Oct 11 2011
My awesome guest this week is Laura Schultz, a freelance writer and licensed psychotherapist. She currently writes book reviews for New York Journal of Books and has written for national magazines as well as online on topics such as mental health, relationships, communication, sexuality, and health/wellness. Her book Arise and Shine: Laments from the Darkness, Songs of the Light was published in September 2011.
Thanks for being my guest this week, Laura. Please, tell the cool peeps about yourself.
Thanks so much, Molly, for allowing me the honor of speaking to all your cool peeps. I am excited to share a bit about myself. Family life was anything but ordinary:). My father was a farmer-turned politician who ran for a state Senate seat in California. Mom was an amazing painter and sculptor whose work is still alive and depicted in my book. Growing up in a small farming community was idyllic much like the old TV shows, i.e. we rode horses to school etc. I spent much of my career as a Marriage and Family Therapist, working in the social service arena coupled with private clients. My teachers all the way through school suggested I become a writer but I didn’t have the confidence to try it as a career until a few years ago. It has been a roller coaster ride like no other and words have held me captive ever since.
I know you’re very excited about your poetry book that has just been published. What is the name of it? Do the poems have a common theme? Have you been writing poetry all your life?
I have been writing poetry ever since I can remember. I’d get up after the folks were asleep to have that silence to commune with my thoughts. I am excited to announce that my book “Arise and Shine: Laments from the Darkness, Songs of the Light” made its debut Sept. 17, 2011. It’s really exciting to finalize something you love doing. I met the editor (via a writer’s group that I founded) Candice James, who is a brilliant Poet Laureate from Canada. We immediately hit it off and respected each other’s poetry immensely. Candice introduced me to her publisher — Silver Bow Publishing and it’s been a wonderful and inspiring experience thus far. Ken Ader has been invaluable as well in this process.
The book reflects my personal philosophy about poetry and life in general in that we are here to serve others and to mutually share in our love for life. It is a transformational journey through verse from despair and hopelessness to rising, evolving and loving again. I believe the inspiration came from many sources, but as a psychotherapist for over 20 years, I had witnessed so many people enduring broken relationships, addictions etc. I wanted to facilitate growth and change and inspire others to transcend their struggles. One of the best testimonials for the book comes from the New York Times Bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth Hoffman. She states “In her generous and heartfelt collection of poems, Laura Schultz urges us to look up, to dive deep, and to venture within so that we might embrace the joys, pain, and wonderment of all that we are, have been, and hope to become.”
—Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
You have a lot of projects on the burner. What made you decide to first publish a poetry book?
That’s an interesting question, Molly. I write in so many genres for print and online magazines, I wasn’t sure what type of book I was going to write first, if ever. But poetry has always been a passion and folks really supported this endeavor. My mother’s paintings comprise the visual art in the book, so in that way, the book has a great sentimental value as being a tribute to her. When I started sending poems out for publication, like many writers, it was like letting go of my children. Rejection wasn’t easy but other writer friends continued to encourage me through kind words and offers to help. Maneuvering the publishing process was a whole new challenge in the beginning — one that was rife with struggle and disappointment. But I finally found (or she found me), the right publisher for me and I felt comfortable with the book being in her very capable hands.
My secret source tells me that your second book will be quite fascinating. How about a sneak peek for the cool peeps?
I wasn’t sure if the next book would be in the true crime genre as I have researched and written articles and treatises about serial killers— another fascination for me. The other competing idea (which won out) was writing a memoir. I didn’t want to write another memoir about family traumas per se, even though some of that might be shared. What I wanted to capture was life in a CA border town during the 50s and 60s within the backdrop of political turmoil, changing family structures and a transitional phase in the U.S. When the first two pieces of it were published by Coal House Review, I realized there just might be a book here.
You’ve been a licensed Marriage and Family therapist for over 20 years. How has being in practice affected the way you see the world and the people in it? How does it help with your writing?
Being a psychotherapist for so long, has facilitated not only an in-depth insight into the human psyche, but paved the way for a writing career. In fact my first magazine assignment was assigned to me because of my therapy background. Soon I was considered the relationship expert for a national magazine as well as the reviewer to turn to when it came to self-help books.
As a therapist I became fascinated with true crime stories and was totally intrigued by the darker side of various disorders. After observing clients and others in a myriad of situations that reflected both dysfunctional communication and behavioral styles, I knew that one day I would write a true crime book from the perspective of a therapist. Crime Magazine and Crimespree Magazine published two well-researched articles “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Psyche of Serial Killers” and “Strychnine and Stilettos: The Anatomy of Female Serial Killers.” Some people think this a totally strange interest, but true crime writers and aficionados might relate to it.
Social media is a large part of many people’s lives. Do you think it has changed the collective mindset of society as a whole? If so, in what ways?
Another thoughtful question Ms. Molly 🙂 My answer is two-edged. I totally understand the need to communicate with others and find like-minded people via the various platforms in social media. I really have enjoyed meeting and getting to know several friends that I subsequently met in real time. On the other hand, I’ve also met some folks who were not at all what they appeared to be at first which was a disappointment until I accepted the fact that people are simply people — some great and some not so wonderful.
While writing at a coffee shop every day, I’ve noticed that people don’t talk to people sitting at the next table like they used to do. Most everyone is texting, on the internet or on a cell phone. Consequently, as a society, I believe that our attention spans and ability to bond with one another and the community at large has decreased greatly. I know that parents often feel like they can’t obtain their child’s attention because the kids are preoccupied with their toys.
You worked for several years as a school director for the disabled. Can you tell us about that experience? What can we learn from you?
As the Director for a post-secondary educational program for disabilities for about 11 years, I learned much more from the students than they learned from me. As a person with a disability myself, it was the first time I felt part of a community that understood the feelings of alienation and self-esteem issues resulting from being treated differently. One important fact to mention is that there are over 25 million people with disabilities who want to be viewed as people with “abilities” who are capable and want to lead productive lives. They want to work and become contributing members of society. Many have fought their entire lives for the right to live in wheelchair-accessible housing and equal opportunities in the workforce. Unfortunately, last time I checked the stats, over two thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed. That is why I remain on the Board of Directors of a nonprofit organization dedicated to this fight.
I know many people enjoy reading in the true crime, psychology and self-help genres, all of which you write. I find it all very intriguing. Can you tell us more?
People and relationships are very important and many of us save these personal experiences to share only with our closest confidantes. I know that some folks are just plain tired of self-help and psychology articles and books, but to me there is always a new unexplored angle to emotions and the psyche that can still help large audiences, especially to those who are struggling. Most people are flabbergasted to hear some of the current statistics about psychological and mental health issues. In an article I published entitled “Finding the Light: Overcoming Depression,” I mentioned that The World Health Organization stated that “by 2020, depression will become the second greatest world issue in respect to ill health.” This blew people away but various disorders are similarly on the rise such as eating disorders in young girls and addictions in general. My feeling is, how can we not be interested in the mental health of those we care about? True crime stories are often a result of various disorders and a lack of a nurturing environment. Many of the disorders like an antisocial personality arise in young adulthood but we don’t have an adequate system in place, or sometimes enough knowledge to treat these types of individuals. It is critical to study this phenomenon more closely to prevent the mayhem that we have witnessed in the last 20 years or so.
As a book reviewer, there must be many challenges that come along with the opportunities. Can you elaborate?
The greatest challenge is reading a book that is so bad, it’s hard to get through. But since I’m reviewing it, I persist until the end. I’m always a bit uncomfortable being tough on a fellow writer who I know worked really hard to complete their book. But I always try to find a plus in the book to balance out the negatives. We are encouraged to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth and hopefully I do that in a creative and competent way. Some reviewers are just brutal but luckily for me, most of the books I’ve reviewed have had many redeeming qualities. I used to only be assigned self-help, true crime and poetry books because the rule is you can only review books in genres that you have credentials in. But now with all my experience I also am able to review novels and that has made life a bit more interesting.
Where does your greatest inspiration for writing come from?
My inspiration comes from both the authors of old as well as some of the fabulous authors I’ve met in the last few years. Every time I write a book review for the New York Journal of Books, I learn more about what works in writing and what does not. Much of what I write comes to me in the oddest moments. My muse wakes me up in the middle of the night, insisting I write something down. So, what can I do but acquiesce to her?
The world of publishing is changing so rapidly. It’s hard to keep up. Any thoughts about the ever-evolving landscape? Predictions?
Predicting the trends is a bit difficult but it looks as if the road is laced with landmines for both publishers and prospective authors. One has to find a way to stand out from the crowd, to even be considered by a traditional publisher but the good news is that people ultimately adapt and will find creative ways to get published. I’m really an idealist in the belief that a great book will ultimately reach an audience. We all hear about the bookstores closing around the country and the future is the e-book, ever-evolving readers, IPads, etc. But I also believe that there will always be an audience that enjoys the thrill of holding a book and reading it the old-fashioned way — especially people over 40 🙂
Is there something you’ve not yet done in your life, but want to do?
There are many destinations that call me such as South America, Spain, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Vienna and Prague. I’ve been fortunate enough to see much of Europe but there is still much more to see.
I am currently a Vice President of a nonprofit Board of Directors for an organization that I worked at for over 11 years. But there are many social causes that need expertise in the trenches, so to speak. So I look forward to getting more involved in some of them. I believe volunteering is the rent we pay for being fortunate to live on the planet.
If you could have a dinner party with your favorite people in history, present or past, who might we find seated at your table?
I love everything Hollywood and am fortunate to live in the city where they are both created and re-created. It’s always fascinating to see them from afar and having a chance to chat once in a while. In fact, the complex where I live was built on the old MGM studios back lot where movies like Raintree County and Tarzan were filmed. Thus, I would love to host a party with Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. To add further excitement, I would add Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Michelangelo, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Stephen King. Wouldn’t that be one hoot of an evening?
I’ve been forever called picky, but I maintain that we’re all picky creatures. What are you picky about?
I’m not really picky, particularly about other people’s little quirks or foibles but others say I’m very picky when it comes to food. My boyfriend teases me after a meal, because I always leave a heap of tiny pieces of bread in the center of the plate. If that’s the worst part of being picky, that’s fine with me:) I’m just happy that for the most part, I accept people and hope they can do that with me as well. It’s taken a lot of introspection and work to improve this shortcoming of mine, because I used to judge people fairly harshly if they didn’t do what I thought they should be doing. I felt that I had all the answers about behavior and attitudes but that didn’t help anyone — in fact it created a lot of resentment.
Where can people find you in cyberspace?
My website is www.lauraschultznow.com so feel free to peruse articles on relationships and sexuality, mental health issues and self-help, true crime, book reviews and of course, samples of my poetry.
Any parting words for the masses? Any shameless plugs?
I guess this is the hardest part for me that is to plug this—my first book. It can be ordered now at: Alibris.
And I would love folks to stop by my website and let me know how you like it.
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