Linda M. Rhinehart Neas is visiting us today from snowy Massachusetts. She has written extensively in various venues, publishing and performing her work throughout New England. When not writing, Linda is teaching English as a second language at the University of Massachusetts, where she received her Master’s in Education.
Linda’s first complete book of poems, Winter of the Soul, was published in February 2008. Gogo’s Dream: Discovering Swaziland, a collection of poems dedicated to those who work to aid the peoples of Swaziland was published this year. All proceeds from the sale of Gogo’s Dream go directly to Possible Dreams International.
As a published poet, journalist, blogger, freelance writer and award-winning author, you sound like a very motivated and busy woman. Can you tell us about your typical day of writing? Do you enjoy one sort of writing over another?
Good question, Brigitte. My typical day starts with a cup of tea after my walk at my desk in the corner of my kitchen looking out at my meditation garden. Usually, I begin by checking emails, writing answers to questions, responding to my queries, etc. Then, depending on what is on the calendar, I begin writing in earnest. Most days I write from around 8:30 a.m. until noon-ish, when I stop for lunch, then from around 1 p.m. until 6-6:30. Of course, there are interruptions, but for the most part, I am writing for a good six or seven hours a day.
My first love is poetry. I just relish the way words can be twisted and turned in such a short space to create amazing images. Unfortunately, as all poets know, poetry doesn’t pay the bills. Therefore, I spend most of my time now on writing for BrightHub’s Educational Channel and other freelance pursuits.
I, also, schedule time in to work on a novel I unexpectedly started from what I thought was going to be a short story, but then I fell in love with my characters, which means telling their whole story, not just a snippet.
Viewing your meditation garden in the morning sounds like a peaceful way to begin the day. I noticed you are a member of National Writers' Union, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, and National Association of Multicultural Educators. Have you found these memberships to be beneficial to your writing career?
The National Writers’ Union, I feel is beneficial in that they provide guidelines and advice when I am struggling with what to do about a contract or how I should handle a client. They have also been a great help in suggestions for marketing my work. I would recommend membership to any freelancer or writer.
The other two organizations connect to my teaching career. As an English language teacher, I do get ideas for writing from the interactions of my students. Mostly, those experiences have gone into my poetry, however.
It's good to hear about your positive experiences with the National Writers' Union. I plan to explore their web site for more information. Marketing and promotion are a big part of writing. Can you share a marketing idea that has provided positive results for you?
I have found Women on Writing (WOW) to be an excellent promotional tool. I held a blog tour through WOW for my book Gogo’s Dream: Swaziland Discovered. The tour not only allowed me to connect to other writers, and the readers of their blogs, but also helped with sales, which of course was the purpose of the promotion.
Blog tours are a great way to get your name “out there.” The team at WOW does an excellent job of setting up the tour and providing the blog writers and the guests with whatever they need.
I've heard so many great things about Women On Writing recently. I had no idea they could help with blog tours as well. I'm glad your tour was successful. Can you tell us about Gogo's Dream?
Gogo’s Dream began as a series of poems I wrote for the Poem-a-Day Challenge held by Robert Lee Brewer of Writers’ Digest. He had suggested we write the poems with a theme in mind. I was looking for a way to promote the work of Possible Dreams International, of which I am an ambassador.
Gogo is the Swazi name for grandmother. As a grandmother, myself, I took the plight of the Gogo’s personally. My relationship with them and the others in Swaziland is purely virtual. I have yet to visit Swaziland, although I hope to do so someday.
Learning about the struggles of these brave women to raise grandchildren who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, touched my heart. Many of the Gogos are raising ten or more children. They all live in small one-room huts without running water or the basics of life that we take for granted. Their stories inspired and informed my poetry.
At the end of the month, I realized I had a book, which I published using Blurb.com. I liked this because it made it easy for me to get the book out into people’s hands, immediately, that they could purchase online for the less than the cost of a pizza.
Gogos sound like amazing women who put their heart and soul into caring for children. I understand profits from this book are being donated to Possible Dreams International. What inspired this decision?
Possible Dreams International is an organization, which was co-created by my friend, Dr. Maithri Goonetilleke and one of his fellow doctors. The work they do in Swaziland is with the poorest of the poor, those people who have been devastated by poverty and disease. Most of their work is with the Gogos, who, as I said previously, are raising their grandchildren under extreme poverty. From the first time I heard about the work that Maithri, a fellow poet, was doing, I knew I wanted to be part of his team.
Writing and publishing, Gogo’s Dream, was a way to give to PDI in a manner that I would not be able to do by simply writing a check. Gogo’s Dream, not only raises much need funds for PDI, but it also educates others through the poetry to who the Gogos are, who the people of Swaziland are and what their lives are like in their beautiful, landlocked country.
Linda, I'm so very impressed with your work and the inspiration behind Gogo's Dream. How can we learn more about your writing?
First, Brigitte, let me thank you for this interview and for sharing my love of writing with your readers. To learn more about my writing, please visit
my web site, hubfolio and my blog.
I encourage visitors to leave comments on my blog, to which I will respond, promptly. Knowing that something I have written touches another’s soul or inspires someone is what brings me great joy as a writer.