Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Interview with memoirist Dorit Sasson

My special interview guest today is Dorit Sasson. She’s chatting with me about her memoir Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces.

Dorit Sasson is the founder of the Giving Voice to Your Story website and Giving Voice to Your Courage weekly podcast. Her mission is to support heart-centered business owners and heart-centered authors as they find their brand voices, share their unique stories, gain more visibility, establish themselves as experts, and create authentic marketing messages, all through the use of smart content strategy and engaging copywriting. Giving Voice to Your Story was named one of Top 100 Websites for Writers by The Write Life in 2016.

Dorit inspires others to take risks and work from a courageous heart at various speaking events across the country. Dorit continues to inspire others as a content strategist and copywriter through her blog, guest blogs, and podcast appearances. In addition to business writing,Dorit writes passionately about courage to reinvent herself as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces and the courage to find passion and meaning from everyday living even if that means leaving your comfort zone. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

Sasson’s memoir, Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces (She Writes Press, 2016), is the story of how she dropped out of college and volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces in an effort to change her life — and how, in stepping out of her comfort zone and into a war zone, she discovered courage and faith she didn’t know she was capable of. Sasson is transparent about sharing her vulnerable journey of combining motherhood, writing, and blogging and promotion over at her website, “Giving Voice to Your Story.”

Welcome, Dori. Please tell us about your current release.
At age nineteen, I was a dual American-Israeli citizen trying to make the status quo work as a college student―until I realized that if I didn’t distance myself from my neurotic, worrywart of a mother, I would become just like her.

Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forcesis my story of how I dropped out of college and volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces in an effort to change my life―and how, in stepping out of my comfort zone and into a war zone, I discovered courage and faith I didn’t know I was capable of.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always wanted to try my hand on writing a different genre having written academic articles and books for teachers. I wanted to challenge myself to write a memoir having also written creative type stuff.

Having lived in Israel for eighteen years, I wanted to write about an experience that would connect me to the country I felt strongly connected to – Israel.  Although my service happened so many years ago, I was still struggling to find a sense of home in what felt like a new Pittsburgh community. In fact, the opening chapters start in New York City so I was now able to understand why it was important for me to leave my Mom and New York City.

I was inspired by this intertwining of past and present, and wanted to give voice to an experience I took for granted.

There are many sections where I'm trying to navigate both the militaristic and cultural worlds as an American-Israeli trying to fit in.  

Singing Ella Fitzgerald's version of "Summertime" on a dusty base in the middle of the Arava desert in the chapter "Giving Voice" would have to be one of my favorite scenes. As a graduate of vocal music of the FAME school in New York City,  I'm finally able to give a voice to the experience of serving in uniform on a settlement where the "distance" between myself and our commanding officers is rather friendly. All throughout high school, I felt "voiceless" and unworthy. Ironically, as an IDF soldier, I learn to trust the process of finding my voice on an unknown dirty and tiny base in the middle of nowhere.

Excerpt from Accidental Soldier: 

At seven o’clock in the evening two days later, I appear on a bungalow stoop facing an empty desert, wearing a dusty civilian shirt, my hands tucked into the pockets of my army work pants. The sun’s still high above me, and my “audience”—members of my garin and the Israeli-born garin—sit on the grass. Our commanding officers stand behind them.
I take a deep breath and introduce each song in Hebrew briefly.
Some of the commanding officers’ hats are pulled down to block out the glare of the sun, so there’s no way of seeing their expressions. Will there be a cringing face, or whispers of disapproval?
I decide to go with the flow: I lift my chest and open my mouth.
I have the entire “stage” to myself. I trill on the high notes without belting. My voice travels. With each note, I feel the distance between my high school self and who I am today becoming smaller. My entire body shakes with nervous excitement and anticipatory anxiety.
As I get deeper into “Summertime,” I try to avoid focusing on the garin and their expressions. This hot desert is the perfect setting for the song. I try my best to execute Ella’s flawless, melismatic style, letting thoughts of her rich voice carry me like warm honey. Each time I end a cadence, I control and deepen my voice just like she does in the recording I know so well.
As I near the end of the song, my heart beats fast.
What’s this? There’s clapping. They liked it! Even as I run to sit on the grass, avoiding people’s eyes, the clapping is still going. I squeeze in between two of the Israeli garin members on the ground. Someone reaches from behind and squeezes my hand.
The next day, Michal, Hiyah, and Miki from the Israeli garin, and even a second officer named Debbie, approach me at breakfast.
“Wow, Dorit, you sang great. We didn’t know you could sing like that.”
I smile widely. I didn’t know I could sing like that, either.
It occurs to me: I’m not just a soldier anymore. I’m someone with a voice.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My plan is to work on the next memoir of the series. I don’t want to reveal too many details, but it’s about leaving Israel as a returning American and readjusting to the American lifestyle having been gone so many years.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I didn’t start writing professionally until I came back to the States. It took many years to get to this point having endured lots of rejections, doubts and fears, and yes, plenty of red marks on my papers in college suggesting that perhaps, I wasn’t a good enough writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I teach part time. I try to spend about an hour each day for book marketing and promotion. I also have writing and coaching clients. The challenge is to also find time to write! So far, what works for me is waking up early before everyone else to write – otherwise I don’t get it done.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Writing quirk? Hmm…I don’t know if this qualifies as a quirk, but I need to have affirmations and candles around me to empower me. I also tend to write longhand before transferring the words to the computer.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My mother was a classical pianist of note, so I always thought I’d be a classical singer having studied at the famous Fame school, which is now LaGuardia High School of Music and the Arts in New York City.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I am a Shark Tank junkie. I read and devour anything written by Jhumpa Lahiri or Elizabeth Gilbert. I am desperately trying to limit the time I spend on Facebook and Twitter. Unless you have a strong strategy, they are complete time suckers, but …


Thank you, Dorit!

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