This is a change of pace, kiddies: New stories fromTales From an Untethered Mind will return but in the meantime I want you to meet a great new writer – Sally Paradysz.
Sally’s book – “From Scratch” – is a memoir, launched in Nov. 2015, to great reviews, large book signings, and great success. No one has worked for it harder or deserved it more. The hidden kicker in this? Sally wrote this book when she was sixty-six years old.
It is a memoir about a sixty-six year old woman changing her life by building a new home “from scratch” on three acres in the wilderness in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania. “From Scratch” means exactly that: She and her partner Melanie build their home with their own hands while living in a tiny, uninsulated shed in a strand of trees.
Changing her life? That is an understatement. After 35 years in tension filled marriage to an overbearing husband, and reeling from the after effects of a violent rape, this gentle, older woman realizes her need to reconnect with her true self – and does so by moving off the grid with Melanie, her new partner, and her two Maine coon cats, to camp in that small shed in the woods, dealing with contractors (a closed universe dominated by men) and ever dwindling financial resources as they battle to construct a new home for themselves in a pristine environment.
The following interview is about how she wrote the book, and about her writing. If you want to read the full story “From Scratch” itself (and you should!) go buy the book. It is 287 pages of great reading!
When did you seriously start to write?
SP: I began writing at the age of eight. To me, all of my writing has been serious. I began with poems, and they turned into meditations, which in time went back to poetry. I wrote about what I knew best at that age, nature and family, horses and the life of a woodsman’s daughter. I thought my poetry was beautiful and important. Was it?
In the years to come I continued to write. No one took me seriously so most of the time I hid my work. Lots of us do. But with time, I stopped being embarrassed because I felt deeply about it. I never once stop to consider if it might ever be relevant.
Your major achievement has been your memoir on building your house, while you were rebuilding your life. Did you know you were going to write this book when you started your housing project?
SP: No! The experience of building my home while living in a tiny tool shed on my land, gave me a spiritual experience with nature that I never believed possible. It wasn’t until the last nail was in place that I realized the gift I was given. The love that came to me during the process helped me take on my own personal challenges.
I loved that time, not only for building a home, but for rebuilding my life. For one of the first times ever, I felt a lift in the knowledge of what was important. To me and my life. With that awareness I felt an enormous need to tell my story.
Did you keep a detailed diary while in the process of building your new home or did you write from memory after the housing project was completed?
SP: I wrote almost entirely from memory. I have a fine one of those tools and put it to good use.
Also, I did keep a house file with all my receipts in it. Kept track of the construction auctions and costs associated with that, along with the dates on the receipts. That gave me the knowledge of a nice time flow.
Tell us about your about your other stories that have appeared in wide variety of anthologies since 2009. Which was your favorite and which garnered you the most attention?
SP: I loved doing the Essay, Tool-Belt Spirituality. When asked by Sellers Publishing to write a thousand-word essay for the book 65 Things To Do When You Retire, I felt challenged and excited. Not only because I would be published in the same book as Gloria Steinem and Jimmy Carter, but because it made me feel worthy of my writing.
From Scratch stretched me as a writer. It not only helped me find my true voice, but expanded my vision for the expectations I had for the rest of the book.
Do you prefer memoir over fiction? If so, why?
SP: Actually, I’m not sure. I love both, but memoir has a life of its own. I think if I had to choose I’d do more memoir.
I feel with memoir I’m given the chance to give from the heart. Give something of me to those who have chosen to live in fear or some other uncomfortable place. I may be able to help, but I can listen.
Do you have any outstanding mentors that have aided in your growth as a writer?
Susan Richards, Helen Papashvily, and my writing group. Great writers, good people.
Tell us about your relationship with the Bethlehem (PA.) Writers Group?
SP: I was one of the first to join this amazing group of writers. All of the BWG writers are outstanding in their own unique way. Each has his or her own voice. I love it. They are dedicated to their craft and the group.
All of us who have the BWG in our back pockets feels fulfilled. We feel heard, as if the time spent was worth the effort, and feel privileged to be critiqued by everyone who is a member.
Do you participate in other critique groups or frequently attend some writing conferences or seminars?
SP: I have spent time participating in writing workshops, and have been to a conference or two. To be honest, I like to think that no one helps me make a story better but me. I listen, I work hard, and then I write honestly. The BWG is the only critique group I will listen to.
Are you planning another large writing project now that your 1st book is fully launched?
SP: Yes. I’d like to do a sequel on the next decade of From Scratch and how that unfolded. Many events have happened during this time and one is critical to my continuing story. I’d like to tell that story.
Do you have any strong advice for “older” writers, who may just beginning to write?
SP: Yes. Do not be put off! It’s your story, be proud of your work and tell it! There is always a beginning, but even better is knowing the accomplishment when you’re finished.