Two Authors, Worlds Apart. A friendly author chat between Patricia Furstenberg and Jennifer Lopez about books, travel, and coffee.
Two Authors. Worlds Apart. Serendipity on their Side.
What is better for an author than to do a book signing event? Maybe a book signing half way across the world?
Better than a book blog tour?
When my new book publisher asked me to do a book signing at an historic book shop in some quaint little town within the state of Ohio, I didn’t hesitate for a second to agree. First, because I’d never set foot in the New World and I was so curious to find out if everything in North America is really ‘bigger than life’ as they say! But more importantly, because the bookshop where I’d been asked to do my signing could only have been a plan of pure serendipity or fate.
Of all the bookshops all over the world I was about to walk into hers! Jen, with her un-curbed enthusiasm, Jennifer Lopez.
So now, here I am at this very moment, nervous with excitement for the experience. I’m holding a red rose, searching among the myriad of busy Americans around me, for Jen and her red rose.
I know people do look a tad different when you meet them in person as apposed to their website or Twitter, so I’m hoping she’ll recognize me. We’re to meet for coffee first, here at this small and chic (I am impressed) coffee place right next to the bookshop. It feels like I’ve stepped into a world of times past. The coffee shop is one that’s been there for a very long time and has that old vintage feel. I see large windows at the back of the cafe- there are people looking down. I remember then, Jen saying the bookshop and café sat right atop a waterfall. I could hear it now—despite the bustle. Wow. This was definitely not what I imagined the U.S.A. to be like. Maybe because we aren’t in a large city.
And yes, I’ll answer your question before you even speak; we decided to meet like this for the fun of it! Is there a more exciting way for two writers to meet, I’m asking you?
There she is. We walk toward each other unable to contain our smiles and laughter.
Jen hugs me tight and says,
“Finally a real hug instead of a virtual hug! You are so precious Pat.”
We tap our roses together and chuckle.
“Come on Pat, I’ve gotten us a table. The café will be clearing out soon- as the afternoon rush is over.”
The waiter sets down our two cups of espresso.
PAT: Ahhhh… It’s chilly here so this is perfect Jen. We’ve wanted to chat about so many things, but with our kids, family and writing, well—we just never have the time. I love your humanitarian efforts and you know it’s something we both feel passionate about. I’ll never forget when your Middle School ESL students read my book HAPPY FRIENDS and how they responded. It felt so great to hear that my little book had been appreciated in such a way.
JEN: Pat, it was so awesome to experience. Then, when your book JOYFUL TROUBLE came out, it spoke on such a deep level to both kids and adults alike. Ella and I were thrilled to write our endorsement for the cover. Are you so excited to be signing today for all your special animal stories?
My coffee’s gone cold, or is this the second cup already? We’re too engrossed in discussion to notice.
PAT: I can’t even begin to express my happiness Jen. Talking about JOYFUL TROUBLE (now in Large Print) is so fun—maybe because it is based on a true family story. Also it really seems to appeal to young and adults alike. I think it’s his human nature that makes the dog such a huge success. Through his sheer size, he commands respect. He reveres his sailor friends and has a loyalty towards them that is unsurpassed. The things he does…well, dogs do have this rare quality about them, to sense when they are needed. But Joyful Trouble is also a peaceful dog (almost As Good as Gold), a contrasting quality with his size.
Perhaps the fact that there is no self-interest in Joyful Trouble’s actions—yet they leave the reader astounded. I am grateful for its positive impact.
JEN: It sure does have a positive impact, Pat. Animal stories reach into the hearts of readers because of the unconditional love and tenderness their actions express. They themselves are lessons we humans can learn a lot from.
PAT: How did you develop such a tremendous love of Culture, Jen? I’ve always seen & admired it—so I have to ask.
JEN: I think we both feel it within us, Pat—you know? I’ve known culture is strongly rooted in you as well. Even your efforts to convey acceptance and the love of differences in HAPPY FRIENDS was tremendous. Maybe it’s something so deep, it’s a challenge to explain. I can’t say mine came from upbringing, because I didn’t grow up in a family completely immersed in this appreciation. So, I guess I’m inclined to feel as if my love if culture and the ‘uniquenesses’ of the world were just innately present and then grew. Every time I would interact with someone from another country, see a beautifully unique face from the rest of those around me, hear a new language, or be invited by a friend to take part in a cultural family celebration—it touched me deeply—all of it…
As I grew older, I read more and more about the cultures of our world, the rich traditions and the beauty in differences. I was magnetized by the sheer simplicity of cultures different from my own and how this very simplicity took nothing away from the people—in fact—it contributed tremendously to people’s happiness. It was as if there was no drive compelling me more so, than this deep reverence for culture. I believe my writing is an extension of this reverence for a simpler life and that kind of genuine happiness. That’s why I love HAPPY FRIENDS. Anyway, eventually I had to go, to live, to be a part of it for myself. Once I’d experienced the deeply endearing qualities of life and people in Italy, Spain and Mexico—I was forever changed. I felt myself connected, rooted forever-more in these distinct and beautiful cultures. What about you sweet Pat?
PAT: Well, I am so excited to visit America! I find it interesting and stimulating to see new places and be among people of a different culture. It’s quite diverse here, which is exciting to see. The way individuals think and their attitude towards the simplest facts in life is of great interest to me. When I grew up in Romania we didn’t have much access to the world outside its physical borders due to political restrictions and regulations. So other cultures were like a forbidden fruit. You would get what you could from movies, from books, by reading foreign author’s works and learning about their respective countries. I was lucky enough to be able to travel after the fall of the Berlin wall and the fall of the Communist regime. I felt like a sponge, ready to assimilate everything I saw. From art and music to the way people live and spend their free time; their national imprint and the way climate influences their lives. Everything was fascinating…
South Africa is the rainbow country. People from many nationalities live in harmony, or so we try. We have 11 official languages. What people share is their humor, the fantastic foods, the blue sky and the love for music.
It is a country that has inspired many artists and writers and it definitely influences my writing. Although my roots remain Romanian as does my heartbeat, I say.
JEN: I love that! Oh my gosh- it must be incredible living in Africa and still having that depth of appreciation for your own culture. Not only that, but you explain it so beautifully—something that affects so many: the desire to truly know the world—but be restricted from this possibility in its purest form. Media and the movies can actually taint one’s perspective regarding the truths of a culture. Thank goodness for good cultural literature.
PAT: Yes, you know, when I grew up I would study about famous Romanian people of culture who left to further their educations in ‘The City of Light,’ Paris. This was the beginning of the 20th century. And they all missed the blue sky from back home, the way the birds sing, the way the air smells. I could not understand that longing – until now. That is culture to me, being rooted in your own. I guess it is the way our hearts have been wired.
JEN: So interesting…all of it. And really, I feel we could talk forever. Are we still okay on time Pat? I don’t want you to arrive late to your signing?
PAT: We are just fine, it’s not until 7:30pm and I set aside this time to be with you. Let’s share a pastry. How does the Raspberry Custard Tart sound?
JEN: You picked my favorite!
I raise my hand and motion to the lad behind the counter. He smiles and points. He heads over with two forks and the tart.
JEN: So, children inspire your writing as does making a difference. How did you get to be such a dear one? Huh?
PAT: I think when we have our feet firmly grounded in our roots, in what drives us—as you say—(the moral compass), then all we want is to make a difference. Having roots is very import for our children. And books can help a great deal in discovering one’s roots. Because books tell stories and stories do have a source. Before ‘the story’ was printed, it was told—at the beginning of its time—and it went from mouth to mouth. Each story was sparked by one previous to it. Each is rooted in an old folk tale, somewhere in a forgotten corner of the world…
Animals and children have this special gift of seeing beyond boundaries; to them there are no boundaries. Nothing stands and nothing should stand between a child and their hopes and dreams and life learning…
With Animals, when they look at each other, they see the possibility of friendship, especially baby animals.
Children, when they look at each other, they see beauty and they see the possibility of a friendship or the excitement of learning.
JEN: YES!! So then the nature of an animals’ emotional intelligence is essentially what draws you to write about them? There is such a clear undeniable connection between the purity and selflessness of children and animals.
PAT: Right and since we now live in a hyper-technologically-driven world, what was important yesterday might not have the same value tomorrow. The world is most definitely changing.
IQ- Intellectual Quotient, was of high value… yesterday.
Today, Emotional intelligence- EQ is what our children need to excel in life. Being aware of your feelings and of the feelings of those near you, knowing how to express them and how to put your feelings into words.
Animals can sense things long before we do. They can read our emotional cues; this is why writing about animals is so exciting and attractive to me. Animals have no boundaries when given the opportunity to thrive in an environment, they do not shield their emotions, they do not misunderstand them.
Giving animals human qualities in a story can have an amusing effect but in the end it isn’t the real life. Because animals are so much more emotionally intelligent than we know…
Children can easily relate to animal stories because children have an innate desire to care for and look after those smaller than themselves. Care, as they are being cared for. And who out there, is smaller than a child, but a baby animal or, at least, a furry character from a book? It’s why so many generations of children loved Winnie-The-Pooh, or Paddington Bear.
JEN: You yourself have proof of this beautiful truth in the story of Joyful Trouble. I love this because there are some who don’t acknowledge the keen emotional intelligence of animals. Their potential to contribute to each human’s life is unfathomably beautiful. My sister would love you as well. She has a highly intuitive sense related to animals and for this I admire her. Another fellow humanitarian- she cares for animals and advocates for them as you do. Pat, we just connect on these ideals and it makes me overjoyed…
Do you enjoy the Raspberry Custard Tart? It feels such a privilege to share with you and I still can’t believe we are sitting here together!
PAT: It’s yummy and I could sit here all day. It’s like the café cleared out for us to have this time.
JEN: That’s because they’re all getting ready for your book signing—is what’s happening! You know what- We also have this funny Elephant connection-you and I do. I just remembered this. The little elephant, Pete- in your Happy Friends book. My sweet daughter, Ella and I loved Pete and the cute story behind his becoming part of the book. —Ella herself has the Elephant’s namesake because of the deep emotional intelligence these stunning animals exhibit throughout their lifetimes with loved ones and the matriarchal strength that guides their family.
PAT: I know. I love the cover of your Fearless Thinkers book with the two Elephants. That book is a help to many families, aspiring to take a different path with parenting. It is evident that you wrote the book with the intention of helping others too. Elephants sure are an inspiration for both of us Jen. And yes, my idea to write about an elephant came not only from the plastic, old, yellow toy elephant (Pete) we have at home, but also from my mother’s interest in elephants and what they symbolize: courage, wisdom, strength, family. Perhaps the fact that elephants have a matriarchal family also influenced my decision!
But Pete, our yellow toy elephant with a twinkle in his eyes, was just sitting quietly on his shelf… until one day when he couldn’t keep quiet anymore and told me that he had a story to tell. Could I help him?
Turns out, my children’s book- Happy Friends was just that.
JEN: I know. So super sweet. The simplicity of that inspiration!! Well, let’s take a quick walk down to the waterfall so we can take in the sounds of nature and you can prepare for this evening’s events. The time has flown. I did mean to ask what your future plans are though Pat. We can’t leave without knowing what’s next—besides time with our kids—of course.
PAT: Well, I have lots of children’s books in my plans for the future, most of them about dogs! Fun stories, some sad ones as well—they are based on true events. One needs to raise awareness about animals’ feelings and their status and import in our busy lives.
JEN: Yes, I agree. Your FOUR latest books (that you’ll be releasing in the next few weeks) after your well loved-Happy Friends and Joyful Trouble, remind me of the tremendous stories you hear of around the world about Unlikely Animal Friends. They are utterly heart-warming. There’s been so many beautiful reviews and guest posts for your books. We loved your cover reveals for: Puppy, The Lion and the Dog, The Elephant and the Sheep, The Cheetah and the Dog. OHHH! What treasures!
PAT: Thanks Jen. I hope they will be cherished in many homes for years to come. You know, I wanted to ask you the same thing—what’s next for you in your writing and in your career? You keep so busy with your Spanish Interpreting, your writing and your Homeschooling of Ella to boot! Do you plan to continue all of this?
JEN: You know how we are. Where there’s a passion- there’s always a way. So my passion to support the Spanish-speaking Cultures is ongoing. It’s as if it were embedded in my DNA. It is always incredible for me to witness others embracing the rich family traditions, ideals and work ethic of Latin Americans. They are some of the most tremendous people—and precious neighbors in Central and South America. Here in the U.S., we SHARE the very same continent—all of us in ‘The Americas’…and our American Continent’s farthest points reach both the North and the South Poles. I do plan to continue my writing, editing and proofreading. How can we not? It is our fuel, right?! Words, language and communication equate to passion and connection with culture. My own upcoming books… well one has been in the works for quite some time. The program has existed for 15+ years and I am finally putting it into book form. A writer’s work is never done though- so I keep making the tweaks. When I am fully satisfied, you’ll be one of the first to know. It’s a rapid Spanish Language Instruction book—an intrinsically Easy-to-Learn Spanish Program—different than any out there I’ve seen in my own research over the years… The other is a series of short stories called: Empathy Power. Much like your true animal stories, these are powerful due to their truth—each carrying a unique message. As an educator, my hope is for them to captivate while they educate. Time will tell my friend…
Well Pat, now it’s time we take that walk. I can’t wait for your book signing!
PAT: I can’t either Jen. Thanks for sharing this time with me, this has been incredible. I love conversations like these- where each of us can share a bit of ourselves, our deeper thoughts, our aspirations—and I just can’t believe fate allowed us this chance. The universe works in mysterious ways and far be it for me to question them. I’d rather embrace them and live to tell about them.
As they are about to leave the cafe, Pat looks back and smiles at the two spoons, two espresso cups, one plate with a bit of raspberry drizzle and the two red roses that were left on the table. She smiles and thinks….
Thank you for joining us today.
Read Jen’s Reviews of Pat’s books- Joyful Trouble & Happy Friends: