Sunday, March 7, 2010

Interview with Diana's client, Author Cleo Lampos

Cleo, when did you first develop your passion for writing? During high school and college, I loved any written assignments. Keeping journals during those years taught me to express emotions. When my children were growing up, I wrote devotionals based on their antics for our church newsletters. During their teen years, our family experiences became short stories and narratives for Sunday School papers and magazine articles.

You recently retired from Teaching. How did teaching influence your writing and did you get any of your story ideas from experiences at your school? The 26 years of teaching regular and special education translated into numerous articles for magazines such as Teachers in Focus. Whenever a student overcame a challenge, I wrote their anecdote in my notebooks. So many children in an urban setting struggle against great odds. Recording their victories inspired me as a teacher. These notes are the basis of story ideas.

You have tried your hand at writing historical and contemporary fiction genres, as well as non-fiction. What is your favorite book you have written so far? I really enjoyed writing Second Chances, a novel with a teacher fresh from the country trying to survive in Diamond Projects, an urban school. Of course, she meets the local police officer with a mysterious past. Her struggles to connect with her students parallel my own challenges as a first-year teacher from a dairy farm facing a class of forty-two culturally deprived students in a high crime district. Wouldn’t this make a great series about other teachers in Diamond Projects?

I certainly think so! Hopefully the publishers will too.

You have a published book titled, Grandpa’s Remembering Book. Can you tell us a bit about this book and why you wrote it, Cleo? Grandpa’s Remembering Book is inspired by the heart wrenching deterioration from Alzheimer’s of my Aunt Lois, and the illustrator’s father-in-law. In the book, the steps for passing memories from one generation to another is provided. The practical text engages the reader in a journey of empathy depicting a tool to use with memory loss in loved ones. Although it looks like a children’s picture book, it is a family informational book.

What has been the response from its readers? Several nursing homes in the Chicago area share the book with the families of new patients suffering memory loss. Oddly, speech pathologists claim that it has been of special help to them. Anyone who is a caregiver has found the book to be helpful and encouraging. A Writer’s Digest review begins, “It is an amazing little book.”

Cleo, the story I signed you on with was about the Orphan Trains of America’s History. Do you know before I read your manuscript these Trains were totally unknown to me? Your story is a beautiful one of a Mother’s love for her children and the great sacrifice the mothers at that time were called upon to make. Is it written from any personal family history?

My brother’s family lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota, one of the stops for the orphan trains. As the orphan train riders grew to adulthood, they held reunions in which they told their stories. The local town people listened to them and invited them to speak in the schools. Today, the grandchildren of these orphans relate their experiences. The county museum in St. Cloud houses many books about the orphan trains and personal narratives as well. These resources became invaluable in my research.

Do your characters just pop in your head? Where do they spring from? My characters for A Mother’s Song are based on the types of women who entered the orphan train experience. One is the women who must give up their children and the other is the women who adopt these children. Their stories are as varied as the women themselves, but underneath the motivation of most women is their love for children. Widely reading their narratives enabled me to feel their pain and longings.

How do you research your historical stories, do you spend a lot of time at your library? Yes, I utilize the local library, but I actually buy a lot of books so I can underline and go back to passages. Through the internet, I gleaned a lot of information as well as contact with the resources at the Orphan Train Museum in Kansas.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your books? We all face difficulties and problems, whether as an orphan, urban teacher or caregiver. In every book that I have written, the power of love to overcome obstacles is evident. Our ability to love comes from a deep realization of God’s faithfulness.

Cleo, I know that you’re a member of ACFW. How has this been a help to you? Do you belong to a local chapter? ACFW is the first inbox mail that I open in the morning. I enjoy reading other author’s opinions, suggestions, struggles and triumphs. Such inspiration! I do belong to a writer’s critique group with Lynn Austin, Jane Rubietta and Joy Bocanegra. They keep me accountable both professionally and spiritually. Writing is not a Long Ranger adventure. We need each other to make it.

I would imagine like most authors, once people know you are writing you get a lot of advice. What has been the most helpful to you? At the Wheaton Write to Publish Conference, one of the panel members said she used the “button chair method” to write. It really works!

Do you use any of the newer technology in your writing habits? I am connecting with other authors through Facebook, and tend to Google a lot more. A yellow legal pad is still my best bet for writer’s block. The feel of a lead pencil on paper is magical.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing and your previously published title? I am on Facebook, loving to communicate with other authors. carries Grandpa’s Remembering Book.

Would you like to offer the other authors out there a last word of encouragement? Our words can be healing in a broken world. We need to hone our craft and become the best communicators of God’s love that we can in a fresh and relevant way. That is my desire.

Cleo, thank you so much for joining us here today. It has been good to get to know you better. It is apparent your writing is ministry as well as a labor of love. May your Grandpa's Remembering book continue to help families deal with their heartbreak and we hope to see your others tiles join this one on Amazon.

From my heart to yours,



Jeanette Levellie said...

What an inspiring interview! Cleo, I pray the Lord will favor your career with many open doors. I admire your versatility.

A fellow Pencil Box Crew member and practicing Button Chair League member.

Millie Samuelson said...

WOW, Diana and Cleo -- I learned so much from this blog. Fascinating and heart touching! Thanks for sharing so openly. I must admit I don't know what the "button chair method" of writing is. Please answer one more interview question (mine). I hope I do it unknowlngly. . . Authoring blessings, Cleo! :-)

Jeanette Levellie said...

Millie: Button chair is another way of saying you need to keep your hind end on the chair and do nothing BUT--no pun intended--write.

Loree Lough said...

How nice to get to know you a little better, Cleo!

LOVED your interview!

Caroline said...

Oh, Cleo & Diana, sorry I missed this earlier! Great interview. I loved getting to know you, Cleo. Best wishes for a successful career!