Category Archives: Memoir

Profile: Author Barry Hornig

Were you on line at Studio 54? Did you ever swap drugs for gold in Tangiers? Or try on a dog collar at the Botany Club? Ever marry a countess or a Playboy playmate? Meet Barry. He did all of that and a lot more. He’s had many ups and downs and has probably forgotten more than you’ve fantasized, but this book is what he can recall…

“I hope I left a roadmap and some signposts to show other people that when they get lost, there is a way out."

Thus goes the pitch of Barry Hornig’s candid, compelling, revealing, and ultimately inspiring memoir, Without a Net: a True Tales of Prison, Penthouses, and Playmates (Köehler Books, 2015), which, from idea to polished manuscript, took him eight years to complete.

Without a Net is the story of a young man from a middle class background who shoots for the stars and goes after things that aren’t attainable, and when he thinks he has them, they get taken away,” states Hornig. “In the process, he winds up incarcerated, threatened with guns, and succumbs to addictions, but through a powerful series of visualizations he manages to manifest somebody who helps him change his whole life around through love and compassion. And through that, he is able to help other people.” Hornig’s over-the-top life is told with honesty, self-mockery, hope, and more than a little Jewish humor.

The decision to write this memoir came about from Hornig’s anger about his great ups and downs in life and the question, “Why do they continue to happen to me?” He needed to get it out of his system. Through writing, he hoped to see life more clearly and get rid of some of the anger and pain. He decided he wouldn’t misdirect his energy by looking back, but instead concentrate on looking forward and benefit from lessons learned, and it worked. “I hope I left a roadmap and some signposts to show other people that when they get lost, there is a way out,” says Hornig. “I believe that with determination, visualization, and the right partner, you can emerge from any darkness, live an interesting and fruitful life, and recover your sanity and your spiritual balance.”

In addition to his personal journey, the book offers a kaleidoscope of America from its triumphant and proud years in the 50s to a more recent time when – from Hornig’s perspective – “A great power has been shamefully falling apart. We’ve killed all our heroes, and there’s nobody to look up to. Violence never wins. And Gordon Gekko was wrong; greed is not good. (Sorry, Oliver.)”

Writing Without a Net had its challenges. From telling the truth, to stirring the hot coals, to old temptations re-awakening, to unsupportive peers telling him he was wasting his time and would never finish the book, Hornig admirably stuck to his vision through it all and came through the other side with a completed manuscript and a renewed sense of reality.

Besides the obvious painful, emotional journey of having to access his troubled past, Hornig’s challenge included the fact that he’s dyslexic. Because of this, he decided to work with Michael Claibourne, who helped him organize his thoughts and Without a Net Coverpen his words. Claibourne loved his life story and had been urging him for quite a while to write it all down.  It seemed just as exciting as any of the screenplays they were working on. “My creative process was a form of channeling with Michael, who acted as interviewer, scribe and psychiatrist,” adds Hornig. “We wrote this memoir from Topanga Canyon to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Montana, and New York City. Sometimes lying down and sometimes sitting up.  In person, over the phone, and over the net. It was complex but clear. I tried to be truthful and honest with all the subjects.”

In spite of help from his writing partner, as well as support from his spouse and family, becoming an author has been overwhelming for Hornig, to say the least. “I can’t quite wrap my head around it,” he says. “All I did was tell a story. We’ll see what happens from there, and I’ll leave it up to my audience.” He’s looking forward to sharing some of his experiences in this journey with younger people, and hopes that this book puts him in a venue where he can talk to them. “I want to spread the news: it’s never too late.” He hopes readers will learn from his story and even find themselves in it, and realize that even the most destructive impulses can be overcome. “I have been able to forgive the people who wronged me, and forgive myself for wronging the people that I wronged – both the ones who are dead and the ones who are still alive. And looking back now through the other end of the telescope, it’s all very clear.”

Barry Hornig currently divides his time between Santa Monica, California, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he owns a gallery of fine art rugs. He is a professional sports fisherman, an expert on the paranormal, has talked with beings from space, had visions in Masar-i-Sharif, has been blessed by Muktananda, and hugged by Ammachi. “I have so many more stories to tell… and they’re not all autobiographical” states the author on what lurks on the horizon. “Screenplays, movies, all with messages. I am hoping that with this book my other story work will be taken seriously. And that in turn the other work will get out and more lessons will be learned.”

Connect with Barry Hornig on the web:

Website / Facebook / Twitter

Without a Net is available from Köehler Books, Amazon, B&N, and other online retailers.

My article originally appeared in Blogcritics

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A Chat with Sharon van Ivan, author of Juggle and Hide


Sharon
Sharon van Ivan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her two cats, The Duke and Earl.  She was born in Brooklyn New York and couldn’t wait to move back to New York when she grew up.  Her parents divorced when she was a baby and she lived with her mother in Akron, Ohio, until she returned to New York in her early 20s.  There she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was a working actress for many years.  But she was always writing.  Her debut as a playwright was when she was 10 years old and living in Sacramento, California.  She wrote about the hardships of a young girl in Mexico.  The play was so good, it was presented to the whole school.  Sharon was mortified and did not write again until high school.  Then when she had a writing assignment, she would dream about it the night before, and write it just before class.  She was an A student in English.  Not the most popular person in school, however.

Growing up with an alcoholic and, therefore, mentally ill mother and a mostly-absent father (plus a slew of stepfathers) was a challenge that Sharon met head-on – as she had no choice. Later in life when she did have a choice, the patterns had already been set and she followed a similarly disastrous road until she found show business, a great psychiatrist and the love of her life, the renowned realist painter, Charles Pfahl.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Juggle and Hide. What was your inspiration for it?

A: I lived through the proverbial bad childhood, and then as a young adult, I started treating myself badly. Deeply ingrained patterns had been formed and I had to work my way out of them. I had a lot of help along the way, so Juggle and Hide ends up being a story of my search for love and – ultimately – my survival.

Juggle and Hide-BEAQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Since it’s a memoir, I’m the protagonist. I’m lucky to be alive. As a matter of fact, my mother’s sponsor in AA on the day he met me, about 40 years ago, said that very thing to me.  He said it every time he saw me or talked to me on the phone up until the day he died — about a year and a half ago. One thing that sticks in my brain is that I never realized my mother was mentally ill until I was an adult being treated by a psychiatrist myself. I just thought she’d had a rough life and was doing the best she could. Actually, she was doing the best she could do, but it was a fight for her every day.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: As this is my first memoir, once I started writing, it took on a life of its own.  It took about six months to complete, but there weren’t many bumps along the way.  The bumps had been in my own life and that’s what I was writing about.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: With my own life story, it somehow just flowed naturally.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I do, but I experience anxiety before sitting down to send an e-mail or text to a friend. Writing is that kind of struggle for me, but once I start, it gets easier, but I never get any less anxious.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I write in my journal when I first wake up in the morning – about 5:00 – and most of the time that’s all I write during that day.  Then I will have a spurt of energy and write for a few days or weeks at a time.  I guess you could say I’m a binge writer. My husband, the artist Charles Pfahl – who did the cover for my book – died recently – but he was always supportive of my work.  My cats, the Duke and Earl are very supportive, too, but you’d have to ask them why.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Being able to get through each day without too much angst or too much sorrow.  Life is hard and just getting through the day makes me feel successful.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Threaten to leave.  Leave.  Be supportive of them and their work and see if that helps. If it doesn’t help, then leave.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Not totally, but I’m no George Orwell either. I think it is invigorating to write. I think life is the struggle.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Just keep writing. Something good will come of it.  I hope Juggle and Hide makes its way onto your bookshelves or into your kindle, and if it does, I hope you find the dark humor in it.  And I also hope you always have a sense of humor about your work – or mine – or anyone else’s. Never lose your sense of humor.

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Interview with Faye Rapoport DesPres, author of ‘Message from a Blue Jay’


Faye_B_and_W_copy
Faye Rapoport DesPres is the author of the new memoir-in-essays, Message from a Blue Jay. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College. Her essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews have appeared in Ascent, International Gymnast Magazine, Platte Valley Review, Superstition Review, In the Arts, Fourth Genre, TheWhistling Fire, the Writer’s Chronicleand other journals and magazines. Faye was born in New York City and has lived in England, Israel, and Colorado. She currently lives in the Boston area with her husband, Jean-Paul Des Pres, and their cats. Visit her website at www.fayerapoportdespres.com. 

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About the book

From an astonishing blue jay to a lone humpback whale, from the back roads of her hometown to the streets of Jerusalem and the Tower of London, debut author Faye Rapoport DesPres examines a modern life marked by a passion for the natural world, unexpected love, and shocking loss, and her search for a place she can finally call home in this beautifully crafted memoir-in-essays.

Three weeks before DesPres’s fortieth birthday, nothing about her life fit the usual mold. She is single, living in a rented house in Boulder, Colorado, fitting dance classes and nature hikes between workdays at a software start-up that soon won’t exist. While contemplating a sky still hazy from summer wildfires, she decides to take stock of her nomadic life and find the real reasons she never “settled down.” The choices she makes from that moment on lead her to retrace her steps-in the States and abroad-as she attempts to understand her life. But instead of going back, she finds herself moving forward to new love, horrible loss, and finally, in a way that she never expected, to a place she can almost call home.

Readers who love the memoirs and personal essays of rising contemporary writers such as Cheryl Strayed, Joy Castro, and Kim Dana Kupperman will appreciate Faye’s observational eye, her passion for the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it, and her search for the surprising truths behind the events of our daily lives.

Purchase on Amazon and B&N

Interview

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Message from a Blue Jay. What was your inspiration for it? 

A: I was inspired by my daily life, my travels, the natural world, and some of the incidents and relationships that have been a big part of my life.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: The narrator of a memoir-in-essays represents the author to a strong extent. You are telling your own story – in this case the story of a woman who re-evaluates her life as she approaches the age of 40 and begins to search for an explanation about how her life turned out the way it did. That journey takes her to many places and to interactions with a variety of important people, and helps her take stock of both her life and life in general. This is not just a book about one woman’s life, or about women’s lives. It’s a book, I hope, about life.

Blue-Jay-Cover-10.2-for-webuseQ: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? 

A: It took me about four years to write Message from a Blue Jay and there were many bumps along the way. For a long time I worked hard to learn how to fashion the essays and improve my craft, and then I worked hard to put individual pieces together in a cohesive manuscript. Along the way I faced times when I couldn’t get an essay right, when a literary journal rejected a piece I really believed in, and when a publisher didn’t feel there was enough of a market for personal essay collections or memoirs derived from essays. I faced each obstacle, learned from it, and moved forward. 

Q: Tell us, how do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a memoir? 

A: This isn’t easy. In the case of a memoir derived from personal essays, I had to work at developing a narrative and a narrative arc and resolution. Memoirs that read more as direct narratives probably use all of the plot, pacing, and narrative tools that are used in fiction.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? 

A: Sometimes, but not usually. I only feel anxiety if life’s pressures are making it hard for me to carve out the time to write. I just have to work at finding the right balance.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: I usually write early in the mornings so that I can know I got my writing time in and it doesn’t interfere with other responsibilities or time with my husband. Sometimes, of course, when I’m facing deadlines, I have to write at whatever time of day works.

Q: How do you define success? 

A: Being happy with yourself and your accomplishments, whatever they might be. Touching other people’s (and animals’) lives in a positive way.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author? 

A: I’m not sure I have advice for that situation. My husband, whose father was a writer, has always been very supportive. The only advice I can think of is not to give up on your dreams because another person isn’t supportive.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree? 

A: To an extent, yes. Writing is tough, and one shouldn’t undertake the writing life lightly. On the other hand, if you really hate it, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to force yourself to do it.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 

A: I hope they will enjoy Message from a Blue Jay, relate to some of it and find other things thought provoking. I hope reading the book will be an enjoyable, absorbing experience so they’ll be happy they read it and recommend the book to friends!

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Guest post by Joan Heartwell, author of ‘Hamster Island’

HamsterIsland_medI grew up with a mostly absent father, a religious fanatic mother, a kleptomaniac grandmother, and two special needs siblings. As a really small kid, I didn’t give much thought to my circumstances, but as I got older I began to see how “unique” my family was. Their uniqueness became even more evident after we moved from a river town where everyone was downwardly mobile to an affluent town that would have the special ed classes that my brother, who we had by then discovered was a person with developmental disabilities, would require. The only house we could afford was a corner house that adjoined one parking lot and backed up to another, a property owned by the town’s largest supermarket. When the supermarket lot was full, people parked on the side or in front of our house. They left their shopping carts all around our small property. My grandmother said we lived in a fishbowl and everyone could see in. When my father and brother were arguing, which was whenever my father was home, my grandmother would run from window to window with her cigarette trying to determine who might be out there trying to look into our fishbowl to see what was going on.

I was ashamed of my family, and I was ashamed of myself for feeling ashamed. This made for some complicated feelings for a kid/teenager to handle. Because I was painfully shy to begin with, I lived in dread of doing anything that might be construed as abnormal, because I feared the onlooker would think there was something wrong with me too. First I attempted to become an overachiever academically, but once I transferred from Catholic school to public and found I could pass tests without studying and that nobody cared about my grades anyway (I was on the non-college-bound track), I attempted to become an overachiever socially. This took some doing in the late sixties and early seventies. My mother was very strict, and simply getting out of the house required enormously creativity.

As a young adult I discovered that I loved writing. I began to write for a living and I also wrote four novels. I planned never to write about my life, because I still carried around some of the shame from my childhood, but some friends talked me into it, and once I got started, it actually became a fun project. So I opened my heart, and then I opened my closet and let all the skeletons tumble out, and now I’m actually finding out that a lot of people can relate to my story. Their stories of familial dysfunction may have different details, but the bottom line is that growing up is challenging for many people, and living in the world as an adult can be tricky too. Those of us who survive are bound not so much by answers as by questions, and we have some great stories to tell.

Purchase from Amazon B&N / OmniLit

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joan Heartwell makes her living as a pen for hire, writing, editing and ghostwriting for a variety of private and corporate clients. She has had four novels published under another name and has a fifth one due out later in 2014.

Connect with Joan Heartwell on the web:

www.joanheartwell.com

https://www.facebook.com/hamsterisland

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