Meet the Mesdames, Joan O’Callaghan ~ by Donna Carrick

Authors, teachers, business-women and so much more!

This wonderful series on our very own Mesdames has been brought to you by Joan O’Callaghan, who today is being interviewed by Donna Carrick.

In addition to being a teacher and author in her own right, Joan is also the driving force behind most publicity efforts made on behalf of the Mesdames of Mayhem. A good portion of our successes to date can be attributed to those efforts, so we owe Joan a debt of gratitude.

Joan is a recipient of the Golden Apple Award from Queen’s University Faculty of Education for Excellence in Teaching; named Professor of the Year by OISE/UT Students Council, as well as Most Engaging English Instructor and Most Inspirational Instructor.

Most recently, her story “Runaway”, which appeared in the Excerpt Flight Deck 2014 anthology World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing), was a runner-up for the Bony Pete Short Story Contest Award.

Joan O'CallaghanDonna Carrick interviews author Joan O’Callaghan:

Donna: What have you written?

Joan: I’ve written three books which have been published, all non-fiction. Amazing Days (Scholastic Canada); Places to Go, People to See, Things to Do…All Across Canada (Scholastic Canada) was a best-seller with a press run of 16,000. It sold out. And Headlines – this is a teacher resource published as part of the Bold Print series by Rubicon (Canada). Amazing Days has been re-released as an e-book (Carrick Publishing), and Places to Go is being readied for e-publication (Carrick Publishing).

I’ve written a number of short stories; two are available in e-format (“George” and “For Elise”); “Stooping to Conquer” is included in the 2012 Excerpt Flight Deck anthology, EFD1: Starship Goodwords, while “Sugar ‘N’ Spice” is in Thirteen by the Mesdames of Mayhem (Carrick Publishing, 2013). Another story, “Runaway” appears in the 2014 Excerpt Flight Deck anthology, World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing).

I have written a novel which I am currently revising. I have also written or collaborated on more than 30 educational resources.

Donna: When did you start writing?

Joan: I have been writing as long as I can remember. I have recollections of a poem I wrote about Marco Polo when I was 6 or 7. And when I was 11, I wrote a play called Dr. Aspirin’s Angel Patients, starring me and my classmates. We actually got to perform it for the whole school.

I got sidetracked by academic and professional writing projects. but am now following my heart.

OK – I still do professional writing (educational) on a freelance basis. I have a couple of projects pending….

Donna: Why write mysteries?

Joan: Mysteries pose an interesting challenge. In essence you are structuring a puzzle but it has to be sufficiently entertaining to draw people in and hold them. I like exploring the vagaries of human nature, why people act as they do and how other people respond – a whole range of motivations and responses.

Donna: Why do you think people like to read mysteries?

Joan: Since the beginning of time, people have longed for order and for justice, in a world where both are so frequently lacking. Sophocles taught that things happen because the gods order them to happen and it is not our place to question. Shakespeare and the Elizabethans believed in the Elizabethan World Order whereby if someone disturbed the Order of things, disorder followed and a then slow but inevitable process of purging the agents of disorder and re-establishing order.

Milton believed that at some point every human being comes face to face with the temptation to commit evil. They are completely alone when this happens, even though they may be in a crowd, and alone they have to either succumb or resist.

So this is part of being human. Mysteries satisfy that desire innate in us all – to see evil vanquished and justice done.

Donna: Is there a favourite place you like to write or ritual you go through when writing?

Joan: I write in my den which is where the computer resides. I do not have a particular ritual unless you count checking email or playing a game or two of Mah-Jong on the computer first.

Donna: How do you balance writing with the demands of a day job and/or family?

Joan: With great difficulty. I am a widow and I do not have children. I do however have a very demanding cat. He likes to sit on the arm of my chair and lean into me when I am at my desk.

My job as an instructor at the University of Toronto gives me lots of flexibility. There are times however, such as when students complete assignments for marking, when I have to set my writing (and other things aside) and get the job done.

Donna: What awards or other forms of recognition have you received for your writing?

Joan: I am very happy that my short story “Runaway” took third prize in the 2014 Bony Pete contest. “Runaway” appears in the 2014 Excerpt Flight Deck anthology World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing).

One of my freelance projects for the Montreal Gazette’s Newspaper in Education program a number of years ago, won a newspaper award.

Donna: What are you working on now?

Joan: I am currently researching the Middle Ages for a short story I’m planning to write for Thirteen O’Clock, the new anthology of the Mesdames of Mayhem (to be released in the fall of 2015). I am also doing the revisions to my novel.

Donna: As a writer, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Joan: I’ve received lots of valuable advice but the two that stand out are: Just keep writing no matter how good or bad you think it is –there is nothing you can’t fix on rewrite!

As soon as you finish one thing, start the next. That way you won’t get hung up on it……(thanks Mel Campbell!)

Donna: What do you like about being one of the Mesdames ?

Joan: What a ride it’s been!!! The Mesdames are the most amazing group of women it’s been my privilege to know. They are so creative, talented and supportive to each other!! I am thrilled to be one of them.

Donna: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Joan: Watch for the two new anthologies: World Enough and Crime and Thirteen O’Clock. Great reading in both!!

Joan O’Callaghan is the author of educational books and short stories, including Sugar ‘N’ Spice in the anthology THIRTEEN (Carrick Publishing, 2013). Her short story George is available for e-readers everywhere, including Amazon Kindle.

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