Wednesday, February 8, 2012

O, Pamela, Where Art Thou?

by Elizabeth

So it's been over a year since we drew names and I did a happy dance realizing I would get to interview Pamela for the blog. And now, finally, readers get their own day of joyful jigging as the interview at last sees light. While we can cast dour looks at my mug shot to the right, another way to look at this belated meet-and-greet is to consider the pleasure of anticipation. Plus, the day this posts (also known as "today") will be Pamela's birthday!* So let's celebrate her big 2-9 (or the anniversary of it, anyway); grab a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and say hello to Pamela Hammonds.

EL: Pamela, first of all, happy birthday! But enough of that, let's talk about me. Oops, I meant about you. You've mentioned before how you met Joan and Kim and Susan via what some would call butting-in, if it were me doing it. Would you say this is a characteristic trait, or did stepping outside yourself bring about these relationships? And in each case, were you aware that you were acting beyond your normal boundaries?

PH: Thanks for the birthday wish, though I admit I am not 29. I wouldn't even want to be! As far as your question, I'm not a big butter, I don't think, but I do remember times when opportunity passed me by and I found myself regretting not having acted upon an impulse, so I'm more of a seize-ist, perhaps. When I attended the writers' group, where I met Joan and Kim, I had gone a bit out of my way to be there and didn't want to leave not having accomplished something. Susan, I had been sorta stalking all morning, having seen her across the room at the writers' conference we were attending. She looked like someone I should meet and so I did. Worked out pretty well, I'd say! No regrets at all. And, of course, had you and I not met through Joan, I would have found you too, somehow. Same for Julie.

EL: When did you first think of yourself as a writer? How about a novelist?

PH: Oh, you can dig through my boxes in the attic and find a story or two that I did many moons ago, but I don't think I thought of myself as a writer until I got paid to do it. (Tells you a little about my value system, I suppose.) My first paying gig was working as a stringer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. I answered a want-ad for a writer, part-time, work from home and was shocked when they called because I didn't think I was qualified. My beat was reporting on high schools. I had to find my own stories, take my own photos, etc. but I loved it. I was new to the area and it got me out of the house, driving around the town. It was a great two-year stint and really helped me hone my skills along with learning AP style, which looks stellar on a resume. (kidding) I won't consider myself a novelist until I'm published. I guess right now I'm a manuscriptist.

EL: We've talked a lot about our annual retreats here on the blog. What about them do you find personally beneficial?

The camaraderie and the late nights around the table listening to each others' stories make me eternally grateful for what I have here. Plus it holds me accountable for getting words on the page.

EL: When I think about your life so far, I see you in a number of varied roles that changed with various circumstances. For instance, you were very clearly a "mom-of-boys" for something like a dozen years until you got the surprise gift of a baby girl. You've also lived in a number of different places. How have your many hats affected your fiction?

Pamela's children
PH: I think children certainly influence writing but more than boys vs. girls, my children are all very different creatures. I have one whose passion is music; another who announces his presence in a room with the tap-tap-tap of his feet smacking a soccer ball as he walks. My girl is not very girly at all but seems cognizant of all that is girly in that she has dolls and a Caboodle that she'll drag out when friends come to play. But she's feisty and comfortable in her own skin, which I'm hoping she holds close. I think the fact that I grew up in the Midwest, moved to LA, moved to Alabama (lived there for 10 years) moved back to the Midwest and now live in Texas--along with all the friends I've amassed over my lifetime--has made me aware of place as it pertains to story. I have a fondness for Southern fiction and will always feel as though I belong on a front porch swing with a glass of iced tea in my hand. I think of Indiana as a place I'm from but the south is where I feel I belong.

EL: Is there a writer whose career gives you particular inspiration--or hope?

PH: Every debut author gives me hope and my fellow WhatWomenWriters, in particular, inspire me with their dedication to the craft and their generosity.

EL: Have you ever read a new book and been pissed off because you had a similar idea and now it was out there? (Not that this has ever happened to me, no, not at all, grrr...) Is there any book do you wish you had written?

PH: Oh, I don't think I've had an idea that was particularly unique before. I tend to write like a fly on the wall--hanging out and observing the nuances of everyday life. That's most interesting to me: what's going on inside your neighbor's house after they close the blinds. I don't tend to have book-envy although I must say that stories that weave in different cultures and time periods can make me well-aware of how limited my travel has been. But I will say that the story Joan and I wrote (which had two main characters who were writers) was rejected a few times because supposedly books about writers don't sell well and yet, we see it all the time, so that's frustrating.

EL: I'm going to put you on the spot now, so get ready. When I think of our blog group, I sort of classify you as our MamaBear, and really, the leader. I wonder how you see your role? What unique qualities do you think you bring to our group?

PH: My son's phone has me listed as MamaBear, so that makes me laugh. I do think I have a nurturing gene--passed down to me from my mom. I love to bake and cook and feed people. And probably I tend to be a peace-keeper and want everyone to get along. Fortunately, with our group, we're pretty compatible. I have little patience for gossip and pettiness. As far as my role? I don't see myself leading us--mostly just corralling us at times to make sure we don't forget the value of community, whether it's scheduling a lunch or a celebration dinner. It's all important.

EL: And now, just some fun dumb stuff. What is your favorite soup?

PH: Ahh...I have a few: chicken and rice, baked potato, broccoli cheddar. All those creamy soups that are very fattening.

EL: Favorite cereal? Fruit?

PH: Right now it's Kashi GoLean Crunch over yogurt. Fruit: Strawberries. And if they're dipped in chocolate, even better!

EL: And finally, a quiz I love to give people. (I'm endlessly amused by this, others, not so much.) Cake or ice cream?

A cheesecake Pamela recently made
PH: Cake!

EL: Cake or pie?


EL: Cake or cookies?

PH: That's a toss-up because I just baked some killer snickerdoodles. Probably cake which includes cheesecake, too, right?

EL: Okay, you are a cake-girl! Isn't that a terrible dilemma? And finally, a little girl has said "bird poop" at least three times at the next table as we're sitting here. It has to be a sign. Do you have a good bird poop story?

Pete (Pamela's brother), Pamela, Molly, Gretchen and Chip

PH: When I was little--maybe four or five--I remember my sister Gretchen pointing out something across the neighbor's field, and a bird pooped on her arm. Four out of five of us thought it was hilarious! Of course, later I learned that what we call bird poop is really their urine. But it's definitely more fun to say 'bird poop' than 'bird urine,' isn't it? Which is probably why that little girl keeps repeating it.

EH: Now that was worth waiting for, wasn't it? Thanks, Pamela! And again, happy birthday!*

* In honor of her birthday, Pamela will bake a cheesecake for every reader who comments either here or on Facebook. Not! But man, wouldn't that be great? Still, drop by her FB page and wish her a great day. And plenty of cake.

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