Nov 05 2010

Female Nomad and Friends Interview: Sandra Hanks Benoiton

Published for maria altobelli at 1:54 am in Sandra Hanks Benoiton

Mutts in Mexico is back again with author interviews after a brief lull to get the blog working up to snuff and to throw in a Halloween story. I apologize for not providing the update on the Noche de Muertos celebration here in Pátzcuaro as promised. We had a houseful of guests so our time was spent mostly with the living. We had to sneak out the back door, so to speak, to spend time with the dead. I’ll save the post for next year. So now, on to our interviews.
We’re back in the Seychelles for the final part of our interview with Sandra Hanks Benoiton.

“Was going back the dumbest thing I’d ever contemplated? How embarrassing would it be to show up again only to find I’d completely misunderstood the situation! But I had no way to evaluate any of this without actually flying back … “

An excerpt from Sandra Hanks Benoiton’s story Fairy Godmothers…Who Needs ‘Em! (page 202 in Female Nomad and Friends: Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World).

After reading Sandra’s blog, I see the last ten years since doctors cracked open her chest for by-pass surgery have been full of some very unpleasant surprises. She shares these with us today.

By far, the deepest, darkest valley would be the death of my oldest son. That happened in June of last year and I have yet to come up with a way to make it through a day without sadness, and I don’t expect to. That’s okay with me.

My divorce was a difficult disappointment to deal with that has long-term effects I deal with daily.

I read how on November 2nd, it was seventeen months to the day since Jaren died. That has to be one of the hardest things for a mother to endure. I loved your story about how you were in a room with a first-time mother and you were each given your baby. You looked over at the other baby and thought UGLY. Then the nurse came in and said there was an error and switched babies giving you the “ugly” one.

Actually, I had the ugly one, thinking it was Jaren. Turns out, that one was hers. My son was beautiful!

Oops. Sorry for reading so quickly. Never pays to do that. Do you have another special moment from later in Jaren’s life that helps you deal with the loss?

I have endless moments I conjure when I need Jaren close to me. He was the smartest, funniest and kindest man I’ve ever met, and he left me many memories that comfort. On the anniversary of his death, I was in Paris, so made a pilgrimage to the grave of Jim Morrison, then walked that famous cemetery for hours. When I came across the tomb marked “Family Bony-Ness” I knew Jaren was there beside me, guiding me to the funny names and giving me smiles.

I see you did NaNo to get back in the writing groove after that doubly down time in your life. What was the book about? Did you finish it? Was it just a good writing exercise or a keeper?

It must have been an exercise, because I don’t remember it at all. I’m working on a few things now … a collaboration, a translation and memoirs … and jump between them according to need. I also do social media management for a number of people and companies, so spend WAY too much time online.

My excuse for never trying NaNo is that I only write non-fiction. Besides I’m such a slow writer even when I’m on a roll I can’t imagine myself managing the hefty word count every day for a month. Did you keep up with the 2000 word a day grind? How? Plan on doing it again?

Non-fiction is certainly easier for me to grind out than fiction. When I was blogging for a living, my daily output was 2500 per day, plus some contract book gigs and a lot of speech writing.

With fiction, I can warm to that pace, but that takes more emotional commitment than I have been able to make lately, so I’m tending to spend that energy on short stories.

I may again do NaNo, but not while my kids are so small and I’m so far from the school!

I’ve had a website where I post travel articles since 2004 but I’m new to blogging. Many say it’s an absolute necessity given the reality of today’s publishing world. I can’t help but think if everyone’s blogging along with their own writing, how do they find time to read other blogs? You are active on blogs, Facebook, twitter, tweet, the whole enchilada. How do you manage and what do you think are the advantages?

As mentioned, I do social media management, so know the value of online communication made easy. I administer accounts across platforms for musicians, restaurants, small hotels, etc., and see first hand the benefits gained through effective posting.

On a personal level, I’ve made so many wonderful friends I will possibly never meet, but have almost-daily contact with. Given my geographic isolation this is a bonus.

After the break-up with Mark, why did you decide to stay in the Seychelles? What is there that makes the place so special?

I had been in Seychelles for many years by then, and it is home. I no longer understand life in the good old USA, and this island seems a much healthier place for Sam and Cj to spend their childhoods. With only 85,000 people in the country, Seychelles is like a small town, and the beauty is stunning and everywhere you look. There are, of course, issues that come with life on a tiny island thousands of miles from anything bigger, but I’m used to those, although not beyond being really, really annoyed from time to time. (My crappy Internet connection being something that drives me mad regularly.)

Over the years I’ve lived here, the place has changed dramatically, now being much more like the rest of the world than it was in the early ’90s. We have supermarkets now, and Coca Cola, and more than one TV channel, and many of these changes seem quite the intrusion.

As the world becomes more homogenized, Seychelles has lost some of its cream, and although that makes life easier in some ways, it also makes it less special. It is still home, though, still a natural jewel.

Your life seems to fit at least a third of Elizabeth Gilbert’s trilogy Eat, Pray, Love. How about telling us about the new love?

Uh … no. Can’t do that. Although he is happy to share his music with the world, private stays private.

So there’s a bit of sequel to Fairy Godmothers…Who Needs ‘Em! after all. So we’ll leave you with the music and some more shots of the Seychelles.


39 comentarios in “Female Nomad and Friends Interview: Sandra Hanks Benoiton”

  1. maria altobellithe 05 Nov 2010 to 1:56 am

    Thanks, Sandra, for waiting an extra day. Things were hectic in the household over Muertos.

    But we finally got a chance to boot it up.

    I loved the shots of the baby turtles and the great wise one in the YouTube video.

  2. Sandra Hanksthe 05 Nov 2010 to 2:34 am

    Thank you, Maria. Hope things have calmed down a bit now there everyone’s done being muertos!

  3. lorriethe 05 Nov 2010 to 7:23 pm

    Hello again, Jean,

    What a lovely, honest and partly sad post.

    I have lost a daughter this year, so I can well sympathize with your emotional plight. Life does throw us some terrible curves.

    I feel somewhat close to you with this post, as if we are much alike in many ways.

    I, too, am a very slow writer, although I write fiction. And, I don’t understand how so many can keep up 2 or 3 blogs, read other blogs, and write novels. Personally, I’d love to have a clone.

    You have been through much, too much. I hope the future holds contentment and happiness for you. You have earned it.

    Your tiny island sounds like paradise, although I’m sure you have all the regular pressures of everyday life.

    Like you, I have made some wonderful, close, cyber friends. Maria being the best.

    Thank you so much for sharing with us. You sound like a person I would love to know better.
    Take care,

  4. Sandra Hanksthe 06 Nov 2010 to 4:15 am

    Hi, Lorrie. Although you address me as Jean, I’m assuming you’re writing to me, so I’m happy to respond.

    I am very sorry to hear about your loss. Joining the club of mothers of dead children is an event no one should ever have to experience, but once you’re there you do find comforting company, and for this I have been very grateful.

    I’m not actually a slow writer … I can crank it out like hotcakes, which helps. It’s with fiction, however, that I lavish time since I like to live it as I write it. Non-fiction is an arduous slog, blog posts are a release valve and poetry pops out, but fiction takes my time, and often my breath.

    Island life has its own rewards and stresses. This is where I am, however, so I take it as it comes, since that’s about the only option. As for contentment and happiness, hope flings infernos …

    Thanks mucho for commenting, and I look forward to knowing you better, too.


  5. Kawi gurlthe 06 Nov 2010 to 7:36 am

    Great information, I just bookmarked this.

  6. lorriethe 09 Nov 2010 to 1:35 am

    Hi again,

    Sorry about the name mixup. Put it down to old age. lol.

    Love that line, Hope flings infernos. Ain’t that the truth, kiddo.

    I guess life anywhere, really, has it’s own rewards and stresses, no matter where you live.

    When life throws the fireballs, the saying always pops into my head. Something about “Man plans and God laughs.”

    What gets me through is family and friends. I think friends more than family.

    I only write fiction. Wouldn’t know the first thing about nonfiction. And yes, I am a very slow writer. Ha, ask Maria.

    Stay well,

  7. Sandra Hanksthe 09 Nov 2010 to 5:08 am

    No prob, Lorrie. I answer to just about anything.

    Since I write almost anything someone is willing to pay for (yes, the word “whore” comes to mind too often), cranking work out quickly is a method of self-preservation. After all, how much time do I really want to spend on political speeches or web copy for restaurants?

    I’ve long been partial to John Lennon’s take: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

    Take care,
    Sandra … Jean? … Betty? ….. whatevahhhhhh …

  8. Miss Footloosethe 10 Nov 2010 to 5:41 pm

    Sandra, thanks for sharing your life story with us. I understand when you say you don’t understand life in the USA anymore. I live there right now after having lived in developing countries (Palestine, Ghana, Armenia) for 11 years. The physical living may be easy, but I have trouble with the political and social climate, the sense of entitlement, the consumer culture.

    Can I come to the Seychelles? And this is not a casual question!

    Thanks again for showing us a glimpse of another way if life.

  9. Sandra Hanksthe 11 Nov 2010 to 6:19 am

    Of course you can, Footloose. I love having company.

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