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Dena Moes Shares Her Journey to Publication
Written by
She Writes
March 2019
Written by
She Writes
March 2019

Check out this exclusive interview with Dena Moes, author of The Buddha Sat Right Here.

Dena Moes is a Hollywood born, Yale educated midwife with a BA in literature and an MS in Nursing. Dena and her family live in Chico California but leave town each summer to attend Rainbow Gatherings and Burning Man, and tour the West Coast festival circuit as the Moes Family Band. They always come home in time for school to start - except in 2014, when they set off for India and Nepal. Dena is a songwriter, storyteller, and essayist whose work has been published in Midwifery Today, Shasta Parent, Minerva Rising and the Demeter Press book Travellin’ Mama. The Buddha Sat Right Here is Dena's first book. She is currently gestating her next book, Rebel Midwife. More information can be found at www.denamoes.com.

Share your writing routine.

I seem to have two routines going at this point – I will call them conscious, and subconscious.

Conscious – I make the choice to set aside writing time, and I do it in a little home office I call the Womb Room. Writing The Buddha Sat Right Here, I would set aside three hours, then spend a half hour at the beginning and at the end puttering, fussing with the computer, cleaning my desk, and scrolling the time-suck of our generation – social media. Once I begin, I can easily write for two solid hours before coming up for air. I work another job so I try to write a few times a week.

Subconscious – This amazing thing happens. I will be out for a walk, or lying in bed just waking up, and my mind will start composing prose in my head, all on its own. This often happens after I left my writing desk “stuck” in some way, the day before. I have to run and grab a journal to scribble as fast as I can before it slips away. The best part is when I start mumbling these brilliant thoughts aloud, and my kids or husband catch me talking to myself again.

Describe your writing style in three words.

Funny, direct, unpredictable.

What is the first thing you can remember writing?

When I was a girl, I attempted to write a girl-and-her-horse novel several times. Each time I got only two to four chapters in. I lived in Los Angeles and had never actually met a horse, which is probably why I never got very far. Then I wrote a story about a tree in fifth grade, and won a contest with it. My senior year of high school, I wrote an essay that got me into Yale despite my merely good, but not great SAT scores and GPA. Boo-yah! I got a BA in literature from Yale, but the curriculum was so focused on literary theory and deconstructing texts, my creativity was sucked out of me. I went into midwifery and women’s health, and now am coming full circle back to writing.

When did you start to feel like a writer?

I wrote a blog about birth and midwifery from 2005-2012, which I called The Midwife’s Desk. Clients would give me permission to write about their incredible births, and my posts were read by thousands of people, all over the world. I also write songs for my band, the Moes Family Band, which has performed at West Coast transformational festivals such as Burning Man for the past ten years.

But it wasn’t until I started writing my book, that I realized I actually want to be a writer when I grow up.

Was there something about the publishing experience that surprised you?

The depth of feeling, when seeing my first designed pages, and then my gorgeous book cover, and when my ARCs arrived in a box and I could physically hold them. Wow. My publisher Brooke Warner says your book is not your baby, but it sure feel like it sometimes.

Also this lead up to book launch feels like the third trimester of a pregnancy. It is taking forever, and I am mostly excited, except for the moments I feel terrified, and wonder why on earth I ever chose to do this to myself.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Stories are powerful medicine – if you are inspired to write – write! Write for yourself, write from your heart, and your audience will love it too. Just be forewarned – the road to publication may be bumpier than the writing, so take it one step at a time. Enjoy the process.

What do you do to help develop your craft?

I read voraciously, both new authors and the classics. I attend conferences and workshops when I can, and as well take online courses and workshops. Books on craft, such as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Mary Karr’s the Art of Memoir have been inspirational The main thing is to limit distractions and keep writing.

What methods are you using to market your book?

I would tap dance in a parade to sell books! Actually, I would probably tap dance in a parade if asked, just for the fun of it. But seriously, I am hustling hard. The Buddha Sat Right Here is a memoir, with themes of motherhood, marriage, midwifery, and travel all

woven into a Buddhist pilgrimage through India and Nepal. With children. This makes my book hard to categorize but fun to promote through different lenses.

I have written essays related to the various themes of my book, and pitched them endlessly until they have found homes. I have pitched to podcasts and recently recorded two. I have recorded an NPR-affiliate radio interview and have another one scheduled in April. I have about a zillion guest blog posts, author interviews, etc that I am working on, which will all go live in April around my pub date. I call myself The Little Author That Could. I have even beem coached in social media use and now am capable of barraging my circle of friends with memes about my book on multiple simultaneous platforms. They are thrilled about it, I’m sure.

I want to start writing another book, so I am going all-out to build my reputation and platform, and pave the way to future publication. I am gestating a memoir titled Rebel Midwife. Stay tuned.

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