Diversion Press is Pleased to Announce the Newest Edition to the DP Catalog--Visitation Rites by Pamela Laskin!
Visitation Rites is a contemporary coming of age story. Pati must live with a mother who suffers from mental illness. When her father leaves her mother and marries again, Pati is given a second chance at a normal life, including a new stepmother, new home, and even new friends. One thing stands in the way of Pati's perfect new world, the visitation rites of her biological mother. Each week Pati must meet her mother, even if it means lying to her new friend Jayne. Pati will soon learn that Jayne is more like her than she ever imagined.
Congratulations on the release of your book. You do a great job on the character development in Visitation Rites. Can you comment on how you developed the characters and give any advice to those who are working on character development?
Character is where one must begin (after the writer has established a motivation). Since I teach creative writing, too, I always tell my students characters are multi-dimensional, so it should not just be what they think and how they feel, but what does the character wear; what is inside his or her refrigerator; closet ; what does this character do in his or her spare time; most importantly, though, how does this character interact with other characters? Is there a difference between what's inside and the outside "charade?"
You tackle serious issues in Visitation Rites. Do you think that children today deal with more serious issues or is it just that people are more aware of these issues?
There have always been serious issues in children's lives, but the culture and the times demanded "silencing" some of these issues. For example, Judy Blume, as a children's author, tackled serious issues such as divorce; death; addiction; mental illness, and these issues were tackled decades ago, but her books were banned at one time. These days publishers are much more willing to accept the fact that children have very complex lives, and that they want to read about their lives and their issues. Adolescent readers do not want to read about fluff.
What inspired you to write about mental disease and what research did you do to understand what the patient and their families are enduring?
Mental illness has always been a popular topic in my writing, since I have a mother who is mentally ill. My first published picture book, A WISH UPON A STAR, was about the awful feelings a young girl hoarded inside of her because of her mentally ill mother. Writing children's literature has helped me to exorcise my demons.
I have done some research on the topic as well, but more of what is in the book, VISITATION RITES, is drawn from personal experience. I understand the pain that children in these families confront daily.
What do you want readers to take away from this book?
I want readers to feel that just because there are issues within their family(and it may be a different issue: a down's syndrome sibling, for example), that they need not feel that they have to keep it such a secret. I hope my readers will feel the possibility of opening up their deep and dark closet to a good friend, and to understand how important it is not to bury feelings and also to build a bridge of trust.
One of our other authors, Kathleen Bullock (Far Corners) was a former student of yours. It must have been exciting to see that she is using what she learned in your class.
I am so excited that Kathleen's book has been published. She was an outstanding student in my children's writing class, but what is so exciting for me is that I always encourage students to submit their work and try to get published, and Kathleen has actually done this with great success.
Tell us about your teaching job and also your work at the writing center?
I no longer work at the Writing Center at City College, but as a full time lecturer, I teach three classes a semester, and generally half of them are creative writing classes. My fall classes always include undergraduate and graduate children's writing. I am bowled-over to see how many young people are interested in the genre and how much talent there is out there. In addition, I am the Director of The Poetry Outreach Center at The City College, one of the largest outreach centers in the Northeast. I mentor graduate students to go out to public schools, many in under-served communities, and teach poetry. This culminates in the NYC Poetry Festival, which is May 17th, and ultimately the young poets will have their work published in POETRY IN PERFORMANCE. This year's featured guest poet in Cornelius Eady.
Are you working on anything new?
I am working on a picture book series for ages 4-8, where potatoes are the main character. It begins with an alphabet book, POTATO PICNIC. This has been completed, there are five books in the series and I am currently looking for a publisher. I am also working on an anthology of essays about women and shoes, where I am one of the editors: IT'S ALL ABOUT SHOES: a multi-cultural collection of women's reflections on the shoes they wear. Finally, I am writing poetry, since I always write poetry, and I love to do this.
Do you have a question or comment that you would like to leave for blog readers?
My comment for blog writers is PERSEVERE as writers. Seven years ago a poetry collection of mine was published, which had been completed twenty years previously. I never give up on a project I believe in. Never give up on your passion; this is my final comment. Publication is great; it is the final reward. But it is all about the writing, first and foremost; you must enjoy the process.