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Author Updates: Larry Kilham & Edith Tarbescu

Larry Kilham and Edith Tarbescu are two examples of the prolific members of SouthWest Writers (SWW). They each write in a variety of genres with one in common: memoir. Both authors had new releases for 2022 and have one or more interviews posted on the SWW website.

Author Larry Kilham is a retired engineer and entrepreneur who has published science fiction novels, poetry chapbooks, memoirs, and other nonfiction books with topics ranging from creativity and invention to artificial intelligence and digital media. His most recent release is his 2022 memoir, Curiosity & Hope: Explorations for a Better World. You’ll find Larry on his website and blog, and on his Amazon author page. For more about his work, read his 2017, 2019, and 2021 SWW interviews.

When readers turn the last page of Curiosity & Hope, what would you like them to take away from it?
That they can find hope and reasons for curiosity in their world. That their spirit is indomitable.

How is the memoir structured? What was the inspiration for the title?
I wrote an outline of about 12 chapters that covered my childhood through the present and included school, college, jobs, travel, and high-tech start-ups. There could have been twice as many chapters, adventures, and episodes than I used. I tried to focus on my story arc, where each episode led on to the next.

The book title started from a project I’m working on at Santa Fe Prep called Curiosity. It is an elective program to stimulate kids to follow their curiosity. Then I thought, “Isn’t this the thread of my life? I will build my memoirs around my curiosity.” Of course, without hope, curiosity leads nowhere. So I added “Hope” to the title.

Do you have a favorite quote from the book that you’d like to share?
My father advised me, “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be willing to work by trial and error. The life we live is made up of falls and recoveries. The falls educate us and the recoveries enrich us.”

What do you consider the most essential elements of a well-written memoir?
One, clearly explaining the historical context of the central character of the memoir. The inventors of my three memoirs were each focused on the resources and needs of their times. Two, explaining the family and societal support (or lack of them) that fostered the inventor’s personal development and propelled them into a productive and satisfying career. And three, finding universal themes or generalizations that any reader can relate to.

You wrote three memoirs in four years—The Perfectionist: Peter Kilham & the Birds (2018), Destiny Strikes Twice: James L. Breese Aviator and Inventor (2020), and now Curiosity & Hope. How did you manage to pull that off?
Finding a common theme which really makes all three memoirs one story. In this case, the theme is about the whys and wherefores of three generations of inventors who developed useful things. In my grandfather’s case, his invention of oil burners for home and commercial heating; in my father’s case, the invention of very popular birdfeeders; and in my case, the invention of sensing instrumentation for the chemical industry and environmental sensing.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m thinking about a second edition or another version of my memoirs to develop some more general themes about where our society is going. I am writing a lot of poetry which has been well-received. And I am exploring various ways to bring my poetry to the public and to finding and perfecting my style. Some of the poets I use for models and inspiration are T.S. Eliot, William Wordsworth, Maya Angelou, and Pueblo Indians.

Author Edith Tarbescu has written essays, children’s books, plays, and a novel. In 2022, she added memoir to her list of publications with the release of Beyond Brooklyn (Adelaide Books). You’ll find Edith on her website at and on Facebook and LinkedIn. Read more about her writing in SWW’s 2021 interview, and look for Beyond Brooklyn on Amazon.

Why did you write your memoir, and who did you write it for?
I had been reading a lot of memoirs and thought it would be interesting to write one. I wrote it for myself and my two daughters. It was especially interesting to go back in time to my childhood in Brooklyn. I recently learned that Dr. Fauci lived in the same neighborhood as me while I was growing up. I also loved re-living my trip to Romania while it was still under Communist rule. We were followed by a Romanian James Bond who insisted we visit his office, a scary experience.

When you began the project that became Beyond Brooklyn, did you have a theme in mind or did that become obvious with time?
I thought fairly on that since I’m a playwright—I studied at the Yale School of Drama—I should include a few plays. I ended up including three short, humorous plays and a one-woman play titled Suffer Queen, all produced in New York and in regional theaters. One top New York agent, who didn’t take on my memoir because she didn’t think it would make enough money for her, called the writing “cheeky,” including the plays. I was flattered, but wished she had taken it on.

What was the expected, or unexpected, result of writing the book?
I realized I was divulging all my secrets and wondered how my friends, and/or family, would react to learning all the intimate details of my life, but that’s a memoir.

In memoir, does the author’s responsibility lie with the truth of the facts or with her perception about the past?
I think the author’s responsibility lies with telling the truth and let the facts speak for themselves. If an author doesn’t want to do that, or is unable to do that, he or she should probably turn the past into fiction and write a novel.

Of all your writing projects—essays, children’s books, plays, a novel, and now a memoir—which one was the most challenging, and which was the most enjoyable to write?
I enjoyed writing everything and they were all challenging. A couple of my children’s books required research. For the picture book Annushka’s Voyage, I did research at Ellis Island. For my book about the Crow Nation, I traveled to Montana and ended up meeting with several members of the tribe. That was especially interesting to me coming from Brooklyn, New York where I never learned about Native Americans or heard about the boarding schools they were forced to attend.

The plays were also enjoyable, especially when I ended up having staged readings or productions of a play. I had several plays performed in New York, in regional theaters, and one in Valdez, Alaska. It was exciting to work with various performers and directors.

My novel, a mystery titled One Will: Three Wives, takes place in New York and I was thrilled to spend time in Manhattan researching neighborhoods, restaurants, etc. I also visited the police station where my novel takes place, and a policeman took me around the building where I visited a squad room for the first time.

What are you working on now?
I’m revising a middle-grade novel titled The Amazing Adventures of Alison Badger for readers ages 8–12 years old. It’s a fantasy that takes place in the Dumbo Section of Brooklyn (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.) One agent loved it, but he wanted novels for boys. I’m not giving up. I’m very persistent. Luckily, I have that trait.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Neal Holtschulte

Neal Holtschulte is a computer science instructor and sci-fi author whose short stories have been published in Amazing Stories magazine, Ghostlight: The Magazine of Terror, and THEMA Literary Journal. In 2022, he released his debut novel, Crew of Exiles, a science fiction adventure that a reviewer calls “action-packed and mind-opening” and “an engrossing story with twists and turns, humor, [and] suspense.” You’ll find Neal on his website, his writing blog Haste Writing, and on Twitter. Check out his YouTube channel and look for Crew of Exiles on his Amazon author page.

What is your elevator pitch for Crew of Exiles?
A misanthropic transcendent being has been exiled to human form on Earth for a crime abhorrent to all transcendent kind. Hoping to live out his exile in peaceful distraction, he is instead swept up in the troubles of an optimistic VR gamer, an abandoned human shell, and a paranoid starship warden.

What challenges did this work pose for you?
I wrote Crew of Exiles by the seat of my pants, without an outline, without a planned ending. Revising the mess I had made into a coherent story with proper character arcs that were so perfectly fitting it seemed like they must have been planned, was a long and arduous process.

Who are your main characters, and what makes them unique in the sci-fi genre?
The story has four perspective characters. Beryl is the pessimistic and irritable misanthropic transcendent being discovering how itchy and irritating a human body can be. Fife is an optimistic, go-getter. She has been a hero in so many virtual reality games that heroism is second nature to her. Nesh is a genetically engineered human hermaphrodite who has been abandoned by their creator and must find what that means when no one is around to tell them what their purpose is. Last is Ohnsy, a paranoid starship warden and a villain!

What inspired you to write the story? How did the book come together after that?
The inspiration was: 1) I wanted to get back into writing after a long hiatus for graduate school. 2) I was interested in the character dynamics of the Cracked After Hours characters. 3) I kept thinking about the naiveté of the idea that mind and body are separable. I do not believe they are.

The first draft of the story was written in about six months in 2016. It was expanded and revised to over twice the original length over the course of two more years with the help of feedback from the Cyberscribes, a local writing group. More revision occurred as I queried agents and ultimately decided upon self-publishing in 2020. I contracted Aaxel Author Services to provide a proofreader, cover artist, interior designer, and formatter. The rest is history.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for the book?
For me, it’s always challenging to balance imaginative play and internally consistent rules. I have a million ideas for fun worldbuilding stuff, but in the end, the puzzle pieces have to fit together into a coherent picture. Choosing which creative aspects had to get their edges sanded off was the hardest part for me.

Is there a scene in Crew of Exiles that you’d love to see play out in a movie?
There’s a scene in which Nesh carries an injured Beryl across a field of tall grass, bantering with each other as a storm rolls in. The weather is cinematic and the dialogue perfectly illustrates the two characters and the ways in which they will each be forced to grow as the story progresses. It’s one of my favorites and I would love to see a pair of great actors pull it off.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
My favorite part was being in a flow state at the keyboard and channeling the characters as they spoke with much more charm and wit than I could otherwise muster.

Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you started your writing career today?
I would copy more, write faster and sloppier, and play with fanfiction more. I got a slower start because I wanted my writing to be as good on the first try as any I was reading, and I wanted every word to potentially be publishable.

What is the best encouragement you’ve received in your writing journey?
Early encouragement of any variety has been, for me, the best encouragement.

How do you feel about fan fiction (writing it yourself or having another writer use your characters or story world)?
Fan fiction is fantastic. I’ve written Super Metroid and Final Fantasy 6 fan fiction. It’s great practice for any writer. I wrote and posted Kefka’s Legacy on and I still think it’s really good. Check it out!

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’ve finished a second scifi novel about a divorced, alcoholic father with delusions of becoming a great starfighter pilot. He gets himself and his family embroiled in solar spy games and he has to overcome addiction, injury, and betrayal to find what’s truly valuable and save everyone he’s ever loved. I’m querying this novel now.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Since this interview is coming out on May 2nd, I would love to let readers know that the ebook version of Crew of Exiles will be on sale for 99¢ for a limited time from May 8th through May 13th.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update 2023: Pamela Nowak

Author Pamela Nowak writes historical women’s fiction and award-winning historical romance set in the American West. Necessary Deceptions: The Women of Wyatt Earp (Five Star Publishing, 2022) is her second historical fiction release that explores the forgotten stories of real women. You’ll find Pam on her website at and on Facebook. Read more about her writing in SWW’s 2022 interview, and look for Necessary Deceptions at Barnes & Noble and on her Amazon author page.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Necessary Deceptions?
I think what I want readers to know right up front is that this is the story of Mattie Blaylock and Josie Marcus rather than a story about Wyatt Earp. Certainly, how Wyatt impacted their lives is important (because he certainly did), but this is about the women forgotten by history and hidden behind Earp’s legend. Neither of these women have been given their own voice until recently and neither have been treated fairly in the books and movies about Wyatt. They were both complex women, dealing with the harsh realities of life and were so much more than the cardboard cut-out characters typically portrayed.

What sparked the story idea, and how did the book come together after that?
A few years ago, I read an excellent nonfiction book about all the Earp women, Mrs. Earp: The Wives And Lovers Of The Earp Brothers by Sherry Monahan. I instantly knew there was a novel there and I began researching several of the women…looking for story lines. I loved Virgil’s wife Allie, but Mattie and Josie had such complicated stories and overlapping stories. There wasn’t much information on Mattie, though. When I found Mattie by E.C. (Ted) Meyers, I realized there were enough threads for me to follow.

Tell us about your main characters. What was it about them that fascinated you so much that you wrote a novel about their lives?
Josie fascinated me in that she seemed to have spent her entire life crafting false narratives about her life. I wanted to dig into her motives for that and sifting through her personal narratives was a research challenge that appealed to me. Her lies contained small pieces of truth and once I found support in the historical record for those, I could pick apart the embellishments and alterations she created. Largely, the legend of Wyatt Earp was created by Josie. She buried almost all of his past lawlessness. Research into Mattie revealed arrest records, court documents, and threads that knit a whole different picture of his past. There were large holes in Mattie’s history but there were family “stories” that allowed me to fill those holes with plausible fiction.

How does the historical setting — that particular moment in history — impact the story and the characters?
The 1850s through 1880s in the West was a time of opportunity for many and some of that opportunity was based in manipulation of legal systems that were in their formative stages. For women, the West was a place of stark reality and few avenues of support. This collision often brought them together within the prostitution trade, whether working it from the inside or “on the payroll” as a lawman. Of course, this didn’t occur solely in the West but in this era, the West was rampant with it. The mix of prostitution, gambling, opportunity, and politics in that place at that time made for tons of conflict.

Is there a scene in your book you’d love to see play out in a movie?
Am I allowed to say “all of it?”  I guess I’d love to see the early parts of both Josie and Mattie’s life make the big screen because the world has never really seen those parts of their stories…life before Wyatt. I guess I’m also particularly fond of the scenes when each woman makes the decision to pursue prostitution. Josie, for all her assumed worldliness, likely didn’t have a clue what that life was really like. Mattie, I think, took the only choice available in a time of desperation. I think the essences of who they were really comes through in those scenes.

What was the process like for choosing Necessary Deceptions as the book’s title?
The title was born from the theme which was evident from the start. My titles usually are representative of the theme of the book. From there it’s playing around with synonyms and looking at what’s intriguing, not an echo of anything currently popular, and what rolls off the tongue. I create multiple variations and let them rest, then settle on one as the writing progresses. I usually ask for input from critique partners as well. For this book, my early variations included deception, lies, manipulation, etc. “Necessary” was added late in the process as something that would make potential readers wonder about the motives for the deceptions.

What did you like most, and what did you like least, about putting this project together?
The hardest part of this novel was staying true to Josie’s lifelong deceit of people. Most people didn’t like her, but I had to craft her as a protagonist readers would like and sympathize with. I think I most enjoyed developing Mattie as someone who was so much more than the laudanum addict portrayed in the movies.

Do you feel your writing style has changed since you wrote your first novel?
Absolutely! My first books were historical romances and there is a certain expectation readers have of romances that limits the plot and character development. Writing historicals gives me more freedom to experiment. Then, there’s the fact that I’ve grown in my craft. Some of the elements of fiction I had to work so hard on during the writing of my first books are now easier, so I can work on more advanced techniques.

What are the challenges of writing for the historical fiction market?
I typically do not write to the market (i.e. what’s hot right now). I like to write about real people and real events. If those people and events are recognizable, the book has greater marketing potential. A novel about a small-town teacher will have a smaller audience than one about Lizzie Borden. There are sometimes stories out there that appeal to me but I know it’s a better strategy to focus on those that may have a broader audience.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Fil A. Chavez

Author Fil A. Chavez is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a retired management and consulting professional who became serious about writing after he won first place in a romantic essay contest. Unused Towels (2022) is a collection of honest, real-life stories from his business and personal life meant to encourage readers, especially those whose lives are impacted by suicidal depression. Look for Unused Towels on Amazon.

Who are your ideal readers, and what do you hope they’ll take away from the book?
The ideal reader for 19 of the 23 chapters is anyone who enjoys a very short story that is humorous, entertaining, and uplifting (there are over 75 very short stories in the book). For the other four chapters, the ideal reader is anyone dealing with suicidal thoughts or dealing with someone who may be suicidal. Also, anyone who has questions about why a loved one (who seemed to be happy) committed suicide. In addition, my main message includes those who may be more absorbed with the negatives rather than with the positives in their lives. For all readers, I hope they will take away a more supportive feeling for their loved ones, as well as have a better feeling about themselves.

Looking at the Table of Contents, it’s obvious Unused Towels is a different sort of story collection. Explain how the book is structured and why you use towels to tie it together.
All 23 chapters are standalones—they can be read in any order. Chapter titles include one of four designations: Bath Towel (very serious), Beach Towel (lighthearted), Hand Towel (serious but easy to handle), or Wash Cloth (series of quick reads).

“Unused towels” is a metaphor for assuring that we use all the talents the good Lord has loaned us while we are on this earth. The genesis of the words “unused towels” harkens to my lovely mother who saved the good towels, over two dozen of them, for company. After my mom died, we found several dozen unused towels in one of her closets, towels which I was not allowed to use when I visited. Were there an expiration date on those towels, they would fundamentally have served no purpose, ditto for talents which I might leave unused when I die.

Tell us more about the book.
As a counter-balance to the four chapters dealing with depression, I have added 19 entertaining, funny, uplifting chapters, including various lessons learned told in a humorous, encouraging way. The book is a result of years of writing notes about various experiences and thoughts in my life. The earliest note is marked with a date from 1983. The actual book took about 2 1/2 years to put together, with editing being an on-going process.

The last chapter deals specifically with the cycle of suicidal depression in a way I have not read or heard anywhere else; it is a result of personal experiences dealing with the very dark place where suicidal depression roosts. This final chapter, titled “TOSTI,” is a journey into a very lonely world without feelings, where love, help, and caring do not exist—even God is absent. TOSTI is my acronym for The Other Side of The Ice. I offer what I have learned to those struggling with how to understand why a loved took his/her life leaving no clues that they were suicidally depressed, as well as to those in the throes of suicidal depression, so that they know they are not alone and that God genuinely cares about them.

Do you have a favorite quote from Unused Towels that you’d like to share?
One quote on the lighter side: As I was standing in line to get coffee and a Danish, a stranger kept staring at me with a big smile on his face. When I got close to him—before I could ask him “Do I know you?”—he grinned even wider and said, “I don’t know if you care or not, but your fly is open.”

On the heavier side, two quotes: (1) General Mark and Carole Graham’s comments about their son, Kevin, who took his life. (See the last page of the book for their full comments at the 2022 Memorial Day Concert.) “We knew Kevin was sad, but we didn’t know one could die from being too sad. We know there are a lot of Kevins suffering in silence.” (2) The saying that “words matter” is not relevant when dealing with someone who is suicidal. This is one time when words do not matter. Only actions matter!

Any “Oh, wow!” moments while doing research for this book?
The research for the book was mostly digging into my notes and memories, resulting in lots of “Wows!” in my little head. In terms of statistics, a big “Wow” is how many people take their lives, especially veterans (more than 20 per day).

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go, that it was finished and ready for publishing?
When my wonderful wife Mary finally said, “I’m exhausted. I can’t do this anymore.” Mary really ought to be listed as a co-author for her priceless editing assistance and for providing critical improvements to the words. Also, Rose Kern’s gentle push that a writer has to call a book “Done” at some point even though in my mind it wasn’t quite done. Mary, being what she describes as a “recovering perfectionist,” made me realize that a perfectionist is never really finished. There is always a way to improve whatever you’re doing, but sometimes you just have to say, “Done!”

What was your favorite part of putting this project together, and what did you struggle with most?
Without a doubt, my most favorite part was working with my wife Mary. Without her invaluable partnering on this, Unused Towels would not be a book. The truly biggest struggle was wondering if the book was worth publishing, or whether I should just write it off as merely a hobby.

What writing advice did you find most helpful while you worked on the book?
I was guided by Malcolm Gladwell’s advice that: (1) A writer who is concerned about always being right should not write; (2) I would rather be interesting than correct; and (3) A writer’s job is to be interesting, to raise questions that need raising, to get people to think through difficult subjects. I was also guided by the advice that “a book needs to be felt not just read.” With these pieces of sage advice in mind, I jumped into writing wherever my mind took me, gathering different stories from my life. Regarding the advice that “I would rather be interesting than correct,” Mary and I found our formatting easier and more inviting to read rather than following the dictums of the Chicago Manual of Style. Based on the comments received from some of my “ideal readers,” not following the Chicago Manual one hundred percent was not an issue!

During the writing process for Unused Towels, were you ever afraid you were revealing too much about yourself?
Interestingly, it was never an issue, although I did delete some things. Also, after reading an early draft which included two of my embarrassing blunders as a first-time manager, Mary described the book as “refreshingly honest.” That made me feel good about sharing some critical lessons learned. In terms of the references to my suicidal depression experiences, not at all. It is important to let anyone dealing with depression, especially suicidal depression, know in a very honest way that they are not alone. Based on the comments I have received from readers, that was effectively done. I also had this comment from a reader, “Fil, I am still too embarrassed to tell anyone what I am dealing with. Thank you for talking for me.”

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
The best compliments have been the honest comments from readers who connected with the book. Here are a few comments:

“You may have saved some lives very close to you and not even realized it! I have just read of your pain, anguish, remorse and the range of emotions and events which lead you into the spiral of depression. I find myself mixed and moved with feelings and share the pain. I read your words and saw better what my dad must have been going through before he “transitioned.” I understand why he sounded so “up” during the last time we spoke over the phone. I want to learn more how to “hug” someone long distance. I want to know how a person who has lost their sense of “self-preservation” and rejects proffered “hugs” can be reached. … THIS IS A MESSAGE WORTH GETTING OUT.”

“Hey Fil! I just ordered 9 books to give to family and friends. … I have struggled with depression my entire life. Am just trying for the first time in decades to do it without pharma, so am feeling lots of feels that have been hiding out for a LONG time.”

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That what God has guided me to do in life was His desire, and I should let “Trust in God” control me.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If so, how did you break through?
At times, every few weeks. The breakthroughs were varied, the good Lord always being there. For example, when I ran into a nurse, Stephanie, waiting in the Covid vaccination line who, after briefly talking about me writing a book, inspired me to continue writing the book with her encouraging words. The full story is on pages 37-39.

What writing projects are you working on now?
None in a serious way; Mary and I are exhausted. My focus right now is getting the book out to as many veterans and their families as I can.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Live in your successes! Let living in your successes control you; do not let living in your failures control you.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

2023 Call for Submissions: SWW Annual Writing Contest

SouthWest Writers’ annual writing competition is open for submissions.

The theme of this year’s contest is Woven Pathways. The SouthWest Writers members’ love of all things writing weaves us together into an inclusive, supportive community regardless of our culture or background. We would like entries and participants that reflect our inclusiveness.

The contest includes twenty writing categories and two art categories with cash prizes in all and the opportunity to be published. Winning entries will be included in the SouthWest Writers’ 2023 Anthology to be released in the fall of 2023. Winners will be announced at the same time the anthology becomes available.

All but one contest category focuses on unpublished writing with the hope of encouraging aspiring authors to participate. A contestant does not have to be a member of SouthWest Writers to enter.

Main Contest Categories:

  • Cover and Interior Artwork
  • Fiction Opening Pages of both published and unpublished works (3000 words or less)
  • Flash Fiction (1000 words or less)
  • Short Story (3000 words or less)
  • Nonfiction Memoir (General, Pets, or Travel; 3000 words or less)
  • Poetry Free Verse (Nature, Spiritual, or Relationships; 1500 words or less)
  • Limericks

Sub-categories within Unpublished Opening Pages and Short Story:

  • General Fiction
  • Mystery/Crime/Thrillers
  • Romance/Rom-Com
  • SciFi/Fantasy
  • Westerns
  • Humor (Short Story only)

Contest Submission Period: April 8 – May 20. Fees vary depending on submission date.

Go to the contest page for more details and to enter the contest.

Good luck!

Author Update 2023: Sue Houser

Sue Houser is an award-winning author who weaves New Mexico’s history and traditions into her children’s books, as well as her nonfiction and historical fiction releases. Her latest book, Amelia and the Magic Ponies (Irie Books, 2022), was inspired by a wooden carousel found abandoned in Peñasco, New Mexico. You’ll find Sue on her website at and on Facebook. Read more about her writing in SWW’s 2017 and 2020 interviews, and visit Amazon for all of her books.

Amelia and the Magic Ponies is written for children ages 4–8 years old. What do you hope readers will learn from the story you tell in the book?
I want to remind readers of the innocence of children and that by believing in dreams and possibilities, amazing things can happen.

When did you first hear about Los Caballitos (The Little Ponies), and what compelled you to begin working on the story?
Several years ago, a column in the Albuquerque Journal caught my attention. I read that a carousel in Taos, New Mexico is over one hundred years old. The antique merry-go-round, owned and restored by the Lions Club of Taos, is in operation during Las Fiestas de Santiago y Santa Ana every July on the historic plaza. I have always loved carousels, and I was curious. So when July came, I went to the fiesta and observed the wonder and delight on the faces of the children as they rode on the wooden ponies.

Who are your main characters in the book? What challenges do you set before them?
Amelia is eager to ride Los Caballitos and runs ahead of her grandfather to get in line at the fiesta in Peñasco, New Mexico. Abuelo falls and injures his leg. They return home – before Amelia has a chance to ride. The next fiesta, the ponies are not there. Amelia learns they are in an old barn and finds them in a deplorable condition. She wants her grandfather to fix them, but he is somewhat crippled. Amelia often visits the ponies. One day, a thunderstorm rolls in. Unable to return home, Amelia spends the night in the barn with the broken ponies.

How did the book come together?
I actually started it about 15 years ago. First, I wrote the non-fiction version of Tio Vivo (the name given to the restored carousel) but felt it needed more magic. The carousel’s turning and the ponies’ swaying felt like poetry to me. I tried, but I’m not a poet. So, next, I wrote the story from the point of view of one of the wooden horses. I liked that version, but my publisher/editor Gerald Hausman (of Irie Books) thought children might not connect with a wooden horse. He was right. A child needed to be the main character.

If you had input into the cover and interior artwork (illustrated by Mariah Fox), what was that experience like?
The cover reflects something magical is going to happen. I like it. But in the illustration where Amelia spent the night with the ponies, Mariah showed the wooden ponies to be in good condition. We discussed the narrative about the ponies’ damaged and broken state. Mariah created distress in the scene by adding rain coming down and putting bandages on the ponies. That was rather clever! I especially love her illustration of live musicians serenading the carousel riders, which is historically accurate.

What topics or themes does your book touch on that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

  • Something old does have value and may have an exciting story to tell.
  • When an activity is shared, it can be more enjoyable.
  • Don’t give up on your hopes and dreams.

What was your favorite part of writing Amelia and the Magic Ponies?
I enjoyed the research and even visited the National Carousel Museum in Leavenworth, Kansa. A highlight was watching delighted children ride the simple, colorful wooden ponies as they rode around and around.

Are you working on any projects now?
I am querying two picture books: Benjamin, The Eager Beaver―about a beaver who doesn’t want to grow up and Juanita’s Heavenly Bizcochitos―about a young girl who saves the day for her grandmother by baking the Las Posadas cookies. Another book, Walter Steps Up to the Plate (Artemesia Publishing), is a middle-grade historical fiction with a release date set for October, 2023. I can’t wait!

What else would you like readers to know?
Amelia and the Magic Ponies won 1st place in the 2023 New Mexico Press Women Zia Children’s Book Award. I will be giving a talk and signing books at Treasure House Books on Sunday, April 16, 2023 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Kathy Louise Schuit

Former journalist Kathy Louise Schuit is an author/illustrator of children’s books with characters who become heroes of their own stories. Dance Cat, published in October 2022, is her second picture book release. You’ll find Kathy on Facebook and on her website at Look for Dance Cat on Amazon.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Dance Cat?
Dance Cat is a story about the value of practice. The Dance Cat practices every day to dance his best in every way. The second part—about HIS best—is also essential. Practice to be the best YOU can be.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
When my last book for children, Where Does This Line Go?, was critiqued by judges from the NMPW Communications Contest one of the comments that really stuck with me was that some of the rhymes simply didn’t work. I went back and read through the book taking a very deliberate look at the quality of the rhymes and found the critique was absolutely correct. With this book, I spent many more hours working on the rhymes. I also consulted with a teacher whose PhD is in early childhood learning. She worked with me not only on the rhyming but on the rhythms used by adults when reading to children. It’s important, she said, to make sure that devices are used in the writing—punctuation, certainly, but also line divisions, bold words for emphasis, italics and artistic treatments of the word to create connotations—to guide the adult reader into the proper emphasis and/or discussion with the child of what is happening in the story. I learned so much from working through this process.

Did the spark for the book begin with an idea, a line of prose, an image?
This book was inspired decades ago by my sister—a choreographer and dance instructor—who had a cat in her studio that she called her dance cat. The idea of a cat dancing with the students stuck with me.

Tell us how the book came together.
I started collecting images of cats in different poses in 2017 and was sketching dancers shortly after that. But it was Covid isolation that really gave me the time and incentive to get serious. I have hundreds of illustrations of cats in my sketch libraries now—so sick of drawing cats! It wasn’t until 2021 (after a trip to a Laguna, California art show) that I decided the cat should be painted blue. After that, the illustrations got much easier. I also attended a conference hosted by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in Albuquerque. The speaker was Molly Idle, author/illustrator of Tea Rex and Caldecott Honor-winning picture book Flora and the Flamingo. This was one of the BEST conferences I’ve ever attended, with Molly sharing an entire day’s worth of her trade secrets. One thing she said that really stuck with me is that she limits her color palettes. This helped me with my color selections for Dance Cat—I decided then and there to pretty much limit the colors to shades of pink and blue. That choice led to a lot of pictures that resembled baby shower gifts! The key was in increasing the intensity of the colors, and it all came together after that.

Who is your main character and why will your audience connect with him/her?
The dance cat is the main character and is only ever referred to as the dance cat. He is a he because I wanted to create a story that held interest for young boys as well as girls. Dance studios around the country are mostly populated with girls dancing in pink tutus. Even in today’s world of greater inclusiveness, boys can be easily discouraged from getting involved with dance. The dance cat will appeal to anyone who loves to dance (and a lot of people who like cats). Teachers of any kind should find Dance Cat a useful story for presenting the idea of the importance of practice to develop your skill.

Do you have a favorite image or page spread from Dance Cat?
I DO! While I’ve sold several prints of the coyotes signaling the start of the Dance Cat Show on page 15, my favorite is the cityscape on pages 11 and 12. I had so much fun drawing the buildings tilted around the dance school, getting the street to angle just right and adding the plants, park and lighting. It’s one of my favorite drawings ever.

What did you love about putting this project together?
So many things! Like I’ve already said, the education on the rhyming and reading of children’s books was priceless, as was the SCBWI conference. Once I got started, the creation of each image became its own labor of love. Getting the text to work better also helped me to “see” the illustrations more clearly before I even started to sketch them—I wanted the illustrations to tell the story just as well as the text. It was so satisfying when I could make illustrations that looked just like what I had imagined in my own thought bubbles.

What have you had to learn about creating a picture book’s narrative?
One of the most valuable things I learned about writing for young children is that, while they may have messages of their own, at their core picture books are about sparking interest in the child for learning to read. With that held in mindfulness, I take seriously the advice of seasoned writers about holding the entire book close to 350 words (the average attention span of children 4–5 years old) and have made it a rule for my children’s writing. If the child loses interest in the story, it’s not just one reading that suffers, children can easily connect one boring story to a mindset of ALL stories are boring. It’s a big responsibility writing for young children. Tight, exciting writing that moves quickly from event to event is essential. And get an editor, I can’t say that enough. A book with only 350 words deserves the attention it takes to make sure every one of those words is the exact right one to get a child to beg for more reading!

What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
When I’m in the middle of a project, I have a truly hard time pulling myself away. I’ve always been one of those people who likes to work straight through to the end of most all activities without stopping. My brain understands this isn’t practical when working on lots of illustrations and page designs. And yet, I still find myself surprised at midnight after I’ve been drawing since 8 a.m. The muscle stiffness and shallow breathing those days cause has made me enforce more breaks and daily exercise on myself, but I’m not as successful as I need to be. Being able to create any form of art is a gift for me. Losing myself in it is something I never thought I’d experience in this lifetime.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
I’ve always been a big fan of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey storytelling style. I like my characters to overcome obstacles and to become the hero of their own story in the end. I did have concerns with Dance Cat that there were not enough challenges for the cat to really emerge as victorious in the end. That’s when the last couple pages were added, to show that he has dreams, and the way to make them reality comes from within himself and his decision to practice.

What writing/illustrating projects are you working on now?
In January, I started work on a 32-page illustrated marketing booklet for a Real Estate Company in Texas. It’s an exciting project. The text has been provided and the company wants the illustrations to have a feel similar to that of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It’s already clear that it will afford me lots of room for further education and artistic growth—my favorite!

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update 2023: Lynne Sturtevant

Lynne Sturtevant is a nonfiction author of practical how-to guides who broke into the contemporary fantasy genre with The Off-Kilter Chronicles. In 2022, she released book two in the series, The Ghost of Walker’s Gap, described as a “wonderfully wild romp” that will have readers cheering for the protagonist to “prevail against supernatural mischief and humans alike.” You’ll find Lynne on Facebook and at and Read more about Lynne’s writing in previous SWW interviews: 2020 (her nonfiction releases) and 2021 (The Off-Kilter Chronicles). Visit Amazon for all of Lynne’s books.

What is your elevator pitch for The Ghost of Walker’s Gap?
Ginger Stewart doesn’t believe in ghosts—until a dead artist materializes in her back seat. New to Walker’s Gap, the most haunted town in West Virginia, Ginger soon discovers ghosts aren’t the only ones disturbing the peace. A mining company wants to strip the surrounding hills of their riches. But they’re searching for treasure in the wrong place. Something much more valuable than coal is hidden beneath the historic town’s brick streets.

What challenges did this work pose for you?
When I wrote The Good Neighbors, a contemporary fantasy about fairies running amok in the hills of West Virginia, I wasn’t planning a series. But readers hoped my main character Ginger would have more paranormal encounters and supernatural adventures. So, bringing her back, deciding what other characters would carry over, and making sure there was continuity was a challenge. It was a fun challenge, but a challenge, nevertheless.

How did the book come together?
I started this book during NaNoWriMo 2020. I didn’t have an inspiring story idea, but I really wanted to write another novel. I know a lot about ghosts and the clock was ticking, so I went with that. I had a tour company that offered ghost walks before moving to Albuquerque, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ghost stories from a literary and structural perspective. I guess I was ready to write it because I took it from vague idea to available on Amazon in just over a year.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for the book?
Although I loved writing about the hills and hollers of the southern mountains in The Good Neighbors, I needed a different sort of setting for my ghost story. So, I created an imaginary river town. Some readers have said they’d like more stories set in Walker’s Gap. We’ll see.

For those who haven’t read book one, The Good Neighbors, tell us about your main characters.
Ginger, my main character and narrator, is a snarky, overweight, middle-aged woman struggling with financial issues, job insecurity, and housing difficulties in addition to the various annoying supernatural entities who keep dogging her. Because she is a visiting home health aide, she spends a lot of time with older people, some of whom are helpful and many of whom are decidedly not. In this story, Ginger butts heads with Birdy, a feisty 80-year-old with Appalachian magic running through her veins. Can they find a way to work together and restore equilibrium to the supernatural citizens of Walker’s Gap?

What makes this novel unique in the paranormal fantasy market?
My characters are not typical for this genre. They are older, poorer, less educated, and much more down to earth. No glamorous witches, bare-chested vampires, or misunderstood teenagers with psychic abilities. My settings are different, too. I like the idea of strange things bubbling up in very unmagical places.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I loved delving into the legends and lore of Appalachia: spells, curses, moonshine, folk remedies, prophetic dreams, soup beans with cornbread, creepy dolls, the whole ball of wax.

Any new writing projects?
A third Ginger story is in the works. It’s not coming along as quickly or as easily as The Ghost of Walker’s Gap. However, I’m confident that Ginger and Birdy (who makes a repeat appearance) will find a way to get to the bottom of what’s plaguing the few remaining residents of an abandoned coal company town.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Karen Meadows

Karen Meadows is a certified diabetes care and education specialist, a life coach, and a health and wellness coach who has lived with type 1 diabetes for over sixty years. In her first book, It’s a Tango, Not a War: Dancing with Type 1 Diabetes (May 2022), she “offers humor, empathy and practical recommendations for finding your own way with diabetes and living more easily, even joyfully.” You’ll find Karen on her website at and on her Amazon author page. It’s a Tango, Not a War is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Who are your ideal readers, and what do you hope they’ll take away from It’s a Tango, Not a War?
My ideal readers are people with diabetes and those who love them. It’s a Tango tells stories, teaching ways to keep blood sugar in control, things that can go wrong, and why making diabetes your ally may serve you. Although this book will be helpful to anyone with diabetes, I concentrated on type 1 because that’s what I have.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Knowing how much this information can help, I wanted to write for doctors and families and type 1s and type 2s and everyone on earth, so I was overwhelmed and couldn’t focus.

When did you know you wanted to write the book, and what was the push to start the project?
The book has long been on my mind. I attended workshops and conferences and wrote wonderful snippets that were never finished. The isolation of the pandemic gave me the opportunity to write. And a book coach and mastermind writers’ group provided structure and support.

Tell us more about how the book came together.
I wrote the book in a year. My book coach and fellow writers read chapters. I edited it myself and sent the finished text to three beta readers and two diabetes experts who read certain medical chapters. I hired artists for the book cover and to prepare the interior for publication. I figured out how to step into self-publication, gave myself a company name, copyrighted, sent a copy to the Library of Congress and purchased ISBNs. I signed up with IngramSpark and Amazon KDP at the beginning of June 2022. Once published I sent copies to those who had helped me write the book and notified everyone I knew. All that took another year. Now I have hired a marketer and am planning a virtual launch.

I have had doubts about my title and even my book cover, and considered changing them both. I don’t want people to think that living with diabetes is a dance for fun, or see my cover and think this book is about dancing. My theme is that making diabetes your ally is helpful, and life with a chronic physical condition is best lived as an adventure not a war.

Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share from It’s a Tango, Not a War?
My last chapter asks, “Where’s Your Joy?” I suggest:

Joy is occasionally a huge gift—like a new baby or falling in love. But often joy is a grand moment in an ordinary day.

How can a person with a demanding, expensive, 24/7 life-threatening condition like type 1 diabetes be joyful? That, like every other aspect of being a human, is up to you.

Did you discover anything surprising while doing research for the book?
I was surprised to find that some people with long-term diabetes have no so-called complications. Their bodies have remained healthy and whole. I tell people that diabetes isn’t dangerous but high blood sugar is—so learn how to keep your blood sugar near normal.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
The beliefs I express in this book demand that I stand by them. Recently when passionately disagreeing with someone I remembered my book title. If I am not at war, I do not have to fight and instead I can enjoy relating appreciatively with someone who disagrees with me!

Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you started your writing/publishing career today?
I would get help early on to establish my website and start marketing my book.

What writing projects are you working on now?
In It’s a Tango, I warn readers that diabetes technology is changing so fast I would probably need to update sections of my book. However, the topic of diabetes is both comprehensive and controversial. I want to address intriguing issues in articles published in magazines or in online talks. These issues include: depression vs. diabetes distress; dealing with critical or clueless medical providers; ways friends and family can support loved ones with diabetes; how stress affects our health; and what is possible?

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Carol Holland March

Carol Holland March is a writing instructor and coach, a visionary fiction author of novels and short stories, and a nonfiction writer whose work focuses on finding the inner path to hope and healing. Her newest nonfiction releases are When Spirit Whispers: A Journey of Awakening (a 2022 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award Winner) and its companion workbook, When Spirit Whispers: A self-guided journal for accessing your intuitive wisdom. You’ll find Carol on her website at and on her Amazon author page.

Who did you write the books for, and what do you hope readers will take away from them?
I wrote When Spirit Whispers and the accompanying workbook to talk about healing from trauma. About how looking inward and writing helped me overcome the effects of the early childhood trauma that had so affected my life. This inner focus helped me overcome the “people pleasing” syndrome and fear that my creative work was not good enough. I had blamed myself for being a writer who did not write and a person who did not live up to her potential, but focusing inward led me to the resources I needed to pull myself out of anxiety, depression, and a deep-rooted lack of confidence.

To those who are creative but can’t produce their work, and to those who know something is missing, but aren’t sure what, my book shows how I asked for help from my creative center and received it! I hope my nonfiction books will help others realize how addiction, lack of confidence, and many of the so-called “neurotic” disorders are coping mechanisms developed to overcome the effects of trauma. I want to tell everyone who suffers this way THAT IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT. Change is possible. Healing is possible. And creative work will build the bridge to a new way of living.

Tell us how the books came together.
In 2017, after my second cancer diagnosis, I put away the novel I was working on to devote my time to telling my story. I thought it would help others to understand the healing journey of a creative person who was so blocked by resistance that she could not offer her work to the public for most of her life. I began work on the nonfiction book after my cancer treatment was complete in 2018. I had plenty of ideas and tons of material, but encountered huge resistance in producing a coherent narrative. I started and stopped, re-organized, changed perspective—the same time-wasting things I did with my first novel. My decades-long practice of journaling saved me from despair. Gradually, I worked through the blocks, which were largely based on a deep belief that whatever I said or did would be wrong. That’s not true, but it was the message I had internalized from my programming.

My novels (The Dreamwalkers of Larreta trilogy) had come out in 2016-2017, and I continued to write and publish short stories, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I took all those ideas for nonfiction and shaped them into a book. After I clarified my intention to finish Whispers, the writing took about a year. I had collected quotes and prompts without a particular purpose in mind, and halfway through Whispers I added a workbook of questions, prompts, and suggestions for anyone to use journaling as a healing tool. Since I teach Writing for Healing, and how to open to the creative impulse, it seemed a natural addition. After doing my own edits, I went through another two rounds of editing and proofing and published the books at the end of 2021.

What makes these books unique in the self-help/spiritual healing market?
Whispers is my recounting of a personal journey. It offers the hints and clues I followed as I searched for answers to the universal questions: who am I, and what in the world am I doing? I don’t offer a program, recommend any system of thought or healing practice. I believe we all can tap into our inner wisdom and learn what is appropriate for us. My first meditation teachers offered no ideology, only techniques designed to help students develop clear communication with their own highest knowledge. It worked for me, and I appreciated being taught to learn for myself rather than accepting external rules and traditions. In the book, I use my experiences with people, animals, and places to illustrate how spirit, always whispering, led me back to myself.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
When Spirit Whispers is a memoir of sorts. I wrote about my early experiences with my Wise Inner Guide and how that led me to the teachers and systems of thought that were right for me. The book does not cover all my experiences—that would take volumes—but I hoped to choose events that would point the way to anyone interested in the healing journey. I tell of what I’ve learned and of the places where I found spiritual guidance. What was most difficult about the writing was choosing the incidents and subjects from among a lifetime of experiences. Honing it down, finding what I hoped were the most significant elements. And using language that would resonate with others.

Do you have a favorite quote from When Spirit Whispers you’d like to share?
“In that land of red rocks and crashing silence, my connection to the earth flared into life. I sensed the web of energy connecting people and rocks and sand, cactus and juniper and mountain lions. We all breathed air. We all needed water. I was not so different from the ancient people who had walked this way. I was still connected to them, to the rocky cliffs and to the big-horned sheep who danced along their edges. This desert seemed more real to me than any city.”

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
As with all my books, the most rewarding aspect is finishing! Writing through the tough parts, overcoming resistance, and making the book as good as I could manage. I have received some wonderful feedback from readers that it was useful to them, which is the best result I could hope for.

When you tackle a nonfiction project, do you think of it as storytelling?
I believe everything is a story, including the way we see our culture and the decisions we make in our lives. One of the great benefits of writing was to change my story from that of a woman victimized by circumstance, to one who has agency, takes responsibility, and does not blame others for the events of her life.

Besides nonfiction, you write novels and short stories you call “visionary fiction.” What do you mean by that term?
I read fantasy and magical realism, and when I looked for a term for what I write, visionary fiction fit best. I am interested in characters who are influenced by unseen forces, the world “behind the veil.” My characters strive to discover who they are in the larger sense. I write about life on other planets, interpenetrating planes of existence, and an earth that is imbued with magic. My characters live more than one lifetime. Often, they remember the world from which they came. Since childhood, I have perceived more than meets the eye, so it’s natural to me to write about it.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am still writing short stories. One is coming out this year in New Myths magazine, and JMS Press will publish one of my novelette length stories in March. I am almost finished with the first draft of another nonfiction book with a working title of Open the Door to Your Creative Self. When that’s finished, I plan to write a novel that’s been haunting me for years. I have the characters and an outline, and I’m itching to have more time for it.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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