Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Wisdom of Maryanne Pope

It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you Maryanne Pope, Founder, and CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions, an accomplished author, blogger, and grief expert.

In honor of Krista Tippett, I like to start my interviews by asking Maryanne if there were any significant childhood influences that had an effect on her writing. From early on Maryanne has had a deep concern for the treatment of animals. It was her Mom, a big animal-lover, who instilled in her the importance of treating animals kindly and caring about wildlife, conservation, nature, and the environment. An empathic view much needed in our world today.

Maryanne knew by the age of seven that she wanted to be a writer and ever since this has been her dream. It wasn’t until her beloved husband died suddenly at the age of thirty-two that Maryanne understood the difference between dreaming and doing. It was only two weeks after his death that she sat down at the computer and started writing. This writing that sprung from intense grief would become the raw material for her first book, “A Widow’s Awakening.”

She writes to understand what she is experiencing in life. Maryanne says, “I re-write and publish (or post, produce, etc) to share with others what I am learning. I have a passion for many things but because of my life experience, I have written a great deal about workplace safety, death & dying, grief, and the afterlife. At my core, I think I am a story-teller.”

Maryanne would describe her genre as creative non-fiction. Her writing is based on real-life experiences, either her own or historical figures. She is attracted to creative non-fiction because "she finds there is such richness in reality itself.” She uses real-life stories as the starting point for an imaginative retelling.

Her audience is diverse, for her book, “A Widow’s Awakening,” her primary audience is female readers who love engaging stories about strong women overcoming adversity, or women who are grieving the loss of a spouse or loved one.

Maryanne’s weekly blog, “Weekly Words of Wisdom,” attracts readers who are interested in the insights of a lifestyle blogger. This includes not only everyday experiences but movies, books, life lessons, and on occasion people who push her buttons! 

Maryanne also writes play scripts and screenplays that capture a very different audience but regardless of genre, platform, or project, her audience has a desire to be inspired, challenged, and empowered to make changes in their own lives and/or the world around them. 

Her engagement with other authors is casual and not necessarily intentional. If Maryanne reads a book that resonates with her, she will write a review, and tag the author. She says, "If something comes of it that’s great."

I asked how the current political climate and world-wide pandemic has affected her writing? She thought the question was an interesting one, for Maryanne, the pandemic has been a blessing. It has given her the time, space, and privacy to stay at home and write, and she adds, in peaceful and productive solitude.

Maryanne has written several blogs about the benefits of being a writer during this pandemic, she acknowledges some people resonate with this perspective more than others. It seems as if she is connecting more deeply with readers of her weekly blog during the pandemic because she has the time to communicate with her followers, especially since she is not traipsing about the planet!

Maryanne says, “I am fascinated with what a difference time and space is making in regards to my writing…including my ability to connect to my deeper self, my imagination, and my characters. This pandemic has taught me that even when the restrictions are lifted, I will continue to be far more protective of my time and sacred writing space. I will connect with fewer people…but develop deeper connections.”

When asked about the importance of research in regards to her work, Maryanne says it depends on the project. Her screenplay, “God’s Country,” for example was researched extensively because it is based on the life of a silent screen star, Nell Shipman. Her book, “A Widow’s Awakening,” didn’t require much research because it was based on her personal experience of coming to terms with the death of her husband, John.

She has written a playscript called, “Saviour,” based on the real-life circumstances that led to her husband John’s death, but the bulk of the story takes place in the afterlife and is very much about death, dying, including the journey and purpose of the soul…so that required some research. But much of that research isn’t exactly scientific or fact-based because it is spiritual and subjective in nature.

I love to learn about the writing rituals of authors so I asked Maryanne to share something of her routines. She says, “I am as predictable as they come! I wake up early every day, have coffee, think, and reflect. Then I do yoga, after which I write for 1 to 2 hours usually focusing on larger projects." Then she moves on to smaller writing tasks, such as blogs, e-mail, and administrative tasks.

She writes in the same place every day, on her laptop, sitting on her couch, surrounded by supportive pillows. I love this tip, she sets a timer for 53 minutes and takes a break when the timer goes off. Brilliant.

Maryanne chooses technically challenging projects that end up strengthening and stretching her skills as a writer. As an example, the “Saviour” playscript and subsequent scripts in that series are extremely challenging because she has to create an entire world…that of the afterlife. It took her 15 years to get the “Saviour” playscript where it needed to be. It was extremely challenging to write…emotional in the early years but then technically challenging in the subsequent rewrites.

When asked about her activity on social media Maryanne responded, “I am not personally that active on social media. I really don’t enjoy most social media very much. The exception is Instagram…I do enjoy that – probably because I can get in & out very quickly.” She does understand the importance of having a strong presence on social media, so she hired Sarah who helps her stay on top of social media demands. Sarah loves Twitter, for example, so this is where she shines. She says, "I am extremely grateful for Sarah because she ensures that I do have a social media presence."

Maryanne says, “I have been going hard, as a writer, for twenty years – and this much I have learned: we cannot do it all on our own. At least, I can’t. I cannot work at my peak creative capacity, writing large projects such as play scripts and screenplays, AND have a robust presence on social media. Sarah and I work really well together. I create the content (blogs etc) and she shares them on social media.”

How’s that for honesty 😊

Social media is a very important way of connecting with others, but there is still nothing like a good old-fashioned phone call, or well-crafted e-mail to move a writing project forward advises Maryanne. 

One of her favorite authors is Sarah Ban Breathnach. Her book, “Something More; Excavating Your Authentic Self” is one of her all-time favorite books. I also have a copy of this book and absolutely love it.

For Maryanne literary success is doing the work she is here to do…and loving it. She loves hearing back from readers when something she has written resonates with them or helps them in some way. Success is a very internal thing, as Maryanne loves nothing more than waking up each morning, and looking forward to working on whatever writing project she happens to be working on.

She says, “over the years, I have come to realize that learning to enjoy the process of taking an idea all the way through to the end product – blog, book, play, film – is where the success lies. I used to think it was the end product. NowI know better.”

Maryanne advises, “if you have been wanting to write but have never got around to it, my advice to you is this: just do it. Make a short-term commitment to yourself to write for even just ten minutes a day for one week. See how that feels. If you hate every moment, it may be time to let that dream go…make space to let in what you really want to do.”

If you do enjoy the experience of writing, then keep at it, perseverance is key, so is developing good habits.

Here is the link to buy “A Widow’s Awakening”: Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening. She is the Founder & CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and a Director of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To receive her weekly blog, Weekly Words of Wisdom, please sign up here. Have a visit to her Etsy store.

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