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Women on Wednesday—Alissa Johnson

Alissa Johnson

1. What was the impetus or inspiration to write your story?

I tried very hard not to write my story. In 2008, I started graduate school at the University of Western Connecticut MFA program. I was determined to become a witty travel writer—a David Sedaris meets Barbara Kingsolver out on the open road, if such a thing is possible! I swore I would never write about relationships or marriage.

Yet every time I sat down to write, my marriage—and my disillusionment and unhappiness—crept in. For my very first assignment I tried to write about a trip my husband and I took to Mexico. I wrote 30 pages to arrive at the 15 I turned in, and the piece was a mess. Luckily, my mentor, author Mark Sundeen, took the time to read carefully and discern that it was not really an essay about a trip to Mexico. It was an essay about a 30-year-old woman trying to figure out if she could reconnect to her husband and the life they’d built together over the previous 10 years.

She could not. I could not. Over the next two years, I found myself writing a memoir about my divorce as every aspect of my life unraveled. Time and again, I tried to write something else, but I was always drawn back to my own story. I learned that sometimes we have a specific story that needs to be told and there can be great power in heeding that. I know now that writing that story helped me save my own life and create a new one better aligned with my true dreams and values.

2. What were some of the struggles that you faced in the writing process? How were you able to overcome them?

Most of my struggles were emotional. I wrote as a way to find answers in my own life, often tackling questions and issues I hadn’t admitted out loud to myself or to my husband. This made writing an extremely emotional process layered with intense guilt—my ex-husband was not an evil man; I was the one hurting him by asking for a divorce. I was also writing about things still ongoing in my own life. I didn’t know how things were going to turn out, much less how to end chapters. Some chapters had to sit for months before I could give them a proper resolution. I also worried a great deal about writing a story that not only exposed my secrets and flaws, but also exposed my ex-husband and my family.

Three things helped me get through the process. First, I learned to focus only on the writing before me. I could worry about sharing it (and hence, the reactions of others) after I had a manuscript to show for my efforts. Secondly, I found a lot of freedom in the Artist’s Way, a book by Natalie Cameron that taught me to foster my own creativity and introduced me to morning pages—essentially, three pages of handwritten brain dumping to get ride of mental clutter and closer to my own truth. I learned to let the act of writing be a safe and creative space in my life and not something to fear.

I also had tremendous mentors who didn’t judge me. They provided a fair sounding board for my writing, and also cared about my well-being. They taught me that it was okay to let a story rest while I lived my life—that just like my life had it’s own timing and rhythm, the life of a story did, too.

3. Is there a place, routine, or ritual that you have when writing? Is there an environment that allows you to be the most creative?

For creative writing, I write best in the early morning hours. I like to wake up, let the dog out, get a cup of coffee and climb back into bed to start with morning pages. It’s best when it’s still dark out and I’m writing only by the glow of a bedside lamp. It creates the sensation that I’m in a safe cocoon, and it’s a signal to my inner censor that this draft doesn’t have to be good. It just needs to uncover the story. (I should add that I write all rough drafts by hand for the same reasons!)

Now that I’m in a new relationship, it doesn’t always work to take over the bed for writing. I’ve trained myself to write during the light of day now, in 90-minute increments (with the timer actually going). That’s long enough to get something done but short enough that it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming amount of time. I’ve also had great success writing first drafts on airplanes or waiting for airplanes—there’s no place to go and nothing else to do.

4. If you had to describe yourself in three words only, what would they be?

Determined. Adventurous. Homebody.

(I like to think the latter two can coexist).

5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

Rock climbing in Thailand. I moved from Minneapolis to Colorado after my divorce, and I now live 9,000 feet above sea level. I crave tropical forests and humidity! Not long after moving here, I met my boyfriend of two-plus years and he introduced me to rock climbing. It’s a physically and mentally demanding sport that in many ways parallels the writing process—you make progress by taking small steps and learning that you can move forward even when you’re afraid. That’s a life lesson I always need to be reminded of, and I would love to explore it in Thailand.

6. What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future? Do you have any exciting plans or projects coming up?

I’ve begun my first novel about a young girl in Northern Minnesota—the place of my roots—coming to terms with a newly created wolf hunt. I’ll admit, I love fiction after pouring my heart and soul into a memoir! I’m also launching a new business as a writing coach, and as part of that, a website called WritingStrides ( dedicated to helping writers navigate the writing process. Not just the nuts and bolts of writing, but the emotional hurdles that come with it.

Love Good Stories and Photography?

We are so excited to announce the debut of our literary journal, The Pubscriber! We have been hard at work compiling these wonderful submissions and are ready to share them with the world. Talented writers from across the world submitted their pieces, along with stunning photographs from several photographers.

The Pubscriber contains works of both fiction and non-fiction, along with a few pieces of flash fiction. The stories range across a large spectrum; “Grafitti Birds” by Chris Castle is the fictitious story of a young disabled man trying to find normalcy after the death of his mother, while Jesse Szalay tells the true tale of her experience with a ladybug infestation in “The Swarm.”

An excerpt of He Never Liked Cake by Janna Leyde is featured in the journal as well. When she was 14, Leyde’s father suffered a traumatic brain injury. He Never Liked Cake shares her struggles, triumphs, and adjustments after her father’s and her family’s world was turned upside down. Leyde has posted her novel on and is striving to have the full-lengh book published by January 2013.

The Pubscriber is for every audience, and we encourage you to check it out! We are currently accepting submissions for our fall issue on a rolling basis, including writing and photography. Everything you need to know can be found here.

Timeline: Films Adapted From Fiction

The year of 2012 has been (and continues to be!) full of movies based on books.  Movies like The Hunger Games, The Lorax, and Savages hit the box offices hard, and we are all looking forward to The Great Gatsby, The Hobbit, and Breaking Dawn to sweep us away.

However, I would like to a minute to bring us all back to up speed by going through some oldies but goodies of books appearing on the silver screen.

1936- Gone With the Wind adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name

1939- Wuthering Heights adapted from Emily Brontë’s novel of the same name

1946- It’s a Wonderful Life based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s short story “The Greatest Gift”

1961- Yojimbo adapted from Dashel Hammett’s Red Harvest

1971- A Clockwork Orange adapted from Anthony Burgess’s novel of the same name

1971- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory adapted from Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name

1987- The Princess Bride adapted from William Goldman’s novel of the same name

1992- A River Runs Through It adapted from Norman Maclean’s novel of the same name

1993- Schindler’s List adapted from Thomas Keneally’s book Schindler’s Ark

1994- Forrest Gump adapted from Winston Groom’s novel of the same name

1995- Clueless adapted from Jane Austen’s Emma 

1999- 10 Things I Hate About You adapted from William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew

2001- Bridget Jones Diary adapted from Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name

2001- Josie and the Pussycats adapted from the Dan DeCarlo comic of the same name 

2001- Harry Potter film series begins adapted from J.K. Rowling’s series of the same name

2001- The Lord of the Rings film series begins adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien three book volume of the same name.

2004- The Notebook adapted from Nicholas Sparks’s novel of the same name

2005- The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe adapted from C.S. Lewis’s novel of the same name

2007- 300 adapted from Frank Miller’s comic series of the same name

2011- Cowboys & Aliens adapted from Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s graphic novel of the same name

2011- The Help adapted from Katheryn Stockett’s novel of the same name


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Submit today!

Hey everyone!’s literary magazine, The Pubscriber, is currently accepting submissions for the debut issue! We are looking for fiction, non-fiction, flash fiction and photography submissions.  The deadline is June 15, 2012 so hurry and send us your best work! Head over to the submission guidelines at for all the details!

We look forward to reading all your work!

So, for all you hopefuls trying to get published…here’s your chance! We know a little publication padding is important before an author goes for the BIG push of publishing a book and we wanted to provide this opportunity to our audience, our authors, and, well, the creative world at large.
The Pubscriber is Now Accepting Submissions!

Pubslush Press is pleased to announce the debut of it’s own literary journal, The Pubscriber. We will be accepting submissions for the inaugural issue until June 15. See site for more details and submissions guidelines!