An Interview with Linda Aksomitis
Author of ‘Tales of a Traveling Saleslady’and eight books for children, one out and the others ‘soon-to-be released’.
AN: To get us started, could you please draw a brief portrait of yourself .. where you were born and brought up .. where you were educated .. where you’ve traveled .. where you live now .. who’s in your family. Anything that’s important to know about Linda.
LINDA: It’s hard to be brief with parts of this question! I was the oldest of six children and grew up on a farm near Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, Canada.
My first vivid memories as a child are teaching myself to read and wanting to write my own stories. I published my first poem when I was ten years old. Through my high school years I published nearly fifty different pieces of poetry, as well as being editor of the school newspaper.
Over the years I’ve worked at more than 35 different paying positions. These have ranged from: furniture upholstery, storytelling, web site design, teacher, snowmobile drag racer, barmaid, bookkeeper, traveling saleslady, librarian and a variety of other things! I believe that a writer should sample all of life that he/she can in order to write from many kinds of experience. I was never happy doing just one job at a time, so many of these were in addition to the diverse positions I held with the Indian Head School Division from 1982 to 2000.
The job in which I grew the most was that of traveling saleslady for a sewing machine company. I traveled around the world with the company, in Canada from Toronto to Vancouver and in-between, to the US – Dallas and Las Angeles, as well as through Germany with a dealer trip. When I took the job I had only ever driven 60 miles by myself and by the time I finished I had made nearly half a million miles with my 4 x 4 truck. I had never flown or even taken a taxi! My collection of short stores, Tales of A Traveling Saleslady, due out from Electric eBook Publishers this April is based on my experiences.
In May of 2000 I graduated, with distinction, from the University of Regina with a Bachelor of Vocational/Technical Education. It had taken me sixteen years of night classes, correspondence classes, satellite classes and finally, Internet classes to fulfill this goal. I also have a Computer diploma. My education major is as a teacher/librarian, my non education major is in English and my technical major is in serger sewing.
AN: The world of children’s literature is characterized by hundreds of new titles every year. What do you do to create original stories?
LINDA: To create original stories I draw on my own experiences and the challenges I’ve faced over the years. I tell children that I am very lucky in that my first home was one with no power, no telephone, no running water – in other words, the lifestyle of my grandparents. This enables me to create authentic characters and situations from pioneer worlds right up to my globe-trotting experiences in large cities. There are virtually no books with a snowmobile setting for children to read, even though there are over 10 million snowmobiles ridden annually in North America, and I have a wealth of experiences to share! I also have two children’s series that are set on farms. I have a collection of science fiction stories for young adults outlined in which their challenges take place in numerous future world situations.
AN: Do you consider childhood development and psychology when you write, or do you simply strive to be a storyteller, or both?
LINDA: I strive first of all to tell a story that I think young people will relate to, so that I focus on universal themes that feature unique backgrounds which the children may not have encountered. After working in schools for 18 years I think that I consider childhood development and psychology on a subconscious level. And, of course, after being trained as a teacher librarian, I have been lucky enough to read many masters in the field of children’s literature, and they always serve as my mentors.
AN: What qualities make a good children’s story?
- Interesting characters that seem to be alive to the reader.
- Strong internal conflicts that the reader can empathize with that are paralleled against an exciting external conflict.
- Stories that say something or leave the reader with the feeling of being a little wiser at the story’s end.
- Stories that have the magic to create worlds the reader will never know, whether they are realistic or fantastical.
- Stories that speak to a child, instead of down to him and respect the fact that there are no trivial problems.
AN: Have you ever written a long story or a novel?
LINDA: Yes. My first young adult novel is called Snowmobile Challenge and will be released through Crossroadspub.com in the next month or two. I have two sequels outlined. I am also writing a techno-thriller/mystery story that is being published in serial form by the ezine www.snowridermag.com It’s called “Ice Picks” and I’m publishing it under the name “The Iceman”. Right now I’m planning an adult story set in the world of snowmobile racing called “Driving on Ice”.
AN: Since you grew up and still live in a rural setting, how does that affect your writing?
LINDA: I read once in an introduction written by Stephen King that he uses a small town setting for many of his books because it is like a microcosm of the world. I believe he’s right. But the big difference for characters in a microcosm is that they must learn to relate to people with diverse interests, vocations, ideals and goals, since they can’t just find a similar group to join. Being one of these characters myself gives me, I think, closer insight into many different kinds of lives and perspectives.
Like many Saskatchewan writers I think that I also have a different relationship with setting. The land is important to me, even though I’m not at all a naturalist. My mother tried for years to teach me all about the plants, animals and birds, now I have to go to her as a resource when I write some of my stories, because I wasn’t a very good pupil.
Since I’ve traveled widely I also look at my own rural setting with different eyes than someone who has never left their own environment. With racing I met people in many walks of life driven by all kinds of different motivations, and with PFAFF I was able to taste the world of expensive hotels and$ 300 bottles of wine [now I'm a committed beer drinker, but that's the substance of one of my saleslady stories]. I’m where I am because I’ve sampled lots of other things and chose to come home.
AN: What authors have influenced you the most?
LINDA: This is always an interesting question! As a child I read on average two or three hundred books a year. I stirred supper while reading. I washed dishes with a book on the side. All of those authors have influenced the writer I became, even though their names elude me.
Now I’d say that authors like Maurice Sendak, Madeleine L’Engle, Janet Lunn, Penelope Lively, Jan Brett and Stephen Kellogg have influenced me in that I would strive to meet the same high standards of storytelling. Strangely enough I realize looking at this list that three of these people are also illustrators. Perhaps that’s why I also enjoy web site design – I find it’s like creating your own picture book, without being an artist.
AN: Do you see the children’s story as something stable, or do you think it is evolving or changing? If you think it’s changing, how would you describe that change?
LINDA: I think that nothing stays the same forever and that change is inevitable. For instance the young adult genre is only around thirty years old. Who knows what kinds of fiction will develop in response to the new world of cyberspace?
As to the changes, I think that children’s books are more honest and deal with subjects that may have been avoided in the past. I also think that with so many new writers who have the advantage of more and better training programs, that there are more great books around. Children’s literature is significantly different from just writing an easy adult story. That fact is recognized by more authors and publishers today, so that children’s literature is really coming of age.
AN: Years from now when we are all gone, how would you like people to remember your writing?
LINDA: I’d like people to remember my writing as opening doors to places that they could never visit in real life, whether they read about the joys of snowmobiling, or the challenge of snowmobile racing, or farm life, or the many worlds of tomorrow that are on my planning board. I’d like to hope they met characters with whom they felt common bonds in uncommon worlds.
AN: What genres do you write in?
LINDA: I write in most genres depending on the story I want to tell. I’ve published poetry, lots of non fiction, picture books, early chapter books, juvenile fiction, young adult literature, plus adult short stories and a novel.
AN: Was there a turning point in your writing career?
LINDA: Yes. I’ve known all my life that I wanted to be a writer, but spent lots of those years gathering experience I felt was necessary. In 1996 I was accepted into the Sage Hill Writing Experience with Kevin Major as the workshop leader, to work on the first draft of my novel Snowmobile Challenge. At that point I decided I would either come away from the experience knowing the direction I wanted to go with my writing career and make it a focus, or recognize that while I had a great love of literature that my real interest was more that of a librarian. Of course I found my focus!
AN: Do you do anything besides write now?
LINDA: Yes, I am not the kind of person who will likely ever do one thing at a time! I am the children’s acquisitions editor for Electric eBook publishing. I am an Internet Marketing Consultant – I’m webmaster for four of my own web sites and my family’s appaloosa horse web site. They sell all of their foals from the site every summer. In its first year of existence the site increased their horse sales 400%. I also speak at agricultural conferences and am doing qualitative research for several books on marketing agricultural products on the Internet. I am an online teacher and course developer. My serger sewing course has been developed by BostonReed in California and will soon be available online. I teach Writing for Children and Taking Your Small Business Online for Barnes & Nobel University and Dell University [both online campuses offering free of charge courses]. I am developing my first secondary level credit course through www.ed2go.com which will be available in August of 2001 – Intro to Internet Writing Markets.
AN: Do you like working from a home office?
LINDA: Yes I love working from home! My office is designed for me and I can work on my own schedule, so that my fibromyalgia has very little impact on my life. My family respects my working hours, while at the same time I can be available to my family whenever I want to be.
AUTHOR-NETWORK: Linda Aksomitis is a perfect example of a writer who produces a high quantity of writing at a high quality. She will be an inspiration to all of us.
Linda Aksomitis B. V/T Ed.
Online at http://www3.sk.sympatico.ca/aksoml/
Children’s books at http://www.gophergulch.com/
Articles at http://www.aksomitis.terrashare.com/
“Love the journey, not the destination.”
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