Elizabeth Aquino, author of the Shebooks Hope For a Sea Change, talks past lives and share advice with aspiring writers.
What prompted you to write Hope For a Sea Change?
I began writing this more than ten years after the birth of my daughter Sophie when I took a writing workshop at UCLA called Writing the Healing Story. I have always been a writer and had been working on some short stories before her birth, but when she was diagnosed with a terrible seizure disorder at three months, I literally stopped writing and became quickly immersed in her care and a new life. The workshop was incredible, and as I took up my pen and began to craft essays about my experiences raising a child with disabilities, my teacher and mentor told me that I had a book. And so I do!
Is there such a thing as “women’s writing?” Do you hate the term “chick lit” or think we should embrace it, like the term “gay”?
I guess I agree that there is such a thing as “women’s writing” if it pertains to women-centric themes, although I am hesitant to gender-define good writing and I really do hate the term “chick lit,” finding it demeaning. I’m irritated by the lack of attention paid to women writers in general—am aware of the statistics—and find it ironic that women buy and read books far more than men do, but I’m not sure it serves anyone to call a genre of writing “women’s literature.” Frankly, the whole delineation of genres bores me. I’m a woman, and I write. I’m a woman and I read whatever resonates with me.
Have you ever experienced sexism as a writer? If so, how?
I have written a blog for over six years, have created and participated in an amazing community through that blog of writers, parents, and artists of all persuasions, but when people (usually men!) hear about it, they always tell me, “Oh, that must be good therapy for you.” This drives me insane.
When did you first decide you were a writer?
I think I became a writer at the same time as I became a reader. As a young girl, I wrote constantly—poems, novels, short stories, even a newspaper for my neighborhood. I dreamed of one day writing a real book, and while that dream was squashed for a while, I find myself in my sixth decade of life with more creative energy than I have ever had and a renewed hope that it will finally happen.
Is there anything that you consider too personal to write about?
I will not write about my marriage except in the most general of terms. I find that far too personal.
Do you currently have a job other than writing? What’s the most interesting day job you’ve had?
As the mother of three children, one of whom is severely disabled, I have always worked as an advocate and “parent expert” in health care, particularly in the area of improved access and quality of care for children with special health care needs. Right now, I have a contract with a nonprofit foundation here in Los Angeles that provides legal services and advocates for children and youth in the foster care system. No paying work has been as interesting as raising three children—nor as difficult!
What’s an odd fact about you that not many people know?
I’m fascinated by construction sites and large machinery. I have a secret fantasy of climbing up into one of those gigantic cranes and lifting something up into the sky.
What is your favorite word right now?
Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite authors are Virginia Woolf, Michael Ondaatje, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Colum McCann, Lorrie Moore, David Sedaris, Toni Morrison, and the poets W.B. Yeats, Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, Jack Gilbert, and Seamus Heaney.
Aside from writing, do you have any other secret talents?
In my former life, I was a pastry chef and can bake a pretty damn good cake and then decorate it.
Do you have a quote, mantra, or thought that you’d like to end with?
“Breathing in, I calm myself. Breathing out, I smile.” Thich Nhat Hanh.