Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Interview with memoirist Rita Pomade

Memoirist Rita Pomade joins me today to chat about Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.  This is just one stop in a virtual book tour she's doing with WOW - Women on Writing - The Muffin! Full list of tour stops is below.

Rita Pomade, a native New Yorker, first settled in Mexico before immigrating to Quebec.  During her time in Mexico, she taught English at the Iberoamericana University and wrote for Mexico This Month, a tourist magazine located in Mexico City. In later years, she returned to Mexico and wrote articles and book reviews for Mexconnect, an ezine devoted to Mexican culture. She also had a Dear Rita monthly column on handwriting analysis in the Chapala Review, a monthly English language magazine. In Montreal she taught English as a Second Language at Concordia University and McGill University. She is a two-time Moondance International Film Festival award winner, once for a film script about a homeless lady in Montreal, and then for a short story deemed film worthy about a child’s joy in exploring his creativity. Her work is represented in the Monologues Bank, a storehouse of monologues for actors in need of material for auditions, in several anthologies, and in literary reviews. Her travel biography, Seeker: A Sea Odyssey, was shortlisted by Concordia University for the Quebec Writers’ Federation best First Book Award for 2019.

Welcome, Rita. Please tell us about your current release.
Seeker: A Sea Odyssey is the story of a six-year voyage aboard the Santa Rita, a small yacht my husband and I built in Taiwan. Along with my two young sons, we explored parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe, dropping anchor in 22 countries. In those days we were one of very few Westerners who made the voyage through that part of the world. In the process, we barely survived a monsoon, encountered real-life pirates, and experienced cultures that profoundly changed us. Seeker: A Sea Odyssey was published by Guernica Editions under the Miroland in 2019.

What inspired you to write this book?
The seed for the memoir was planted thirty years after the journey. I was offered a chance to sail again. In deliberating about the proposition, I became aware of how extraordinary my journey had been, and how it molded and changed me. The passage of time gave a perspective that enriched the voyage I had taken so many years before.

Excerpt from Seeker: A Sea Odyssey:
The book’s prologue details the event that led up to the book’s realization.

P r o l o g u e


“Hey, Bernard, Roland phoned a short while ago. Something about
a friend of his with a yacht in Tunisia that he wants you to sell. He says to
 get in touch with him.”

We’re talking by Skype. Bernard, my ex-husband, lives in Mexico.
I’m in Montreal. We talk almost every day. Skype collapses distances
and there’s no sense that he’s away — just a feeling of expanded space
around me. It’s a good feeling. I show him the cats, go for a coffee, and
take a short phone call. He leaves the computer to grab a snack while
he waits for me to get off the phone. We have an easy relationship,
though it wasn’t always that way.

“Are you interested?” I continue when he’s back in his seat.

“I’m thinking about it,” he replies. “Roland’s already sent me an email.
The guy really wants to get rid of his yacht. She’s a 50-foot ketch and
well-equipped. He’s offering a big commission, but there’s no market
in Tunisia. Tahiti is the place. If the owner is willing, I’m in. Are you
 coming with me? We can do it again. Better this time. Rita?”

I feel the excitement in the way he says my name. Years ago we
sold the ketch he named Santa Rita, but he never lost his love of the
sea, and I am woven into the threads of that love. I’m intrigued by the
 idea, thrilled he wants to go on another voyage with me. In the
 eighties we sailed from Southeast Asia to Europe. Now I’d have a
 chance to explore the Pacific. The offer is tempting.

But I’m not sure. Back then we were dreamers, free-spirited and totally
self sufficient— or so we thought. The rawness of sea life brought out
our strengths, but it also heightened our weaknesses. In the end, I had to
go off on my own. He had to do the same. But those six years at sea
were the most extraordinary and influential years of my life, and I
could never have made the journey without Bernard. Together we
discovered a world we never knew existed.

I think about my creature comforts. How my stomach no longer turn
when I see a squall line move across the sky. How I don’t jerk awake
 every two hours for my turn at the helm. How I don’t have to hustle
for work from port to port or wonder if Bernard could ever love me as
 much as the Santa Rita. I’m happy with my space. Sometimes I lay
 awake at night and think about my good fortune. Yet — to sail again
 — to relive that adventure from a more stable and aware place . . .
My heart wants to say yes, but —

“I don’t know,” I tell Bernard. “Let me think about it.”

I write my childhood friend Gladys about Bernard’s proposal. She’s
 been living in Belgium since her twenties, but we’ve kept in
touch. She writes back saying: “Maybe this will help.”

 In the packet she’s sent me are the letters I mailed her through the
 six years of our adventure. I open the letters, touch the postmarks,
finger the stamps— each gesture a touchstone to memory.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I survived my birth but my mother almost didn’t. Her body identified me as something alien that had to be expelled. This was not conscious on her part. She had toxemia, and I was born in toxic waste, feet first, with the cord around my neck twice. My mother went blind for several months. She was told I had weakened her too much for her to have another child. Why did her body want to reject me? What was her story? What of her story do I carry? Did environment influence my development or was it partially programmed before my birth?  Did passed on trauma have something to do with my being selectively mute? My search for answers led me to epigenetices, a study that deals with memory carried in the genes, especially if there was trauma in the family history.  At eleven years old I had an experience that reset the way I experience the world, and at that point my book ends. The working title of this childhood memoir is Genesis.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was already on my way at six years old. Our first grade class was taken to the school library every few weeks to select a book and write a book report consisting of title, author, and why we liked or didn’t like the book. The books were uninteresting stories that I couldn’t relate to, so I didn’t read them after the first few. Instead I made up a title and an author and then wrote a sentence saying I liked or didn’t like the book. What’s odd is that the teacher never noticed, but I think that started my interest in writing.

Then in the fourth grade I couldn’t sleep through the night. I’d suddenly wake up and be restless, so I took pad and pencil to bed to do something when I woke up. The first night I woke up, I wrote a rhymed poem without any thought, and then fell fast asleep. I did that many times over until I had quite a packet of poems. Still, I didn’t think about being a writer.

In the sixth grade I wrote a poem for graduation. It was given to another child to recite as though it was hers. That’s when I made a conscious decision to be a writer. I wanted to expose that injustice, and others I had witnessed. I felt I didn’t have enough experience, and decided I would go into the world to seek experience so that I could write authentically. And I did.

Do you write full-time?
I don’t write every day, and yet I’m writing all the time. When I’m not seated at the computer, I’m often thinking about my writing. When I read other writers, I’m thinking about my writing. Even when I read the newspaper, my mind is picking up things I suddenly want to write about. And when people tell me things about their lives, I’m thinking what an interesting story that would make. On days I don’t I feel like writing, it’s usually that something is going on underneath, and I just trust that it will germinate and flower on a page.

I do have a ritual when I’m working on something I know I want to publish. It always starts with a warm up such as a bit of journal writing or a poem that comes to me. Then, before I leave the computer, I leave a thread of what I’ll be working on the next day so that I don’t start with a blank page.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I do have a quirk though it’s not very interesting. If I get stuck on how I want to phrase something or words don’t come, I play a few games of spider solitaire. I don’t think about what I’m doing. My mind is blank as I place the cards. I’m completely removed from the writing. I usually do this while having a cup of coffee. Then, for some reason, my mind unglues, and I continue with the writing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I loved two comic book characters when I was a child— Wonder Woman and Sheeba of the Jungle. I hoped to grow up and be a combination of the two women routing out injustice and saving the world. I day dreamed this life from my secret home deep in the jungle where I worked out and developed my skills. I assumed I’d get stronger and better at it as I grew older.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Although I had been divorced from my husband for almost thirty years, as a result of my writing Seeker: A Sea Odyssey, we once again live together. Writing the memoir shifted perception and healed wounds.

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Thanks for visiting today.

Readers, to learn more about Rita, feel free to visit her other tour stops:

June 29th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us in celebrating the launch of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey. You can read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.

July 2nd @ Fiona Ingram's Blog
Visit Fiona's blog and you can read a guest post by the author about how she could have enriched her journey at sea.

July 5th @ CK Sorens' Blog
Visit Carrie's blog today and you can read her review of Rita Pomade's memoir Seeker.

July 6th @ Create Write Now
Visit Mari L. McCarthy's blog where you can read author Rita Pomade's guest post about what she learned about herself through writing.

July 7th @ The Faerie Review
Make sure you visit Lily's blog and read a guest post by the author about cooking on a shoestring at sea.

July 8th @ Coffee with Lacey
Visit Lacey's blog today and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 10th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 11th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's blog today and you can read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.
July 12th @ It's Alanna Jean
Visit Alanna's blog today and you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about the ten best traits you need for living aboard a yacht.

July 13th @ The New England Book Critic
Join Vickie as she reviews Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 14th @ Bev. A Baird's Blog
Visit Bev's blog today and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 15th @ Reviews and Interviews
Visit Lisa's blog today where she interviews author Rita Pomade about her book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 16th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog where he reviews Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 17th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog and read author Rita Pomade's guest post discussing sailing myths.

July 18th @ Author Anthon Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog today and read his interview with author Rita Pomade.

July 20th @ Bev. A Baird's Blog
Visit Bev's blog again and you can read author Rita Pomade's guest post featuring her advice on writing a memoir.

July 21st @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Visit Jill's blog where you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about how her handwriting analysis skills made her a better writer.

July 22nd @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog today and you can checkout her spotlight of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 23rd @ Choices
Visit Madeline's blog today and you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about the benefits of spending time abroad.

July 24th @ Books, Beans and Botany
Visit Ashley's blog today where she reviews Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 24th @ Tiggy's Books
Visit Tiggy's blog today and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey. She'll also be chatting a bit with the author!

July 26th @ CK Sorens Blog
Visit Carrie's blog today and you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about how she jumpstart her writing process.

July 27th @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Visit Kathleen's blog today and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker.

July 28th @ Lady Unemployed
Visit Nicole's blog today where you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade talking about stepping outside of one's comfort zone.

July 31st @ Wild Hearted
Visit Ashley's blog where you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about why she jumped at the chance to go to sea.