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Kathleen Pooler is a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who is working on a memoir about how the power of hope through her faith in God has helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.


Pam to Kathleen:  What unique contribution to faith do you see women making today?  

Kathleen to Pam:  In my experience, women are the nurturers in the family and are often the ones to plant the seeds of faith.  My Great-Grandma Rose did that for me.  Widowed at the age of thirty-three with seven children to support, she lived in poverty.  Somehow, she made do with her strong belief that God would provide. As a Roman Catholic, I have a devotion to The Blessed Mother that was instilled in me by Grandma Rose. She was always praying the Rosary and asking me, “Katarina (my name in Italian) you wanna be a nun or you wanna get-a married”. It made me nervous as I figured she had some pull but my Mom reassured me that if God wanted me to be a nun, I would feel the call. I was relieved as I knew I could serve God in other ways. But the vision of that tiny woman with her unwavering faith came to me in whispers and glimpses throughout my entire life as I faced my own challenges. She is still with me when I pray the daily Rosary. Faith is a gift given to me and nurtured in my childhood by Grandma Rose.
 
Pam to Kathleen:  How has your faith influenced you in your career?
 

Kathleen to Pam:  I felt called by God to go into nursing when I was thirteen years old. I was sitting in my eighth grade classroom study hall, reading a book, Anne Snow, Mountain Nurse. My heart started pounding and I had a
feeling of excitement as I read about Anne Snow riding on horseback in the
hills of Virginia to care for poor families as a Community Health Nurse. From that moment, I knew what I wanted to do. Of course, I didn’t realize it was a calling until many years later. At the time, I just knew it felt right.


My faith in God has guided me throughout my entire career as a nurse and nurse practitioner. Every morning on my way to work, I prayed that I would remain open to being God’s servant in caring for the ill or in carrying out my role as an educator, administrator. I often prayed with or over patients with their permission. I said many silent prayers for those who were not comfortable. I also prayed for the strength to deal with whatever I had to face- a dying patient, a difficult family/coworker/physician. Jesus is the Divine healer and if Jesus is in me then I am carrying out His work.
  
Pam to Kathleen:  How do you see miracles working today?  

Kathleen to Pam:   A miracle is something beyond human explanation. On December 19, 1996, worsening shortness of breath and a dry cough had precipitated an early morning trip to the emergency room. I was pacing near my stretcher, waiting for the results of a CT scan of my chest, realizing something serious was happening. As I paced, I cried out in desperation, “Dear God, please give me the strength to do whatever it is I need to do for this is the battle of my life and for my life”. A peace beyond understanding flowed over me and
stayed with me throughout my eventual diagnosis of Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s
Lymphoma and my two year treatment course which included chemotherapy,
radiation and a peripheral stem cell transplant. I allowed myself to be open to accepting help from others- meals, gifts, prayers. God had answered my plea to “do whatever I need to do” to fight the battle. Allowing myself to be vulnerable enabled me to accept God’s love, grace and healing. He sent me many angels in the form of family, friends and caregivers on my healing journey.

Simultaneous to the cancer journey was my young adult son’s spiral downward into alcoholism. The cancer was easier to deal with than watching my son’s descent. At least I had options for treatment for the cancer and felt some sense of control. I had no control over my son’s choices and behavior. So I prayed and learned to lean on God. I learned to hand my son over to God and to let go of my need to control. And I never, ever gave up hope that God would heal me and my son.
 
Grandma Rose echoed in my ear “God will provide” and He did. That is the miracle of faith in my life.

Pam to Kathleen:  What kinds of events or incidents have helped you understand God best? 

Kathleen to Pam:  Having walked through these challenges has deepened my faith.  Having been through a life threatening illness and the terrors of loving
and letting go of an alcoholic son forced me to dig deeper to find the treasures of my faith within.   But now that I am on the other side of these challenges, I see God every day in the people I love, nature, all the little things in life that matter. All my challenges have given me the gift of perspective about what really counts in life. “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

Pam to Kathleen:  Hope is one of your favorite themes.  How have you held on to hope in your own life?

Kathleen to Pam:  My favorite quote is “Some things have to be believed to be seen” by Ralph Hodgson and two of my favorite scripture verses: “Three things last forever-faith, hope and love-and the greatest of these is love. Corinthians
13:13 and “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. They have guided me through my dark moments when I faced my own mortality and when I was filled with despair over my son’s life.
  
Pam to Kathleen:  You talk about the importance of sharing our stories.  What is your process when you write? 
  
Kathleen to Pam:  I write daily usually during the day and when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. If I don’t get my quota of writing in during the day because life interferes, I end up not being able to sleep at night as the words 
keep swirling around in my head. So, I’ve learned to discipline myself to write 
during the day. Sometimes I write in a journal- or on a napkin or piece of scrap
paper if I am away from the computer. Most of my writing is on my PC or iPad. I
use Evernote if my iPad is available to capture passing thoughts/story ideas before they leave me.

Pam to Kathleen:  Can you share with us some ideas of how to sort out which memories to use in our writing?

Kathleen to Pam:  I have to be clear on the theme of my memoir first to decide which memories tie in with my theme. But initially, I just keep writing down scenes as they pop into my mind. Often times, once I start writing, scenes and characters show up unannounced. It’s like the story writes itself or unfolds on its own. The key is “butt in the chair” and write raw without editing, even if it doesn’t make sense. I did a blog post on Seven Research Tools I Am Using  & Why They Are Important in Memoir Writing which lists ways to sort out memories:
http://krpooler.com/2012/08/06/why-research-is-important-in-memoir-
writing/


Kathleen Pooler blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: http://krpooler.com and can be found on Twitter @kathypooler and on LinkedIn,Google+, Goodreads and Facebook: Kathleen Pooler

One of her stories “ The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat  LaPointe.


 
 
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I have the honor of interviewing author Jade Kerrion, the muse who inspired me to start this blog to promote other authors.  It's something she does on her own blog:  http://www.jadekerrion.com .  I admire her ethics in extending this opportunity for recognition to others.  Since she has been putting others first, she is the first author I'm interviewing on this new blog.  Jade is the author of several books, most recently Perfection Unleashed.  This book belongs to the genre of Science Fiction.  Because Seeds Born to the Light emphasizes the theme of memory in our work, this interview focuses on some of the ways memory is used in Jade’s fiction writing. 

Pam to Jade: 

Jade, you began with fan fiction and now write science fiction.  Most people would assume those genres are about as far from real life as you can get. Can you give us some ideas or examples of how you build on real-life experiences and memories in your work?  

Jade to Pam:  I think all of us incorporate our real life experiences in our writings. For example, Perfection Unleashed leverages very heavily on my background as a biology and philosophy major, but more intimately, Perfection Unleashed explores issues relating to fairness in society. I was born and raised in a country that practiced reverse discrimination. Students from my ethnic group who had straight As were rejected from medical school, and students with straight Cs were accepted because they were academically on par with the "top" students of another race who were admitted to medical school. That lesson had a tremendous impact on me and was one of many reasons that inspired me to leave that country and seek a home and future elsewhere. I incorporated my lingering questions into Perfection Unleashed. How does a person who is naturally talented, naturally gifted compete in a society that is dominated (politically and socially) by those who view your talents with skepticism and even
disdain?


Pam to Jade:  I long for an egalitarian society, too.  Yet natural gifts are distributed unequally, and that seems to be a cause of friction in any society that values cooperation above innovation. I believe your theme is one many gifted individuals will identify with.      
 
Jade, among your many background experiences, how do you mark specific memories to reference in your writing?  How do you filter the rest of your memories from the keepers, and how do you know which ones belong in your work?      
 

Jade to Pam:  The ones that (in spite of two decades of distance and "wisdom") get my hackles up in record time are clearly the ones to include. :-) The memories that draw a smile and a chuckle, those too I include. There's a tendency to think of life as a sequence of events. It is that, of course, but that makes for a dull recollection of life, in my opinion.  Instead, I prefer to think of life as snapshots of memories that were worth remembering. I've read lots of "I did this, then I did that" memoirs, but have uniformly preferred the ones that focused on sharing the memories around certain themes, noting how they evolved over
time.


Pam to Jade:  Surely your characters also have memories that affect the way they react to present circumstances. How do you draw on them in your novel?


Jade to Pam:  There are many tools available to tease out characters' memories. Flashbacks are commonly utilized, and many novelists write whole scenes around them. I prefer to use the memory to explain how it changed the character, such as in this scene, in a conversation between Galahad, the perfect human being, and Zara, the mercenary who freed him from Pioneer Labs.


“Would breaking into Pioneer Labs fall under the completely illegal or partly illegal category?”

 “Neither.” She laughed again. “That was just light-hearted mischief, until, of course, I absconded with you.”
 
“How did you get into this line of work?”

 “That’s not important,” she said, casually dismissive. Her tumultuous childhood, the many wars that had eventually ripped the heart and soul out of the Mediterranean paradise of Lebanon, the years spent in the squalid conditions of a refugee camp, the harrowing journey to America—to the one land that still held out the promise of freedom to any who came to its shores—none of that mattered anymore.

The actual events of the past, she had reasoned with brutal clarity of hindsight, were not important. Only the outcomes mattered. She had survived, become strong, and then worked tirelessly night and day to ensure that what she had could never be taken from her again.

 If in the process, she had lost a bit of herself, she considered it well worth the price. The bright-eyed, sunny-faced child who had once danced with artless innocence in the courtyard of a Lebanese home and counted everyone a friend would never have made it in a world brimming with brutal realities, anyway.


Life didn’t work like that.



 Another tool I use is dialogue. In this scene, Danyael Sabre, the protagonist, and Jason Rakehell learn that they are brothers. I wanted to showcase Jason's memories of his long-lost brother, and fortunately, I have characters that make sharing those memories easy. Miriya is a telepath, she reads thoughts, and in this scene, she is communicating telepathically with Danyael.

 Danyael did not resist when Jason roughly grabbed his left hand,
the bones subtly misshapen from an unremembered injury that had not healed
correctly. He could not read his brother’s thoughts, but he could sense Jason’s
emotions as disbelief gave way to towering anger and hatred. At this point, I
think it’s a toss-up as to whether he hates me or Galahad
more.


Miriya smiled thinly, not amused. This isn’t funny, Danyael.

 It’s laugh or cry, Miriya. What does he remember?

 He remembers when your mother struck you,  and her ring tore the gash in your
cheek. He remembers when your mother used a pestle to smash your hand after you’d reached for one of his toys. She obviously failed parenting class. I
wouldn’t have trusted her with a goldfish, let alone a child.

 
Pam to Jade:  The next question that occurs to me is, what functions does the fiction author lend to the character's memory?  (such as: back story, tension, foreshadowing, etc.)  Can you give an example of how that works?

In fiction, all memory is by definition, back story. The real trick is deciding when to share it and how much of it to share. There are a few guidelines I use. I don't know if they're applicable in memoirs, but here goes:

1. Does the memory add tension and conflict to the story?  Tension doesn't need to involve buildings blowing up. Tension and conflict can happen internally as well. Tension keeps readers turning pages, so you share only as much as is needed to keep them reading. Too much, and the pace could slow, or you could lose the reader in details.

2. Does the memory result in internal and/or external change? In addition to tension, readers want progress. Something needs to happen in the scene that shows the plot progressing or the character developing. Does the character's memory facilitate that internal and external change? If it doesn't, why is it in the scene?

3. And even if the memory adds tension and conflict resulting in internal and external change, you never, ever dump the entire back story on the reader all at once. It's fiction, not a biography, and I only share as much as is needed for the reader to know. Sometimes, the reader will need to know more...eventually, and in that case, I dribble it out over time. Readers enjoy the process of discovery, so allow them to discover the truth.  Slowly.


Pam to Jade:  I'll bet those pointers would work very well for constructing a memoir.  What else did you want to tell us, Jade?


Jade to Pam:   

Thank you so much for hosting me on your new blog.  I know it's a stretch to get from fiction to memoirs, but I hope these few insights have been helpful. I invite you and your readers to visit my website at http://www.jadekerrion.com. I do talk about my novels, but I also have two features that I hope may be useful to your readers some day. I host a section on my blog called 'An Author's Journey' which I use to describe what I did to publish and market my novel. This work-in-progress could be helpful once you head down the path of getting those memoirs into the hands of readers. Secondly, I host author interviews, guest posts, etc. on my blog. For those who write memoirs, I invite you to contact me once you’ve published for some free publicity and an opportunity to share your work on my website.