Q&A with Pamela L. Newton
When did you discover you wanted to write?
For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed creating stories, reading stories and writing. My mom told me about a time when I went with my sister, Kathy, to her preschool. I was about 2 ½. When Mom came to pick us up, the teacher was amazed by the fact that I kept all the “older” children (all about 4 years old) engrossed by telling a series of stories. She told my mom that I would be a writer one day and to please bring me back anytime. In the 6th grade, I wrote a collection of poems dedicated to Miss Sheedy, a teacher I adored, and she gave me great encouragement. But somewhere along the way, I got involved in business and the entertainment industry and put my writing on hold. I thought of writing as a hobby, not a profession.
I have had the idea to write about my family’s unusual life for more than 20 years. I even went so far as to ask my mom and a couple of her friends to record tapes of family stories while I collected letters and researched the unusual places and times in which we lived. I was always so busy in my jobs so that I started and stopped a lot, never really making much progress.
That has all changed now. I have a wonderful group of friends and professionals who are lending their expertise in support of this project, and most importantly, I have made it a priority having finally found a way forward that feels right.
What was your influence?
My mom was a huge influence. She was a terrific storyteller! I was also influenced by the authors whose stories I loved to read, but again, with thanks to my mother who developed a love for reading in all my sisters and me.
When do you get the opportunity to write? How long do you write for?
I don’t really “get the opportunity”. It seems everything else gets in the way and takes priority. So I had to set an unmovable deadline and put a team in place to put the pressure on to make writing the priority. I have turned down most social invites, foregone other work and let just about everything go around my house and garden. Writing days were scheduled – seven days a week. It was not an easy process and took an amazing amount of research… much more than I expected.
I write from anywhere for a few minutes, when an idea flashes by, to many hours at a stretch. I am a night owl finding the afternoons to late into the evenings the best time for me. When I get lost in an idea or part of the story, I often lose all track of time. Those are some of the most miraculous moments.
My mom was obviously very supportive because she spent months recording those tapes, and so have my sisters been supportive. We’ve had a few laughs and gentle arguments because we each have different take-aways from some events; but since I’m writing this book, my remembrances are the ones that count. I joked with them that they can always write their own book.
How did your family respond writing your book?
Hard. It is hard for me to write. I am a perfectionist. Nothing is ever good enough. Should I use this word or that? Spending too much time on a lesser point and missing a bigger flaw. Questioning my decisions. Is it any good? And the list goes on. Part of the work of writing for me has been to quiet those voices in my head and just do my job. My readers are the judges as to the book’s merits. And my focus is on how proud I am to have accomplished a dream I have held in my heart for decades.
What is your writing process like?
I have no rituals that I’m aware of. As crazy as it may seem, my best places to write are at the library or at my office. I do nothing at home. In my house everything distracts me so I have to go to an outside place.
Do you have a special place to write? Any rituals?
I kept being amazed at how clever she was, kept her cool and made remarkable decisions under some pretty challenging circumstances. It wasn’t like she could call her Mom and ask, “Hey, I’m in the middle of a revolution and my husband’s missing, what should I do?” Perhaps what I realized most is something I knew but had never given voice to, and that is that she was also a multi-faceted person. In my life, she was always my much loved and respected Mother. But in her stories I found a more complete woman, with a proper first name, Lorraine, who was also a wife and a friend.
I think some other things I learned were about me and the ways she influenced me that I had not seen before. I can list so many gifts my mom gave me, some intended and some not so much. In the end, there is no other mother that I would like to have had than this woman who gave me life. My mom.
What was the most surprising thing you learned writing about your mom?
The advice oft spoken by my mother, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Don’t wait like I did. There is never a perfect time for falling in love, having a baby or writing your book. Just do it.
What advice do you have for future writers?
I hope people who read it will find it inspirational and fun, giving pause for some thought about their own wonderful mothers and the journeys we have all undertaken with our moms by our sides.
What is the tone of your book? Uplifting? Inspirational?
“To have a friend, you’ve got to be a friend.”
What was the BEST advice your mom gave you?
There are so many. Perhaps, just the times we were all together. We spent so many years when one or the other member was separated from the family that the times we were all together, were very special.
What's your favorite family memory
Her adventurous spirit. This small town girl from Duluth, Minnesota wanted to see the world and by gosh, if she didn’t make it happen.
What did you admire most about your mother?
Oh sure. My sister Kathy has Mom’s adventurous spirit and her diplomatic skills. Donna is the heart of the family, like Mom was. Barbara is very determined. We all love to read and travel. Mom was very patriotic, very American, but she also taught us to appreciate the beauty in other cultures and other ways of doing things. Mom was super stubborn and unfortunately, we all have that trait to one extent or another.
Do you recognize traits that your mother had in yourself and sisters? What are they?
Nothing really extreme like some other family nick names I have heard. Mom wasn’t much for that stuff. She didn’t call us sweetie, or honey, or baby. I was Pam or Pammy, Donna was DeeDee, Kathleen was Kathy and Barbara was sometimes Barb, but never Babs. She did call me the female version of Dennis the Menace, I was such a trouble maker. If she was angry with you, you knew it because she would call you by your full name, middle included! And if she was really, really mad, she would run down the list of all our names occasionally confusing me with the dog!
Any nick names your mother named you and your sisters while growing up?
I wish I knew. Looking back, I feel sad that my mom isn’t here to see it done. I’m the world’s greatest procrastinator. Then again, perhaps, I just wasn’t ready for this journey. I do know that this is a different book than the one I would have written 20 years ago. It could just be, in actuality, now is the perfect time.