Dani: Susan, we've talked all week about memoirs, and earlier we discussed the Story Circle Network which you founded. What prompted you to start that group ten years ago? Why then?
Susan: I’d been teaching lifewriting (journaling and memoir) to women for five or six years, and I’d just written Writing From Life. I wanted to encourage women to document their lives--to tell the true stories of their experiences--and it seemed to me that what we needed was sustained personal encouragement from other women. A book can help give guidance, but I felt an organization could best do that job. (For more backstory, click here.)
Dani: Why write a memoir?
Susan: There are lots of reasons: to record your life; get clear about who you are and what you’ve done and why; tell your personal story to family, friends, the community--people who want to know more about you; relate your experiences with a particular issue, illness, challenge, in order to help others facing the same situation. We have so many men’s stories: our history books are full of them. We need women’s stories!
Dani: And now ten years later, you've just published your own memoir. You've written about your marriage to Bill Albert, and perhaps it's fair to say, you share with readers the marriage both of you have to your "place" which you've named Meadow Knoll. Why did you narrow the focus of your memoir in this way?
Susan: I’ve long been interested in the idea of place: our need as humans (and particularly as placeless, unrooted Americans) to find a home in this world. We need to be in touch with nature and the earth, particularly as we face the challenges of climate change. I felt that my story--I was placeless and unrooted until we settled at Meadow Knoll--might help other women who are searching for ways to feel at home on the earth. I wrote about our marriage because it has been the central relationship of this part of my life. In some ways, the memoir is not my story, but our story. And yes, Bill read it, made suggestions, and agreed that does tell the story.
Dani: In this 20+ year partnership with your husband and your home, you've produced a tremendous amount of writing, together and alone. The books helped create the place, but tell us how the place might have contributed to the quality and quantity of writing.
Susan: It’s contributed in so many ways! Besides giving me wonderful subjects to write about (the land, the plants, animals, weather, history) it’s given me a place to write--a place that’s exactly suited to the work of writing. When I lived in cities, there were constant distractions, always something to do, some reason not to do the writing I wanted to do. Out here, I’m less distracted. It’s easier to focus--to get the work done.
This place also puts me in immediate touch with what I see as the most compelling issue we’re going to be facing as a species over the next century: the changing nature of our planet. I see this more and more every year. We’ve just gone through the most frightening drought and summer heat in recorded history. Is this the future for this place? And I can see what humans have already done here, all around me, to the resources of soil and water, and to the prairie life that used to be so abundant here. Wherever we live, we simply must begin to understand and care for our place. I’ll never stop writing about that.
Dani: So what's next? Another memoir with a different focus?
Susan: 2008 was a remarkable year for all of us. The oil price spike, the collapse of the financial markets, the sad toll of two wars, the excitement of a presidential campaign, job losses and foreclosures--it was an extraordinary year. I kept a journal during that year, which kept me focused on what was going on around me and how it was changing me--as it did. It will be published next year: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days. And I’m continuing with my fiction work. There’ll be a new China Bayles mystery (Holly Blues) in April, 2010; a new Cottage Tale (The Tale of Oat Cake Crag) in September, 2010; and the first book in a new series: The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree. The Dahlias are a garden club in Darling, Alabama. The year is 1930, another extraordinary year!
Dani: Finally, Susan, you've put together a tremendous promotion package with a unique website for this memoir, and a lovely book trailer that beautifully represents the tone and focus of the memoir. It's your first trailer right? Tell us how it was created and where we can view it.
Susan: The trailer is on my website. It was created by Masha Holl (whom I met when I talked to the San Antonio romance writers), with audio work by Becca Taylor. The song Simple Gifts is my favorite melody and the words mean a very great deal to me. The photographs are from my collection of Meadow Knoll photos. There are other photos on the website, and the maps from the book (beautifully created by Molly O’Halloran) in color.
Dani: Thanks for joining us, Susan. Readers, if you have questions please leave them in the comments. Has anyone read the book already? What did you think of it? Here's the gorgeous cover:
And, of course, you can purchase the book, personalized and autographed by the author, by clicking here.
Dani Greer is a founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil, and this week, when she's not reading short story anthologies or blogging, you can find her in the kitchen making and canning applesauce.