It’s been a year since I met Sylvia on Twitter, where she informed me she had finished reading Split and would write a review for the book. She wrote two, one on Goodreads and one on Amazon. What impressed me was that she didn’t copy/paste the same review on both sites but wrote two separate reviews. And then, of course I loved what she said about Split. Several things have in the meantime contributed to our establishing a friendship that now feels as if I’ve known her for a very long time. This multifaceted, fascinating woman has been writing a book that promises to become an excellent read. While referencing literary works, Sylvia’s work will be in part a memoir and in part an inspirational self-help book. In anticipation of its publication in 2015, I have asked Sylvia to share a bit about herself and her writing.
Here is my interview with Sylvia:
Thank you Sylvia, for taking the time to share a bit about yourself, your writing, and your book. Your fans and friends on Twitter and Goodreads are very much looking forward to its publication.
I am pleased to share the concept of my book on your website, Catana. Your Split at the Root was a wonderful read for me. When I discovered it, partway through my project, you became my memoir ‘hero’. Your authentic writing encouraged me to continue with mine. Your lack of pretense made me a believer of what is possible. So thank you very much.
I know you are an avid reader, Sylvia, and a wonderful supporter of indie authors. I just wonder with all the reading reviewing and encouraging, when do you find the time to work on your own writing? Do you have such a thing as a writing routine? What works for you?
As I am retired, I can arrange my own hours for writing. Time escapes quickly: what with domestic chores, cleaning, shopping, gardening, which we all do, and occasional grandmother duties. Usually I spend two hours in the morning on social media learning about people, ideas, new book offerings and new authors. I subscribe to about twenty-five blogs. I have had sleep issues most of my life, so I try to be kind to myself. My own writing begins about 11:00 am and it is intense. I cannot sustain more than two and a half hours of editing at one sitting, and am pretty much spent afterwards. It was easier in the first two years of writing my book, where I just let it flow. Now, precision is important. I have set myself a schedule to edit one chapter a month and, so far, I am on track. Hope to complete this round by November, 2014. In the evenings, I read various indie authors on my iPad. I also have about four traditionally published books I read simultaneously. I require variety of genre to sustain my reading interests.
When did you first have the urge to write this book? What motivated / inspired you to start writing? Where are you currently in the process, and how long has it taken you to get this far? (Obstacles, doubts, limiting fears, or such that writing creates…)
I first had the urge to write my story after a visit to the Quebec home of my brother Andy, a professor, and his wife Alma, a translator. Alma asked me to translate from Lithuanian into English the memoirs her recently-deceased father had written. It was about his experiences in a Siberian prison camp. As I worked on the ‘project’ it occurred to me that at this stage in my life, I should be writing my own story. Not that I was in a prison camp, but there are mental prisons that might perhaps be somewhat comparable. I began writing on January 4th 2012. Because of my academic background, I wanted to include literature, and some of the wonderful writings of esteemed life-coaches, on positive, healthy living. My objective is to teach and inspire. I had recently retired from a career as a secondary school teacher of English literature and dramatic arts, and had a feeling I might be able to “go the distance” in writing a book. The title of my Master’s thesis (in English Literature) was Hemingway’s Creativity: A Process of Recuperative Writing. I’ve spent two years researching and writing this book. Some of my fears are about how much personal information to reveal. I try to use a sense of humour with some of my secrets, a bit of cheekiness.
Have you been journaling, or have you written essays? In other words, what is your writing background?
I never thought of myself as a writer before this book. Aside from a natural draw toward teaching, my ambition was to become an actor. I did some successful stage work, but as a single parent with four kids, acting as a career was hard to get off the ground. In retrospect, I see that over the years, writing captured my soul in parallel ways. Box-loads and files of poetry, short stories and several attempts at novels piled up in my home office. I’ve had some articles published in newspapers and magazines. Lately, I’ve gained much from the indie writers I’ve discovered through Twitter! For instance, I’ve learned the effectiveness of bringing the reader into the moment when writing the anecdotal experiences of my past. Memoir, as in creative fiction, benefits from a sense of immediacy to create interest. I’ve kept notes in little hard-covered books on every book I’ve read. I also kept personal journals of sadness and celebration.
The content of your book sounds complex, intellectually oriented, and quite fascinating. I am sure I cannot do it justice, Sylvia. Please let us know what this, your first book, is about.
The title I’ve chosen best expresses what the book is about: Musing on Hope: Passionate Late-Bloomer Talks Life, Literature, and Personal Power. My book is a conversation. It is a compilation on the broader topics in this title. Some people have objected to my self-description of ‘late-bloomer’. But, for me it is true, as many significant things happened to me later in life. For instance, I received three university degrees after the age of forty. As an unmarried (for a while) pregnant teenager with only a high school education, I never dreamed I could enter any university! After four kids, in rapid succession, my husband left; I thought this might be it, but it wasn’t! And that’s why my book is first about hope. You never know what lies ahead, and what you are capable of achieving in life. Some of us mature later than others. Woven into my own story as an immigrant to Canada are the early hardships, and the later ones; I bring forth many examples of literature from contemporary works such as A Raisin in the Sun, to Shakespeare, to modern writers like Nancy Horan‘s Loving Frank (Frank Lloyd Wright), and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. Then I include ideas from the polemist – the late and great Christopher Hitchens and his ideas on religions. My chapters deal with a change in attitude, our struggle with ego, a Dante’s Inferno look at personal hell, obstacles, chapters on shame, betrayal, sex and violence, then rising to perspectives on happiness, the importance of NOW, a chat about the role of religious fervour, and closing chapter on regrets – heck, I’ve had a few, haven’t you? My book, in a nutshell, is about how we can take our regrets in stride, and move on.
Typically, writers have a particular audience in mind for their work. Could you explain what the ideal reader of your book will gain by reading it?
Great question, Catana. The audience I hope for is everyone! But I expect that women from about thirty on up would find my book interesting and useful. Also men who are sensitive to issues in relationships, love, family, will see some of the ways my life has played out, and they may take away a feeling of how decent they are as human beings because they would not behave in some of the ways others have as I describe from my past. I wish that anyone reading my book will feel the great power there is in optimism, and hope. I want people to be inspired, intellectually stimulated to read some of the books I talk about, and be motivated as kind human beings with love and gratitude for themselves and others. I hope that by reading this book, the reader will get the sense that supporting others, including family loyalty, is a worthy ambition. Non-faith based, it would also be the ‘ethic of reciprocity’. So the book will be out there for anyone with a curiosity about life, and goodwill.
Do you have a cover yet? If not, will you design it?
I have no idea for a cover yet. I am open to ideas. I think somewhere there could be a photo of me. I always like to see that in other people’s books. Saves me Googling them to see what they look like. I would like some kind of background similar to what I have on my Twitter site – rushes swaying in the breeze – born on the tourist island of Föhr in the village of Wyk on Germany’s North Sea, I feel drawn to that imagery. But first I am focused on completing the written project, so that cover ideas have taken a backseat for now.
Your Twitter fans are looking forward to your book, when can we expect your book to be published? Have you started the pre-publication buzz? How and where?
It’s lovely to think that my Twitter followers are looking forward to my book, Catana. How generous of you to make that comment. I am still learning about self-publishing, formatting as well as editing what I’ve written. Musing on Hope should be ready for launch in spring of 2015 – sounds like a good year! And the pre-publication buzz starts right here – on your website.
Can you name other books that are comparable to yours?
That’s a hard question to answer. My book ‘talks’ about parts of my life, so it’s not a full-on autobiography. In it I reference the brilliant literature of others, and the inspiring wisdom of great motivational coaches. So, no, I cannot think of any book that does this. I have written about what I’ve collected throughout my life, and what I want to share with readers to enrich their lives.
Sylvia Valevicius was born on the tiny, wind-blown North Sea island Föhr, to Lithuanian/Russian refugee parents who eventually settled in Hamilton, Ontario; she grew up as a Canadian. Young love, early motherhood… 4 children before the age of 25, heartbreak, divorce, and then rising from the ashes like the legendary Phoenix, she earned a Master’s degree in literature followed by a position as school administrator. Hers is a story of remarkable resiliency in the face of great adversity. Her book, Musing on Hope: Passionate Late-Bloomer Talks Life, Literature, and Personal Power promises to be an original, unique form of bringing life experiences and research into writing: is it a novel? A memoir? A self-help book? In any case it will be inspirational and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.