Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meet Patty Sabatier, a poet

I’d like everyone to meet Patty Sabatier, a poet who contributed several poems to Leaves from the Valley Oak.

Patty, your life has been an open book, literally, to those of us in the Visalia Writers’ group. Tell my readers a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in southern Louisiana, near New Orleans.  As an adult, after spending two years with the Navy as a nurse and 12 years as a Catholic nun, I traveled away from Louisiana. and gained a broader view of life. Learning to deal with a diagnosis of bi-polar mental illness at age 28 has been the biggest challenge of my adult life. Along with this, and through this challenge, I also learned the key to compassion as a nurse. Non-judgmental, active-listening to myself and others, has helped me become a better  person. I now work as a public health nurse with the Tulare County Health Department and am emerging in my personal life as a writer.

Where does the inspiration for your poetry come from?

Most of my poetry comes to me in the early morning hours when I rise to greet the day with prayer and meditation. Just reading one line from my favorite passages in the bible and other meditative books, stimulates me to wonder and wander in thought. Writing helps me ground this thought in reality and express it so that others can share these private moments in my life.

How long have you been writing poetry?

I began to write down my morning meditations in 2009, so that they could be critiqued by the Visalia Writers group. I have always kept a journal of my daily thoughts and actions, but never written in it for the purpose of sharing with others. In 2009, I left graduate school where I was focusing on becoming a therapist. I then turned to writing as a means of expressing a desire to do more with my life. The Visalia Writers group has helped me develop my writing into poetry.

How did your upbringing color your poetry?

As a child, I was often awed by the presence of God I found in simple things like the wind in the trees, or rays of light streaming from the play of clouds and sun. I felt very isolated and lonely, and this tendency towards intuitive, introverted thinking brought  me great joy and companionship. Today, my prayer life which is mostly introverted, intuitive meditation has blossomed into a desire to share this joy and inner companionship with others in writing.

What books and authors have influenced you?

In my young adult years, reading authors who taught about prayerful living like Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton filled my reflective time. They taught me how to approach prayer and God.  Then I developed an interest in Carl Jung and his second generation writers like Marie-Louise Von Franz, Murray Stein, and Monika Wikman and their stories of a Jungian approach to the spiritual life. I was particularly helped with my bi-polar illness by the writings of John Weir Perry, a Jungian psychiatrist.  I suppose that most of my poetry has been encouraged by these authors who try to express the mystical, mysterious side of life and personal growth.

 What’s your latest project?

I am in the process of completing my life story and how I used Jungian therapy and spirituality to heal my bi-polar mental illness. I believe this psychology of personal growth has many insights for people with mental illness and can give them tools for seeking a balanced and whole life instead of a life broken by neurosis or psychosis. I am hopeful that my story will also help therapists and families of the mentally ill.

What’s been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

Having to verbalize and express in a concrete manner so that others can understand something as subtle and mysterious as a spiritual journey. Its healing force has encouraged me to discover the exact words and events that led to my growth. Writing my story as a book was not easy. Like the wind that you cannot see but you know exists, my spiritual life has been forceful in my history, helping me cope with disappointments, failures and even, at times, moments of ecstasy. 

The Visalia Writers group asked questions about the writing I shared and forced me to clarify and explain aspects of my healing and personal growth. Their questions led me to a firm grasp on my integrity as a woman, dedicated to a faith-filled life. I am very grateful to them for their perseverance with me as a writer.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Dorothy Bodoin book

I finished A Shadow on the Snow by Dorothy Bodoin a few nights back. My reading time is in bed during the hour before I go to sleep.
Here’s my summary. Protagonist, Krisha Marlow has problems; no permanent job, no love life and little money. One thing she has, a cabin in the woods of northern Michigan, which she inherited from her great aunt. She travels to Huron Station with the idea that she’ll dispose of her aunt’s belongings and sell the cabin. As the story opens she has arrived in a snow storm, managed to rear end the local sheriff’s patrol car and gets lost on her way to the cabin. To top it all off, she discovers a man hanging from a tree with an arrow through his heart.
Huron Station is a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business. She soon learns that a local hunting protestor is first on the list of suspects. However, when he is not held, she begins to feel uneasy since she saw the driver of a car fleeing the scene. Odd things begin to happen, from someone watching her cabin, arrows in the snow, to strange dreams and a radio that turns itself on. The locals think she shouldn’t stay in such an isolated place, but Krista is certain she can handle herself even while she seeks to question key people in the plot. The climax comes in the middle of a blizzard in a tense scene where all the aspects of the mystery are revealed.
Bodoin’s ability to convey the sense of snow, wind, freezing cold and isolation made this reader pull up the covers and snuggle down underneath. Bodoin is particularly skilled at creating the sense of a harsh environment. Oh yes, and there’s a little romance too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Meet Donna Leach, short story writer

Today I want to introduce Donna Leach, another one the contributors to Leaves from the Valley Oak. She’s a longtime member of Visalia-Exeter Writers.
Question: Tell us a little about yourself, Donna.
I am a lifelong Tulare County resident. I enjoy traveling whenever I get a chance, but no place feels like home to me, except the valley. I’ve held many jobs over the years and owned my own business, but after four or five years I get restless with the same routine and move on to something new. I wish I could be one of those people who are comfortable spending twenty or thirty years with the same company, but I get too bored. I need challenges and mental stimulation. I try to keep myself busy learning to do new things. My newest hobby is growing exotic plants and propagating trees from seeds. I’ve also started oil painting.
The one area of my life I don’t get bored with is my marriage to my husband, John. We are celebrating our twenty year anniversary this year and are planning a getaway to St. Thomas in the eastern Caribbean. We love going on adventures together.

Question: How long have you been writing?

I’ve written non-fiction, reports, and press releases for various jobs over the years, but I didn’t get serious about writing fiction until I joined the Visalia Writers Critique group. Since joining, I’ve learned so much. I had an article published Lifestyle Magazine and was paid for it-a big thrill. I’ve written web contents for two websites, written online product reviews, I have a book Frightful Family Tales on sale on Amazon, and I have three stories in Leaves from the Valley Oak.  
Question: As I remember, you’ve entered online short story contests. Do you still do that?
Yes. I just submitted a short story to Glimmer Train. One day, I hope to place in their contests. They are a challenge that I am determined to conquer.
Question: What inspired you to write Grave Secret, which is featured in Leaves from the Valley Oak?
Good question. I don’t recall which publication I started that story for, but during the writing process the story took off in a different direction on its own, which happens quite often for me, and I didn’t submit it because it no longer fit the contest criteria.
Question: How do you develop your characters?
I don’t do it the way books tell you to. I don’t sketch out an identity for each character from the start. I begin writing about one character and along the way another one pops up on its own. It is sort of a natural process that occurs in which I contribute little conscious effort towards. If it didn’t happen that way, and I had to labor over it, I probably wouldn’t enjoy writing as much.
Question: Why did you choose a particular setting and time period?
For Grave Secrets, those events were easier to imagine happening during the early 1900s. I think country people during that time had a naive innocence about them, kind of like The Waltons.  For other stories, it depends on what kind of plot I have in mind as to what setting and era I drop the story into.
Question: What books and authors influenced you?
I have to admit, I don’t take the time to read much. The last book I bought was Water for Elephants two years ago. When I have time to read it’s usually non-fiction, a how-to book of some sort so I can teach myself how to do something new. However, I occasionally like to read historic non-fiction or satire, some mystery and an occasional horror story as long as it isn’t satanic.
Question: How did your upbringing color your writing?
My mother married at age 15 and had 5 children by the time she was 23. I, being the second born and oldest daughter took on the role of entertainer to my younger sister and two little brothers so Mama could do the laundry, cook, and clean. I suppose that’s how I developed such a vivid imagination. We didn’t have much money and usually lived in the country with few neighbors, so I made up stories to tell my siblings or games for us to play. Most of the games had a challenge or risk involved and all were funny as heck. One game, the Throne of God, consisted of me (God) judging the talents of my younger sister while sitting on the john. She had to perform a dance or some acrobatic feat to my satisfaction, otherwise if she failed I pushed the button and an imaginary trap-door opened beneath her feet dropping her out of heaven. Then, we switched places. This also may be the reason I developed such an odd sense of humor.
Needless to say, we spent most of the time allotted to us in the restroom playing games instead of showering. Outside games consisted of tree limbs becoming our ships at sea and my two little brothers were hungry sharks that we had to evade in order to get the treasure box and get back into our tree ship. Dirt devils were tornados and we were the Wizard of Oz gang.
And the list goes on. I also had horrific nightmares occasionally because of my active imagination. I definitely believe I rely on that imagination developed during my childhood to conceive a storyline now. Most of my stories include people with little resources, or humorous characters, or stories with a twist at the end. If these are influences from my childhood, I can’t wait to see what the twist at the end is going to be in my life.
Question: What is your latest project?
I decided to tackle script writing. It is a lot different than fiction writing for books because on the screen the actor must speak or use body gestures to tell the story. There are no internal thoughts or author narratives, usually. The show-don’t-tell rule works on the written page, but in scripts the opposite is true. I started one story, but came to a block in which I’m still working out. I always have other projects going simultaneously to bounce between. I like writing short fiction because I can finish it before I get bored with the story. Someday, when my life slows down, I’d like to complete a novel.