So here’s the thing, I don’t really know Marla Taviano, but I do know this – she’s awesome. And not just because she and her family are a part of the “less than 800-square-foot of living space” club that P and I are also in. She’s practical, wise, and kind . . . and anyone with a heart for the poor and the action to back it gets my support. Enjoy Marla’s interview, folks, and be sure check out her links below.
Tell me about your latest project.
In 2010 my husband and I took a trip to Cambodia, and (warning: cliché) it changed my life forever. The following year, we went back as a family with our three girls. Again, wrecked. we dream of cambodia is a memoir about our trips, with a heart attack, subsequent anxiety, and crushed dreams thrown in for climactic effect.
What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
Oh, goodness. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have at least two books (and usually five or six) going at once. I learned to read when I was four and have been devouring books ever since. I used to play library with my siblings. I dewey-decimaled all my books and even made a card catalog. I wrote my first (awful) poem in first grade, dabbled in short stories, and finally landed in non-fiction where I pretty much plan to stay.
What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
That would be lovely to have a writing routine. Four traditionally-published books and five self-published e-books later, I have never, ever had one. I write in fits and spurts as life allows. My professional writing career began around the same time as my unpaid motherhood career, so they’ve had to share time and space, and (cliché again), I wouldn’t have it any other way.
??Who are you reading now?
The Locust Effectby Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission. (The bulk of what I read these days is about social justice, human trafficking, and loving the poor.) I just finished In the Land of Blue Burqas(Kate McCord), and I’m trying recipes from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean(Lindsay S. Nixon). Also in the middle of Newtown: An American Tragedy(Matthew Lysiak) and Small Apartment Hacks(Jenna Mahoney).
So I’m either well-read or a little ADD-inclined.
What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years(Donald Miller). I love his writing style. And the book spoke to me like crazy. It’s all about writing a better story with your life. So, so, so good.
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess(Jen Hatmaker). Jen is hilarious and convicting—my favorite combo in an author.
Organized Simplicity(Tsh Oxenreider). I’m passionate about living simply so that others may simply live (Mother Teresa), and Tsh’s book gives practical ways to do this.
I also have a ton of fiction faves. Three is such a tiny number for favorite books. I have many much favorites.
How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I’ll be honest. I don’t do much platform-building these days. Here’s the scoop. My first book was published before I really had a clue what the internet was (2006). It went out of print because I didn’t market it and didn’t have a platform. In 2007 I released a second book that’s still in print (because it’s about sex). In 2008, another book, now out of print. 2009—my 4th book is also still going strong. But when I tried to get a 5th book published, I got shot down time and time again. Those two out-of-print books were big red strikes on my record, and no one wanted to take a chance with me.
God and I had some words, and while we were in Cambodia, I felt him telling me to let it go. Let this writing career go. He had other, bigger plans for me. I’m still madly in love with writing and will always write, but I no longer dream of publishing best-selling books and being a famous author. I’m more about writing from my heart, making personal connections with people (online and in real life), and advocating for the poor and oppressed.
I still share my work and make small efforts here and there to get others to read it, but I’m not employing any platform-building strategies so to speak. I’m hoping this interview with Andi will generate millions of sales (wink).?? [Andi’s Note – I would also like to generate a million sales for Marla, so get shopping, folks.]
What is a typical day like for you?
Ha. Good one. Well, here’s the thing. My family (husband, 3 girls—13, 11, 8) and I just moved into a 2-bedroom, 797-square-foot apartment last month in a complex that is 70% Somali refugees. The past two years (My husband almost died of a heart attack in October 2011.) have been the hardest of our lives, but God is good.
Gabe (my husband) works from home, our three girls are now home-schooled (more like un-schooled), and we have lots of new friends and neighbors coming in and out all the time. There’s no typical day. But we’re cool with that. We’re not really into typical. For example, that time we went to 52 zoos in 52 Weeks and stayed with 31 families, 17 of whom we met on the internet. (You can read all about it in my e-book, Once Upon the Internet—look at me market my work!)
Describe your dream writing space?
People are usually shocked when I tell them I’ve never written a word of a book in a coffee shop or any other writer’s-retreat-like-spot. I’ve written lots of words on my bed, at my desk, in the car, at the kitchen table, on the floor, outside, what have you. At this point in my life, I don’t know that I’d even be able to write in some happy, peaceful, place of solitude. I’d love to try it though. How about Thailand? In some picturesque guesthouse with white sheets and open windows and palm trees waving and pretty water (and maybe some elephants). Sigh. (We’re buried in snow and negative temps here in Ohio right now, so that’s sounding extra delightful.)
What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
Oy. I have no idea. I’ve gotten a few harsh reviews on Amazon, mostly about my book Is That All He Thinks About? (“Who does she think she is, writing a book about sex? So, she’s married and that makes her an expert?”) My skin isn’t super thick, so I usually cry. And my husband tells me (wisely) that anything worth writing is going to get criticized.
What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
When in doubt, write. Just write and write and write. Don’t be afraid. Don’t try to sound a certain way. Find your voice, and stick with it. Write, write, write. And share what you’ve written with others. We need you. You’re the only one with your unique perspective. You’re the only you there is. Share your story. I, for one, want to hear (read) it.
Marla Taviano is the author of From Blushing Bride to Wedded Wife (Harvest House, 2006), Is That All He Thinks About? (Harvest House, 2007), Changing Your World One Diaper at a Time (Harvest House, 2008), Expecting (Howard, 2009), The Husband’s Guide to Getting Lucky (2011), Once Upon the Internet (2012), The Wife Life (2013), and We Dream of Cambodia (2014). Marla and her husband, Gabe, live in Columbus, Ohio and have three daughters—eleven-year-old Olivia Joy, ten-year-old Ava Marie, and six-year-old Nina Gabriel.