CAROL GORDON EKSTER: I met Lori Snyder at the virtual NY SCBWI conference. Her yoga class was beautiful and she mentioned her free Writers Happiness retreats which are in California, but virtual because of Covid. My first weekend retreat was wonderful. I loved the connections with other writers and Lori’s inspirational talks and yoga classes. I came whenever I could to any retreats she had after that. So when she shared that she had her first book coming out, I wanted to interview her here at Writers’ Rumpus so you all could all meet the inspirational Lori Snyder!
Lori, tell us about your journey to becoming an author?
LORI SNYDER: Hi Carol – first off, thanks for having me here, and for the kind words!
My journey to getting published was a loooooong one! I decided I wanted to write “for real” when I was in my late 20s. In 1998 I began a Master’s program in Professional Writing with an emphasis in fiction. For my first workshop in the program, we had to bring in a chapter a week. I was bringing in chapters from one of my novels for adults, but had also started a book for kids. I didn’t figure anyone would want to see it (the program was fairly literary-old-white-guy-centric), but one day I didn’t have anything else to turn in, and so I brought the first chapter of my book for kids. To my surprise, the teacher—Hubert Selby, Jr, who wrote Last Exit to Brooklyn and Requiem for a Dream and was just a spectacular human being—said to me: “I love it. What happens next?” Magic words, right? And so I kept writing it. That was my first novel, which went nowhere but did supply the name for the main character in The Circus at the End of the Sea.
If you do the math, you’ll see that I’ve been working toward publication for quite some time (more than two decades!!!). It took me a very long time and many practice novels to be able to write the book I wanted to write, but I will say that when I started writing The Circus at the End of the Sea, I knew I was finally writing the book I intended to write.
CGE: Can you tell us the story behind the story for THE CIRCUS AT THE END OF THE SEA?
LS: This book is, first and foremost, my love letter to Venice, California. I love Venice so much that when I was 43, before I met my now-husband, I decided that my love affair with Venice was the best one of my life and that I should just make it official and marry myself to Venice. I was quite literally shopping for the right ring when I met Bob. He occasionally apologizes for stealing me from Venice, but happily I’ve been able to have them both!
When I set out to write Circus, I knew three things: First, that Venice itself would be a character, the Venice that I see and love in all its grit and magic and glory. Next, that it would be a fantasy without a super-villain, because while I love those stories, the idea that there’s one bad person and as soon as you vanquish them everything is fine isn’t what I believe about the world.
And last, that I wasn’t going to write a single word that didn’t delight me. If it didn’t delight me, it was gone. This was immensely helpful in every step of the way, because while I did have to cut some parts that delighted me but didn’t end up working with the story, there is nothing in the book that I don’t love—and this holds true even after the many, many readings and edits a book goes through on its way to publication. Writing to delight myself was, well…mostly a delight!
CGE: What motivated you to start the Writers’ Happiness Movement?
LS: I care immensely about happiness, kindness, equity, and the arts. These are things I wish our entire world was built on. To me, this means systems in place that allow all people the time and resources to write, think, and create, regardless of their financial situation. I believe that the arts—with a focus on the written word—are some of the best ways to teach empathy, kindness, and ferocity of the heart. I want everyone to have access to writing time and space, as well as to tools that remind us who we are and what we love…and so I decided to try to build that world.
I had already been leading in-person retreats for writers, which were billed as “Distraction-free writing time with a yoga chaser,” and got to see first-hand what a difference even a few days could make in someone’s life. I wanted to replicate as much of that experience as I could for writers everywhere, the sense of spaciousness and support, but without a paywall.
The Writers Happiness Movement offers what I call free happiness tools for writers. These happiness tools are anything that help people feel more like themselves—something I think is key for creating the art we want to create—such as free online retreats for writers; free live online yoga/ meditation/ breathwork; weekly 5-minute Writers Happiness prompts; and two microgrants a month that go to writers nominated by a friend. Down the road, as the support grows, the goal is to build things like residencies and retirement homes for writers, all fully funded by the Writers Happiness Movement.
All of these things are funded through an alternative, community-based economy that I did my best to root in equity, kindness, and real wellbeing for people and the planet. All the support comes either from monthly patronage of $5/month or from one-time donations. It’s similar to becoming a patron of an individual artist, except that instead of the patronage going to one writer so they can keep creating art, it goes to build a world where all writers can keep creating art.
The Writers Happiness Movement is still pretty new, and I am really excited to let writers know about it…so if you feel inclined to spread the word, please do!
CGE: What does the future hold for Lori Snyder?
That is a very good question! I’m in a bit of a liminal space right now, as I suspect many of us are. I’m prepping for my October debut of The Circus at the End of the Sea. I’m finishing up my next book, which is not a sequel but is definitely for the same audience in terms of age range and tone. That one will be out, also with HarperCollins, in early 2023. I suspect these two things will shift my world in some way, but I don’t exactly know how yet.
And, hopefully, the Writers Happiness Movement will be growing continuously, which means I can dedicate more of my time to creating programs that support writers. Honestly, my hope for the future is that I will be writing, speaking, and building a world based on kindness, equity, and the arts in ways I might not even be able to imagine yet.
CGE: Can you give us the dates and links needed if we are interested in signing up for the next Writers’ Happiness retreat?
But of course! The retreats happen every other month, and you can find the upcoming dates and details here:
And, at some point in 2022, I’ll be starting up in-person retreats again as well—hooray!
YOU CAN CONNECT WITH LORI HERE:
Author website: www.lorirsnyderauthor.com