Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Nan Sanders Pokerwinski

Nan Sanders Pokerwinski - photo

With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.

Today I’m delighted to host author, freelance writer, and science journalist Nan Sanders Pokerwinski. A transplant from the Detroit area to west-central Michigan, Nan is the author of the award-winning memoir, Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta (Behler Publications: 2019).
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Recently I posed some questions to Nan. Here’s what she told me.

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

NSP: Writer, reader, photographer, woodsy-woman, yoga enthusiast, maker of peculiar things—that about sums me up.

I spent most of my working life writing about science, medicine, and well-being, first as science writer for the Detroit Free Press, then at the University of Michigan News Service, under the byline Nancy Ross-Flanigan. In my freelance work, which spanned more than two decades, I wrote for a variety of magazines, newspapers, online publications, and medical institutions.

Nowadays, I focus on writing memoir, personal essays, and—most recently—fiction.

My husband Ray and I moved to Newaygo from the Detroit area eight years ago, and we appreciate the creative community and natural beauty we’ve found here.

DL: Tell us about your latest books and works in progress. 

NSP: My memoir, Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta, was published in 2019 by Behler Publications, after winning first place in the memoir/nonfiction category of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Awards and placing in several other competitions. With a mix of teenage sass and decades-later perspective, Mango Rash chronicles my search for adventure—and identity—in two alien worlds: the tricky terrain of 1960s adolescence and the remote and rapidly-changing U.S. territory of American Samoa, to which my parents and I had moved from Oklahoma in 1965.

I’m currently working on a novel, tentatively titled Belle Jardin, about creativity, outsider art, and madness.

Another work in progress is a series of autobiographical collages to which I eventually hope to add micro-memoirs.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

NSP: I write because I don’t know how not to write. From time to time I’ve tried to stop writing, to focus on other things instead, but without writing I feel off-kilter. Beyond that, I write to express my thoughts and feelings about things that matter to me and to try and make sense of the experience of being human in this world.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

NSP: Ideas come from my life experiences, from things that—for sometimes inexplicable reasons—fascinate me, such as outsider art, and from events and issues I read about. My favorite part of the process is the writing itself. Whether I’m writing memoir or fiction, I love being transported to the place and time I’m writing about and interacting with the characters in the story. That’s especially true now, when actual travel and interaction are limited. And I’m one of those odd writers who enjoys revision, a process that employs a whole other kind of creativity.

My least favorite part of the process is probably publishing and promoting what I write. Certainly there are enjoyable and satisfying aspects to that side of the writing life, but it feels more like work and takes my attention away from the writing itself.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

NSP: It’s hard to imagine my life without writing. For as long as I can remember I’ve written something—whether letters and journals, articles, or longer works. Writing has provided an absorbing and rewarding career, a community of kindred spirits, and most recently, a way to keep myself occupied during a pandemic.

DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

NSP: Here are my links.

Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta

Website: https://www.nanpokerwinski.com/

Blog: HeartWood

Facebook: Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, Author

Twitter: @nansanpo

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Angela K. Berent

Berent photo

With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.

Today I’m delighted to host author and educator Angela K Berent. A midwesterner at heart (and onetime Californian), Angela is the author of two works of nonfiction: List Your Life: A Modern-Day Memoir (2018) and Trace Your Travels: An Adventure Journal (2019).
Berent

Recently I posed some questions to Angela. Here’s what she told me.

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

AKB: I dwell in my memories, those that I’ve collected along the way and those that I’m creating with my family of four. I am thankful for my Michigan childhood, an amazing few years in California, and that my path brought me back home. I think about how I’m formed because of my memories. To remember is to savor and let those memories rest on me as I go forward.

Celebrating is the best! I work at taking time to notice the happy moments in my days, as well as the bigger moments—it’s all worth relishing. In this time of life, we can be swallowed up and consumed by pressures around us, or we can make a choice for creating peace and joy, with consideration for our responsibility for our fellow beings and actively participating in our world. Conscious choices for a happy, content life where I am proud of who I am always has been and will continue to be my driving force.

Sharing my stories and inviting others to find a way to write for themselves is my purpose for writing. I enjoy learning stories from others, and I encourage everyone to write their life.  Everyone has a story, and, whether writing grand memoirs or jotting bits of our days, it is important to document our legacy—we’re all creating one!

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress.

AKB: I have written two journals, List Your Life: A Modern-Day Memoirand Trace Your Travels: An Adventure Journal. I am excited to announce two new projects: journal calendars.

My calendars are designed with the same sentiment as my journals: we all want to write, but no one has the time. While the journals invite readers to respond to various topics of life and travel using a quick listing format, the calendars are designed to allow for memories to be recorded quickly and easily as life unfolds day-to-day and month-to-month.

In my journals, there is no lofty writing commitment, instead, just an invitation to write memories in short, quick lists of three ideas at a time. To guide readers in writing their memories, I write my Lists of 3 beside theirs. A variety of prompts encourage memories of all kinds: three most important pieces of advice you’ve been given to three gifts you’ve received and three favorite road trips to three beloved souvenirs.

Journal calendars include blank templates. Each month is attractively designed in a simple format to record the days. Mark Your Miles: A Fitness Journalis created as a place to keep track of day-to-day achievements, while Notes From the Nursery: A Keepsakeis where new parents will jot key moments during the blurry and chaotic first eighteen months of baby’s life. From my personal experience in each category, I absolutely want a record of every workout so I can see my progress. As for the baby days, this idea came about from a blank journal that a dear friend gave me as a gift when my twins were born, and that journal is splashed with sloppy notes from my boys’ first year. As messy as it is, I have an enduring record of some of the most memorable days of my life.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

AKB: My hope is that my stationery items provide an easy way to write memories, in an inviting format, by way of an attractive archive.

I had long wanted to write, but I struggled with the direction and form it would take.  While I had many starts and stops, I just wasn’t finishing anything. I had the amazing fortune to hear a few key pieces of advice when my ears and heart were open, and it was just enough to propel me forward.

Write for yourself first.

Get your stories on the page before age 55.

For some reason, the first piece of advice opened a floodgate for me. It felt like I was granted a permission that I didn’t know I needed. I let any idea of lofty publication goals fall away.  With that pressure removed, I was able to explore what would truly make me happy to write. The second bit of advice makes me laugh a little more each year as I inch toward that milestone. The very most important thing that I could think that I had to say was an expression of gratitude and love. I set out to write my first book, List Your Life, as an homage to those who matter most to me.

What I discovered in writing that first journal was a form that I realized might help others find success in writing for themselves, too.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

AKB: Notecards and spiral-bound notebooks! And, of course, a pencil. Pen doesn’t really work for sketching ideas for me. Which is kind of funny because I never erase, only cross off, in case I need that idea again. I have journaled throughout my life—there is nothing better than having that chance to pop back into a moment in my past and remember who I was with and the memories we were making—but my daily writing now consists of the three-part list format that I started with my self-published journals. Every day, I give myself the freedom to stop after a List of Three. Often I go on, but I’m never overwhelmed at the start. 

As a middle school teacher, I write with my students regularly. They know that I am committed to their success—I write everything that they do, which lets me find seeds of stories and I am continuously working at my writing fluency right along with them. 

I could brainstorm and make lists and outline all day long. Moving forward on the content of a new piece requires tremendous discipline for me. Now that I have completed two projects, I know what an undertaking the whole process is, so that can be daunting. Once I’m into it, I like to be immersed, which makes summers as a teacher extra helpful.

Ideas are all around. It’s a matter of taking the time to choose a direction and stick with it!

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

AKB: There are so many occasions in daily life where we swim along. There are limitless obligations as a wife and mother at home—all the things that I want to do well to make a happy family. As a teacher, my work is unending and, while fulfilling, can be all-consuming. Writing my books was something that I did just for me, and that is far out of the mold of my life. These books took an enormous amount of time and energy, and I had to be committed to make it happen. It would have been far easier to quit, but, once I started, I really wanted to keep going and see it through.

A control that I set for my peace of mind was that I would make sure it stayed fun, that I didn’t let my writing projects become a burden. There are too many other things that I want to do already in my days, that I knew it wouldn’t work, not the way I wanted it to, so it has been very helpful to recognize the times of year when I am most productive in my personal writing, and the ways that I can keep it fresh during the school year, such as while my sons are busy at practice or some other time when I feel like I’m not taking away from family time. That said, I am lucky to have some very strong role models in my life, and they have been instrumental in showing me that taking care of my happiness is essential and valid, too.

Writing is me-time. A place for me to stretch my imagination all on my own. To think of an idea and move it through the various stages that it takes to accomplish tall tasks. When I finished writing List Your Lifeand gave it to those who held a place in my heart and found a root in my book, I was proud that they had a tangible object to validate my affection for them.

DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

AKB: Here are the links:

Angela K. Berent Website

List Your Life: A Modern-Day Memoir on Amazon

Trace Your Travels: An Adventure Journal on Amazon

Angela K. Berent Facebook Author Page

Angela K. Berent on Instagram

Angela K. Berent on Twitter