I am pleased to introduce Martina Reaves to the Debutante Ball this week!
Martina Reaves grew up in a Navy family and lived in thirty-four places before she finally settled in her current home in Berkeley. She became a mediator in 1986 and in 2007, she dropped writing legal documents and began writing fiction and memoir. She loves creating serenity in her home with her wife, Tanya, and their son, Cooper by gardening, reading, and going to plays.
In 1969, at age twenty, Martina moved to San Francisco. She lived in a commune, married her hippie streetcar driver, and moved away—first to Mendocino County, Oregon, and then to the Virgin Islands. In 1980, Martina came out. She found her life partner, Tanya, and in 1986 they have a son, Cooper. Then, in 2008, Martina is diagnosed with serious tongue cancer. Her journey in the aftermath of this diagnosis is one of hope, fear, family, friendship, perseverance, and learning to live with a terminal diagnosis.
Reaves braids these strands of her life together in I’m Still Here, presenting readers with a nuanced, poignant exploration of what it means to live—and love—authentically.
Read through and learn more about Martina AND get your chance to win I’M STILL HERE!
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And now to the interview!
1. Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion had a tremendous impact on me. I read it the days before my life was blown apart by cancer. Didion’s honesty and the intimacy of her writing inspired me to try memoir myself. In the beginning, I wanted to write about being a two-mom family in the 1980s, when there weren’t many lesbian families around. When I was diagnosed with tongue cancer, I wrote about that, too. Didion made me feel braver about speaking the truth.
2. Tell us about your next big project.
Starting in 2013, I began writing very short pieces of memoir. The following year, I read Lydia Davis’s book of flash fiction, Can’t and Won’t. I thought, why not flash memoir and kept writing through the beginning of this year. Recently, I pulled all these pieces together into a book I’m currently calling Ebb & Flow. I’m in the stage of having a few cherished readers give me feedback.
3. Do you have a regular first reader? If so, who is it and why?
My first reader (following my wife Tanya, who is prejudiced and not a writer) is always David Schweidel. In December 2007, I gulped and signed up for his Creative Nonfiction class at the UC Berkeley Extension. I was profoundly terrified, but determined. Between the time I enrolled and the date of the first class, I was diagnosed with tongue cancer, so I wrote about both my two-mom family and the cancer odyssey, especially after my diagnosis became terminal. When I failed to die, I kept writing. Stories poured out of me in that first class, and when it was over, I began to attend David’s private classes. He reads everything first.
4. In what fictional place would you most like to spend a day? What would you do?
Hands down, I’d want to be in Three Pines, Louise Penny’s fictional small village in Quebec. Louise Penny’s mysteries are my guilty pleasure. I love being transported to Three Pines. I’d hang out in the bistro in one of the overstuffed chairs and read, write, and talk to the neighbors. Hopefully, it would be winter, and I’d get snowed in and get to stay more than one day.
5. What was the first piece of writing you ever published or saw in print?
I read my first piece aloud on KQED radio, San Francisco’s public radio station, for the series Perspectives. The piece was very short, edited from a longer piece called “Behaving Badly.” It describes how I closed my account at Wells Fargo Bank after the bank scandals erupted and, in a snit, walked across the street to a small, locally-owned bank. I met Mark Trautwein, the editor for Perspectives, in a writing class. He said he could use my piece, but I’d have to cut it down to 375 words. What a challenge! Reading on air gave me great respect for those who spontaneously speak on radio on a regular basis. When I heard myself on air, I was thrilled. A written version of what I read can be found in the archives on the Perspectives website.
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