The Women of TTB is a series where we focus on some of the women who helped get The Tattooed Buddha off and running and also continue to keep it growing! We sent out a few interview questions to some of these writers and artists so that we could find out more about them and highlight their many talents!
Tell me a little about yourself. Where do you live? What is your living arrangement like?
I am a passionate, creative, geek who loves language, Batman, ballet, Buddha and beagles. I live in rural central Virginia with my partner of 20 years and our beagles. We are a very quiet, happy, couple.
How did you get into the arts/writing?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. In high school I took a creative writing class and loved it. Writing has been in every facet on my life—as dreaming, planning, therapy, escape, connection, or collaboration. No matter what career I had or what group I volunteered for, I always ended up writing something. I became a “writer” (which is different from writing) in 1992 when a friend who worked in a book store got an advanced copy of a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and gave me a sneak peek at it. It definitely made a difference in how I understood writing, and myself.
Do you meditate? What is your practice like?
My practice is housed in the Nyingma Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. I meditate daily. I am a very routinized person, and my practice is joyous and fluid but also somewhat formal and structured. I say a series of daily prayers (refuge, bodhicitta, bodhisattva) and meditate in some way each day—usually “Calm Abiding.”
I also do a practice each day—depending on the need—Green Tara, Vajrasattva, Metta, Medicine Buddha, or Chod (on Dakini Day). I have just started my Ngondro, a series of contemplative practices to complete the “outer preliminaries” of an advanced practitioner.
How did you get into meditation?
I couldn’t sleep. And I still can’t. But, now I’m more peaceful about it. In college, I began to work with myself as a being and overcoming the wounds I had from childhood including a sleep disorder. I was told meditation might help me sleep so I studied meditation but didn’t really do it regularly. Then I claimed it “didn’t help.”
Years later, I began working with a relaxation therapist’s guided meditations which helped a great deal, possibly because I was actually meditating. I have had a strong practice of meditation since that time.
Do you identify with any specific spirituality?
My practice is housed in the Nyingma Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, although I have read and studied with teachers from many forms of Buddhism and have a great respect for individual aspects of all of them. For me, Tibetan Buddhism is such an embodied practice that makes space for creativity, visualization, and energy, instead of denying such things. I am also drawn to the idea of lineage and student/teacher sharing of wisdom.
A good teacher questions you, challenges you, and supports you on your journey of practice. Just reading books and saying “I get this” doesn’t offer the correction, dialogue and wisdom that will sharpen me. If your only teacher is yourself, how do you really know what you know? I work better alone, but I learn better with others.
What are your goals in life? What do you hope to do some day? Do you have a bucket list?
I don’t really have any. I have pretty much done everything I really wanted to do. I have a secure life with a job I love, and a partner whom I adore and who gives me love and encouragement. There are experiences that would be nice but for the most part, I don’t have a “someday” planned. I’m just focused on what I’m doing today. My only real goal is professional. I want to be a better writer, every day—a better writer, I do daily exercises that challenge me and learn all I can from other writers, but I am happy with how I write today.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a commissioned novelist for traditional publishing. I write murder mysteries and romantic suspense (where you solve a murder and fall in love at the same time). I also write non-fiction articles or commissioned articles as I find time. A commissioned novel is a novel or series of books publishers purchase by contract (and all the rights) and put out under stock-author names for genre work.
I write the book you lose at the beach, and if I do my job well enough, you’ll go back and look for it. I love the challenge of working for traditional publishing. It’s demanding and it makes you write sharp and powerfully, and I enjoy the anonymity it provides while I continue to sharpen my skills.
How long have you done that?
I’ve been writing by commission for eight years. I was working in HIV/AIDS care, and the money for independent non-profits was running out, so my hours were cut. I took a job writing informational non-fiction articles on topics of safe/sane/consensual sexuality (since I was a state certified sex educator). Each article had a small “story” or scenario as part of it.
The publisher asked me if I wrote short stories because he knew someone who was looking for a short story writer. I did a couple of books and learned a lot from the experience, then found another who commissioned me for a full novel. Eventually, I wrote a novel of my own, and was signed by a literary agent who now represents me.
How did you get involved with TTB?
I had written a non-fiction book on Buddhist practice in everyday life that was rejected by publishers who felt I did not have enough of a following to bring to the book. Profit margins are very thin in traditional publishing so it’s not enough to write a good book; you also have to guarantee a readership for it.
I loved the process of writing essays and combining my Buddhist practice and study with my writing skills so I began to look for a place I could submit on a regular basis. TTB had come up many times in my online searches, and I really enjoyed the diversity of people and articles, so I sent in an article and an offer to write a column. I was incredibly happy to be accepted.
How long have you been involved with TTB?
2.5 years. I started in May 2018, and am currently writing my 3rd holiday series, which is really a joy for me.
What would you like to see TTB do in the future?
I’d like to see TTB continue to be an outlet for quality articles from a diverse group of people. I enjoy the interfaith, and interdisciplinary aspect it brings to the world of spirituality. I think TTB offers opportunities that Lion’s Roar and Tricycle do not, and I hope it will continue to do so. I’d like to see some accredited academic scholarship sprinkle into the mix as well.
I’d also like to see us continue to be a strong community which is present and encouraging to each other. I’ve said many times TTB is more like a sangha than my own sangha (which is more like a study group or school). The people here are caring and deeply supportive of one another and I value that.
Anything else you would like to add about yourself?
The most important and interesting thing about me is that I’m not important, or interesting. I’m an average, happy woman who loves without fear and lives with great passion and energy. I’m not the deepest well and I’m not the dimmest bulb.
I’m neither expert nor novice. I’m just me and that’s enough.
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