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Thursday, 14 April 2011

Author Patricia Mitchell Lapidus, Interviewed.

Patricia Mitchell Lapidus, a writer and a poet, is retired from two careers, one as a high school English teacher, and one as a social worker teaching parent skills and life skills to teen families.
     Trish has published a memoir of her life in a community of spiritual hippies, Sweet Potato Suppers: A Yankee Woman Finds Salvation in a Hippie Village, the second edition of which is due out in 201l.  She has published poems in a number of literary magazines, including Green Hills Literary Lantern, Off the Coast, and Peregrine.  She writes articles for ezine@articles and for hubpages.  She maintains several blogs related to her writing and her family.  Swamp Walking Woman, a modern mythic fairy tale, and Gideon’s River, a novel about family relationships, are available as eBooks and as soft cover paperbacks.  Red Hen's Daughters, her first book of poems is about farming life in the 1950s, the many questions a child asks, and about the transition to modern living.
     Trish lives with her husband in New Haven, CT, where she hikes the beautiful trails of West Rock Ridge State Park, writes, and gives workshops at the New Haven Public Library.  She is an encourager of writers and, in her writing, a strong advocate for children, for parents, and for the dignity of all persons.
     She has a Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary English from the University of Maine and a Bachelor's degree in English from Indiana University. 
     Trish uses the tools of Scientology in life and in her work.
Tell us about Gideon’s River in a few sentences.

Gideon’s River is a novel about the relationship between a timid mother and her angry son.  This story explores a common family drama we could call “the bully and the wimp” as it has come down through the generations.  Although traditional religion and modern therapies don’t seem to have answers, the family does find hope in a surprising way.

How did you come to write this particular book?

In my work with families as a social worker I witnessed a lot of unhappiness.  It always struck me that people who clearly loved one another couldn’t seem to refrain from hurting and alienating the very ones they needed most.  Also, as I took young mothers or couples to receive counseling, I found they often felt these “helps” didn’t help.  I began to research the issue and found a sense of truth I wanted to share in story form.

If you have a favorite character in your novel, why that particular one?

I have quite a few favorites, but I’d say Gideon is the winner for me—because he won’t sit still and let life run over him.  He insists on participating.  Of course, he gets himself into scrapes, but his efforts charm me and will charm the reader.  The novel is quite populated and there are a number of subplots that counterpoint Gideon’s story.

Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?

The novel is set along the Susquehanna River north of the Catskill Mountains in rural NY where I worked.  The town of Little Bridge is created from familiar landmarks.

How can people buy your books?

My books are available as soft cover paperbacks on and as eBooks through or through eBook readers.

What qualities make a successful writer?

Love of words, of communicating with words, would be top.  Then, a great passion, such as my passion for helping children to live confident lives.

Who will be interested in reading Gideon’s River?  

Anyone who enjoys a good story about relationships and personal growth will like this novel—especially parents who are still raising children and young people who are emerging from family into a separate identity.  This book is also for anyone who wants to take a rather long look at the history of family life.

To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?

Not too important at first.  And you can always hire a proofreader later or ask a friend to read your work.  My advice to writers is not to worry about grammar and spelling while they are writing the first draft and making revisions, only later when it’s time to polish.  Then you’ll want your work to look professional.  No distractions of typos and such.

How do you know where to begin any given story?

I didn’t know.  I tried several beginning.  Finally I let my editor show me the true beginning.

 How long does it normally take you to write a novel?

Full time, I wrote Gideon’s River in about a month.  But I still had a lot of work to do to get the whole story fleshed out and organized.  Sadly, most authors must market their own books and this can slow down the writing of the next.

Who or what inspires you?

Other great writers.  In the case of Gideon, I look at other novels about young boys—Oliver Twist, Tom Sawyer, Harry Potter.  Tom Sawyer exists largely outside social foolishness.  That is his function, to see and show social assumptions for what they are.  Oliver and Harry begin in a certain amount of distress.  Oliver, whom we first meet in a dismal Victorian orphanage, is found and rescued by his rich grandfather.  Harry’s existence in the home of his aunt and uncle is every bit as bleak, but he, too, is saved by prior pedigree, because his parents were magic and he has magic in his genes.  What we love about Harry is his confidence—in spite of his raising.  Gideon, like these boys, is in trouble, and Gideon works out his salvation without prior pedigree.

If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?

I have a hard time keeping track of what information I have already given my reader and what I have withheld in order to create tension.  I have to make a time line of the plot.

Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?

I love how the characters come to life and make decisions.  For example, Gideon’s friend Cody does something highly unorthodox to save Gideon.  I never felt I decided that.  I just watched the kid go and do it and I was shocked—but it worked!

Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

Probably some gift but certainly can be acquired.  If you want to write, you have the gift and all you need is some skills.

What single piece of advice would you give to writers still hoping to be published?

Be confident in yourself and your vision—and never give up!  Very few writer are successful early in their careers.  Mostly spend a lot of time finding the right actions to outlets.

What are you writing now?

I’m writing another novel set in Little Bridge and using some of the same characters.  Though, I have little time for it because of the marketing efforts, which are not all terrible chores, since I love giving speeches and workshops, writing articles, and so on.

Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?

Yes.  Readers can find out more about my work at and at my recently acquired web page   For a wider look at my life and activities

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

I’m fortunate to have a quiet apartment with a computer where I can stand up—and a husband who flunked retirement and loves to volunteer at a local detox center.  We are good friends, and yet I do love being left alone to do my work.

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