Interview with Lorraine Ash - Author of Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life..
Lorraine Ash is an author, journalist, and essayist as well as a writing teacher. Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life is her second book. Her first memoir, Life Touches Life: A Mother's Story of Stillbirth and Healing, was published by NewSage Press and has circulated throughout the United States as well as in the Middle East, Australia, Europe, China, Canada, and Mexico.
Shorter memoiric works have appeared in anthologies, including Steeped in the World of Tea, and various journals and webzines such as Cairn, Journeys, Ducts, and Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing. Lorraine also is a veteran journalist whose feature articles and series have won seventeen national, state, and regional awards and have appeared in daily newspapers across the country.
Interview with Lorraine Ash
|Author Lorraine Ash|
Lorraine Ash: Though I strongly specialize in nonfiction and creative nonfiction, I’m a cross-genre writer who believes that the demands of each—for example, dialogue in playwriting and economy of language in article writing—strengthen a writer in all. After earning my master’s degree in Public Communications at Fordham University thirty years ago, I embarked on a journalism career that’s still going. Currently, I’m a reporter at the Daily Record in New Jersey.
But I’ve had dual career tracks going almost the whole time. I’ve had two memoirs published as well as three plays and numerous essays and short stories in literary journals and anthologies.
Who are your favorite writers, and who or what are your writing influences?
Early on, the two writers who made me want to write were Ernest Hemingway and John Irving. I love the sparseness and precision of Hemingway’s prose and the transportive nature of Irving’s writings. They both paint such animated characters.
As a mature writer, my favorites expanded to encompass nonfiction writers and women writers who weave story with spiritual or psychological depth. In addition to the works of Pat Carr (my mentor), I love the writing of Anne Lamott, May Sarton, Frederick Buechner, Lisa Jones, Caroline Knapp, Gail Caldwell, Bernard Cooper, Kathleen Norris, William Styron, Lou Ureneck, and Sue William Silverman.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I knew when I was a very young girl. When I first walked into the public library in my hometown of Saddle Brook, New Jersey, and looked around at all the books, each one representing a new world, I distinctly remember thinking, When I grow up I’m going to write something that’ll be on those shelves.
"I catch inspiration whenever it comes and it’s always coming."
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
I catch inspiration whenever it comes and it’s always coming. I have a writer’s mind so when I view raw reality, I think in terms of stories.
As for memoir writing, I write to wend my way through a tangle of emotion or to gain perspective. Often the insights come one at a time. If I stay true to the story, they start connecting with each other at the darnedst times. I’ve been known to stop in parking lots or on the sides of highways to jot down ideas. I once read a wonderful quote about writerly insights: it said they come and go like chiffon on a breeze down a dark alleyway. You’ve got to catch them when they’re flying.
Journalistically speaking, the process is different. When writing memoir, the story comes from the inside out. With article writing, the story comes from the outside in.
When approaching a story as a journalist, I gather facts, perspectives, names of sources, and books on the subject. Also, I seek an experiential element whenever I can. I like being on location so I can see, sense, smell, and feel the terrain of the story. I look for uncommon details that make the subject matter palpable for the reader.
In my experience, the macrocosm is in the microcosm so just the right detail or image can open the whole story in a visceral way for a reader. You’ve got to be there, though, to look around and find it.
What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
I don’t find any part more easy or more difficult than any other part. The entire process enchants me.
Lorraine, please tell us a little about your book “Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.”
At its heart, “Self and Soul” is a spiritual memoir. I use personal experiences and adventures to illuminate what it means to develop a faith in life even, and perhaps especially, in trying times. Chapter One is entitled “The Paradox of Loss” and covers what it was like the night my baby was stillborn and I was struggling for my own life. The loss was unfathomable but in it I found what I’d been seeking for many years—a divine presence which entered the room. I discovered even a hospital room can be a temple because the divine source is everywhere, including inside me.
That night I stopped being a seeker and shifted from living a self-based life, the self being a carefully trained and constructed social persona that plays roles and has goals, to a soul-based life. The soul is a deeper timeless identity and has its own agenda. After a shift like that, nothing is the same again, and that’s what I explore in “Self and Soul.” Instead of looking here, there, and everywhere for some magic enlightenment, I now have an inner dialogue that allows me to make my own meaning and stay resilient despite the fickle fortunes of life.
I write about where this new inner life led me—temples, the mesas of Arizona, the Tao, and Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece in Pennsylvania, where a stunning revelation unfolded for me. None of these travels are tinged with the desperation of the earlier days of seeking. Indeed some of the encounters are accidental, if you believe in that sort of thing. Along the way I encounter sages but also people of ill will who I’d never seek but who nevertheless impart important lessons.
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
What inspired you to write the book?
I was inspired by a desire to think through my own layers of belief and clarify them and also by a fascination with the American spiritual and religious landscape in which we all live these days. The times are a-changin’.
Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
Self and Soul is for people living lives of quiet desperation, questioning what it means to strive and succeed in conventional ways, and wondering if their efforts matter. It is a encouragement and inspiration for people who are always looking but never finding.
How would you describe the success of your book so far?
It’s too early to say because the publicity campaign for the book was just launched days ago.
The endorsers, including some heavy hitters in the spiritual world, sure like it, though. They include Dr. Larry Dossey (The Science of Premonitions), Dr. Christiane Northrup (The Wisdom of Menopause), Robert C. Fuller (Spiritual, But Not Religious: Understanding Unchurched American Religion), and William Elliott (Tying Rocks to Clouds: Meetings and Conversations with Wise and Spiritual People). Spiritual memoir in the United States dates back to the pilgrims, but it was William Elliott who re-energized it for modern times back in the ’90s.
How long did it take it to write the book?
A year and the rest of my life. By the time you get into your fifties, as I am now, you find yourself writing with every hard-earned piece of perspective you ever learned and earned.
Please, tell us where you self-published the book.
After three years of team building and partnership forging, my husband Bill and I opened Cape House Books this year. It’s a collaborative publishing company that produces two imprints—one of life stories and the other of wisdom books by philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual teachers who offer new and useful ways to think about and improve one’s life. To date we’ve attracted fifteen authors. Books are just starting to roll off our presses. “Self and Soul” is one of the first.
How smooth went the publishing process? Any issues?
The publishing world is undergoing sea changes now. It’s accurate to say there are multiple publishing models as the literary world continues to experiment with what works. The issues for a press like Cape House Books are ones of pioneering. These are exciting times for publishers, authors, and readers.
"I am one of two editors [...]; the other editor edited me."
Did you hire an editor and/or Cover Designer for your book?
I am one of two editors at Cape House Books; the other editor edited me. We also design our own book covers.
Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
There’s traditional publishing and self-publishing and a third option, the emerging world of collaborative publishing of which Cape House Books is a part. Our particular collaborative model includes vetting manuscripts and proposals and then partnering with an author in ways that allow as much money as possible to stay within the creative circle. We produce beautifully edited and designed books in multiple formats, distribute them through many online sales venues, and launch them with marketing campaigns. The process doesn’t work without each and every step.
Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’ve worked for years with an enormously talented photojournalist, Bob Karp. He and I spent some time traveling around the United States and chronicling, in words and pictures, the practices of alternative healers. I have one more chapter to finish on “American Healers.” Actually, I envision it as part of a series and want to move ahead with “American Sages” when time allows.
Are you planning to move forward as an Indie author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published?
My first book, “Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing,” was beautifully and graciously published by Oregon-based NewSage Press, a traditional publishing house that has kept the title alive and circulating for eight years. So I’m moving from traditional publishing to becoming a publisher.
"The paper book is an art form that will not disappear."
Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
The paper book is an art form that will not disappear. There are many people, some of them as young as their twenties, who still want to hold a book. Also, people still love to gift books, and a paperback or hardcover is a wrappable item of color and beauty.
Even more than that, a paperback or hardcover still has an aura of legitimacy that a book published only electronically seems to lack. That’s a public perception that will die hard and slowly, if at all.
As to whether bookstores will disappear entirely, it is my fervent hope that they do not. But I fear the worst.
Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
As you can tell, I’m always writing or editing in one capacity or another.
How can readers connect with you?
Please visit my newly revamped website at www.LorraineAsh.com and read about what I’ve got going, including weekend writing retreats. Or come by and visit us at www.CapeHouseBooks.com .
Thank you very much for the Interview, Lorraine
About the Book Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life
Are you living a life of quiet desperation? Questioning what it means to succeed? Wondering if your efforts matter? In this uplifting memoir, Lorraine Ash uses her own life experiences to explore inner landscapes where the seeds of divine healing and insight reside.
These are the landscapes on which we create our own meaning and find the resiliency to thrive in a changing and challenging world.
New Release: October 29, 2012
Links to the Author and the Book
Connect with the Author via Twitter: @LorraineVAsh
Connect with the Author via the Author's website
Link to the Paperback Self and Soul on Amazon with Excerpt
Link to the Kindle eBook Self and Soul on Amazon with Excerpt