My guest for today is Amanda Miller, who has written One Breath, Then Another: A Memoir. She is also the inaugural interview using an altered version of my Ten Questions with non-fiction writers in mind. Welcome, Amanda!
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Author Bio: Amanda Miller is a writer, actor, yoga instructor, and massage therapist based in Brooklyn. She has adapted One Breath, Then Another: A Memoir into an interactive solo show featuring yoga poses, meditation, breathing exercises and chanting. Her writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Freerange Nonfiction, UC Riverside’s Cratelit, So Long: Short Memoirs of Loss and Remembrance, Underwired Magazine, Runaway Parade and more. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from The New School and a BFA in Acting from NYU.
Author Site: http://www.onebreaththenanother.com/
About the Writer
1. What five words describe you?
Passionate. Compassionate. Driven. Hopeful. Open.
2. What drew you to start writing?
Initially it was my first grade teacher who introduced me to journaling. I wrote about who I played with at recess and what we played, then I drew a picture of it. This evolved into fictional stories, pictures included. Eventually I dropped the illustrations realizing it wasn’t my calling and stuck with the writing. As a kid, I especially enjoyed writing myself into my favorite to TV shows. Then in my middle school days I was drawn to poetry, which I found to be an important outlet for my adolescent angst. This led to the realization that if I could accurately articulate an emotional experience with words, it eased some of my tension. It’s what motivated me to keep writing. I have always liked writing in multiple prose genres as well as for the stage.
3. What inspires you?
The beautiful, sincere efforts made by people, despite all odds. Music that tells a story. Kindness. Novels. Memoirs. Poems. Performance. The overcoming of obstacles. Pivotal moments in my life and the lives of people I know. Human relationships. Views from heights. The ocean. The mountains. Passion. Yoga.
4. What distracts you?
Facebook. Exhaustion. Ambition.
5. What’s your favorite story? This can be specific, as in a particular book or even story-driven movie, or general, like “I’m a sucker for a hero looking for redemption story.”
A story when everything falls apart for the protagonist and then after trials and tribulations, he/she grows in leaps and bounds becoming a more mentally, emotionally and spiritually evolved human.
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About the Writing
1. Tell us about your currently available titles.
One Breath, Then Another: A Memoir is about my quest for healing to avoid destroying myself like my dad. He was a heavy smoker with food issues who starved himself until he was skeletal. Then I developed a severe case of anorexia that led to hospitalization. A year after I recovered, he died of lung cancer.
Desperate to escape his ghost, I fled San Diego to pursue acting and writing in Manhattan, where I eventually became so obsessed with and disturbed by the concept of language that I suffered a mental breakdown and moved back into my mom’s house. After a year of ineffective psychotherapy, I felt intuitively pulled to study massage therapy and, while massaging a cancer survivor, discovered that easing the pain of others was a powerful way to find reprieve.
I moved back to New York to resume creative pursuits but soon found myself lost again. Frantically searching for inner peace, I left to travel alone through ten cities in India and Nepal. As a tourist amidst extreme poverty, exotic beauty and charged spirituality, internal whirlwinds raged. After weeks of constant motion and changing scenery, I landed in a quiet Indian ashram surrounded by green fields, mountains and endless sky. There, as I trained to become a yoga teacher, I reflected deeply on mortality and the workings of my mind, learning to let go and surrender to the present moment.
2. What’s your favorite part about writing these books?
I found the process of writing the memoir cathartic and empowering. And I was also excited by the prospect of connecting with readers over shared challenges and paths to healing.
3. What do you hope readers gain most from your work?
I hope that One Breath, Then Another will inspire and empower people to realize that their voices matter, nothing is insurmountable and one’s own mind is often the biggest obstacle to one’s happiness. Life is fragile and finite; this memoir is about getting out of our own ways and supporting each other so we can all make the most of the time we have.
4. What have you gotten out of your writing?
I have had the opportunity to spend meaningful time with myself reflecting deeply on what matters most in my life. I have had the satisfaction of creating phrases and lines that really say what I mean. I have had the gratification of connecting to readers in the way that I hoped I would.
5. Do you have any projects currently in the works you want to talk about?
I have adapted One Breath, Then Another into an interactive solo performance piece featuring yoga poses, movement, meditation, breathing exercises and chanting. It will officially premiere in August 2013 at Theater For The New City’s Dream Up Festival in NYC.
I am also working on a novel about a talented young painter who quits art to become a nurse so she can help people instead of sitting around torturing herself with “her fruitless ambition” and starving artist lifestyle. But she becomes more tortured by not following her creative impulses. In the end, she has to negotiate her complexes about artist narcissism and art and commerce to find a place for art in her life that is authentic, satisfying and healing.
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Thank you for joining us today, Amanda, and good luck with your book!