Karen Pollack: Blogger, author, counselor
Meeting the Rising Writer No. 26
Author of “Alive Again” and “When Glad Becomes Sad,” Karen Pollack, has jumped in the writing field feet first, trying her hand in self-publishing and soon to try the traditional route for her third book.
Karen Pollack has agreed to a virtual interview today. She has shared a lot about her experiences as a blogger, in self-publishing, and in her journeys and travels.
What books have you published in the past?
When Glad Becomes Sad was published in 2009. This self-help book deals with depression and anxiety, and I was inspired to write it based on my own experiences and in the hope that it would help others who are struggling with these issues.
Alive Again was published in 2015 with a similar goal in mind.
Where are you from?
I am originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
When did you start writing?
In the ‘80s, I went back to college to pursue a counseling designation. That was when I first discovered journaling. I also dabbled in poetry as a child and teenager. When I was living in Guadalajara three years ago, I had two awesome housemates who encouraged me to write and create a blog on WordPress.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’ve been teaching ESL for the past five plus years in Mexico. I enjoy traveling and meeting new people. I also do some volunteer work and of course am still honing my Spanish skills.
What was your publishing journey like?
I chose to self-publish my first book with iUniverse in the USA although I lived in Canada at the time. I was very pleased with the support I received. When it came time to publish my second book, I decided to stay with iUniverse as I had had such a good experience with my first book. Although the published book was as professional looking as the first, the experience was very different. My main contact person kept changing and that was frustrating. Issues arose over content and although my Canadian lawyer said there was no problem, the iUniverse legal team were far from co-operative. I basically had to rewrite my author story and make several other changes after the initial content had all been approved. We went back and forth several times, usually with different people. It was not a good experience. And now I am having tax issues as I’m a foreign author and they are unaccepting of the documentation provided by my Canadian professionals. Needless to say, I will not go that route again.
How have your experiences in Mexico provided you inspiration?
Living in Mexico is extremely different from living in Canada, the culture and language being first and foremost. In addition, I have taught with other teachers from all over the world who bring other cultures and languages into the mix. There are new holidays to celebrate, new places to explore and new foods to try. I lived in Culiacan, a city of about 1 million people, my first year here. Then I spent most of the last four years in Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico. And now I currently live in Mazatlan, a much smaller city but a very touristy area. All of these experiences have provided me with a great deal of material to incorporate into my writing.
What did you do to create a following on your blog?
In all honesty, I have not done much to promote my blog. It began so that my friends back home could gain insight into my life here. I have a page on Facebook where I feature my blog posts. I also Twitter. I do have readers around the globe and I believe that many have found me by the tags I use.
What do you write about in your blog and what responses have you received to the content?
I primarily write about my experiences here in Mexico, although I also occasionally write about my family and my periodic visits back to Canada. Most of my responses come from friends back in Canada and from people I’ve met in Mexico who have returned to their home countries. They are usually in the form of emails or private messages on Facebook rather than on WordPress itself.
What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
While my writing initially began as journaling to help myself, I soon realized that others out there have faced the same issues and are struggling to cope. My goal is to reach out to people and tell them that they are not alone and that they can get through this. Hence the reasoning behind my first two books. While the third book is fiction, perhaps people may also glean something from this in a similar manner. Personally, I felt that two serious self-help books was enough for me for now. And I welcome the break to try my hand at fiction.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently writing a book of fiction. The experience is very different, and I am enjoying playing with ideas and scenarios for my characters. Research for this project is very different as while I have incorporated some of my life experiences into this book, I am able to use my imagination to conjure up different details and endings.
What’s one of the biggest differences between fiction and your nonfiction writing?
Nonfiction is fact-based. A different type of research is involved. There are concerns regarding defamation and libel. While some of my fiction writing draws on my experiences, it is easy to modify characters and places so that similarities to real-life people are merely coincidental and one person is not specifically identifiable. The research involved here is not concerned with statistics and psychological terms. It mostly deals with location that I am not completely familiar with.
What have you learned while writing fiction that you feel is most important?
I have learned to let my imagination run wild and to really enjoy the experience. I have learned that it’s okay to play with various scenarios and characters and that writing in sequence is not required. There is always a way to integrate everything at some point.
Would you like to tell us more about your book?
I can never leave my psychology background too far behind so my book deals with the interaction between participants who meet in a bereavement support group. It delves into the impact that the loss of a loved one or loved ones has had upon their lives and their struggles in coping with the tragedy. I intend to insert some rather interesting twists into their stories. I personally have been a participant in a bereavement support group and have also facilitated groups over the years, so some of my own experiences will be reflected as well.
What would you say to someone right now going through similar circumstances?
The grieving process is ongoing and has no logical sequence of events. Everyone experiences grieving differently. Most importantly do not listen to people who tell you to “get over it.” It isn’t like a fever that will disappear. When you experience a loss, you need to sharpen your coping skills. Everyone heals differently. When a loved one dies, your life is changed forever.
Which authors inspire you?
I have always loved William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. My favorite poet is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. While my writing is definitely not of the same genre, I do find their works to be most inspiring.
Are you interested in self-publishing or traditional publishing?
My first two books were self-published and were definitely a learning experience. I would rather not go that route with my next book and will do some serious investigating as publishing time grows nearer. I am still in the very early stages with my third book.
Why did you choose to go the traditional route this time around?
After self-publishing two books, I’ve learned a lot. By the time this book is ready to go, I’d like to try the traditional publishing route.
BONUS QUESTION: What is a funny/interesting experience you’ve had in your transition to writing fiction?
My friends all expected me to write another self-help book, this time dealing with substance abuse and addiction. When I told one of them I was writing fiction, he said I should base a character on him using this theme. When I told him bereavement was the issue in this book, he commented that it could be arranged. I told him to bite his tongue. But if I do decide to have a character with substance abuse/addiction problems, he isn’t a good enough model either. Not screwed up enough! But I haven’t told him that.
Where can others follow you and learn more about you?