Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Author Interview: Chris Loehmer Kincaid

Today, I’m happy to introduce Chris Loehmer Kincaid, author of the newly released Where the Sky Meets the Sand, a terrific read.

Her moving novel about a young woman’s transformative visit to Africa (now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble) will release in paperback format on Friday, September 1.

Chris has kindly answered a few questions about how her experiences in Africa shaped her writing, her commitment to the people of Kenya, and her next novel.

Thank you, Chris, for sharing your thoughts with us. I'm already looking forward to reading your next book!

How did traveling in Africa affect how your story developed? On my various trips to Africa, I've met so many people who are happy despite the deplorable conditions they live in. They all have a story to tell. I hope that by incorporating at least a few of their stories into my characters' lives, that others will see their lives as well.

My first trip to Africa was with my daughter and a mission team from Wisconsin in 2006. I had such high hopes that this trip would change the lives of all the people we worked with in Kenya, but I came home disappointed, asking myself, "Did I really make a difference?"

I wrote about that experience in my first book, the memoir, A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven. My daughter had returned home after that trip with much the same feelings. A few years later, trying to find her place in life, she journeyed back to Kenya to volunteer for six months. As I began writing my memoir in 2013, both she and I were called to return to Kenya again, this time to begin forming our own nonprofit organization, Tumaini Volunteers. I guess, though, the simplest way to answer your question, is to tell you that Kenya is a beautiful country with beautiful people who appreciate everything we do for them. I will continue to return to Kenya just to see their smiles.

What do you want readers to know about Tumaini Volunteers Foundation? Tumaini means hope in Swahili, the language spoken in Kenya and much of eastern Africa. When founding our nonprofit organization, Tumaini Volunteers, our main goal was to bring hope to those living in dire conditions. Currently we are working in a community of approximately 2,500 people, very few of whom are employed. The need in this community is so great it seems overwhelming, but our hope is that if we can introduce a few sustainable projects, the community can begin to develop on its own.

If you could give your younger self any writing advice, what would it be? Be patient and keep submitting. When I was in college, I submitted a half dozen or so pieces to various places, and none were accepted. I gave up on writing for a long time, thinking I would never get published and that no one would ever want to read what I wrote. At the time, I think mostly that I didn't have anything to say. Now, with so much more life experience, I don't think I'll ever stop having stories to share.

What's your current project? I am currently working on a novel set in northern Wisconsin in the mid-1970s. It is similar to Where the Sky Meets the Sand in that one of the main characters is also struggling with a difficult past. He is a Vietnam War vet fighting PTSD, which was not even a diagnosis until 1980. Few of the other characters in the book understand what he is going through. I haven't had nearly as much time to write this story as I would like, and the whole time, I picture this young man in my mind, imploring me to tell his story.

For more information about Chris Loehmer Kincaid, visit her page on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. For more information on the Foundation, visit Tumaini Volunteers.

Here's her video trailer for Where the Sky Meets the Sand:

Friday, August 25, 2017

Visiting the Wall . . .

Today we drove about 20 miles to visit the traveling version of the Vietnam War Memorial from Washington, D.C. On this sunny afternoon, we walked along the roughly 300 foot replica to find a soldier's name who served in Vietnam with Allen. On Panel 43E, 53 lines down, we found his name and stood quietly for a few moments.

We were then told to go to the KSPS booth for Allen had something to talk with them about and perhaps give them.

KSPS, our local public radio station, sponsored this traveling exhibit as a community service event tied to Ken Burns' upcoming series on the Vietnam War.

While on patrol in Vietnam, Allen's unit came under fire from a bunker. Three men were sent to clear the bunker, one on each side and one from the front. Allen was one of the three men who charged the bunker, killing the man inside. The translator told Allen he wanted him to keep the man's helmet as a memory of this young man, wounded and far from home, with photos of his family and his sweetheart in his pocket.

It was this helmet that Allen gave to the people at the KSPS table. They promised they would do their best to return the helmet to the man's family in Vietnam, or make sure it found its way to the Vietnam Memorial Museum. He also gave them a copy of his novel, Reaching, which includes a chapter about the helmet in more detail.

I'm not saying today's visit to that open, grassy field where the replica monument had been set up was easy, but as we watched others look for names of loved ones, we were moved and at peace.

Peonies at Manito Park (Spokane 2017)
For more information about the Vietnam Traveling Wall: http://www.travelingwall.us/
Or, for information about Ken Burns' program on the Vietnam War: http://www.ksps.org/community/thevietnamwarproject  Or, read the KSPS article about the Traveling Wall here in Spokane: http://www.ksps.org/blogs/ksps-news/the-wall-that-heals-comes-to-spokane-august-24-27-2017/ 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

August IWSG: I hate tailgaters

So I'm tooling along at my usual 5 miles above the speed limit, when someone, typically in a RAM truck, starts pushing my back bumper and gesticulating wildly. I have 3 options: Stay at my current speed, go faster, or pull over. Sometimes I use the flasher lights to say, "Back off." If the person doesn't slow down, I pull over. And I wonder what happened to the world of courtesy to other drivers? When did drivers simply stop following posted speed limits (especially in school zones)? Or ignore stop signs? Or 'forget' to use their turn signals? 

Sometimes I daydream that we could all use paintball guns when someone's driving is reckless. But that RAM truck driver probably has a real gun ready to use. Sigh.

So what has my pet peeve about other drivers have to do with writing? This month's question from the Insecure Writer's Support Group is: "What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?"

When I'm reading what someone else has written, what turns me off faster than someone who tailgates:

--Errors in basic punctuation in any published work. 
--Stories that blatantly exploit sex or violence in any genre.
--Stories that end without resolution or leave characters hanging but tag to the next book.
--POSITIVE: I love good writing that immerses me in the story world, even with lapses as noted above.

Horses at Eagle Crest, Oregon (2016)
When I'm writing (or working with a writing group), what pushes me away:

--If I don't have the right research to write the scene. Solution: Jump sideways slightly to find what I need.
--When my characters are like ghosts. Solution: Write dialogue and/or character back story to find out more about them.
--If the writing group is too positive and my only benefit is from reading aloud. Solution: Ask questions for more critical feedback.
--If the writing group is so negative so I go home nearly in tears, not believing in my story or myself. Solution: Find a new writing group.

When I'm editing

--I wish I could work on more than one project at a time, for example, start the next story while editing the current one. For me, the editing of a novel takes discipline, months of time, and a different way of looking at story. 

So far, I haven't been able to work on more than one major project at a time, not even writing poetry while editing a novel. Solution: Work consistently on the editing. Yes, I write nearly every day, early in the morning. No interruptions. Quiet. Sounds like heaven.

Now writing this post was fun. At first I was a little worried it would be too negative, but two surprises: For every peeve, there's a solution (except for tailgaters). And I'm thankful once again for online writing communities like the Insecure Writer's Study Group and A Round of Words in 80 Days that connect me with other writers. 

Why not go visit a few, join in, and celebrate YOUR writing.

Summer at Manito Park (2017)