We are very excited to share that two of our Canadian Dixi authors, Charise Jewell and Joy Norstrom, will be speaking on various panels at When Words Collide, 2021.
When Words Collide is a literary festival for readers, writers, artists, and publishers of commercial and literary fiction. It is typically hosted in treaty 7 territory Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This year the festival will be held virtually August 13th to 15th, and actively welcomes all those who love the written word regardless of age, background, citizenship, disabilities, sex, education level, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity, experiences, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic world we’ve all been living in, the festival is being held virtually for the second year in a row. That is exciting news for many of our followers because it means people can register and log in from anywhere on the globe! Better yet, this virtual festival will be offered free of charge, but participants must remember to register through Eventbrite to receive festival links.
Learn more about the festival and register on their website: https://www.whenwordscollide.org/About_WWC/
Joy Norstrom Charise Jewell
Q: What panels will you be speaking on this year?
Charise: I’ll take part in four panels. All details are at the end of the interview. I’m very happy to be talking about social sensitivity and inclusivity, based on my experience with mental illness and stigma. This is a relevant and important topic for writers, particularly if their characters are Indigenous, Black and/or BIPOC, trans, non-binary and/or LGBTQ2S+, disabled and/or chronically or mentally ill, or belong to any other marginalized community. I will also take part in two panels regarding writing about pain and trauma, and one that is slightly more straightforward about writing: finding inspiration to finalize a project when a writer doesn’t feel inspired.
Joy: I’ve had the privilege of speaking at When Words Collide in previous years and I can’t wait to participate once again. This year most of my panels relate to the craft of writing. One of my panels will address the challenge of providing too much backstory and how to find a balance between what the reader needs to know and what is better left off the page—or for later in the story! Another panel will focus on the somewhat famous writing strategy of “show, don’t tell” and how to best approach and accomplish this. I will also address writers wanting to write authentic conflict between characters within family relationships and community settings, and will draw on insights I’ve gained during my twenty year social work career for this particular presentation. And finally, my fourth panel will be a discussion about book clubs. The details of my panels are listed at the end of the interview as well.
Q: Tell me more about why these topics are of interest to you.
Charise: My first book, which will be coming out this fall, is a memoir based on my experience being diagnosed with bipolar 1 mood disorder at age 40, and the following three years spent learning about my condition, how to accept it, and how to overcome the fear and challenge stereotypes associated with mental illness. Not surprisingly, these panels interest me because each topic had a significant effect on me over the past four years while writing my book. I wrote about a number of people, myself included, with mental illness and therefore had to be certain that I was not perpetuating any ignorant or offensive stereotypes. This is broadly relatable across a number of categories, especially considering current (necessary) social sensitivities. I had a personal desire to push through pain and trauma for my personal growth and resilience, and to show readers that it can be done. Sometimes this meant I was exhausted and didn’t want to look at my book, but I knew I had to so I developed strategies. Similarly, I had to develop self-care techniques to practice after any extremely emotional writing or editing session. Since many writers, even fiction writers, also find inspiration from something deeply personal or meaningful, I think these are important tools to share.
Joy: As mentioned, this year I will be speaking on topics primarily related to the craft of writing. I am particularly keen to present Conflict Without Guns, which is my session on relationship tension and interpersonal conflict. I will draw on knowledge gained as a social worker to illustrate how problematic communication styles can keep our readers engaged and our plots moving forward. Alas, I only recommend you attempt these strategies in your writing, and not in your relationships!
I will also be speaking on a panel about book clubs. As an avid reader I participate in both a local book club (yes, we actually discuss the book!) as well as a virtual book club on Goodreads. I’m a huge fan of book clubs because they’ve helped me discover loads of interesting books I might not otherwise have found.
Q: Tell us a little about your writing career.
Charise: I started writing short-stories as a fun hobby and escape from my engineering job many years ago. I began to write a novel and also a parenting blog about a decade ago, and found both to be rewarding for quite different reasons. I was close to finishing my novel in 2017 when I went manic (in fact, it was one of the reasons for my mania) but I became depressed and could no longer work on it after being released from the hospital. My memoir began as a therapeutic journal until I realized that it could also be helpful for other people struggling with mental illness and recovery. Now that it’s close to publication I hope to return to writing fiction and finally finishing my novel.
Joy: I’ve been writing since my last maternity leave—that was over ten years ago! I am a storyteller at heart and my fiction writing often involves social issues and life transitions. I believe stories can be a tool for building empathy between people from diverse backgrounds and can draw attention to social justice issues. I enjoy writing stories similar to the way I move through life—it’s all about relationships, laughter and connection—and that’s what you’ll find in my books.
Q: What is your relationship like with your publishing house? Do you feel connected and is this important in the relationship?
Charise: I was introduced to Dixi Books by Joy, who signed with them to publish her second novel, Flying the Nest. As an unpublished author I was feeling discontented by the publishing industry, so it was very refreshing to connect with Ayse Ozden at Dixi. She immediately contacted me after I submitted my publication query with a request for the entire manuscript. She showed such interest and appreciation for my work and for me as a person that I felt an instant connection. Ayse continued to be helpful and warm while discussing my contract, marketing strategies, and my cover. I can’t imagine another publisher being so supportive, which has been incredibly important for me especially since this is my first book.
Joy: I have a very open and responsive relationship with my publisher, Dixi Books. I love being able to send a quick email about any questions that arise or booking a Zoom call to discuss opportunities to promote my book at both local and international venues. I think it is important to know your publisher has your back and believes in your work. It’s a great feeling as a writer.
Q: What are the titles of your books and where are they available for purchase?
Charise: My book is Crazy: Memoir of a Mom Gone Mad. The publication date is October 28th, but it can be preordered via Book Depository (https://www.bookdepository.com/Crazy-Charise-Jewell/9781913680244), Amazon (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crazy-Memoir-Mom-Gone-Mad/dp/191368024X/), or from Dixi Books (https://dixibooks.com/product/crazy-memoir-of-a-mom-gone-mad/).
Joy: My first book, published in 2016, is called Out of Play. It can be found on Amazon (http://viewbook.at/OutofPlay). My second book, Flying the Nest, was published in 2020. It is also available from Amazon (http://getbook.at/FlyingtheNestkindle) or directly from Dixi Books (https://dixibooks.com/product/flying-the-nest/).
Q: Where can we find out more about you and your books?
- Charise: https://charisejewell.com/, Instagram is @reesechaell, and Facebook is @reesechaell
- Joy: https://www.joynorstrom.ca/, Instagram is @joynorstrom, Facebook is @joynorstromwrites
- Dixi Books: https://dixibooks.com/, Instagram is @dixibooks, Facebook is @dixibooks, and Twitter is @dixibooks
Additional details about each panel:
- Friday 2 pm (all times listed are MDT – Mountain Daylight Time): Awakening to Social Sensitivity with Halli Lilburn, V. S. Holmes, Merilyn Ruth Liddell, Charise Jewell. This panel will discuss writing about other genders, races, classes, cultures with honesty and sensitivity. How can a writer be inclusive without appropriating or creating token characters?
- Friday 4 pm: How to Keep Revising when You’re Completely Sick of a Project with Diane Terrana, Alice Bienia, Charise Jewell, Carol Parchewsky. You’ve been working on this novel forever. You’re so close to being finished but every time you open your project you hate every single word. How do you get over this and get it finished and submitted?
- Saturday 4pm: Writing Pain and Trauma with Det Dave Sweet, Sarah Kades Graham, Charise Jewell, Jennifer Rahn, Tim Reynolds. Can surviving and choosing to write about traumatic events transcend us? Is there a risk of being dragged too deeply back into the experience? Is it worth facing your biggest pain and trauma for the sake of creating? What do you hope to gain? Who, if anyone, is changed by the writing?
- Sunday 10 am: The Danger of Digging too Deep: Self-Care for Writers with Faith Hunter, Jennifer Estep, P.D. Workman, Charise Jewell. Writers tend to write what they know, and this sometimes this means digging around in their own painful history. Panelists discuss their approach to writing difficult scenes and how to practice self-care before, during, and after practice emotionally-draining writing sessions.
- Friday 1 pm: Must Backstory Take a Backseat? With Faith Hunter, Jennifer Estep, Susan Forest, Joy Norstrom. What is backstory? Too much backstory can weigh a story down. How do you make it work for your story and not against it? How much backstory do you need to include and how much is just FYI for the writer? What are strategies for giving the reader the information they need without it making it an info-dump?
- Saturday 11 am: Show, Don’t Tell: What Does It Really Mean? With Angela Ackerman, Susan Forest, Joy Norstrom, Monica Zwikstra. Show, Don’t Tell is advice all writers have heard yet is a source of confusion and frustration for many. Panelists talk about the spirit of this advice and dig into when (and when not to) use it.
- Saturday 5 pm: Conflict without Guns: Creating Relationship Tension in Your Writing with Joy Norstrom. Do you want to amp-up tension between your characters? Do you want to create real-life drama across the dining room table or between waring factions at the PTA meeting? Love is a battlefield, folks, and conflict is what will keep readers engaged in your story. Learn how to set your characters up for interpersonal failure and explore common relationship triggers that can be duplicated on the page. The facilitator will share knowledge she’s gained as a social worker to help build authentic story tension as well as tips for creating the satisfying resolutions that readers crave.
- Sunday 10 am: Book Clubs for Readers with Amy Jo Fleming, Susan Calder, Joy Norstrom. Interested in forming a book club? Learn about different types, both informal and formal, in person, online, novels vs short story clubs.