Interview: Lene Fogelberg, Author of ‘Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir’

Lene Fogelberg

Lene Fogelberg

I met debut author Lene Fogelberg on Twitter. If you’re an emerging writer and you haven’t found Twitter yet, I recommend checking it out. I’m thrilled to host Lene on her publication day! Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir (She Writes Press, September 2015) is available through all major outlets.

Lene Fogelberg grew up surrounded by the natural beauty of her native Sweden. She lived a fragile physical existence with an undetected, and therefore untreated, fatal congenital heart condition. A dangerous and daring move to the United States takes its toll on her health but also provides the keys to her survival. Beautiful Affliction is a lyrical blend of literal heartache, love, and perseverance. The full review of Fogelberg’s debut memoir can be found here. She currently lives in Indonesia with her husband and daughters, and is working on a novel.

Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir by Lene Fogelberg

Congratulations on the success with your first book! How did you decide to take on the project and can you share your experience looking for an agent/publisher? What’s surprised you the most about the road to publication?

Thank you! I am very excited to see my story in print and to share it with the world. It was a difficult decision to come to, but I am happy I have reached this place of my journey. I think my story is unique in that many people who have experienced something similar did not live to tell their story, so I feel some sort of responsibility to speak up.

Being a Swede, living in Asia, the whole American system with agents seemed like a crazy jungle to me. Nevertheless I dove into it and made some great connections. I sent letters all over the place and contacted everyone who seemed nice. That is how, four months into it, I had three contracts from publishers in my inbox, and two agents considering my manuscript. But Brooke Warner and She Writes Press blew me away, with their gorgeous books and professionalism, and as soon as Brooke sent me an e-mail telling me that she wanted to move forward with my book for publication, I did my happy dance and accepted.

I have been surprised many times, by different aspects of the road to publication. Now I feel like I really didn’t know much when I started out! But I am happy I persevered and I have been trying to learn and adapt along the way.

How did you decide on the title and who designed the beautiful cover?

Originally I wrote the book with the working title The Cicadas, but my publisher wanted to change it. We came up with at least fifty titles before I spent a whole weekend soul searching to find the core of my story. And suddenly it came to me: Beautiful Affliction, which captures the two sides of my story; the struggle, the fear and the pain, and also the beauty, the unbending love and the miracle of it.

Cover designer Julie Metz, who is also an author, designed the cover and I am tremendously happy with it. I think the cover captures my story perfectly, although I have to confess I was a little shocked initially. I love the torn paper heart, the stitches and the random letters in italics, reminiscent of an irregular heartbeat. The irregular letters are featured throughout the book, which ties it all together wonderfully I think.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing the book for you? Do you love outlining, revising, or is the first draft your sweet spot?

The most difficult aspect was living it. And after that I was just so grateful to be alive, I didn’t think for a second I would write my story, or that I could write it. Not until three years after my heart surgeries, and after we had moved back to Sweden from the US, did the thought take hold, that maybe I should try to write it down. But when I started writing, it all sort of came out, and once I started it just had to be written. We moved to Indonesia in the middle of the writing process and a big portion of the book was written in hotel rooms and temporary housing in Jakarta, when all our things were shipped in a container and we lived out of suitcases. I had my family, my laptop and some clothes, but that was all I needed. I wrote and cried and figured out something to eat for my family, basically, for weeks and weeks. It was like a writing retreat!

We know once you release a story into the world, the reader makes it their own. What would you most hope readers take away from Beautiful Affliction?

I hope to share a sense of awe for life, for the miracle that it really is, and the beauty that can be found in unlikely places, as well as the beautiful pattern our lives can shape, even though when we are in the middle of it, it might seem like a huge mess.

Life of Pi

What well-known author would you choose as a mentor if you could? Along the same lines, what book (fiction or non-fiction) has most greatly influenced your life?

I would love to discuss writing with Yann Martel. I found his book Life of Pi in a corner of a bookshop, only its spine visible on the shelf, and two or three copies of it. This was before it was everywhere, and long before the movie. I pulled it out, read the book description and knew immediately it would be magical. I just fell in love with it and it’s one of the books I have given most thought to, even long after I finished reading it.

Do you have a regular writing practice?  How do you fit writing into your life as a parent, wife, etc.? Any writing rituals, favorite pen, chair, or beverage . . .

I usually write when my girls are in school. If I am in the middle of something and get hit by an idea, I can be seen running back to the laptop for the rest of the day, but mostly I try to fit my writing into the school day schedule so I can be there for my family in the afternoons and evenings.  I always write directly into a document on my laptop and I listen to music, from classical piano, to Coldplay, and everything in between. My girls are great at suggesting new music.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a novel that takes place here in Jakarta. It is a hilarious and heart-breaking story where I combine the ancient myths of Java with modern society and where East meets West. The first draft is basically finished.

Any favorite reads you’re looking forward to or have enjoyed this year?

I am looking forward to fellow She Writes Press authors getting published this fall; I have a huge pile of books to read!

As a debut author, what is the best advice you received? Any advice you didn’t act on?

At some point I heard about a study, where they tried to get to the bottom of why certain people were successful, and what they supposedly found out was that successful people had a common habit of actively seeking out advice from people who were ahead of them in their profession. This has stuck with me, and I have sought advice from coaches and editors, and it has made a world of difference to me. I have learned so much and I love that feeling; of growing, of learning. So the best advice I got was from that study, to not merely accept advice, but to seek it out from people you admire and to act on it.

Get to know Lene:

Favorite scent?

Lavender, Frangipani flowers and Balinese incense.

Favorite indulgence food?

Swedish cinnamon rolls that remind me of my childhood, and apple pie, for the same reason.

What’s your go-to splurge item?

Handbags, beautiful coffee table books, and handicrafts such as Indonesian carved wood elephants (I have five).

Favorite song to sing out loud?

“Human” by The Killers: “…my sign is vital, my hands are cold, and I’m on my knees, looking for the answer, are we human, or are we dancer…”

A celebrity you’re dying to meet?

Oprah of course!

Most important holiday tradition?

The traditional Swedish way of holding hands, singing Christmas carols and dancing around the Christmas tree has been expanded in our family to dancing through the whole house. Our kids make sure we dance through every room, before we are done.

Divulge one: bad habit or secret phobia

I have a secret spider phobia, well perhaps not so secret to my husband, who has to catch the spiders! Here in Indonesia we have spiders as big as the palm of my hand. Within seconds of entering a room I have scanned the floor and every wall for spiders.

If you could go pro in any field (other than writing), what would you choose?

Artist. I loved to paint big paintings and even sold some through a gallery. But eventually I got breathless and exhausted while painting and I had to give it up. It became too hard to hold up the brush to the canvas, it sounds crazy, but that’s how weak I was because of my undetected congenital heart disease.

Lene’s Top 3 Commandments for a happy life?

Things will work out (and if they don’t, you’ll be ok anyway)

Communicate! (People can’t read your mind)

Show kindness (everyone is fighting a hard battle)

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Last but not least, any tips for beginning writers?

Seek advice and feedback on your writing from the best sources you can find and read a lot of different books. There is always something to be learned from every kind of book, just as there is always something you can learn from every person you meet.

You can find out all about Lene on her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Check out this wise and inspiring interview from award-winning author Marly Youmans.

 

3 Thoughts on “Interview: Lene Fogelberg, Author of ‘Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir’

  1. Yes! That was great advices for all of us, not just authors/writers! …”to seek it out”…. I especially liked that one. Very interesting interview, thank you!

  2. Pingback: Publication Day! - Lene Fogelberg

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What We Can’t Wait to Read This Summer

open books Chicago

Open-Books author event

Wine and Books, Books and Wine. Beautiful words together or apart. I’m thrilled to be part of

“What We Can’t Wait to Read this Summer”

wine & books night @Open Books

Think of an “Ultimate” book club where four Chicago authors (Suzanne Brazil, Sara Connell, James Kennedy, Ross Ritchell) will share their “Top List” for summer reading followed by wine, light snacks and discussion/mingling with the authors.  The event is being hosted by Open Books (Awesome new West Loop Space).

open books Chicago

Bring a friend or group and join us for an inspiring and entertaining evening celebrating books, summer reading and our obsession with a great story!

The event is open to the public, to register, call or email:

tel  312.475.1355

http://www.open-books.org 

Event is free. Wednesday July 1st6:00-8:00PM

2 Thoughts on “What We Can’t Wait to Read This Summer

  1. Sounds fun!! Sadly Chicago is too far for my little stumpy legs to manage. 😉 Good luck with it though, Suzanne! <3

    Lazy Hedgehog x

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Interview: Laura Munson, Author of the Memoir ‘This is Not the Story You Think It Is’

Laura Munson

I’ve written about my experience at my first writing retreat several times on this website. I’ve also written about taking risks and “thinking big.” Still, it took me months to work up the courage to email a best-selling author to ask her for an interview. She replied immediately, generously and enthusiastically. She never questioned my status as a “real writer” or warned me about adverbs. Thank you, Laura!

This interview was originally published on www.Blogcritics.org. Check out their website for the latest pop culture news.

Laura Munson 

Laura Munson is the New York Times and international best-selling author of This Is Not The Story You Think It Is (Putnam 2010) and founder of the acclaimed Haven Writing Retreat. Her essay in theNew York Times Modern Love Column was recently listed as #2 on The Ten Best Modern Love Columns Ever list (New York Times, December 19, 2014). Her work has also appeared in  the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, O. Magazine, The Week, Huffington Post, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping and More Magazine.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started writing?

I have written since I was little.  I was that kid with the flashlight under her covers or up in her treehouse, writing in a journal.  I have boxes of journals that go back to 4th grade.  That said, the things that come most naturally to us are often the things we ignore, so I put all my passion into theater and film in school until I took a screenplay elective and realized that I was a writer.  I started writing screenplays, switched quickly to fiction and memoir, and have been writing ever since with all my heart.  It’s an obsession, really.

What can you share about your current project?

I am working on several projects at the moment — a novel, a memoir, and a book about living a healthy, balanced writing life.  I also blog regularly for my Haven blog and the Huffington Post, and write personal essays for print and online magazines.  I’m all about process, and I try to always have something in the creation process, something in the submissions process, and hopefully…something in the publishing process.

Is there a theme or common thread that runs through your previous books? If so, is that intentional?

I like to write about the stuff people do to each other and how we grow from it — good, bad and ugly.  I’m fascinated by the facets of the human heart and how we survive this beautiful and heartbreaking thing called Life.  I also like to weave the subject of Home into my writing, both in the world and in ourselves.  And usually, since I live in Montana, there is an element of wilderness that finds its way into my stories, real or imagined — the wilderness of nature and of the Human Condition.  I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but it’s what comes out naturally, and I believe that when we tap into our natural flow, we are writing in communion with our best selves.

Do you derive creative satisfaction from other writing assignments that you may have for commercial purposes, i.e. magazine articles, essays, etc.? Is it the same as working on a memoir or novel? If not, how does it differ?

I only write what feels real and authentic to me, so whenever I have a writing “job” it’s always a perfect example of that quote: “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” I’m lucky that way. For a long, long time I didn’t get paid for my writing, and I didn’t let it stop me.  We must cultivate a hunger for our voice and once we do, the pay-off is immense. When we know our white-hot subjects, we attract writing projects/assignments which grow organically from what we have already put out there with past writing, so one honest, congruent piece begets another. At my Haven Writing Retreats, I work hard with people to find the subjects that are charged for them, and once they put their finger on the pulse of those themes and give themselves permission to write their way into them…that’s when things start cranking for people.  And there’s A LOT of satisfaction in that!

Who are your first readers — or do you share only with your agent/editor?

I have a strict protocol that I use for my early readers. The short version is: only give your stuff to people who really want to read it, who are relentless about asking you, have zero agenda, share your taste in books and writing in general, and will be honest. And set up a contract that works for you both to avoid awkward run-ins at the grocery store! That said, I love my agent and I trust her opinion with all my heart. Agents are very busy, and it’s in many ways a thankless job, so I only send it to her once I am SURE it is as good as I can get it and that usually means it’s been read by at least three people, and that I’m well into my third or fourth draft. The attitude that “an editor will fix all my issues” isn’t a good one to adopt. It’s the writer’s job to deliver as clean and alive a piece as possible and that takes work and time and a wide-open third eye.

Describe the difference in the feeling or emotion you receive from writing (the work) vs. publishing (the outcome).

The work: I love the journey. If you don’t love the journey, find something else that you love because it’s all about the journey. Delight in it, even and especially when it’s hard. Embrace the hardship! Breathe into the groundlessness of it.  Understand that all writing has an inherent problem and become the exact sleuth that will find the solution!

The published work: It’s between the published work and the reader at that point. It’s nice to be paid.  And it’s nice to have readers. Sometimes REALLY nice. But once your work is out there, it’s really none of your business anymore. It’s time to get back to the next writing journey!

One tip you think aspiring writers should consider ignoring?

Anything that starts with:  “10 easy steps…”  Or asks you to follow a method, a guru, or pay out a lot of money. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen and the guts to put your heart in your hand and translate thought into the form of heart language.  Sounds easy, huh.  It ain’t.  I wish someone had told me this a long time ago: You don’t have to do it alone!  Find a writing community.  Go on a Haven Retreat!

Where do you write? Special pen? Favorite chair? Beverage while writing, etc.?

I like to say that I’ve raised flexible children and a flexible muse. I’ve written on everything from cocktail napkins to fancy Italian leather-bound journals, from my laptop to my Mother-ship computer…in trains, planes, automobiles…you name it.  Lots of green tea with jasmine when writing. Sometimes wine while editing. Endless water. The muse really likes water, especially Montana well water.

Most unexpected experience bringing your first book to publication?

That would take a few hours. Suffice it to say that pretty much everything that has happened to me on the road of publication is totally outside of anything I ever read in any book about the publishing process. SO that’s good news. Know why you write, write, put it out there, and go back to writing. At a certain point, it’s a numbers game and all bets are off.  The only thing you can control is doing the work and submitting it.

Favorite book or author growing up?

Growing up, I loved anything with horses or nature in it. Now throw in a few derelicts on a hero’s journey who like good food, and I’m good to go. Which means, I really love Jim Harrison’s work.

Last “great” book you read?

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. She reminds me of the life that exists between the lines of prose.  You have to learn how to read those too…  Correction:  you GET to learn how to read those too. When you’re really doing the work, it’s all one big beautiful journey, even the hardship. Especially the hardship.

Update: I asked one follow-up question and here is Laura’s reply…

If you could give just one piece of advice or say one thing to writers at the start of their journey, what would it be?

Get clear about why you are writing in the first place.  Write a one line author statement.  Put it somewhere close by.  Refer to it often. Start it with:  “I write to…”  If you are clear about why you write, then no matter what happens along the way…you will always have your compass.  And it will help you do the work.  That’s all you can control: doing the work.  That’s good news!

You can find out more about Laura and Haven Writing Retreats by visiting her at www.lauramunson.com.

This is not the story you think it is

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Author Interview with Lani V. Cox

Lani V. Cox

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

Aloha Lani!

Lani V. Cox

I was born in a pink hospital on the beautiful Hawaiian Island of O’ahu, a week after my mom landed from Thailand (‘cause she’s crazy). And even though I was lucky to be raised there, we moved to the middle of the Mojave Desert when I was 12 years old and did not return to Hawaii until about 2 years later.

Lani V. Cox

At the time, I felt isolated and cursed because it was the first time I was a minority and had no friends. But now I can see it as a pivotal time in my life because it was when I started to read and write. I fell in love with reading and magically an old-fashioned green typewriter appeared in the kitchen one day – probably right around the time I decided I could write, too.

I’ve lived a rather nomadic life and I want to say this was not by choice, but on some level, it must have been. For my adult life, I’ve lived in Chico and Oceanside California, Durango Colorado, Eugene and Portland Oregon, Huntsville Alabama, Cuenca Ecuador and Chiang Mai Thailand. Currently, I teach English in Chiang Rai and have lived abroad for about 5 years.

And despite all of this wandering, I’m proud to say I just finished publishing my first book, the missing teacher.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

When I was about 13 years old, I remember buying a diary with a lock and key. On the cover it said “Crusin’” and it had a 1950s car, like a Studebaker on it, too. It was pink and silver and I loved the idea that I could lock it from prying parents or siblings.

For my first entry, I wrote about a family road trip we took from Barstow, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. I wrote about the passing desert landscape and my thoughts on the journey. I was writing from the backseat of the car.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

What a question! Can I say my favorite aspect is writing? I suppose not. Hmmm. I like how writing forces me to be clear and creative in my thoughts.  I love how I get lost in the act of writing. I even like the challenges, but what I don’t like is all the other stuff that surrounds writers these days. The self-promotions, research on how to publish, or agents to pitch to, or the endless publications that you can submit your work to. It’s just a lot and I don’t think I’m the only person who wishes it was easier.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

No, I don’t.  I believe in making a writer’s mess though. Regardless, I do think that many problems can be solved by a good night’s sleep, and a willingness to fail, make mistakes and do everything over again. I believe we can learn a lot through the process or act of creating and sometimes it’s not as smooth as we’d like it to be and that’s okay. It’s going to be alright.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

As I mentioned, I just finished self-publishing my first book the missing teacher. It was an incredibly challenging task from start to finish for many reasons. First, I didn’t really know how I wanted to outline or write my memoir. I tried different things and so I have very different versions and directions I tried out. Secondly, I carried this book with me for about 10 years. I lost motivation at times, but I stuck with it because I knew finishing this would be important. And lastly, getting the book ready for print, e-format and audio was a lot of work. I also had no idea creating a book cover would take so much trial and error, or that proofing for Amazon was going to be a test in patience and sanity.

What supports you in your writing?

I believe blogging supports my writing because it is through blogging that I can write what I want and attempt to reach an audience. I’ve also met people for coffee through my blog and it has been an interesting conversation starter at work or when I’m out being social. I’ve been surprised by how many people tell me, “I read your blog.” And for about a year, I did a learning Thai podcast with someone who upon first meeting me, gushed, “I love your blog.”

What are you currently reading?

I read a great deal online these days. But ever since I got my Kindle, I’ve been enjoying the free books available through great sites like Open Culture. So, I’m re-reading classic fairy tales and finally cracking into Jane Austin’s Emma.

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

If you are interested in continuing the conversation, I blog at Life, the Universe and Lani and my indie child the missing teacher can be found here. Thank you, Kate and Kate!  

the missing teacher

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Sara Connell, Author, Speaker and Life Coach, Shares Her Journey to Publication

Sara Connell, Author

Sara Connell, Author

 

 

 

 

 

Women, 61, Gives Birth to Own Grandchild” read the headlines in the Chicago Tribune. This is the subject of Sara Connell’s memoir, Bringing In Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story which was nominated for Elle Magazine’s 2012 Book of the Year.

In this audio interview, Sara shares more of her journey as a writer and some behind the scenes glances into her first traditional book deal with Seal Press.

Full Audio Interview: 

 

We tell ourselves we're not something, Sara Connell

A self-proclaimed “closeted writer” for years, she talks about the break that lead to her first byline and how both her journey to motherhood and personal growth work in her 20’s helped her follow her dream of being a writer.

“I had all these conditions that had to be there for me to write. I have to be inspired, to be in the mood, to have not had an argument with someone.” Her tip for those that dream of writing? “It will be there. Just show up to the page and go for it!”

Get out of my small self - Sara Connell

That experience taught me to have a discipline to be able to delay instant gratification and go for something that’s a bigger picture…to let something have a process…to focus on my part instead of the outcome.” 

Sara’s next book project is a novel with some magical elements. Though determined to publish traditionally for her first book, she’s changed her thoughts about self-publishing, and shares tips for aspiring writers on listening to their inner voice.

“I think now we have as many opportunities with

some really quality, high-level people in both worlds.”

~ Sara Connell on self-publishing

“I’ve seen so many wonderful people who have been in traditional publishing now become editors and publishers of hybrid presses and are working with people around self-publishing. It’s less about the quality and even sometimes the prestige. It’s more about what is important to you as a writer. I no longer think one is necessarily better than the other.”

She also reminds us that “books get published in all sorts of ways.”  Sara completed an in-depth 90-page proposal for her fist memoir which ended up not being published. It took just a three-page letter for her agent, Joy Tutela, to secure the deal for Bringing in Finn. Turns out the publisher remembered her writing and hard work on the previous proposal and that was enough to sell them on this project. “As a writer, nothing is wasted.”

“As a writer, nothing is wasted.”

With a busy toddler and all of her other commitments, Sara schedules her writing time each week and will write in her office, on her bedroom floor and even in her car outside of preschool. “Writing is at the top of my priorities after family. The more I write, the more I submit, the more I publish, the better I get.”

Full Audio Interview: 

Sara has a thriving private coaching practice in Chicago and is in demand as a speaker and contributor to national magazines. To find out more about Sara, visit her website at www.SaraConnell.com, via Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

You can read my review of Bringing in Finn here, or on Blogcritics and it is available for purchase at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

cover_bringinginfinn-387x600

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