Sunday, April 21, 2013

Author Talk: Barbara Kent Lawrence

Barbara Kent Lawrence is a former Maine resident, owns property and spends time in Maine as she can. Barbara called and asked if I would read her book, Islands of Time. I did and found that it was a book that resounds with a love of Maine. Publishing it is a joy.

I’ll let Barbara tell most of her story.

JWB: When did you start writing?
Lawrence: I’ve loved to read and write since I was a small child, but two periods in my life stand out as times when writing became a lifeline: adolescence and for the past fifteen years. I lost the habit of writing in the midst of earning a living and raising children. It is a gratification of being older that I can look back and by writing begin to make sense of where and who I’ve been.

JWB: What are some of the themes that you return to regularly in your writing?
Lawrence: I’ve written about eating disorders in men, about education, and about myself. I’m fascinated by the ways in which people of different cultures interact, by the ways in which social structure structures interaction, and by the accidents of history.

JWB: What is one event that has shaped your writing?
Lawrence: When I was studying at Boston University for a doctorate in education, I took a writing course to help me with my dissertation. I’d been married for many years to a man who is eating disordered. The first assignment was to respond to an essay titled “On Food and Happiness” by Charles Simic. I felt as if someone had slapped me, and I thought my return to graduate school was over because I could not write about that topic. I finally realized, however, that I could write about food and unhappiness, and I did. The resulting half page became my first book, “Bitter Ice,” and was an opportunity to understand more fully my own role in the story. That’s why I write—to understand more fully who I am and the world in which I live. It is a self-indulgent selfish enterprise, but it reminds me that the flight attendant tells us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we try to help the passenger sitting next to us. Writing is my oxygen mask.

JWB: What are three of your favorite books to reread?
Lawrence: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Health Culture and Community by Benjamin Paul and Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne.

JWB: Any advice for young authors?
Lawrence: Just write. At first don’t think about anyone reading what you write, just write. As you craft the piece, you need to think about your audience, but at first, I think you just need to give yourself permission to let the chaos in your mind flow onto the paper.

JWB: What are you currently working on?
Lawrence: I’m in the process of finalizing Islands of Time: A Novel for publication with Just Write Books. For the past three years I’ve been researching the story of my mother and other members of my British family during World War II. My mother was an actress, who immigrated to the US in January, 1941 with the help of Ambassador and Mrs. Kennedy, during a time when no one between the age of 16 and 60 could leave Great Britain and it was extremely difficult to get a visa to the US. Although I will never know the full story, I’ve untwined many family myths from reality, and learned a great deal about how the war affected ordinary people. I’ve found this fascinating, and I hope others will as well.

Author Bio

In 1948, Barbara Kent Lawrence fell in love with Mount Desert Island as a summer kid, and in 1979 she became a “year-round summer person,” a status more compelling and complex than she could then have imagined. In 1998 she wrote her dissertation: Working Memory: The Influence of Culture on Aspirations about the gap between the high rate of achievement Maine’s fourth grade students evidenced on national tests, and the low rate at which they went on to college. Lawrence has since written books about education and eating disorders in men and she’s working on a manuscript about her British family during World War II. She draws on her love of Maine and her experience as a researcher and writer for her first novel Islands of Time. Though Lawrence no longer lives in Maine year-round, she spends as much time as possible on Mount Desert Island.

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