Posted on August 18, 2020 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Today we're interviewing Phyllis Edgerly Ring, the author of fiction and nonfiction.
The New England writer has studied plant sciences and natural history, worked as a nurse, served as program director for a Baha'i conference center, and taught English to kindergartners in China.
SADYE: How did you come to see yourself as a writer, and what inspired you to seek publication?
PHYLLIS: I grew up in a family of writers that was also a military family.
My parents met in England during WWII, which led to my living in Germany as a child in the 1960s and left me with a sense of myself as a citizen of the whole world.
I've been writing since my teens and publishing work since I was in my twenties. I wrote (and later edited) for magazines and newspapers.
Many different kinds of life experience also shape my writing life, including overseas travel, love for the natural world, work in healthcare, and as a teacher in the U.S., Europe, and China.
Over the last ten years, I've finally had the time to write and publish book-length fiction and nonfiction.
SADYE: Tell us something about your writing process that’s unusual or that you haven’t revealed before.
PHYLLIS: I guard my writing time so strongly that I'm one of the few people I know who doesn't own a smartphone.
Writing a book is such a fully immersive experience for me that it takes a fire alarm to interrupt it, which is why I didn't start writing books until our children were grown.
Being so absorbed in it helps me find and sustain balance in all areas of my life, like a spiritual practice. Allowing myself this is one of the most empowering things I've ever done.
I'm grateful to the International Women's Writing Guild for helping me to understand and appreciate the value of that.
SADYE: What have been the most surprising, rewarding, and challenging parts of your writing career?
PHYLLIS: By far, my novel, The Munich Girl, in which Hitler's wife, Eva Braun, is a character, has brought the most of these.
Writing the book, with its story's timeline in WWII Germany, is one of the more complex things I've done as a writer. The research part was like eating ice cream, I relished it so much.
The range of response from readers has been the most intriguing. Some connect, even empathize with her character, while others, though they may connect with the story, struggle with her being there at all.
Early in the book's process, an editor friend asked, "How are you going to get readers past the fact it's her?"
I knew that I wasn't. Readers were either willing to go that distance or they weren't.
The story isn't looking to redeem her. She's more of a motif for the ways in which women have suppressed and repressed their own development.
She also embodies the imperfect mixture of strengths and weaknesses that all humans do, and how our lives are shaped by the choices we make in relation to those.
SADYE: What message or theme would you like readers to take away from your work?
PHYLLIS: No matter what sort of writing I do, my aim is to highlight the beauty and meaning that can exalt the human condition.
Rather than focus on how dark the world can be, I'm most drawn to the wider, more welcoming options in questions like: How are we raising our vision toward something greater? How effectively are we exercising our power of choice?
What are we investing in — i.e. "paying" attention to, and why, and what is that yielding in our lives? In the world?
SADYE: What advice, as relates to your writing career, would you give your younger self?
PHYLLIS: Be unceasingly willing to learn and refine the craft elements of your work.
Even more, come to understand just what aspects of your own inner reality and blueprint your work wants to express.
My own experience is that faithfulness to both our truest selves and the process itself will reveal more about the mystery of each of these, and of the overall human experience.
It's as though creativity and what I'll call spirit long to shape each other, and shape us.
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Categories: Author Interview