Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summertime Hiatus

Clockwork Conversations is currently on hiatus.

Hope to see you all back here again very soon!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Conversation 39: Author Mary Rowen

Greetings all! It gives me great pleasure to welcome back author Mary Rowen to the blog...

Glad to have you visit again, Mary! First, in a few paragraphs, please remind our readers who you are and what you do.

MR: I’m a Boston area writer who grew up in the Massachusetts Merrimack Valley, graduated from Providence College with a degree in English, and have worked as a teacher, a marketing writer, and a political canvasser.
All my novels (Leaving the Beach and Living by Ear are currently published by Booktrope, and there's a new one in the works) are about women of various ages discovering who they are, and what they want from life.
My blog is at:
Q1: Thank you. Now, please tell us who (either a person you know or someone famous) has had the greatest influence on your life as an artist, or just in general?
MR: In college, I floundered a LOT. I know everyone does some of that, but I was very anxious and confused, and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. 
Therefore, I made a bunch of bad decisions, which only made things worse. But one night, on a whim, I entered a campus poetry competition and was shocked when I won some kind of prize. 
Later on, one of my English professors--who oversaw the school's literary magazine--asked if I'd like to be co-editor of that magazine. 
That professor was the first person to tell me she saw potential in my writing, and she took me under her wing and became a real mentor. 
Unfortunately, I was also suffering from a serious eating disorder at that time, and a year later, I made another decision on a whim: to spend my junior year abroad in Switzerland. But I never got around to telling my mentor about that until the very last minute, leaving her almost no time to find a replacement for me on the magazine. When I finally told her I was leaving, she was--justifiably--very angry, and told me I'd hurt her very badly. She also said I needed to get my (you know what) together. 
Of course, I cried and apologized, and later on, I cried a whole lot more. But that professor taught me two things I've never forgotten: 1. that I have the ability to be a decent writer if I work hard, and 2.) regardless of what you're going through/dealing with, you still need to treat people with respect. I'd heard that latter point many times, but it wasn't until she laid it out for me that I truly understood. It was a very hard lesson to learn.

Q2: We’ve spoken about your love of music before, but please remind our readers… how did you come to fall in love with music? How has it helped to shape you as a person?

MR: Oh gosh, music has been an integral part of my life since I was a baby. My dad used to tell me that he'd get me to sleep as an infant by blaring Count Basie on the stereo and dancing me around the living room. Later on, in middle school, I found my identity (for a while anyway) by playing guitar with a group of classmates. 

We called ourselves the Beach Girls, and would play at talent shows and in church too. Then, in high school, when my life began taking some dark turns, I found comfort in all kinds of rock & roll--the Doors, David Bowie, the Police, Bruce Springsteen, Blondie, Elvis Costello...the list goes on and on. 

Also, I should mention that my husband and I never would've dated if we hadn't bonded over our mutual love of Nirvana. I can't even imagine where I'd be right now without music!

Q3: You recently wrote an important blog post about things people should consider before adding a companion animal, specifically a dog, to their family. What advice would you have for anyone considering animal adoption?

MR: Thanks for mentioning that, Bru. I was really affected by something I read on the internet about our disposable society, and how so many things we acquire these days can be tossed in the trash or returned for a full refund. And I guess that's a good thing if you buy, say, a pair of shoes, and then realize they don't match your outfit. But it's terrible when people adopt pets and then decide, after a period of time, that they're too much work or simply not what they were hoping for, so they turn them loose (yes, people actually do that) or return them to the animal shelter or breeder that they came from. 

Of course there are exceptions--like when a good pet owner falls in love with someone who's allergic--but in general, when a person decides to bring a pet into their home, they should plan on keeping that animal for the duration of its life. 

So they really need to think about the amount of time, energy, and money that pet will require. Dogs, in particular, need a lot of exercise (at least when they're young), so if the owner doesn't have a fenced yard, that dog will need to be walked several times a day. Our family got a dog two years ago, and I must admit I never expected to spend as much time walking him as I do. I'm lucky that I have a flexible work schedule and have grown to love our walks together, but bringing him into our lives was a huge change.  

Q4: What is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled?

MR: Easy question: the Greek islands. Although I went there many (many!) years ago with friends, and would love to return sometime with my husband.

Q5: Since you’ve answered the usual bonus question before here’s a new one for you: Say money is no object. What vacation trip would you plan, where would you go, for how long, and what would you hope it would be like?

MR: Well, since the only continents I've visited are Europe and North America, if money were no object, I guess I'd try to plan some sort of trip around the world. The biggest problem would be figuring out where to stop on each continent. I'm fifty years old, so I've met people from all over, and whenever I talk to them about their home counties, they tell me about "must see" places. So what do you do? Go to the major metropolises, or try to stay in out-of-the-way spots? It sure would be fun trying to plan!!

Thanks so much for having me as a blog guest, February! You're such a great host, and I'm really looking forward to reading Wishing Cross Station. 
That is so kind of you to say. Thank you again for coming by for another visit, it has been an absolute pleasure!

You can find out more about author Mary Rowen here:

We'll see you next time on Clockwork Conversations!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Conversation 38: Anesa Miller

Welcome back to Clockwork Conversations, everyone! It is my pleasure to introduce you today to Anesa Miller!

So glad to have you with us, please tell us a little about yourself.

AM: I'm a mom of grown children and wife of a scientist who refuses to retire. I'm a gardener and animal-lover. I'm a writer who has published in several different genres: short fiction, long fiction, poetry (both free verse and formal), also non-fiction and a few translations. Lately, I write primarily realistic contemporary fiction.

Q1: You have quite an impressive educational history: including a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures. What set you on a path to that course of study?

AM: In high school, my best friend and I wound up in AP English, and each chose a personal reading list from a foreign literature. I chose Spanish, and she chose Russian. She would pass me notes with quotations from the fascinating books she was reading, like The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. To this day, this is one of my favorite passages from any novel—

"Though I do not believe in the order of things, still the sticky little leaves that come out in the spring are dear to me, the blue sky is dear to me…such things you love not with your mind but with your insides, with your guts."
            "You love life more than the meaning of life?"
                   "Certainly. Love it before logic… only then will you understand its meaning."

I felt that my friend had made the more interesting choice. So when I started college and had a chance to study that language and learn about Russian literature, I signed up for those courses right away. "The rest is history," as the saying goes.

Q2: What was it really like, living in Russia as a student? What was the biggest life-lesson you took away from the experience?

AM: I spent the academic year 1983-84 in Moscow, back in the days of the "Evil Empire," when Russian-American relations were not so good. I was married to my first husband, and we were both graduate students. We had a 3-year-old daughter that we, of course, took with us for our year abroad. Well, caring for a small child was very difficult under the notorious conditions of that time: shortages of consumer goods, long lines in the stores, few prepared foods, crowded public transportation, and so on. 

As foreigners, we enjoyed some privileges, such as access to imported products, that locals did not have, but this was only a small help in the everyday scheme of things. So it was a huge learning experience for an American who had never known those difficulties. And the bureaucracy—just getting my daughter enrolled in day care was an epic saga! 

I broke down in tears at the children's clinic when I couldn't understand all the paperwork. Thank God, the nurses finally took pity on me and signed the enrollment materials. So I saw a broad range of human nature and learned more about international conflicts than I'd ever dreamed possible.

Q3: Your website says that you are a nature lover. What is your favorite natural environment, and why do you love it there?

AM: I love the state of Ohio (where my novel Our Orbit takes place). I wound up moving there for a job, more or less by chance, but then fell in love with the natural ecosystems. It's one of the greenest states and has many different kinds of beautiful trees and flowers. Moreover, I learned that my family history has deep roots in the Appalachian part of southern Ohio, which is so pretty with all the hills and valleys.

Q4: Given the chance to explore one of the following which would you choose and why: A secluded beach, a deep, cool forest, a mountain region, or a network of underground caves?

AM: Hmm. For relaxing, I'd probably go for the beach, but since you say it's an exploratory venture—definitely the forest. Forests have tremendous diversity and lots of wildlife, which I enjoy. Bird watching is one of my favorite things (not the fanatical kind, just seeing and appreciating our feathered friends), and I love woodland animals like foxes and deer.

Q5: *bonus question for everyone* Do you collect anything? If so, why?

AM: I don't think of it as collecting, per se, but I do love to purchase unique items from local crafters and artists when I have a chance. I've got a number of handmade baskets in my kitchen, several hand-thrown cups, and some nice beadwork. I like to shop direct from the maker at fairs and markets. It feels like win-win for everyone.


That is a fascination we share, Anesa, as I LOVE art fairs and buying things from makers when I have the chance : )

Thank you so much for being our guest today.

You can learn more about Anesa Miller and her writing by visiting her at:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Conversation 37: Dana Leipold

Greetings all, and welcome back to Clockwork Conversations, where writers talk about almost everything... except writing!

Today I am pleased to welcome Dana Leipold to the blog. 

Here is a little information about our guest to get us started:


Dana Leipold is an author and member of the Association of Independent Authors. Her debut novel, Burnt Edges, depicts the unwavering resilience of a young woman in the face of family violence and abuse. She has self-published two other books: a collection of limericks in Dr. Seuss-style for adults entitled, Stupid Poetry: The Ultimate Collection of Sublime and Ridiculous Poems, and a non-fiction book entitled, The Power of Writing Well: Write Well. Change the World. Leipold lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area. 


Q1: On your website you mention that you enjoy Yoga. When did you begin doing Yoga, and what does it add to your life?

DL: I started practicing yoga in earnest in 2000 when a friend of mine and I went to this amazing yoga retreat through the White Lotus Yoga Foundation in Santa Barbara, California.


Yoga helps me focus and get into my body when often I’m in my head. I feel like I’m a better writer and a better person whenever I consistently practice yoga.

Q2: What advice would you have for someone who wanted to try Yoga but felt overwhelmed?


DL: Learn more about it. Google it. Read books. Watch videos. Take a beginner’s class…in fact, take a lot because yoga can be practiced in many different ways.

I was like a lot of Westerners who just thought yoga was about flexibility and weird positions when I first started practicing. Yoga is so much more than that! To me, it is a way of living that focuses on wellness and integrating mind, body, and spirit. And it’s NOT a religion or a cult (again, I used to think this.)

Q3: When you're not reading, writing, or doing Yoga, what would we most likely find you doing in your leisure time?


DL: Hiking with my family. Playing with my kids. Doing puzzles (I LOVE PUZZLES!). Eating (I LOVE FOOD!).

Q4: What non-writing related goal do you hope to achieve in the next five years?


DL: I’m starting to learn more about Zen, from the Zen Habits blog. I can see why it’s one of the most popular blog in the world. I think we could all benefit from simplifying our lives.

In five years, I hope to slow down, do less, and enjoy life more. I get caught up in this crazy, fast-paced life that’s always connected and never allows for down time. It’s high time to stop and smell the roses!

Q5: *bonus question for everyone* Do you collect anything? If so, why?


DL: Yes! I absolutely adore Talavera pottery. It is hand-painted Mexican pottery with beautiful details and color. There’s just something lively and passionate about it that I really gravitate toward. I have many pieces in my home and want to collect more!  

Thank you so much, Dana, for being my guest today! I especially appreciated your words about it being "high time to stop and smell the roses!" because I couldn't agree more! Thank you for sharing your outlook and interests with us!

You can learn more about Dana Leipold by visiting her at:

See you all next time!