Jackie O’Donnell Interview || The Women in Me
Jackie O’Donnell words:
I admit it. I’m addicted to writing, be it poetry or prose. It’s a compulsion I’ve had ever since I first held a pencil and could make words appear on pieces of butcher paper from the roll my parents wrapped bread and other goodies in at our family bakery in San Jose, CA. It continued through third grade, when I won a prize from the school bank for a little masterpiece called “It’s Fun to Save.” Writing drove away the lonesomes of not being able to play with other kids because polio left me less than agile, and it led to several notebooks containing imaginary escapades of my mom, my dog Slicer, my wheelchair, and me. As a senior in high school, I won the Creative Writing award and a scholarship, but I earned only a B in the class because I wanted to write what I wanted to write, not what was assigned.
When I began college, I decided writing was not going to feed me, and I loved the idea of teaching others how to communicate. Teaching was a natural fit. For many years I taught high school English, that universally hated subject. Those years gave me happy fulfillment and lifelong friends in the form of colleagues and ex-students. I count among my blessings “kids” who were now in education, politics, on both sides of the aw (in prison and a District Attorney), corporate executives, trades people, the famous and slightly infamous. Keeping in touch with these people, along with experiences I had growing up as a person with a disability, gave me food for thought…and for writing. Much of what I write, then, deals with how people treat each other.
I’ve written six books so far, the latest one (“The Women in Me: How they Helped Me Survive and Thrive”) with my good friend Nancy Malone-Mercado.
Life is good. Life brings surprises, Life exists to be written about and shared.
The Women in Me
On the release of her new book, we covered an interview with Jackie O’Donnell.
Thanks to her for answering these questions.
What inspired this book?
Nancy and I grew into a close friendship because we discovered that we were both primary caregivers for our husbands, finding that that role didn’t mesh with the role of wife. We shared other aspects of our lives, as well, like sexual endangerment as young children, marriage to an alcoholic, and re-defining our identity after the death of a spouse.
That made us think about how many women go through these things without someone who truly understands their situation, and how that can lead to frustration, loneliness, and deteriorating self-esteem. So, we decided to put together a book to help these women.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. As soon as I could put pencil to the pieces of butcher paper from the roll in my parents’ bakery, I wrote little stories and verses. I’ve continued writing throughout my life, and teaching high school English so I could afford to buy paper and pencils and, later, a word processor.
Readers should read this book for?
Women should read this book because they’re either going through now or will in the future some of the life-events depicted in the book, and they need to know that they can draw strength from their Influencers that will help them both survive and thrive.
First, though, they have to look into themselves to identify those personal Influencers. Although we wrote the book for women, we’re finding that men can also get something from it. For example, one male reader commented that it caused him to revisit his own life, including how and why he handled events as he did.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book as a young child. I underwent several surgeries due to the effects of polio, meaning I was homebound most of those years. My mom often took my dog and me, in my wheelchair, on walks. My book chronicled real and imagined adventures we experienced.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, of course I like to read. More than that, though, I love taking my dog on walks, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the smells, sounds, and colors we encounter. I tend to take new paths, to the point of getting lost in my own neighborhood (thank the electronics gods for the maps feature in my cell phone so I can find my way home). In addition, I find that I’ve never totally retired from teaching, as I enjoy working with people whose writing skills interfere with their pursuit of a job, college entrance, scholarships, internships, acceptable Masters/PhD dissertations, and the like. It gives me pleasure to see their self-confidence grow and their writing improve.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
“The Women in Me” is typical of my writing style. As a writer, one of my strengths is an ability to use fresh language that creates images people can relate to. Another is a sense of humor that I can infuse into even serious topics, sort of a sideways look at life.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I’d hope that this book would entertain readers. That’s first, because an entertained reader is an involved reader, someone who is open to new ideas. Next, I’d like them to be comfortable looking at their own life in a positive way, knowing that they do have the tools within themselves to rediscover who they are and want to become, then do it.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
Currently, most of my energy is directed to promoting “The Women in Me.” That’s time-consuming. Any writing I’ll be doing for a while is some poetry.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Apart from being a writer, I really wanted to be a veterinarian. That was unrealistic, however, for a person with crutches and leg braces. My next love was teaching, which I did in the public school system.