INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR LORENE STUNSON HILL

Haunted Hotel, England

What inspires you? 

Boredom inspires me. It began in High School, I use to get bored during Summer Recess from School. To pass time, I hand wrote a novel each summer. But, lacking confidence, I threw each one away as soon as School started again. 

Secondly, searching for a sense of accomplishment is my biggest inspiration. Unfortunately, I tend to write better when I’m down and I write to bring myself up. For example, in 2007, emerging from homelessness, I lived in an old historic relic of a hotel that was known to be haunted. Many of its residents were “put” there by Social Services or on drugs. Residents paid by the week so, for many it was a revolving door. I stayed locked up in my apartment raising my one year old Grandson, whose Mom abandoned him. Writing my recently released novel, ‘To Dance with Ugly People,’ was my escape and it made my life rich and rewarding. I felt in touch with a higher power while writing this book, which was my third inspiration. 

I’d pray for where to go next, having reached writer’s block, and I promise you the answer would pop into my head during the night. This novel brought me to a new divine awareness. I realized I had experienced a lot in life that had left me strewn and unsettled; the book brought about the resurgence of a strong feeling of cohesion, for me. I could feel my heart glow with excitement and enthusiasm as I wrote this book. 

Who inspires me? 


I have loved the written word my whole life. I have attended lectures and readings by Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez. I’d shed tears of admiration sitting in the Audience. Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Terry McMillan and Alice Walker are among others I have admired.

What are you passionate about doing? 

I am passionate about writing. I keep a notebook and pen in my purse, in every room and on the table beside my bed. I’ve started my second book. It is a sequel to, “To Dance with Ugly People,” titled “Ugly People Can’t Dance.” I am also passionate about dollhouses. I build them from kits. I shop on Ebay for miniature furniture, I paint the rooms with paint sample from Walmart. I make tiny curtains, shingle the roofs, place shutters, lay carpet, you name it. Once finished I give them away to a needy little girl.

How do you express your interests? 


In the middle of the night when the house is quiet and everyone asleep, I write. Sometimes I go to bed with a question on my mind, and the answer pops into my head. I jump up and write it down. I am retired, so I am able to take cat naps during the day. When I am working on my dollhouses, I think about the story I am writing.

How do you stay inspired? 

Listening for little sayings people use. For instance, I met an older lady who would say, “Don’t Dance with Ugly People!” every time we parted. That memory was my inspiration for my book title, “To Dance with Ugly People.” 


I am a people watcher. I am very quiet in a room full of people because I am listening so hard. Even a trip to the grocery store, has me nosily listening to every conversation I can. Phrases, Hints, Character names, Ideas (if it hits my ear right) gives me something I may be able to use. Day to day I am writing down my favorite things I have heard and I put in an hour a day, at least, writing. My son calls my writing a crossword puzzle. He is right. I might be writing something that is used in Chapter 10 today and haven’t completed 1 through 9. I eventualy move everything around, put in some fill in and have a completed novel. I can’t explain it any other way. 



The interview series comes from talking with creative types who want to share what what they do, what their interests are, and what inspires them, in the hopes of inspiring creative energy in others. If you have something to say that is if interest to others, feel free to submit.

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VIKTOR FRANKL ON THE SEARCH FOR MEANING

“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.”

SIDE CHARACTERS: PERSON OF INTEREST’S SHAW AND ROOT

Sameen Shaw and Root
To begin on a note of complete disclosure, I had zero interest in the show Person of Interest when it first premiered. Zero. Two men: one has the brains, one the brawn, working together. Sound familiar? On the one hand, it seemed to involve slightly more creativity than most other shows. It didn’t revolve around the usual trifecta of cops/lawyers/doctors (shows so formulaic they have been driven into the ground, resurrected, and then ground down even further until there was absolutely nothing left to explore). It also wasn’t a drama centered around a quirky family. These were positive elements in the show’s favor – not enough to rope me in, but vaguely hypothetically interesting, like String Theory. One of a long list of concepts that you can’t even be bothered to google.  
Now, shoot to this week: I’m channel surfing, and I’ve been feeling sexist. It’s an unsettling feeling: that sense that you don’t gravitate naturally towards your own gender. I don’t like shows for women. I don’t like quirky female characters that suffer romantic setbacks and have their relationships, their proximity to a man, as their defining characteristic. I’ve never discussed interesting female characters before, and this is a trend that needs to be broken. 
There are some good female lead characters out there: any of the clones on Orphan Black, Carrie from Homeland (although a little too emotionally overwrought). I want a female that leads with her head instead of following her heart. Towards a man. Towards a never ending series of sunsets and heartache (See The Bachelorette).
So, there I was, channel surfing on prime time because I don’t have cable, for something that wasn’t so offensive that I could make dinner without having to run over to change the channel. And there it was: women double fisting guns, women kicking ass. Two of them. One slightly sociopathic (Shaw) and one devoted to a computerized Messiah (Root). Both of them appear to be ambidextrous when it came to handling semiautomatics – this show is mesmerizingly violent – and this is key – they’re fun to watch. They breathe life into the show, and it’s because they’re having fun. They’re breaking one of the subtle female onscreen stereotypes, that women are always supposed to be serious. Hyper focused. On their work, on the crisis, on their careers, and basically on not having any fun. Do you ever notice that 99% of the time, female characters have rods up their bums? They’re sensible, sensitive, ready to get the job done, always empathetic. In a way, that makes them predictable, and in the long run, that makes them uninteresting. 
I wish legions of people weren’t getting shot all over the streets of New York every week on this show. That’s a minor complaint. Ironically, I’m becoming more and more sensitive to violent imagery the more I’m exposed to it. But I’m glad Shaw and Root exist. 

SWITZERLAND PART II: ZURICH

Zurich2
Zurich from above
I wracked my brain and then my camera trying to find a picture that didn’t look like every other picture anyone’s ever taken of Switzerland and came up with this. It’s not pretty, it needed a touch up, and it probably doesn’t even look like Europe at this angle, but there you have it: Zurich. My home base.
Incidentally, upon my return, I read that “going to Switzerland” has become synonymous with saying you are going to have yourself killed, because euthanasia is legal there and banned here, so there you go. To be clear: this is not why I went. An opportunity presented itself, and I took it. More and more, I’m embracing the notion of doing more and contemplating less ahead of time. This way, I can avoid the trap of rationalizing my way out of doing things. There are always reasons not to do something. Always. It’s too expensive, you don’t have the time, the timing is wrong, and so on. You can contemplate these excuses afterward, after you’ve gone ahead and done the deed. The doing option might not always be there.
In comparison with Lucerne, physically, there is no contest, Lucerne wins in the looks department hands down, no contest. However, if you think about it, here is a distinction: Lucerne is a place to visit, whereas Zurich is where you want to live. It’s much more practical. I get the impression (based solely on a day trip) that once tourist season ends in Lucerne, everybody leaves. You have a city built around a singular industry: entertaining visitors. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just makes the city less appealing to me rather than a fully functioning city. Don’t misunderstand me, pretty much every server working in Zurich was from out of town, and good looking to boot. I don’t mind that at all.

Zurich lakeside
Walk down by river
Zurich is a fully functional city. Public transportation is immaculate. Trains arrive constantly and will take you to every little corner of the city proper. It also operates – miraculously – on the honor system. As someone who is constantly being hustled awake on the bus by overly vigilant MTA* fare enforcers at ungodly hours (Sunday mornings, during rush hour), this is basically unheard of. You buy a paper ticket at the train stop, and then you just get on board. No flashing of paper, no clocking in. This is the way the honor system works. Upon boarding, other passengers are suspiciously courteous. Again, the contrast, where everyone in the US seems intent on staring down at their phones to the point of rudeness, the Swiss sense of social awareness is refreshing.

Zurich and swans2
Feeding swans is a national pastime
Where to stay: Practically speaking, I would find a hotel in Central Zurich, because that is where everything is: the shops, the restaurants, the nicer parts of the river. I would highly recommend becoming a morning person as well because, like Lucerne, everything closes around 6:30pm, so the earlier you get up, the more you can see. Did I stay in this area? No.
What to do: To orient yourself, just go to the travel agency located in the train station, and treat yourself to a proper map. In English. Now the world is yours to command. This map will list pretty much any museum worth seeing, and there are quite a few, along with multiple points of interest. This is one of the joys of being in a well organized city: you don’t need a guide, you can find your own way.  
In an ideal world, you would also make sure to find your way to Sprungli, which is a chain chocolate store. To go to Switzerland and not eat chocolate is the equivalent of going to Paris and taking a pass on the Eiffel Tower. It’s just not done. You can purchase truffles here by the gram (metric system), just as you would any other precious commodity. 
Deer
Deer lamps
Day trips: Uetliberg, for one (see above). If you train out of town, the train will drop you at the base of a peak. From there, you still have to walk, only a trifle, past deer lamps (see above) until you reach the overlook. For an added adventure, there is also Rhine Falls (see below), a quick and dirty bus ride away.
Rhine Falls
Rhine Falls
botanical gardens
Zurich Botanical Gardens
Now, a reality check. First, it rained all the time. Second, Switzerland is expensive. And you can forget about finding healthy snacks anywhere for the plane ride home. There’s only chocolate and chocolate with nuts. I forget sometimes how San Francisco lives in a health bubble, one filled to bursting with  kale chips, protein bars and gluten-free vegan cookies that taste just like wood.  
A probably harsh lesson I’m still in the process of learning, is figuring out when to be rude on international soil. No matter where I go, whether first world or third world, I am still constantly being approached for money. Every time, I find it shocking. If they are good, they never lead with a request for money, they approach you with friendly conversation, and then the matter of helping them just comes up, usually after they have established that you are indeed a good person. In these situations, I have found, there is really no nice way of brushing people off, they will be insistent, and a firm “no,” followed by a firm walking away is in order. I hate being rude, but when the alternative is feeling used, Miss Manners can turn the other way.
China Garden
China Garden, in Zurch

*San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Authority

ANGELINA JOLIE’S ADVICE TO HER YOUNGER SELF

“Not to change anything. I would probably say enjoy the freedom as much as you possibly can before it goes away. Enjoy the walks in the park and the backpacking and traveling and living.  Which I did, but I would have liked to have done more before it became a little less easy to do so. You can never prepare for the future, because it’s all those things that build up to who you are. You have to let your younger self be scared of things and attack things head on. Make bold choices and make mistakes, and it’s all those things that add up to the person you later become.”

FUN LINKS

Kathmandu rooftop
Kathmandu, Nepal
Here you are: October 8, 2014. Proof of life. I’m still walking the earth.
I just finished reading the article provided thoughtfully below by Maria Popova (writer of the inimitable Brain Pickings blog) where she casually mentions how she used to work until midnight writing and perfecting three articles per day. When she cut back, she was still writing two articles, whereas I have been on internet hiatus and otherwise loafing about in Southeast Asia. 
Here’s some articles until I can get my act together:
Here is someone who works to please herself first, and then for others, as a pleasant afterthought. That is my ideal, or one of them at least. That attitude indicates an inner resilience, that underlying mental foundation that has been built up over time and is key, I believe, to doing good work.
You know what your own process is like, that weird fugue state, possibly frenzied, possibly miserable, but it’s interesting to get into the heads of other people – preferably someone who is articulate – how others experience this unique process of creation. 
So the theme this week is people who have the strength to follow their vision in the face of blatant adversity. Douglas Tomkins, the founder of Esprit and The North Face is building national parks. All by himself. The locals revile him for it, because he is not using the land. But Tomkins is laying the groundwork for when he believes his work will be appreciated – ten years down the line. That is his vision, and that sustains him. Do you have the same degree of unshakeable faith in your work? 
Apparently location matters to creativity. This is probably not the first time you’ve heard this bit of advice, but with all the other advice out there, maybe this will stick. 
This is not about Emu. I don’t use it and I don’t care. What intrigues me is the writing style of this article. It’s unique, whimsical, playful. I don’t know how this works in longer bursts, but for this length, her voice stands out.