Author interview, part two and giveaway: Ilie Ruby
I was so excited when Ilie Ruby agreed to answer my questions, I kind of went overboard. She was a good sport and took the time to answer all of my questions. Since the interview ended up being long, I decided to divide it in two. I featured the first part yesterday and offer its conclusion today. By the way, Ilie is pronounced EYE-lee.
The beautiful prose of your book reflects your background in poetry. Which do you prefer writing?
I can’t choose! Poems are the bones of my stories. An integral part of the whole. They create the architecture of my novels.
I’m excited about your Great Women Series – can you tell us more about that?
I’m glad you’re excited about it because I am, too. The Series features inspiring women who have overcome obstacles and realized their dreams. My hope is that it becomes a wisdom-keeper, a time capsule, a well from which women and girls can draw inspiration, especially for those who are isolated or struggling. I think we are all so very brave and so very scared at different times and in different places in our lives. It helps to share the journey. The women we feature are fabulous role models. We define “Great” as any woman who has worked through her own barriers and achieved “greatness” in whatever way she defines it. We just signed on to partner with the fabulous Girls Write Now, an inner city writing program for at-risk teenage girls. We’ll feature their top mentees as part of the Series. This will create a cross-generational component that will round out the series. We’re here: www.greatwomenseries.com.
On a more personal note, while visiting book groups and listening to women of all ages share their stories as they related to my characters, I had one predominant thought: “People should hear you. Your story is inspiring.” What struck me is that many women didn’t think that their stories mattered. I had to do something to remedy that. There is a fabulous documentary by Pamela Tanner Boll called Who Does She Think She Is? It addresses a certain part of the collective that questions the right or the chutzpah of female artists to live and work as they choose, and also work to improve things for others. The who does she think she is voice is pretty strong for some of us, many of us internalize it, but thankfully is very quiet for me now. I think, as women, we need to stamp out that voice and follow our inner guidance.
You had asked me about older child adoption once. As you know, I’m a mom to three kiddos from Africa. People ask why I went to Africa in the first place. There were many reasons, but mostly, this was something I was supposed to do in my life. I had always known I would do it. When you’re there, witnessing the lives of children, you do something. You have to. But this never comes from a place of pity. Never. These are incredible little people with enormous spirits to share. My children are my world. I feel extremely blessed.
I read that you’ve had success as an artist. Do you still paint? Is the creative process of painting similar to that of writing?
I can’t talk about myself as an artist without talking about my mother. She was an incredible talent and I wish she had had the confidence and encouragement to do all she wanted in her life. She taught me a lot about creativity. I grew up writing and painting, but I am also a bit of a synesthete. (My favorite French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire wrote of synesthetic experiences, as well). Several years ago, I starting selling prints and showing my work in different galleries. I was represented by a fine gallery in Tribecca. Painting is good for my soul and art shows are fabulous fun. But really, I paint because it refills my well. I mentioned being “creatively athletic”. I used to work double fisted, writing for a few hours, painting for a few hours. My creative process for both is indeed similar. Prepare the canvas, sketch out the landscape, layer on color, shadow, create texture, build in layers, flesh out corners, and articulate detail.
So many people seem to be down on our education system, yet I see so many bright young people today. Can you share some of your teaching experiences?
A school is only as good as its teachers. And teachers are only as good as their fortitude and infrastructures. At twenty-six, I drove across the country from Boston to Los Angeles to teach 5th grade, leaving behind a man I was in love with at the time—it was on the heels of the Rodney King race riots, a hotbed of racial tension. We had few books, many of the students read at a 1st grade level, it was gang territory, I could go on. I was drawn to Long Beach to try and help out there. My students were amazing. This past December I did a reading in LA, and one of my former students picked us up at the airport. He spent the week with my family and me, and we talked for hours about life journeys. I hadn’t seen him in 18 years! He had a traumatic start with his family and is now a successful entrepreneur, a role model. He shared his memories of things I had told him, and lessons I had taught. He still kept the journals I gave him to write in and process what was going on. Seeing him survive the legacy of his family, hearing his words, all this meant the world to me. ~Ilie
Thanks again, to Ilie for taking the time to answer my questions. Because of her generosity, I have one copy of THE LANGUAGE OF TREES (which I loved) to give away! To enter to win THE LANGUAGE OF TREES by Ilie Ruby, simply fill out this entry form. Contest is open worldwide. I will use random.org to determine the winner. Contest ends at midnight EST Friday, February 18, 2011. The winner will be announced on Saturday, February 19, 2011. Comments are welcome (and appreciated) but will not get you an entry in the contest.