June 16, 2021: This Week We're Wild About... Mayonn Paasewe-Valchev
What's the title of your upcoming book?
The Leopard Behind the Moon
What book should readers go to for an escape from reality?
I keep my all-time favorite books on a special bookshelf; these are books with characters, plots, and prose that captivated me and provided an escape from reality. Here are the first ten books on my special shelf (wish I could list them all): The Great Gatsby, Things Fall Apart, White Teeth, The Remains of the Day, The White Tiger, Crime and Punishment, The Witches, L'Assommoir, The Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born, and Invisible Man.
What book should readers go to when they want to face reality?
The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates. It opened my eyes to the many ways we disempower women and the implications of doing so. The stories in the book are heartbreaking-tales of women dealing with great adversities-but the book is also encouraging because it offers solutions. Many years ago, I read Wangari Maathai's book, The Challenge for Africa, and it's one of my favorites because it outlines the many challenges facing the continent of Africa and suggestions for creating a more promising future; it's an honest look at the realities and problems of Africa. The Artist Way by Julia Cameron is my go-to book for facing the realities of the artist's life and overcoming creative challenges.
What was your reading life like before the pandemic?
More disciplined. I had a daily reading quota of 30-50 pages a day, which allowed me to read about two books a month, sometimes three. I was also a member of a library book club, which was wonderful because I was introduced to great books I wouldn't have selected on my own, such as Our Twisted Hero by Yi Munyol, which apparently is a common read in South Korea, but I had never heard about it.
What has your reading life been like since the pandemic?
Scattered. For a while, my nightstand and writing desk carried stacks of books I started but never finished and books waiting to be read. I felt distracted by the pandemic and found it difficult to focus on many days. I finally decided to release those unfinished books back to their respective bookshelves and start afresh by focusing on one or two books at a time, which feels more manageable.
Why should people read for pleasure? Is that any different now?
Reading is fun! It's a way to continue grooming your imagination and broadening your thinking. Reading helps us remember the patterns of life: that good days follow bad days. Cinderella didn't remain the servant; she married the prince. And yes, I know, stories don't always end well, but overall, I'm encouraged when I read. Books fill me with compassion and hope and courage. When I read a great story, I find myself marveling at the boundless creativity of humanity; how far our imaginations can stretch. In times of turmoil and confusion, reading is often where I find stability, understanding, and balance.
What do you hope your book gives to readers?
My hope is that The Leopard Behind the Moon will help children suffering from a loss feel understood. I hope the book will spark rich conversations about the many sources and forms of grief. But more than anything, I hope the story will fill readers with delight and wonder as they traverse a magical journey with three friends aiming to accomplish something spectacular and heroic.
Should book lovers worry about the future of publishing during the pandemic? If so, how can they help?
I don't think so. Writers will continue to write, publishers will continue to publish, and readers will continue to read. And I think booksellers will continue to find creative ways to engage readers virtually. We need community to help quell the isolation and loneliness many of us are experiencing during the pandemic, and books are a great way to connect with others. We help by continuing to read and by using books to connect with others.
If you could imagine your dream virtual library, what would it be like?
I'm imagining a website designed to simulate a real-life library. It would include a Virtual Circulation Desk with options to chat with a librarian, a Readers and Writers Room featuring virtual lectures and writing sessions, and even a Virtual Snack Room where I could order snacks from local delivery services.
Where can readers find you online?
Do you have a favorite bookstore? Where would you like readers to buy your book (we also have it at the Library, of course!)?
Readers can buy my book by visiting mayonn.com/books.