Chat with the Author: Transporting Readers to New Worlds Is Her Goal

Meet beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani – a writer who has regaled millions of readers with her engaging stories of strong (and often hilarious) women – who I consider a friend and mentor.

Adriana’s 17th book will be released later this month, on June 20. Enjoy her Q&A with LifeUntapped, in which she details her author journey and shares about her books and characters.

In what genre do you write?  I write fiction – big, noisy, lush novels about love, work and family. I’ve also written a non-fiction memoir, young adult novels, screenplays, teleplays and plays for the theater.  I consider myself a dramatist, first and foremost, as the characters and the worlds they inhabit are alive to me, and hopefully to you the reader.

What is the title of your most recent book? Kiss Carlo [Scheduled for release on June 20, this novel has been described as “a delightfully sprawling comedy full of extended families, in all their cocooning warmth and suffocating expectations” by Kirkus Reviews.]

What is your primary goal as an author – What do you want your readers to gain from of your books?  I hope my reader is transported to another place and time, where she takes her mind off her work, challenges and troubles and has a few laughs, connects to characters she can relate to, and finds some beauty and truth in the language.

What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your current book or another recent title?  Some of my readers thought All the Stars in the Heavens, about the golden age of Hollywood, was a biography. It was not. It was historical fiction.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey?  I am always surprised at how energized I become in the company of my readers. They are my focus and the ultimate joy of writing anything. It’s their connection to the work that connects me to the work, too. That has been wonderful, and I didn’t anticipate it!

How do you continue growing as a writer?

 The only way to grow is to put in the time.  It’s hours in the chair- after hours of ruminating, gestating and thinking. It’s a funny job.  It doesn’t look like a writer is doing anything, when in fact, she is building a world.

Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors?  Ruth Goetz trained me as a dramatist when I moved to New York City. Prior to that, my mother, a librarian was and is my first and best teacher. She taught me to revere books, knowledge and the sacred act of reading.  My teachers were fundamental in my development as a writer; Sister Theresa Kelly, Thelma Carter, Grace White, Elizabeth Callahan, Langley Flannary, Grace Skeens, Basil Walker, Dorothy Carter, Arline Sharpe, Iva Braly, Gary Willams, Greg Cantrell, Sigrid Holloman, Frances Lewis, Bernis Zander, Theresa Bledsoe, well, I could keep going, and forgive me, the long list would overwhelm your site!  And, of course, my librarians, James Varner on the county bookmobile; Ernestine Roller at Big Stone Gap Elementary and the great Billie Jean Scott at Powell Valley High School.  All were essential and beloved.

What else are you passionate about, i.e. if you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing?  I’d be an interior designer.

What do you like to do for fun?  Get ready for this one…. R E A D!

More About Adriana Trigiani: Adriana Trigiani is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books in fiction and nonfiction. She is published in 35 countries around the world. Adriana is also a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker, and received accolades for the documentary film, Queens of the Big Time. She wrote and directed the major motion picture Big Stone Gap, filmed entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. The movie spent 11 weeks in theaters in the fall of 2015 and was the #2 top-grossing romantic comedy of the year. Adriana co-founded The Origin Project with Nancy Bolmeier Fisher, an in-school writing program which serves over a thousand students in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia. She lives in New York City with her family and their rescue pets. Adriana speaks to book clubs and classrooms regularly. To invite her and schedule a Skype, please reach out to her at adrianaasst@aol.com, join her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or visit her at her website: adrianatrigiani.com. Adriana’s new novel, Kiss Carlo, is available for pre-sale online and wherever books are sold.

Her Story: Thriving at Center Stage

By Guest Blogger Olivia Shaw

Lights…Camera…Tiara!  Now on to photo shoots, couture gown fittings and public appearances. Ah, such is the life of a teenage pageant queen. Right?

Well, yes and no. Most people, when they hear the word pageant just assume that all I need to do to be successful in this type of event is to be able to dress up and look pretty. With further inspection, however, many people would be surprised to discover that the majority of pageants (at least the ones I choose to participate in) are dedicated to promoting leadership skills, developing and cultivating public speaking skills and promoting volunteer service among young girls and women.

Over the past five years, through my participation in the National American Miss pageant system, I have been able to overcome my fear of standing in front of an audience and sharing my thoughts. In addition to refining my public speaking skills, I have gained life skills that will help me be successful when applying to college, as well as when seeking employment.

When I began participating in National American Miss at age 12,  standing on stage introducing myself to a room full of strangers was the last place I wanted to be. Although I sincerely wanted to give the pageant world a try, I was terrified of speaking in front of people. I also was not looking forward to being  interviewed by a panel of judges – another group of strangers that I had to actually sit down with and carry on a conversation with. Five minutes never seemed so long!

Fast forward five years, and I am now confident and excited to be able to formally and professionally introduce myself onstage to a diverse group of strangers.

You see, about two years into this pageant process, my family and I realized that I needed to have a plan if I truly wanted to be successful. I could not just show up onstage or in the interview room and hope that everything would work out positively for me. I decided how I wanted to represent myself and mapped out a strategy to achieve those goals. That, in and of itself, became another benefit of pageant participation.

I worked on my interview skills and I worked to get more comfortable being onstage, introducing myself and speaking in public.  Also, I began to think about the purpose of having an interview, and I realized that it is a time for the judges to get to know you as an individual – a  time to discover what is important to you and to see if you have the characteristics they are looking for as a queen. I started to view competing for a queen title like applying for a job or college admission. Preparing my resume was also a part of the competition that helped me to become more comfortable with presenting myself in a public forum.

Within two years of changing my strategy, my hard work paid off. In 2016 I was named National American Miss Virginia Junior Teen – a title I currently hold.

Being a queen with National American Miss has also helped me to promote my volunteer service platform, Miracles in Motion Dance Group, on a wider scale. Miracles in Motion is a dance company for special needs children and young adults, and working with them gives me joy.

Due to the experience I gained with public speaking and public presentation with National American Miss, I was able to speak at the Miracles in Motion Annual Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser in 2016 to a crowd of close to 600 people! I also received an opportunity to share my community service platform at the national pageant competition last November, and I placed 2nd Runner Up for Volunteer Service in the Junior Teen age division for the nation. Talk about an opportunity to overcome my fear of public speaking!

I am so grateful for all I have gained through my participation in National American Miss. These are skills that will last me a lifetime. I now can truly “go confidently in the direction of my dreams” and live the life I have imagined.

Olivia Shaw, a 17-year-old resident of metro Richmond, Virginia, is the reigning National American Miss Virginia Jr Teen. She will pass her crown on to her successor in July 2017. She loves volunteering with Miracles in Motion Dance Group and looks forward to many years of sharing her love of dance and music with her fellow dancers. You can stay connected with Olivia’s journey  through the following social media sites:                                        Facebook:@NamVAJrTeen2016                                                                                    Snapchat: @livve_kitty22                                                                                    Instagram:@livve_s23    

 

Her Story: If I Could Turn Back Time

By Guest Blogger Vanessa Womack Easter

If someone had told me 35 years ago that I would be living in Richmond, Virginia as a divorced mother of two wonderful adult children, I would have responded, ‘You must have me mixed up with someone else.’ I was not a woman who desired to get married and have children. I wanted to be about getting ahead in business.

At that time, I was living in New York City, working in corporate America and completing my undergrad degree. Nothing could happen fast enough for me. I walked at a quickening pace to keep up with the normal hurried stride of New Yorkers; clung to the chrome, floor-to-ceiling bar of fast-moving subway trains; sought promotions within corporate structures or left when bored or stagnant; partied with beautiful people from SoHo to the Upper West Side. I lived in seven different apartments in all the years I lived there. (Still grieving over the Central Park West apartment!)

When New York was not enough, I moved to the ‘left’ coast – California – to be a field marketing representative.

While living in Sacramento, something happened to me. The best explanation I have is God wanted me to slow down and pay more attention to Him. I became born again in the Lord, started going back to church and became actively involved.

Being far away from family and friends on the East Coast, however, after 18 months in California, I returned to New York City. The lifestyle I left in New York was harder to embrace upon return. Not only that, the cost of living and apartments had begun to escalate. So after a short stint of living in New Jersey, I followed a path to Alexandria, Virginia, where I met my future (now former) husband.

In the brevity that I have left for this column, here is my deep confession: I miss the excitement of the fast pace of my former lifestyle. Being over 60, dealing with normal aging health issues, some boredom and limited funds present daily challenges to be content. Sometimes I ponder (not for too long, however) if I had made different choices somewhere during my early adult life, how would my life be drastically different. Would it be something bigger, better or just different?

Not to despair about what could have been, I relish what could be. I am here because this is where I am supposed to be. Otherwise, I would be somewhere else.

Knowing that I have fewer years ahead of me, I believe there is more purpose for living. Therefore, I will strive each day to find contentment in the Lord.

Vanessa Womack Easter has a diverse background in training and professional development, entrepreneurship, higher education instruction, human resources, nonprofit and leadership development. She is also a writer, having penned the novel Paint the Sky Purple in 2010, and having served as a co-author with other international women’s voices in The Female CEO: Pearls, Passion and Power (August 2014) and Entrepreneurship 101: The NEW Reality of Business Ownership (June 2016). Learn more about Vanessa on her business website, Facebook Group Page and LinkedIn profile.

Her Story: An Obstacle Became My Stepping Stone

By Guest Blogger Lillian Lincoln Lambert

Entrepreneur – A word I didn’t know as a child. Becoming one on the final leg of my career was paradoxical.

Having little interest in college after high school, at the age of 22, I enrolled in Howard University and obtained a bachelor of arts degree. There, a professor became my mentor and convinced me that I was Harvard material. In 1969, I earned my Master of Business Administration and achieved the historical milestone of becoming the first African American woman to receive a Harvard MBA.

With a Harvard MBA, one would think I could write my own ticket. Not so.

Recruiters were not aggressively pursuing me and I was not assertive with them. The four years after graduation, I had five different jobs. The last, as Executive Vice President with a small family-owned business, was challenging and rewarding.

Into my third year, friends started asking me had I ever considered starting my own business. The idea was intriguing. I finally took the leap and filed incorporation papers, but did not quit my job.

Respecting my boss, I decided to tell him my plan so he’d not hear it from someone else. Since I’d be a competitor, this was not welcome news to him. I assured him I would not solicit his clients and he would be a friendly competitor. He accepted my explanation and seemed supportive.

We agreed that I would remain with the company to help recruit and train my replacement. When we both felt things were running smoothly, I’d leave to focus on my venture. I was on cloud nine with the best of both worlds.

Three days later, the bottom fell out. My boss met with me and informed me that his board had convened and decided that I should leave at the end of the week. I was fired! This was devastating.

Married with two small children and accustomed to living on two incomes, a major decision had to be made quickly – find another job or get my newly-established company off the ground? Becoming an entrepreneur was my choice, and I decided to concentrate on government contracts – a market I knew well.

Timing was critical. This was May and the government fiscal year ended September 30, with most contracts issued prior to that date.

I persevered and ​landed my fir​st contract about three weeks before the end of the fiscal year. With that launch, entrepreneurship was my career for the next 25 years – a period during which I grew my company to $20 million in sales and hired 1,200 employees.

Getting fired from that executive position all those years ago turned out to be the first of many obstacles.  Yet, had I not been let go, building my company would have been a part-time effort with a lesser chance of success. What seemed like a disaster at the time was instead a blessing in disguise; and as I have faced other obstacles over the years they, too, have become steps leading me to higher levels of achievement.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” – Lillian Lincoln Lambert

As the first African American woman to receive a Harvard Business School MBA during the tumultuous 1960s, then becoming a barrier-breaking entrepreneur in the mid 1970s, Lillian Lincoln Lambert is a role model for how to treat obstacles and barriers as opportunities to succeed. Her inspiring journey is detailed in her memoir, The Road to Someplace Better, and she occasionally speaks to corporate and civic audiences about her journey. Lillian is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award, the Dominion Resources Strong Men, Strong Women Excellence in Leadership Award and the Library of Virginia’s Women in History honor. She is also an inductee of The HistoryMakers, an organization dedicated to preserving African American history. Learn more about Lillian at LillianLincolnLambert.com and visit her on Facebook at facebook.com/lillian.lambert or LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/lillianlambert.

 

 

Her Story: Finding Beauty in the Storm

By Guest Blogger Venus Bolton

There are times our children get sick and as parents we tend to them attentively, doing everything we can think of to make them feel better. Sometimes Mama’s home health care does the trick; but if you have multiple kids like me, your children may be on the germ-share program; so invariably what goes around tends to make the rounds.

However, imagine being told the illness your child has is life threatening – that time is running out and your options are few. When my husband and I received this news in 2011, it didn’t feel real. Doctors declared that our 4-year old daughter had severe aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia behaves in the same way as several childhood cancers, with a similar course of treatment.

I now think back to the three years of active treatment that followed this diagnosis, along with two years of maintenance treatment, and I am truly amazed at how we navigated life during those five years. An illness of this magnitude can impose a crippling toll on a family.

The most significant lesson I learned is that beautiful things can happen in the midst of the worst storms life throws your way. My husband and I experienced what the hearts of people coming together to be the blessing looks like. We felt like every good thing we had ever done in our lives was returned to us through the love, prayers and generosity of others.

Through this unimaginable set of circumstances, we’ve had many opportunities to share our story as ambassadors for patient families, in conversations with lawmakers and officials, and by working with businesses and organizations that support patient families. We’ve walked alongside other parents (who became friends) through diagnosis, treatment, heartache and grief.

Our 9-year old daughter was recently released to full survivorship, and while it may sound cliché, my family has a renewed appreciation for life. We take very little for granted and have learned not to sweat the small stuff, because in the grand scheme, it all is smaller.

I never thought I’d say it, but what came to wreak havoc in our lives has ultimately ended up blessing our family in some ways we didn’t expect. Most importantly it gave me, and my husband, a greater desire to have a positive impact in our community, and to put ourselves in position to bless the lives of others whenever possible.

Venus Bolton writes and speaks on issues related to faith, wellness, caregiving and child advocacy. She lives in Midlothian, Virginia with her husband and four children and blogs regularly at Three & 1.