Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and fifty-seventh, is of short story author and novelist Rita Plush. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Rita is an author, teacher and lecturer on the decorative arts. Retiring her thirty-five year career as an interior designer—she was also the coordinator of the Interior Design/Decorating Certificate Program at Queensborough Community College, and taught several courses in the program–Rita is devoting herself to her writing. Her practice includes fiction and non-fiction.
Lily Steps Out (Penumbra 2012) is her first novel. The event of its publication was the feature article in Newsday’s Act II section in July, 2012 called, “Published & Proud,” followed by “Rita Steps Out,” featured in the Times Ledger, August, 2012.
Her short stories appeared in many literary journals including The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Iconoclast, The MacGuffin and Passager before they were included in the collection, Alterations (Penumbra 2013).
She is presently the facilitator of the Self-published Authors’ Roundtable that meets every month at the Manhasset Library in Manhasset, Long Island. Rita will present her talk, “Writing & Publishing in the Modern Age, or So You’ve Written a Book; Now What?” at the Limmud Conference of Jewish Learning in February.
And now from the author herself:
I started writing about 20 years ago. I was in my mid-fifties, just after I’d graduated with a B.A. in English and a M.A. in Creative Writing from Queens College. It was a course of study that took me eleven years part time, while I raised my family and ran my interior design business. I’m a late-bloomer, but my take on that adage is that late bloomers bloom longer.
As far as switching from interior design to writing, when I think about it, it’s not such a big switch after all. It’s still creativity at work, but in a different arena. Writing is another form of design. In rooms, you put fabrics and furnishings together, everything arranged in a way that immediately strikes the eye as a coordinated whole. The right balance of color, scale, and object. Writing a book is similar, except that instead of objects, you put people and plot together to create that coordinated whole—a world made with words.
People are my favorite things to write about, and I always begin my stories with a character or characters. They seem to present themselves to me, doing something, saying something. I love to dress them, give them little personality quirks and a particular way of speaking that distinguishes each of them from every other character in the story. Sometimes I get myself into trouble with my characters, in that when I’m stuck in a plot, I make up someone new. Happened just the other day in the novel I’m working on. I had a woman and a little girl in a kitchen, and for the life of me, I just couldn’t get them to move out of it, so I had the woman think about her mother—voila! a new character. Now, everyone needs a mother, but in Chapter 3? Out went mom.
The relationship of mothers and daughters is central to my writing, as are all aspects of family life and relationships in general. It must be what’s important to me, what’s on my mind, even when I’m not aware of it. That’s when the little truths come out of us, what we think of when we think we’re not thinking—if that makes sense?
Elizabeth Stroud did a wonderful job with Olive Kitteridge that way. She really got into characterization and motivation. The thing of it was that Olive wasn’t a very likeable person, but she was real, and I was made to understand why she behaved as she did. I wouldn’t mind going along with Olive on a visit to one of her neighbors. I wouldn’t say a word; I’d just sit there taking it all in. Olive isn’t always admirable, but she’s never boring.
I also admire are Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Monroe, Phillip Roth and T. Coraghessan Boyle. They too have that gift of making you get a character with just a few sentences. Their work is truly an inspiration and something I strive for.
I think we writers need that, something to keep us going, to want to be better, to keep trying to improve. Writing is hard. It’s definitely not for sissies and folks who are thinned skinned.
My first short story was rejected 93 times, and it took me 7 years to find a publisher for Lily Steps Out, but along the way I received encouraging comments from editors and publishers—they said I had an original voice—and that gave me confidence to keep on writing. Curse them out, all those who reject your work—to yourself of course—and keep at it. An attitude of I’ll show you! helps.
Absolutely, Rita. When I went to my first creative writing class nine years ago, the poem I took was pulled to pieces. I drove home vowing never to return but the I thought “I’ll show you” and I did. 🙂 Thank you, Rita.
And now a little more about Rita’s books…
‘Lily Steps Out’ is about an empty nester who begins to assess her own life after her husband retires, and what she sees, she doesn’t like. Thirty-three years of making beds and cooking dinners? She’s had it! She has a brain. Why isn’t she using it? To the mocking disbelief of her now retired husband and grown son, Lily “steps out” of the comfortable life she knows and decides to look for a job. It isn’t so easy to find one, but once she does it’s a perfect fit. Antiques! Right up her alley. Lily works and loves it, but Leon doesn’t like not having her at his beck and call. When he finds out she wants to open her own antique center, he runs to the bank and empties their joint savings account. This is marriage? This is war! Follow Lily as she turns the status quo into quid pro quo and gives her husband a run for the money.
‘Alterations’ is a short story collection about little girls and adolescents, a teenager, a father, a son, grown women—one takes revenge on the man who raped her teenage daughter—characters from different types of families and mindsets—with all their messy complications, their intrigues and dramas, their loving and sometimes mysterious bonds—who are altered by their circumstances as they make their way through life.
You can find more about Rita and her writing via…
- Website: www.ritaplush.com
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ritaplush
- Lily Steps Out: Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com
- Alterations: Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com
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As I post a spotlight or interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique directly (see Editing & Critique) or for posting on the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.