Feature Interview of Dr. Heather Rivera
November 2018Dr. Heather Rivera is a prolific and versatile author of eight books and counting. She is the focus of today’s interview because she plans to release an inspirational e-book for writers in January 2019. I am proud to have collaborated on this book with Dr. Heather Rivera and Dr. Marjorie Miles of Muse & Ink.
Lillian: Heather, thanks for taking time for this interview.
Heather: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be featured on “News from Lillian.” You’re very special to me. Not only do I consider you one of my dearest friends, but you are also my trusted editor. I wouldn’t be able to do my writing job without you.
Lillian: Muse & Ink: Soul Expressions through Writing is the title of your new book. How did you come up with this title?
Heather: The title was easy. I knew it had to be Muse & Ink. Years ago, Dr. Marjorie Miles and I decided to collaborate on some writing projects, workshops, and a writing festival. We came up with the name Muse & Ink at our favorite café. Dr. Miles teaches a “Writing with Your Inner Dream Muse” workshop. We thought the name represented a balance between the two sides of our brain—right and left. Utilizing both sides of the brain makes a good writer—the muse and the ink. Coming up with the subtitle was a little more difficult. I wanted to express how important I believed writing authentically was good for our soul. I found so much healing from writing-especially writing fiction and I wanted to share what I discovered.
I also knew that I needed help. I can’t think of two better people to collaborate on this project with me. Thank you, Lillian Nader and Marjorie Miles.
Lillian: Please give a brief description of the book.
Heather: Muse and Ink: Soul Expressions Through Writing offers tips and exercises for creative self-expression. This book is a collaboration by three authors based on their own experiences as writers. The book also includes editing tips by Lillian Nader author/editor and activities by workshop facilitators, Dr. Marjorie Miles, and Dr. Heather Rivera. Our mission is to help writers find their creative spark, get their message out into the world, and flourish. We honor and encourage voices that may have been suppressed for years to finally emerge by providing a supportive, heart-centered, intuitive, and playful approach to both writing and publishing.
Lillian: I know you are a writing coach as well as a published author of nonfiction, fiction, and books for young readers. You have a Life Coaching certificate along with a Creative Writing certificate from Wesleyan University, and you currently facilitate Finding your Voice Workshops in addition to one-to-one consulting with writers. What motivates you to teach other writers in addition to your own creative expression through writing?
Heather: I remember what it was like when I was just starting out. I had tons of questions and searched for answers. I love teaching and passing on what I’ve learned brings me joy. I want to see others succeed.
Lillian: How has your experience as a writing coach and student affected the content of Muse & Ink: Soul Expressions through writing?
Heather: It was my desire to share what I’ve learned over the years from practicing my craft. If I can inspire another writer or help someone discover the joy and healing from creative writing, I’ll be overjoyed. When I teach my writing workshop, I’m amazed at what the students write. I’ve learned a lot from them. By sharing what we write and being receptive listeners, we grow together.
Lillian: What else motivated you to write the book?
Heather: I think one of the things that makes our book and our workshops unique is the use of guided imagery. Being that we are all trained in hypnotherapy, we were able to present some nice visualizations in the book. When I’m teaching a workshop, I like using guided imagery and having the attendees write from a relaxed state. I believe it helps the writer dig deeper and gives them the space to find their writing voice.
Lillian: As a published author and writing coach, who or what has inspired you the most?
Heather: I am not sure I can narrow it down to one person or one thing. Many things and people inspire me. I’m inspired by reading books by my favorite authors like Susanna Kearsley and reading books about writing like On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I’m inspired by nature and some special people that have touched my life along the way.
Lillian: How long have you been writing?
Heather: I’ve been writing most of my life. As a child I wrote poetry, then as a young adult I wrote children’s stories. Later, I started writing for magazines and then I progressed to full-length novels. I enjoy writing novels more than any other form of expression.
Lillian: You recently relocated from California to Hawaii. Just as the setting can drive the plot of a story, how has your new real-life setting impacted your writing?
Heather: It’s quieter here. I think that helps me drop into my story quicker. Also, the scenery is breathtaking so taking a walk is a great way to get unstuck. I do miss the cafes in California, though.
Hawaii, I’ve realized, is as good a place as any to sit down and get serious about writing. It’s all about our commitment to the craft.
Lillian: I wrote a chapter on dreams for our book in which I cite several well-known stories that originated from dreams. Have you had dreams that inspired any of your books?
Heather: It’s funny that you ask. A few of my books were inspired by dreams. The first novel I wrote, Quiet Water, came from a dream. I woke early in the morning with the story “downloaded” into my head. I excitedly told the story to my husband, and he loved it. Over nine months I wrote it. It was a lot of fun.
Into Exaltia, Twice Again, and a new novel I’m working on, Chasing Chance, also came from my dreams. I keep my smartphone by my bed to jot down notes if I have a dream that I need to remember.
Lillian: You also write a monthly newsletter called Muse and Ink News. What is the best way to sign up for it?
Heather: Thank you for asking. The link to sign up for our Muse News is
By signing up, readers also get the free gift, “Ten Tips for Finding Your Voice.”
Lillian: Speaking of Muse & Ink, the concept started with you and Dr. Miles, and you recently included my editing tips in your publications. Thank you. Please explain the concept of Muse & Ink and its history.
Heather: I’m so glad that you’re a member of our merry band of writers. As I mentioned above, it began with Dr. Miles and myself collaborating on a few projects and grew from there. The three of us also participate in a weekly author accountability email. I really appreciate having someone to check in with weekly. You both help keep me on track with my writing projects.
Lillian: You seem to have a never-ending supply of ideas for books. What will you be working on next?
I like to work on more than one book at a time. My new projects are two novels. One is called Chasing Chance. Chasing Chance is set on the island of Hawaii. The other manuscript is called Following Tai. I like to write stories that contain a little magic and a little romance.
Lillian: Do you have anything else you would like to say to your readers?
Heather: Thank you for taking the time to read my interview. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions about the writing process, I hope you take the time to reach out to me at email@example.com
Lillian: Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses to my questions.
Heather: Thank you again for having me on “News from Lillian.” It was a lot of fun answering your questions.
As a reading teacher, I encourage my students to make connections from one aspect of literature to another. For example, a pig in one story may remind me of the pig in Charlotte’s Web. When I read the story by R. G. Frazier, Don’t Blame Hazel, I noticed some similarities and differences to Theep and Thorpe, the story I have written.
Don’t Blame Hazel is a children’s picture book while Theep and Thorpe is a sci-fi novel for young readers. One is set in the present time and the other takes place in the future. Both have characters named Hazel, and they both talk about bullies.
Bullying is something that may appear in the form of verbal abuse such as name calling and ridicule. This type of bullying is aptly portrayed in the illustrated story book, Don’t Blame Hazel. Hazel likes to dress in a style that reminds the other children of a witch. Instead of being accepted and welcomed as a new student in school, she is picked on by Helga and others. They laugh and make fun of the way she dresses, call her names, and hit her with paper airplanes when the teacher isn’t looking.
The truth about the bully, Helga, is revealed after she is transformed into a toad frog. She appeals to Hazel to free her from the witch’s spell. Hazel informs Helga that the spell came from her own fear and insecurity, not from Hazel. Hazel is able to forgive Helga for bullying her, and when she does, Helga changes back into a pretty young girl. Helga and Hazel become friends. Sometimes, it’s easier to make fun of others than to face our own problems.
In Theep and Thorpe, Billy is a bully who takes advantage of a young child who can’t defend himself. He tries to take the child’s backpack with his lunch and computer notebook inside. This makes Quan, the young protagonist of the story, so angry that he unwittingly manifests a phazer gun out of thin air to frighten Billy away. Apparently, anger isn’t the best way to deal with bullies because Quan is the one who ends up in trouble with the authorities and is ultimately sent away to Juvenile Court School in outer space. Billy ends up there as well, but he’s sent by a close friend of the school director, Dr. Weir, to work as a barracks guard at the school. When Quan continues to get into scrapes with Billy, Dr. Weir insists that Quan make friends with him.
Quan is forced into befriending Billy in order to be released from the solitary confinement he got himself into. At first, Billy is resistant to Quan’s effort to be friendly and converse with him, but after Dr. Weir moves Billy from position of guard to a student at the school, Billy starts to feel accepted by Quan and the students on his team. Being accepted by the other students causes the change in Billy from being a bully to being a valuable part of a team. Hazel is Quan’s friend who also becomes friends with Billy.
Both stories have bullies who end up becoming friends with their victims. Most bullies are acting out in inappropriate ways to gain negative attention. I imagine they are lonely and confused. In most cases, they are following a pattern learned from adults and others around them. Many are often neglected and no one has taken the time to teach them more appropriate, positive resolution to their problems. Their unhappiness and poor self-esteem drive them to pick on others rather than to face up to their need for love and affection.
In today’s news there are numerous examples of bullying behavior online, in schools, and in cases of family abuse. The sports figure who abused his fiancé and was suspended from his team is one of many examples of bullying behavior in this country.
These are patterns that have been condoned, ignored, and pushed under the rug for too long. Finally, public opinion and outrage is calling for change in addressing these issues. Workshops are being held to teach school personnel how to handle bullies in a way to end the negative results such as teen suicide and/or abuse. Books like Don’t Blame Hazel and Theep and Thorpe provide excellent ways to teach children about bullying, friendship, and forgiveness at an early age.
In Don’t Blame Hazel, Helga learns that, “being a bully doesn’t make you look good.” In Theep and Thorpe, Billy learns that as a team player, he can use his sports ability and his brain to help solve problems. He no longer needs to pick on anyone smaller or weaker than he is to gain respect and attention. Both books teach that bullies need love too, and becoming friends and allies is a good way to change bullies into productive, nonviolent citizens.
To purchase the book, Don’t Blame Hazel, please click this site: http://dontblamehazel.com/
Look for the announcement of publication of Theep and Thorpe in my next newsletter!
About the author:
Lillian Nader (Ed.M) is currently writing a science fiction novel for young readers entitled Theep and Thorpe. She is the published author of educational workbooks and the librettist of the musical, Pandora. Lillian is a retired teacher who does part time tutoring and freelance copy editing at reasonable rates. She can be reached at Lnader1910@sbcglobal.net
Or visit her author’s website at http://lilliannader.com
“It helps if you have someone to talk to; it really helps. I have my husband to talk to. It helps very much if I say to him, ‘I think I’ve painted myself into a corner. Now I have three or four different situations.’ We discuss the solutions, and I pick the one I like best. I don’t think you can write a book completely alone,” says Judy Krantz, author of Scruples.
I imagine if I were to interview all the best-selling authors, each one would speak of some sort of support that keeps them going. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King talks about throwing his first draft of Carrie in the trash. His wife, Tabby, “…had shaken the cigarette ashes off the crumpled balls of paper, smoothed them out, and sat down to read them. She wanted me to go on with it. She wanted to know the rest of the story.” He also says, “Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”
I agree with these two authors, but what of the writers who don’t have spouses, or what if their spouses love them but couldn’t care less about their writing, or what if a supportive spouse is still not enough to answer the technical questions or provide motivation to keep writing? I recommend finding a balance between the solitude it takes to do the writing and ways to meet the human need for social interaction with like-minded people.
In my own personal journey as a writer, I have found a number of ways to find support for my creative expression. I live alone, and that helps me find the time to write without interruption. Yet, there are times when I feel the need to interact with other writers.
Local Writers’ Groups
I am fortunate to attend a local writers’ group facilitated by my friend, Dr. Marjorie Miles. A small group of us get together twice a month for free writing activities. We begin with a guided meditation to relax and connect with our Muse or inner voice. The act of writing quickly and without censoring is a lot like therapy for writers. Often, when I feel stuck in my writing, I come to this class for the freedom and joy of self-expression. Many of us attend the group regularly, and we have developed close bonds of love and respect for one another. We never know what we will write and in sharing after writing, find we have written something quite funny, or sad or even profound. One of the main characters in the novel I am writing came to me during one of these free-writing activities. The class is never boring, and I leave it with greater motivation to continue my novel. I highly recommend finding a local writing group near you.
Groups may be found in local libraries, book stores or formed from taking creative writing classes. You may be inclined to start your own group of writers who are willing to meet in a positive atmosphere of camaraderie and support. It is wise to choose carefully and stick with people who are serious about writing and not there to criticize and tear people down. Set firm boundaries for a supportive, creative environment which encourages true self-expression and growth for writers. These groups may consist of free writing activities or as reading response groups where you share what you’re writing at home. If in a creative writing class, be alert to others who seem to resonate with you and see about forming your own group outside of class.
Online Writing Groups
Last year, I entered The Next Best Fiction Author contest online. This led me to become involved in a closed Face Book group of other contestants who shared thoughts about writing, gave each other constructive feedback about the chapters we entered and shared resources such as editors, online courses, etc. One of the people in this group asked if I had a book cover to post. Huh? I didn’t even know writers were having their book covers done by free-lance artists these days. I’m learning a lot about the business of writing in today’s fast changing technology and media trends by associating with other writers.
I also started an open writers’ group on Facebook called Writers, which now has 150 members and growing. We share writing resources, jokes and questions about writing. Many people have had important questions answered by group members who’ve been in similar situations. If you need an opinion or advice about something you are pondering, groups like this can be very helpful.
I have a friend in another group who is having problems being accepted as a writer by some of her family members. When she reached out for support from her group, the love and encouragement that resulted was heartwarming and motivating to her. Online writing groups provide excellent resources from other writers all over the world, often based on their own experience of trial and error in writing, publishing and all things related to writing.
Weekly Check-In Group
My weekly writers’ check-in group is another excellent source of support, motivation and inspiration. Each week, two other writers and I set writing goals for the week, and every Thursday one of us sends out an email saying what the goals were and what actually got accomplished, followed by new goals for the next week. The other two writers respond in kind. We also acknowledge these accomplishments, keeping the tone upbeat and supportive. Believe me, there has been more than one Wednesday night of frantic writing on my part just to keep from having to say, “I got nothing done but hope to do better next week.” It also helps keep me on track in thinking of reasonable goals that can be accomplished within a week’s time. I am the slowest of the three, but I don’t feel pressured to keep up or that we are competing with each other. I have been pleasantly surprised and highly motivated by the encouragement received by my writing partners.
Recently, I received a referral to a site that published chapters one at a time to help writers build an audience for their books. Unsure if this was the right way for me to go, I checked in with my weekly writing partners and my mentor/teacher, Dr. Marjorie Miles. Each of them responded with the requested candid feedback, and none of them had favorable reactions to the idea. They confirmed my initial feeling that this was not the right opportunity for me. It would have ended up being much like a relationship that isn’t strong to begin with but expecting things to change over time. What a blessing to have trustworthy, caring friends to give me the feedback I needed to make the right decision. These are the bonds of trust and sweet support that are built in ongoing relationships with other writers.
Lillian Nader, M.Ed. is currently writing a YA science fiction novel entitled Theep and Thorpe. She is the published author of educational workbooks and the librettist of the musical, Pandora. Lillian is a retired teacher who does part time tutoring and freelance copy editing at reasonable rates. She can be reached at Lnader1910@sbcglobal.net
Writing is a process meant to be enjoyed. There is something freeing about having time for getting one’s thoughts on paper before having to revise and edit. In other words, it doesn’t have to come out perfect in one sitting. With this freedom, I find that most writers are more creatively daring than they might be otherwise. When I work with reluctant writers, I often see a look of relief when I say, “In the rough draft, spelling doesn’t count. Just get your thoughts on paper and enjoy the process.”
The following are recommended steps of the writing process.
- Prewriting: There are dozens of ways to generate and organize writing ideas. Some of my favorites are brainstorming with others, word clusters and meditation.
- Drafting: Get all your thoughts on paper as quickly as possible without editing.
- Revising: Reread your work (preferably aloud) to see if your words are conveyed with clarity and without needless repetition.
- Editing: Now is the time to look for misspelled words and grammatical errors.
- Publishing: Some ways to be published are hiring an agent, submitting to publishers and self-publishing.
First, brainstormingwith others is a good way to formulate your initial ideas and get a sense of what you have passionate feelings about. If the energy isn’t there, keep going until you find something worthy of your writing time. If you process ideas by talking about them, this is a good technique to try.
Second, word clustering is good to access the creative right side of the brain. Begin with a nucleus word or idea circled in the middle of a page. From there, write the first thought that comes, connecting it outward with a line and draw a circle around it. Go back to the nucleus and repeat the process. Word cluster templates can be found on Google.
Finally, my favorite one is meditation: the act of quieting the mind and listening for insights and guidance from within. I suggest sitting down to meditate with the intention of writing afterwards. Set aside some quiet time to be followed by writing. You may surprise yourself—in a good way—with the results.
Step 2: Drafting. When drafting, it’s best to leave your inner critic at the door or in the waste basket. All you need to do is write your thoughts with total disregard of rules and concerns about what people will think. While drafting, you are the only thinker that matters. Too many people allow their fears and inhibitions to interfere with true creative expression.
Step 3: Revision. Now, you want your critical mind to come into play by reading to see if your words make sense. Have you conveyed the meaning clearly? Have you left out words that your mind thought you typed as your fingers flew across the keyboard? Did you show without telling? Here, you also consider if you’ve used the right form of homophones such as hear and here, your and you’re. Revision has to do with accuracy and clarity for your readers. Beta readers or first readers, usually friends who enjoy reading, are helpful at this time to get fresh views and insights of your work. Consider hiring a copy editor and/or content editor before going on to step 4. The phrase, “writing is rewriting,” is applicable here.
Step 4: Editing. Now is the time for the critical left brain to be fully engaged. Use reference books on grammar and punctuation to dispel doubts you may have about your work. Since this is the final step before publishing, you want to polish as much as possible. Once you feel there is no more you can do, you may consider hiring a line editor before publishing.
Step 5: Publishing. The world of publishing has changed quite a bit in recent years due to electronic devices and sources for reading literature. Choices for publishing depend upon your genre, budget and resources. I recommend joining writing groups online and in your community for support in making the right decision regarding ways to publish your work. Often, even with a publishing house behind you, there is still much marketing to do by the author.
Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoirs, blog articles, or technical writing, use of the writing process will help you along the path of successful creative expression. It is my hope that through use of the writing process, you write more often and enjoy it more.
Lillian Nader, M.Ed. is currently enjoying Step 2 of the writing process while drafting a YA science fiction novel. She is the published author of educational workbooks and the librettist of the musical, Pandora. Lillian is a retired teacher who does part time tutoring, freelance copy editing and beta reading at reasonable rates. She can be reached at Lnader1910@sbcglobal.net and on FB at https://www.facebook.com/Lillian.nader