From Teacher to Romance Writer: An Interview with Award Winning Author Penelope Marzec

Penelope Marzec grew up along the Jersey shore, heard stories about Captain Kidd, and dug for his buried treasure. Her adventure resulted in a bad case of poison ivy.
. .
Deciding books were better than buried treasure, she discovered romance novels and was soon hooked on happy endings. She became an early childhood educator and found her own hero in an electrical engineer who grew up in Brooklyn, played the accordion, and was immune to poison ivy. Together they raised three daughters. Now retired, Penelope either writes her stories or paints seascapes in oils. Sometimes she sings while her husband plays the accordion.
 .
Penelope writes in several subgenres of romance. Two of her inspirationals won the EPPIE award and one finaled in that contest. Her paranormal, Irons In The Fire, was a nominee for Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award.
I would like to welcome and thank Penelope for sharing her thoughts and time with Write on Fight on. 


 How long have you been writing?

I started writing when I was nine. I wanted to fly, so I wrote a book about a girl who could fly. In addition to flying, the plot involved romance. I still write romance, but I gave up on the flying heroine idea. 

What book made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

As I said, I started writing when I was nine, but I wasn’t serious about getting a book published until I was nearing forty. By then I had read a plethora of truly boring, unhappy books. I was sure I could write something far more entertaining. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the specific book that egged me on. I just remember it was a paperback. Since I had a plot already whirling around in my head, I put the old manual typewriter on the dining room table and I hammered away for two months to get it all down on paper. The internet hadn’t been invented yet. Sending out a ream of paper in a box to a publisher wasn’t cheap or easy and I had to wait an entire year before the publisher replied with a rejection. I was undaunted. During that long year of waiting, I had written another book. I wasn’t going to quit. Writing was fun!

Do you have any quirky writing rituals or odd sources of writing inspiration?

I don’t have any quirky rituals, though I’ve tried a few other authors claimed worked for them. One author said she sniffed a particular essence oil when she sat down to write. She was conditioning her brain to realize that when she smelled that aroma, it was time to get to work–much the same technique as Pavlov used on his dogs. I bought some grapefruit essence oil and happily sniffed it when I sat down to write. It didn’t seem to make any difference. In my case, I just have to get comfy, add peace and quiet, get bored with the blather on Facebook and write. My house is not totally quiet because hubby practices his accordion upstairs, but the door is closed and the music is faint. Also, he plays the same song over and over. I’ve become adept at tuning him out.  

Writing inspiration comes from everywhere but favorite sources for me are often trips to historical houses or museums. However, I usually pick up ideas whenever I visit someplace new.

 What is the most famous book you’ve never read?

 I’ve never read Lord of the Flies. The summary alone is far too depressing. I read Brave New World because it was required. I read 1984, also because it was required. I read Ethan Frome because my daughter was required to read it and said it was the worst book she ever read. So I read it and agreed with her. I had enough sad literature and continue to stick with happy endings.
.

How is the writer’s life you’re living different than the one you imagined?

 I thought I would make a great deal of money, live in a mansion, and never have to do anything more than type all day. That didn’t happen. I taught for twenty-five years and squeezed in my writing time whenever I could while dreaming of retirement when I imagined I would have endless time to write. Retirement didn’t work out the way I hoped. I had to care for my elderly father. After he died, I got breast cancer. Now I’m helping my husband watch over his mother. I still squeeze in writing time, but it hasn’t been easy. On the other hand, those precious writing minutes are a great tonic for the soul.
 .

If you could build a super-author consisting of three, living or deceased, authors who would you pick and why?

 I loved all the books written by Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart. Those where the popular authors when I was young–the ones who wrote Gothic suspense. They never failed to satisfy me. They contained intrigue along with romance. The hero invariably appeared to be a bad guy at first, but the authors cleverly turned everything around at the end. The books were very well written and worth reading more than once.
 .

Of your invented characters, who would you like to meet for lunch? Why?

I’ve love to meet Wildon Forest, my Prince of the Mist, for lunch. He was about the sweetest guy I invented plus he loved garlic. The two of us could have a delightful pasta primavera and wear diaphanous togas. What fun!

.

 What are you currently working on that’s got you excited?

I’ve been working on the third book in my Patriots series. The book is titled Patriot’s Courage and is set in Ohio Territory in 1794. It opens on the day of the Battle of the Fallen Timbers. I’ve enjoyed the research on the time period. The hero joined General Wayne’s army to avenge the death of his brother, but soon questions his own motives after he is injured and discovers the Indian he killed in battle was the husband of a white woman who was adopted by the tribe at a young age.

.

Where can we find your books?

My books are at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and similar outlets. 

Thanks for reading and since you’re here…

… I have two small favors to ask…

  1. Please check out the author’s social media accounts and help promote the their work.
  2. If you know a published author, I would love to promote their work and feature them on Write on Fight on. Please be awesome and share this post with them. If interested, I can be reached at…writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

Why You Should Clean Up Your House Before You Go On Vacation

It’s the day before our annual family vacation at the New Jersey shore and my wife is buzzing around the house doing chores.

Vacuuming and cleaning out closets and dusting and hanging pictures we meant to hang last summer.

Amidst this whirlwind of Windex, I’m on the couch watching Predator 2.

Bill Paxson just met his fate on a Los Angeles subway car when Cindy asks me to come upstairs and help her move some boxes into the attic.

I hold my spot on the couch just long enough to see Gary Busey (who offers an honest portrayal of a bat-shit crazy scientist) get sawed in half by the Predator’s razor Frisbee when I hear my name called again.

Reluctantly, I trudge up the stairs and into our bedroom to find Cindy smiling.

“Look how clean our room is!”

“Yeah, it looks great.”

Cindy proudly looks around, “I think so.”

I nod and smile and wonder how Danny Glover is doing.

“Can you help me put some boxes in the attic?”

“Why are you cleaning? We’re going a vacation tomorrow.”

Cindy moves her hands to her hips and holds the look of a feisty double-handled teacup, “Because if I leave the house a mess, the whole time on vacation, I’ll be thinking about how when I come home I’ll have to clean.”

I help Cindy with the boxes, then hang a few pictures in the boys’ room, then dissemble and put away Dylan’s crib that he hasn’t used in two years.

Sadly, when I get back to the couch Predator 2 is over.


As for you, pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life. I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.”
Marie Kondō, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The past few days have been a little rough.

Physically, the summer humidity has been fueling my sarcoidosis symptoms. Joint pain. Muscle fatigue. A slightly off-balance feeling. And plus 12 weeks later, my broken foot is still not fully healed.

Mentally, I’ve been thinking a lot about my career. I love teaching. I love helping students become critical thinkers and better writers. And I’m grateful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had. For the friendships and connections I have made.

But the house of education is in disorder.

Transient policies. Administrative hypocrisy. Commercially produced standardized tests. A one-size fits all teacher evaluation system. Lack of governmental funding. The piles of paperwork no one ever reads. Grade grubbing. Participation awards. Helicopter parents. Stale contracts. Capricious copy machines. No child left behind.

It’s all starting to wear on me.

Trust your change is what I proudly announced to a stadium full of students and parents and teachers and administrators and school stakeholders a few weeks ago.

And now, I’m fixed at the always awkward intersection of taking my own advice or becoming a hypocrite myself.

It’s Saturday night.

We leave for vacation early tomorrow morning.

With a mound a duffel bags, coolers and sleeping bags by the front door I’m writing this post, setting it to auto-publish for Friday morning, and I’m going to spend the next six unplugged.

My body, my mind need this.

However, I needed to write this post before I left. If I didn’t, I would have been worrying about what to write all week instead of giving myself permission to organize my life, to enjoy the moment.

I guess now, I know how my wife feels.

Be well,

Jay

Introducing Girls to STEM: An Interview with Award Winning Author Laurie Wallmark

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and many national awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book and Cook Prize Honor Book.

Her recently released picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star and a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal.

Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College.

I would like to welcome and thank Laurie for sharing her thoughts and time with Write on Fight on.


How long have you been writing?

In grade school, I liked to write songs. In high school, I switched to poetry. After that, there was a very long break in my writing career. I’ve been writing for children since 1999.

What book made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

It wasn’t a book, but rather an idea that made me realize I wanted to be a writer. I love reading middle grade books, and one day I had an idea for a story of my own. This idea turned into the first novel I ever wrote for children. It may never get published, but it was my first step on the path to becoming a writer.

Do you have any quirky writing rituals or odd sources of writing inspiration?

I think like most writers, I try to keep my senses open to the world around me. Inspiration can come from a newspaper article, an overheard snippet of conversation, or even a tingle on my skin while walking outside.

What is the most famous book you’ve never read?

So many books. So little time. I am woefully under-read in classic non-Western literature. When I was in school, it wasn’t part of the curriculum, and I didn’t know to seek out books like Ramayana and The Tale of Genji. I’m working to fill in these gaps in my education.

Why do you write? 

This one’s easy. Writing is fun (except when it isn’t).

If you could build a super-author consisting of three, living or deceased, authors who would you pick and why?

I’d pick three authors from the golden age of science fiction—Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke. I appreciate the straightforward way they incorporated science into their stories, just like I try to do with my picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).

Of your invented characters, who would you like to meet for lunch? Why?

I’d love to eat lunch with Rivka, from my book Rivka’s Lessons. Rivka is a little Jewish girl who lived in the Lower East Side in the 1920s. She can’t wait to go to school and learn, so she takes matters into her own hands. I figure Rivka would enjoy splitting a corned beef on rye with me.

What are you currently working on that’s got you excited?

I’m writing another picture book biography, this time of a woman mathematician.

Where can we find your books?  Where can we find you?

My books are available from your local bookstore, Indiebound, or Amazon.

Appearanceshttp://www.lauriewallmark.com/calendar.php

Follow me online on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurie.wallmark

Twitter: @lauriewallmark

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lauriewallmark/


Thanks for reading and since you’re here…

… I have two small favors to ask…

  1. Please check out the author’s social media accounts and help promote the their work.
  2. If you know a published author, I would love to promote their work and feature them on Write on Fight on. Please be awesome and share this post with them. If interested, I can be reached at…writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay