Barbara Wolf Terao, author of Reconfigured, is from Northfield, Minnesota, and Evanston, Illinois, and now lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Along with way too many janitor jobs, Barbara has been teacher, psychologist, land ethic leader, television host, newspaper columnist, and book reviewer. Her most joyful roles are as mother and grandmother! Barbara’s articles and essays have appeared in Orion magazine, The Seattle Times, ihadcancer website, Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis anthology, and other publications, as well as on her website ofthebluepla.net. Her memoir’s message? When your life calls, listen.
This is her interview…
What is your book about?
My memoir is called Reconfigured because it’s a karma-busting story, starting with my move from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest in 2016. With my marriage frayed beyond recognition, I decided to live on an island in the Salish Sea while my husband stayed in Illinois, neither of us knowing if we’d ever live together again. Three months later, I was shocked to learn I had breast cancer. My husband showed up to care for me during difficult treatments, transforming our relationship. Surgeries transformed my body. And I was strengthened and reconfigured in ways I never expected.
Why did you want to write this book?
What was the most difficult part about writing the book? The most rewarding?
*What do you hope other people will take away from reading your book?
Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone. Keep hope alive and get the care and support you need. Be yourself. It’s not healthy to squash your feelings or try to be someone you’re not. Chronic stress affects your immune system, so find ways to express yourself and keep emotions moving rather than letting them get stuck. There’s so much beauty in the world and you are a gorgeous part of it.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
When your life is calling, listen! It’s not your job to please everybody. U B U.
How long did it take to write your book?
I sat down at the beginning of the pandemic and told myself “I’m a working writer.” Something in me clicked into gear and, with few social interactions to distract me, I wrote almost every day for a year to get most of the book written. Then I revised and edited, submitting my manuscript June 1, 2022.
What was the biggest challenge in writing your book?
Who are your favorite authors (and why)?
What is your favorite book in the same genre as your work?
What does literary success look like to you?
I want to convey my thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that keeps you company as you go through your own experiences. If I can encourage readers facing challenges in their lives, that counts as success to me! Further, I’d like to take us somewhere ancient and holy, back to our very origins, to know ourselves more deeply, wisely, and lovingly.
What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Write scenes and draw the reader into those scenes with dialogue and details. Simply conveying information is not a story. Though my memoir is nonfiction, it still needs all the elements of an engaging narrative.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing journey?
A developmental editor can be a huge help in writing a book. Mine helped me make decisions about what to include and what to leave out. Just knowing she was waiting for my next chapter kept me writing!
What do you do when you are not writing?
When not hiking or hanging out with our grandchild, I’m often at Healing Circles Langley (online at healingcirclesglobal.org) where we have circles of support for people going through cancer, death of a loved one, and other life events.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing essays and articles for newspapers, magazines, and online, and working on a children’s book of historical fiction called What Would Manjiro Do? A True Tale of a Boy Lost at Sea Who Found His Way Home. Due to a Kirkus review of my memoir urging me to share more of my perspectives, I’ll be writing essays about life, love, and trees that may very well end up as a book!
*How can our readers get a copy of your book?
Reconfigured: A Memoir is available online at Bookshop, Amazon, Target, and other booksellers. When my book is published July 18, 2023, it will also be in bookstores.
*What is the best way for our readers to connect with you?
My author website is barbarawolfterao.com. I’m on Facebook as Barbara Terao. On TikTok, I’m a newbie, with plans to learn more and post more (unless, of course, the app is banned in the U.S.).