My column can be found on page 8 of the July issue.
My column can be found on page 7 of the June issue.
Page 7 has my BookEnds column and pages 19 and 20 contains my rhino poaching article.
The International Rhino Foundation is promoting An Adopt a Rhino campaign for Mother’s Day. Sponsor a specific rhino and receive a thank you packet with a personalized adoption certificate and a rhino photograph http://rhinos.org/adopt/
for photos and information.
The International Rhino Foundation hosts a shopping webpage that sells rhino-inspired jewelry and clothing: https://irf.z2systems.com/np/clients/irf/giftstore.jsp
Preorder a 2017 Rhino Keepers Association Calendar: http://www.rhinokeeperassociation.org/
Bloggers Note: Heather Mackey will be speaking on the topic of Where Ideas Come From at the May 14th 2016 meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club. The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Cost is $25 members and $30 for guests. Paypal and credit card requires additional fees. Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm. Reservations required. RSVP to Robin at email@example.com.
1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from Dreamwood?
Dreamwood is the story of Lucy, a young girl who ventures into a haunted forest to save her father—an expert in the supernatural who’s gone missing. Along the way Lucy has to solve puzzles, question her own beliefs, and learn to work together with people she might otherwise discount. I filled it with things I love: ghosts, spooky landscapes, American history and folk tales, odd and forgotten scientific theories, and stubborn, brave children who make terrible mistakes but still somehow manage to set things right. I set it in the Pacific Northwest, because I was inspired by the old-growth redwood forests of Northern California. But it’s a Pacific Northwest of a strange, alternate past.
2. Tell us about your muse, Bell.
When I get stuck (which is often), I do all kinds of rather goofy visualization exercises to get unstuck. A while back, I was having trouble figuring out a plot element. I knew the answer was in my subconscious, but no matter how hard I thought about it, I couldn’t get it. I wished I had a mental agent who could go into that subconscious muck and pull out what I needed. So I imagined my own personal muse. The name Bell came to me, along with her appearance (kind of a steampunk superhero). I made her as real as I possibly could, and I have complete confidence that when I ask her to solve something for me, she’ll go do it. Right now, I’m working on my new book. Whenever I doubt myself, I picture Bell in some fantastical setting, and I imagine her sitting down and reading this book I’m writing. I see her pick it up, look at the cover, and turn the pages where the story is already written. So I know I can write this. And if there’s something about the story I don’t know, I ask her to find it for me. Maybe it sounds a bit woo-woo, but I have to say, having her around removes a lot of the stress and anxiety that can get in the way of writing.
3. List five of your all time favorite books.
It’s really hard for me to pick a list of just five books. But here are five that I’ve loved fiercely and find myself returning to again and again.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust
The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler
The Golden Compass (Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman
Regeneration, by Pat Barker
4. Describe your path to publication.
How far back should I start? I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I worked for a while as a journalist, I went to graduate school to get an M.F.A. in creative writing, and at various points I’ve tried my hand at short stories, essay writing, screenwriting, and so on. I started writing Dreamwood without consciously thinking of publication. Then a friend told me about SCBWI—the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I went to one of their conferences and submitted the first ten pages of my manuscript for a critique. The editor who read it was interested in seeing the whole thing and then made an offer. After this seemingly overnight success I worked for nearly seven years to revise the manuscript. It was in rough shape when I sold it, and I didn’t really know how to write for children. So I rewrote it laboriously while holding down a job and being a mom. Halfway through the process my editor got laid off . Luckily, my publishing house gave me a fabulous new editor. But she zeroed in on weaknesses in the manuscript that I’d been avoiding, and she forced me to work on the story in a way I hadn’t before. Three more years passed until it finally came out in 2014. It’s been quite a long journey, but I learned a tremendous amount along the way.
5. What is your best advice for an aspiring novelist? If different, what would your advice be for a teen or pre-teen writer?
There are so many things I wish I’d know when I first started writing. But I think the piece of advice that would have made the biggest difference is about rejection. At some point, when you try to write for publication, you’re going to get rejected. I took rejection really hard, and let it get to me. What I realize now after years and years of writing is that everyone suffers through some form of rejection. You can experience rejection from external gatekeepers (agents, editors, and publishers) or you can reject yourself when you write a draft and get upset when it doesn’t come out the way you thought of it in your head. Either way, you can’t give up. Just keep writing, keep submitting your work, and keep getting feedback. The people I know who are published writers are the people who have kept going. Really, we should call it “training” instead of rejection.
6. Why did you select fantasy as your genre?
I loved fantasy as a kid, and I gobbled up books like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. As a parent, I see how my children have loved fantasy series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Fantasy is often called escapist, but I think it’s very useful in illuminating aspects of the real world that can be difficult to tackle head-on in fiction. The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim famously argued in his book The Uses of Enchantment that fairy tales provide an invaluable way for children to come to terms with difficult emotions and navigate their inner lives. Of course, it’s also fun to think of cool things and invent stuff—that part of writing fantasy is pure pleasure!
7. What is a free-range reader?
I call myself a free-range reader because I roam far afield in my reading habits. I’ll read adult literary fiction, mysteries, fantasy, nonfiction, history, natural history, biography, and, of course, middle grade and young adult because those are the genres I’m writing in. I consciously try to read books that get me out of my usual reading habits and I try to support diversity in publishing by buying and reading books from authors with diverse backgrounds. In late 2013, a study came out showing that reading literature increased empathy—I can think of no better reason to read widely.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Heather Mackey. To learn more visit her website: heathermackey.com, her books can be found on IndieBound, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. She is also on Twitter at @heathermackey
Curious about the latest Harry Bosch/Mickey Haller novel (The Crossing)? Check out my review:
Blogger’s Note: David George is the current President of the statewide California Writers Club.
- Can you give us some highlights from the stories that you’ve written about grandparenting?
I’ve written 14 stories or chapters now of my Modern Day Fables about the Natural World, with a working title of “Granddad’s Place”. The first chapter, entitled “The Acorn” was published recently by GRAND online magazine in their March/April edition which was released on March 9th: http://www.grandmagazine.com/. This is special for me because GRAND magazine reaches out to over 200,000 subscribers, most of whom are grandparents like me.
My hope is that a large proportion of subscribers read my stories to their grandchildren if they are of what I call the “peri-reading” age, or between the ages of 3 and 6. And in turn, I hope their grandchildren read the stories back to their grandparents when they are able. Each story is set in a framework of an interaction or adventure between a granddad and his new grandson exploring the natural world. The fable hides somewhere in the middle of the story and is intended to teach the grandson a lesson about how the natural world works.
So, you see that the stories are not really about “grandparenting”, but rather about the special relationship one granddad has with his grandson, and also about the laws of nature and man’s role in protecting the natural world.
- What is the one experience in the natural world that you think every child should experience?
Well, my favorite is for kids – in a fascinating and controlled environment – to experience the miracle of birth and the renewal of generations of life. As a kid, I was impressed by our family dog giving birth to four fabulous, healthy puppies, and unfortunately one that was not strong enough to make it. I learned a lot from that experience as a 10-year old about the cycle of life.
These miracle-of-birth (and death) experiences are often removed from the sanitized childhood of modern children. The birth and rapid growth of a litter of kittens or the hatching of a chick from an egg. Birth and death and regeneration go on all about us and kids these days just don’t get a chance to experience firsthand this miracle of life.
3. What is the one thing that you hope your grandson will remember about you.
My grandson recently visited. One morning, he threw his arms around my neck and said, “I love you, Granddad. You’re the best granddad in the world.” I still don’t know what I did to deserve that. But the pure unconditional love of an 8-year old is precious and it makes my life feel complete.
Twice each year, near my grandson’s birthday and near Christmas, I present and read to him a new story. These stories use his (and his family’s) real names. Afterward, I revise them into a new chapter for my anthology of modern day fables. The stories are essentially chronicling my grandson’s childhood, not all of it of course, but some of the parts of which I am involved. The times I hope he remembers when he grows up are these tender and special moments when he and his family, his “Oma”, and me gather together to listen to me read him a new story. And the hugs that follow. He won’t be a little boy much longer and so you need to cherish those moments.
4. Describe a perfect playdate.
Well, the perfect play date must occur at Granddad’s Place, our home in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay hills. We are surrounded by nature here, and there is plenty to explore.
A vivid recollection is when we went on a hunt for beneficial snakes – I have never found a dangerous one around here. I thought I had found a gopher snake rustling around in some brush, as they are very common here. It turned out to be just a fence lizard. But my grandson got very excited anyway, and ran around saying, “Snofer nakes, Snofer nakes!” He was just 4-years old at the time and his mispronunciation was charming. I laughed, and the experience ended up as one of my stories. I’d say that day had all the elements for a good adventure: mystery, excitement, discovery, a bit of drama, and pure kid fun.
5. What is the best piece of advice you have for maintaining a long distance relationship with a grandchild?
Take advantage of the long distance communication technologies available today to bring your grandkids into your own living room no matter where they live. Its free and it works! A Skype or Apple Facetime session is a great way to stay in visual as well as audio touch across the miles. My daughter recently let us know that she has accepted a position that requires my grandson’s family to move to Atlanta from their current home in Austin, Texas. But Atlanta is just as close via Skype as Austin is to us. So, the miles really don’t matter as much anymore as they once did. Then, make the most of the few days a year that you are physically together with your grandkids. Everyone benefits.
6. Describe your grandparenting experience in one word?
I CAN’T describe the grandparentling experience in one word! Who can? There are so many facets that we both enjoy. The unconditional love, the little adventures exploring nature, watching an infant grow into a toddler, an inquisitive 5-year old, a chatty and charming 8-year old, an intense teenager, and finally a well-rounded adult. I was fortunate to experience those stages with my kids, and at every turn I see similarities in my grandkid. It truly is a circle-of-life experience to be a grandparent.
7. If you could be any superhero in your grandson’s eyes, what would it be?
My grandson is really into skeletons and zombies right now, but those are NOT what I would want to be seen as! My kids were into Dexter’s Laboratory and Inspector Gadget, and my grandson sees himself as an entrepreneur and engineer when he grows up. So, I guess I would have to choose Tony Stark and his Iron Man invention, although he is a bit dark and conflicted for my taste!
8. What do you think your generation can do better to make the earth a better place for their grandchildren?
Oh, that’s easy! Step up to be an advocate for nature and nature’s creatures. It’s their home, too. But they don’t have a voice of their own, can’t represent themselves in a court of law, or argue their case in front of a board of directors. We and the organizations that we support can.
The 21st century will be a turning point – one way or the other – toward a sustainable coexistence between our grandchildren and nature, or toward a world devastated by the impact of centuries of man’s heavy-handed plundering of nature’s wealth. The goals of sustainability are achievable, but they require much work and dedication from all of us to ensure that the world our grandchildren’s grandchildren inherit is a world that is sustainable and still full of natural wonder.
I hope you’ve about David George. To learn more visit his Facebook Page at: facebook.com/david.george.3958914
My interview of Wreckage by Emily Bleeker appears on page 15.
Bloggers Note: Tamim Ansary will be speaking on the topic of Why Do We Write? at the April 9th 2016 meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club. The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Cost is $25 members and $30 for guests. Paypal and credit card requires additional fees. Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm. Reservations required. RSVP to Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from Games Without Rules
Games Without Rules is a narrative history of Afghanistan, the story of a hodgepodge of people trying to coalesce as a country, despite interruptions by global powers who have invaded the country five times in the last two centuries. In the standard narrative, Afghanistan is a static land filled with intractable bearded fanatics who are hard to conquer. Games Without Rules delivers a more nuanced view, the one from the inside looking out. In this version, a country that began to form at just about the same time as the United States, has an epic, tragic, and yes sometimes humorous story of its own, peopled by characters that Dickens would have been proud to invent—a story that has, however, been interrupted every 40 to 50 years by a Great Power invasion, which has—curiously enough—failed in exactly the same way every time.
2. Describe your most memorable moment as an author.
I’ve been writing all my life but in the wake of the events of 9/11, I was suddenly redefined as “an author.” Why? Because I was an articulate English-speaker from Afghanistan and because, on 9/12 I wrote an email setting forth my view of what had just happened. I sent it to about 20 of my friends, who sent it to their friends who sent it to their friends, and it went viral. It was the first viral phenomenon on the Internet. Within two days it had spread around the world and been read by tens of millions of people. I was getting phone calls from strangers in Argentina and South Africa and from people I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Within three days, I was on TV in conversation with Bill Moyer while my agent was trying to reach me by phone to tell me I should forget about the novel she was peddling for me and propose a nonfiction book instead—“anything,” she pleaded. “Just write one page. Anything!” It was the oddest thing that every happened to me—but maybe not the most “memorable”, now that I think about it, because those few months were so crowded and crazy I hardly remember a thing about them.
3. What authors have most influenced your writing?
I really have no idea what authors have most influenced my writing (in which I dare say I’m pretty much like every author) because when I write I’m not conscious of trying to write like someone else, or even “like myself.” I’m only conscious of straining to net with words that elusive thing out there, that vague shape I see, that meaning that, goddamn it, I can’t seem to quite articulate, that story I can almost taste, almost feel, almost see but which–when I try to turn it solid with words—disperses like a school of minnows. Who’s influenced me? Damned if I know. I can tell you who I’ve liked: Yann Martell for his musings; Romain Rolland and Dostoevsky early on; Celine for Death on the Installment Plan, Michael Connolly ‘cuz he’s so solid, Michael Faber because who else could get away with writing a thousand-page novel entirely in the second person, and because I couldn’t shake The Book of Strange New Things out of my head—and there are others. Vikram Seth, especially Golden Gate. Peter Pan. I give up. There are too many.
4. Describe your path to publication.
Long. Random. Arbitrary. Along the way it was hard to tell if I was published at each particular point. At the Scribe, a weekly newspaper in Portland, where everyone was a volunteer, no one was paid, and where I could write anything I pleased, no editor between me and my readers—was that publishing? Well, I had readers: five or six thousand people a week read what I wrote. Later, when I was a freelance writer in San Francisco, selling things like a profile of the 14-year-old girl who won the Grand Ole Opry, and the story of a drug bust for Stone Age Quarterly—did those things count? Was I published? The publication I cherished most was my first piece of fiction, “Crimes of Passion.” It was published in Prim International, a Canadian lit-mag. Did anyone read it, though? I don’t know. Later when I was a columnist for Encarta, they told me I was getting 80,000 hits each time I posted a new column. But it was a column. On the Internet. Did that count? Well, whatever. One way or another, I’ve got some fifty books out there, most of them nonfiction for children, all of which, as far as I know, are still in print.
5. Did you find it difficult to write from a women’s point of view in your book, The Widow’s Husband?
Yes and no. I grew up among women. That’s how it was in Afghanistan. Everyone grows up among women and then the boys go out and become men. I didn’t go out and become an Afghan man, because at a crucial period in my life, my family moved to Laskhkargah, a town heavily populated with Americans, and then I moved to America. But I when I created Khadija, the widow of The Widow’s Husband, I didn’t take Western media reports as my point of departure, I started from my memories of the women in my family, the women in our village, the women I knew and knew about over there when I was growing up. I have to say, I don’t think anyone else writing fiction about Afghanistan has followed in my footsteps.
6. Which of your books has been the most difficult book to write?
My three best-known books—West of Kabul; East of New York, Destiny Disrupted, and Games Without Rules were not hard to write at all. They just fell out. They were waiting to be written, I showed up and they seized control of my fingers and used me to get themselves into the public. The Widow’s Husband slipped right out too, but then I started editing it, and that took years. Two other books, a memoir called Road Trips and the novel Dreaming in Dari, have also taken years, and the real sign of that is: I’m not done with either of them yet.
7. What do you think your life would look like if you hadn’t come to America in 1964?
I would have been drafted into the Afghan army just when the Communists seized power and the war started. I would have been in their army, following their orders to fight the Mujahedeen, and I doubt I would have survived. If I had not come to the United States in ’64, the chances are pretty good I’d be dead.
8. Who is your idol?
To that extent I am a good Muslim. I have no idols.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Mir Tamim Ansary. To learn more, visit his website: www.mirtamimansary.co . Also, take a look at his blog, www.memoirpool.com , a site devoted to the art of telling the real life story.
I am a voracious reader. I lap up between two to four titles at a given time. Why so many? Because there are loads of opportunities to sneak in reading and because different venues such as the treadmill or car driving, that create opportunities to delve into a good book.
My current (or recently read) list is:
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. This one was selected by my book club.
The Keep by Jennifer Egan. I picked this novel up because it won a Pulitzer and because I love the author’s writing style.
Wreckage by Emily Bleeker. I loved the premise of this book. My review of this book will appear in the March edition of the Diablo Gazette.
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Currently reading this as a books on CD. I selected this novel because I enjoyed Shadow of the Wind. I love is gothic, magical realism style.
The Crossing by Michael Connelly. I’ve been a fan of Connelly ever since I read the Lincoln Lawyer and saw the movie. This is his latest book. My review of this book will appear in the April edition of the Diablo Gazette.