Alice and I are writing friends who have belonged to the same critique group for several years. She is funny and warm and generous--and an excellent proofreader and editor. A few of the guys in our critique group describe Alice as having “the fastest red pen west of the Mississippi.”
Donna: In” Hidden Treasures” you write about your battle with late stage III breast cancer after being diagnosed at the age of forty-four. Your story is sad, yet uplifting with touches of humor. You are the picture of health and have been cancer free for fifteen years. Please tell us: how you’re doing now?
Alice: Other than my annual checkup with my oncologist, I’m too busy enjoying my eight grandchildren to worry about cancer. The disease taught me to live in the moment. I do try to exercise and eat right, not that I pass up birthday cake or holiday feasts. After all, you never know…
Donna: Living in the moment works for me, and I know how much you love your grandchildren. Besides you, several members of your family have been diagnosed with breast cancer, yet you are a family of survivors who have handled the disease with courage and grace. What advice do you have for someone who has been diagnosed?
Alice: I’m passionate about talking with newly diagnosed patients. I advise them to find a doctor they trust and tell them not to be afraid to ask questions. But, I admit it’s much harder when it hits close to home. Since me, my youngest sister, Betty battled breast cancer twice and my sister Jeanie just finished treatments after undergoing a double mastectomy. But you’re right—we’re a family of survivors. And Betty’s daughter is now enrolled in oncology in Boston. Our very own oncologist. How wonderful!
Donna: Great advice, and it is wonderful that your niece is studying to become an oncologist! What can you tell us about yourself: your family, your career, your hobbies, etc?
Alice: Fortunately my children all live close by which means I get to spoil my grandchildren rotten and send them back home. After 42 years at the same company, I’m within a year of retiring and can’t wait for more free time to hike, bike, write and take pictures.
Donna: I know about spoiling grandchildren. It is fun, and your being so close to retiring sounds wonderful, especially after being at the same place for 42 years. I hope you can do it soon. Now, on to questions about writing: When did you decide to become a writer?
Alice: Even as a teenager, I enjoyed creating silly poems and homemade cards. I also kept journals and still do so today. Journals make wonderful writing ammunition. I can quote stuff my fourteen year old grandson said when he was only two.
Donna: In addition to your Cup of Comfort story you are an Opinion Shaper for a local newspaper and have several others in Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as being an award-winning photographer. Please tell us about some of your publishing credits.
Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors. But most of my essays that appear in the Suburban Journal and Chicken Soup are written about normal everyday life with a sprinkle of humor. Lord knows we could all use a good laugh.
Donna: You are right about needing a good laugh. I'm amazed at how smoothly you weave humor into the essays you read during critique group. Speaking of which; you’ve belonged to a few critique groups, and I'm happy to say you have belonged to the same one as I do for several years. You are such a quick and helpful critiquer. What advice do you have for someone looking for a critique group?
Alice: Find one that fits. Some are too soft and prevent you from growing. Others are too hard leaving you intimidated and uncomfortable sharing your work. Don’t give up. There’s a group out there somewhere that’s just right for you.
Donna: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Alice: The best lesson I learned is polish, polish, polish and then polish some more.
Donna: What’s the worst writing advice you've ever received?
Alice: The worst was that my style needed to be changed. In my writing sessions, for instance, we have several who are difficult to critique simply because no one wants to mess with their exceptional voice. Even without a name on the paperwork, I’d recognize the author’s unique style. Moral of the story: Be your polished self.
Donna: Great advice, Alice. Stick to your style and don't change your voice. What does your writing schedule look like, and what are you working on now?
Alice: My motto is submit, submit, submit. Chicken Soup has had so many new call-outs, I’m constantly racking my brain for ideas. Since March, I’ve submitted ten stories, and currently have one coming out in the November Food & Love and another that’s made the first round for the March Mother/Daughter. Today I’ve sent off two essays (and yes it’s the midnight hour) with fingers crossed.
Donna: Congratulations on your recent acceptances! That's two more Chicken Soup credits to add to your long list of accomplishments. Your passion for writing and submitting is inspiring. I need to take some lessons. Last question: Is there anything else you’d like to add?