What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
I started writing in college. It was my passion, but I shelved it because it wasn’t “practical”. So I worked in banking for thirteen years, earning an MBA along the way. I worked such long hours, I barely had time to contemplate whether I was happy or not. I stopped working as much when my son was about two-years-old. When I became pregnant with my daughter, my morning sickness was so bad, working was nearly impossible. I hated it at the time, but looking back, it was the start of something big.
Watching my children grow inspired me to change my thinking. I realized I only had one life, and I should actually live it. I spent the majority of my life being a people-pleaser, and it did not serve me well. I had a good career, but I didn’t enjoy it at the end, and really didn’t have a lot to show for it. I was in a place of keeping up with other people instead of honouring myself.
After a few years of volunteering nearly full-time and reading everything I could, I decided it was time to live for me. It is actually much easier to write now than it was when I had money. I did write a little then, but only under a pen name. I would have been mortified if any of my neighbours knew what my true thoughts were.
I started writing full-time about a year ago. It involved cutting back my expenses (gradually) by at least 80%, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?
I write every day when I am inspired. When I need a break, I take it.
Writing can be difficult with young children, so I used to have to be a lot more creative. My children are growing older now and it has become much easier. I generally wake up before everyone else in the morning to write, and fit in the rest when they have school.
Getting rid of all non-essential items has given me more freedom to write. I have sold or given away almost everything other than food and shelter. I got rid of my TV about four years ago. I sold my big house and my SUV several years ago. Last month I recycled my cell phone, which has helped me to be much more productive. It has been a gradual process, but I am becoming more productive and eco-friendly every year.
There are so many distractions in the modern world that people feel they must have. But I have found my life to be much better without them. I know I would not be able to write what I want to with my previous lifestyle.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
I love writing—and reading—most genres except science fiction and academic styles.
I adore poetry, but I cannot write it all the time. I go through phases when poems come to me. I do find that reading more poetry helps, but other than that, I don’t really control when I can write poetry.
I write what comes to me. I never thought I would write children’s books, but that is what happened first. I really enjoy the creative process of our books, where we put together illustrations and quotes with the story. It’s really quite fun. And I have the best partner—artist Elisabeth Slettnes—in all the world.
What draws you to write in that genre?
I started writing children’s books because that’s what I felt was lacking. My daughter was five when I wrote The Girl God. On one hand, I was scared to death that her life would become like mine had and returned to feminism full-blast. On the other, I was very tired of reading children’s books that lacked imagination and real art. There are some, but much of what is popular for girls is more along the princess/Barbie variety. I felt like books were geared towards dumbing down girls.
I did not want my daughter exposed to any of that, but I also was not prepared for the onslaught of it. You really have to be a very conscious parent these days. Consumer culture comes from all directions. Whether you buy these books or not, someone else will buy them—or read them—to your child.
We must radically change the world on so many levels: war, poverty, global warming, rape, violence against women, sexual and other forms of slavery….I could go on and on. We are really in a mess. The best place to start is at the beginning, where humans are the most open. In many parts of the world, children are becoming the majority. Our children will live in a very different world than we do. I believe they will have to learn to be more inclusive. The current domination model cannot go on forever—and it shouldn’t.
There are a million good novels out there—and I hope to write one someday. But right now, I feel like we need children’s books. When a parent reads a child a book again and again, it becomes a part of who they both are. I hope to help change the collective consciousness of our world.
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
I would like to publish at least five more books in The Girl God series. We already have a book on Mother Earth nearly finished for publication in the fall. The books have a set format with a storyline, magical illustrations by Elisabeth and quotes from various faith traditions and feminist thinkers. I am very excited about this next book as the illustrations keep getting better and better. We have some beautiful poetry and quotations lined up as well, including Vandana Shiva, Patricia Monaghan, Raffi, Sue Monk Kidd, Alice Walker, Winona LaDuke, Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, Molly Remer, Ursula K. Le Guin, Audre Lorde, Arundhati Roy and many more.
We also have a book on Palestine underway. This is something Elisabeth and I have been hoping to publish since we first met several years ago. I had planned to publish this book earlier, but I wanted to do a very thorough job of researching it. Both of us have a very strong love for Palestine. I wanted to make sure that the book is also balanced, so I have spent an enormous amount of time watching Israeli films and reading Israeli books as well.
I also wrote a book about my time in Lebanon nearly twenty years ago. I hope to publish it in the next few years. It involves my first husband, so it needed some time to pass. I know it will be a proud day for both of us when it is out. The Middle East is still a part of the world that many Westerners are either scared of or don’t know much about. Lebanon is etched into my soul. Going there—and being married to a Lebanese man—forever changed the course of my life in a very positive way. I want people to read about that part of the Arab world too.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I have a never-ending list of things I’d like to write about, of various genres. My husband and I have been talking about doing an erotic poetry book together as well. He is my partner in everything and has supported me so much with The Girl God. When you write a book you generally get all the credit, but I could not do any of this without my mother and husband, who have done everything from my website, to editing , formatting, translating, promotion—and more. Elisabeth’s partner has also been enormously helpful. I enjoy working collectively with other people. I will likely do some compilations and projects with other women too. There are so many things that interest me—but I often lack time. You can do so much more with a partner.
I am most interested in feminism, spirituality, social justice and sexuality. I just hope for a long life so I can write it all!
Where can people find out more about you?
My website is www.thegirlgod.com.