Tell us a bit about yourself. Include a couple of facts that not a lot of people know about you. I’m married for 37 years to Barry, who was my college classmate and fellow student actor. We’re three states from our joint goal of visiting all fifty. We have two astonishing adult children, Peter and Rachel, and an awesome son-in-law, Kyle. They are all academics. I’m like Howard in the “Big Bang Theory;” everybody else has a PhD.
In my day job, I’m a high school English teacher to students with significant learning and emotional challenges: autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, and a variety more obscure difficulties. At our school, I also coach performance poets and advise our National Honor Society chapter. If you ever want a heart-stopping adventure, take a vanload of autistic students to join hundreds of neurotypical students at the huge national conference of a huge national organization like the National Honor Society. Phew.
Surprise facts? Hmmm…If you looked at me, you’d never guess that I have rafted Hell’s Canyon of the Snake River (class 4 rapids), or that I was among the first Methodist clergywomen (two careers ago).
Tell us a bit about the book that will be published by Anaiah Press.
Season of Hope is a Christmas story about Claudia, an independent and beautiful young woman, who has had her dreams run into the ground by responsibility and loss. Secondarily the story is about Nick, a novice pastor, who arrives to “do for” Claudia’s community, but who learns to be part of it instead. There’s a bit of mystery and a love story for Claudia and Nick, but mostly this is a story about establishing your own place in the world.
When and why did you start writing?
I have written since I was a little girl. When I was about ten, I tested my parents with an opera I wrote, and I dragooned my little sisters into performing it. Weepy middle school poetry and too-serious essays followed. I studied literature and writing at Lebanon Valley College to avoid the sin of disorganized sermons when I became a pastor, which is a writing heavy career. Eventually I became a high school English teacher. I successfully coached students to regional and state awards in poetry, prose and public speaking. One day, I said “Wait. Why am I teaching everybody else to succeed at writing when I want to do it myself?” That was around the same time my own children truly went out on their own. So I declared my time mine. That was a matchless blessing. Many women don’t ever receive the gift of owning their time. I use my time for writing.
Is this your first book? How many have you written? How many have you published?
Season of Hope will be my first published novel; I have been grinning since Kara emailed that Anaiah was interested. I have two other novels completely drafted, and too, too many novels started. I’ve published short stories and nonfiction.
Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.
When I started writing, I gave myself a decade to sell a novel, and I hit that mark almost to the day. I’ve had two kinds of encouragement to persevere. First was selling smaller pieces. Second was working with other writers. I’ve studied at SCBWI retreats and at the Highlights Foundation, but my ongoing support has been my critique group. I spend hours each month annotating a 3000 word selection from each member of my group, and we meet monthly to discuss our work in a structured way.
What are some of your favorite books / authors?
Favorite? Jane Eyre—I keep a beautiful Oxford edition, a gift for a student, in my car for delayed appointments, etc. I am never not reading Jane Eyre. As a high school English teacher, my love for Shakespeare will be no surprise; seeing A Winter’s Tale at the Globe recreation this June was a thrill. Reading and sharing mythologies or teaching epics like Beowulf and The Odyssey is great fun; those genres directly engage my students’ interests in adventure and gaming. For serious reading, I like Medieval authors, especially the great meditative authors of the period, like Julian of Norwich or the Pearl Poet. For popular reading, I like whoever I’m reading right now. Today Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth is open on my kitchen table and Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth is on my nightstand. The audiobook in my car is Scott Turow’s Identical. Mosse plays to my interest in Medieval literature and culture. Turow’s mystery uses the conceit of identical twins to move into larger ideas of identity. Macbeth is, as ever, a story of love perverted by ambition that turns good people to dark evil; it always makes me cry.
Right now, my favorite Bible is Contemporary English Version (CEV); it’s great for studying with my second grade Sunday Schoolers.
What are some of your favorite movies / TV shows?
The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Princess Bride, and recently The Martian are among my favorite movies. I like adventures that have a sense of humor, especially when they are up to something serious. On TV, my husband and I watch science fiction and fantasy; I love the British Merlin, which we saw broadcast and are re-watching on Netflix. And since my husband’s a dean, we watch Villanova basketball—Go Wildcats!
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
Generally my inspiration is generated by my love for fantasy and science fiction and my reading in Medieval literature. But Anaiah’s Season of Hope was a true “write what you know” book. The community is inspired by one I knew and loved as an alternative school teacher and a volunteer cook for a Salvation Army family shelter.
Describe your perfect day of relaxation.
I’m not much of a relaxer beyond early mornings in my garden or evenings with a novel, but I can give you a best day. In June, my husband and I went to London. One morning, we got up early, read the newspaper (I love print news!), wandered around Regents Park Zoo, and attended a play at the Globe in the evening. Best. Day. Ever.
Where can readers learn more about you?
Because of my odd-duck name, I’m easy to find online. Try Facebook, where I’m a newbie, or Twitter, where I’m more established.
Facebook: Laura Nelson Selinsky https://www.facebook.com/laura.nelsonselinsky.1
Twitter: Laura Nelson Selinsky http://www.twitter.com/huzzahlns