Interview with Terry Wilson


Interview questions–

1. I think of your material as funny, quick witted, and based on
observations of daily life. Can you say what your major sources of
inspiration are?

My whole family is funny, and sometimes visiting my Mom (and the rest of my siblings in Buffalo) gives me material for a few new chapters! 😉 I often tell my students that sometimes the hardest experiences are the ones that I (and they) can write about later, once we have some distance on them. I think that even when I’m going through a painful bump in the road, there is a part of my mind that detaches and can see the humor in it. That helps so much! My father taught me comic timing though he wasn’t always easy to be around. And my Mom can still get us all laughing even though she’s 95. Growing up in an Irish Catholic family often inspires dark humor when you least expect it!

2. What are you currently reading? Favorite authors?

I am currently reading My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir. She’s such a strong person and has an amazing attitude about life and her own success. I read a lot of memoir; favorite authors are Mary Karr (Liars’ Club),Jeannette Walls (The Glass House), Cheryl Strayed (Wild) and Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies and of course, Bird by Bird—not a memoir but a comical writing guide.) Rhoda Janzen’s memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is hysterically funny. In fact, many of these stories are rich with humor, and that’s a big draw for me. I also love historical fiction; a book I’ve read a few times is an older book, Rumors of Peace by Ella Leffland (about WWII) and also, Winds of War. Annie Proulx is another author I read a lot of, though it’s hard to beat her Pulitzer prize winning, The Shipping News. And I’ll devour almost any book about Africa; Malaria Dreams (by Stuart Stevens) is hilarious and Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari is an easy book to get lost in! As far as poetry goes, I love Mary Oliver. My husband, Mark, and I used to read her poems to each other. (Hey, Mark, we need to start doing that again!;-)

3. Your first book is out! How exciting. Can you describe some of the
process of editing it all together? What are the major themes?

My book starts with stories about growing up Catholic in the Rust Belt of Buffalo, NY in a large Catholic family and the kind of insane logic that goes with looking up to suffering and dead saints as role models! Another theme is how I survived Catholic school and also my father’s drinking, and then I move on to the strange events that happen to us all while living in Santa Fe (including trying to be a Buddhist)! I discuss my Mom’s Alzheimer’s toward the end of the book and how we still all love her desperately and completely as she clings to life in the green lounge chair in her Buffalo living room with snow raging outside. I finish the book by reclaiming some aspects of Catholicism and spirituality that work for me today.

4. How can readers buy your book?

My book is for sale on; I will give the link below. Also, I have a web page called (or just look for me on Facebook at Confessions of a Failed Saint). This FB page functions as a blog if anyone wants to discuss my book or just spirituality, humor or life in general. Here’s the link to buy my book! And thanks so much, Miriam for this interview!

18 thoughts on “Interview with Terry Wilson

  1. Hi, hey Miriam, thank you for doing this for such a deserving woman! Hope all is well with you. And to you Terry, I don’t know how in one paragraph you mentioned so many of my favorite writers –Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, Annie Proulx, Mary Oliver, Miriam Sagan — I could just make a list of those you mentioned I haven’t read and I’ll probably love them too — guess we’re kindred writing spirits even though my writing to date is more morose and yours is hilarious. Best of luck to you on getting this worthy story out there in a way that makes us laugh more and grieve less. And kudos to you for staying the course all these years!

    • Thanks so much, Sheila! It seems that writers have to “stay the course” if we’re going to survive,….though once you survive Catholicism, everything else seems easy! 😉 That’s so cool that you love many of the same authors I do…I even like to re-read the classics these days like “To Kill a Mockingbird”–wow, you can’t do better than that. I wish Harper Lee had written another book or three after that! As for my more morose writing, well, I have bought condos for several therapists over the years….;-) Anyway, I so appreciate your wonderful comments, Sheila, and it’s so cool that you and I are both still writing!

  2. Miriam, I wanted to thank you again for doing this interview with me–it so helps me to get my book out there in the world! And I want to add to my answer above about who inspires me–my husband, Mark, makes me laugh all the time. He definitely has a way with words. I also am so grateful that I was able to work with the women in the Santa Fe County Detention Center for 7 yrs., teaching them creative writing. I learned so much from them–how generous they are to each other, and how resilient they are, in spite of what has happened to them. This is only one story in my book, but I could have written much more about their brave, though difficult lives, and how imaginative they are in surviving them.

  3. Terry is simply bubbling with enthusiasm in this interview. I would love to read all of the books by authors she likes that she lists here. She is not only humble, and well read, she is a caring, supportive, and kind person . . . Along with being very witty she is an excellent writer, and teacher of her craft for many years. Her one-woman show was really funny. I found myself laughing out loud.
    That’s just the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more under chilly waters. I have not received my copy yet, but I expect it soon. Terry Wilson is awesome in that she shares herself nearly without a flinch or is that a flinch I detect now and then. We are all lucky to know someone like her, inspiring us to inspire. —friend in Taos, NM.

    • Kathy–thanks so much! No flinching here….;-) Your comments are so sincere and touching. And your last line–wow, I hope I inspire people to inspire! I’m so glad we’re friends! And I hope the book makes you laugh out loud like my show did!

      • p.s.: I think you are quite saintly even if you humbly claim otherwise.

  4. As a fan of “How did they do it?” material, I very much enjoyed hearing the backstory to Confessions of a Failed Saint, which is an engaging and brave book – and yes, very funny!!

    • Penelope–thanks for your comment! That’s so funny that you’re a fan of “How did they do it?” Mark loves that show too! Guess I should check it out….you’re the expert on backstory when it comes to writing novels, so I appreciate you saying you liked my backstory to “Confessions of a Failed Saint!” Thanks for saying my book is brave and funny, too–hopefully my family will think so! 😉

  5. The stories in Terry’s book are funny and make me laugh every time. That must be the sign of quality humor. It makes you laugh even when you know what’s coming. While all the chapters are great, you must check out “Eggs Therese,” my personal favorite. Great interview and comments from friends. (Terry is lucky to have so many great friends.)

  6. Oh Terry, I look forward to reading your book. My family has many of the same earmarks and crazy ironic (dark?) perspectives. Like those writers you mention (esp. Mary Karr and Annie Lamott) your work is right there! Congratulations!
    Maybe some day you will share your adventures at SF County Detention Center with me. I love your humor!!!

    • Thanks so much, Libby! I’m sorry your family has the same earmarks and dark perspectives that my family has….;-)) Ha ha! The dark humor is wonderful sometimes and other times, it’s a challenge….but it made us who we are today, right? I’d love to share my experiences at the SF County Detention Center with you–those were some fierce and courageous women I worked with. You and I have similar humor–I like yours too! I hope you like the book!

  7. Reading the interview with Terry made me want to go out and buy the book, which I did. Her stories made me laugh out loud. Such a sweet sensation in our world today.

    • Thanks so much, Barbara! I’m so glad that my book made you laugh out loud! It is kind of unusual these days to crack up (with laughter, that is), especially while watching the nightly news! I hope to see you again soon, maybe in another creative writing class. I miss your amazing stories! I hope you’re still writing–enjoy Carmel!

  8. More replies here–Kathy, no saints here, believe me! I have not been shot with arrows in the chest recently, at least as far as I know….let’s hear it for Saint Sebastian! And Mark, I think you should write that book you mentioned above–under a pseudonym, of course! 😉 Miriam, maybe our husbands could work on the book together?

  9. Pingback: New Class with Terry Wilson at SFCC: English 120 | Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond

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