Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
Stephanie, tell us a little about you: I live on the edges of Austin, Texas, in a community called Steiner Ranch, where all of the women are belles and all the men got your back. Hubby and I moved here in the fall of 2018, because of the warm weather and our shared desire to never own another snowblower.
When did you start to write? I’ve always written. When I was a little girl, I wrote jokes. I thought they were fun to write because you could add a picture to make your point. And, I loved to make people laugh. As a teenager, I wrote lyrics and poetry on a baby blue Smith-Corona electric typewriter, the best Christmas gift ever from my mom. Later, I sat in the very back of writing classes that I took at UCLA-extension, hoping that I wouldn’t be called on to read anything that I’d written to the rest of the class. It took me a long time to finally claim that I was a writer, and when I did, I returned to school at age thirty-five and earned a degree in writing and poetics – and that, was the just the joyful beginning.
What have been the challenges for you? I’ve lived most of my life feeling like I got off the bus at the wrong stop. Growing up, I was isolated from a lot of my family, and we moved almost every year when I was a kid. I’m still a bit of a Nomad. A sense of belonging frequently eludes me. That being said, I’ve learned to exercise positive self-talk daily. It helps me to remember that I’m the heroine of my own journey and that I’ve done okay. The other part of that challenge is that I feel like a little self-doubt keeps me honest and constantly striving to be a better writer.
What did you do prior to this? As a young woman, I worked in Los Angeles. I was the receptionist at a television show called The Midnight Special. Later I worked as a production secretary – and I was a terrible secretary. I couldn’t type well and in the days before spell-check, well, let’s just say clean documents were not my strong suit. I stayed working in some aspect of television until I left LA in 1989 – that’s when I headed back to school to earn my degree in writing and poetics.
After I earned my degree, I got married and the demands of partnership, a mortgage and a business put the dream of writing on the back burner. I spent the next twenty-five years working with my husband in his business. Finally, at sixty-something, I was ready and able to put a focus on writing. Writing has been a long and winding road kind of journey for me, but I don’t regret any of the life experiences that I’ve had. Those experiences have provided a lot of fodder for my creative process.
Dispel fear and stereotypes that surround ageing
If applicable, when was your first book published and what was it about? My first book, A Delightful Little Book on Aging (She Writes Press, April 28, 2020) is a collection of thoughts, stories and vignettes woven together with a fresh philosophy that helps to dispel some of the fear and stereotypes that surround aging. It’s an inspirational, empowering, and emotionally honest look at life’s later journey—part joyful celebration and part invitation to readers to live life fully to the very end.
What was the inspiration behind your latest book? I was inspired by the women mid-life and beyond that I see all around me. I’ve been blessed to know women over the age of fifty who row and cycle, women in their seventies who backpack and women in their eighties who walk for miles everyday. I know mid-life women and beyond who teach, mentor and who’ve started new businesses. And aside from the accumulating years, what all of these women have in common is a profound sense of gratitude and over arching philosophy about life that compels them to live fully and love well.
How does your book differ from other comparable titles? This is not a how-to or self-help book. It’s a change in the conversation about getting older, and it’s inspiring. Age isn’t about the number, it’s about embracing the years with the courage of this remarkable and noble passage.
How do you hope readers over 50 will relate to the themes in your book?
The themes of my book are grief, reclamation, vision and laughter. I hope that readers will recognize that love and loss are the great transformative forces of life. . . that reclamation is the always lingering second chance to make the art, play the instrument, create the garden, teach the child and otherwise reclaim for ourselves what we may have cast aside in the obligations that came with a younger life. Creating a vision for the third chapter that is less about goals and more about the kind of person that we want to be, gives us a touchstone. And finally, it’s a gift that we can laugh, chuckle, and grin at life. Keep your whimsy and delight close by.
Are there any key issues you wanted to draw attention to? We have the potential to grow psychologically and spiritually until the day we die. We are meaning seeking creatures who crave, as Joseph Campbell said, “the rapture of the experience.” Let’s give ourselves to life through our hearts and our minds. Or as my favourite poet Rumi said:
“Let the beauty we love be what we do . . .”
What do you want readers to take away having the read the book? I hope that readers will see glimpses of themselves in the stories and essays that make up A Delightful Little Book on Aging, and that they’ll be inspired to contemplate and reflect upon their own stories with a greater self-compassion and celebration. I want them to see that they are the heroine in their journey and that growing older is a privilege.
What are some other resources you recommend for readers interested in the themes of your book? The Gift of Years, by Joan Chittister is one of my favourite books about growing older, as is May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude.
What’s next for you? A Delightful Little Book on Nourishment is the follow-up book to the aging book and will be published by She Writes Press on April 27, 2021. In the meantime, I keep writing, keep learning and most importantly, keep growing as a person, loving life in all it’s messiness and glory.
What 3 tips would you offer women looking to write their first book? 1. Take a class on structuring your book. 2. Trust in your dream. 3. This is borrowed from one of my favourite writing instructors, Mr. Robert McKee: Do the work. Tell the truth. The results will follow.
Where can we find more info about you? (website, social media, etc.)
Reach out to me at any time. I love hearing from mid-life women who are navigating the waters of this noble and courageous journey.
Website and Blog: https://stephanieraffelock.com/
And . . . my podcast: Coffee Table Wisdom, https://coffeetablewisdom.libsyn.com/