Sunday, August 31, 2014

I had a great interview with a remarkable woman,

I had the pleasure of interviewing a fellow indie author, whose story I utterly fell in love with. Merjjena Hemp took the brave step of writing her memoirs and even though I went to college with her I had no idea! Don't let the smiling face on the cover fool you, Beyond The Shadow of 3000 Pairs of Shoes is a unique story that will have you reaching for your Kleenex, and I'm not a cry-er.
As always my comments/questions will appear in black, while Merj's will be in pink.

Tell us a little about yourself.  Did you always want to be an author?  What brought you to writing?

I have not changed a whole lot since leaving my little village in the Philippines and having the opportunity to learn valuable lessons of courage, resilience, and personal responsibility from the runaways on the streets of Manila. They taught me not to be afraid to dream big, not to hesitate to aim high, and never allow anyone to stop you from thinking “huge.”
I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to be an author but I knew at some point I would be sharing my experiences growing up from a dictatorial regime, street life, and the long journey with hopelessness, persistence, and survival.
What is your favorite book? How has it influenced your writing?

My favorite book is Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir. Her story of courage and resilience taught me not to be apologetic of who and what we are. Her story inspired me not to be embarrassed to share even the ugliest and the most unpleasant things that happened in our lives because those experiences can help rebuild ourselves as the strongest people that others may learn from.
The title of your book is "3000 Pairs of Shoes," for those that don't immediately get the reference can you provide some context?
I feel that even the younger generation grasps that 3000 Pairs of Shoes symbolize more than just the ridiculous number of shoes but something deeper and significant. To a large number of the Filipinos who suffered during the Marcos Regime, the shoes (owned by Mrs. Imelda Marcos) symbolize wealth, extravagance, elegance, beauty, as well as oppression, poverty, hunger, hopelessness, and the extremely long period of suffering endured by the Filipino people.
I write fiction, and as much as I see myself in my characters, I able still able to hide behind the fact that it is fiction, was it very hard for you to tell your story and put it all out there?  Why was it so important to tell your story?
The hardest part of writing my memoir is not so much the agony of re-living my story because I have shared my experiences already many times since joining the doctoral program. I was more afraid that it might be hard for my son and my husband to read it because I have never shared my story around them in great detail.
Even though my experiences were not extremely brutal and horrific as many people, particularly women and children, have experienced and those who are currently suffering due to different circumstances and conditions, I felt impelled to share my experiences to show gratitude and appreciation to those people (good and bad) who made me the person I am today.
Do you prefer e-books or paper books?
I do prefer e-books because I can store and carry them all in one tiny device. However, I will always buy paper books that have touched and moved me for personal collection as well as to give away as gifts to friends and family.
Why did you choose to self-publish? Are you looking for a publishing deal?  Any advice for authors looking to publish?
I don’t have a publishing deal but to be honest, I am not looking for one right now because I strongly believe that it’s only a matter of time before self-published authors get the due respect and recognition as authors with publishing deals and contracts with major publishing companies.
My advice for authors looking to publish is to consider what is important to them as well as do some research on both self and traditional publishing. Some of my colleagues still roll their eyes at me because I self-published my memoir. What do I say to them? Wake up, the world is changing…
What do you want people to take away from your memoirs?
I am going to repeat my personal message that I want people to take away from my memoir: Don’t be afraid to dream big, not to hesitate to aim high, and never allow anyone stop you from thinking “huge.”
Any other books in the works?  

I am currently completing the second book in the Beyond the Shadow series, Beyond the Shadow of September.

You can find Merjjena's memoir, Beyond The Shadow of 3000 Pairs of Shoes here. Download the Ebook today!


Want more Merj?

Her website is www.merjhemp.com and @merj on Twitter
Merjjena B. Hemp received her Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with a Minor in Educational Learning Technologies at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She has a passion for helping women and children, advocacy organizations that are supporting the abused, homeless, and runaways.  As the spouse of a military veteran and an educator, she uses her background to engage different communities that include the military as well as the Arab Muslim communities in hard conversations about our lives in the post-9/11 era. She is currently completing her second book, Beyond the Shadow of September: Exploring the Multiple Perspectives of Arab Muslim Women’s Experiences in the Post-9/11 Era. She plans to return to the academic setting where she can utilize her experiences, strengths, enthusiasm, and commitment to educate and empower students, so they too can empower and advocate for others who are left and forgotten as she once was, living under the shadow of 3000 pairs of shoes.

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