Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Interview with Dorit Sasson: Author and Creater of the program, "Giving a Voice to the Voiceless."


I met Dorit via my blog. She'd read one of the interviews and asked to be interviewed herself. After learning more about Dorit, I was glad she did.

Her warm smile drew me in, and the fact that she lives in my hometown, well, lets just say anyone from STEELER country deserves an interview! 


Dorit's life is a tale of two worlds. And because of this, she has a unique voice. One I'm sure you'll want to read. 


Below are the questions I asked her: 

1.     Why did you come back to the US after so long in Israel?


I left Israel after living there for almost 19 years because I experienced what many professionals call the "brain-drain." After teaching English in the classroom for more than 13 years, I felt "professionally dead" and burnt-out. it was time for a change.

2.     Why write?

I write to find the stories I care the most deeply and passionately about. As I write, I ask: "Am I willing to go where I need to go so I get people to care about such and such?" Chance are, if I don't care enough about a story, then my reader won't care about it either.

3.     Describe your book in 5 words.

Transformational. Painful. Authentic. Vulnerable. Practical.

4.     Living in two worlds can give an unusual perspective. How does this translate in your writing?

Great question. The message of my writing  that always seems to emerge is about listening to the voice that will allow you to feel. But believe me, it is damn hard to listen to that voice that will allow you to feel when you are trying to be that authoritative Israeli teacher in the classroom. Or when you are trying to stay calm managing paperwork of notorious bureaucracy Israeli society is known for, or living under the constant threat of another impending war by one of the neighboring Arab countries.
I guess the bottom line is that you learn to embrace ambiguity and tolerance of "living on two cultural seats." Very soon after coming back to the States, I realized that my 19+ years of living abroad was an asset even though I had a hard time reconnecting to life back in the States.

Whether your two homes are cultural or emotional and you feel disconnected from a world as you know it now, you have to adjust your world view to gain perspective otherwise you are "left high and dry." In my chapter for Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time, "The Best Time to Get in my Way" I describe the journey of "coming home" back to the States after living so many years in Israel as "bittersweet." 
Sweet = back on familiar ground but bitter = not fitting in and not finding my "tribe."


For example, I would ask mothers with small children, "What's an SUV?" and "What's Target?" I felt everyone around me was speaking another language. this made me feel embarrassed because I knew it was a common thing to everybody except me or so it seemed at the time.  It's a hard thing to explain to somebody but yet, everyone can understand and relate to the feelings of being an outsider.
5.     Did the two worlds help or hinder your writing? And in what ways?
Another great question. During the first crucial six months, my life and my writing were two separate entities. I put a great deal of emphasis on the struggle and not on the words. I wanted to be able to go to bed at night feeling "I could make it here in the US." 

You could also look at it this way - did the writing help or hinder my adjustment to two cultural worlds. As an outsider, you are neither here nor there. And a big part of the Jewish experience has to do with our expansive history of coming and going. Look at our history. It is an integral part of it. 

When you are Jewish and live in the Diaspora, you are first Jewish. When you live in Israel, you are first Israeli. It took me (and it still does) a great deal of time to be both Jewish and Israeli here in Pittsburgh while raising a family and I'm still neither feeling here or there on some days. 

For example, at this time of year when it's Passover, I'll suddenly take a whiff of lavender out on the street, and in a second, I am transported to the garden of a neighboring kibbutz member and think of spending a Passover sedar with family and what that means in Israeli terms. 

Or I'll look of pictures of Jerusalem and feel immensely homesick. When this need to feel connected became so strong, I would turn to the journals and then really polish and refine the writing so as to put a final "voice" or "time stamp" to the emotional disconnect of what I was feeling at the time. And I still do this from time to time.  Some of these writings have even found homes with publishers.
 It's one thing to write about this perspective. It's another thing to live it. I experienced the role of the immigrant shoes twice - first as an "oleh" an immigrant to Israel and then as an "oleh

That's when the writing also became to be a source of therapy and healing, and from there, I was also able to find my tribe - through the pain. Luckily, there is a strong Israeli community and I get to eat homemade hummus (made of white beans, very yummy) almost all the time.
6.     Writers need to be great observers. Did your time in silence help you observe and record?

What is silence? Silence is the experience absorbed in words.


As a second language learner of Hebrew, I was also a silent one. I took in everything from my environment at the time so I could feel "safe." Those early years helped give voice to what I was feeling at the time.
 As I wrote about  silence in my chapter for Pebbles in the Pond, I was the American teacher who was never taken seriously and because of that, I stayed silent all throughout teacher meetings and pedagogical discussions of the students. I didn't allow myself to "speak" because I still needed to be that Israeli. I'm sure if I went back now, the experience would be slightly different, but not so much.

When I was in the Israeli army, my silence sometime resulted in punishment and ridicule from native Israeli peers. This is the stuff stories and movies are made of. Really. When I felt safe enough, I was able to step up and step out by giving voice to what initially, I couldn't express. The result has been my Stories.
  
7.     What is a life coach and why do you have one?

I hired a life coach with a strong astrological background in March 2011, to help me get clear on my sense of purpose and direction. I knew teaching was in my blood, but I needed help understanding what other options were there for me in life other than traditional ESL (English as a second language) classroom teaching. Together, we defined that I was meant to go forward with writing "pain stories" and my stories of "darkness and trying to find the light." That's when the book and program "Giving Voice to Voiceless" was born.

8.     What one word best describes you?

Courageous

9.     What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

I'm fully present and conscious by 6am after meditating. On days when I need to get out of the door and teach, breakfast is at 7:15 am or so. Otherwise, I try to eat breakfast by 8am.

10. What one word of advice would you give to a newbie writer?

Read. read. read. And especially read the genres you also wish to write in.

11. Have you taken writing classes. If so, what one was your favorite?

I've "sampled" quite a bit from online fiction classes at Gotham (NYC) to poetry and non-fiction. I've also facilitated writing groups in the comfort of my own home. I guess I would have to say the Madwomen non-fiction classes at  Carlow University here in Pittsburgh were my favorite because non-fiction seems to be my favorite genre. For now.

12. What is a transformational author retreat?

Yep, I didn't know either before I had went on one either. Briefly, the transformational author retreat organized and spiritually guided by the amazing Christine Kloser, three time award winning published author, was organized on a Jewish farm  tucked away. For writers of the Pebbles in the Pond who met virtually and wanted to express and experience the calling to transform the world, we spoke through pain and struggle on many different levels.


Writing is a platform to transform our pain and struggle into sometime more positive and meaningful. Right now, we are experiencing great shifts at all levels and there is a great deep need for people to validate the experiences and feelings they are experiencing.  

13. Writers often write alone, retreating inward. How did you get the courage to promote yourself outward?

I basically will reiterate what Jane Yolen says, "BIC," which means, "Butt in Chair." I knew I needed to sit in the chair and write first. That's the physical and much needed part that people tend to overlook.

I also needed to set my intention. Setting my intention (i.e. describing how I want to feel) is another big part of the journey.

The third part is knowing that I have a unique enough story and emotional perspective that is part of my own pain that I write about in Pebbles in the Pond. That is something nobody can take away from me, from you. That propels me. 

14. Do you believe this book could translate to young people? If not, will you be writing for children anytime soon?

If you are referring to the book, Giving Voice to Voiceless: A Five Step Program to Transforming Your Life and Business in Story," then yes. Educators can actually use sections of the book to help guide them when helping their students give voice to meaningful writing and their hopes, visions and dreams - sometime I wish my teachers had done when I was a student.
If you are referring to Pebbles in the Pond, I most definitely thing educators can use specific stories to reinforce a moral or lesson, activate or facilitate a group discussion and finally, encourage them to write their own "ripple" stories based on an experience of when they transform their own personal struggle into something meaningful.   

15. What are you reading right now?

Lots of non-fiction books by Mr. Deepak Chopra like The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents and Creating Affluence (I need books that ground me) and lots of books in my area of Story expertise like Michael Margolis's visionary book, Believe Me: A Story Manifesto. But of course, I have more books than I have time for.

16. Who is your biggest cheerleader?

I guess I would have to say my Pebbles fans from the book, "Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time" - they are my backers and supporters and really seem to "get me."

17. Ever wanted to give up? If yes, what kept you writing?

All the time. That is a natural part of anything when you are constantly stretching and pushing through your comfort zone.

When I was stuck in the stage of "looking and feeling for inspiration," I was constantly living in a fantasy world, and consequently, I had more time to take self-pity on myself. But one day, I woke up one morning and said, "This is me. This is my life. This is what I need and want to do" and then I really didn't have time to sulk and give up so easily. I look for professional support. I got more training. I "pretended" to be serious. And guess what? It worked. 
What's that saying?

Failing is defined by the lack of trying.

18. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Good bloggers help to cross-promote each other.

 When there is chemistry, there is magic just like any relationship/partnership. I have benefited from my 40+ Pebble in the Pond friends because we are constantly cross-promoting each others' efforts and we are also hooking each other to other great content (like yours) to help promote other excellent blogs. (like yours.) 

It all really depends on your goals and what you want out of a blog and readership. With my blog site, "Giving Voice to Voiceless" - 


 I want to help give voice to peoples' stories by giving them the tools to honor the way in which the story needs to come out through that creative form of expression as they slowly step into their authentic voices of being and feeling.  

19. Did you use a professional editor when you finished your ms?

Many many times. I am now writing a teacher development book for Pearson education  on teacher collaboration for English language learners and peer reviews and editorial feedback is a big part of the process. You learn so much when you work with an editor. Editors are really your friends. I've learned to like them.  

20. Do you belong to any writers associations? If yes, which ones?

In the past when I wrote lots of children's fiction and non-fiction, I belonged to SCBWI (Society of Childrens' Writers and Book Illustrators).

Now I belong to the Working Writers Coaching Club -http://www.workingwritersclub.com/

21. Do you belong to a critique group? What do you think about them?

I have been in several. The best kind of critique group I have participated in is that where the writers themselves are published writers (see below) and time is used well and productively to support the writers. Oh, and let's not forget good chocolate and a good facilitator. A good writing group should always give each writer what s/he needs.

22. Any words of encouragement for struggling writers?

Struggle is really a natural part of the writing life. The most important thing I wish I did more as I was struggling as a writer while raising my son was to enjoy life. I know it sounds a bit crazy to some, but it IS possible to enjoy life and struggle at the same time. (Meditation really helped with that...)
Make sure you have an A+ writing group of writers who have been PUBLISHED and not just any writer who enjoys hearing him/herself read. 

Hire a professional editor. 

Read and read a lot.

Know the difference between online and "transitional book" writing - many people don't read these days and as a result, have the eye concentration of a flea. 

(Write shorter books than longer ones) For writers however, this means training oneself to not rush the writing process. Sometimes the learning curve can be very high, and it's important to account for this when planning a writing schedule for example.
It's also important to be aware of the amount of promoting and marketing one must do as a writer. Set aside time for these tasks as they are important, but first and foremost, remember to WRITE!
The publishing world moves like an elephant, and there are many things you won't be able to understand at first - i.e. the pace. So it's up to you to promote yourself and don't be afraid to toot your own horn.

Get busy studying the market and don't worry too much about what sells (that will inform your path) but also allow yourself to truly explore what it is that makes your soul sing. What is your passion? What will bring you the greatest joy? 
If you worry too much about money, you will loose the spark of creativity, (easier said than done, I know) so don't worry about "giving up" the part time paying job to be a full-time freelance writer, unless you have no time to write. (It pays the bills) and learn how one world can inform the writing world.

Don't be afraid to ask for help and above all, be persistent and don't be afraid to send work out. 

(Remember the writing rule - always have 13 pieces circulating at all times...)

Oh, and do create and stick to a writing schedule - create a writing schedule that fits into your life - not the other way around.

And last but certainly not least, do try to not be overwhelmed (easier said than done).. there will always be pressing life issues, but be sure to give writing the TLC and attention it need and don't be easily overwhelmed. You owe it to yourself to get the stories you want out to the people who need to read them.

23. What was your biggest learning moment during this writing journey?

How to write that story from that place where I am at my most authentic self.

24. What's the funniest thing a fan has asked you?
"When you served in the Israeli army, did you ever shoot anybody?" because it just doesn't work like that in Israel.


Author bio:

Dorit Sasson is the author of Giving Voice to Voiceless: A Five Step program to Transforming Your Life and Business in Story and a speaker. She uses the power of story to help others create their life and business in story. Download your free MP3, Story Manifesto: A Guide To Stepping into the Authentic Voice and Vision of Your Story, atwww.GivingAVoicetotheVoicelessBook.com. When you do, you’ll receive a complimentary subscription to the “Giving Voice to Voiceless” magazine, including a transformational tip of the week.

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