KY/AMP: Hello Sonia and thanks for being with us at AuthorMeProfessionals. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What inspired you to write your first book?
I am a lawyer, feminist and community activist, writer, and public speaker. I was born in Berlin, Germany, of Polish parents in 1928, with whom I fled Germany to escape the Holocaust. In the US, I played a historic role in the second wave of the women’s movement since I was a founder of NOW (National Organization for Women) and the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). I wanted to memorialize my life and my role in the women’s movement. That was one of the reasons I wrote a memoir. Another was that my parents had lived a lifestyle that due to the Holocaust was passing from view and I wanted to preserve their lives, too.
APKY/AMP: That’s really admirable. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
I write nonfiction. I have no ability to write in other genres.
APKY/AMP: You’ll never know until you try, Sonia. J Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I have written a memoir, not a novel. There is no particular message I want readers to grasp other than I would like them to know the truth about the incidents and period of history about which I wrote.
APKY/AMP: Now that’s a very valid reason right there! History has to be preserved. What have you had published to-date?
I have had one memoir published and many articles published. The articles have been published online and offline in all sorts of media—in magazines, newspapers, on websites, and in anthologies.
APKY/AMP: Okay. Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you’re driven to write, write. If you have a story to tell, tell it. Get whatever training is available to improve your writing and marketing skills. Marketing your book is at least as important as writing it.
APKY/AMP: Very valuable advice especially in this day and age of eBooks and ePublishing. Why should we buy your book?
My book is written with humor and is an enjoyable read. It tells about human situations and about a historic revolution in women’s rights. It has something for everyone. It is available in hard copy, soft cover, and on Kindle. The Kindle edition is available for $2.99 to make it accessible to all. Amazon.com has used copies available in excellent condition very reasonably.
APKY/AMP: I hope our interested readers will head straight to these sites. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
I’ve done all the marketing for my memoir and articles I write by myself as I was never able to connect with an agent I found satisfactory.
APKY/AMP: You’re not alone there. Maybe you could teach me how to market my books as well. J Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
I have not entered any writing competitions and have therefore not won or been shortlisted in any.
APKY/AMP: Well, maybe you’ll give it a try some day. Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
I write at my desktop computer at my desk.
APKY/AMP: Right. I’m sometimes too lazy and handwrite my notes in bed! Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
I do not write under a pseudonym. That would destroy my purpose, which is to communicate the facts of my life and my parents’ lives to my readers.
APKY/AMP: It clearly would. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
I never found an agent I was happy with. I think an agent may very well be vital to an author’s success.
APKY/AMP: If only they were more accessible (sigh, sigh). What are you working on at the moment / next?
I am currently working on drafting a speech on the “Revolution in American Women’s Legal Rights and the Problems that Remain” to be delivered Oct. 24, 2012, at the Cornell University School of Law.
APKY/AMP: Great. I wish you all the best with it. Do you manage to write every day?
I certainly write something every day, even if it just email.
APKY/AMP: That’s an original to this question, Sonia. J What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
I’m certain that it exists. Sometimes, the words come easier than others. I have suffered from it. Sometimes, I deal with it by trying to write anyway hoping the words will come; at other times, I wait for a better time. It helps me get started if I have a deadline.
APKY/AMP: Right, the famous back to the wall for inspiration. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and off you are with it?
I write nonfiction. Generally, my writing is the result of my having had an experience that I feel compelled to reduce to paper.
APKY/AMP: Right again. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
The first person I show my writing to is a dear friend who lives in Montana who is a crack editor. I ask for her opinion, suggestions, and editing.
APKY/AMP: We all need such a friend. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
I am a skilled editor and frequently edit (but not professionally) other people’s writing, so, of course, I also do a lot of editing of my own work.
APKY/AMP: Perhaps you could edit some of mine? I’d be thrilled! Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
I write only on the computer. I have been an excellent typist since I studied typing in high school and I think while typing. I have a poor handwriting and writing by hand is much too slow for me.
APKY/AMP: Correct. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Since I write only nonfiction, everything I write is in the first person.
APKY/AMP: What do you like to read?
I generally read nonfiction. I like biography, autobiography and memoirs. Sometimes I read plays and sometimes I read outstanding fiction.
APKY/AMP: Okay. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
I enjoy socializing and conversing with friends, dining out, reading, giving speeches, and going to lectures, movies, concerts and theater. Sometimes, I travel. I work out with a trainer and attend a water exercise class regularly.
AMP: Quite a handful of hobbies. Where can we find out about you and your work?
I have a website: http://www.erraticimpact.com/fuentes Also, if you go to google.com and type in “Sonia Pressman Fuentes,” you’ll find seemingly endless entries about me.
APKY/AMP: You must be quite popular then! Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
APKY/AMP: Thank you, Sonia. I invite you to include an extract of your writing.
An excerpt from my memoir follows.
My father always liked to bring things home. He
believed that it was the responsibility of the head of the
household to bring provisions into the house, and he
performed this duty assiduously, whether the goods were
needed or not. If no one else had use for them, he would
find a use. Nor was he particular about the means of
acquiring these things. Legitimacy of acquisition was not
one of his standards. He might receive items through
purchase, gift, barter, or a more unsavory means. The
important thing was to bring something home to cast
before my mother's often-horrified eyes. He brought home
an endless supply of dirty towels cast up on the beach; an
expensive German camera that someone had sold him;
and huge containers of fruits and vegetables that produce
merchants gave him in exchange for the fish he caught.
Mother dutifully baked pies with the peaches and
blueberries and made casseroles of the vegetables. When
Father wasn't looking, she would retrieve all the dirty
towels around the house and throw them out. She would
sooner have walked on burning coals than permit a
stranger's towels to mix with her own, even in the most
thorough of washing machines.
When we were living in Long Beach, Long Island, New York, in the early '50s,
Father brought home an unusual item--at least, for a man
with 20/20 vision--a pair of dark, horn-rimmed spectacles
he found one morning in front of Hermann's candy store.
He then proceeded to put these glasses on as he read the
Forverts--the Jewish Daily Forward. Mother and I were
alarmed that Father might be harming his eyes by wearing
these glasses. Our distress was heightened when we
learned the identity of the owner of the glasses perched so
jauntily on Father's ample nose. One day, Mr. Weinberg
came into my brother, Hermann's, store, wondering if he might have
left his glasses there. Weinberg, an elderly Jew who lived
with his wife and adult daughter, was a friend of our
family. After Weinberg left the store, despite all our
entreaties, Father stated that he had no intention of
returning the glasses. He defended his position with two
arguments. First, he went into an involved legal analysis
of the law of personal property and its application to lost
articles. He concluded that as Weinberg's glasses had
been found in front of his son's store, the Pressmans had
acquired legitimate ownership of them. His second
theory, pronounced in his most sonorous judicial tone,
was that he had no proof that these were in fact
Weinberg's glasses. Weinberg, who was then wandering
about the streets of Long Beach groping his way, might
have made the whole story up.
There was nothing to be done. Like his hero, Winston
Churchill, who hadn't become Prime Minister of the
British Empire to oversee its destruction, Father hadn't
fought his way up from the streets of Piltz to relinquish
his booty now. The glasses would not be returned.
Hermann surreptitiously gave Weinberg money on some
pretext to cover the purchase of new glasses, which, when
Father saw them, only confirmed his theory that
Weinberg had not lost his glasses in the first place.
Years went by. We moved from Long Beach to Miami
Beach, Florida, and Mother and I no longer had to live in dread of
Weinberg's walking into our house unexpectedly and
discovering Father wearing his glasses. But Mother and I
continued to be worried about possible damage to Father's
eyes. He was using "Weinberg's glasses," as they came to
be known around our house, more and more: for reading,
driving, TV, the movies. Something had to be done.
Finally, Father succumbed to years of prodding. He
and Mother had recently purchased a new home in North
Miami Beach, and--as befitted a new homeowner in
"Florida's Finest Residential Community"--he finally
agreed to go forth, flanked by Mother and me, to be fitted
for his own spectacles.
We could not, of course, divulge the origin of
"Weinberg's glasses" to the optometrist. Instead, we told
him that Father had been having difficulty with his
reading and, therefore, thought he might need a new pair
of glasses. He wanted a thorough eye checkup. The
optometrist proceeded to put Father through the standard
eye examination. This was difficult because Father
couldn't read English--but somehow he managed to let the
optometrist know what he saw and when he saw it.
Mother and I were already congratulating ourselves on
finally getting rid of "Weinberg's glasses" when the
optometrist, with a bewildered look on his face, said, "I
don't understand why you've been having trouble, Mr.
Pressman. The glasses you're wearing are exactly the right
prescription for you." Father beamed, and Mother and I
knew we were beaten. We collected "Weinberg's glasses"
and went home.
Some years later, when I came home from Washington
for a visit, I was astonished to find Father reading the
paper with a spanking new pair of glasses perched
crookedly on the bridge of his nose. "Mom," I shouted in
amazement, "Is that what I think it is? Has Daddy gotten
himself a new pair of glasses?"
"Yes," came back my Mother's voice. It sounded
strangely resigned. "He found them last week. On the
I shuddered a moment, thinking of the latest Weinberg
stumbling about somewhere on Miami Beach. But it was
only for a moment. Then I realized that I was home again,
and Father hadn't changed at all. Impulsively, I reached
out to embrace him in a great big hug, knocking the
glasses right off his face. He didn't seem to mind.
Copyright 1999 by Sonia Pressman Fuentes
APKY/AMP: Once again, thank you.