Welcome, Readers, to the November edition of my Book Nook. This month I’m featuring a woman who crafts memoir pieces guaranteed to lift the spirit and provide guidance for the weary of heart — Jude Walsh, author of Post Divorce Bliss: Ending Us and Finding Me. Walsh is a writer and a creativity and mindset coach. With a doctorate degree in education, she is as comfortable in a classroom as she is in a lecture hall, bringing her unique perspective on life to receptive audiences.
Janet Irvin: So glad to spend this month with you, Jude. Let’s go! When did your writing journey begin?
Jude Walsh: I’ve kept a journal since I was 12. I still have most of them and they are useful to mine while writing personal essay or memoir. I did plenty of professional writing, grant proposals, articles, reports, etc. I’ve always been a voracious reader and hoped to one day try my hand at a novel. When I retired in 2005, I was in the midst of a very ugly divorce. I began writing some personal essays and a memoir. Both those genres are based on real life. Then I desired to share what I had learned through the divorce journey as a gift to other women. My agent pitched my self-help book, Post-Divorce Bliss: Ending Us and Finding Me to Morgan James Press (2019). I was thrilled to get a modest advance that the book quickly repaid. It continues to sell well and recently (2023) came out as an audiobook. I later took a fiction writing class and discovered the joy of being able to decide how things unfold and was hooked.
JEI: You write fiction, memoir, and poetry. Do you have a preferred genre? How do the three styles balance each other out?
JW: My favorite is always the one I am writing currently! I am very much a beginner when it comes to poetry. I just took a seminar at UDOLLI with Jim Brooks and he has whetted my appetite to write more poetry. A friend suggested writing a poem a day for a month, sort of a poetry Nano. I think that sounds like a fun challenge.
I find so much more freedom in writing fiction. I have two works-in-progress. There may be a bit of fear of finishing in place. My goal is to complete one by the end of 2023 and the second in the first quarter of 2024. I thought I was writing a romance, but my critique group tells me they are women’s fiction with romantic elements. When I began, I knew nothing about structure or plotting or genre. I just jumped in, a true pantser. After studying writing craft, I now do more plotting and am more aware of reader expectations.
My memoir is in its fourth draft. The first was mostly pouring all the hurt and bitterness onto the page. The second was stepping back and looking at what I had learned, what Brooke Warner calls “the takeaway.” The third was editing it down from 100,000+ words. Now I have finally found a structure that I think will work best for this book. I am eager to rewrite it, but it is on the back burner until the two novels are sent into the world. I think a memoir needs time to mellow, for the author to gain perspective. Enough years have passed, and I have grown both personally and professionally to the point that I feel I can now do this story justice.
JEI: What inspires you to keep writing?
JW: All the stories in my head! I have more ideas for books than I could possibly write. Plus, I love being part of the Dayton writing community. My critique group The Plot Sisters, my weekly meeting with The Legacy Writers, and the monthly Miami Valley Writers Network meetings, plus all the NANO meet-ups keep me connected and committed.
I am a voracious reader and often think when finished, I want to write a book as good as that one was! I was particularly inspired by Bonnie Garman’s success with Lessons in Chemistry. At age 66, her first published book became a best seller and is now a series.
JEI: You offer writing workshops and classes. How do those fuel your passion for the written word?
JW: I love teaching, both experienced and new writers. Planning how to share the information I want to teach gives me a fresh perspective on it. I love watching writers catch fire with their stories, and I love watching a first-timer begin to identify as a writer. It’s magic! The group’s passion fuels my own.
JEI: If you could publish one thing over the next year what would it be?
JW: There are two things, one would be my first novel and the second would be an essay I have been working on for quite a while. I have a specific, hard-to-get-accepted place in mind. If it is rejected there, I have two other possible places to submit.
JEI: Do you set writing goals for yourself? How do you measure your success?
JW: I like to write every day. I get the most words done during NANO months (November, April, and July). I had some serious health challenges over the past year and did not get much writing time. I am now recovered and back into the writing habit. My current measure is to get that next book into the world.
JEI: What’s the best writing advice you have ever received?
JW: This is from my mentor, Eric Maisel. Write first thing in the morning, even if it means getting up really early. By getting your writing in, you have done something meaningful, and it fuels the rest of your day.
JEI: What specifically are you working on as we speak?
JW: I am revising my first novel. I read through it recently and love the story but found a few gaps and areas that needed to be fleshed out. This is delightful work but there is still that fear of finishing things…
JEI: Who are you reading now?
JW: Always Nora Roberts, recently Jodi Picoult, Bonnie Garman, and Kristen Miller. THREE Dayton authors have new releases, Christina Consolino, Katrina Kittle, and Erin Flannagan. I devoured two (so good!) and am now into the equally as good third. Dayton really is a literary hotbed.
JEI: Do you have a favorite kind of music? Musician?
JW: I love pop, rock, jazz, indie, new age, international… most music! I can listen to the Beatles, Motown, or easy-listening jazz vocalists all day! I am currently savoring Jon Batiste’s World Music Radio. That man is a creative genius! Did you know he is married to Suleika Jaouad, author of the brilliant memoir Between Two Kingdoms? Imagine the creativity in that house!
JEI: Thanks, Jude, for sharing your work with us! Want to contact this author? You can find her at https://sixtyandme.com/author/jude-walsh/ or www.secondbloomcoaching.com