Keeping that mind, body and spirit connection is important to us at utopYA HQ, and we are positively thrilled to announce that author and yoga instructor, Jen McConnel will be offering yoga on Friday and Saturday mornings during #utopYA2014. UtopYA team member, D.B. Graves, interviewed Jen to find out how she brings more zen to her life and writing.
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Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. She is the author of The Secret of Isobel Key (NA 2013) and Daughter of Chaos (YA 2014). Visit www.jenmcconnel.com to learn more.
I took my first yoga class back in high school, but I didn’t really get serious about my practice until three years ago. Mom and I signed up for a beginner course at the Y my senior year, and while I loved the relaxation, I didn’t stick with it. I guess college got in the way, but I’m so glad I found my way back to the mat!
Every author has a different ‘set the mood’ routine. Is yoga part of your ‘get in the writing’ groove? How has yoga helped with your creative process?
I try to do yoga in the mornings (not too early…totally not a morning person) before I write, but sometimes, my schedule forces me to choose (and writing usually wins). Still, I love taking stretch breaks at my desk and listening to my yoga playlist when I’m brainstorming. I feel like yoga (and any kind of movement/meditation practice) has really helped loosen up not only my joints but my mind, and I love the clarity that comes to me on the mat. Sometimes, I can work out plot issues through my yoga practice, I guess just because it gives me the permission to find stillness. Yoga and writing are a lot alike; it’s all about getting in the zone (or the zen) and listening to your inner voice.
You’re not only an author and yoga instructor, but you also teach college writing composition. At what level do you teach? Do you ever come across budding writers/authors in your classes, and what advice do you offer them to encourage following their dreams?
I teach Developmental English, so my students tend to be either returning adults who’ve been out of school for a long time, or teens who didn’t really get much structural writing instruction in high school. Most of students hate writing, which kills me, but every now and again someone comes along who wants to write; I see a lot of poets, actually, and not many fiction writers. I try to encourage all my students to tap into the joy of writing, and the biggest advice I give them is to just keep at it. The stories won’t write themselves, and if you have something to say, you should say it.
Daughter of Chaos, your first YA trilogy, releases in 2014 from Month9Books. Tell us a little about the Red Witches and where the story roots are from, where the idea for the book came from. Also, will you have copies with you at utopYAcon 2014? *wink wink*
I used to teach middle school, and I actually started writing this story off a sentence starter activity I did with my kids: the original first line was “She was a funny looking old woman, but…”. The story is about Darlena, a 16 year old witch, who makes an impulsive decision to practice Red Magic. She thinks it doesn’t exist, and she’s trying to piss off the adults in her life with her fake declaration, but it turns out that Red Magic is very real, and Darlena is now the keeper of chaos (and a pawn for the gods and goddesses of chaos). The story plays with different mythological pantheons (although book 1 has a heavy Greco-Roman focus), witchcraft, and the line between good and evil. There’s also a cute boy (Darlena’s ex). I will totally have copies at UtopYaCon 2014: the book will be out in March, and I can’t wait to share it with y’all.
Since #utopYA2014 is themed around aliens, we have to ask… Past, present, or future, who is your favorite alien and why? Were you a softy for E.T.? Or perhaps A.L.F.? Maybe you’re a Luxen kind of gal (Le sigh)?
I’m totally old-school: I grew up on re-runs of MORK AND MINDY, and I love, love, LOVE Robin Williams as Mork. “Nano Nano” is not only the November battle cry of writers!
Please join me in welcoming Jen to the utopYAcon family! And be sure to check out online!