Chatting With Diana Abu-Jaber
When we first contacted Diana Abu-Jaber for an interview, we thought it would be a great idea to do a podcast with her; unfortunately, we couldn't make it up to Oregon in time for this issue. So we scheduled a three-way phone chat instead, which turned out to be a blast! They say, "time flies when your having fun," and it's true, because an hour whisked by in a minute.
We asked Diana what her new book, Origins is about, and she said, "It's sort-of a thriller, which is different from anything I've done before." She went on to tell us about the research involved in her new novel. "I became fascinated with the craft of fingerprinting. It's an old art form, like iron forging is, and it's still used today."
We talked about the uniqueness of fingerprints, and how even with DNA, there can be strands that are very similar to one another, but a fingerprint is uniquely it's own. Diana said she even purchased an old fingerprinting kit to study patterns and identity, doing a test run on her and her husband. We joked that we wouldn't be coming over for any dinner parties she had! Or if we did we'd wear mittens.
Beryl brought up the fact that some people file their fingerprints off, but they grow back. I think I'll have to check Beryl's paws the next time I see her!
We asked Diana how she knew which parts to cut in a memoir, because that's a problem that both Beryl and I are experiencing in writing ours. Diana said, "I have my husband read my work. He's quite honest and will tell me which parts are boring. Because you want to use the parts that are more universal and the ones that readers can relate to. I'm not some big celebrity like Bill Clinton, where I can write anything I want and people will read it. That's where my husband comes in, and he'll say, 'This is only interesting to the Diana's of the world.' And it's not the Diana show."
Beryl and I would be interested in seeing that show, but we understood what she meant.
"There's also always the fear that you're going to offend someone in your family, because the story you have in your head may be different from the one in theirs. But it's never what you think it is.
"For instance, there was an uncle of mine who I thought might be offended about something I wrote. So, after The Language Of Baklava came out, I kind of waited to see if I'd hear anything. Well, a little while after that, my parents called and told me that an uncle had written me, and I thought, oh no, here it comes. but it turned out to be a different uncle!
"I found out that he was upset because I mentioned the character, which he was based upon, in the same sentence as eggplant! Well, he thought that was very undignified."
Beryl and I were buckling with laughter. "You have to send him an eggplant," I laughed, for the idea seemed absurd!
Speaking of family, I asked Diana if she had any kids, and she said, "No.but I have a greyhound."
"Aren't they really hyper?" I asked.
"She's kind of like a little butterfly, flitting around. And she's always staring at me with these big saucer eyes.that's something I had to get used to when I first got her."
"Isn't that strange?" I added. "Because if any person stared at you that way, you'd be offended! But with my cat, I don't care if she's in the bathroom with me. I guess that just makes them special."
Diana also told us that she divided her time between her house in Florida and her house in Portland, which was tough on her butterfly-greyhound. And we can imagine! I can't even put my cat in a carrier, let alone a plane.
Diana spends 9 months out of the year in Florida, and 3 months teaching in Oregon. As I thought about it, I wondered what the difference was in the writing scenes. "That's an interesting question. There's a pretty big difference actually.
"Portland has a big writing community, and of course, it has the weather, the rain.so you don't mind being cooped up in doors so much. Florida is just the opposite, with the warm weather and the sun, you want to be outdoors. To be fair, it has more to do with the different kinds of books that people read. I mean, you're not going to be lugging War and Peace to the beach."
"That would weigh your bag down too much," Beryl said.
Knowing that Diana is very close to her family, her mother being her "biggest fan," I asked her where her parents lived. "They actually live in Florida in one of those condominiums-like in a Seinfeld episode."
I laughed, "Do they go to those community meetings?"
"Yup, they head the committee! And there's always this drama."
"I bet that would make a good story," Beryl chuckled.
"You could call it 'Leisure Suit,'" I added.
"That's good!" Diana laughed as we bounced ideas back and forth. She has the ability to roll with anything being said, which is why she is so much fun to talk to.
But, it had to end sometime.and as we said our goodbyes, we promised Diana that we'd come out to see her when Origins is out and do a podcast with her. I can't wait, because I know it's going to be fun!
This has been great," Diana said. "Talking with you two is like one big slumber party." And I thought, gosh, I love my job.
Chatting With Mary Rosenblum
What with deadlines, schedules and full lives being lived today, we added to our visit and emails by having a great three-way phone chat with Mary Rosenblum. I couldn't fit everything into the article and when I looked on the floor in the 'cut and weep' room, I couldn't believe my eyes. So, I was thrilled when Angela suggested that we write about this on our Editors' page.
When Mary answered the telephone, I could hardly wait to ask her about something that had been running through my mind for a while now. I hadn't included it in the interview, so now was my opportunity.
What does she think about some of the book/courses that claim they can teach you to write a book in, well, quicker than some of our articles have been written? ("That's another story." "Oh, sorry.")
Mary said she thought they had some value. (I must say, that is not what I expected to hear from an accomplished author. Please, join me in a moment of growth...) "Some people feel that the novel they want to write is like climbing Mr. Everest. These programs say, ' NOT! ' and that's a good thing. Even in seven days, what they've written may not be the best they could do, but now they know they can write a book. After that, they can work on learning how to make it better."
"WOW! That makes so much sense. "
"So, encouraging a person to write 5 minutes a day, if they do it, is a good thing." It was easy to see the caring instructor, even over the phone.
This subject took the lid off a sensitive part of Mary's heart and she started talking about the concept that a person has to be Born With Talent. That part didn't land on the floor; you won't want to miss it...especially if you were one of Mary's former public school teachers. Mary is rightly concerned about the influence words have on people.
She brought up the talent of being able to disconnect, where she's capable of writing in the airport and missing a plane. She said that she's learned to sit near a loud speaker and near the gate. Talk about being able to disconnect and use every available moment.
Guess where she developed that skill? That's right. Raising two energetic boys, as a single parent. That's what you call turning a negative into a positive.
Angela asked, "But isn't it difficult to get back into the moment, when you stop and write or do other things. I've heard other authors say that they will stop writing on a novel and get absorbed into writing something else, and later they go they go back to the first one. I find that really difficult."
Mary said, "Well, I go back and start reading the chapter from the beginning and by the time I reach where I stopped, I'm back into it."
This is very comforting, to realize there's a great diversity regarding how to write and still be successful.
I asked Mary how much she thought it helped writers to lead an exciting life, and she said, "I think it has more to do with being aware of what's going on around you. By paying careful attention, pretty soon you'll find that you have plenty to write about."
As long she spends most of her time here on this earth, her loyal readers, students and I will be happy.
I realized that was true when I thought about Mary, even with her eclectic life, she hasn't been into outer space (or it wasn't revealed in any of our conversations) and yet, she successfully takes her loyal readers into different worlds.