Monday, 28 May 2012

Write For The the tub

Steam fills the room carrying with it the sweet, uplifting scent of citrus. Sheer white curtains sway with the incoming breeze off of the lake. The shimmer and glitter coming from the reflection of the glass chandelier on the sea coloured tile makes it feel like we're under the sea. Instead I'm sitting here, in my bathtub with author Marni Mann. She has graciously accepted my invitation to visit my bathtub to have a chat about her recent writing contributions to the anthology Write for the Fight. The book, co-authored by Tess Thompson Hardwick and Tracey Hansen asks four questions that take the readers through the seasons of their life: to reminiscing on their youth to forecasting what they would want people to say about them on their 80th birthday. It is a celebration of life, love and laughter with all proceeds being donated to breast cancer research.

So everyone, please help me welcome Marni Mann!

CE: Hi Marni. Thanks for joining me in my bathtub. How's the temperature for you?

MM: Hi Christina! It’s such a pleasure to be here. Your bathroom is absolutely beautiful and the water is a perfect temperature. Oh! Is that a jet I feel behind my back? Forgive me, but I may never leave.

CE: As you know, I spend a lot of time here in my tub. In fact this is where I read Write for the Fight. Do you have a favourite spot where you like to read?

MM: I do most of my reading in my screened-in lanai, sitting at the table, and facing the pool. Since I’m originally from Maine, I like to take full advantage of Florida’s weather and spend as much time as I can outside. When Amazon invents a waterproof Kindle, I might actually read in the pool. For now, glancing at the setting sun and glistening water between pages is an absolute treasure.

CE: As writers we can sometimes express our true thoughts and feelings through our characters and in doing so be 'behind the curtains'.
What was it like to reflect on your own life for this anthology? To question your past, present and future and then publish it for all to read? Was there a worry of being exposed at all?

MM: One of my favorite things about fiction is the ability to sprinkle myself all over the pages without the reader knowing. This is the first time I’ve been this honest in print. It was nerve-wracking and extremely emotional. I wasn’t sure how much of myself I would be willing to reveal. Worry follows honesty. Readers were going to be supporting this cause, one that’s close to my heart, and they deserved to hear the truth. It was a gamble, but one that I was happy to make.

CE: Was the writing process different for you? How?

MM: For each of my novels, I worked off an outline. I knew the points I had to cover in each chapter and I let the creative juices connect the dots. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about what I was going to write.

For Write for the Fight, I didn’t have an outline. I didn’t think about the prompts at all. I opened the Word document, read the question three or four times, took a deep breath, and wrote. My thoughts were scattered and there was no flow. I purged on the page. The editing stage is when I concentrated on the mechanics, the quality of my writing, and the transitions between paragraphs.

CE: What did you learn about yourself through this writing process?

MM: The spring and summer essays (What do you miss about being 5 years old / what would you tell your 20-year-old self) were the easiest to write. I had a lot to cover and the words poured out of me. But those essays were also the most difficult, because it’s harder to reflect on the past than wish for the future. I learned that even though I’m now in my thirties, I still haven’t taken my own advice. I don’t practice what I preached in those essays.

CE: Based on what you learned, is there anything you would change about yourself or your life to prepare yourself more for how you see yourself at 80?

MM: I would start breathing. As odd as that sounds, I think I forget sometimes that we need air to survive. I do spend a lot of time outside, but I’m not sure how much of that fresh breeze I’m inhaling. I have a difficult time shutting my brain off, enjoying the moment without dwelling on the to-do list, and not multi-tasking during every minute I’m awake. I need to learn how to breathe again and appreciate each breath. You never know when it will be your last.

CE: Your drink getting kind of low. Can I top it up for you?

MM: Please, Christina, and thank you. You make an excellent margarita. You even remembered the extra salt--my favorite.

CE: Well, you know, this is a five-star bathtub! What drew you to becoming involved in this anthology?

MM: My aunt is a breast cancer survivor. I’ll never forget the day when she told my parents and me her diagnosis. She’s such a strong woman. She was much stronger than I was during that time. I was an emotional wreck while I watched the side effects of the chemotherapy. I’ll also never forget when the doctor said she was in remission. My hope is that more, if not all, women can have the same outcome as my aunt. My words could help that cause. I was honored and humbled to Write for the Fight.

CE: Your passion, love and insightfulness certainly came through the pages.

MM: Thank you for the wonderful compliment, Christina.

CE: Thank you so much for stopping by, Marni! You’re the first person I’ve have in my bathtub and I have to say it was a pleasure. Feel free to come back anytime!

MM: Thank you for having me! You've been such a gracious host and I've enjoyed every minute of my time with you.

Write For The Fight  is available for the Amazon Kindle and on paperback.

It is also available on paperback at Barnes&Noble.

Remember all proceeds are being donated to breast cancer research.

About Marni Mann

A New Englander at heart, Marni Mann, now a Floridian is inspired by the sandy beaches and hot pink sunsets of Sarasota. A writer of literary fiction, she taps a mainstream appeal and shakes worldwide taboos, taking her readers on a dark, harrowing, and gritty journey. When she's not nose deep in her laptop, she's scouring for chocolate, traveling, reading, or walking her four-legged children. Memoirs Aren't Fairytales is her first novel. The sequel, Scars from a Memoir, will be released soon.

Friday, 11 May 2012

A Tribute to my Grandmother on Mother's Day

As Mother's Day approaches I'm reminded of the wonderful, influential female figures I have in my life, including my own mother.

Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about my maternal grandmother. She passed away when I was 8 years old due to complications from cancer. She was 72. Even though I was young, I understood the magnitude of this loss. I understood that I lost my grandmother, a playmate, a dancing partner, and a friend. My mother, at 33, lost her own mom, her confidante and her best friend. My father lost a surrogate mother, and a friend. We were all lost without her and not sure how to go about life after her death.

Even now, over 20 years later, my heart still aches for my grandma. I wish that I had more time to bask in her light and witness her unconditional love for others. I yearn for one more day to put The Pointer Sisters on in her tape deck and dance in her living room with her. One more girls’ lunch out, driving in her boat of a car.

My grandma and I made the best team. Before I learned to walk, my grandma was getting a bit too old to carry me up the stairs to bed, so I learned to crawl up with her climbing the stairs behind me, using the rail to support her stiff body and brittle bones. When I was older and my grandmother had a harder time getting around, I would make her coffee. Instant coffee, with just the right amount of Coffee-Mate. And of course we would play games. I would get out my Fisher-Price telephone, the one that had the google eyes that rolled around when you pulled it, and we would watch The Shopping Channel together. If we saw an item we liked, one of us would "call" into the show and the other would take the order. We put in many "orders" for pretty dolls, jewellery, and cordless vacuums.

From what I learned from my mom, grandma was quite an inspirational woman. Even when my grandma was out of her comfort zone, she rose to the occasion and made the best of the situation. For example, my grandma didn't like camping very much. Still, she got her three kids ready and she, along with her husband would spend the whole summer camping. And the camp sites, weren't your modern day "hi-tech" sites with electricity, running water and wi-fi. Nope. These camp sites were reserved for Man and Mother Nature only. Regardless of the number of mosquito bites my grandma endured, she still had a smile on her face in pictures with her wide-brimmed hat sitting near the shade keeping a watchful eye on her family as they frolicked and played in the water.

When her husband passed away well before his time, my grandma decided that she needed to learn how to drive a car so that she could get a job to support herself and her two children who were still at home. At this time, my grandma was no spring chicken. She would have been in her 50's. Can you imagine what it would have been like in the 1970's for an older woman learning to drive a big boat of a car without power steering and without automatic transmission? But she did it. She did it while still grieving for her husband. She did it while raising a 15-year-old (my mom) and a 10-year-old. She lived life with strength and grace that I can only aspire to possess.

My grandma worked as a receptionist in a medical office until she was in her late 60’s, until the cancer made her not able to work. Still I remember her working at the doctor’s office.  She would be trading recipes and offering sage advice to patients while they were waiting for their appointment. I would get to come back to her office and write messages for her on index cards and then she would send me with some money to get some Reese’s Pieces at the corner store.

Grandma was a stay-at-home mom, who always hugged her husband when he got home from work and then made sure his work clothes were clean for the next day. Little did she know that these acts of affection and devotion would eventually take her life. My grandpa worked as a welder and back in the day often used asbestos in his work. He died in 1970 of asbestos-related lung cancer. It’s quite likely that asbestos fibers transferred from grandpa’s work clothes to my grandma’s clothes and contributed to the cancer that ate away at her body years later.

When I think of my grandma, I think of her smile, her Chanel No. 5 perfume and the love she had for life. I remember her by planting tiger lilies in my garden and always getting gladiolas to arrange in the house when they are in bloom. I see her now as a gentle soul who had a quiet strength. I don’t see her as someone who was frail, or sick, or cancer ridden.

I see the joyous light that poured out of her and I hope that she continues to share that with me through my heart.

I was reminded of my grandma most recently when I was reading Write for the Fight: A Collection of Seasonal Essays co-authored by Tess Hardwick and Tracey Hansen. A mosaic of authors answered four seemingly simple questions: What do you miss about being 5 years old? What would you tell your 20-year-old self? What, at this point in your life, do you want, wish and dream of for your life going forward? What would you want said about you on your 80th birthday?

Like all other books, I read this one in my bathtub. I found myself wrapped up in everyone’s stories, following their life lessons, laughing with the authors’ follies, and sharing in their their sadness. It is not often that I catch myself laughing and crying out loud while reading a book, but I did lots of it while reading this book!

The proceeds from this book go toward breast cancer research, but the book itself is not about cancer. Yet, in a way it is about cancer. The book is a celebration of all life’s seasons: the young and inhibited to the older and more reflective and everything else in between. 

After reading the book I reflected on the questions posed. I remembered being 5 and playing baseball in the house with my grandmother. Of dancing in front of the TV to American Bandstand. Even though she died when I was eight, memories of my grandmother - of her kindness, her laughter and her generosity of spirit - resonate with me to this day. All it took was a little reminder from all of the talented authors who contributed to Write for the Fight.

Write for the Fight by Tess Hardwick and Tracey Hansen is available for purchase through Barnes & Noble and Amazon. They have both hard copy and ebook versions available. All proceeds go toward breast cancer research.