Today I am welcoming Donna O’Donnell Figurski into the Indie Spotlight.
Donna O’Donnell Figurski is a wife, mother, granny, retired teacher, writer, playwright, actor, director, stage manager, photographer, former picture-book reviewer, and caregiver for her husband and best friend, David. Pheww!
Donna is the author of her three-time-award-winning memoir, Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, a heart-wrenching love story. She is working on another book about brain injury (Conversations) with a coauthor who is a survivor of brain injury. Donna can’t wait to share her love of teaching, complete with anecdotes from her career–in which she taught first and third grades–and tips for teachers, in her new manuscript, If I Ran the School: A Play Yard for Learning, which is next up for submission. She implores you to cross your fingers for her!
Donna hosts a twice-monthly, 80-minute, international radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” on the Brain Injury Radio Network. She is also the creator and writer for an award-winning blog, Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury. In addition, she is a frequent contributor to both print and online journals and magazines, including Hope Magazine, The Mighty, and BrainLine, and her work has been published in several anthologies.
Donna’s forever-dream is to publish her picture-book manuscripts in this lifetime. Again, please cross your fingers for her!
Donna is happiest when spending time with her husband, David, and her ‘lil pup, Cricket, either in the desert or at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. And, of course, when she is writing.
To learn more about Donna, please see … her book, Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale.
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Google Donna O’Donnell Figurski to learn more about her than you ever wanted to know!
Hi Donna, welcome to my blog.
What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?
My goal was always to submit and publish my stories with one of the many giant publishers. That was my star-studded dream. I began writing in the late 1990s, with my focus being on picture books for children aged 4 years old to 8 years old. I submitted numerous manuscripts and, though many received good rejections (I know, that’s sounds like an oxymoron!), the decisions were still NO! When my husband had a traumatic brain injury in 2005, my picture-book writing went onto the back burner––like everything else.
In 2006, I began to write David’s and my story of his survival of three brain surgeries in two weeks and about how our lives changed forever. I didn’t expect it to be a book, but when I realized that it was, I became very serious. Remembering the nearly impossible task of publishing my picture books, I wanted to have my manuscript accepted by a publisher, but I did not want to wait a lifetime to get my book, Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, into the hands of readers. After doing a lot of research, I found WriteLife Publishing. Everything about the company was enticing, so I submitted to them and crossed my fingers. They loved it. And it was published in November of 2018.
What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?
I hadn’t planned to write a memoir. My creative-writing expertise had been in children’s picture books. But when David survived his traumatic brain injury against all odds, I felt it was a story that needed to be told, if for nothing else than to provide hope for other survivors and caregivers. Of course, my book, Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, is also an eye-opener for any reader who just wants to learn more about brain injury. It’s an easy read that I’ve been told makes readers laugh, cry, and G-A-S-P! Though I never intended to write for an adult audience, I felt that this book flowed out in living color because I had lived it in living color.
My publishing children’s picture books still remains a dream, which I am again pursing. I usually have three manuscripts out on submission at all times. Though I am currently sending them to traditional publishers, I am seriously considering submitting to smaller and more personal independent publishers. What do you think?
Do you only read the genre that you write?
YIKES! No! I do read a lot of books about traumatic brain injury and caregiving. I eat them up. I interview authors of those books on my radio show, “Another Fork in the Road” on the Brain Injury Radio Network. I devour picture books too. Can’t get enough of them. I love to read spy novels, thrillers, and mystery books, especially those focusing on lawyers and the political scene. Dystopian books, like The Hunger Games, and fantasies, like Harry Potter, draw me into new worlds. I guess it would be hard to choose one genre. My taste is eclectic.
What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?
I’m currently reading a stage play by mystery writer Agatha Christie that I will be stage-managing in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait for the actors to bring this story to life!
My husband and I don’t have a TV. Tossed it out in 1974 and never replaced it. We do have a SmartScreen on which we can watch Netflix. Movies, some of the old series, like Grey’s Anatomy, and newer series, like Downton Abbey, are fun.
For inspiration? Spa music––definitely! I love the relaxing place it puts me in–and allows my creative juices to flow. Spa music takes me to a different world. I can sit in a loud coffee shop with folks talking and music blaring. I completely zone out as soon as I put on my earphones. My newest manuscript, If I Ran the School: A Play Yard for Learning, was mostly written under those exact conditions with a cup of coffee always next to me.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read! Read tons of books in the genre in which you want to write. Of course, enjoy them, but also study them. For example, if you want to write a mystery, pay attention to how the authors plant red herrings throughout their stories–dropping hints and clues that often prompt the reader to think Aha! after he or she closes the book.
Write! Put your words and thoughts on paper (or on your computer screen), as I do. Just write! So many would-be-writers have difficulty starting their projects. No excuse! Writing begets more writing. Try it and see if I’m not write … oops, I mean, “right.”
What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I have several projects in the pot. My teaching/education book, If I Ran the School: A Play Yard for Learning, is in its final revision stages and is nearly ready to submit. Cross your fingers––and toes––for me! I am also about half way through another book, which examines the lives of a survivor of brain injury and the caregiver of a survivor. It’s about the real, honest, and nitty-gritty thoughts, feelings, and concerns that we have. My coauthor is a survivor of brain injury, and our working title for this book-in-progress is Conversations. I have also submitted several children’s-picture-book manuscripts (Busy Lizzy, Feeling Not Good Enough Feels YUCKY! and Best Pest)
Thank you for joining me on my blog today, Donna! Good luck with all of your projects.
Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale
When the neurosurgeon says that Donna’s husband, David, will be a great organ donor, Donna’s life shatters, and her nightmare begins. Despite desperate odds, David survives three brain surgeries. His doctors call it a “traumatic brain injury.” Donna calls it “a living nightmare.”
Donna’s three-time-award-winning memoir, Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, is not only a story of Donna’s and David’s struggles through the brain injury maze, it is also a love story. Though Prisoners Without Bars addresses a dire topic, it is peppered with comedic situations. “Laughter is the best medicine,” Donna says, and she admits that she and David thrive on laughter.
The path of brain injury is difficult, but Donna and David stumble through this journey together, one step at a time. Will David recover from his brain injury? Will he return to his laboratory at Columbia University? Will David and Donna’s lives ever be the same? Find out! Read, laugh, cry, and G-A-S-P! with Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale.
Read Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale – Remember a book review is a book’s best friend!
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More buying options:
Prisoners (print) Amazon US Paperback
Prisoners (eBook) Amazon US eBook
Prisoners (audiobook) Amazon Audiobook
Prisoners (print) Barnes and Noble Paperback
Prisoners (eBook) Barnes and Noble eBook
Prisoners (print) IndieBound
Prisoners (eBook) Kobo
Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?
Shaun Paul Stevens was born in October 1972 in London. He spent his formative years in the shadows of the dreaming spires of Oxford, before moving to Nottingham, where he graduated university with a degree in English and Media.
Navigating a path through music, art and the internet, writing came calling and he found himself ensconced in alternate realities and gritty fantasy worlds. He has written several books to date.
Shaun now lives in Brighton, on the south coast of England, with his patient family and ungrateful cat, generally being a nerd.