Gwendolyn Plano is another of these incredible women writers I’ve met online. I think you’ll appreciate her words and he wisdom, and of course, you’ll want to get a copy of her book.
Two years ago, I moved from California to the Ozark Mountains, where I live a short distance from Table Rock Lake. Surrounded by extraordinary beauty, I began to write my first book, Letting Go into Perfect Love, published June 3, 2014. Writing this memoir was an unexpected integrative process for me. At times it tore open my heart, such that I could barely breathe. However, my tears and gasps came and went, because they could. The numbness that had kept my heart frozen in time had vanished.
When any of us come out of the proverbial closet, fear of disclosure can be overwhelming; it certainly was for me. As a college administrator, I was in a very visible role and could not risk being seen as a victim of domestic violence. So it was that I held tight to the secret that was my shame. Once retired, though, and remarried, I was free.
Letting Go into Perfect Love is not a tell-all book; rather, it is a book about a journey—through life’s challenges and heartaches to the one love we all seek. As I wrote, I experienced compassion—for the young me who did the best she could, for the old me who has found peace, and for all humankind. This unexpected sentiment redirected my writing, and quite frankly, my life.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
I grew up on an isolated farm with six siblings and a plentitude of pets and livestock. The only books available to me were accounts of the saints and Nancy Drew mysteries. This strange mix of religiosity and adventure, fed my dreams of travel to worlds unseen. I was captivated by Fr. Damien and his work among the lepers in Molokai, and I identified with Nancy as she solved one crime after another. Though the breadth of my reading was limited, I discovered a life beyond the stretches of cotton fields outside my bedroom window. And, my diary chronicled my reveries and eventual journeys.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
I begin writing in the very early morning, before daybreak. When I am engaged with a writing project, it awakens me with images and pages of prose. I run after these glimpses of possibility, jotting down what I can remember and then later I wordsmith my writing.
Though this approach may be unconventional, I’m happiest when I chase inspiration.
4. Who are you reading now?
I just completed Jan Morrill’s novel, The Red Kimono and will soon begin Diane Shute’s After Midnight (to be published in September). Both books are historical novels.
Having lived in Japan for five years, I was drawn to Morrill’s book. I particularly appreciated her efforts to expose perspective–of the interned Japanese Americans, of the citizens who lost loved ones at Pearl Harbor, of the collective who became frightened of their neighbors overnight. And, I valued the way in which she exposed the outcome of the characters’ choices.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
Viktor Frankl, Maya Angelou, and Thomas Merton have had a notable impact on my life. In each their own way, they have instilled hope, prompted courage and provided a purposeful direction to life. Though I’ve read several of their books, I’ve selected one for each that I particularly value.
Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning was transformative for me. When I read of the worst of human suffering and saw how even in those hideous situations, we retain the ability to choose our attitude, I was spellbound. Frankl emerged from the concentration camps a loving person, but many did not. He chose one way, others understandably were filled with anger and hate. Frankl showed me that we always have a choice.
Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings left me in tears. Her dignity helped me accept my regrets and shame, and sparked the desire to write. She will always be my mentor, my role model, reminding me what it means to love oneself and others.
Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain resonated with my spiritual longing and with my overall angst. His struggles with depression and doubt echoed my own. And ultimately, as he found his way, I found mine. Though a Trappist monk, he became a companion who, through his books, walked with me on my life journey.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I’m not sure I have found that “balance.” Social media is relatively new for me, and like many writers I’d prefer focusing exclusively on my own writing.
7. What is a typical day like for you?
My day begins before sunrise, sitting quietly in my office. I listen to Silence, grateful for the time and space, and if beckoned, my heart speaks….so it is that I pray. After a time, I begin to sort through emails, and other written communications. I’m often asked to write reviews, so I alternate reading with writing and otherwise go about the business of living.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
My current writing space would be perfect, if it were not for the stacks of paper on my desk. I am inspired by nature, and just outside my office window, mallard ducks, white-tailed deer, and an array of other creatures freely play. The room has a sitting area between two bookcases, and it is there that I read and meditate.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
I was told I needed to “show” rather than “tell”. I was grateful for this feedback, though I was also lost as to what that meant. I’ve never had a class in creative writing, but I’m slowly learning to write.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
When I read, I listen for the author. I want to know the person sitting at his or her desk, and when I discover the author’s heartbeat between the lines of prose, I become a friend or at least a curious comrade. There is a reason a person writes; I try to find that reason, because it directs how I read.
The best wisdom I can share is to write from your heart, see through your heart. Readers like me want to know you, and once known—a friend you will be.
Gwendolyn M. Plano spent most of her professional life in higher education. She taught and served as an administrator in colleges in New York, Connecticut, and California. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in nutrition from San Diego State University, was awarded a Master’s Degree in Theology from the University of the State of New York, and then completed a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Iona College. Finally, she earned a Doctorate in Education from Columbia University. Plano is also a Reiki Master and a Certified LifeLine Practitioner. Letting Go Into Perfect Love (She Writes Press) is Plano’s first book. You can find Gwendolyn at her website – www.gwenplano.com – and Facebook – www.facebook.com/GwenPlano1.