Today I have a great author, Ginny East with me for an interview. She is the author of My Million Dollar Donkey.
Ginny East is the owner and director of Heartwood Yoga Studios and founder of Heartwood Retreat Center, a 7 acre holistic learning center in Florida that features yoga trainings and writing workshops to promote personal growth. She comes equipped with an MFA in Writing, a BA in Business Management, E-RYT500 certification in yoga, Ayurveda and Reiki certifications, decades of professional dance and choreography experience, a headful of red hair, and a boatload of freckles.
Find on her website here : GinnyEast.com.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to write ever since I was a young child. Growing up, I went through stages where I wrote poetry, journals, short stories, and novellas. While I wrote for pleasure, of course, I harbored latent hopes that I’d be published someday. That said, I never felt authentic until, at the age of 40, I began winning writing contests which made me feel I had some degree of talent. That inspired me to go to school at the age of 44 to earn an MFA in fiction, and like Dumbo’s feather, the credential made me feel more authentic. I am not convinced that a formal education is necessary for anyone to write to their full potential, but the confidence gained from my degree certainly did impact my writing practice.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It doesn’t take long for me to write a book. It does, however, take time for me to write a good book. I believe distance and time is required to see my work honestly, especially in the case of memoir. My Million Dollar Donkey took eight years to finish. I wrote the book in a single year, but the evolution of the material and the wisdom of the lessons learned took many rewrites to capture. I am very happy the book wasn't published early on, because the version today has far more depth and subtlety than my early drafts. Like all authors, I’m thrilled to see my words in print, but I also feel strongly that my work is my legacy. I want to be conscientious of what I put out there in the world and when you are too close to a project, you can't be objective. Patience allows space for truth to surface.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I am someone who gets totally lost in a project. I can write ten hours without pause. As a writing and yoga teacher and the director of a retreat center, my schedule tends to be demanding. I write whenever time allows, which changes seasonally. I consider writing important because it grounds me and helps me understand life. Whatever you feel is important, you will make time for, so if a commitment to producing is a problem, my advice would be to spend time focused on what writing does for your heart and soul and stop worrying about the daily word count.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I layer my work. I begin with a quick outpouring of ideas or a plot line, then go back to add texture and detail. If I worry too much about how “good” the work is, I can’t get past the first page. For me, all rewrites must come after the chapter is finished. That said, I still don’t have the discipline to hold off and wait to do rewrites until I finish the entire manuscript. God forbid I meet an untimely demise and someone will see my bad first draft and figure the horrible mess represents the kind of writer I was. It’s kind of like your mother warning you to wear clean underwear in case you have a car accident. I need some level of proficiency in my unfolding work. Besides this, going back over pages and pages of poorly written material makes me lose faith in my own capabilities. I need to like what I'm writing to feel the motivation to keep with the story.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Our lives are nothing but stories, some true and some fabricated in our hearts and minds. Life is where all our stories are born. A memoir is never one person’s story, but representative of the human condition. Every story is, at the core, universal and meant to be shared. As a society, we learn and grow from our collective stories.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m the founder and director of a retreat center called Heartwood in Bradenton Florida. (www.heartwoodretreatcenter.
com) so I teach a great deal. We offer personal growth programs, including yoga, spiritual arts, organic living, and writing for deeper awareness. I’m also a big time gardener. Our Chakra meditation garden won an award from Country Gardens Magazine and will be featured in the fall issue 2016 (on the newsstands August 8!) Check it out.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned by creating your books?
I think I’ve learned more from teaching writing than from actually writing a book. Teaching helped me to see my work more honestly and made me aware of my own particular writing flaws and idiosyncrasies. Also, by mentoring others, I’ve been more inclined to stay committed to the beautiful results that come (spiritually) when you put your heart on the page. Writing helps us make our lives a work of art. To teach is to learn.
What do you think makes a good story?
I believe a good story begins with recognizing that every personality is complex and that all people are wounded in some way by life. Realistic motivation, dialogue and action demands each character is portrayed as a multifaceted person with depths that need to be explored. This is where internal thoughts and emotions can add so much to a story. People are drawn to characters, circumstances and situations that validate their own life experiences – both good and bad. In this way, a story, no matter how removed from one’s daily existence, still helps the reader understand the world and his or her place in it. For example, a story of superheroes from outer space that have arrived on earth because their planet was destroyed by aliens may be considered nothing more than a silly fantasy, yet told well, the story can strike a chord. Underneath the plotline is the universal story of community, loss, and wandering to find where we belong– emotions most everyone has suffered through at one time in life or another. When we watch the heroes overcome these challenges, we are given a message of hope and inspiration that reminds us of our own deepest potential. Every story, when well told, becomes our own story.
Ginny and her husband Mark decided to reinvent their world. Packing up three kids and a dog, they left a thriving dance studio and moved to NW Georgia.
However, as they traded stability for a stab at self-sustainability, their million-dollar quest to set up a modest life became a scramble to figure out how to navigate the complicated world of simple living.
In My Million-Dollar Donkey: The Price I Paid for Wanting to Live Simply, Ginny honestly recounts the four years she and her family gave to their complex attempt to forge a life that would lead to stronger relationships with the environment, community and, most importantly, one another. But change isn't easy because, when we move, we take ourselves along...