Sunday, May 27, 2012

Writers4Higher features Donna Meredith




Welcome to Writers4Higher

The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views.

Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.
This issue, Writers4Higher features
Donna Meredith.





Hi Donna. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family.
1. Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.
Why, my husband and some friends ask, do I want to write? They shudder and confess how much they disliked cranking out papers in English classes. Maybe I’m weird—okay, I am—but I liked the challenge of putting the right words in the right order on paper. Still do.

More than that, writing is my way of making sense of the world. It’s where I think through the way people relate to each other and explore the contradictions of our behavior, how we can act with courage and kindness one moment—and with hostility, fear and jealousy the next. It’s where I try to capture the beauty and balance in our natural world. And I write because I hope to make a difference in the world, in some small way. Vanity, I know.

I guess I liked teaching for the same reason. For 29 years I helped high school students become better readers and writers. We read literature, I told them, to understand what it means to be a human being, to journey along another person’s path and wear their skin and shoes, at least for a little while. Literature expands our world. We wrote and shared poetry and journals even though they weren’t on standardized tests because words helped vent adolescent angst. The newspapers and TV shows I advised became a home for all kinds of kids, especially for the pentagons and parabolas that didn’t fit into a school system’s square holes. They wrote copy, drew computer graphics, and held camcorders in front of their faces that served as a buffer between awkward teen and the tough world of peers.

I wrote my first novel, “The Glass Madonna,” because I had a sense that new generations were forgetting what the world had been like for women just a short time before. Even women of my generation were glorifying life in the 1950s, forgetting how many jobs were closed to women and how a wife might call police to beg for help because her husband was beating her, only to be told they didn’t get involved in domestic disputes. It’s easy to forget what it was like before birth control gave us some control over our own bodies. Easy to look down on other countries that lack rights for women—unless we remember our own grandmothers weren’t born with the right to vote. I wrote the novel because if we become complacent, the progress could slip away. I worked another concern of mine into the story: the homeless, damaged veterans, who were frequent guests when I served lunch at The Shelter. The story also explores the way addiction to nearly anything—alcohol, food, drugs, sex—damages everyone in a family.

The second novel, “The Color of Lies,” grew out of love/hate. The things I loved and hated about teaching. The kids I loved so much I could have adopted them, and the occasional one that made me wish I could stay in bed instead of going to work. The joy of reading a student’s moving poem or personal essay, balanced against the insanity of bureaucratic paperwork and extraneous duties. The difficulty of finding time to meet the needs of students while devoting time to my own family and enough “me” time that I didn’t go crazy. Every working woman has been there. The novel also grew from my love/hate of small towns. I tried to capture the close connections, the sense of rootedness my protagonist feels, as well as the frustration she feels with the slow pace of change and the small-mindedness of some citizens, including her own father. All the characters behave in ways that are morally ambiguous at times—as we all do. We are, after all, only human.

As a writer, you hope a reader sees something of themselves in the story and feels less alone. 

 

2. Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

 


Both manuscripts I’m working on now meet my need to feel I’m writing about things that make a difference. “Magic in the Mountains” tells the true story of a woman who wouldn’t let anything get in the way of fulfilling her artistic vision. Her story deserves to be preserved as a part of West Virginia history. In my environmental mystery, “Between a Rock and a Wet Place,” a female hydrogeologist protects our water supply from corporate greed. The latter gives me an outlet to write about protecting our natural resources again, something I have missed after giving up the environment column I wrote for the Tallahassee Democrat for 18 months.

3. How do you use your talents/time to help others?
One way I’ve tried to give back to fellow writers is through my involvement with the Tallahassee Writers Association. I served as vice president two years and president for two years, pouring time and energy into bringing Tallahassee outstanding writers conferences and workshops. I’ve coordinated our Seven Hills Literary Contest for the past six years and edit the Seven Hills Review, providing writers an opportunity for recognition and publication. On a personal level, when TWA members have been sick or lost family members, I’ve tried to make sure they received cards and hospital visits—small touches of support as we make life journeys together. We’re more than colleagues. We’re friends. We’re family.

At one point in a creative writing class at FSU, I questioned whether writing was how I should spend my retirement—was I being selfish? My professor, Sheila Ortiz-Taylor, responded that writing is an act of generosity, a sharing of yourself, an act of courage. Since publishing my books, I’ve come to realize how true her words were. It takes tremendous courage to put yourself out there, exposed for others to accept or reject. Even if we write fiction, the characters emerge from our imagination and world view. They are us, even the bad guys. Scary stuff.

Publishing is like giving birth—and we display our babies to the world, weak-kneed with anxiety, hoping people will click “like” or leave good reviews on amazon. Our hearts soar when someone posts that our novel is “important” or made someone laugh, and we are hopeful that we have, indeed, made a difference. Then someone posts that they found a spelling error on page 10. Our hearts are sore.

The journey has its ups and downs. All the more reason we need our fellow writers. Our friends. Our family.
******
Would you like to find Donna?
Stop by and say hello and check out this talented author's work.
Here are links:
DONNA'S BOOKS:
The Glass Madonna: The Glass Madonna on Amazon



The Color of Lies:The Color of Lies on Amazon
Thank you, Donna, for sharing with us!


Rhett DeVane
Writers4Higher
Fiction with a Southern Twist

4 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this piece about one of my favorite authors! I can imagine if I had had Donna as my high school English teachers, she would have been one of my favorites!! I wish my teenager had more high school teachers like that in her life now, that's for sure!

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  2. Writing as an act of generosity; what a nice way to look at it.

    Malcolm

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  3. Interesting! Thanks, Rhett, for interviewing Donna Meredith. It was a pleasure meeting both of you at the Tallahasse Writers' Conference earlier this month. Donna, I'll definitely be looking for your books!

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  4. Donna is so generous with her time I am surprised she has any left over in which to write!

    I too wish I'd had Donna as my English teacher. A teacher never knows the extent of their influence which plays out across the years--but I bet Danna's work continues to ripple through the lives of her old students. -- Adrian Fogelin

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