point about reading outside of the genre you write in.

  15. I wonder how Susan feels about books on tape. That is my favorite way to read a book.

  16. Good question, 'Healthier'! Actually, I love reading aloud (20 years of elem. school teaching). I love listening to books on tapes, as well. Esp. if read by a known voice or author.

  17. Thanks, Manzanita! I always enjoy your posts as well.
    First, I must get going on finding a publisher, or working up the courage to self-publish. Maybe some one should just give me a swift kick to get me going!

  18. I agree that reading is one of the most important pieces of the writing process. When I read something that really sings, I read it again, taking it apart to see how and why it works.

  19. Ah yes, I remember Reader's Digest books all too well ;)
    Great advice and the book sounds fantastic. Good luck, Susan, with the editing.
    Thanks, Lee, for the great interview.

  20. "..layers are peeled away, or covered over... from Hilary Melton Butcher: What an excellent summation! I must use that in my query letter!

    Richard: Ideal is more like 'blessed'.

    Lynda, Joanne, Elisa, and The Golden Eagle: Thanks for stopping by!!

    Misha: "...Less than stellar..." Yes, those are good lessons in what NOT to do!

    Julie: Thanks for reading this interview!

  21. To Kelly Robinson:

    "When I read something that really sings..." I love that phrase.
    I do the same thing--go back and re-read either the entire or portions of the book. I need to see the craft of the author.

  22. Susan, I sure enjoyed this post. Your blog looks fascinating, as well. It's great to be introduced to your writing.

    Lee, thanks for doing what you're doing here regarding memoir writing. I look forward to being your guest this Saturday.

  23. Terrific interview. Susan is so talented and I try never to miss her posts. Susan's sister is correct, she is dripping in empathy.

    Well done, both of you!

  24. Wonderful interview! I really enjoyed meeting Susan. :D

  25. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview; Susan, you sound like a person I'd like to know in person. Good luck with your latest book, and Lee, thanks for doing the interview.

  26. What a fun interview! Spiced up with the photos... it was magical.

    I find the stories of my family mesmorizing too, and yeah, writing can be healing. Thanks goodness you found a way to channel that grief.

  27. Thanks, Mitch! I will have to check your site, and discover who you are!

  28. Writing is my way of getting a handle on life, Tanya. It is also a way to escape by creating a different scenario--writers do that, don't we!

  29. Thanks, Deanna and Sharon, for stopping by! I will visit you soon.

  30. Yvonne! I haven't seen your name for a while. How are you?

  31. Poetry of the day: Love that photo!

  32. I want to thank Susan for being an outstanding guest last week and thanks to all of you who stopped by to comment.


  33. I'm late to be stopping by, but...this has not been a good month for me for blogging. However, this is a blog I bookmark, so here I am, responding to what my friend just wrote. (Thank you for hosting her, Lee.) I feel an empathy with Susan, esp. with her love of reading and writing. I also HALF grew up with my farming country cousins, and family history and such stories have also been a huge part of my life. Thus, another connection with Susan.

    I enjoy what Susan writes on her blog, and and look forward to reading Preacher's Creek. Just get those edits done, Susan!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs


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