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Written by IngridRicks

An Early Morning Coffee Chat With Alison Krupnick

Interview by BJ Neblett

How do you interview a master interviewer? That was the daunting task I faced on a recent early October morning. If experience is any gauge of ability then Alison Krupnick has certainly achieved the title of Master Interrogator. I met Alison at one of Seattle’s more charming neighborhood coffee spots, and soon began to wonder who the interviewer was and whom the interviewee.

I found Alison to be a totally charming and ageless beauty who is as interesting as she is outspoken. I attributed this to her East Coast upbringing. “I’m a Jersey Girl through and through,” she proudly announced, anticipating my first question. Although it’s been a while since she called Lakewood, a small community near the Jersey Shore, home Alison’s well planted roots are evident.

But unbridled wanderlust found Alison studying languages and international relations in France and later college on the Monterey Peninsula. A move to Washington DC and she landed her dream job as a diplomat with the State Department. For the next ten years Alison represented the US in exotic locales such as India, Thailand and Vietnam, where she helped many displaced or orphaned by the war find their way to America. It was also while serving in Vietnam that Alison met Jeff, her husband of now sixteen years. Jeff and Alison have two daughters, and although settled in Seattle, the old wanderlust has yet to be sated. “I just love to travel, and there are still so many places I want to visit and things I want to discover.” The faraway twinkle in her expressive eyes punctuates the point.

The frothy mocha I ordered has turned cold as I find myself completely captivated. Conversation with Alison is so easy and natural that I have to keep reminding myself of my purpose and the notes hastily scribbled on a legal tablet. “Ok, so, why writing?” I ask.

“The first thing I ever wrote was an essay about 9/11. Putting my thoughts and feelings on paper seemed to help make some sense of things.” Here Alison shows what I assume is a somewhat rare serious side. “I began writing stories for my kids, and then about friends and people I met or saw on the streets.” An article about her exploits in Vietnam was published in the Harvard Review. Another, about a terminally ill friend, found national publication. She went on to publish a number of essays in literary journals and anthologies.

Alison now writes full-time, for work as well as pleasure. She works as a corporate communication writer, writing a quarterly maritime magazine, and freelances for Seattle Magazine. This very busy lady also manages to find time to write for Crosscut, an on-line publication, as well as maintain her own blog, Slice of Mid Life. Somewhere along the way she managed to write her first book. Ruminations From The Minivan: Musings From A World Grown Large, Than Small to be available in book and Kindle formats and hopefully will also be on the shelves of your favorite bookstore by the end of the year.

“Ruminations is very aptly titled, I literally wrote it while driving my kids to and from school and soccer and everything else a good suburban mom does. It’s a memoir, a collection of the essays I started in 2001.”

Aside from observing everyday things around her, Alison finds inspiration in the power of the written word. When not writing or working or driving or being a full-time mom, Alison enjoys international cooking, travel, reading, and founded a mother-daughter book group, now in its seventh year. “It’s encouraging to see young people interested in talking about books,” she says.

As for the future, Alison has the herculean task of promoting a self-published book. “After my manuscript won an award at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference, I was contacted by a few agents, but I was just uncomfortable with the process, so I set the book aside for several years. Now was the time for the book to be published. It won’t be easy, but…” Ms. Krupnick’s Jersey fortitude and stubbornness are obvious when she talks about getting Ruminations published and into the hands of readers. “I also plan to continue my blog and eventually it might meld into my next book.”

If Ruminations is half as interesting and entertaining as morning coffee with Alison, than she has a best seller on her hands.

You can find more on and about Alison Krupnick at:
alisonkrupnick.com
sliceofmidlife.com
crosscut.com
ballardwriters.org

6/14/12 “It’s About Time” Writers Reading Series at Ballard Library

Looking for a great way to spend an occasional Thursday evening? Check out The “It’s About Time” Writers Reading Series at the Ballard Branch Library.

The event, now in its 22nd year in Seattle, is held the Second Thursday of every month at the Ballard Branch Library (5614 NW 22nd St.)

Time: 6 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.

Upcoming 2012 Dates:  June 14, July 12, August 9

Each “It’s About Time” event features three readers plus a Writer’s Craft presentation. Three minute open mic opportunities. More information on past and upcoming readings is available at www.itsaboutimewriters.homestead.com or on Facebook.

A Chat with Writer Jennifer D. Munro

By Ingrid Ricks

Jennifer Munro is funny and disarming. She’s also so persuasive she once sold $200,000 worth of miso paste to an end-of-the-world cult that lived in underground bunkers in Montana.

It’s this combined disarming, persuasive, sometimes biting humor that comes through in spades when you read The Erotica Writer’s Husband, her collection of hilarious stories ranging from the shock of discovering the “size issue” with a one-night stand to the maladies of menopause.

A native of Hawaii, Jennifer made her way to the mainland for college and never looked back. She’s been writing since she can remember but always ended up shoving her stories into a drawer. Then she was encouraged to take a writing class. That, says Jennifer, changed everything.

Over the past eleven years, Jennifer has been a writer on fire —writing, rewriting, submitting, re-submitting —to the point that she now makes success look easy. She’s the recipient of two coveted 4Culture grants awarded by King County and has seen her essays and stories published in more than sixty anthologies and literary journals: Best American Erotica, Zyzzyva, Brain, Child, and Literary Mama, to name a few.

I recently sat down with Jennifer, who also happens to be a life-saving editor for writers in need of a keen eye for their work, to learn more about her writing life, her writing inspirations and the wisdom she has gained.

IR: How did you come up with the title The Erotica Writer’s Husband?
JDM: The Erotica Writer’s HusbanTd is the title piece in my collection of humorous short stories about sex and the sexes. I grew weary of all of the literary wives and daughters that litter the bookstore shelves: Ahab’s Wife, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Zookeeper’s Wife, Galileo’s Daughter, and on and on. The titular women are possessions. They don’t exist on their own terms. Husbands or sons as possessions in titles are not common. So I wanted to flip that on its ear and have some fun with it. The book is as much or more about humor in the face of real-life challenges—infertility, menopause, imperfect bodies—as it is about sexuality and marriage.

IR: Tell us about your current writing projects.
JDM: I’m working on a few things, as always. My husband and I will have been together 25 years this year (yes, I married at age twelve), so I’m putting together a small book with a big title: I Did: Bunk Advice for Brides from a Good Enough Wife who for all the Wrong Reasons Rushed in to Marriage with Mr. Not Quite Right, who turned out after a Quarter-Century of Wedded Bliss and Blisters to be Mr. Not Half Bad (a Mostly True Story, from What I Can Vaguely Recall).


I post an online column (usually weekly) at www.StraightNoChaserMom.com, which is largely about my unconventional family and our unique challenges. I also continue to work on Stalled: Stuck with a Bitch Helmet Instead of a Baby, which is a memoir about my ten-year, unsuccessful journey to have a child and the 10,000-mile motorcycle trip that saved my marriage. My husband and I rumbled and bumbled down the infertility highway and the back roads of America, encountering drug runners, killer armadillos, and our own peccadilloes. I describe it as Nora Ephron meets Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, although truthfully I’ve never managed to finish reading Zen (yawn!). So I want to write a biker book that even non-motorcycling women can relate to, in which I discuss things like: coping with helmet hair; how I’ve perfected backseat driving although my husband can’t hear or see me; and how to fend off the attention of old lechers in biker bars (my secret method involves llamas). For my title, I’ve co-opted the derogatory term that some male bikers use for the spare helmet they carry for female passengers.

IR: Which writers inspire you? Why?
JDM: The sad fact is that I read a lot but don’t remember most of it; true stories about extraordinary individuals resonate the longest with me. Bauby’s The Diving Bell & the Butterfly is one of my favorites; if he could write a book by blinking one eye, then I have no excuse for not finishing mine! Talk about persistence.

I’d love to emulate Shirley Jackson, who wrote humorous memoirs about family life as well as disturbing fiction and horror about the human condition. Like her, I write creepy tales as well as comic stories. I’ll be publishing a dark fantasy story collection, The Strangler Fig as an eBook in May. Much as I enjoy humorists (Erma Bombeck, Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, PNW writer Lauren Weedman), I never tire of going back to the gothic classics (DuMaurier, the Brontes). The intelligence and depth that Sarah Waters recently brought to the ghost story in Little Stranger inspired me; horror can be so much more interesting and thought-provoking than sparkly vampires. Everybody, I beg you, please read Deliverance so you can stop quoting the darn pig line (although I finally “got” Burt Reynolds when I saw the movie); Dickey was a poet and it comes across in his stunning prose, and nothing inspires me more than beautiful, well-crafted writing.I read Beowulf and the Iliad not infrequently, and the sex in Gilgamesh is pretty darned interesting (the four-hour warning for Viagra is nothing compared to one scene in this 18th century BC epic). Reading widely across genres and reading the classics is a good idea for any writer. At least then you can fake it and sound smart at your book release cocktail party!

IR: What advice do you have for people who want to write?
JDM: Take a class! We who live here in Seattle are lucky to live where there are so many writing classes available. I had been writing for years and shoving my work into drawers before Ballard publisher Tod McCoy nudged me to take a class, which was terrifying for me. But my teacher encouraged me, and soon after I was sending my work out and getting published. And I made a lot of writer friends. It’s important to have a network for support, fun, and exchange of information. The collaboration going on with the Ballard Writers Collective is very energizing.

Also, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Submit your work, submit your work, submit your work. I just sent off my 750th submission in about eleven years. I’ve had a lot of work accepted, but that’s an awful lot of rejections, too. So what? I’ve helped keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat. If a piece has been rejected more than a few times, I rewrite it again. I believe in every piece I write and never give up on it.

And if you’re going to self-publish, please, hire an editor/proofreader! I say this not as an editor-for-hire but as a passionate reader. Nothing kills a good book like spelling errors and typos.
Lastly, I often hear it said that it’s hard to be a writer, but I imagine that it’s much harder to live with a writer. So treat your loved ones kindly when you’re not telling them that you need to be alone.

Want to know more? Visit Jennifer’s author page.

Sitting Down with Author Claire Anderson

By Peggy Sturdivant

 Claire Anderson expresses herself through writing, public speaking, teaching and even sewing. However she derives her greatest satisfaction helping others express themselves, which is why she leaves Ballard in Friday traffic to travel to the  maximum security section of the State prison in Monroe every month. Anderson and another Toastmaster member, Steve Lent, participate in the prison group’s philosophical round table. After the three hour discussion Anderson and Lent are free to leave, unlike inmates with years remaining in their prison sentence.

Accompanying Anderson and Lent on their monthly trip to Monroe Correctional Complex is Anderson’s yellow Labrador, DaVida. The dog is very popular with the prisoners. One man who asked to pet DaVida told Anderson, “I haven’t touched a dog in 20 years.” The dog isn’t along for the inmate’s benefit or as an ice-breaker. She is Anderson’s guide dog. Anderson has been legally blind since an optic stroke when she was 64 years old.

Anderson has only lived in Seattle for five years; in Ballard the last three. After losing her sight and a year of training at Miami’s Lighthouse for the Blind she decided to move 3,000 miles across the country. She has a son and daughter-in-law in the area. Not many people living in Florida choose to relocate to Seattle but Anderson loves it. DaVida is silent on the matter.

Anderson belongs to several local Toastmaster Clubs, Mensa, a sewing circle and leads a memoir class at NW Senior Center. Unlike young students in her early teaching days Anderson finds adults highly motivated, perhaps none more so than the men at Monroe’s penitentiary who wrestle with discussion topics such as “what is identity?” This topic also intrigues Anderson as an individual, and a writer. “I’ve had my ‘identity’ stolen. I’ve been married twice and had three different last names.”

Anderson has also had her self-identity changed as a result of the optic stroke. Although she can see large objects in front of her and even read a word if it’s at 150 point typeset, Anderson went from a woman driving along Route 66 to legally blind in seconds. She resisted learning to use a cane, “It would be shameful for everyone to know that I was blind.” However as person who thrives on activity Anderson couldn’t just sit on the couch and mourn her altered circumstances. Through Lighthouse for the Blind she learned to use a cane, touch type, cook and even thread a needle. She soon realized using the cane, “Could save my life.”

An author of two business-related books in the 70’s Anderson has almost completed a book about her experiences in Guide Dog Camp that she claims she may be titled, “Sightless in Seattle.” Friends receiving her camp stories begged her to compile and publish them. Now that she’s taken it on, Anderson is motivated to complete, “My life work.”

Upon arrival in Seattle Anderson first tried living in a senior community on Stone Way but found it too much of a cocoon. She wanted more interaction with the world. Now she lives close to Ballard Commons and its skate bowl: she also takes the bus frequently. This puts her in contact with life stories every day: asking questions of the skateboarders, answering questions about the yellow Labrador who is always with her.

Most of all Anderson enjoys is working with others. She had an idea for a memoir class she wanted to offer; a meeting with Carlye Teel, NW Senior Center Director, provided the opportunity. Her free memoir class launched last July. Anderson didn’t want payment, just to, “Get in there and do it.” Many of her students at the NW Senior Center don’t have previous writing experience but want to write their own stories, often for the sake of their children.

The students brainstorm possible topics and then prepare a piece each week. “Don’t worry about spelling or typos,” Claire reassures them. “I won’t be able to see them anyway.” One of her senior center students said her daughter phones every week to check on the topic and has her mother read the piece to her over the telephone. Often the daughter calls back the following day and demands, “Read it to me again.”

“The goal here is to catch the memories of your life so you have them for your children,” Anderson reminds her students. But she thinks a larger audience will be interested in stories about learning to have a guide dog and being catapulted into so much change in her 60’s. But it is helping others to express themselves that she considers a two-way gift. “When I do things for others, I get more joy than when I do things for myself.”