INTERVIEW WITH MARYANN SAWKA
1. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Maryann Balcik Sawka. I live south of Pittsburgh, PA, in a small town named Hiller with my husband of nearly 10 years, Eli, and our two daughters, Megan and Sarah. My higher education consists of a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from California University of PA in 1993 and a Master’s of Science in Reading and Literacy for Elementary Grades from Walden University. My career path includes work as an alumni director, technical writer, software trainer, special needs preschool teacher, owner of my own company (Charming Manners) and most recently, published author with “Good Table Manners Made Easy.” We have three cats, Milo, Wolfie and Merrick, and one dog, Daisy.
2. Describe your desk/workspace.
As the layout of our house has recently gone through a reconfiguration, so has my workspace. I can usually be seen tucked in the corner of a couch with my laptop or sitting in the car with a scrap of paper to jot down an idea that inspired me. Most of the actual writing occurs at my desk with one our cats sleeping between my laptop and me. Makes for a cute picture!
3. Do you have a favorite quote?
I don’t really have a favorite quote, but more of a motto. I generally say that things happen for a reason and that if you want something, you have to work hard to get there.
4. What are you currently reading?
I am a fiction junky! At the present, I am reading “Kill Alex Cross” by James Patterson, “The Reversal” by Michael Connelly, “The Litigators” by John Grisham and “Red Mist” by Patricia Cornwell. My husband gravitates more towards non-fiction, but you can usually find me reading something on the NY Times Bestsellers List! I usually have three or four books going at a time.
5. If you could have coffee with anyone (living or dead, real or fictional), who would it be and why?
What a great question! There are many people with whom I would love to share a coffee! My father passed away 16 years ago, before I was married or had children. I would love to visit with him and ask him what he thinks of the decisions that I have made in my life, that have led me to this point.
If I were to share coffee with a fictional character, Alex Cross (from James Patterson’s novels) and Dr. Kay Scarpetta (from Patricia Cornwell’s novels) would be at the top of my list. As a fan of both, I feel as though I know them like friends and could easily share a cup of Starbucks and a scone with them!
To share a coffee with one of my favorite authors would be a dream come true!
6. What are your top three favorite books and why?
I know most people tend to list non-fiction works of great prominence, but as I mentioned before, I am a fiction junky and anxiously await the release of new novels by my favorite authors. I usually re-read my favorite books or re-listen to them on audio when I’m driving. I have listened to the entire Kay Scarpetta series of Patricia Cornwell more times than I can count!
(1) Heat by Stuart Woods. I love the development of his main character, Jesse Warden/Barron, and the story that unfolds. It is such a favorite that I tend to re-read it at least once a year.
(2) Anything by Patricia Cornwell! Following the characters from their beginning to where they are now has been a wonderful journey. I envy her ability to continue to create engaging stories that make us, her fans, care about the lives of her characters.
(3) The Jesse Stone series by Robert B. Parker. Mr. Parker was one of my favorite author’s who was a master of character development.
(4) While recovering from surgery last year, when I was going through a tough time trying to figure out the direction I wanted to move professionally, a friend lent me her copy of “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews. I found it to be very inspirational and moving. It really helped me to think about what I want to do and where I hope to end up, allowing me to visualize ways to reach my goals.
7. What was your favorite book as a child and why?
I’m pretty sure I read everything that Judy Bloom wrote including Freckle Juice, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Are you there God, it’s me Margaret. I also remember being a fan of The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. Both were very popular when I was in grade school. I remember that I enjoyed the stories very much, which helped me to develop such a strong love of reading. My eight-grade literature teacher introduced us to William Shakespeare with the reading of The Taming of the Shrew, which I found to be very interesting and entertaining in different ways.
8. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I tend to spend a lot of time in my head, phrasing passages, envisioning layouts and visualizing illustrations. It may take a few weeks or months for me to get everything planned out in my head before I begin the actual writing. But, I find that I am more organized and work better that way.
9. Do you write full-time or part-time?
Writing is not a full-time career for me at this time. With a busy family life and working on building my company, Charming Manners, I tend to be more of a part-time writer. My book that has just been published is the first in a series of books on manners and etiquette that I am in the processing of writing. I have always wanted to be a writer, love books and encourage my children to share my love of books.
10. What are your current marketing strategies for “Good Table Manners Made Easy”?
The book grew out of the many etiquette workshops that I have presented to children in the area of table manners. I found that the parents who enrolled their children liked being involved in the workshop through the materials that I sent home after each session. The book grew from the “tip cards” that I used to send home.
My marketing plan includes interactive story readings where the audience participates in the telling of the story. I hope to share my book with as many children and adults as I can through story events, workshops, after-school programs, through Community Centers and YMCA’s and more.
11. Could you share about any current writing projects?
Now that “Good Table Manners Made Easy” is in publication, I am working on another book in the series that relates to using good manners when entertaining others. This book tackles the appropriate manners and behaviors when you are hosting at your home or by inviting someone to share an excursion with you or when you are the guest. “Learning how to behave appropriately in a variety of social situations helps you to secure a repeat invitation, as well as leaving a positive impression of you with others,” a passage from the book that I am writing at present.
In many instances, we, as adults, think that children will know how to behave appropriately if we just put them together and let them figure it out on their own. I think that the rise in our national bullying epidemic would indicate a need exists for us to teach our children, teens and others how to get along and consider the feelings of others in order to restore a feeling of civility to our society.
12. What would be the best way for readers to contact you?
I can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, my company email address. It is such an honor for me to hear from readers that I tend to develop “email relationships” with them!
13. Where can people find your book, “Good Table Manners Made Easy”?
14. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am very flattered that you have selected my book to review and discuss with your readers. Thank you so much for your time!
Please follow Maryanne Sawka’s WOI tour tomorrow at: http://thewritingmama.blogspot.com/