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Leo Adam Biga’s Blog hits 400,000 views & The Many Faces of Leo Adam Biga’s Blog Version 2.0

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment



 

Leo Adam Biga’s Blog hits 400,000 views & The Many Faces of Leo Adam Biga’s Blog Version 2.0

And the hits just keep on coming.  My blog, leoadambiga.wordpress.com, has now surpassed 400,000 views and in celebration of this milestone here is a new mosaic of images from the site. Diversity rules when it comes to my work and the images associated with the people, passions and magnificent obsessions I write about certainly reflect that.

 

 

 

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The Many Faces of Leo Adam Biga’s Blog

October 27, 2014 Leave a comment

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Nebraska Cultural Endowment Livelihood blog features Leo Adam Biga – Omaha journalist/author writes about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions

September 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Honored to be featured on the Nebraska Cultural Endowment’s Livelihood Blog, where I share some of how and why writing became my passion. My beloved, artist Pamela Jo Berry, was featured earlier this year. I have the distinction of following the blog’s last featured subject, author Timothy Schaffert. If you haven’t visited the blog before, give it a look-see, and be sure to sample the past featured artists, creatives and culture enthusiasts.

I am sharing my Livelihood entry more or less just the way it’s presented on the NE Cultural Endowment site.

NOTE: The blog my entry links to is the very one you are on now. It also links to a Facebook page I manage that gets feeds from my blog.

 

 

What’s Your Livelihood?

Embrace the Arts and Humanities in Nebraska


Writing is my Livelihood

leo 3

 

My interest in wordplay began in childhood. Growing up in North Omaha I found myself attracted to the wonder of certain words, usually multi-syllabic tongue twisters I heard television talking-heads wittily brandish. I also fell under the near fatal spell of alliteration.

I believe my real fascination with language stemmed from seeing my late father working his crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper and occasionally immersing himself in a book. Then there was the colorful vernacular he used around the house and that my extended family, who lived in South Omaha, used. Sprinkled in with the cuss words were  idiomatic descriptives favored by my father’s white-collar clan, whose expressions were just different enough from those of my mother’s blue-collar bunch, to stand them apart. Further seasoning this verbal stew were stray Polish words from my father’s side and occasional Italian words from my mother’s side. It was a multicultural linguistics education. As our all-white inner-city neighborhood became mixed, African-Americans introduced me to another rich vein of language flavored by their Southern roots and urban Northern street culture.

“….the simple joy of playing with words is the main

appeal to me.”

Even with all those influences I do not believe I would have been drawn to writing were it not for the Marvel comic books and high school English lit books I inherited from my older brothers. These stimulating hand-me-downs were enhanced by the periodicals that came into our home, particularly Sports Illustrated. By the time my brother Dan started writing his own personal sports column, just for the sheer pleasure of it. I, too, discovered writing could be fun. Later I found out what hard work it is. As teachers encouraged my efforts, I stretched myself. In high school I was recruited to write for the school paper and that led me to study journalism in college.

Even now, as a journalist and author, the simple joy of playing with words is the main appeal to me. Follow my work telling the stories of people, their passions and magnificent obsessions at leoadambiga.wordpress.com or http://www.facebook.com/LeoAdamBiga.

 

About Leo

Leo Adam Biga is a working journalist who contributes articles to newspapers and magazines. He is also the author of Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film, a collectionleo of the writer’s extensive journalism about the Oscar-winning filmmaker. Additionally, Biga is the coeditor ifMemories of the Jewish Midwest: Mom and Pop Grocery Stores and the author of two e-books for the Omaha Public Schools.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha graduate worked in public relations (Joslyn Art Museum) before becoming a freelance writer. His published stories for dailies, weeklies, monthlies and quarterlies number well over a thousand. As a generalist he writes about a broad range of subjects, though most of his work is arts and culture-based.

He is finishing the biography of a retired Catholic priest who served marginalized populations around the world and he has plans for more nonfiction books. A new edition of his Payne book is in-progress.

Sample his eclectic work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com or http://www.facebook.com/LeoAdamBiga.

NOTE: His partner, artist Pamela Jo Berry, is a past Livelihood subject. Read more about Pamela Jo Berry here: http://bit.ly/YAt45c.

 

2013 in review for leoadambiga.wordpress.com blog

December 31, 2013 Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 88,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Thanks to everyone who stopped off to view the blog and special thanks to those who stayed and visited awhile and returned again.

As of this posting (Dec. 31, 2013), my blog has been viewed more than 316,000 times in its three-and-a-half year history.  Not bad for a site that repurposes my previously published work as a journalist and author.   I love sharing my work with others and I appreciate finding new audiences for what I write.

If you’re not already, please consider being a regular follower of my blog.

Until my next post, Happy New Year!

Click here to see the complete report.

Author Scott Muskin – What’s a Nice Jewish Boy Like You Doing Writing About All this Mishigas?

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

 

One of the best reads for me the last few years was Scott Muskin’s debut novel, The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama’s Boy and Scholar, and the story below is my attempt to make sense of the 2009 book and its author, whose work has gained him some measure of noteriety.  Expectantly awaiting his next novel.

 

Scott Muskin

 

 

 

Author Scott Muskin – What’s a Nice Jewish Boy Like You Doing Writing About All this Mishigas?

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally published in Jewish Press

Omaha native Scott Muskin’s well-received first novel, The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama’s Boy and Scholar, tells a funny, enlightened, inconvenient journey of self-discovery taken by the title’s protagonist-narrator. This satirical adventure leaves Hank scarred, liberated and, better-late-than-never, wised-up.

The novel was the inaugural (2007) winner of the Parthenon Prize for Fiction, a national competition to boost unknown authors.The Prize, which honored Annunciations out of more than 350 submissions, netted Muskin $8,000, plus a full, traditional book publishing contract. The final judge was author Tony Earley (Jim the Boy). Muskin will be in Omaha for a 1 p.m. Bookworm signing on April 18.

Annunciations was released this winter by Hooded Friar Press, a Nashville, Tenn.-based literary house that describes itself as “dedicated to publishing high-quality books by new authors.” Muskin’s clearly arrived as a new voice deserving attention.

He’s the son of Omahans Linda and Alan Muskin, members of Beth El Synagogue. His mother was a Millard Public Schools teacher. His father owned Youngtown, a chain of stores selling children’s furniture, toys, assundries. Alan’s father and Scott’s grandfather, Stuart Muskin, co-founded Youngtown, originally a Kiddie-Cut-Rate. The father character in Annunciations is a toy merchant from Omaha whose two boys, Hank and Carlton, were raised there. Most of the book’s set in Minneapolis, where Muskin and his wife Andrea Bidelman live in a 1920s stucco faux-Tudor home near Lake Nokomis. Muskin’s anchored the fiction in a reality he knows.

His story’s a modern, urban walkabout for a middle-class, secular American Jew who’s somehow managed to graduate college, start a career and marry without ever really finding himself or figuring out what he needs. Much less how to get it. His dysfunctional family is a case study. Smart, charming Hank’s schlepped through life, failing to hold himself accountable, letting old wounds fester, ignoring the very things that fill him with unresolved anger, unanswered questions, unfulfilled desires, unmitigated regret. An academic and free spirit by nature, he’s more attuned to Emily Dickinson arcania than to real life emotions and actions.

“Hank expected more of himself. He had larger dreams, of living a more passionate life,” Muskin said by way of analysis in a phone interview from his home in the Twin Cities. “When he starts to act on those, that’s when the trouble starts. Be careful what you wish for — that’s what’s driving the plot of the novel.”

Hank, a smart-alleck nebish who cops a superior attitude, is long overdue a comeuppance and he gets a doozy. Along the way, the putz learns to be a mensch.

Well-meaning in that lackadaisical way men are, Hank’s flippant defiance mucks up the works whether dealing with his estranged wife Carol Ann, distant father Daniel, troubled brother Carlton or the memory of his dead mother. Morally weak Hank acts out with his sister-in-law June and promptly runs away from his problems. Like an addict who believes the world revolves around him and conspires against him, Hank’s submerged in a bathos of ego, lust, self-pity, resentment and entitlement. A saving grace is his humor, which can cut through the clutter of his myopic vision.

It’s a witty and poignant exploration of the self-centered male psyche in identity crisis. Hank represents a type of male many women are familiar with — the kind who require a rude awakening to grow up. His stumbling, guilt-ridden initiation into adulthood rings true. Especially resonant is his strained relationship with his father and brother, who represent aspects of himself and his past he’d rather forget.

“I think one of the central dynamics of the book is that tension between silence and the unspoken energy in a family or in a relationship and the ways that that silence ends up finding voice,” said Muskin. “It’s not like it’s not there. It’s just being said in different ways. A lot of the interactions between the characters are animated by the ways it’s being unsaid. It does come out sometimes quite messily.”

Like most first novels Annunciations is personal. Muskin wrote it, in part, as a catharsis for the rough patch he went through around the time he started it.

“Well, I was getting divorced at the time or I was just divorced,” he said, thus the book is on one level “a working out of some of those things.”

The drama. Life happens.

“And I then found this voice to fictionalize it, which is a must. You’ve got to fictionalize it,” he said, otherwise it’s a self-indulgent rant. “I’m into real people and the real struggles they go through. Flaws and idiosyncratic obsessions — everyone’s got them. Shining a light on people who take a hard look at those things in themselves I find fascinating.”

Muskin found in Hank a literary avatar.

“I’m a quite biographical writer in terms of being able to find the emotional core of a situation if I’ve been through it or somehow been there. I then turn it or filter it through the prism of the character, and that’s important because then it forces you to think about the character’s perspective on things. You create three dimensionalites just by doing that — the interaction of the author, the character and the reader. It’s a way of getting closer to the universal.”

 

How close is Scott to Hank and vice versa?

“There’s a lot of similarities between me and Hank,” said his creator, “but there’s also a lot of differences, and the differences were more generative and healthier for the novel then were our similarities.”

For example, Muskin has a sister, not a brother, and the two of them get on fine. Finding the right voice for his protagonist let Muskin examine sibling rivalry.

“The book really took shape when I stumbled upon this voice,” he said. “I had been reading Richard Ford’s Independence Day and I remember thinking, ‘This is the kind of voice I want — a narrator who’s introspective but sardonic, thoughtful but sharp-witted, sharp-tongued. In essence, complex and likable and not likable.’ That’s the protagonist I wanted. I tried to steal that voice for a short story, not very successfully. Only when I put it into my own context did it begin to take shape.”

Short story writing was Muskin’s literary form of choice at the time. He’d had success placing pieces in literary journals and magazines. A collection by him was a finalist for the 2005 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. While his stories earned him admiration and praise and some were published individually, he said “no one was terribly interested” in publishing them as a collection.

A mentor of his in graduate school at the University of Minnesota first suggested his talents might best lay in novel writing.

“One of my teachers, Julie Schumacher, pushed me. She said, ‘You ought to write a novel. You seem like a natural for it,’ and I took that to heart, and I finally hit upon a voice that I felt could sustain the novel for the reader.”

So, what did Schumacher see that made her nudge him along the novelist’s path?

“She said that I was writing longish short stories anyway. It’s not uncommon for me working on a short story to generate 60 pages,” Muskin noted, “and that’s kind of a tough road to hoe because long short stories have less of a chance of getting published in magazines and things.”

Besides, he was already creating fiction from real life, lending it “a richness and complexity of character relationships, particularly family relationships, which are a lot of times the bread and butter of novels.” Except, he said, “I was expounding more than evoking.” It left him unsure if he was up to penning a fully-realized novel.

“I know a lot of writers who say, ‘My first novel’s still in a drawer,’ and I was terrified of that happening. It’s a terrifying endeavor to spend so much time on something and to not know what you have until you share it with a trusted reader. I wanted to make sure it was not puerile and jejune because first novels tend to be personal and you’re working out a lot of your own bullshit. I was certainly doing that, but I was hoping I was doing other things, too, to achieve like a universality.”

It was the fall of 2003 when Muskin delved into the project.

“I spent a month and a half in upstate New York at an arts colony. I did a lot of writing there. I just started writing and it sort of all spilled out. And I might have thought this would be a short story (to begin with) but as soon as I realized I was onto something I wanted to keep going with it.”

The novel’s development, which proceeded at different arts colonies, entailed a search.

“I started fumbling around for a narrative archetype to hang a story onto. I read a lot of Greek and Roman mythology and they’re just so great for giving evocative narratives where the grand passions are on display, and that’s what I felt I had in Hank — a grand passion he was trying to express.”

 

 

 

 Muskin makes his living as a creative director for Olson advertising

 

The evolutionary process of writing meant Muskin was open to literary influences and to reconfiguring plot lines, characters, et cetera. “I had envisioned the Carlton character as a friend whose domestic life Hank was going to be jealous of,” he said, “but once I realized Carlton wasn’t a friend but a brother that’s when I felt I had the triangulation I needed.”

The triptych of two brothers in conflict with each other and with their dissatisfied traveling salesman father hints at Death of a Salesman.

“That is definitely one of the archetypes,” said Muskin. “That Willie Loman character weighs heavily in this book, from the dad’s point of view. After all, he is a traveling salesman who’s not connected to his sons. His boys are competitive. And he has a favorite son. I’d be stupid to say I’m going to ignore” the parallels to that part of the Arthur Miller play, added Muskin, who said he took great pains to not make Daniel Meyerson “a postcard character” that’s a pale imitation of Loman.

Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March was another model of sorts. Muskin used an excerpt from the Nobel Prize-winner’s novel to set out the theme of Annunciations: “In any true life you must go and be exposed outside the small circle that encompasses two or three heads in the same history of love. Try and stay, though, inside. See how long you can.” The quotation from Augie is used by Muskin as an epigraph, along with a quote from an unpublished Emily Dickinson poem: “A single thrill can end a life or open it forever.”

For Muskin, it became important “to keep” Annunciations “true to” the Bellows observation that a life “encompassing the same circle of love” poses complications by the proximity of that love. “That was pretty powerful for me,” said Muskin, who was inspired to “have a novel where we have only four or five characters and they’re all related to one another — strong ties that you can’t really do without, and that Hank tries to do without. It generated the plot for me that Hank would stray from his marriage with his sister-in-law. It all kind of folds in on itself.”

The author doesn’t conceal his appreciation for Bellows. “I’m a big fan,” said Muskin, who enjoys how dense Augie is “with voice…thought patterns. Bellows gets into the micro-micro of this character’s life.” Muskin said when he employed a similar approach in looking at the minutiae of Hank’s life “things really took off.”

Muskin’s style has also been compared to that of Jonathan Franzen and Philip Roth.

Unlike many writers who come to their craft through reading Muskin flipped the script by having his early passion for writing spark his later reading habit.

“I always wrote, but I didn’t always read,” he said. “Maybe it’s a boy thing — the opposite of girls stereotypically always involved in a book. I can’t really say it wasn’t because books weren’t around, but I didn’t really dive in until later in life.”

“Key teachers were very important,” he said in recognizing his talent. “In 1st grade I wrote a poem about trees that my teacher actually accused me of plagiarizing. I was mortally offended. We worked it all out. I remember my parents and her having several conversations about how creative I was with language.”

Encouragement continued through elementary school (Columbian), junior high (Horace Mann) and high school (Burke). He earned his bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College (Iowa) and his master’s from Minnesota. He’s well-ensconced up north by now but he admits he gets verklempt being away from family in Nebraska.

It was never in the cards for him to take over for his dad at Youngtown, which Scott helped the father close out. Writing was always in the young man’s future.

Freelance copywriting jobs permit Muskin’s literary pursuits. A stable income’s more important now that he and his wife are parents to a baby girl, Campbell. Around the gigs that pay the bills he toils on literary projects from the home office he built in his spacious garage, which looks out onto a garden.

“I’m working on several short stories,” he said. “They’re in the drawer phase right now because I’m not sure what I have. I’m working on a new novel. I just got a grant to do some research for it in Spain. It’s about a grandfather-grandson relationship. They’re both at a crossroads in life. The grandfather’s a larger-than-life character. They’re going to have adventures — I’m just not sure what yet. It’s also going to cover the grandfather’s Sephardic Jewish experience. It’s something I don’t know much about. I just starting getting into this. It’ll examine this sense of dislocation and loss — of being a minority within a minority.”

Never one to maintain a rigid writing schedule, Muskin said, “I’m a firm believer that life should be lived. There can’t be one without the other. It’s a balance thing.”


Writer, Wanderer, Waitress: Author Colleen Reilly Follows Her Father’s Footsteps with Her Published Books

November 29, 2011 1 comment

 

The late Bob Reilly was a mentor of mine.  The former public relations-advertising executive taught journalism at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for several years.  He was a husband, father, and grandfather of a large Irish Catholic family.  He was a raconteur.  He was an encourager.  But most of all, he was a writer.  He published scores of articles and books.  One of his books, The Fighting Prince of Donegal, was optioned by Disney and made into a feature film whose script he helped write.  At least two of his children became writers, Hugh and Colleen, and here I profile the latter.  Colleen is, as the main title or headline, a writer, wanderer, and sometime waitress who, much like her father Bob did, lives a full life that somehow also leaves room for insatiable reading and writing.

 

 

 

 

Writer, Wanderer, Waitress: Author Colleen Reilly Follows Her Father’s Footsteps with Her Published Books

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally appeared in the City Weekly

 

Independence is something Colleen Reilly cherishes. Long marching to the beat of a distant drummer, this twice-married mother of two has chafed at conformity from the time she was a young woman, when she left behind the security of her large Irish Catholic family for a new life overseas.

A daughter of Omaha author and former UNO professor Robert Reilly, she’s followed in her father’s footsteps to become both a writer and teacher, but has also journeyed far afield from her family, faith and homeland. She first left the States in 1968 to attend college in Ireland, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature and where she met her first husband. She returned to the U.S. only long enough to receive her master’s in English lit and give birth to her first child. Hungry to see more of the world and to make a fresh start for themselves, in 1973 she, then-husband Pat and son Declan moved lock-stock-and-barrel to New Zealand, which she called home for 20 years.

Down Under, she enjoyed her status as an American expatriate abroad. Hailing from a family of artists, actors, writers and attorneys, she forged a career as an American literature professor (at Victoria University of Wellington) before heeding her birthright and taking pen in hand. She wrote criticism for newspapers and eventually authored two novels and a book of short stories, all of which were published.

When home beckoned to her, she returned to America in 1994, resettling in the South with her second husband, Pearce, an over-the-road truck driver. Once here, she again chose an unconventional path by eschewing the comfortable life of an academic to work instead as a waitress and as a semi driver alongside her mate. “I don’t think Dad likes to hear this, but I am prouder of learning to drive a big truck than I am of my books or my degrees or anything else because it was so out of character and so far from my upbringing,” she said. “It was a huge challenge. I’ve heard so many women say, ‘I’ve always wanted to drive a truck.’ My mother is one of them. And I did it, and I’m so proud of that.”

 

Hunter Building, Victoria University of Wellington

Unlike teaching, which she enjoyed but felt shackled by, waiting tables and hauling freight have provided enough freedom for her to pursue her two passions — reading and writing. Then in 1998, spurred by a desire to be by her aging and ailing parents (Her father endured a quadruple bypass and her mother developed Alzheimer’s), this prodigal daughter finally came back to Omaha, where she and Pearce now live in “a cottage” of a house in Benson, mere blocks from where she grew up. While he continues driving an 18-wheeler, she writes at home during the day and waits tables at Trovato’s at night. As her agent searches for a publisher for her latest novel, Reilly’s sense of wanderlust keeps her dreaming of traveling to distant lands and of one day returning to New Zealand, where she and Pearce keep a home.

Reilly first felt the call to adventure at 17, when she went off to attend University College Dublin. The Emerald Isle is a special place for her Irish Catholic clan (She is one of 10 brothers and sisters.). Her father is a devotee of Irish literature and has written articles and books relating to various aspects of Irish heritage and lore. Colleen came to Ireland a “young naive American” and left a little older and wiser. It was 1968 and her mod apparel and liberal views were not accepted. Then there was the fallout from the Vietnam War.

“There was some holding me accountable.” Hardly an Ugly American, she was in fact an anti-war sympathizer. In between her studies, she tramped across the countryside. “Every holiday I had I’d go somewhere in Ireland. I don’t think there’s any corner of Ireland I haven’t seen. It’s a beautiful country. I miss it. I miss the talk. I don’t mean talking with people, but the eavesdropping talk of just sitting in a pub and just listening to these people’s amazing verbal facility.”

 

University College Dublin

 

 

 

She also made forays into London and Paris, but regrets not seeing more of Europe when she had the chance. She has since traveled with Pearce to Morocco, Belize and other far-flung spots.

Aside from her travels, her major exploration has been an intellectual one. From early childhood on, reading has consumed her. She did dabble in writing, even winning a national scholastic poetry contest at 16 while a student at Marian High School, but it was reading not writing that sustained her and that continues sustaining her. “Reading is my real passion,” she said. “I still think of myself more as a reader than a writer. I can’t imagine not reading. It’s my great joy. I probably read five novels a week. I’m a great haunter of the new book shelves in the library and of second-hand book stores. If I bought new all the books I read, we’d be bankrupt.” She estimates her book collection numbers in the thousands.

By her late teens she got hooked on Russian literature. Her experience in The Old Country introduced in her a love for the great Irish writers. Then, while working on her M.A. at UNO she steeped herself in American literature and discovered the book that continues to stir her most deeply — Herman Melville’s masterpiece Moby Dick. “I just fell in love with that book. I’ve probably read it now 18 times, both to teach it and just for pleasure.” For her, Melville’s epic yet intimate fiction delivers everything she seeks in a book.

“The ideas. The passion and the compassion. The way he gives us both Ishmael and Ahab, two extreme American types, and lets you choose and makes you realize there’s heroism in each. And also the poetry of his language. In this 600-page novel you can take a paragraph and see the alliteration there that you would normally ascribe to poetry, not fiction, especially not in a 600-page fiction. It’s everything. It’s the beauty of the language, the beauty of his exploration of the ideas. Everything.”

Upon completing her M.A. in landlocked Nebraska Reilly followed an Ishmael-like hankering to be by the sea again. She wanted to return to Ireland while her then husband, Pat Cox, wanted to stay in America. So, they compromised and headed with their infant son Declan for New Zealand, which owing to Cox’s English citizenship granted all three permanent residency with minimal red-tape. For their home, they chose the sea-side capitol, Wellington, and never looked back.

“It’s on the southern tip of the north island,” she said. “It’s a beautiful hilly city surrounded by the sea. People say it looks a lot like San Francisco.” The place still exerts a powerful pull on her. It’s where her second son, Eoin, was born and where both her boys, now adults, still live. It’s where her best friends reside. Where she blossomed as a writer. And where she met her second husband, Pearce Carey, a fellow reading enthusiast.

“I miss my kids so much. I only get back to see them once a year. I miss them. I miss my friends. I miss the sea. We still keep a home in New Zealand where we will one day retire to. I would like to be back there by the time I’m 55, which is three years from now. I definitely intend to live out my old age there. I love New Zealanders. I love their humor. Their humor, like Australian humor, is a great distance from tragedy. They have a great sense of irony and fun. There’s just none of the self-pity and none of the victim mentality and none of the get-even mentality we have.”

 

Words carry more than the usual import for Reilly, who early on felt the expectations of her writer-father to display a like appreciation for and prowess with language. The pressure to write, as much self-imposed as anything, weighed heavily on her.

“Being Dad’s daughter there was this desire to please him and a feeling I should write. That made it difficult for me,” she said. However, she long ago overcame any timidity about him reading her work and now routinely trusts him to give uncensored feedback. Unlike her father, who writes every day, she struggles maintaining even the semblance of a strict schedule. “I still don’t write regularly. I’m constantly beating myself up for that. I just don’t have that kind of discipline. I’ll sometimes go two years before writing anything or I’ll get two chapters into something and then not finish it. When I am writing it’s never for more than three hours at a time. I’ll find anything to keep me away from it.”

After winning that youth poetry contest at 16 Reilly did not write again, save for academic papers, until almost 31. She only resumed it in the fallout of a personal crisis. “I did have a nervous breakdown. By that I mean all the defenses that had worked no longer worked, so I had to make new ones.”

Although she said there was nothing specific to trigger the breakdown, she had been in “a passionless marriage” that ended in divorce and that left her with two young kids to raise alone. And that’s when she sought comfort in the one thing that had always given her solace — words. “I remember talking with my best friend, Margaret, in the middle of all my crying and this stuff you do and saying, ‘I have to write,’ and her saying, like a typical New Zealander, ‘Yeah, so why don’t you? What’s the big deal?’”  With such help, Reilly pulled herself together and got on with the business of living and writing. The fruits of her early work were a novella and several short stories, which were published in a collection of her short fiction.

Her short stories, along with the novels that followed, focus on loneliness and alienation, apt subjects for an introspective expatriate estranged from the religion she was raised in and separated so long from the family she grew up in.

“The theme of loneliness comes up again and again and again,” she said. “Different kinds of loneliness. Sometimes it’s a romantic loneliness. Sometimes it’s spiritual. Sometimes it’s social. But it’s all about…how not to be lonely, if one cannot be lonely, especially if you haven’t got the consolation of a religious belief, which I don’t have, and if you haven’t got the consolation of some great meaning to life, which I don’t have.”

The separation she’s felt in her own life reverberates in her work. Her first novel, Christine (Allen & Unwin, 1988), is set in Omaha and Maine and offers a protagonist isolated from family and other ties by venturing far from home in an attempt to live alone in a seaside town. The title character is obsessed with the idea of a twin brother, whose life begins to assume a greater reality than the world around her. Once ‘cured,’ there is the question of how much Christine has given up in the process. Although Reilly completed Christine before starting her second novel, The Deputy Head (Allen & Unwin, 1986), the latter novel was published first. The Deputy Head concerns an uptight New Zealand high school principal and his rigid Anglophile views of and stagnant relationships with women.

Her latest novel, For Caroline, is the first she is trying to find an American publisher for and she expects its provocative take on abused women will make it a hard sell.

“It’s about an 80-year-old man and this obsession he has with this girl-into-a-woman named Caroline, which starts when she is an infant. It’s not a sexual thing. It’s a protective thing. He wants to protect her from the abusive men she’s attracted to. It’s written from his point of view and describes 50-odd years of protecting her. He blames mothers and specifically her mother for giving their daughters such low self-esteem that they will be attracted to abusive men. The first sentence of the book is, ‘All mothers hate their daughters…’ It’s politically-incorrect in that he believes the advice given to abused women is ridiculous. That instead of working things out it just should be, Get angry and get out. I’ll be surprised if I get a publisher, because it’s virtually saying the opposite of what’s being told women.”

While awaiting word on her novel’s publication prospects, she seeks a publisher for a piece she’s written on the hazards of waitressing, something she’s had seven years of experience doing. Beyond the occasional bad customer, she, like many an artist, has found a certain bliss in waiting tables.

“I really like it. I like the freedom more than anything, especially compared with teaching. When you’re a teacher, you never check out. You never leave the job. With waitressing, you clock in and you clock out. It’s the mental freedom you have. That’s the way writers should live.”

Teaching is something she’s considered resuming but always balks at after calculating she “can make twice as much waiting tables — and without the headaches. Besides, there’s all sorts of ways I feel like I’m still a teacher here with all the young people I work with. Granted, I’m more a teacher in life than in literature, but so what? I always have Pearce or Dad to discuss literature with.”

LEOADAMBIGA.WORDPRESS.COM Seeking Sponsors and Collaborators: I Write About People, Their Passions and Their Magnificent Obsessions

October 18, 2011 1 comment

LEOADAMBIGA.WORDPRESS.COM Seeking Sponsors and Collaborators: I Write About People, Their Passions and Their Magnificent Obsessions

As a steadily growing blog with now 400-plus unique visitors a day, leoadambiga.wordpress.com is seeking sponsorship.  If you are a media company or angel investor or arts-culture-journalism patron and you see value in supporting a dynamic and popular blog site that tells the stories of people, their passions, and their magnificent obsessions, then contact blog author and host, Leo Adam Biga at leo32158@cox.net or 402-445-4666.

The site is also a ready-made platform for convergence journalism opportunities that add audio and visual streaming elements to posts. Addiitionally, the site is a platform for potential story series, books, documentaries, and other projects. Multi-media project proposals are welcome. Please note that Leo Adam Biga is also open to working with collaborators, including writers, artists, photographers, and filmmakers, on select monetized projects. If you have a project in mind, contact Biga at the above email or phone number.

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