Name Ann (Ana) Morris
Where are you from: West Des Moines, Iowa, USA
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc:
I have a beautiful family, although it is difficult to many who come from traditional families. I’ve been married and divorced twice. My first husband is from Spain, where I met him. He spoke no English when I met him, and we were married nearly 5 years, so Spanish was the primary language spoken at home. My son Mikel is from that marriage. Although he looks like my side of the family, I can also see characteristics from the Magallón side of the family. Mikel is ½ Norwegian (American ethnic roots) and ½ Spanish Basque. Mikel is actually Basque for Michael or Miguel. In my second marriage of over 30 years, I married into more family, which I welcomed. The oldest of the Morris children lived with my husband and me from the time he was 11 until he left home. He still lives in the area and we remain close. Matt is the father of my two beautiful granddaughters Payton and Haley, who will be in one of my upcoming books.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Which one? I was recently interviewed on TheAuthorsShow and will be buying the recording of that Skype interview that was prerecorded and edited. That was exciting. Also, recently, my books received Five Star reviews from US Reviews. That was exciting!
This week (November 8) I am being featured on “Children Author Spotlight Ann Morris” on Facebook. It’s a lot of fun. People ask me questions about my writing and I answer. It lasts all week!
The big, big news is that my third book pair “Everything Is Different”/”Todo es distinto” will be released January 5. This is a book that has taken nearly two years to put together due to several delays. It will be a very welcome book release!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve written as long as I can remember, starting with school assignments (which I loved), letters, poetry, short stories…I journaled from junior high through college. I write narrative poems for my nieces and nephews as they reach milestones in their lives. I always wrote to empty my heart of things I wanted to remember or that were too hard to bear. I write to express what I feel others need to know. Besides creative writing, I write essays, petitions, and editorials in English and Spanish. Writing can be therapy. It can also be communication, teaching and history keeping. I love to talk and I love to write.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve been a “writer” all my life. As for “Author”, I didn’t consider myself an author until I had been published. Even then, it was hard to consider myself an author until it was recognized by someone else. After reading at schools, when students who remembered me would ask if I was the author who read to their class, it at first stopped me dead in my tracks. Why, Yes! I was an author. When adults started recognizing me as such, it was an even bigger honor. I had always been “the piano player” or “the Spanish teacher”. Now, I can honestly add “author” to that list.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was a mom/son story that I remembered as a film clip and held in my heart for about 25 years until I finally decided to add it to one of my written memories. Mikel was mine since his birth and kept me sane during my first divorce (as a baby). He is my only legal son (I have several others unofficially adopted. J ) He remembers the story I wrote as clearly as I do. That’s what makes it so very special. The story took place when I was working a job that allowed me very little vacation time. One day I woke up and decided to “smell the roses”. I asked Mikel if he wanted to go for a walk with me. He jumped at the opportunity. We didn’t do things just the two of us since I had met my second husband. And the book “Mommy and Mikel Go for a Walk” tells the rest of that wonderful memory. A few details may have been added since the original walk 25 years earlier, and personal reactions may have been tempered due to the passing of time and the writing of a learning children’s book that portrayed a “model mom”, but when Mikel read the published book he laughed and read it cover to cover. He remembered that same walk still. It was worth it.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Since I write children’s books, I write in a natural storytelling style. I tell a story without all of the description appreciated and needed by more advanced readers. I use dialogue and introduce new vocabulary in context.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title actually could have been more creative, but provides a window to the story. “Mommy and Mikel Go for a Walk” is exactly what we did. It involved Mikel’s observations and questions and Mommy’s answers and child-monitoring for an inquisitive, spontaneous young boy. When Mikel discovered a mystery animal by the river by the park, Mommy took him to the library to find out what it was. They were both happy. I love happy endings. 😀
Fiona: Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
There are different layers of messages in this book. Children will appreciate the child’s experience, parents will appreciate the mother’s patience and caution, and teachers appreciate the use of teaching moments. It is wholesome and blossoms with parent/child love and trust.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The book is 99.9% realistic. It happened in Des Moines, Iowa, and Mikel’s matching memory of the story is amazing.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Experiences in all of my books are based on true experiences. They provide the most realistic stories that children and parents can relate to. Fiction is wonderful and I love imagination and fairy tales, but what I write is from life, from my heart, with a message and a learning experience.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
My mother was my first mentor. She loved to write and was always there to answer questions and give encouragement. She guided me without doing the job for me. She never let me quit. When I was at college and studying and living in Spain, she always nurtured my confidence by telling me how much she loved my letters and how she could imagine everything I was writing about.
I was blessed with wonderful teachers. My best teacher and mentor of my school years was my 9th grade English teacher. He was a shining mentor that encouraged us students to only compete with ourselves. That fit me well. I only compare myself to where I have been.
I’ve had some wonderful mentors and cheerleaders as an author. Some from various genres love my books because their grandchildren want them read over and over again. Other children’s author friends are wonderful for ideas, fact-checking, encouragement, camaraderie and sincere partners.
One book that influenced my life immensely was “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver. It was the story of a missionary family in Africa that touched the different white attitudes toward their work, the various African attitudes about their work and what was happening in their own lives. It was incredible and really opened my eyes. I will always love to learn.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading the Briton and the Dane. It’s a medieval history fiction with some historical characters. Like I said…I love learning.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Martha Grimes is new to me. She is a British mystery writer with incredible talent. I also love Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon. I have varied tastes and interests.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
This past year I learned to make book trailers, narrate my own books and turn them into book videos. I want to continue to learn different ways to promote my books to appropriate audiences. Also important and necessary is learning more about fundraising for my next book pair. Marketing and grant study would be my current projects and obsessions.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Friends and former living communities, the Latino community in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, and my author friends. (Oops…that’s more than one…)
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
At this point in my life, I dream of that. Realistically I’m not there yet financially.
I do some part-time odd jobs, as I took early retirement in 2011. I hope to begin doing more translating to help. I’ve already done some major projects and translated one book (besides my own).
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would be clearer in communication and observe work presented to me more clearly before approving it.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It originated inspired by my mom. She loved to write and guided me as I learned.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I have several works in progress. One is proofed already in English and called, “Let’s Go Take a Hike”. It’s another memory, but this time one where I’m one of the children. Our family used to have annual picnics at a favorite park with a family of cousins. We loved them and the time we spent together, and we loved the park. The book focuses more on the children and the parenting they have learned. It also focuses on their interaction and antics. It is also a shared memory with both families.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Stories like “Surprise in Auntie’s Garden” and the one I’m writing about my granddaughters have a patchwork of memories and stories that need to be woven together with a logical storyline and a focal point. Sometimes that happens naturally, where other times I need to introduce something from the outside, like the caterpillar in “Surprise”.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon both tie for that honor. I love historical history, and they are both masters of their art. I know the time periods about which they write and their embellishment on those times is fascinating.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
My book pair “Everything Is Different” was based on a trip taken to the UK, but as for travel required, it’s at my discretion. I visit local activities, those in the surrounding area, my home town, places where I am invited. So far I haven’t ventured too far from home, but I would like to visit the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. I’ve been invited to read to an elementary immersion school that has enjoyed my first two books, and they have invited me to visit and read to their class. I have enough friends, classmates and family in that metro area that I could arrange a book event there, too. I need to work that out.
Now wait. In 2013 I visited Spain after almost 40 years. I went to a bilingual education conference and joined up with a dear friend for the next week. I saw my first husband’s family and had a ball. The friend I visited is the principal of an elementary bilingual school and I was invited to visit her school. I read to her class and had such fun. It was not required, but it was such perfect timing!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My covers are usually a representative scene or illustration from the book.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Proofing is the most time consuming for me.
As my writers’ group constantly agrees, “Writing the book is the easy part. Marketing is where the real work lies.”
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learn from every book I write. I learn about publishers, independent publishers, vanity publishers, self-publishing. I learn about the extra work that is invested in creating fliers, bios, book summaries. I learn about book trailers, converting music, narration sound files and video to movies for educational supplements. I learn to speak clearly and to read my books aloud to catch proofing errors. There is always more to learn, which is why I belong to professional groups as well as author groups.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
My favorite poem and my personal mantra:
“If I can stop one heart from breaking I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin unto its nest again, I shall not live in vain.”
Emily Dickinson (1830-1856)
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I do, Fiona. As I’ve explained, I love history. That expands to family history. I’m the family genealogist and historian, basically. I love music and played classical piano for a long time. I played organ and piano for my church for nearly 15 years. I don’t play as much now, but I have my piano!
I love to read, I crochet…mostly scarves for the homeless, but I also do for family members. My mom has taught me to make nylon scratchers using netting. That’s more time consuming, as I haven’t quite whittled it down to a fine art, but each of my kids and their wives will receive their first ones from me this Christmas. My mom always does it, but I’m trying to pick up what her secrets are to carry on family traditions.
I love photography. When I still lived at the house, I used to take photos of my flowers and garden, butterflies, and song birds. When I travel, I’m constantly clicking. My oldest son used to call me the “paparazzi”. The kids did appreciate all of the clicking years later when they could look back and renew memories.
Gardening was a big interest of mine when I lived at the house. In my current apartment, I am limited to a “balcony Babylon” that gets less care, but I will always love wildflowers and perennials.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love period pieces (history, again), movies about topics about which I need to learn more. I’ve been watching more movies about African-American events and issues lately. I always love watching good Spanish language movies (without the subtitles). I’m a Downton Abbey junkie and an Outlander groupie as well. I also watch other movies about topics that I need to be exposed to in order to understand other cultures. I love movies that make me think.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Foods: I like fruits and veggies more than meat, but I do like lamb and salmon. I’ll also eat many things. I’m not picky, but I have my favorites.
Colors: Blue has been my favorite color most of my life. Different shades are fine.
Music: Classical instrumental, some jazz, Celtic music, marches (I was drum majorette for 5 years in junior-high school and the thrill of a march always makes my heart pound…), I like a variety of music.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I was a teacher and still am. I teach when I write and when I do presentations. I was a teacher when I worked for the Workforce development in Unemployment as well as the Welcome Center for people needing assistance learning about community resources and self-empowerment. I could have done many things as long as I was helping people learn to feel better about themselves.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I do have a website. It’s www.authorannmorris.com, and it shares information about my books as well as essays I’ve written, opportunities to purchase my books or message me directly. It has a list of websites where I have profiles or where my books are featured. It has references to interviews and blogs in which I have participated, so you, Fiona, will be on my website! It also shares photos from events in which I have participated. It’s easy to navigate and I welcome people to visit and learn about what I do.