Well-known yoga instructor, therapist, and creator of the Yoga For Your mood card deck, Amy Weintraub is also the author of an exciting new novel, Temple Dancer. She’s got some great advice for writers to share here.
Question: What books do you recommend for an aspiring writer?
First, read the best books (both well reviewed and those you love) in the genre in which you are writing. In addition, I like Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Colum McCann’s Letters to a Young Writer and Madison Smartt Bell’s Narrative Design. Even if you are not writing fiction, learning the elements of fiction will make your nonfiction livelier and more interesting. For example, although my first published book, Yoga for Depression, was nonfiction, what makes it a best-selling yoga book were the stories (true) told in ways I learned by studying and writing fiction.
Beyond book recommendations, consider taking a writing workshop in the genre in which you work. If it’s local, it helps to get recommendations from other writers. If it’s national, see if there are reviews. I took summer onsite workshops for several years before I decided to get an MFA in Fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars. I found the teacher’s critiques, the workshop format and the contacts with other writers (students included) and literary agents, inspiring and helpful.
Writing groups have also been beneficial to my writing. If you’re not in one, register for a writing class at your local college. You may find that you are sympatico with some class members and after the class is over, you can invite those with whom you resonate to form a writing group.
Question: What’s your Go-To source when you need inspiration?
That’s an interesting question, because once I’ve begun a fiction project, I don’t want to read in the genre in which I write. Until I begin, I read everything and listen to people tell me their stories, the more shocking the better. Once I’ve begun, my sources of inspiration change to more contemplative activities like hiking or gazing out the window at the mountains. After a dose of gazing, I might close my eyes and hear my characters’ voices. While I write fiction, I find myself pausing, reflecting, and reading something not in my genre.
On the other hand, when I’m writing nonfiction, other people’s essay collections inspire me to write my own essays. When I’m writing about yoga and mental health, I try to stay current with research and theory, so I read articles and books in my field.
Question: In what genres have you written, and which one of them gives you the most satisfaction?
I’ve written creative nonfiction, fiction, plays, poetry and a screenplay.
Without a doubt, fiction brings me the most satisfaction… when it’s working. Once the characters come alive on the page, they also live within me. I dream about them. They become my family, and I care about each one of them, even the antagonists. When I’m in a healthy relationship with my characters, they direct the show. I may start the scene with an idea of where the characters are going in the flow of the novel as I have vaguely envisioned it. However the writing only comes to life, when my characters take over, and I’m taking dictation. They control the action.
When it’s not working, which is a common state of affairs in my life, it’s usually because a character has reached a precipice and something in me is resisting a dive into an emotional unknown. I almost said a dive into the abyss, but it’s not always as dark as that word implies. I come to the precipice when my protagonist is too close to me and something unsettling about her character is revealed. Although her biography and her current story may be different than mine, we share emotional truths. When I see a disturbing aspect of my protagonist’s personality, it may also be an uncomfortable self-revelation. I hit a wall. I often set the novel aside for months. I may return to it, only to find that I’m still unable to write through the block. If I do break through and begin writing again, I feel elated and grateful and, yes, satisfied. If I create more distance between myself and my main character, this interruption rarely happens. It’s a balancing act between sustaining emotional truth and enough distance so that I’m not swept into the maelstrom with my characters!
TEMPLE DANCER, a 2020 Nautilus Silver Award Winner and a Foreword INDIES 2020 Book of the Year Awards finalist, is a novel of awakening and deep connection. The story spans the distance of time, space and culture through the parallel lives of Saraswati, a young Indian temple in the 1940’s and Wendy, an unfulfilled artist living in contemporary New England.
In the early years of Indian independence temple dancers, once auspicious women, were profaned after thousands of years of service and banned from the temples. Fifty years later, Wendy abandons her art, turning her life upside down in her struggle to be a “good enough” mother. Both women obliterate boundaries and defy societal mores, mining the borders of consciousness from which art arises. These liminal states are often spiritual, often trance-like, sometimes dissociative, sometimes ecstatic, sometimes frightening, and always about love.
The novel opens in 1997 on a crowded train in southern India. A mysterious encounter between two women-one an older elegant Indian, the other a young American artist-leads to the exchange of a dusty red book, and an appeal: You must show the world how we danced with God! Years later, on reading the lost journal, Wendy is transported on an unforgettable journey into the ancient and erotic world of the revered devadasi, a world of dance and devotion, music and mysticism, restraint and release, shame and disgrace. The diary opens a portal between two lives that includes affairs of the spirit and the flesh manifest through sacred practices, through the making of art, the making of love, and most of all through love itself.
TEMPLE DANCER is a lush read, and a richly atmospheric journey deep into the history and magic of female sacred sexuality and spiritual transcendence. The triumphant stories of both women are enriched by the foundations of yoga philosophy and the divine enigma that entwines the lives of two unlikely souls.
Free book discussion questions and first chapter are available on Amy’s website.
You can click right here to read more author interviews like this one.
~You can share this post on social media or receive updates on new posts by clicking one of the buttons below~