Dr. Tyra Manning Interview Published on: 31, Aug 2019

A born and bred Texan, which is your favorite childhood memory?

Before my father died of a heart attack in 1956, Daddy decided to take my brother, mother and me to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. I was not tall enough to see out the window, so Daddy suggested I sit on the small red cardboard suitcase I kept my doll baby’s clothes for the trip. I could see the mountains, the beautiful trees, and the clouds hovering over the mountains. It was the last vacation we took before Daddy died and those wonderful memories are seared in my mind forever.

How did you cope with depression and the tragic loss of your father at an early age?

I missed Daddy from the time he died until I married my husband, Larry Hull. He didn’t take Daddy’s place, but he was the only other man in my life that mattered. When Larry deployed to Vietnam, I admitted myself to the Menninger Clinic and was diagnosed with Clinical Depression. While I was hospitalized, the UAF notified my doctor and me that Larry’s plane had been shot down and he had been killed. The Menninger Clinic was the best place I could have been at that time. I was discharged after eight months. My two-year-old daughter, Laura, and I moved to Topeka where I finished my bachelor’s degree at Washburn University followed the list of goals that Larry and I had made before our marriage.

Has earning a doctorate in education from the University of Kansas helped you in your writing career in any way?

Yes. I flourished at the university level. Earning my graduate degrees required a great deal of writing. During my graduate work, I also improved my writing skills by teaching junior high school and later served as principal of a new middle school in Topeka. To succeed in graduate school and teaching, writing is an extremely important skill to develop.

What inspired you to start writing after your retirement in 2004?

I had promised myself that after I retired, I would write my story to honor my late husband. I also aspired to start writing to do my part to debunk the stigmas toward people who suffer from mental illness. But I was writing long before my retirement from public education. The oldest document I have was written in 1984 and printed on a dot-matrix printer.

Writing memoirs is an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Why did you choose this genre?

Writing my personal stories has helped me heal. My memoir, Where the Water Meets the Sand, opens the world to the tumultuous emotions of recovery from mental illness, grief for the loss of a loved one and how to move on. When I was a patient at the Menninger Clinic, I often wrote down my feelings, hopes and fears, and showed them to my therapist. He told me to keep writing, and I haven’t stopped sharing my personal story since!

What inspired you to write, "Where the Water Meets the Sand"? In what ways do you think the book will offer hope to individuals and families who have dealt with the loss of someone close to them?

I promised myself that once I retired, I would write my memoir to honor my husband, 1 st Lt. James Larry Hull, the love of my life, who was killed in Vietnam as well as my daughter, Laura. In Where the Water Meets the Sand, I write about my Clinical Depression and admitting myself to the famous Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas after Larry left for Vietnam.

Because I was undergoing professional treatment at the Clinic when I learned that Larry had been killed in Vietnam, I had a phenomenal support to help me get through the trauma. In the book, I write about the importance of moving forward and not giving up. I hope that my story of perseverance and seeking support resonates with readers everywhere.

How do you deal with the emotional impact of a book as you are writing the story?

There are times when tears roll down my face while I am writing. However, it’s important that I share my stories and encourage others to do so as well. And honestly, writing about my memories is emotional, but it helps me heal as well.

When you’re writing an emotionally draining scene, how do you get in the mood?

I dive into the writing like I did as a child when I dove head-first into the deep water at the local swimming pool. If I feel overwhelmed with emotion, I use writing to tread water without going under. I have learned if I keep writing and never give up, I don’t drown in sorrow or regret.

In these kinds of circumstances, once I finish writing difficult and emotional passages, it’s as if the sun comes out and I realize I am strong. In truth, once I’ve completed a challenging passage, I am overcome with gratitude that I finished the piece. Writing is important because it gives me the ability to heal and cleanse.

What challenges did you face while writing "Where the Water Meets the Sand"? Did you expect it to win the Benjamin Franklin Award for first place in the memoir category?

The challenges were the same challenges that I expect other writers have. There are times when day-to-day responsibilities tend to take over your life. That is one reason I schedule writing times early in the morning and often after dinner in the evening. The thought of winning the esteemed Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association never entered my mind. Writing this book was a promise I had made to myself and I had a crew of people there to support me throughout the process.

What is your second book, "Your Turn, Ways to Celebrate Life Through Storytelling" about? What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

The book is about people learning how to deal with their own emotions and use writing as a tool to heal and tell their own stories! The book covers themes ranging from grief, loss, and anger to joy, delight, and accomplishment. Each chapter ends with a section called “Your Turn,” which is an invitation is to write in response to three basic questions. I hope this workbook encourages you to write and share your own stories.

What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?

My favorite part was finishing a difficult chapter after several rewrites and knowing I had nailed it, especially when the passage was emotionally draining. The least favorite part of the process was re-experiencing personally devastating topics, particularly my father’s death and Larry’s death as well as giving up my baby girl for adoption as a teenage unwed mother. But the truth is once I wrote about those difficult stories, I felt a sense of cleansing. In other words, there were no more secrets buried deep in my soul.

If you could ask one successful author three questions about their writing, writing process, or books, what would they be?

A) Do you write on a set schedule?
B) B) When starting to write a book, do you develop a chapter outline before you begin, or do you dive into the most difficult (or easiest) chapter?
. C) C) Once you write a chapter or even a few paragraphs and you feel unsure if your goal for that section was met, do you ask a peer or friend to read it and give you feedback first? Or, do you write your story and ask for feedback from a professional.

If you have other demands in your life and don’t have the opportunity to write on your regular schedule, how do you compensate for lost writing time?

I stay up later or get up early to compensate for the time I lost.

Are there days when writing is too hard, and you can’t think of anything worth putting on the page? If that happens, how do you make up for the lost time?

I write even if it’s hard. The content may not be great every day, but I think it’s important for me personally to write as much as possible regardless.

Do you add more writing time to your regular writing time, so you feel like you’ve made up your lost time?

I focus more on writing goals than the time I need to spend writing for the sake of doing so Sometimes, if there’s a day I don’t write, I feel out of sorts and a bit lonely. That’s when I realize that telling my stories keeps me company and reminds me of the wonderful people and experiences in my life. Writing reminds me that although many people in my life that I’ve loved are gone, I still have a relationship with them when I tell our stories of our time together.

What’s your favorite spot to visit in the Texas Hill Country? And what makes it so special to you?

My favorite things about the Hill Country are the green hills and ranches, but most importantly, the people. When I was a child, my mother took us to see and explore the Alamo in San Antonio. She wanted us to remember the bravery and the people who fought there. Mother reminded us that our ancestors moved to Texas when it was a Republic. When her grandchildren were old enough, she took them to the Alamo and told them our ancestors’ story. The Alamo is special to me because of its connection to my ancestors. I never go there or drive by it, without being reminded of my mother, who has now passed.

How do you feel about the shift of reading from physical books to digital ones? What would you advise the young writers?

I think it's great that readers have options. I enjoy a physical book I can hold in my hands. I find it easier to flip back to pages I want to reread. The bottom line is that readers have choices. That's a good thing.

How has AllAuthors helped you to promote your books? How has been your experience working with us?

I’m new to All Authors. I appreciate the website and the opportunity to share my books there. It’s a great opportunity for any author to make their book accessible to readers.

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