The fifth prompt for W.Com Pageant contest - self-interview
| Realizing that she may very well have more than one personality, researching Vivian and asking others what they wished to know about this prolific writer didn’t pose any problems. The questions ranged from the simple, easy to answer ones to some that took major consideration and thinking to find acceptable answers. Asking one’s self should cause no surprising responses, but some of the interview brought unexpected results. Hopefully, readers will enjoy Viv’s interview with Vivian Gilbert Zabel – and the answers to questions that inquiring minds want to know.
Viv: You have said you use life experiences in your writing. What are some of the “experiences” you are talking about?
Vivian: Which life do you mean? I’ve been a child, a teen, a college student, a bride and young wife, a new mother, the "agony" in the lives of teenagers, an old mother, a carhop, an office worker and a manager, a teacher, a retired grandmother, and now a writer. Each component that makes up “me,” whoever or whatever I may be, is part of my life’s experience. I’ve worked with children, teens, and adults. I’m the wife of a man who has been in poor health for over thirty years, and who was close to death. I’m the mother of three grown children and the “adopted” mother of others. In October, my tenth grandchild is scheduled to join the family. I have two great-grandchildren. I’ve lived long and hard, enjoying most of the miles but not the sudden stops. Just my years of living, alone, give me enough material to write at least 100 more poems, thirty stories, and another novel or two. Then add my wild and vivid imagination, and the outcome becomes rather unique.
Viv: Was teaching your first love? If yes, how did that passion develop? If no, how did you decide to become a teacher?
Vivian: I knew that I would be a teacher when I was twelve-years old. I think I was born an old woman, knowing and understanding things that others my age didn't know or care about. I wanted to "help" others. It took years and a couple of detours before I obtained that degree, since I only finished one semester of college after high school. Thirteen years later, I registered in the local university, finishing my degree with a double major in one and a half years. My recommendation? Don't try that condensed time for a degree; it's murder.
Viv: You mention “adopted” children and are often called the Writing.Com site mom, how does that correlate with your “real” life?
Vivian: Writing.Com is part of my real life. The people I’ve come to know are real. They are an important part of who I am now. I’ve met some of them face to face at the conventions. Some are voices on the phone. Most are words on the computer screen. Each person fills notches in my heart and life. I remember when pen-pals were popular, and people often built friendships and relationships from letters that flew back and forth. Now we use the computer.
Viv: Would you tell us about your family. You mention them often.
Vivian: My parents are both gone, and even now I miss them. My husband, Robert, is the mainstay in my life. We’ve been married over forty-three years, longer by forty-two years than I was single.
My oldest is Rene, my only living biological daughter. The mother of four of my grandchildren, she and her current husband are expecting a baby boy. Her two oldest, Macayla and Keri, each have a child. Macayla’s son, Kurtis, is my first great-grandson, and Keri’s daughter, Katie, is the first great-granddaughter. Her second family, Faris and Meena (Yasmeen), are the missing grandchildren stolen by their father over eight years ago. I've written about them and the pain of their loss in several poems. Rene works with programing in Virginia close to Washington, D.C.
Robert Lee, Jr., “Bob,” is two years younger than Rene. He brought us two granddaughters when he married Brenda. Elizabeth attends college in California, where she’ll finish her master’s this next year. Jennifer will begin her sophomore year in New Mexico this fall. Bob, a career Air Force officer, will be in Colorado after the middle of August.
Randy and his wife, Janelle, and their three sons live just a few miles from us. He has his PhD in political science but makes his living by being the informational technology director at a private school. He still teaches a course each semester at the local university. Ryan, Colby, and Shane attend the private school where their parents work. Janelle is the student store manager.
Viv: What have you never done before that you would like to do before you die?
Vivian: Something I have never done? That doesn’t leave much from which to choose. I’ve never gone to Europe or Australia. I’ve never won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I’ve never met Becky Simpson . Hmmm . . . I would like to meet Becky before I die. Of course I’d also like to meet Holly Jahangiri, Harry Gilleland, Shaara, Diane Steele, Angie Lemons, Robert Blackwell, and multiple others.
I would love to have all my family together at least one more time – ALL my family.
Viv: What is your best character trait? Your worst flaw?
Vivian: Robert said I don’t have any good character traits. I hope he was joking. I think my best trait is a combination of honesty and loyalty. I asked some other people, and they listed the following: encouragement, honesty, niceness. So maybe I’m a nice, honest encourager who is loyal?
The worst flaw would probably be impatience. I’ve always had a problem with waiting.
Viv: What is your most satisfying achievement? Your greatest disappointment?
Vivian: The most satisfying achievement would have to be my children, followed by attaining my degree and teaching certificate.
Not being able to find or see my two missing grandchildren is my greatest disappointment and sorrow; although, anyone who has lived as long as I have has had disappointments in life.
Viv: What famous person do you admire most?
Vivian: I most admire Jesus Christ. My whole life and beliefs are based on His teachings and life. I will never be able to meet the example He set, but I’ll keep trying.
Viv: The next question is tied into the preceding one: With all the adversity in your life, and your never ending ability to still find daily humor and to reach out to others, from where does your tremendous strength come, enabling you to face each day?
Vivian: My faith in God is what allows me to continue living. Oh, my love for Robert and the rest of my family has a huge influence, too, but He is my strength. He provides the power needed to face adversity and, after the tears pass, to be able to smile again. Of course, I still tell the Lord that I really don't want to know how much I can endure. I'm not curious at all. *sigh* For some reason He thinks I need to know.
Viv: Why do you write?
Vivian: I write because I have to. The words fight to be written until I have to grab pen and paper or head for the computer.
Viv: Do you have any projects in the works? Considering that you have recently published a book of short stories, do you have any desire to publish a novel sometime in the future?
Vivian: I wrote a novella for a contest on W.Com over a year ago, “The Midnight Hours.” I’m expanding that work into a novel. A short story has everything condensed, and the author has to decide what is absolutely necessary and what isn’t. A novel requires a little more detail and much more long-term planning.
The published book, Hidden Lies and Others Stories, contains a variety of short stories, different genre, different viewpoints, different plots.
The problem with a short story is concentrating all the necessary components into a manageable story. Writing a novel requires keeping the readers interested for a longer time.
I have two finished novels, and the mystery I’m writing now, Midnight Hours, is over half finished.
Viv: What's your favorite food? Least favorite food?
Vivian: Food? Oh, I like food, and it really likes me. My favorite, though, would have to be sea food, followed by chicken, with a garden salad and baked potato.
My least favorite is scorched Chinese. Yuck.
Viv: What's your favorite color? What does that color symbolize to you?
Vivian: Blue means calm, cool, and relaxing. It soothes me yet energizes me.
Viv: Are there any predominant themes in your writing?
Vivian: I think most, if not all, of my writing contains the theme of hope. Even when the worst happens, I believe that some good will still exist or come to pass. My writing shows that, I hope.
Viv: Complete the following sentence: "If I had a million dollars, I'd..."
Vivian: If I had a million dollars, I’d pay my bills as far as it would go. Heheheh. Seriously, I would probably give most of it away. So many people need help more than I do. In fact, my short story “A Million Reasons” tells the story of what I would do if I had a million dollars. Like in the story, I would also keep enough to hire a housekeeper.
Viv: You are a writer of both short stories and poetry. At which do you find it harder to excel? Which of the two do you enjoy writing more?
Vivian: I prefer whichever type and/or genre I am writing at the time. I have written poetry for a longer period of time, and lines of poetry seem to awaken me more often than stories do. But now I’m finding I’m writing more stories and chapters of novels than poetry.
Anything that has to be forced is hardest for me to write. I'm not always good with prompts, unless I can twist them to become my creations from my own imagination.
Viv: Could you share an anecdote about your most amusing student?
Vivian: Probably my most amusing student was Jonathan. He was a natural clown and a constant one. He would do outrageous things for laughs. I didn’t let him know how often I hid chuckles. I wish now I had let him know that I enjoyed his antics at least a little. He was killed in an automobile accident before he could graduate from high school. Guess this really isn't an anecdote because I can't remember any particular stunt he pulled, just the overall impression he left.
Viv: Any students you would love to meet as adults?
Vivian: Several have contacted me after they became adults. I've met a few former students in local stores or restaurants. Hopefully one of them will be in Congress one of these days – watch for Eric Motsinger. A few I wonder about: Kyle LaReese, Ernest Fields, Carol Smith, as well as other. Three of my former students I watched over many years, my children - Rene, Bob, and Randy.
Viv: What is your fondest childhood memory?
Vivian: Childhood? What is that? Oh, yes, I vaguely remember being a child. I remember the train ride from Ponca City, Oklahoma to San Francisco, the ship taking us to Guam (and the sea sickness), the white beach, the tropical jungle. I remember the trip to Morocco. I also remember feeling as if I never had a home as we followed my father from Air Force base to Air Force base.
Viv: How did you find Writing.Com? Was it delibrate or accidental?
Vivian: The mother of one of my former students told me about W.Com. She was posting monologues that she wrote for competition. I started visiting to read her work. I stayed to post my own.
Viv: What keeps you on Writing.Com? Is Writing.Com really that helpful with your writing goals and aspirations?
Vivian: The friends I’ve made on the site keep me here. The feedback I’ve gotten has helped encourage me as well as helped me find the problems in my items; so, yes, being here has helped. Being on the site led to my meeting one goal – to have a book published. If I hadn’t been on W.Com, I wouldn’t have met Holly Jahangiri. Our partnership gave me Hidden Lies and Other Stories.
Viv: Have you been, and are you now involved with other writing sites besides Writing.Com? Why, or why not?
Vivian: I visited other writing sites, and I even joined two, staying on one for several months. I left them all because only Writing.Com offered a professional level not found other places. Yes, we have members who really can’t write, and I don’t know if they ever will be able to do so. However, we can find a higher level of feedback here than other places. The StoryMaster and StoryMistress have provided us with what I consider the top writing site on the Web.
Viv: Of all the places you have been and all the things you have seen, where would you say was the best or most memorable?
Vivian: Each and every place I’ve lived or visited could be on that list. Guam and Morocco left memories that will always be with me. Maine, although somewhere I’d not enjoy living again because of the severe cold, had its own beauty. Visiting Alaska was marvelous. However, the best and most memorable is Oklahoma, home sweet home.
Viv: Being a teacher, how can you deal with reading loads of writings full of typos and grammar or syntax errors without going bonkers?
Vivian: *twitches* Oh, you discovered my secret: I am bonkers. I had to be to teach freshman English for all those years – speaking of writings full of typos and grammar or syntax errors, try grading papers written by the majority of fourteen-year-olds. Hopefully most of the ones who filed through my classes wrote better when they left than they did when they arrived. Also, I hope that people, whose work I read and review now, write better after my help than before. I would like to think so.
Viv: What was your favorite age to be and what made those years memorable?
Vivian: My favorite age was twenty-five. At that time all my children were born and sleeping all night so I felt rested; Robert had a well-paying job; and I thoroughly enjoyed living in Woodward, Oklahoma. I would enjoy feeling that age again, and also looking as I did at that age, but I really wouldn't want to relive the years between then and now.
Certainly, the answers given should allow readers to know a little more about Vivian Gilbert Zabel. She surprises herself at times, and perhaps she does others, too. Wow, what surprises me is she talks and talks and talks and . . .