Another #MotownWriters Member feature is Angela Berent. Please check out her interview and support. Don’t forget to share this post with other readers and writers!
Where are you from? Michigan! Grew up in mid-Michigan (St. Charles), and now reside in Chelsea, near Ann Arbor.
Tell us your latest news? The beginning of the year celebrates my book birthdays! List Your Life: A Modern-Day Memoir was published on January 1, 2018, and Trace Your Travels: An Adventure Journal came out on February 22, 2019.
When and why did you begin writing? I have years of stops and starts, but I heard the right advice at the right time: Write what matters to you! I had been caught up in what I should write, and somehow these words gave me the freedom to think inside myself about what I would most enjoy.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? Always drawn to lovely journals and the idea of writing, I tried lots and lots of different ideas. A shift in my thinking came when I was a fellow in the Eastern Michigan Writing Project. Although I had been teaching writing for a couple of years already at that point in the summer of 2004, it was when we experienced the ‘teacher as writer’ concept, placing ourselves in the seat of our students, that I fully grasped my role – not simply as facilitator but as participant. It forced me to take my writing all the way through the writing process, and that was the beginning of perceiving myself as a writer.
What inspired you to write your first book? Once I became a tiny bit more comfortable with viewing myself as a writer, I took the wisdom that fell upon me to ponder what truly did matter to me…what would bring me joy to write, and the idea that came to me was writing to celebrate the people in my life who inspire me, who teach me what’s important, who make me want to be a better person, and for whom I am deeply indebted for lifting me up. With that, I arrived at the idea of writing my memoirs in a love letter of sorts, in the form of short lists.
Do you have a specific writing style? It all comes from my heart! Memories make me so happy, and I want to record it all. To show my sons, to let others know just how profoundly they are a part of me – I feel that gratitude is an impetus, in some way, in all my writing.
How did you come up with the title? Seeing myself as a writer is a continuously evolving awareness. Because I have the greatest admiration for writers who so eloquently impart their ideas, it is a tremendous process to accept myself in that camp. I’m still working at it, even with two books published! After easing the concept into conversations with my mom – my ultimate cheerleader – I forced myself to start talking through my journal/memoir concept with my cousins, my oldest best friends. They are an amazing group of women who are doubly valuable to me because of their varied knowledge of the business world and they know the ins and outs of my heart. As I’d hoped, they questioned and contemplated my writing endeavor with me, and in a little cabin in the seclusion of the Upper Peninsula one dark July night, I scribbled ideas on a napkin as we brainstormed together. The next morning, I woke up knowing that they’d steered me forward and I landed at the combination of all kinds of words and phrases to arrive at List Your Life: A Modern-Day Memoir.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Remember! Celebrate! Pass it on! First, I am glad that I put pen to paper to show just how sincerely I appreciate the people in my life. As I gathered the various stories and history of my years, I was rather surprised to see that I’d compiled a considerable volume of accomplishments for which I am very proud. In writing the lists of my memories, I realized that I have done quite a lot, and I realized that others might feel empowered, too, if they had a vehicle to guide them in taking stock of the life they’ve lived. If anything, I hope readers will gain a definitive sense of all they’ve done for themselves.
How much of the book is realistic? 100%! List Your Life and Trace Your Travels are all my own personal memories. Big and dynamic to small and simple, they are all mine.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? My journals are events from my own life. I began these writing projects in long form, but I eventually found that short, quick lists of memories was more of where I wanted to go. I had a meaningful critique early on, and, from that, I examined my purpose. While the lengthy stories are special to me, I felt that the basic form that called to me – quick lists of 3 – was something that is missing in the writing world. Writers brainstorms and have their own techniques, but, for those who find writing intimidating, a brief list is a more approachable way to write. We all have stories to write – it is a matter of finding the format that works.
What books have most influenced your life most? Ruta Sepetys, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Kwame Alexander are just a few authors who have an ability to reach my students and matter to them and, therefore, matter to me. I bring their books to my students and we all gobble them up. The writing is engaging, their topics are meaningful, and the writing is of a quality that transcends an age group.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? Tina Fey’s Bossypants was eye-opening for me. She is funny, and she doesn’t follow rules – and I genuinely liked reading how she views life. As a woman, as a mom, as a working person trying to do as much as I can, I enjoyed that she was genuine, and it felt like she wrote from within rather than to please others. That moxie has been helpful as I find my voice as a writer.
What book are you reading now? Veronica Roth’s The End and Other Beginnings. I am always reading young adult to bring new books to my middle-school students, and they are going to love the blend of seemingly realistic with fantasy in this one. Up next on my reading shelf is Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas. I try to take time for adult reading on occasion, too!
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Jarrett K. Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo was an impressive publication for so many reasons – not only is the artwork in the graphic novel interesting to take in as I read, the content was surprisingly deep. His life is a testament to overcoming hardships, while his way of storytelling drew me in as well as my teenage students.
What are your current projects? I’m currently exploring companion pieces to the List of 3 series. When I was a new mom with twin baby boys, I wanted so badly to write, but I couldn’t squeeze in more than a tiny blurb splashed on a calendar that hung in their room. It was messy, but I love looking back at the early days and seeing the highs and the lows, and those quick notes are plenty to set a whole memory in motion. Something tells me I am not the only mom who couldn’t find time to write. I’d like to help them write their memories.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members. Independent bookstore owners. I was so nervous to ask them to offer my books to their customers – so hesitant to declare myself an author, but I have been met with the most positive responses. The book world is a wonderful place to dwell. Book people have been encouraging in many ways – whether saying yes to selling my book or offering a kind word to keep me going, I feel lucky to have arrived in this place.
Do you see writing as a career? In that writing is so entirely all-encompassing, yes, it is a career. However, I have found over the last three years that allowing writing, for me, to be a hobby, keeps it fresh and not an obligation – which is significantly less daunting. In my official capacity as a teacher, as with any career, I have certain requirements. I like that writing is all mine, without any mandates, and I hope to keep it that way.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? This reminds me of a conversation with my mother-in-law when we were once reminiscing about my wedding day. She asked what I would change. I thought about it and realized there was not one thing I would change – it wasn’t perfect, but the imperfections made the memories as special as all of the carefully planned moments. Trace Your Travels is a lot the same. Publishing Trace Your Travels was a lengthy process, even though it was in the exact style of my first book, List Your Life. Graphic designer Lisa Michele Carpenter created the artwork and designed both books, and she and I discovered the determination it takes to see a book through to the end. We learned a lot together. And she stuck with me through both books! So I’d say we each found the process worthwhile, educational, and enjoyable.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I’ve always liked the physical act of creating words on a page, and writing feels like an achievement, so I think it was always there. That moment when I heard the message ‘write what’s in your heart, write what makes you happy’ I knew where I wanted to chase my writing dreams. Having a writing destination in mind gave me the desire to put in the time to get the sentiments on the page.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? Nothing quite ready to share yet!
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Without a writing goal, nothing happens. Lengthier writing, for me, happens in the summer when I am not teaching. I have to be disciplined about daily and weekly goals, otherwise, it just won’t happen.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? Tahereh Mafi is exceptional in her writing. Her language is exquisite, and I aspire to find such beauty in my use of language. In reading her stories, I see the power of placing the most accurate word to convey an image or feeling for the reader. I strive to put the exact word just where it is to be, as she does.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? Everywhere I travel is likely to end up somewhere in my writing – whether it is unofficial for my personal journaling, or if it finds a home in a future book. While I don’t need to travel, I certainly take, as well as occasionally make up, any reason to get up and go.
Who designed the covers? Lisa Michele Carpenter is magic. I swear she can see into my inartistic mind so clearly that she finds the visions that I can’t even articulate and brings them to my writing. With absolute certainty, I know that my books would never be what they are today if I had not serendipitously made her acquaintance three years ago. I am forever thankful that she shares her creative talents with me.
What was the hardest part of writing your book? Writing. The seemingly simple act of sitting in a chair and working until it’s done. I can outline for days, but it is a determined effort with concrete goals that ever takes my writing to where it needs to go.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? The sense of accomplishment was more meaningful than I’d imagined. Similar to when I finished my master’s thesis – I couldn’t have imagined that I had it in me. I surprised myself, and I learned that I really ought to give myself more credit than I think I usually do. It has been empowering to know that I can grow an idea, educate myself on the process, implement learnings that I had no prior knowledge of, and take a monumental project all the way through to the end. Now, the ongoing marketing side of things…also a continuous education!
Do you have any advice for other writers? Believe in yourself. Believe in your book. Ask questions. Keep at it – it takes longer than you suspect it will. But it is worth it! Your conviction will grow, and you will find the fire that you need to keep advancing. It is the best gift to yourself!
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Everyone has something worthwhile to write. Short, quick lists might be the trick … just get started!
Name of Author (required) Angela K. Berent
Name of Book (required) List Your Life: A Modern-Day Memoir and Trace Your Travels: An Adventure Journal
Author Website (required) writeremember.com
Amazon Link (required) – to author’s page or book https://amzn.to/2SH2tlq
Facebook Link (required) Angela K. Berent or https://www.facebook.com/writeremember/
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