Episode 79 – 2nd Interview – Lily MacKenzie

Overview

Lily joins us again talking about her latest book – The Ripening. She tells us about her writing adventures since we last spoke to her.

Besides writing, Lily is a teacher, which has taught her quite a bit about her own writing.

Previous Episode – https://www.discoveredwordsmiths.com/2021/05/06/episode-47a-lily-mackenzie-freefall/

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Transcript

[00:02:59] Lily: things [00:03:00] going for you? Very busy. I don’t know if it’s I have a new novel coming out October 5th. Uh, and it’s entitled the ripening, a Canadian girl grows up and it features a character named Tilly, Bishop and Tilly actually appeared in my last novel freefall, a divine comedy and the publisher had wanted me to do a sequel.

[00:03:27] Lily: And so this is, this particular narrative is about Tilly growing up. And so it ends when she’s 18 years old and she starts out as this innocent growing up on the Canadian Prairie. Under the wing of a partially present mother and a Jekyll and Hyde father stepfather, I should say. And so after the family moves from the farm where her stepfather had a place, he had really bad asthma, so they had to move to the city.

[00:03:59] Lily: [00:04:00] So after they moved to the city to Calgary and give up the farm, she loses her way and she’s initiated into city. And without parental guidance, she begins a downward spiral and ends up eventually with a side trip to Toronto. She ends up visually in San Francisco during the late fifties, which of course was a time of loosening, mores, major change for everybody, I think.

[00:04:29] Lily: And so I think she goes through some really rough times and, but I think the novel demonstrates that we have the power to turn our lives around. If we’re heading in the wrong direction, but it usually involves a struggle and a certain amount of pain before we can set off on a better path. And so in free fall at divine comedy, we know that telly is an artist.

[00:04:52] Lily: And, and so I think it comes through in the ripening. A Canadian girl grows up [00:05:00] that Tilly is an artist in the making that she is creating herself actually. Pages she’s creating herself. And that’s what first form of artistry. Yeah. So I’m excited about this is my fourth published novel.

[00:05:16] Stephen: Nice. This is a sequel to the last one.

[00:05:19] Stephen: Did you find it hard or easy to continue the story to make something that use the same characters?

[00:05:27] Lily: Well, the hard part was Tilly is really zany she’s, she’s a very fun character. And it was part of the ripening is that while there are some seeds of the later Chile in this young Tilly there, it was more difficult to make her so zany because she’s going through some really difficult things.

[00:05:51] Lily: So that was a problem when people change. Just because she is a girl isn’t quite as kinky is as [00:06:00] she is as an older adult. I I’m a lot different from what I was when I was a kid. I guess there’ll be allowances for that. And who knows if that many people will have read free-fall anyway, before reading the ripening.

[00:06:12] Lily: So do they have

[00:06:13] Stephen: to read them in order or

[00:06:15] Lily: they could be separate? No, they’re really separate. And there’s yeah. There’s no, no need to. Either if, if you don’t want to, but yeah, no, you can read one or the other and it’ll all make sense. Yeah. So you

[00:06:30] Stephen: said it’s your fourth book. Are you finding the writing easier or harder?

[00:06:35] Stephen: Do you see some things you’ve definitely gotten better at and some things you’re like, oh man, I can’t believe I used to do that.

[00:06:43] Lily: I teach writing teach. I’ve been teaching memoir writing at the, from most university of San Francisco’s from Institute for lifelong learning. So it’s for older adults. And whenever I teach a class there, I learn as much as the students do [00:07:00] because I spent a tremendous amount of time and research preparation.

[00:07:04] Lily: And so it, what I’m reminded because writing memoir. Isn’t unlike writing fiction in the sense that you have to use the same strategies. So you’re creating narratives. You have to include scenes in your narrative and scenes must have descriptive detail. They must have some dialogue. There must be something happening that creates tension and gets your readers interested.

[00:07:30] Lily: So I’m constantly reminded then of how important. All of these elements of narrative are, and it just makes me when I go, when I’m just writing, trying something out, something new or revising old material, it’s just a reminder of what to look for. And

[00:07:51] Stephen: yeah, I totally agree. I’ve taught various things throughout my life, piano database, a few things, and they always [00:08:00] say you learn more by teaching than you do.

[00:08:04] Stephen: Oh, so you, yeah. So what got you

[00:08:07] Lily: into doing the T Stephen I’ve been teaching for forever? Not forever because I started in my thirties. And so I taught at the university of San Francisco as an adjunct teaching freshmen composition. And, and I taught a few other classes there too, but mainly writing. And so I did that for 30 years up until 2015.

[00:08:29] Lily: And so it was an easy, such a wonderful move from teaching a freshmen and having to give grades and all of this stuff to be able to teach in an environment where the student. Are so engaged in my first class, I went in there. I went, oh my God, I’m typing. I’ve landed in heaven. And they talk, they want to talk.

[00:08:50] Lily: You don’t have to pull it out of them. There. They’re just all so eager to offer their observations. When we’re discussing sample narrative, they’re [00:09:00] amazing with one another. When they meet in small groups to give each other pure editing comments. They’re just, and they absolutely love hearing each other’s stories.

[00:09:10] Lily: Now that’s the real draw of these classes is that they’re taken into lives that they otherwise wouldn’t have encountered. That’s not unlike readers in general. You know why we read because it opens up the world in ways. So they’re just. There are so there and no grades don’t have to worry. They don’t have to worry about grades.

[00:09:34] Lily: I’m not correcting grammar and punctuation. We’re just talking about them, getting to the heart of the story and to get it out there in a way that whoever they’re writing for is going to be as interested in what they’re saying. As, yeah. So it’s a wonderful experience

[00:09:52] Stephen: at any of your students. Read your book and then ask your questions, uh, on what you’re teaching.

[00:09:57] Stephen: And then what

[00:09:59] Lily: I did [00:10:00] to the farm head made you give a talk a couple of years ago before COVID and allot of students turned up for that. And I forget exactly what their questions. But I do know that an L publishing the publisher or freefall and fling, and this current for the ripening, they’re offering the three books.

[00:10:22] Lily: They’re giving a special three books for 39 95 and it includes shipping. That’s a deal. And so they’ve told me when I send them. A recent newsletter announcing my book launch on November 20th. I had included in it that information about Panell publishing and what they’re offering. And so I’d sent the newsletter.

[00:10:43] Lily: I’d included my current class in that. And so a couple of. My publisher said, but told me a couple of them had ordered. So that’s interesting. I’m actually always a little nervous when I know that they’re reading my stuff and I think, oh my God, I [00:11:00] hope it lives up to what I’m trying to teach them about narrative.

[00:11:04] Lily: Right?

[00:11:05] Stephen: Yeah. So have you had any of your students go and get a whole book and get it published and get that much out of the class yet?

[00:11:13] Lily: I had one student who I worked with. After we had worked together in a couple of classes, she had written a memoir. Let’s see if I can remember the title, Virgin vagabonds.

[00:11:24] Lily: And there’s a subtitle, something to do with two Mormon girls on the road or something, but it was fabulous what she was doing. And here they were raised in this very strict Mormon household. She and her sister was a couple of years old. And in their late teens, early twenties, they took this six month tour of Europe.

[00:11:50] Lily: They went to, they were in Egypt, they were in Spain. They were everywhere. And they had such amazing accountants. And of course they were very [00:12:00] attractive young women and the guys were very interested in wherever they went. And so they were having to deal constantly with all of these desires and impulses that had been awakened in them.

[00:12:14] Lily: And so that coming into conflict with their Mormon upbringing. So I was, I’m still really excited about the book. The problem is. For someone like the writer of this book, who hasn’t had to deal with the publishing scene and doesn’t have that much confidence in herself, it’s hard. Then she had originally thought of self-publishing and that would be fine, but I thought that she should at least give it a whirl out in the big publishing world, because I think it’s really worth, I think it’s a really, really good read and an amazing window into.

[00:12:54] Lily: Mormonism and what young women and men deal with growing up within that [00:13:00] religious framework. So I encouraged her to try some small presses or something, or even try getting an agent, but I don’t think she. Driven, you have to be driven in order to do all of this stuff. And so I don’t quite, I don’t know really where it is right now, but it certainly should out there in the world.

[00:13:23] Lily: And another students work with me over the summer as a tutor editor. And he’s quite wonderful. He very inventive guy and very tech savvy. He started a website. Called who’d a thunk it, and he’s in corporate and into the website, but these short pieces, he’s written memoir mainly for family and friends, but it’s, again, it’s something that anyone would benefit from and experiencing, and I do get some really excellent writers.

[00:13:56] Lily: Some of them have been journalist. And have a [00:14:00] background in that kind of writing, but they haven’t made the crossover yet to narrative writing the kind of writing for fiction or for memoir. And so they’re there, they’re in class to try and develop some of those. So it was surreal. It’s such an interesting mix.

[00:14:18] Lily: Everybody has a story and every story is so unique and I feel really privileged to be able to be part of what they’re developing.

[00:14:30] Stephen: So you said that you’re publishing houses, putting together a bundle of books and sending them out as a special, what else are you doing to. Books that you have out and especially getting ready for this new one.

[00:14:42] Lily: Yeah, it’s really tough because you’re in such competition. For example, at the beginning, I thought social media, Facebook, Twitter, et cetera. But everybody in the world who writes is doing. So it’s not as if you’re up against [00:15:00] thousands more than that, of other writers who are promoting their Culver’s this and that.

[00:15:08] Lily: And so I’m not sure how effective all of that. I feel that I’ve got a blog tour scheduled and the person I’ve been working with seems really good at what she’s doing. And I feel that that gives you some exposure. At least it’s focused in on you. And if that particular blog has some readership or you’re reaching.

[00:15:36] Lily: And some possible readers that you otherwise wouldn’t have. And even if they don’t read the book, hear your name, and if they hear it again, you’re just starting to get your name out here. I am on your podcast for similar reason. So I think that those blog tours can be useful and you don’t have to do them just when your book comes out.

[00:15:56] Lily: Yeah, you could set those at anniversaries at different after a [00:16:00] year or after two years after three years, to bring attention again, to certain works that you feel should be selling and maybe sell as much as you’d like them to. I still pay more attention to Facebook in terms of developing some kind of community there.

[00:16:20] Lily: And we’ll see, I’ll do I plan to do a combination of zoom and Facebook live for my book launch on November 20th and we’ll see how many people I can bring in from Facebook. I was getting, somebody has such a bad rep right now. I don’t know. After yesterday, just in general. Who knows if people will pay much attention.

[00:16:44] Lily: So there’s that. And of course I try my poor students. I add their names to my MailChimp email, and I hope that maybe some of them interested in, so I try to build this email list. [00:17:00] And I, I also try not to bombard them with much emails. I do it maybe three at the most three times a year, but I also have been connecting with other writers.

[00:17:14] Lily: Who are good at promoting their own work. And we sorta, we are cross fertilizing. We’re helping each other out. So for example, this one, Canadian who mainly self publishes, but she’s so excellent at creating these fabulous creative newsletters. And, and I’ve been interacting with her a lot and she’s featured me in one of her newsletters.

[00:17:41] Lily: And so it’s this kind of thing. I’ll feed you. I’ll bring in guest authors for my blog. And I think I should have mentioned this. I think having a really good website, a good blog is important. So I blog something about reading writing every week, every Monday, and [00:18:00] it does side, you get a visitors and I just had my blog revamped.

[00:18:07] Lily: This wonderful tech guy in Kansas, he’s just made it coordinated in a wonderful way. And I’m already noticing that I’m hitting more visits to different pages and so on as a result of doing that. So there’s, there’s a lot to do there’s readings, of course, in person, at least, or not too, uh, feasible, but. And that will open up again and right.

[00:18:36] Stephen: And it is a little bit now, uh, they’re starting like Baidu middle-grade and schools are back around. So I’m hoping that it start getting back into some schools again. Oh, good. Yeah. So, uh, you got a book coming out very shortly, right at the end of the year, holiday season, and all that, but I’m betting you have plans for another book after that.

[00:18:59] Stephen: What are you going [00:19:00] to be working on next?

[00:19:01] Lily: I think that I finished in terms of writing I’m I have a short story collection. I just pulled it out again. Cause I’m going to go over it and see what to cut, what to add, blah, blah, blah. I’d love to get that published. I have another poetry collection. That’s ready for a publisher, California dreaming.

[00:19:20] Lily: And I’ve written, I don’t know if I mentioned this the last time we talked, but I’ve written a kind of hybrid memoir called dreaming myself into old age one woman’s search for meaning. So it combines in it. I talk about how fantasy dreams, union analysis, all of that has affected me as a human being and as a writer.

[00:19:44] Lily: And, and trying to promote aging is another stage in life. And it can be approached in a much more creative way if. I’m willing to be in touch with our deeper selves. So [00:20:00] that’s seeking, I’ve sent it to the small presses that seem interested in that kind of material. And we’ll see what happens with that, but I’m eager to write my own memoirs.

[00:20:12] Lily: I’ve written short memoirs, lots of them and publish them, but I’ve been thinking why haven’t I written a book length memoir. I’ve lots to write about high school. Uh, mother 17 single mother and all of that stuff. Yeah. I’ve got a lot to say.

[00:20:28] Stephen: Yeah, absolutely. And do you think that writing your fiction has helped get you ready to write a

[00:20:34] Lily: memoir?

[00:20:35] Lily: Oh, sure. Oh, absolutely.

[00:20:37] Stephen: And do you have any plans? Uh, Do anything else? You mentioned a short story. You mentioned you got your novels coming out and possibly a memoir. Are there other thoughts of even other things that you like to do that you could write about?

[00:20:55] Lily: Uh, writing critical essays about poetry, about [00:21:00] fiction.

[00:21:00] Lily: I’m a really good analyst and I love to do it, and I just haven’t had time. And so I’m looking forward to being able to some of that as well. Um, I love playing with watercolors and other art mediums. I haven’t been able to do that for the past three years because I’ve been so busy with writing and marketing and everything I want to do.

[00:21:25] Lily: I’d like to take some classes in old and there just isn’t enough time, Steven, for, for all these things, unfortunately.

[00:21:36] Stephen: Okay, Lily, uh, I love catching up with you. I hope your new book does well. We’ll make sure to put links out there for everyone to go check it out. Before we get going. You teach a class to, uh, senior citizens, older, retired people. Is that the focus. What advice would you give somebody who’s older, maybe approaching retirement in regards

[00:21:57] Lily: to I had a guest [00:22:00] author, Canadian author on my blog on Monday, yesterday, and it was fascinating to read.

[00:22:09] Lily: She was 45 and she just raised her three kids and done all of her mothering stuff. And she said to a friend she had always wanted to try. Right. And there, and, but it can’t start now. I’ll be 65 before maybe something gets published, blah, blah, blah. Oh, your friend encouraged her to go forward. And so I think you, you mustn’t put limits on yourself.

[00:22:33] Lily: You must put age limits or time limits or any kind of limits on yourself. If you have the. And, and I think joining a good work and working with others who are trying, it can be really inspiring. And, and so yeah, if you have the impulsive. Don’t put limits on yourself. Just a step out. [00:23:00] It’s like on the troll card of the fool, he’s gone his dog and he’s at the edge of the cliff and he’s ready to step off.

[00:23:08] Lily: He doesn’t know where he’s going. And he somehow trusts in whatever comes up. And I think that’s how we have to approach each day. Just step off that bloody crippling.

[00:23:20] Stephen: I love that advice. Yeah. I’ve talked to a lot of authors. The one guy that comes to mind that he was retired. He was a lawyer for 45 years and seventies and he wrote a book and had it published.

[00:23:32] Stephen: And I actually saw his book bookstore. Um, and he actually traveled there and saw his own book and settled.

[00:23:42] Lily: Yeah. Let me remind you that. I was 75 when my first novel was published playing. I mean that I started, I didn’t start writing it at 75. I’ve been on it for a long time, but yes. Nice. Yeah. Older listeners, Stephen, [00:24:00]

[00:24:00] Stephen: even the younger ones that it’s never too late, you can do.

[00:24:05] Lily: No, just do it. All right, Lily,

[00:24:07] Stephen: I wish you luck on your class and your book. Uh we’ll uh, we’ll make sure we put links in there for everyone to go check it out.

[00:24:13] Lily: Thanks very much. Lovely talking to you again, Steven. Absolutely. You too.

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