WELCOME CAMI OSTMAN and SUSAN TIVE
Cami Ostman is an author, editor, life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist with publications in her field. She blogs at7marathons7continents.com and on the psychologytoday.com blogger team. She has appeared in several publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Adventures Northwest, the Mudgee Guardian in Australia, and La Prensa in Chile. Cami is a runner and a dog lover who lives in Bellingham, Washington. Connect with Cami at these sites:
As a writer, editor and researcher Susan Tive has worked on a variety of academic articles exploring psychology, feminism and religion. Susan’s interest in these subjects led her to become an editor for several non-fiction titles including Faith and Feminism and Rachel’s Bag. Her new anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions will be published in April 2013 by Seal Press. Connect with Susan at these sites:
Q&A with Cami and Susan
If you could meet any author, who would you like to meet? Why them and what would you say?
Cami: I’d like meet Jon Krakauer. I’ve loved how he has been able to do extensive research and then turn that research into compelling stories. Everything he writes is scenic and alive. I’m not sure I’d have anything particular to say to him so much as I’d like to follow him around taking notes while he worked on a book so I could imitate his efforts.
Susan: I would love to sit down and talk with Anne Lamott. I have enjoyed her books for years. Operating Instructions, made me laugh out loud about the challenges of becoming a mother. Bird by Bird, her book about writing is one that I reread every year for inspiration and practical advise. I would love to talk to Anne about how she writes with such a perfect balance between the poignant and the humorous and how she finds the courage to be so honest and brave in sharing her life with her readers. But honestly it would be fun to have her regale me with her famous one-liners so that we could spend most of the time laughing uproariously and wiping away the tears.
What is your favorite type of writing? Do you have a favorite? Or would you like to tackle something you haven’t yet?
Cami: I love non-fiction. Because I’ve been both a writing teacher and a family therapist in my professional life, real life stories fascinate me. That being said, I do have a novel in my computer that calls to me and I’d love to take my craft into the realm of fiction long enough to complete that book.
Susan: Ironically, as a reader, I love fiction. Long, epic novels that I can get lost in are my favorites. As a writer I enjoy working with factual and real life material and finding the themes and narrative within it. As a grant writer by profession I have a great deal of fun utilizing this rather rigid format to not only get the facts across but also to create a story that touches at an emotional level as well. For me the goal of my writing is to engage people and get them to care, whether you’re touching an individual or trying to improve the lives of many, writing is an extremely rewarding activity.
What was the real driving force behind sharing this story and taking it to publication?
Cami: With Beyond Belief, I really felt that many voices would be more powerful than one—or two. Susan and I had talked about our respective experiences inside religious communities for a long time before we pitched our book idea to Seal Press. We understood that to speak about what had happened gave us some sense that we weren’t alone. I hoped that our anthology would allow those who contributed to it to realize they weren’t alone either. But more than that, we wanted to start a conversation in our culture at large. We wanted to say, “Hey look what’s going on. Can we talk about this?”
Susan, what would you add?
The entire writing process has been so rewarding. I’ve enjoyed getting to know and working with all of our amazing writers. Hearing their stories and helping them to edit their work was an invaluable experience. Beyond Belief has been successful in creating a larger community of women who share important experiences. It has gotten important conversations going among people who might not have talked to one another otherwise.
As we’ve been touring and promoting the book we’ve received great feedback from readers who appreciate the stories. If they haven’t gone through the experience they’ve learned more about extreme religions and if they’ve been there they are grateful that these stories are finally being told. Readers tell us they feel less alone and more empowered because they now know the stories of others have gone through the same experiences.
Where do you find the inspiration to write? If you don’t have inspiration, what makes you get up each day and write, never knowing if it will be published or not?
Susan: Since I’m primarily a nonfiction writer my inspiration comes from a desire to connect with people through the exploration and understanding of whatever topic I am working with. Often I write because I have questions to ask and writing is the best way to unravel them and find out what lies beneath. Sometimes I just want to share an experience, a feeling, a scene to capture it outside of myself so that others can share in it too, other times writing is the best way for me to figure out what I am really trying to say.
I am deeply moved by the process of writing. The activity of writing brings forth many different parts of myself. I like the fact that it is deeply personal and yet to reach full fruition must be oh so very public. I’m a shy person who wants and needs to communicate, the intimacy and safety of the written word is where I find my voice.
Cami: Some days I have inspiration and some days I don’t. I suppose I always feel compelled to DO something with the thoughts that crowd my head. Writing is the best thing I know. Whether I’m blogging or writing my own story or playing with fiction, I’m taking what’s going on inside and letting the page (or computer screen) hold it for me. Many days I don’t write anything worth publishing, but when I do hit on something I think will be interesting or useful to others, I feel excited.
When I coach writers, I tell them to make a commitment to write 500 words a day as a minimum. That can be harder than you’d think, especially when you know most of those words will only live in your own files. Still, this keeps you going, and some of those words will stick around and become work that feels significant.
When will we see another book from you? Any sneak peeks for us at your WIP?
Susan: It’s been hard for me to keep from dreaming up a bunch of new anthology topics because Beyond Belief was so much fun. Currently I’m working on a memoir. It’s an interesting story about the ten plus years I lived as an Orthodox Jew in a small community in New Mexico. In it I explore many of the same questions we asked in Beyond Belief. Why would a modern well-educated young mother become religious? What did she gain and lose? My story has an interesting twist that I think many readers will be surprised by. Although I take on a religious lifestyle that limits my freedom and choices I actually thrive in the religious community. Because of the strong friendships and community support Orthodoxy provides I gain the strength I need to overcome major obstacles and radically change my life. It’s sure to be a page-turner!
Cami: Well, I just got back from Japan where I did some research for a new book I’m tentatively calling Chasing the Goddess. I’m in the process of visiting several sacred sites where the divine feminine has been or is revered. I’ve posted some pictures on my travel blog: 7marathons7continents.com. If anyone is interested in following along, they can sign up for my newsletter on my coaching site: camiostman.net.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of extreme religions decide to walk away. Editors Susan Tive (a former Orthodox Jew) and Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian) have compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they’ve all experienced and rejected extreme religions.
Covering a wide range of religious communities—including Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah’s Witness—and containing contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories in Beyond Belief reveal how these women became involved, what their lives were like, and why they came to the decision to eventually abandon their faiths. The authors shed a bright light on the rigid expectations and misogyny so often built into religious orthodoxy, yet they also explain the lure—why so many women are attracted to these lifestyles, what they find that’s beautiful about living a religious life, and why leaving can be not only very difficult but also bittersweet.
Read an excerpt
Genre: Non Fiction, Women’s Studies
Publisher: Seal Press
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
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