Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our spotlight on author and minister Jo Page, who be bringing her book, Preaching in my Yes Dress, Confessions of a Reluctant Pastor. Jo will be at our 65 James Street store on Saturday, April 16, from 2:00 – 4:00 PM.
Thank you so much for joining us, Jo! What can you tell us about yourself and your writing?
I’ve published fiction and non-fiction in numerous journals, including, The MacGuffin, Prick of the Spindle, New Millennium Writings, Quarterly West and others. I was also a finalist in the 2009 Hunger Mountain Creative Non-fiction contest. For over twenty years I’ve been a columnist, first for Albany’s now-defunct Metroland magazine and currently for the Albany Times Union where I write a bi-weekly column on the stuff of life!
I received an MFA in writing from the University of Virginia. My MDiv is from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Right now I’m trying to be a conscientious blogger—well, semi-conscientious—while also trying to finish a novel about a woman with an erotic fixation on Ludwig van Beethoven. Preaching in My Yes Dress is my first published book. The two other novels are in shirt boxes in my closet!
What kind of research went into writing Preaching in My Yes Dress? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
There were a lot of iterations of this book. I cut a lot from an earlier, longer version. I wanted to write honestly about what it means to be a religious professional, particularly an often reluctant one (as I am, quite often). The bulk of it was written on a generously given sabbatical from a congregation I was serving. I was fortunate to have office space donated to me by the New York State Writers Institute. I would go into this office (which had no wifi) with only my laptop and work for hours. I can’t believe now that I managed to do that, particularly since I’m addicted to www.classicalmusicarchives.com and usually have it on when I’m writing.
The best and funniest story that I left out of the book—and I regret this—was when I was undergoing my dreaded Clinical Pastoral Education training at a hospital in Abington, PA. The on-call room, one floor above the psych ward in an old belltower, was so scary that I used to smuggle my husband in to spend the night with me. One time I got called down to a trauma about 4:00 am. He got up later, went into the bathroom to get ready to go to work and ended up locking himself out of the on-call room in only his blue briefs. He climbed out onto the roof and tried to break into the on-call room window—with no success, of course. I love that image of Joe out on the roof in only his briefs trying to break into the hospital! He paged me on my beeper and I remember thinking: “hm, I could just let him hang out up there while I dilly-dallied making my way back to let him into the room.” But I did the right thing…
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
I know that this is probably a funny question for a writer who lives in New York to pick. But I truly love New England and most specifically Massachusetts. I lived in a Newtonville for a wondrous year when my daughters were little and we spent lots of time at the MFA and strolling all over. I particularly like Cape Ann—it’s my hope to someday live there. I did a sabbatical there and found it very conducive to simply sitting alone in a room and writing.
Curiously, the novel on which I’m working is set in New York’s Hudson Valley, but the main character, the woman with Alzheimer’s who thinks she’s having an affair with Beethoven, is from Gloucester. There are many flashbacks to her time as a child there and it’s nice to be able to transport myself there. And I admit I do read the Gloucester Daily Times on line!
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
Fingers crossed I finish Dating Beethoven and find a publisher for it!
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
I live in a big house in the GE Realty Plot in Schenectady, New York. Actually, all the houses in the Realty Plot are big because it was planned as an upscale neighborhood when General Electric first began in the early twentieth-century. (That’s a whole other, fascinating story, but you can Google it!) My study is at the front of my Queen Anne style house. It’s kind of a marine-blue room, with white floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on two of the walls. I write at a harvest table that was the dining room table my daughters and I ate on every night when they were little and I was raising them as a single mom. I keep a picture of them on my desk. Right now there are also some dead herb plants I really should clear off. I like to listen to music when I write, but it can’t have any words, even words in a foreign language. I’m too attuned to words to both produce them and hear them at the same time.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
My big pup, Jack, a rescue black Lab mix, is a good companion in all walks of life. He likes to bring a big bone into the study and lie down next to the space heater while I write. I like the companionship. Sometimes he gets up and gets his big squeaky toy named “Snakey” and goes haywire with it. That’s when I know it’s time to take a break!
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
We’re big on independent bookstores in my family, so yes, check out ABSW first! But the book is available on Amazon, as well, and directly from SUNY Press. Also, the trunk of my car is full of copies….only joking, I don’t have a trunk.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Read my blog (www.jo-page.com), connect on Facebook, read the Albany Times Union (not sure if the columns are free to read online or not).
Thank you so much, again, Jo, for being part of our Spotlight Interview! We look forward to having you and Preaching in My Yes Dress at the store on Saturday, April 16, from 2:00-4:00 PM.