Monday, October 7, 2013

An Interview with Author and Therapist, Jan Marquart

Jan Marquart is a psychotherapist and author who has written in every imaginable genre from fiction to memoir to poetry to self-help. She won the Writer's Digest Self-Published award in 2000 for The Breath of Dawn and the Achievement in Poetry Award by the International Library of Poetry in 2005. She is founder and CEO of About the Author Network, an organization dedicated to helping authors write, publish and sell their books.

She will be leading a Story Circle Network Writing from Life workshop November 2, 2013 in Austin, TX. For information and to register visit:

Lisa: How did you become both a writer and a therapist?

Jan: I was born in Brooklyn and lived there until I decided to go to college in California. I quit a great job as a legal secretary on Wall Street which disturbed my parents, but I couldn’t see myself taking shorthand and typing someone else’s ideas forever. I wanted to find out what I thought and desired to write since I was eight but tucked it away when my parents didn’t show an interest. When I enrolled in UCSC I met a friend who recommended I keep a journal. I have written every day since June, 1972. I studied philosophy and then got my master in Social Work.

Lisa: What do you wish people knew about you?
Jan: That is a great question. I have felt misunderstood most of my life and I realized that the thinking many people do is so limited and fearful. I suppose that’s why I write so much. When the pressure builds inside me I have to say it somehow, through some genre and still keep hope and faith. It takes a lot for me to ask for help, not because I can’t ask but because I don’t believe my life’s problems belong to anyone but me. I’d like people to know that for anyone who is suffering, me or anyone else, to receive an offer of help restores faith in humanity.
Lisa: Evidence for and trusting one's own intuition seems to be a major theme in much of your writing. Can you speak a little about that?
Jan: In the last twenty something years I had quite a few people tell me I couldn't do something while something inside me told me I could. They thought I just wanted to battle with them but I wasn't battling. I wasn't being recalcitrant. I truly knew I could do what they said I couldn't and proceeded from there. Turns out I did everything others told me I couldn't. So when people tell me what they think I am or am not capable of, I listen to the message from my gut. Sometimes my gut agrees and sometimes it doesn't. When I know better and I rationalize a reason not to listen to that voice, I suffer terribly. Listen to everyone but rarely take their comments to heart, especially when it comes to your capability.
Lisa: Of all the various genres you have tried, which seemed to come most naturally? Which was most challenging?
Jan: Once I start writing I don't feel as if I'm struggling with any of them. I think poetry is the most challenging because I don't know any formal poetry styles. I just write according to the power that comes through me.
Lisa: Do you use an editor or agent?
Jan: I had an agent for Kate's Way. I got her name from Lynn Andrews after asking her for and endorsement for [my how-to book] The Mindful Writer. As far as editors – I hire retired school teachers, friends, strangers, and anyone who would read my manuscripts. I like getting ordinary readers to give me their comments. All writers need to know that it takes other people to tell them what they like to read. We write in isolation but we must come out into the world with our manuscripts to see if they even make sense. I only make the changes that don't compromise the integrity of what I've written.
Lisa: What advice would you give to beginning writers?
Jan: Don't worry about how to discipline yourself to write. Don't worry about whether you can write or not. If you have something to say simply say it. You can't edit or publish anything unless you have written something first. I hear writers tell me in my workshops how frightened they are that someone they love will be angry at what they write. In my experience too many people don't do what they desire because of the criticism of narrow-minded and fear-based people. This is a dangerous place for writers. Write. Let other people decide how to behave around what you write.
From The Mindful Writer: Still the Mind, Free the Pen

"As a writer, going spelunking into your own experience may awaken ghosts and reveal black hearted wishes. But life has ways of forcing us to come to grips with the darkness so we can find the light in order to survive. What is your way to the light?"
"We call it 'writer's block' but there is no block. There is only our personal rhythm of experience."
 "I have found that all of life takes courage, relentless courage, and writing is no different."
From Echoes from the Womb: A Book for Daughters
"Daughters cannot help but take their mothers with them into their own old age. From conception to death we carry our mothers with us."
"We do stop crying and our pain can ease up if we face it with courage and hope. Learning how to suffer is a skill."
"You can pick and choose which pieces you want in the quilt of your future life and which ones you don't."