This hectic pandemic year might have stoked our fears about any number of things, but authors Sandra A. Miller and Erica Ferencik want us to face those fears, now more than ever! Before their session at this year’s Lit Crawl Boston 2021, both authors remind us that treasures can be found when we look for them and work through our fears. Both Sandra and Erica will be presenting “Face Your Fears and Find Your Treasure” at Lit Crawl Boston. We sat down with Sandra and Erica to learn more about what Lit Crawlers can expect at their June 10 session (Register here now!).
BBF:Your session is titled “Face your Fears and Find Your Treasure.” What were your biggest fears writing your books?
Erica: Frankly, I wake up every morning slightly terrified: will I be able to create a good chapter, paragraph, hell, even a good sentence today? It all feels like some kind of miracle when it does happen. Then there are the more general, three-o’clock-in-the-morning type jitters I’m guessing many writers have: will anyone buy my books? Read them? Like them? All I know is, I cannot simultaneously write and be afraid at the same time, which is a really good thing. I have to just take a deep breath and trust the process, trust that something good will happen every day I take a seat in my studio.
Sandra: My book, Trove, is a memoir, and writing it was one of the most daunting experiences of my life. When I set out to tell the story of searching for treasure, I could not have imagined the dark places it would lead me. In order to accurately capture scenes of childhood abuse and dysfunction in writing, I had to re-traumatize myself over and over until the fear I felt was as gut-wrenching as when I first went through it. I spent much of my twenties living and traveling around the world—often alone—but nothing in my life has scared me as much as growing up with angry, volatile parents. Writing Trove brought all of that back.
BBF: Have either of you two faced any fears during the pandemic? And did it lead to finding treasure on the other side?
Erica:Facing the devastating realities of this pandemic is something we all had to do, and continue to do. I’m pretty isolated as a writer anyway, but my usual ways of breaking free from that had been eliminated. That said, the shutdown provided some relief from manic overscheduling, a bad habit of mine. Also, I had to face the reality of the ending of a couple of friendships that for whatever reason, didn’t survive the stress. So, treasure-wise, I learned: be more selective as to what you commit to. Take better care of all your relationships. And most of all, the world won’t end if you go on that trip or take the time to do something that brings you delight or your soul some sustenance and rejuvenation. Don’t postpone joy.
Sandra:Like Erica, I occasionally found myself ambushed by feelings of isolation. I started to retreat into myself and began to feel disconnected from my husband and two adult children who I was sharing a house with 24/7. Instead of the lovely ebb and flow of family life, nothing felt normal, because—well—nothing was. And for a while, I feared that our family would never feel normal again. Fortunately, my husband is a psychologist and was able to help me get to the other side, which is connection and love. There’s no better treasure than that.
BBF:Erica, can you tell us the most fearful part of spending a month in the Amazon rainforest as part of the research for your novel Into the Jungle?!
Multiply any anxiety you might have about walking through the woods of New England by a thousand, and you have a trek through the jungle. You are walking food for countless predators—everything is either hunting, or hiding, or both.But it was the nighttime canoe trips through the floating forest— chocolate-colored water up to the waists of trees—that were the most terrifying for me. Above us, poisonous snakes lounged in huge tangled tree limbs; below us, the thick brown water hid its own perils: among them, piranha and electric eels that pack enough electricity to stun a horse. One night, one of these eels, disturbed by our boat, leapt from the water. Eight feet long, thick as a truck tire, it contorted itself in the air before splashing down in the brown soup. It was the only time I saw a glimmer of alarm in my native Peruvian guide’s face. But as the weeks went by, I became at peace with my fears about this place. You have to live a different way, at a heightened state of awareness of your surroundings. When I asked a young Peruvian woman if she was ever afraid, she shuddered and said: No, but I hear you have terrible ice storms in America. How does anyone survive this?
BBF:Sandra, what is the favorite treasure you’ve found as a treasure hunter?
I have found thousands of treasures, so it’s hard to identify a favorite, but here’s a favorite story of finding treasure. It was my birthday, and I was in D.C. visiting my two best girlfriends whom I’ve known since our first year at our Catholic high school. I was waiting impatiently to hear if a publisher was going to take Trove, and I was on edge all weekend thinking about it. It was time to say goodbye and my friends were walking me to the Metro which I would take to the airport. When I looked down, I saw a little metal cross on the ground, then another, and another. I literally followed a path of 32 crosses to the Metro station, gathering them as I walked. My friends were laughing at me, but I saw it as a sign—many signs. The publisher took the book.
Lit Crawl Boston 2021 promises treasures for all Bostonian booklovers. Register now for this event!