Member Spotlight: Maija Rhee Devine

Maija Rhee Devine is a Korean-born writer whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Boulevard, North American Review, The Kenyon Review, and in various anthologies.  

The Voices of Heaven, her novel/love story about a polygamous family and their struggles during the Korean War, flows from her first-hand experience of growing up in Seoul during the war and its aftermath. She is also the author of a chapbook, Long Walks on Short Days.

Q. How did you begin your literary journey?  Did you always think the material would be a novel?

A. I began by taking a memoir-writing workshop with Vicki Lindner, a NY writer teaching at the University of Wyoming, Laramie.  No, I never thought of writing, in any genre, although I've been an avid writer of personal letters and journals. I began reshaping autobiographical materials of the memoir version I completed by 2001 at the suggestion of  New York agent Stephanie von Hirschberg. 

Q. How did you find a literary agent?  

A. I met Tim Seldes, the former president of Russell and Volkening Literary Agency in New York, at the Key West Literary Seminar. He had represented major writers, including Nadine Gordimer, Annie Dillard, Ann Tyler, and Eudora Welty in fiction and Daniel Schorr and Jim Lehrer in nonfiction. He mentored me through three revisions of The Voices of Heaven before retiring abruptly and leaving me with no agent. 

Q. How did the book get published?  

A. A Korean publisher with a business license for a branch in Irvine, California, took the English version rather than the Korean one, which I translated myself, because of the publisher's vision to introduce Korean history and culture to the outside world.  

Q. What have you done to promote the book?  

A. Everything legal and mostly free. I followed Linda Rodriguez' publicity 101 suggestions I received at The Writers Place! I also read two books on self-promotion. I tried paid services, too--a publicist, a Pro-Connect page on Kirkus Reviews website, and an “Author Buzz.” If a major publisher had published my book and sent galleys three months in advance to top reviewers and got  book reviews done, I might not have had to spend as much money on promotion as I did. I maintain a website and try to keep up with Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I also invest time corresponding with personal contacts and the contacts they refer me to. One does not know which lead will turn up something stupendous and when. I also follow one of the suggestions given by my promotion guru, Linda Rodriguez: Try to do something for fellow writers. I often feel I fall short on this. The giving should exceed the taking, I remind myself.   

Q. How did you come to do a TEDx talk?  

A. By searching for opportunities to make author visits to schools and organizations and book clubs, and showing up when asked (through sleet and storm, as I did in April of 2013, visiting Ft. Collins High School, Colorado. The plane was delayed. The inviting party suggested canceling. The school was closed and would likely remain closed the next day. I dropped my cell phone on the floor, breaking it completely. I borrowed a fellow passenger’s cell phone. . . . but I forged ahead. The next day went crazy with sunshine that only Colorado sky can come up with. The school opened, and I gave the talk.)  I tried to do the best job I could to be informative and entertaining.  After one such session at a university in Seoul, I was asked to come back to Seoul to deliver a TEDx talk.  Traveling from KC to Seoul even once a year can be tough (24-hour travel, including layovers and strain on one’s pocket book). I had already made two trips that year. Did I want to travel there again in three months? No. I said I’d think about it.  When I told our youngest son teaching at an international school in Seoul about this, he said, “Mom!  When invited to give a TED talk, you do it!”

Q. What is next for you?  

A. Writing Journals of Comfort Women (a tentative title) about tens of thousands of Korean girls strong-armed into providing sexual services to Japanese soldiers during WWII. Each woman served 20-30 men per day on weekdays; 40-50 per day on weekends without pay during WWII. I met with the few women living in a museum dormitory near Seoul. 

To learn more about the book and Maija's work, visit: http://www.maijarheedevine.com/ 

Here is a link to her Tedx Talk on YouTube:  http://youtu.be/GFD-6JFLF5A



Member Spotlight: Deborah Shouse (Archived from 2014 First Quarter Newsletter)

Deborah Shouse, author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey

BY DIANE SALUCCI  


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Deborah Shouse is a former Writers Place board member and author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. Deborah has also written for such publications as the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Reader’s Digest, Woman’s Day and Family Circle. She writes a weekly column for the Kansas City Star and has authored and co-authored a number of books. Her writing has been featured in more than four dozen Chicken Soup books.

Q. What inspired you to write a book about your experience of caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s?

A. I didn’t initially plan to write a book about dealing with my mother’s illness. Rather, I was using writing, as many of us do, to process my feelings about what was happening with both of my parents. It was a means of staying sane through a chaotic situation. There was so much grief and confusion, so it started out as more of a journal. Then I began documenting what was happening during my visits from a more objective point of view. I wrote about my mom’s behaviors, as well as what my dad was going through. As I read my notes, I thought it might be interesting to turn my experiences into a personal essay--my main art form at the time. I decided to present this essay at an upcoming literary event, where I was also reading two short stories. I didn’t know if anyone would be interested in it, as it was so personal to me. But afterward, so many people came up to me to share their own experiences with loved ones in various stages of dementia. This was a sign that a lot of people were going through the same issues I was. From then on I started turning my observations into essays. 

Q. So you became more purposeful then in writing about your experience?

A. Yes, I began submitting these essays to such publications as the Washington Post and Women’s Day. Then my writing partners suggested that I might want to write a book. I knew I would need chronology, so I became more mindful of creating a whole arc to the story.

Q. At that point, were you thinking about how you would get it published?

A. No, I just worked on putting it together into a whole. I didn’t finish the book until my mom died, so I was actually working on the essays over a five-year period, during which I was mostly doing other writing. I had help from various critique partners, and then I hired a professional copyeditor to take a fresh look at it. Only at the end of that process did I hire a proofreader for a final review.

Q. Once you completed that process, why did you choose to self-publish the book?

A. What inspired me was the wonderful help I received from our local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. It was a kind of inspiration – an intuition – that this would be a way to give back to them. I decided not to take any money from this book, but to donate all sales various non-profit organizations involved in dementia.

Q. How did you get the book produced?

A. Friends from my writing community were helpful in pulling all the resources together to get it printed in paper form. The book was initially published several years ago, so an e-book was not an option then.

Q. How did you promote the book yourself? 

A. My life partner Ron Zoglin and I developed a presentation of the stories that we could perform together, even before the essays became a book. We set up speaking engagements at not-for-profit groups involved with helping caregivers, particularly those caring for Alzheimer’s patients. Whenever we traveled internationally we would volunteer to give our presentation to caregiving groups there.  Eventually we had the book available to sell for donations to the organizations.

Q. What made you decide later to find a traditional publisher?

A. After we exceeded our goal of raising $50,000 with the book, I decided to publish it traditionally and still donate a portion of the proceeds. By this time, my former agent had retired, so I was starting fresh to find the right publisher. During a brainstorming session with an author friend, she offered to introduce me to her publisher, Central Recovery Press in Las Vegas. I emailed a query and then sent the transcript, which they accepted. Because of the introduction, I did not go through an agent, but went directly through an editor at the publishing company. I then hired an intellectual property attorney to review my contract. The book was published November 2013. 

Q. How are you handling promotion for the book?

A. I have agreed to handle all local promotions and connect with caregiver groups. The publisher is doing the initial national publicity. They started in 2013 by introducing the book at the American Library Association Conference and then put an ad in Psychology Today and arranged for a Publisher’s Weekly review. We are just at the beginning stages, so the book promotion will progress into 2014. And I am doing a lot of social media, including blogging and tweeting, through my website at http://deborahshousewrites.wordpress.com/. So it is a partnership.

Q. What is next for you?

A. My stories focus on finding the gifts in the caregiver’s experience and on staying connected with the person who has dementia. Readers tell me that my ideas for staying connected and my messages of hope are very helpful. My vision is that millions of people worldwide will be helped by this book.


To learn more about the book and Deborah’s work, visit: www.deborahshousewrites.wordpress.com/news-reviews/  

Rainy Day Books has autographed copies of Love in the Land of Dementia.  Call 913-384-3126 or www.Rainydaybooks.com You can also buy the book at Barnes & Noble and your favorite local or on-line bookseller.

Follow Deborah on Twitter: @DeborahShouse

Enjoy her blog on Navigating the Caregiver's Journey at www.deborahshousewrites.wordpress.com/


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