Shrug cover art

Lisa Braver Moss tackles two of life’s most difficult topics; child abuse and domestic violence, with wit, insight, and, as you’ll read here, personal experience. Although fictional, her new book, Shrug, is a step back in time to America during the 1960s scene at Berkeley College. Those were interesting times indeed, full of protests, drugs, and rock and roll; it was also a coming of age for the main character, Martha, and the author. This is an excellent read for anyone, but especially those who may have had similar experiences. So, grab your favorite beverage, get comfortable, and meet Lisa.

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure


Q         I have to start by asking this, Lisa; how much of Shrug  is autobiographical?

 A        Shrug is largely autobiographical. Some elements of the story are different from my own, of course, but I did personally experience most of what’s in the book, both factually and psychologically, and lived to tell the tale… 

Q         This must have been a difficult book for you to write, for many reasons. How did you make decisions about what to fictionalize?

A         Certain images and ideas would come to me as I was writing—or while I was taking a walk. For example, it occurred to me that the story would be tighter with three kids in the family instead of the four in my own family. I felt the main character, Martha, should be more musically gifted than I am. There are other examples where I wasn’t personally at an event that took place, but wrote it such that Martha is witnessing what’s going on.  

Q         You’ve stated that much of this story is based on personal experience. Why did you opt to write a novel rather than a memoir?

A         I felt that in tackling a memoir, I would have gotten way too bogged down by the issue of accuracy. I knew Shrug would be difficult to write, and I didn’t want to throw any more obstacles in my own way than absolutely necessary. I could easily see myself getting lost in the weeds. Of course, one has to get the details right in fiction, too—but in fiction, “right” doesn’t necessarily mean accurate. In short, I felt that I’d have more freedom with fiction. And then additionally, once I “got” the teenage voice, the manuscript fell into place. 

Q         Most of us can only imagine what living those experiences was like. Was it triggering for you to write this book, or more liberating?

A        There were a few times when I cried while writing, but it wasn’t often. Most of the time I was too focused on setting scene, being precise, and creating believable dialogue to have the luxury of reacting (or maybe I should say re-reacting) to the content. The writing was extremely liberating, as was the publication of the book, but my goal was not that. My goal was to write a book that would be absorbing, funny, and interesting to read, and that would make people feel less alone if they had similar experiences as a kid. 

Q         Martha, the main character in Shrug, seems to stand on the sidelines of the 1960s Berkeley protests. Was this your experience?

A         It was. I was way too focused on dealing with family madness, and trying to do well in school, to really engage in the social protesting of the time. I missed out, but I had so much on my plate emotionally that I really didn’t have the bandwidth to join my peers at rallies and protests. 

Q        Martha focuses on academics and music rather than turning to drugs or other self-destructive behaviors. Why do you think is this her path?

A         I think this is a great mystery, i.e., why some people turn to drugs and risky behaviors while others focus on what needs to be done. In Martha’s case, a combination of temperament and drive enables her to work hard despite all that’s going on at home. I don’t think we can really know why some people take one path while some take another. However, I think Martha is way too scared of seeing what it’s like to let go of achievement to really experiment much. It’s one of the sad parts of her life; she really misses out on being a kid. 

Q         Clearly you’ve given the whole question some thought, but why do you think children living with domestic violence tend to blame themselves?

A         That’s another mystery. Many psychologists and researchers believe that it’s too painful for children to acknowledge their own powerlessness in the situation. Instead, in blaming themselves, they can force the situation to make sense. It’s my fault; if only I could be a better daughter, if only I could convince my parents to stop all the hitting, things would be different. But batterers hit because they’re batterers, not because of anything the children do or don’t do. This matter of responsibility may seem simple, but in a lot of kids it causes more cognitive dissonance than self-blame does. Kids want things to make sense. 

Q         It’s interesting to note that the music of the time plays an important part in Shrug? Why is that?

A         I’m passionate about much of the music in the book, and before I knew it, it was permeating the manuscript and Shrug had a running “soundtrack.” That part is true to life—my father really did have a record store in that location (as well as opinions about everything). The “soundtrack” was a good way of enriching the world I was creating. Everyone at that time remembers what songs were popular. They may not have as strong a response to them as Martha does, but the music was a way to enable the reader to experience 1960s Berkeley. 

Q         Did you have a “shrug” as a child?

A        No, that idea just came to me as a stand-in for childhood problems I had that I desperately needed help with, but that didn’t have easy solutions. I also liked the various possible meanings of the shrug, such as I don’t know, I don’t care, and I don’t feel like talking. There are also ways in which Martha knows a lot, and cares too much, and does feel like talking (hence, the book, in her voice). And then there’s the issue of her ability to ignore what’s going on at home (i.e., to shrug it off) in order to achieve her own goals. The shrug has more than one possible interpretation. 

Q         For personal reasons it couldn’t have been easy writing this book. What do you hope readers take away from reading it?

A         When you grow up as I did, with domestic violence and psychological brutality, it’s difficult not to feel ashamed. Though a child is obviously never at fault in a situation like that, many survivors of childhood domestic violence carry shame into their adult lives and may not even be aware of its crippling effects. So I would like for any trauma survivor reading Shrug to feel a little less ashamed, and less alone for having read it. In general, I’d love for readers, trauma survivors or not, to experience Shrug as an entertaining, thought-provoking ride.

Q         What’s next for you, Lisa?

A         I’m happy to say that I’m working on some essays and gathering my thoughts for another novel.

Thank you, Lisa. We wish you all the very best in your future endeavors. Below are a few relevant links to help our readers connect with this author, and discover her work.




Twitter: @lisabravermoss


Women, Work and Triumph

Gandara Cover

Beverly Gandara is a force to be reckoned with in her own right. An award-winning, multi-published screenwriter and novelist, this New York native’s screenplay, Rent Money, earned her the 2012 Golden Palm Award for Best Screenplay at the Beverly Hills International Film Festival.

Her current book, Women, Work and Triumph pays tribute to a remarkable ensemble of working women in a series of fascinating interviews. Intent on learning more about each woman she interviews, Beverly dives into their life stories and work, with a goal of shining a light on the trials, tribulations, and joys each woman has encountered on her journey thus far. Each story introduces a woman whose grit and determination in often male-dominated environments moved them along a path to personal fulfillment, success, and acceptance. Welcome, Beverly!


Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q: What an interesting title! Can you tell us a bit about it?

A: Women, Work and Triumph features interviews with 26 diverse women in 26 various careers, from A – Z, with 1 goal—acceptance and respect. 

Q: Tell us what motivated you to write about women and their careers.

A: For a long while I’ve felt that, despite the progress women have made over the past decades, not enough has been done to accept and respect women in the workplace and at home, which is also a full time profession. Women are still not being payed the same salary as men in certain professions, industries, or jobs, despite having an equal education, and in some instances, comparable experience. I simply wanted to provide a vehicle for women in male-dominated environments to have a voice.

Q: Each person and career is so diverse. How did you choose the women you interviewed? 

A: I looked toward the women I knew first; family, friends, and colleagues. Then I chose women in male-dominated professions whose work I respected, and was delighted that they all chose to be a part of the book.

Q: As people read your book, what is the message you want them to receive?

A: Stop labeling and judging people before you have the opportunity to know a person and the journey that brought them to where they currently are in their lives, work, and relationships. That goes for all people—men, women, and children. 

Q: You didn’t start writing until after retirement. Can you share with us what your motivation was to begin at that stage of your life? 

A: I have an active mind and needed to stimulate and challenge myself, so I took a course in screenwriting. I liked the idea of telling a story minimally in scene setting, character description, and dialogue. For me it was an intriguing process.

Q: You started writing screenplays, then switched to novels and books. Can you tell us why?

A: I was being noticed for my screenplays, particularly when I won the Golden Palm Award at the 2012 Beverly Hills International Film Festival for my comedy screenplay, Rent Money. But it was my coming of age story, Concrete Wings, that had the attention of two producers who suggested I convert the screenplay to a novel, which according to them would make it easier to sell in Hollywood with a book attached. So, I took the challenge and enjoyed that process as well.

Q: Writing and getting published is far more challenging than most people imagine. What would you like aspiring writers to know about the processes?

A: Writing takes commitment of time, energy, and money. When you have a story in mind; 

  1. Be clear about the story you want to tell. Can you describe it in 1-3 sentences?
  2. Once you decide on the format—if it’s to be a screenplay, book, or article, etc., research the topic thoroughly for authenticity in story.
  3. Read books by the masters and take a course—local schools often offer beginners writing courses. Learn about language; review your knowledge of grammar, spelling, and the need for crisp, descriptive words. Keep a thesaurus by your side.
  4. Stage32’s educational bundles and seminars offer extraordinary opportunities for learning the craft of writing.
  5. The Gotham Writer’s Workshop, where I began my screenwriting program, lists a wide range of courses on writing, whether it is screenwriting, memoir writing, article writing, and more. 
  6. presents many courses, including non-fiction, freelance article writing, memoir/life story writing, and screenwriting.
  7. After completion of the work, I suggest the following:
  8. Working with a proofreader and editor
  9. Copyright the work
  10. Register the work with the Writer’s Guild of America (west or east coast) or
  11. I suggest one review The Schedule of Payment guidelines in The Writers Guild of America site, in the event one wanted to hire someone to help him or her.
  12. Once the project is complete and ready to be seen, sold, or shared, I suggest marketing the work by entering contests as a starting point. Depending upon the format, there are several contests listed online. That way one could be assured the work would be read by a professional who will give feedback.
  13. If one chose to write a book and self-publish, a search on the internet would provide options.
  14. If it were a short story or article, consider pitching it to newspapers, magazines, and publishers. To create a good pitch letter, visit
  15. lists newspapers in every state of the union, plus school newspapers and magazines.
  16. I suggest joining stage32, or and focus on the various writers groups within each site, for networking.
  17. I urge you to set small goals. Start with a title. Write a synopsis of the story; i.e., (Title) is about… 
  18. I recommend writing the first five pages, then follow up with five more. Before one knows it, he or she would have succeeded in the ultimate goal to write a screenplay, book, etc.  The rest is business.

Q: How do you select the stories you write?

A: I enjoy people’s stories and find that whether we are talking about the 1500s in France or the 2000s in Alaska, behavior is the same. There is love, loss, betrayal, etc. If a story touches me, I want to share it. People often come to me to write their stories—they need to be heard, and I believe we learn from each other.

Q: How did it feel to win the Golden Palm Award for best screenplay at the 2012 Beverly Hills International Film Festival?

A: Exhilarating! There were many finalists, and when my husband and I went to the dinner our table was in the back of the room far from the stage, which I took to mean I was not a winner. The most memorable moment was seeing the pride in my husband’s eyes and the wide grin on his beautiful face when my name was announced.

Q: How do you feel about your future as a writer?

A: I learn new skills with every project, so I am looking forward to continuing the process. I’ve written dramas, a comedy, a suspense thriller, and I love the diversity of it all. I am inspired by life and enjoy the craft of story telling. 

Q: What’s next for you, Beverly?

A: I have a character from one of my novels who would be fun to bring back to new surroundings. I intend to revisit my screenplays, sharpen them, and ready them for release. The stories never get old; the environments change. I strongly believe that there are no expiration dates on one’s dreams, so I’ll just keep moving from strength to strength.

Thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise, Beverly. We wish you all the very best in your future endeavors—they’re sure to be worth following! Speaking of following, readers can connect with Beverly Gandara here:

Amazon link:

Website link:




So You Think You Know Canada, Eh?

Canada Cover

Who could have known that hockey isn’t Canada’s national sport, that Canadian passports contain hidden messages or that it was a Canadian who invented peanut butter? Well, if you had read Marianne Jennings’ delightful book, So You Think You Know Canada, Eh?, you’d easily score in any game of Canadian trivia. Marianne chats with us this month about how the book came about, what she does for fun and what she liked to read when she was growing up.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett


Q: You define yourself as a “self-proclaimed adventure craver and adventure addict.” Was this passion for globetrotting instilled in childhood or did it come along later?

A: I’ve always loved learning about different places, different cultures, and different people around the world. I grew up in a very small farming community where most people never even left the state. I would read National Geographic magazines and books from the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series and dream about these places I wanted to see when I grew up.

My family would take road trips, but I didn’t get to travel internationally until after college. Except for one road trip with my grandparents where we saw Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and then up into Ontario, Canada. It was the first time I’d ever been out of the U.S., and I found it fascinating. I loved everything about it – the people, their slight accent, the friendly painted fire hydrants, and the breathtaking scenery.

Q: You have also parlayed that passion into a 9-5 job. Tell us about it.

A: A few years back I was able to get a job managing, which is a travel and tourism website for all things Utah. Utah is an outdoor-lovers playground. For a long time, I took for granted where I lived and didn’t realize that Utah was a bucket list location for people all around the world. It’s been so fun to be able to see more of the great state of Utah and to help others plan their dream trips here.

Q: Your shoes have logged a lot of miles and your passport has collected a lot of stamps. Is there one place in particular you’d like to go back to and, if possible, spend more time?

A: New Zealand

Q: Top three places on your bucket list (and why)?

A: Antarctica – It’s remote, rugged, and screams adventure. I’ve even looked into working there for a season.

Scotland – Castles, bagpipes, kilts, and ceilidhs. Plus, they have some amazing long walks (or hikes as we call them) that I’ve wanted to do.

Alaska – Once upon a time I wanted to be a bush pilot in Alaska. Again, the rugged, remote, and untouched nature screamed adventure. I have a feeling if I ever go there, I may never come home.

Q: So how is it that someone who lives in Utah chose Canada as the subject of a fun fact book?

A: I get asked this question a lot. I am not Canadian, but have lived with Canadians, have friends who are Canadian, and have been to Canada several times. Canada was the very first place I visited outside of the U.S. and I have loved it ever since. Canada is our neighbor to the north and most Americans know a Canadian, have visited Canada, and are familiar with a few of their fun quirks. It just seemed like a fun place to start and something a lot of people would enjoy.

Q: I love the title, especially the “eh?” at the end of it. How did you come up with it and, for that matter, why do Canadians’ say “eh?”

A: I did a lot of keyword research to come up with a fun title and put up several options on Facebook to have people vote. A Canadian friend commented and said why don’t you just call it, “So You Think You Know Canada, Eh?” and that ended up being the winning title by popular vote and personally my favorite.

Canadians say eh for several reasons and it means a few different things. One example is when it’s similar to how Americans would end a sentence with “huh,” “right?” or “isn’t it?” So if you said “It’s a nice day today, eh?” it would mean the same as “It’s a nice day today, isn’t it?” Sometimes it’s used as an alternative for “excuse me?” “please say that again” or “what?.” Several languages have words that are used in the very same way, “Eh” just happens to be a popular Canadian stereotype that most people are familiar with.

Q: During the course of the book’s development, what was the most surprising thing you learned?

A: There were several surprising and fun things I learned, but I didn’t realize that A.A. Milne’s famous Winnie-the-Pooh character was named after a real black bear female cub who was originally from Canada. Her owner named her Winnipeg after his hometown. He was a soldier and was transferred to Europe and took Winnipeg with him. Knowing he couldn’t travel around Europe with her, he made arrangements to keep her in the London Zoo where she was nicknamed Winnie for short. She was a crowd favorite and A.A. Milne’s son, Robin, was a huge fan.

Q: Was this also your favorite thing or was your favorite thing something else entirely?

A: My favorite thing I learned is that Santa Claus is officially a Canadian citizen, has his very own special postal code (H0H 0H0 which spells Ho Ho Ho) and answers every letter that is sent in whatever language it is sent in. Some years this means, close to 200 different languages.

Q: What might we have found on your bookshelf when you were a kid? A teen? Now?

A: As a kid you would find “The Boxcar Children” series, “The Indian in the Cupboard” series, several “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, and a few encyclopedias I borrowed from my grandparents (yes, I was that kid.) My all-time favorite book as a kid was “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.”

As a teenager I read autobiographies by Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Doris Day, Barbra Streisand and Reba McEntire.

Today, you’d find a random mix of nonfiction like how-to books (how to sail, how to rock climb, and how to write a book), international cookbooks, travel guides and memoirs, more autobiographies, and fiction from Veronica Roth, J.K. Rowling, and Dan Brown.

Q: What’s your favorite quote (and why)?

A: My favorite quote is by Lucille Ball who said, “The more things you do, the more you can do.” I love to learn and try new things and this is the quote that has guided my life since I was a teenager. Life really is one big adventure and it’s true, the more things you do, the more you can do.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Adventure travel is my favorite kind of travel, but I think most people would be surprised to learn that every single trip has scared me in some way or another. But I firmly believe that being scared isn’t an excuse not to do something and the experiences I have on each trip are very much worth it.

Q: Top three tips for traveling on a budget?

A: Travel on shoulder or off-seasons to get cheaper rates on flights, accommodations, and tours. Stay in guesthouses or Airbnb type places to get cheaper rates, but also get local information on things to see, do, and places to eat that are often off the beaten path and cheaper than the touristy places. Try and only eat out once a day and get supplies from groceries stores to take with you as you’re out and about. Visiting grocery stores in other countries is often its own little adventure.

Q: What’s the most memorable souvenir you’ve ever bought?

A: A Claddagh ring I got in Ireland 8 years ago, that I have worn every day since.

Q: And what’s the one that made you say, “What was I thinking?”

A: A traditional Icelandic wool sweater that is incredible warm, but really itchy so I rarely wear it.

Q: When you’re not writing and traveling, what do you like to do?

A: Hiking, gardening, reading, learning new things like knitting, and catching up with friends I’ve met on my travels over WhatsApp and Zoom.

Q: The world is currently in an unsettled state of lockdown which is changing the way we work and the way we interact with one another. As soon as the storm has lifted, where’s the first place you want to go?

A: I had a trip planned to the UK that was cancelled. I plan on visiting several of my friends I’ve met from recent travels. I almost have more friends in the UK than I do here in the U.S. 

Q: Any new projects/books on your plate?

A: A companion Canadian quiz book to compliment the original, So You Think You Know Canada, Eh? A few other So You Think You Know fact books are in the works and are scheduled to be released this year under my Knowledge Nugget Book series. 

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: Find me writing life lessons learned on some of my crazy travel adventures on, travel tips and experiences on and all my book info at

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I’d say if you’ve ever wanted to learn to do something, then do it. Find someone to teach you, find a book, watch a video, or just try it out. Life’s too short not to try and experience everything you can while we’re here.