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Author Update 2024: Neill McKee

Neill McKee is a retired teacher, international filmmaker and multi-media producer, and an award-winning creative nonfiction author. He published his fourth memoir, My University of the World: Adventures of an International Film & Media Maker, in 2023. Look for Neill on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as on To learn about his first three memoirs, read his 2019, 2021, and 2022 SWW interviews.

Neill, you’ve led a storied life. Please tell readers a little about your memoir My University of the World.
My University of the World (2023) is a stand-alone sequel to two of my other memoirs, Kid on the Go! Memoir of my Childhood and Youth (2021) and Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah (2019). All three books can be enjoyed in any order you read them. This latest memoir is composed of 28 short chapters and an epilogue that takes readers on an entertaining journey through the developing world from 1970 to 2012. The book is filled with compelling dialog, humorous and poignant incidents, thoughts on world development, vivid descriptions of people and places I visited and worked in, and over 200 images.

The story starts when I became a “one-man film crew,” documenting the lives of Canadian CUSO volunteers working in Asia and Africa, and covers my marriage to Elizabeth, an American I met in Japan. Her life with me and her growth as an artist, as well as our children’s lives, are also covered in this new book.

Thirteen chapters document my time as a filmmaker for Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), when I roamed the developing world and made about 30 films on many research projects in education, rural development, agriculture, post-harvest technology, fisheries and aquaculture, health care, water and sanitation—the list goes on. I wrote these stories to allow the reader to get a sense of the challenges I encountered. I kept the chapters light on technical details and full of humorous and poignant incidents. In each chapter, I also included how IDRC projects made an impact, or not.

The book also covers my time as a multimedia producer, leading teams of people in UNICEF in Bangladesh and Eastern and Southern Africa, and how my family adapted to a very different and interesting life. I ended up working for Johns Hopkins University, and then took over a project in Moscow, Russia. In my final job, I was asked to save a large project in Washington, D.C. from 2009 to 2012. By then I had learned a lot about managing people and, I must admit, sometimes I missed my years as a “lone-wolf” filmmaker at the beginning of my career.

Was it a natural transition for you to go from filmmaker to author?
During my career, I wrote three books and many articles on the role of communication in behavior and social change. But when I retired in 2013, I decided to turn to creative nonfiction writing. I submitted my first manuscript to about a dozen publishers and finally received two offers from small firms, but when I saw the contract details, I could see they were mainly interested in acquiring new titles with little or no resources for promotion. Also, despite the fact I had engaged a professional editor, they wanted to start over with that process. So, I decided to hire a professional book designer and self-publish. Either way, it was evident I was going to have to do the promotion myself. Perhaps if I was younger, I would have tried harder to seek an agent and publisher, but at my age, I didn’t think it made sense to wait. I don’t regret my decision because I have since learned that almost all authors, even if they do find a publisher, have to do or pay for most of the promotion themselves. With about 1,000 new books released every day in North America, in all genres, there is a lot of competition for readers’ attention. Fortunately for me, making money has not been a necessary objective in my new “retirement career.”

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing My University of the World?
I entered this memoir in several contests and so far have won two awards: Distinguished Favorite, Independent Press Award (2024) for Career; and Finalist, Book Excellence Awards (2024) for Autobiography. It’s rewarding to get such feedback, as well as good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads—some from people who have had no experience in international development work or film and media production. They simply enjoyed riding along with me, and some wrote that they felt they were there. Another benefit of writing this memoir was helping me sharpen my long-term memory, revising connections with old friends and former colleagues in Canada, the US, and around the world.

Do you have one place of travel that has left an indelible mark on you?
I would have to say it is Sabah, Malaysia, on Borneo Island, and the small town of Kota Belud near the coast of the South China Sea. That’s where I “found myself,” learning Malay language and teaching beautiful students, visiting their kampongs (villages), roaming around on my motorcycle, climbing Mount Kinabalu (the highest in Southeast Asia), having a few love affairs, and making my first film. It is all in my memoir Finding Myself in Borneo. That book has won three awards.

Was there anything surprising you discovered about yourself while writing your memoir?
I found that I always had a knack for creative writing but never developed it until I retired. I never kept a diary but I had a lot of stories in my head for years. I wrote up some of these at the time they happened and kept a file. I found many more in old letters to and from my fiancé/wife and family, plus official trip reports that I always tried to make entertaining, including all the funny happenings along the way. Some of my colleagues might not have appreciated such embellishments, but I didn’t care. I had the feeling I would use these someday.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Besides the creative writing, it was returning to IDRC in Ottawa, Canada, to look through a library of thousands of colored slides I had taken all over the developing world, many of which I used in the book. I also searched film archives and websites and managed to locate most of my film and media projects. This also helped to bring back my experiences over the years, and I decided to create a digital library, housing all I could find on

The videos play on YouTube and I get great satisfaction from messages I receive every week from young adults who were influenced in their childhoods, especially from my most successful multi-media project, the Meena Communication Initiative for girls’ empowerment in South Asia.

Do you have a favorite quote from My University of the World you could share with us?
That’s a difficult thing for a writer to answer, but I think the opening paragraph of Chapter One gets the reader into the spirit of the memoir:

As I rolled across the plains of northern India in December 1970, on a rickety old train, rumbling between station stops and passing many smaller ones, I soon got into the stride of things by listening to Santana Abraxas through the earphones plugged into my compact reel-to-reel tape recorder. From that time on, the song Black Magic Woman became forever embedded in my mind as a part of India. The time was magic for me because I was on the road, filming and photographing Canadian volunteers in Asia. It was exactly what I wanted to do with my life—an answer to my prayers, or I should say to my meditation sessions. I was more in touch with Zen Buddhism than Christianity in those days, like other North American youth—many of whom were hippies, or what we then called “flower children,” who traveled to the East in search of answers to life’s mysteries and their future paths.

Does meditation play a role in your writing ritual today?
Well, I never got deeply into Zen Buddhism, but in my late twenties, I learned how to do Transcendental Meditation (TM) for practical, rather than spiritual reasons. My younger brother Philip had taken it up and even traveled to Spain to study at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM institute. In 1968, the Beatles had visited this Maharishi in India for spiritual replenishment, and by doing so, they helped spread TM worldwide. Philip taught me the basic method and gave me my secret mantra—a sound I repeated in my head for 20 minutes, two times a day, while breathing deeply, sometimes falling asleep, which was okay according to Philip. Eventually, I learned how to do this just about anywhere, even in noisy airports. Learning TM helped me survive the busy years of my career. I still use the technique for refreshing my brain cells while writing.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I chose to print and distribute through (IS), rather than going with Amazon alone. Through IS my books are available in North America and around the world on Amazon and many other platforms. Even independent bookstores and libraries can order copies. I publish in paperback and eBook formats, and two of my memoirs, Finding Myself in Borneo and Kid on the Go! were also produced as audiobooks by Lantern Audio, which distributes them very widely on many platforms as well. I promote through a growing email list, blog and review tours, and some social media channel posts, although I don’t put a lot of effort into the latter because it is evident to me that it doesn’t help much for sales, plus I am a bit allergic to simple messages, “likes,” and “congratulations,” etc., that have little substance or follow up. I find LinkedIn the most useful. I also put a lot of blog posts, interviews, links to reviews, places to buy, and awards on my author’s website:

Su Lierz writes dark fiction, short story fiction, and personal essays. Her short story “Twelve Days in April,” written under the pen name Laney Payne, appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology. Su was a finalist in the 2017 and 2018 Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico, with her husband Dennis.

2023 New Releases for SWW Authors #3

Dale A. Garratt, Larada Horner-Miller, Neill McKee, and Victoria Murata are just a few examples of the genre-diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW). Their releases couldn’t fit in the 2023 interview schedule, but look for new interviews or updates for these authors in 2024.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2023 releases is included at the end of this post.

The Peace Road: A high-stakes geopolitical thriller (August 2023) by Dale A. Garratt. North Korea launches a hypersonic missile that barely misses Los Angeles. The U.S. President tasks top physicist Ric O’Malley with completing a quantum computer (QC) project. Running 150 million times faster than any existing computer, this QC will bring Artificial Intelligence to a level that can stop any ICBM in the world. Ric races to East Asia to obtain breakthrough research data from South Korean and Japanese allies. China enters the conflict and attacks the U.S., while a ground-breaking plan to counter war quietly takes shape — a Peace Road. Can Ric and his team finish the QC in time to stop a nuclear war? Is building a peace road a viable option for a permanent end to war on the Korean Peninsula?

Visit Dale on his website and his Amazon author page.

Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir (September 2023) by Larada Horner-Miller. Are you hoping to rediscover the magic of the winter holidays? Looking for traditional inspiration for your upcoming Xmas parties? Ever wondered what’s behind the twelve days of gift-giving? The daughter of a real cowboy, award-winning author Larada Horner-Miller grew up in a small rural community in southeastern Colorado. Now she uses her seventy years of festive experiences to share the true meaning of the season and how to rejoice in its miracles. Hair on Fire is a compilation of poems, prose, and helpful scripture references centered around family. Using vivid and humorous language, Horner-Miller presents tales that touch the heart and renew anticipation for the holidays.

Look for Larada on her website at and her Amazon author page.

My University of the World: Adventures of an International Film & Media Maker (August 2023) by Neill McKee. The author takes us on an entertaining journey through the developing world from 1970 to 2012. His memoir is filled with compelling dialog, humorous and poignant incidents, thoughts on world development, vivid descriptions of people and places he visited and worked in, and over 200 images, all of which bring readers into his “University of the World.” The story takes us to Asia, Bangladesh, Africa, Baltimore (Maryland), Moscow, and finally Washington, D.C. This is a book for anyone interested in world affairs and development, film and multimedia production, the use of media for behavior and social change, exotic travel, and interesting career choices.

You’ll find My University of the World on Neill’s website, on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

The Ranger: Magicians of the Beyond, Book Two (September 2023) by Victoria Murata. Rafe is a ranger, skilled in the ways of the forest and the creatures that live there. He’s been sent to another world along with Covert assassins. Their mission is to find the young heir to the kingdom who’s fled from the sister who once loved him. Rafe knows he will find the prince. He always finds what is hiding. But this foreign forest and its creatures don’t play by the rules. As he inches closer to finding what he’s searching for, he uncovers unexpected magical beings and a monster. This monster is an ancient creature that doesn’t behave like normal bloodthirsty beasts. This monster has been waiting for him for centuries. It wants his heart, yes, and it wants his soul.

Vicky’s books are available on her Amazon author page.

SWW Author Interviews: 2023 Releases

Marty Eberhardt
Bones in the Back Forty

William Fisher
The Price of the Sky: A Tale of Bandits, Bootleggers, and Barnstormers

Patricia Gable
The Right Choice

Cornelia Gamlem
The Decisive Manager: Get Results, Build Morale, and Be the Boss Your People Deserve

Joyce Hertzoff
Train to Nowhere Somewhere: Book 1 of the More Than Just Survival Series

Brian House
Reich Stop

T.E. MacArthur
The Skin Thief

Nick Pappas
Crosses of Iron: The Tragic Story of Dawson, New Mexico, and its Twin Mining Disasters

Marcia Rosen
Murder at the Zoo

Lynne Sebastian
One Last Cowboy Song

JR Seeger
The Enigma of Treason

Suzanne Stauffer
Fried Chicken Castañeda

Jodi Lea Stewart
The Gold Rose

Patricia Walkow
Life Lessons from the Color Yellow

R. Janet Walraven
LIAM: The Boy Who Saw the World Upside Down

Donald Willerton
Death in the Tallgrass

Linda Wilson
Waddles the Duck and
Cradle in the Wild: A Book for Nature Lovers Everywhere

An Interview with Author and Poet David L. Harrison

David L. Harrison is a best-selling, award-winning author and poet who has also been a musician, a scientist, an editor, and a businessman. He is the former poet laureate of Drury University and the current poet laureate of Missouri (2023-2025). His 106 published books include poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for young readers and educational books for teachers. In 2022, he published This Life: An Autobiography (Ozarks Book Series) that “chronicles the fits and starts, professional rejections and redirections, the inevitable personal life conflicts and tragedies, as well as the breakthroughs and triumphs in a career that has spanned seven decades…and is still going.” You’ll find David on his website, his blog, and on Facebook. His autobiography is available through Missouri State University at Ozarks Book Series, but the rest of his books can be found on his Amazon Author Page.

David, you’re an award-winning author. You even have a school named after you: The David Harrison Elementary School in Springfield, Missouri. And now, you’ve written This Life, An Autobiography. Please tell us why you wrote this book and why you choose this time in your life to write it.
Thank you for offering me this chance to say hello to friends and colleagues in SouthWest Writers. I’m delighted to be a member of this group of talented writers.

I didn’t plan to write a memoir. I sat in a theater audience one night and was highly entertained by a gifted young musician who told about his journey from a child who was attracted to music to the professional musician he had become. I wondered if I should do something like that. I, too, had taken a long, sometimes difficult journey from the time I wrote my first poem to become a well-published author and poet. Forty pages into a play script, I knew that the effort was headed toward disaster. I don’t have a playwright’s instincts. But rather than throw out weeks of work, I decided to go forward with a book about my writer’s journey. Someone, I hoped, would like to know how one person managed to go about it. This Life, An Autobiography was the result.

Having successfully written so many books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for young readers, as well as educational books for teachers, is there a genre you haven’t tackled but are eager to try?
Now and then I wish I could write a series of stories, but my brain isn’t wired that way. I exhaust my supply of energy, originality, and patience for a given subject in a single effort. After that, my mind moves on to something else.

Were there any unexpected moments for you when writing This Life? Did you ever feel vulnerable revealing so much about yourself?
The first challenge was setting the boundaries of what I would include in the narrative of my life. Once I decided that this was to be an effort to trace my development as a writer, I passed on many memories that were important to me but which didn’t seem to touch on the main theme. Had I written the story of my life, instead of the story of how I became a writer, the vulnerability issue would have been more of a problem. In other words, I left out some of the good stuff. (:>

Tell us about your experience as Missouri’s Poet Laureate and what this experience means to you.
The Missouri Poet Laureate program, which began in 2006, features a new state poet laureate appointed by the governor every two years. I’d been nominated four times previously and this time I made it. I’m the first who identifies as a children’s poet to be chosen, so I’m delighted with the honor and the opportunity to meet people across our state. My first official appearance in my new role took place on September 8, 2023 in David Harrison Elementary School, which was named after me. Coming up are events in Kansas City at the Heartland Book Festival on October 6–7 and in St. Louis on April 6 to give a 2-hour poetry workshop for the St. Louis Writers Guild and general public. I expect to do a lot of traveling but will also take advantage of Zoom and other technology to reach as many as I can to read and write poetry and talk about how it enriches our lives.

I read that you started writing poetry at the age of six. Do you remember what inspired you to write your first poem and what it was about?
I wrote my first poem in a snit. We lived in Ajo, Arizona, a town not far from the Mexican border. My dad had come home from a fishing trip in Mexico and my mother was frying his catch on a skillet in the kitchen. That fish smelled SO good and I was SO hungry and I am sure I was SO much in her way. I found myself banished to the living room until she called me for dinner. I made up a poem to show how I felt.

Sometimes I wish
I had a fish
Upon a little dish.

How did you feel the first time you saw an illustrator’s interpretation of a story you created?
The first time you see how someone else imagined what you’ve imagined is a highlight in a writer’s life. For some reason, when I write about human characters, they don’t always materialize in my mind as whole people. They are symbols, personalities, metaphors. It takes an artist to be practical and say, “Come on, they have to look like something. How about like this?” I almost always love the surprise of meeting my characters face to face. I’m more at home with animals. I know what they look like!

After a six-decade writing career, is there anything you’d do differently if you started your writing and publishing journey today?
The easy answer is to say I would have avoided becoming a scientist, head of a block manufacturing company, and co-owner of a gift store specializing in crystals, porcelains, and china, and gone straight into writing, but I might not have wound up here. If I hadn’t touched those other bases along the way, I might have ended somewhere else, and, since I have few regrets about anything that happened down that rather crooked path, I think I’ll say I would walk it again.

Can you tell us about a time when you didn’t know if you would make it as an author and how you persevered?
The low point for me was toward the end of six long years of rejections. Only one guy — a professor at Drury who taught a writing course — had told me he thought I could become a writer. No one else had said that. Ever. To the contrary, editor after editor had told me by their actions that I was definitely not a writer. On one rejection letter, an editor had scribbled, “Are you kidding?” I came to feel like an utter failure. I was wasting my time. I was not a writer, was never going to be one. I simply didn’t have the talent for it. In This Life, I hesitated to describe those dismal years, filled with self-doubt and a growing sense of futility and failure. My decision to include the experience was based on two considerations: 1) it was the truth; it happened; it was part of my journey, and 2) I thought there might be other struggling writers out there who would understand what I went through and take heart.

With such a varied writing background, who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
Among my favorites are Annie Proulx, Barbara Kingsolver, Joan Didion, John Irving, E. B. White, and Kurt Vonnegut. They’re all masters of knowing what they’re talking about before they start talking, and when they do begin, their voices are so distinctive that they hold our attention from beginning to end. My favorite authors of literature for young people are too numerous to mention here but my choices all have one thing in common. They use words like a palette of endless colors and they paint images with them that remain with us long after the printed story or poem or narrative ends. They bring literature to life. I try not to compare my developing manuscript to the so-so writers in the world. I hold my work up to the very best, sigh, and try harder to come closer.

Can you give us an update on when This Life: An Autobiography will be available more widely online?
Although the book is available through the Missouri State University site in Springfield at, ongoing efforts to connect with a major distributor for wider distribution through Amazon and other traditional outlets look promising. By the time you read this, terms may have been agreed on and become operational by the end of the year.

Su Lierz writes dark fiction, short story fiction, and personal essays. Her short story “Twelve Days in April,” written under the pen name Laney Payne, appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology. Su was a finalist in the 2017 and 2018 Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico, with her husband Dennis.

Author Update 2023: Patricia Walkow

Patricia Walkow is an award-winning editor and author of fiction and nonfiction including magazine articles and newspaper columns, essays and short stories, and memoir and novels. Her newest release is Life Lessons from the Color Yellow (February 2023), a story collection of people and events who have influenced her life. You’ll find Pat on her website at, on Facebook, and her Amazon author page. Read more about her writing and editing projects in her 2016 and 2020 interviews for SouthWest Writers.

What is at the core of this memoir collection?
This collection of stories represents significant people, events, and places that have shaped me. It is not an autobiography, but a collection of separate stories from my childhood through the present day. I have learned something about life from each of these stories, not only as I lived them, but also, years later, as I wrote them.

Which story in the book means the most to you? Which one revealed something unexpected as you wrote it? Give us a one-sentence description of each story.
“Golden Meadow” holds a special place in my heart, as it tells the tale of sharing my youthful dreams and aspirations with two friends, all in the encompassing embrace of a beautiful meadow. What surprised me was how difficult, emotionally, it was for me to write “My Mother’s Kitchen.”

“Mr. Howard’s Roses” — a school-age child learns how to care for roses. Lesson learned: Friendships happen between people even when they are quite different from each other, and there are things in life worth fussing over.

“The Dog Against the Yellow Wall” — a dog photographed by the author turns out to be almost identical to the dog she adopted many years later. Lesson learned: Serendipities exist in this world. Enjoy them without analyzing them.

“Sunny” — the author encounters a woman who always wears yellow. Later on, she finds out why. Lesson Learned: Despite terrible things that can happen to a person, it is ultimately a choice to be happy.

“Lemon Love” — some relationships are intense and beautiful, but cannot last. Lesson Learned: Always be true to yourself.

“My Mother’s Kitchen” — a dysfunctional family forever affects your life. Lesson learned: You can get beyond the issues of your childhood.

“The Promise of the Yellow Box” — when life gives you a gift, make the most of it. Lesson learned: Make your choices reflect your hopes and dreams rather than your fears.

“The Estate Sale” — a young woman comes across an estate sale and realizes she would have enjoyed knowing the person who once owned the house. Lesson Learned: Seize the moment to make a new friend.

“Golden Meadow” — three teenage girls bond during weekly hikes through a meadow as they share their hopes and dreams for the future. Lesson Learned: Friendships on the cusp of adulthood are among the most precious.

Why did you decide to write short pieces as opposed to a longer-length memoir?
From my past, I wanted to distill specific people and events that helped form the person I am today. As a result, I wrote the book as a set of discrete short stories, unrelated to each other, rather than creating a flowing set of chapters in sequential order over a long arc of time. I know this approach is not the typical way of writing a memoir, but it is the method I found satisfying.

What was the most challenging aspect of putting this project together?
The most challenging part of writing this piece was deciding which events and people helped form me into the person I am today.

Tell us about the book’s connection to the color yellow.
As I wrote, the color yellow surfaced over and over in my stories. It is not as though I was seeking out the color…or any color at all. Yellow simply turned out to be an integral part of each story and revealed itself as my teacher over the years. It was a surprise to me.

What do you love about your writing in this book?
Writing each story reconnected me to parts of myself, to people, to places I had not thought about in years.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I coauthored Alchemy’s Reach with SouthWest Writers’ member Chris Allen. It is a murder/mystery with a romantic undertone set in southern New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains. It was published by Austin Macauley on August 18, 2023 and is available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook.

Another project I’m working on is The Far Moist End of the Earth. It’s a literary novel about a young widow who volunteers to work at a Methodist mission in Siam in the early 1900s. Prejudice, limitations on women’s lives, and multicultural appreciation are the key themes in the book. It is scheduled to be distributed to beta readers by the end of 2023.

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 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 Gina Troisi

Gina Troisi decided to become a writer in third grade and went on to complete an MFA in creative nonfiction in 2009 through the University of Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Program. Since then, her stories and essays have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. The Angle of Flickering Light (Vine Leaves Press, April 2021) is her debut memoir that Domenica Ruta calls “a story of powerful recovery in the truest sense of the word, the journey of a woman who reclaims a sense of home in the sanctity of the self.” You’ll find Gina on her website at and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Why did you write The Angle of Flickering Light, and who did you write it for?
I didn’t initially set out to write a memoir, at least not at first. But in many ways, I’d been writing this book my entire life. Since I was a child, I have scribbled in notebooks and journals. I have escaped into art in order to make sense of the world around me—to process what I could not yet understand, and to make meaning of all that was beyond my control.

While working on my MFA, I began crafting and shaping stand-alone essays, and after I completed school, I began publishing them. However, many of the essays had overlapping themes and subject matter, and featured the same characters again and again. It became all too apparent that these essays wanted to come together as a book—that there was a larger story, an overarching narrative that wanted to be told.

At first, I was writing the material for myself—to question and make sense of my experiences, to assess my choices and find lessons from my mistakes, and to think deeply about circumstance. But as I began to shape the book, I saw that my personal experiences were clearly universal. This book speaks to the societal expectations of both girls and women; it addresses body image and eating disorders and trying to fill the roles that have been established for us by society. It explores the way we attempt to find our places in our families and in the world. But it is also meant for anyone who has ever struggled with addiction, or who has loved someone afflicted by addiction. Ultimately, I wrote this book for those who have experienced great despair or loneliness or confusion—anyone who has tried desperately to find their way out.

When readers turn the last page in the book, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
Hope, and the power of perseverance. I think we are at such a place in time where people are hungry for something to believe in—perhaps it has always been this way, but the pandemic seems to have brought this even closer to the surface. I think, as humans, we want to recognize meaning and purpose in our lives, and we want to find fulfillment. My great wish is that readers will walk away from the book inspired and encouraged, with the belief that no matter how difficult things may become, they have the ability to emerge from their darkest moments, and to find their own truths.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The structure was tricky. Since I had originally compiled the book as a collection of essays, in order to convert it to a memoir, I had to think deeply about the narrative throughline—the heart of the story I wanted to tell. I had to think, in the most traditional sense, of a beginning, middle and end, even though I was compiling essays that covered a huge span of time, and that sometimes varied in tone, voice, and style. And this took much experimentation, much study of other works, and of course much trial and error.

When did you know you wanted to write your memoir? What prompted the push to begin the project?
At first, I was very resistant to the idea of writing a memoir. I began writing much of this material as fiction, but of course it was completely autobiographical. When I entered my MFA Program in 2007, the mentors there encouraged me to focus on creative nonfiction, since it was clearly what I was writing, so I decided to be open to that, and to explore.

I was not only resistant to sharing such vulnerable parts of myself with the world, but I was sensitive to the negative connotation the word memoir can have, how some believe the genre is indulgent, or that it has oversaturated the market. For this particular project, it was as if the genre chose me rather than the other way around. In 2011, a couple of years after I had generated much of the material that eventually became this book, I went on a three-week writing retreat to Western Massachusetts, and I immersed myself in putting together a book-length work. At that time, I was thinking of the book as an essay collection rather than a memoir. But in 2013, I received interest in the book from a small university-run press, and the editor there encouraged me to transition the book from an essay collection to a memoir, so I began to do so.

Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.
In 2012, I began sending the original version of the manuscript to agents and small presses and book contests. In 2013, when I received interest from the small press, I restructured the book so it became a memoir with a narrative arc. In the end, the press passed, so I was left with two versions of the book: an essay collection and a not-quite-complete memoir version. In 2014, I attended the River Teeth Nonfiction Conference in Ashland, Ohio, and I had a consultation with the fabulous author, Sonya Huber, who was kind enough to read both versions of the book. What I wanted to hear is that one version of the manuscript was working over the other, but in the end, she and I agreed that the final version should contain elements of both of the working manuscripts. I knew I needed to gain some distance and clarity in order to see the work with fresh eyes, so I put the book away for almost five years, and continued to work on other projects.

In late 2018, I decided it was time to return to the manuscript. I began exchanging work on a monthly basis with my good friend, who was working on his novel. For eight months, we exchanged pages religiously, and I continued to revise. I began to send the new and final version of the book out to agents and publishers again in late 2019, and I signed the contract with Vine Leaves Press in March of 2020.

How did you choose the title of the book?
The Angle of Flickering Light was originally a title of one of the stand-alone essays I published. It’s now part of a line in the book, describing an intimate moment in the narrative, and I like that it’s an image, but also that it speaks to the idea of finding flickers of light in darkness. The book is largely about hope and resilience, and about searching for light within, rather than outside of oneself.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
I think that the most rewarding aspect was finishing—actually bringing the project to completion after such a long journey down this path. And the finality of signing the contract was exhilarating.

During the process of writing your memoir, it must have been difficult to re-live your experiences. If you found yourself scared of what you were writing or of revealing too much about yourself, how did you move past that fear and continue writing?
This is such an important question, and I think memoirists must all go through this fear at some point. I never felt as if I was reliving my experiences consciously, but when I was deep into the work, I would find myself dreaming about the events in the book, so it very much existed on a subconscious level. And I certainly lost many hours of sleep worrying about what others might think once it was published.

But I find that many of the lessons I discover about writing are also the lessons I discover about life. Stories often help people to feel less alone. So in that sense, I began to accept that the book was for others; it was no longer about me. A brilliant writer and friend told me, “You had a story, and now it’s a gift. It’s not yours anymore,” and I think that was such a sage thing to say. We have to honor the work we are creating by letting it become whatever it is meant to be, and we also need to let go of control when it comes to other people’s reactions. There is so much in this life that we cannot control, and I think the same can be said about art.

Do you prefer the creating, editing or researching aspect of a writing project?
I enjoy them all, but I particularly love the act of creating. I feel such freedom and possibility when beginning a new project. I love knowing that I can go in any direction I am compelled to go, and that I can experiment fully because I’ll be able to revise and re-envision the work later on. I love the timelessness of the beginning of a project—the way I can become fixated and lose myself to the point where it seems nothing else exists, at least for a short time.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am working on two novels-in-stories. One of the collections revolves around a particular restaurant in a small New Hampshire mill town. It explores economic and class issues, and consists of a cast of characters who thread a larger narrative about the way it’s possible to find and form surrogate families.

The other collection takes place in a coastal Massachusetts town, and is focused on the lives of a married couple who lose their only child in a tragic car accident just after he turns eighteen. It poses questions about parenthood and loss and perseverance, and it sifts through what ultimately sustains us during times when it seems that nothing will.

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

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