Friday, December 19, 2014

@GoddessFish Book Tour: The Ambivalent Memoirist by Sandra Hurtes #memoir #giveaway

Welcome to the book tour for The Ambivalent Memoirist by Sandra Hurtes. Enjoy the excerpt, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway. Andra will be awarding a copy of her book in the winner's choice of either print (US only) or digital to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Follow the tour for more chances to win. The tour dates can be found here: 

The Ambivalent Memoirist
by Sandra Hurtes



". . .[an] honest memoir full of compassion and wit that infuses ordinary events with intimacy and intensity. . .Teaching college English courses and preparing her first essay collection, she must address her own pain. . .as well as her parents' experiences during the Holocaust. . . Writing as art and psychological salvation is at the heart of this book, taking "readers deep below the surface" of words toward personal vindication.”

~~Publishers Weekly



Brooklyn soil. Rife with thick, gnarly accents and high-pitched emotions that peaked into the air then fell heavy upon the earth. Those sounds and feelings had reverberated within me from the moment I was born in 1950, three years after my brother, Lenny. The woman who shared my mother’s room at Brooklyn Women’s Hospital and gave birth on the same day was an Auschwitz survivor, like my mother. Their delirium over their second babies fell upon my tender ears, slid into my pores. Brooklyn was an emotional patchwork, and I was sewn into its seams.


An Interview with the Author

Do you have a day job as well?
For many years, my dream was to be a full-time writer. For a few months, I managed it as a freelancer.  I remember the moment I realized I was living the freelancer’s life: it was midday, I was still in my nightgown, hadn’t yet brushed my teeth, and was hunched over my computer. I was joyously happy. Not because of the lazy habits working at home allowed (and seemed to nurture), but because I was so involved in my work, nothing else mattered.
One day I needed to run the library for research; the local library was around the corner from my apartment. I threw a coat on to cover my nightgown, knee-high boots to hide my bare legs, and went on my way. The library was stifling. But I couldn’t open my coat. I was a scraggly mess, but didn’t care. When I returned home I emailed my first creative writing teacher: Yes, I’m officially a freelancer.
That lasted a few months; I’m a slow researcher and couldn’t sustain the pace needed to make a living. I also don’t have the aggressiveness needed to approach editors and go after writing assignments. Fortunately I have a lot of skills to fall back on. I temped as a secretary and proofread. Eventually I went back to school for my MFA so that I could teach. That’s what I do now.

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
Other than stories I wrote as a child, I began writing in my mid-twenties when my first serious relationship ended. I worked as a secretary at the time and had no writing aspirations. But picking up a pen and writing poetry was as natural as if I’d been doing it my whole life. That doesn’t mean what I wrote was good, in terms of publishable, just that it was a great release and felt right. I continued writing in a notebook, moving from my heartache to charting my self-growth. Writing things down gave shape and meaning to my feelings.
I finished my first book, Knitting Lessons, around 1998. (I still tinker with it.) It’s a novel about a woman who, in her early forties, grapples with her inability get pregnant and her husband’s distress over that. The story beneath is, can she find happiness without being a mother, and perhaps, without her marriage?

How did you choose the genre you write in?
My genre is memoir; I have no doubt that it chose me. I was born into the stories of my parents’, and their parents’, traumatic pasts. They lived in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi takeover, and didn’t escape the camps. My maternal grandparents died before their village was taken, however, my paternal grandparents were murdered in the gas chambers, along with my father’s four brothers. My mother and her five siblings all survived the camps, which is one of the great miracles of that period.
My mother was a storyteller and raised me on stories of her pre-war home and her deep longing for that life. She also had a very playful side and told me great fairytales, like the one about The Chadala Babala, a woman who cooks children in a bit pot. It sounds horrible, I know. But she told it with such drama and hilarity, my cousins and I begged to hear it over and over.

Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from the stories that keep me awake at night. For example, I’m an adjunct at three colleges. In my freshman English classes, many of my students seem genuinely addicted to their phones; they can’t stop looking and twist into various configurations to sneak a glance. I feel bad for them, but also, as the person in front of the class, trying to get full attention, it’s frustrating for me. And so, I lie in bed and write an essay in my head.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
If I could go back to the start of Knitting Lessons I would show my early draft to less people. I would also revise less, at least at the start. I’d let that draft sit for about six months, work on something new and then go back. You’ve heard of the helicopter parent? Well, I was a helicopter writer.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The best compliment is some variation of “I relate to you.” Writing and publishing is all about connection. I wrote an essay, “Why I Write” that was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer. In the essay I wrote about having had low aspirations while I was growing up. Part of that was based on the belief that I wasn’t smart. I went to community college and studied to be a secretary. At 30, I went to a liberal arts college. When I became a writer and had an essay published in The Washington Post, I cried. I had external proof that I wasn’t dumb.
I received over thirty emails from people who shared similar experiences in the way they had felt about themselves. That’s the real joy of publication.
The toughest criticism I received was that I wasn’t being honest. When I began to publish my work, I was in a self-help group for children of Holocaust survivors. I often talked about the conflicts I had with my mother. During that time I wrote and published an essay, “A Daughter’s Legacy.” The writing of that essay was the result of my mind and heart at work in unison. I wrote mostly of my admiration for my mother. One of the members of my group accused me of being dishonest. That hurt. I didn’t want to be a writer who twisted the truth. When I thought about it, I realized my pen knew me far better than I did. I was angry with my mother, yes, over miscommunications. But I loved and admired her deeply.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I’m so glad you ask! Allow yourself to have fun on the page and make mistakes. Not everything you write will be great, but you have to write it to get to the really good stuff. Be careful who you show your work to, but do find peers who can be good sources for feedback and camaraderie.
Read good writers, take a lot of walks, return to the page even when you don’t want to.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Sandra Hurtes is the author of The Ambivalent Memoirist and the essay collection On My Way to Someplace Else. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors and this legacy is examined in her work. She is an adjunct assistant professor in the English Department at John Jay College and teaches creative nonfiction in private workshops.

Buy Link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting today.

Sandra Hurtes said...

Thank you, Gale, for hosting me. I love hearing from readers.
Sandy Hurtes

bn100 said...

Looks interesting