Thursday, 6 April 2017

Author Spotlight with Ann Marie Mershon



Today I am chatting with Ann Marie Mershon, a former English Teacher from Minneapolis.
Her Memoir on living in Turkey has 55 reviews on Amazon.
Now, that is impressive!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a retired English teacher, adventurer, and writer (duh!).
I was raised in a Minneapolis suburb and moved to the wilderness of northern Minnesota as soon as I could.
I’m energized by nature and try to ski, hike, bike, kayak or swim every day.
I decided to take up writing when I took a career development course as a part of a counseling degree.
I realized that I was ignoring the creative part of myself and decided that writing would blend well with my teaching career.
I also wanted to write for young people—I love kids.
I wrote a newspaper column about health, travel, and fitness for five years as well as publishing a number of articles for both local and national publications.
I’ve published three books to date, a children’s historical novel, a walking tour guide for Istanbul, and a memoir about my years in Turkey.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I was taking a course in writing for children at the Grand Marais Art Colony, and I’d just read a short family history written by a neighbor.
It touched me deeply and I decided to ask her permission to write a children’s book based on her family’s emigration to Minnesota.
That was the beginning of a treasured connection with Eleanor and her family.
Sadly, she died before Britta’s Journey was published.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

My memoir, You must only to love them, is an account of my years teaching high school in Istanbul.
I wrote the book because I wanted people to see and feel the warmth of the Turkish people and their Muslim culture.
It breaks my heart that so many people are afraid of Muslims when it is one of the most gentle faiths in the world.

Are your writings based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

My years in Turkey changed my life, particularly my perspective on America and its place in the world.
All of the events in the book are true, and though I’ve changed a few names, all the characters in the book are people who touched my life.
I’m only sorry I had to leave so many out; the first version of my memoir was far too long, so I had to revise out a lot of precious friends.

What are your current projects?

I’m working on a sequel to Britta’s Journey, continuing Eleanor’s family saga to Minnesota.
In the first book, I only got them from Finland to Ellis Island.
I was amazed at how that book wrote itself even though I had a clear outline.
Historical fiction is great fun to write.
I also have a half-finished version of my time in Turkey viewed through my little dog’s eyes. Libby was my sidekick and toured much of Turkey with me. Her favorite part of Turkey was the cats, which are much more fun to chase than chipmunks.

Do you see writing as a career?

I guess I see writing as a passion more than a career.
I’ve been doing it for years, and I get up early every morning to get in a few hours of writing.
I enjoy both writing and revision, but I HATE marketing, as I imagine most writers do.
I’m trying, though, and maybe this year my income will exceed my expenses. Who knows? I have to admit, my writing business has been a great tax write-off, and it’s brought income for the past fifteen years. Not much, though, and certainly not enough to live on.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I doubt there’s any writer who would say their work was perfect.
I think I was happiest with my tour guide, because it was cut-and-dried factual stuff.
At a workshop once a writer said, “You know you’re done with a book when you can’t bear to look at it another time.”
Revision is a continuing process, and it’s hard to stop and say, “Enough!”
My memoir is not perfect, but it’s done.
There’s a lot I’d love to improve on, but it was time to move on.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

My favorite book in the world is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
I taught that book to ninth graders for years, and I read it aloud a few times.
It’s a book with passion, depth, humor, and a strong message.
Harper developed interesting and believable characters, and her empathetic treatment of all the characters in the book deeply touched me. I have yet to enjoy a book (or a writer) more.

Who designed your covers?

I had a friend design the cover of Britta’s Journey, and I chose the photo for the cover of Istanbul’s Bazaar District, though the publisher had an artist do the final cover design.
I put together the main design of my memoir, which I self-published through Amazon.
I asked my son, a graphic designer, for advice on the design, and he improved the graphics for me.
So basically, I had input on all three covers but had help from professionals as well.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I wrote a YA novel in a year and submitted it to two publishers, who rejected it.
I was totally discouraged.
I learned two important lessons from that experience:
1.Read, read, read and write, write, write.
Also take advantage of every workshop, seminar, and course that you can. I continue to attend workshops regularly. They’re both educational and motivating.

2. Don’t let rejection slips discourage you.
I could wallpaper my office with all the rejection notices I’ve received, but I soldiered on.
I’m not alone.
There is no end of writers, both famous and inconsequential, who have received scores—no, hundreds of rejection letters.
Hang in there! Katharine Stockett was rejected by 60 agents before one finally agreed to represent The Help, which subsequently spent 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Connect With Ann Marie on her Website

Turkey blog

Writing blog

Twitter

facebook

Facebook writer page