Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Submarine Stories of World War II

Today, I interview Mary Nida Smith about her book, "Submarine Stories of World War II." Mary is an Ozarks based writer, who is also very passionate about the natural beauty of our surroundings. She's taught me a lot about living in the Ozarks and about native plants and trees.
In her interview, Mary talks about becoming a female military writer in a male dominated genre and balancing that with her garden writing. She also discusses her ever-positive outlook on writing and life. It's truly a treat anytime I get time to talk to her.

Tell us about yourself.
That would be a couple large books within its self. I have lived in the country, small towns and a couple of medium size cities. Because I have moved many times in my lifetime, I am like a busy butterfly, tasting the nectar of many flowers.
Since I was a young child I have written and drawn. I am self-taught in all I do. I have always wanted to write and illustrated children’s picture books. People with more knowledge than me said I couldn’t do both. After proving to myself I could illustrate and write one, I put it to the side. Then I concentrated on writing children’s books, poems and stories. I have received some encouraging words from editors, but I haven’t been steady in submitting. The doors appear to continue to open in regional magazines and newspapers where I started my writing career.
When the doors opened in the creative world I walked in. I wanted to write and be published so bad that I felt I could take the chances of them saying “no.” For every “yes” another door opened. I am on the hard-headed side, I don’t take no easily. I believe when you dream you must hack away at it until it comes true on a small or large scale. At least I know I tried.
I been a president of an artist guild, helped organized writers’ workshops and conferences, president, vice-president, board member and newsletter editor for writers groups and have taught creative writing to children.
I only wish I could stop getting ideas and settle down to being a specialist in one or maybe two fields. I love gardening, building, writing greeting cards, designing, inventing and creating something out of castaways.

Tell us about your new book, “Submarine Stories of World War II.”
It is about what is known as the “silent service.” A world very few outsiders know about; stories that needed to be told and experienced before the submariners carried them on their final patrol. Nine submarine veterans across United States who were teenagers at that time allowed me to write their stories of warfare below the seas. My husband who is retired from the Navy gave me permission to share his story of fear as he explored an unknown world and how he was given an important job with little or no training. It is written for ages ten and up. It is an exciting eye-opener to everyone who has read it. You can learn more about it on my blog http://submarinestories.blogspot.com/.

You’ve broken the gender expectations of a military writer, how did you get interested in this.
Long after my husband, Mel, retired from the Navy I came into his life. After we were married I was curious about his very interesting and diversified career in submarines and in the anti-submarine service where he earned his “wings.” Later, we joined the U S Submarine Veterans of World War II organization where today I am the newsletter editor for the Arkansas Diamond Chapter.
I knew of a small independent publisher who was publishing military books, so I queried her and the rest is history.

What have been some of the challenges of being a woman writer in a male dominated genre?
Getting the men to tell me their stories and when they did to get them to understand it had to be written for publication. They wanted every word, every sentence and phrase to be written as they told it, no matter if the reader could understand it or not.
Most men don’t believe women should invade their territory. A man’s story should be told by men. All I wanted to do is honor them, and allow the children and other people to know what they endured to attain the freedom we have today. From writing the book I feel have gained some special friends.

You also do some garden writing as well. How did you get interested in this?
I have always been involved in gardening from helping my mother in the vegetable and flower gardens, picking cucumbers for the factory, picking strawberries in the fields, and all aspects of canning. My first published article was about creating arrangements from roadside ditches and fields. My first book I wrote and photographed was on this subject. After dealing with a New York publisher for a year and then was rejected, I put it to the side where I never submitted it elsewhere

That’s quite a contrast to military writing, how do you divide your time?
I work very hard to meet my deadlines ahead of time. The time I am provided with between other duties I work on other writings and books.

I know you had some expectations about your publisher that weren’t met with your book. What did you learn from this experience?
To be more careful when the publishing company changes from the time you sign a contract. Ask more questions and have changes put in a contract. Beware of being asked to write articles for their newsletters and e-zines without being paid; to be strung along until they publish your book. Watch for publishers who claim they are traditional independent publishers when they are a subsidy publisher.

You’re carved out a special place in your home for your writing space. Tell us about your garden studio – what gave you the idea to put it where you did.
We live in an area with lakes and rivers where many garages have one area designed to fit a boat (an alcove). I thought it was wasted space that needed my attention since our boat was down at the marina. I designed it to be extended, enclosed with a window and a Dutch door where my two large book shelves would fit on each side. Electricity and heat/cooling duct from the house was attached. The garage is still a two car garage when my gardening items are out in the summer.

You also founded a writer’s group, for other writers who might want to do this, what advice would you give them.
Never listen to nay-sayers for you’ll never be able to please everyone. Include everyone’s thoughts on projects, and then go where your heart leaves you. Be professional at all time by not showing your disappointments, always be thoughtful and friendly. Keep on, keeping on as long as it doesn’t keep you from writing.

Where can people find your book? What’s next for you?
My publisher only did one small printing before returning all rights to me. People can send $12.00, plus $2.00 postage to Mary Nida Smith 162 Stamford Drive, Lakeview, AR 72642 and to learn more go to http://submarinestories.blogspot.com/ or http://marynidasmith.blogspot.com/.
I will be submitting all my children and adult books, articles and poems I have finished before returning to work on several non-fiction books for children and adults. I keep on dreaming and I hope everyone else will.


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