Tag Archives: She Writes Press

Christine Ristaino – Overcoming Violence

In September 2007, Christine Ristaino was attacked in a store parking lot while her three- and five-year-old children watched. In her upcoming memoir, All the Silent Spaces (She Writes Press, July 9, 2019), Ristaino shares what it felt like to be an ordinary person confronted with an extraordinary event―a woman trying to deal with acute trauma even as she went on with her everyday life, working at a university and parenting two children with her husband.

All the silent spaces book coverIn her book, Ristaino not only narrates how this event changed her but also tells how looking at the event through both the reactions of her community and her own sensibility allowed her to finally face two other violent episodes she had previously experienced. As new memories surfaced after the attack, it took everything in Ristaino’s power to not let catastrophe unravel the precarious threads holding everything together.  Moving between the greater issues associated with violence and the personal voyage of overcoming grief, All the Silent Spaces is about letting go of what you think you know in order to rebuild.

Here are some questions I had for Christine about her book, her process, and what is important to her.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

I would tell my younger self to listen to my body, my heart, my head, all of them, and see what my internal voice is telling me. So many times I focused outwardly on what others wanted. Now that I hear my own voice, everything is different. I speak from a place of power and I say what I feel, not what others want me to say. I would tell my younger self to ask herself what is important to her. I would tell my younger self that her story is important, that it is worth telling.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

Yes, I have always loved writing. I realized I could write well when a teacher told me to send a story into a competition in High School. Something clicked for me then. I began writing stories and poems in my teens and twenties, a dissertation and an academic publication in my thirties, OpEds and All the Silent Spaces in my 40s and early 50s.

Who is your favorite character in your book?

Since my book is a memoir, I would have to say that the older me, at the end of my book, is my favorite character. The book is about trying to find one’s voice after sexual assault. The experience of finding it through writing was the most powerful experience I’ve ever had in my life and I enjoy seeing a much more settled, imperfect but self-aware woman, ready to change the world, at the end of my book.

Where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing at my kitchen table in the middle of the night or in my car on the side of the road in random places.

What inspires you?

Other people’s stories about overcoming obstacles inspire me.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

Christine Ristaino author photoIn addition to raising socially-conscious children, it has become my life’s goal to make sure survivors of violence don’t lose their voices.  Since I began writing my book, I have published articles in the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Pacific Standard, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution about different aspects of my experience with violence and difficult conversations. Last January, I told my story to more than 6,000 people at the women’s march in Roanoke, VA.  Modeling how to have these conversations through my book will help more women gain the courage to say #MeToo, as well as inspire people to bear witness to the stories of those who have survived traumatic events. I would like to be a strong voice in the fight to change the discourse around violence.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I’m a pantser.  I let whatever needs to come out, come out. When I was writing my book, I felt this incredible need to write it. I just went where it took me. Ultimately, through writing, I was able to look at two experiences with sexual violence that had happened to me as a child and young adult. Writing about these two events liberated me, helped me figure out who I really was.

What are you reading right now?

I’m teaching an Italian memoir class right now and I am reading my students’ short memoir pieces. They are powerful, honest, stunning! My favorite pieces arise from the prompts “This is who I am” and “Immigrant Story”.

If you could spend the day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

I would visit my younger self and help out with the kids—allow her to have some down time and tell her how much I loved her. I would give her space to face the hidden realities that are preventing her from owning her voice. Of course, it would be fun to see my children at younger ages again, but I would miss their older selves if I spent too much time away from them.

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

I would like Julianna Margulies to play me.

What are your top 3 favorite books?

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

Usually I think of something and write it down as soon as I can pull over the car or get out of bed. Mostly I think of things to write about in the middle of the night or when I’m in the car. These two times of the day are the only moments where life quiets down for a spell and I feel creative and relaxed.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

I teach Italian, advise three super-empowered student groups at Emory, write OpEds, nonfiction, articles, spend time with my husband and children, have coffee or meals with family, students and friends, laugh, connect, exchange stories, love.

More about Christine:

Christine Ristaino teaches Italian classes at Emory University. She has co-authored an academic publication entitled Lucrezia Marinella and the “Querelle des Femmes” in Seventeenth-Century Italy through Farleigh Dickinson Press as well as the first edition of a book series called The Italian Virtual Class, which teaches language through cultural acquisition. She writes and publishes articles, essays, OpEds, and non-fiction, and presents her work in various forums throughout the U.S. and abroad. Ristaino recently completed her memoir entitled All the Silent Spaces, which confronts the topics of violence and discrimination.

Ristaino specializes in Italian pedagogy, languages, teacher training, service learning, and education.  She serves on various boards and committees and participates in efforts around social justice, race, class, education reform, and violence prevention.  Ristaino is an award-winning advisor and teacher and has experience organizing powerful symposiums, seminars, conferences and events. She leads workshops on the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion, privilege, writing and talking about difficult topics, and creating a public voice.

Ristaino mentors and advises three student groups and is a well-known, beloved faculty member. She is currently teaching a course about Italian memoir where her students share powerful memoir pieces about identity and overcoming obstacles.

Connect with Christine:
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Beth Ricanati – Baking and Breaking Bread

Beth Ricanati, wellness author


Author Beth Ricanati, MD, has built her career bringing wellness into everyday life, especially for busy moms juggling careers and children. She trained and worked at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.  She now resides in Santa Monica, California.

I’m excited to bring you this fabulous interview with Beth Ricanati. Beth shares with us her philosophies and ideas about the importance of ritual, and finding your own kind of peace with her newly released memoir,  Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs published by She Writes Press in September, 2018.
What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs chronicles my journey from a stressed out, overwhelmed physician-mother to one who has found a way to slow down through the weekly ritual of making challah. Braided is part memoir, part cookbook and part how-to guide.

What are you working on now?

I have thrown myself into publicizing the book, including participating in many events that often involved making challah, demonstrating making challah or braiding challah while also discussing the themes of the book. I am continuing to see patients in clinic as well, and have just realized that I may have another book idea to explore!

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Writing a book is serious business! It can be a lonely endeavor, in contrast to the effort required to publicize the book once it’s published. Surrounding yourself with people who understand what all of this entails is critical – not only will they be supportive, but the knowledge that they bring is invaluable.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

I have always written, but I did not identify as a ‘writer’ until just before I decided to write this book. Rather, I identified as a physician and a mother, even though I was writing short-form pieces – mostly health and wellness-related – for a while before this! Once I committed to this project, I realized how beneficial it was to me personally to add the moniker ‘writer’ to how I self-identified; it legitimized what I had begun to do.

Where do you do most of your writing?

One of my favorite writers since college is Virginia Woolf and I have taken her advice to heart to have a room of one’s own! I write in a beautiful office with a large window that I frequently look out of.

Book Cover BraidedWhat inspires you?

I realized after making challah weekly for five years that this meaningful ritual had taught me so many lessons; moreover, I realized that not only was I probably not the only stressed and overwhelmed person on the block and if these lessons could help me, then they could probably help someone else and hence I began to figure out how to share the story.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

I still make challah every Friday, sometimes by myself and sometimes with others – some of whom I have just met that day. Having a meaningful ritual is so important in today’s crazy world and I love to share mine with others in the hopes that they too will see the benefits!

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I work best with structure and deadlines. I am always thinking of things and jotting notes everywhere, but when it comes time to write, I like to carve out time and get organized at my desk with my computer and a cup of tea, and often some music.

What are you reading right now?

I am just diving into both Annie Lamott’s new book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, and Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open. I just finished Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage and Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels. I love to read and have books stashed everywhere, including in the car in case I’m stuck in traffic!

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

What a fun question! Perhaps Marin Hinkle, who’s currently on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”!

What are your top 3 favorite books?

An impossible question! Can I choose authors instead? I adore Virginia Woolf, Barbara Kingsolver and Dani Shapiro, to name just three.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

My space is very important to me: I like to have a clean desk! Tea and music help too.

Here is what people are saying about Braided:

“Ricanati’s memoir with recipes is a well-written investigation into her maturation as a doctor, her growth as a wife and mother, and the increasing wisdom she gained while pondering Jewish rites and rituals.” ~ Booklist, starred review

“Beth Ricanati has written a unique book: part recipe, part health, with a whole lot of soul. Reading her book is like making a new friend–you feel transported to her California kitchen. A yummy, cozy and inspiring read.” ~Lori Palatnik, author, media personality, and founding director of The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project.

“This is not just a book about making bread. It is a book about making choices, and like a good challah is at times chewy, evocative, and a little sweet. Its wisdom transported me back to the kitchens of my grandmothers and the knowledge that in complicated times, the way forward is always the simple and beloved.”―David Baum, PhD, DMin, speaker, coach, conversation architect, and author of Lightning in a Bottle and The Randori Principles

Connect with Beth:
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The River by Starlight – Author Interview with Ellen Notbohm

This fall, I had the great pleasure of meeting award-winning author, Ellen Notbohm, a fellow author in the She Write Press/Spark Press family. I am so pleased to share with you this interview about her latest release, The River by Starlight, a story inspired by her research into the secrets of her own family history.
What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

book cover The River by Starlight The River by Starlight came about when I hit what genealogists call a brick wall in our research. Every family has one—it’s the person no one will talk about, and there’s always an aura of taboo swirling around that brick wall. The River by Starlight is the story of the woman I found behind my family’s brick wall, a story that took years of painstaking research to bring into the light. It’s literary historical fiction based on the true story of a couple whose passionate union and entrepreneurial success unravels in the face of little-understood perinatal and postpartum illness. Though set a century ago, the themes remain eerily and unsettlingly resonant today: the stigma of mental illness, the inadequacy of mental health care, stark gender inequity, climate disaster, ruinous real estate boom-and-bust. Maternal mental health is a subject rarely addressed in historical fiction, the undertold story of many women, but Riveralso plumbs the depths of a male point of view, a story even less told.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Don’t find reasons not to write. I once confronted a profound question (I think it was from Oprah) that changed my life: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? When I read that question to my husband in a shaking voice, he said, “Well?” and I answered, I would write a book. And he said again, “Well?” And here I am, five books later, all of them award-winners.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

I always enjoyed writing and found ways to incorporate it into most of my so-called day jobs through the years. I believe that if one writes, one is a writer, so I had no sense of actually deciding to become a writer, I simply was one. The leap of faith was from writing articles and other short-form pieces to writing books, and then from writing nonfiction books to writing a novel. In the twilight zone between finishing the novel and getting it published, I wavered. I’d written a novel, so was I a novelist even though it wasn’t yet published? Could I take my own advice and say yes, I am a novelist? I struggled with that, but not for long, and then identifying my choices for the rest of the journey to publication became a bit clearer.

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

My mother always declared how lucky she was, that her children were so different from one and another, it meant that each could be her favorite in their own unique way. That’s proven true of my characters in The River by Starlight, many of whom I love, but in very disparate ways. And of course there are a few villains I and my readers don’t love. One of my favorite reviewer comments: “The characters are real and pop off the page. I have empathy, sorrow, joy, and want to choke a number of them!!”

Where do you do most of your writing?

I have two writing rooms—the room I’m supposed to write in, and the room I actually write in.

Ellen Notbohm photoMy office is spacious but always hopelessly cluttered with the business end of writing and other ongoing aspects of life. I work in my office many hours a day, but it’s not my writing room. I write in the pre-dawn hours, in a bedroom done in dark reds, a few feet from my office. Wee-hours chilly mornings are my best writing time. The red tones of the room feel life-sustaining, suggestive of bloodlines, carrying a sense of history. The multi-media artwork on the walls is a four-generation history continuum too, from watercolors by my husband’s grandmother to needlework by me and a quilt by a good friend, to a painting by one of my children. A writing room needs a live element too—here it’s a feisty old cat, dozing in a dappled knot, a true survivor who fell out of a 150-foot tree in a city park, stumbled into our yard, and never left. Quite a story. Maybe my first children’s book?

What inspires you?

People who continue to exemplify love, grace, humility, generosity, respect, and optimism even in the face of adversity, injustice, and hate. Many of these people are children. We have much to learn from them.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

That I’m still a work-in-progress and I hope that never changes.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

The process is different for fiction vs nonfiction. I wrote my four nonfiction books from what I knew, gathering more “know” as I went along through the years, interacted with more people both peers and professionals. For my novel, the process was the opposite. I had the nugget of a good idea, then I went far and wide to research—fifteen states and provinces—and the arc of the story grew from there. I’d say I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I seem to pull forth material that’s more raw, more organic, more emotionally nuanced when I’m pantsing. Plotting and structure are necessary to any book, but for me it comes later in the process when I see the general path the material is taking.

What are you reading right now?

Susan Henderson’s The Flicker of Old Dreams and Carrie La Seur’s The Weight of an Infinite Sky. We recently shared a panel discussion at the Montana Book Festival, discussing our books’ similarities in theme, one of which was how women who don’t fit easily into their communities find their place and their power.

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

Someone we don’t know yet. Just as there are thousands of extraordinary writers whose work never gets the opportunity to come before the public, so are there actors whose exceptional talents go undiscovered. I’ve deeply appreciated the many people over the years who read my books even though I wasn’t famous, and told me in the most heartfelt terms how it had changed their lives. That’s the kind of actor I’d want to see play Annie. Someone who comes before viewers with no preconceived “Oh, I loved/didn’t love her in ______” notions, or “I liked her better in _______.”

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

The ritual is—no ritual. Since my best writing is done in the dark before anything else happens in the day, the act of getting up with intention and anticipation seems to be all the ritual I need. In general, I find that rituals bore me fairly quickly—that thin line between ritual and rote—then the ritual becomes finding a new ritual, and I don’t find that enjoyable or productive.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

Like many writers, I spend time lamenting how the business end of writing takes up so much time! I also have caregiving responsibilities that require a chunk of me. Trying to maintain balance is always a challenge, but I try to stay away from screens when I’m not working, doing a lot of reading, knitting, walking, cemetery prowling (great sources of story ideas), DIY projects. I love beach-combing and day-tripping to places that, even after a lifetime of living here, I have yet to discover. All of this eventually feeds the muse. And that muse is the ultimate renewable resource.

More about Ellen:

An internationally renowned author, Ellen Notbohm’s work has informed and delighted millions in more than twenty languages. Her books include her multiple award-winning  historical novel The River by Starlight, and the widely beloved Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, a bestseller for over a decade. In addition to her other popular books on autism, her articles and posts on such diverse subjects as history, genealogy, baseball, writing and community affairs have appeared in major publications and captured audiences on every continent.

More about The River by Starlight:

Set in the waning years of Montana’s homestead period, Annie and Adam Fielding’s dreams of prosperity and family shatter as an enigmatic illness of mind and body plagues Annie’s pregnancies and exacts a terrible price. Based on a true story researched across fifteen states and provinces, The River by Starlight weaves a sweeping tale of passionate love, unthinkable loss, resilience and redemption embodied in one woman’s tenacious quest for self-determination in the face of devastating misfortune and social injustice. Its themes of maternal mental health, gender inequity, climate disaster, and economic boom-and-bust remain powerfully and painfully relevant today.

Here’s what reviewers say about The River by Starlight:

“Magical storytelling . . . intimate and poetic language reminiscent of Paulette Jiles and Marisa de los Santos.”  ~Booklist

“Graceful and unflinching.” ~Kirkus Reviews

“Captivating . . . exquisite.”  ~Foreword Reviews

“As rich in theme and detail as the Montana sky is in stars . . . impressive. ~Brian Juenemann, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association

“Really well done. Don’t miss this.” ~Powell’s City of Books Staff Pick

Connect with Ellen:

Website           https://ellennotbohm.com/

Facebook         Ellen Notbohm, Author  https://www.facebook.com/ellennotbohm/

Twitter            @EllenNotbohm   https://twitter.com/EllenNotbohm

LinkedIn          Ellen Notbohm   https://www.linkedin.com/in/ellennotbohm/

Pinterest          Ellen Notbohm   https://www.pinterest.com/EllenNotbohm

Buy Ellen’s book:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IBvZDE

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781631523359

Powell’s:  https://www.powells.com/book/-9781631523359

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/river-by-starlight-ellen-notbohm/1126894130