Friday, May 7, 2010

Voices- Terra Trevor (Part 1)

I had the distinct honor of interviewing Terra Trevor author of Pushing Up The Sky, a memoir.

I don’t recall exactly how I ‘met’ Terra Trevor. I think it was a brief email exchange over a quirky publisher issue that I was having? But I am not exactly sure if I found her blog first or vice versa? Whatever the case- she is one of those people who I feel like has always been present in my world. We’ve never met in person. We’ve exchanged a few blog comments and several emails. It is hard to explain how those brief encounters could be so meaningful to me- but they are. When she writes to me- I feel lifted.

I admire beautiful Terra on so many levels- as a woman, as a mother, as an adoptive parent who has raised her children into adulthood, as a mother who lost her son to cancer and courageously continued on as an advocate...and as a writer who continues to take me on undiscovered journeys through my own heart.

Exchanging words with Terra is like engaging in a collaborative poem. Truly magical.

Enjoy the interview and Terra’s gracious and honest responses. In a few days- look for Terra Part 2 which will highlight some of Terra’s writing and discuss the various ways that certain pieces resonate with me.

Finally- please visit Terra here to leave your recommendation for your favorite book store! I know Terra would appreciate it!


The Interview

DIANE: How would you describe yourself? Who are you?

TERRA TREVOR: I am a 57-year-old woman of mixed-blood Western Band Cherokee, Delaware, Seneca and white ancestry. I’m a daughter, sister, mother, a wife, and an author, essayist, memoirist, speaker, editor and storyteller.

DIANE: How did you discover your writer’s voice?

T.T. -In third grade my teacher commented on my love for writing, and she encouraged me. As a young adult in a writer’s group I began to learn to trust my writing and discover who I am. Each week we took turns reading our pieces aloud. The rules were firm. No more than 500 words. Each story must have a beginning, middle and end and contain five elements: who, what, when, where, and why. When we worked on memoir my stories were flat. Finally I wrote an essay about my childhood, and without being aware of what I was doing, my style and voice shaped by growing up mixed-blood American Indian began to immerge. My teacher and fellow writers encouraged me to explore deeper. What I learned is that my writing is flat when I leave out the nuances of my ethnicity.

DIANE: What are you reading right now?

T.T. -Black Street, poems by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle. When I’m in the midst of a large writing project such as a book manuscript, chapter for an anthology, or feature articles, I only read nonfiction for researching my project. Sometimes I read a bit of poetry when I’m writing. But I won’t read fiction when I’m working on large writing projects because I don’t want to absorb another writer’s voice into my work. However, after each big writing project is completed I give myself two or three days off to read a book of my choice. For me vacation time is when I dive into books, and read memoir and fiction.

DIANE: When you write- Do you prefer silence or sound? Why?

T.T.- I have no preference. I’m inside my mind when writing, listening to what my characters are telling me, and what my ancestors are reminding me to pay attention to.

When I am deep into my work I am unaware of sounds from the outside. Like Annie Dillard, I write inside a windowless room. Yet my door is usually open bringing in owl sounds pressing against the night, or wind or rain. There are morning sounds of birds, the neighbor’s dog might bark, or their children will be playing outside in summer. But usually I won’t hear any of this; instead I’ll be completely inside my head. Since I spent many years writing surrounded with my three children and two dogs and a cat, I’ve grown comfortable with outside noise and with distractions.

DIANE: What are you afraid of?

T.T.- Anyone who has read my memoir Pushing up the Sky knows I have already faced every parents worst nightmare. Having survived my worst fears gives me the confidence of knowing no matter what happens I’ll be able to deal with it. Of course I still have a basic fear that I might have to meet another life altering experience. Yet the gift I’ve received from the heartache I’ve endured is a certain faith in knowing I will be able to find my way though.

DIANE: Over the years that you have observed the international adoption community- have you witnessed an evolution or a continuous repetition?

T.T. -Yes, I have witnessed both. A while back I was assigned to write an article for Adoption Today magazine  on the topic of International Adoption: Then and Now. I’ve recycled the story at In Writing Motherhood  International Adoption, Then and Now

DIANE: Do you have a special place that you visit to center yourself?

T.T. -I prefer the natural world – surrounded by trees, or the ocean, mountains, or high desert. But when I’m desperate to recharge any place outdoors will do.

DIANE: Do you have a recurring dream?

T.T.- None currently, but there have been many episodes though out my life when I’ve had recurring dreams. Usually the dream recurs until I grasp what the dream is telling me, and then once I understand, I stop having that particular dream theme. I also have visiting dreams and frequently meet with the same dream people over and over again. And sometimes, though not often, in dreams I meet those who have crossed over to the other side.

DIANE: Coffee, tea or water?

T.T.- One cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Water is my beverage of choice all of the time. Sometimes a cup of tea in the late afternoon, and when traveling in tea drinking countries I forego coffee and drink tea.

DIANE: Any tips for aspiring writers?

T.T. -When someone asks me for advice, I always say: make a commitment to sit down and write something every day. Be persistent. Don’t let rejection or your inner critical voice dissuade you from writing. Keep writing, keep learning. Be open to hearing positive criticism from editors, especially if more than one person tells you the same thing. Most of all keep writing, and trust your writing.

DIANE: What are you currently working on?

T.T. -I’ll be teaching a writers workshop in the fall and I’m working on my outline curriculum . For about a year now I’ve felt drawn towards doing more writing on promoting community, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed. In order to explore the topic further I began the blog River, Blood, And Corn, which is a collaborative of writers of a variety of age groups, backgrounds and communities. Writing and editing in this forum has allowed me to discover what it is I want to say and how we can tell the stories. Recently I began another memoir and I’m still in first draft writing. It is a story about my mentors; the elders who gave their time to teach me about living and writing and about community. And two weeks ago an editor asked me to write a feature article on the topic of siblings. At the moment I’m in process, with a deadline pending. I divide my time writing and working at a youth crisis shelter. I’ve always held down a day job in addition to writing, so I’ve learned to write in the nooks and crannies of my life.

Where do I write? Visit me at and glimpse my writing studio, in my post At Home In My Head.


  1. Terra,
    I am not a writer but I enjoy learning about the writing process. Your responses were all very interesting to read. There is a flow to your writing that is beautiful. I appreciate you sharing this with us. I am sorry for the great loss of your son and admire your courage to forge on with his memory.
    Thank you.

  2. Hi Terra,
    I am a landscape painter who paints outside. Your advice to aspiring writers to write everyday is the same advice that was given to me as an artist many years ago. The more you do something , the better you get at it. Plus you end up developing your own style. I applaud you for being able to write, even with distractions. I find it easier to get into the special zone if I am hearing only the gentle sounds of nature. Thank you for sharing your writing with us.

  3. Thank you Diane. It was a sincere pleasure. Your questions took me by the hand and led me down corridors and unfamiliar avenues. It proved to be a delightful way to exercise my thought process. I love your gentle powerful way of taking readers to the edge and creating a safe harbor to delve deep.

    And thank you to everyone reading and commenting. Your words inspire me.

  4. This was a lovely interview and Terra's advice to writers was wonderful. It is that simple act of writing every day . . . so simple to say, so hard to do. And I loved what she said about voice too. The act of uncovering what is flat in one's writing so often leads straight to the stuff we don't want to think about or incorporate. This was a timely reminder. Her memoir has been anthologized so many places; I am glad.

    Since you asked me about sound or silence, my preference is the nonsense droning of the TV in the background, but as soon as my kid bursts into song (as she is prone to doing) . . . I can't concentrate! For the last couple of years a windowless room has also been my sanctuary and against all odds, seems to be the best space for me. Cave-like but liberating.

  5. Terra- Truly the honor is mine.

    O Solo- Very true about daily writing seeming so simple but so hard to do! The TV, really? Too sweet about your girl being prone to burst into song! Love it.

    My writing space is in a large common area in our home- big room with big old windows but my work space faces the wall.

  6. Diana, The interview and your blog are both beautiful. Like you, I have never met Terra and have only exchanged e-mails as fellow mothers and writers. I have felt much the same way.
    Your line said it: "Exchanging words with Terra is like engaging in a collaborative poem." Glad to know you're writing the poem, too. Stacy