Blog Book Tour | “Yellow-billed Magpie” by Nancy Schoellkopf

Posted Monday, 19 October, 2015 by jorielov , , , 1 Comment

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Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a part of the blog tour for “Yellow-billed Magpie” hosted by iRead Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author Nancy Schoellkopf in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why my interest was piqued with this novel:

I like novels which ask questions of it’s readers inasmuch as a story whose heart is aching for a reader to dig a bit deeper than the superficial level of insight. I like finding novelists who write a story with it’s own uniqueness to where it cannot be measured against another novel; for it’s originality sets it apart. I like finding authors who are daring in their courage to tell stories other writers might not feel they can write as eloquently but I appreciate all writers who strive towards pushing themselves past their own set of comfort zones.

I was enthralled with the idea behind Yellow-billed Magpie by the title and then the synopsis. Generally titles may or may not sway me one way or the other; usually because until you sit down with a novel, the title is a bit elusive in explaining itself to you. A synopsis is only a short breath of a clue to what a novel could speak to you about as you read it, but it’s a hint of a suggestion nonetheless. For book bloggers and reviewers (like myself) the synopsis either wins us over in curiosity or we might take a pass on a title until lateron down the road.

In this instance, I was finding myself enjoying the pleasure of seeking out Indie Writers and/or Self Published Writers who were happily giving me a story-line which did not feel repetitive nor re-invented. I like finding writers whose stories tend to stand out from the pack and give you a character who might stay with you longer than the time it takes to read their story. All novels effect us in different ways, some even flutter back inside our memories at later dates – randomly overtaking our thoughts. I like seeking out the stories which give me something to chew on and give me a hearty story to appreciate as I read the words their author left behind for me to find. I was hoping this might be one I would find I couldn’t quite put down without gratitude for taking a chance on it’s author’s style.

Blog Book Tour | “Yellow-billed Magpie” by Nancy SchoellkopfYellow-billed Magpie
by Nancy Schoellkopf
Source: Author via iRead Book Tours

Unlike their black-billed cousins, yellow-billed magpies are rarely found outside California’s central valley. So when they begin showing up in Samantha O’Malley’s dreams, she wonders: are they calling me home?

Disappointed by failed fertility treatments and the break-up of her marriage, Samantha returns to her home town and slips into old habits, resuming her teaching career, even hooking up with an old lover. But she also renews her friendship with Craig, the school custodian she honors as her spiritual guide. The work they do together with Samantha’s special education students will lead her to discoveries she never thought possible.

Yellow-Billed Magpie is a love story, a spiritual journey, a quest to look beyond appearances to the mystical rhythms that guide the human heart.

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780692445730

Also by this author: Red-tailed Hawk

on 3rd August 2015

Pages: 216

Available Formats: Paperback

Converse via: #YellowbilledMagpie

About Nancy Schoellkopf

Nancy Schoellkopf

Nancy Schoellkopf has been telling stories and writing poems for many lifetimes. It goes without saying she’s needed a second income, so this time around she happily taught amazing children in special education classes in two urban school districts in Sacramento, California.

A full time writer now, she enjoys lavishing attention on her cat, her garden and her intriguing circle of family and friends.

My Review of Yellow-billed Magpie:

I happen to love introspective stories – the kind where you can tug yourself inside a person’s soul whilst your soaking inside their life’s journey. Schoellkopf writes inter-personal narrative with a keen insight into an emotional rewinding of memory and the questions which taut you to interlope back against one’s life. She has crafted a story which has it’s own set of pacing and tone; it’s a lovely layout to read, because the paragraphs are chunky and free-form in how their delivered. A novel which is half poetic in it’s centering and artful in it’s descriptive details. You nearly feel this is partially written as a journal, as your peering through a window into Samantha’s life at a rate of acceptance she is giving you to learn of her story.

Samantha is attempting to shift her life forward after divorce whilst resolving her heart on where she stands on motherhood; mostly as her previous attempts to becoming a Mum were forestalled. The ache this left inside her soul for a child she grieved without knowing was widening the more she reconciled why her marriage fell apart and what might have caused it to derail long before children entered the equation of discussion. She’s a layered character with a complexity ebbing around her edges – she only gives so much of herself to others, hiding the rest within herself.

Her internal framework is a bit fraught with stress, as foreseen through the dreamscapes she’s experiencing where different animal spirits are communicating with her; trying in vain to get her to listen and see what their messages are telling her. Outwardly, she presents a strong focus for her second chance at a career in Special Education where the children challenge her each day to reach them on an educational level. The children are written very well and are a key part of the backdrop for this novel, because too often Special Ed children are dismissed out of hand without tolerance and acceptance for their contributions.

Samantha’s walk towards understanding her place in this world has a higher plane of individual advancement towards accepting the fullness of what life can give a person. She starts to listen to her teachers, who are continuing to re-enter her life at moments where she needs them most. Part intuitive guidance by listening to what Samantha isn’t able to say out loud and part sensibility for understanding what a woman wants before she realises it herself. The novel has a deeper core of thought stemming out of Samantha’s search for both truth and meaning inside her life; the work she is conducting with the children in her care is only one half of what she is finding is her true purpose.

Suspending reality for a bit and focusing more on what can internally be explored is where Scheollkopf has centered her story. Spirituality and metaphysics are openly discussed throughout the context of the novel, seeking to understand the whys and the hows whilst giving a measure of plausibility for the theories and thoughts being expressed. This is a story where one woman is struggling to put back the pieces of her life without realising she has everything she needs already to allow her life to resume where it had left off. The lessons of following your intuition and your heart are deeply rooted in Samantha’s story but also, to be open to the conversations with others who cross your path. Those conversations can spark insight into something your trying to understand and can sometimes give you the words or explanations you need to carry-on.

On the writing style of Nancy Schoellkopf:

Ms Schoellkopf’s writings are a bit raw in places and openly vulnerable in others – she gives her characters breathing room to explore their emotions and the inner turmoil they are facing with an openness towards self-reflection. She finds a way to give her characters the ability to think about what they are going through in a way that translates well to the reader about where their frustrations lie and how they sometimes feel immobilised by their fears.

I enjoyed how she broke the narrative into pieces of introspective wanderings, internal musings of a woman’s dreams, and the conversations of dialogue which sparked interactions between her characters. She found a fusion between traditional story-telling and a new hybrid version where the pace of her story has it’s own rhythm and way of giving us an inside view of one woman’s journey towards self-understanding and acceptance of what her life is providing her to live through. She’s questioning everything and anything in order to make herself rooted in her experience. Taking out what she hopes is self-assurance and reconstructive criticism to rebuild her life in a new place that feels more like home than where she last laid her hat.

Schoellkopf is writing about how sometimes the journey which leads you backwards is the only method you can take to move forward. Within this space of time, is where the most learning and awakening of spirit can happen because your on the fringes of arriving inside your future. Curiously, I wrote this last sentiment about the novel chapters before the author had Samantha realise it herself!

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I love how your Twitter Profile states: Pragmatic Poet, Intuitive Author: Writing without a Net since 1978. Can you expand a bit on the inspiration behind the words you chose to use to reflect your writerly persona and personality? (FYI: Twitter Profile reading is a hobby of mine)

Schoellkopf responds: I’m so happy you like my Twitter Profile! My intention was to write something snappy and a bit intriguing, but of course authentic. Pragmatic and intuitive do describe two seemingly paradoxical sides of my persona. I’ve always been very practical and organized, striving for efficiency. But when it comes to the big decisions I’ll lean on my intuitive insights every time.

As for “Writing Without a Net:” 1978 was the year I graduated from college. Since then there’s been no professor doling out assignments to keep me on track; I’ve had to develop my own discipline over the decades. But the phrase also refers to my willingness to take risks in my writing. I want to dig deep, to cut close to the emotional bone.

I spend a heap of pensive thought on my own Twitter Profile; I’ve tweaked it a few times since I started tweeting in November of 2013 however, the current one truly expresses my personality quite well. Whenever I go to ‘edit’ it, I have trouble knowing what to dismiss because this collection of words speaks well to who I am. I’m sure at some point I’ll modify it once again and find equal enjoyment out of how the words craft together a portrait.

I definitely appreciated finding out your inspiration behind ‘writing without a net’ and I think it should be a mantra for all writers who go to University or College. I opted out myself – finding that I liked writing outside the structure of school and the rules of Creative Writing. I definitely respect anyone who charts a course on their own terms and guides themselves forward to their own true awakening of individuality.

Did you discover you were a writer or a poet first? What do you think is easier to compose: poetry or narrative fiction? How do both mediums of creative story-telling encourage your own creativity?

Schoellkopf responds: I had a teacher in high school who encouraged my writing (more under question #11). I was happy to find something I excelled at and I embraced my new identity of “writer.” At that point I wrote mainly essays and journal entries. I didn’t have the courage to write much poetry until after college when I found a group of poets who welcomed me as one of their own.

In my writing now I like to think there is little separation between narrative story telling and poetry. I want my prose to be infused with the lyrical rhythm and rich sensory details of poetry. I hope when people read my novel they will deem me a good storyteller. But I want poetry to claim me.

I’m a poet and a writer myself – I never quite put thought on how I wanted to be viewed as a writer or a poet, as for me they are both interdependent of each other. Sometimes I miss writing poetry when I’m inspired to write fiction and vice versa. However, it’s quite a curious thought to decide what we want our written legacies to be reflected of and speak on our behalf to others. I tend to feel it’s the stories I want to last in regards to my own writings; although, truly some of my poems tell stories equal to my novels. A smartly keen answer you gave!

You’ve stated “To Kill A Mockingbird” is your favourite novel what was it about it’s story that evoked such a strong connection with you?

Schoellkopf responds: To Kill A Mockingbird has it all: a compelling story and richly detailed lyrical language. But it’s the authenticity of its characters that drew me in. I love that Scout seems to love a good story, just as I do.

Do you enjoy photography or writing in the moment more when you make a ‘first discovery’ whilst your out exploring? What do you takeaway the most when you select the medium of the hour?

Schoellkopf responds: When I was younger I loved to take photos, and I amassed quite a collection of snapshots, mainly of children and flowers. Today I prefer to experience the moment first-hand rather than be distracted by immortalizing the moment for later. I like to write around the same time every day so the muse knows when to show up. Then all the images, words and phrases I’ve been collecting inside can spill onto the page.

Why do you think cats love to watch tv with us? I noticed you shared a picture of one of your cats watching “Downton Abbey” whereas a cat of mine whose passed used to love murder mysteries. Are your cats simply as inquisitive as mine in regards to keeping in the know with their human’s lives?

Schoellkopf responds: I blame myself that my cat Angel has embraced the couch potato life style. She never gave the TV a glance until I bought her a video designed for feline amusement showing an assortment of birds at feeders and rodents in terrariums. She loves it!—so much so that she’ll stare at the dark screen when the TV is off and then give me a pathetically doleful look, apparently entreating me to turn it on. To be honest, it’s unusual to catch her watching something as sedate as Downton Abbey, so I’ve just had to snap a photo when I see her enjoying one of my favorites. She prefers the previously mentioned birds and rodents as well as shows with lots of color and movement. Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood have been known to hold her attention.

Is she as inquisitive as your cats? I would guess yes! Another of her favorite activities is to stretch out between the computer monitor and keyboard while I’m typing. By the way, she’s not at all spoiled!

What sparked your interest in breathing life into this type of story?

Schoellkopf responds: At this point in my life, I write because I love to write! Stories come to me slowly over time as I write them. I seldom know the entire story before I sit down and start typing page one. I don’t have a particular message, but in my reading I am drawn to spiritual stories and magical realism. That comes through in the stories I write.

I love Magical Realism and the genre-bending styling of authors who use the genre. I tend to be drawn to certain types of stories (as I referenced in the top anchour of this post) and I notice the writers I’m discovering tend to write in a vein of thought that is productive towards embracing certain ideas and notions about humanity and life. I think we find out about the stories we write as we write them in order to keep them alive for ourselves. We’re not always meant to know the endings before we understand the beginnings, right!?

How did you settle on the Yellow-billed magpie as a type of spiritual connection of insight for your character? Do you find yourself connected to one animal over another and thus, wanted to show how comforting this is through Samantha’s journey?

Schoellkopf responds: From the time I was an infant, my family has always had cats as companions. Hence I have often felt a connection with all creatures feline, including lions, tigers, cheetahs, cougars and the amazing and beautiful jaguar. Of course I like birds too, but I’m as surprised as anyone that birds have become the mascot for my stories.

Here’s the quirky secret on how I chose to focus on the Yellow-Billed Magpie in this novel: just before I started writing, I attended an Audubon Society lecture on local birds. I discovered something I didn’t know: the big and beautiful yellow-billed magpie lives nowhere else but my own back yard, the Central Valley of California. I loved this—a bird who loves Northern California as much as I do.

A few days later I started typing my story. I didn’t have a title then, but I had to name the computer file. Without a lot of thought, I called it “magpie.” I thought I’d change it later. But lo and behold, these cocky birds (whom I hadn’t seen in years) started showing up in my yard. Well, I just had to write them in. It wasn’t hard. I was inspired, and my characters were inspired too.

I positively love this! It speaks about the serendipitous nature of writers and how part of what we’re creating has a depth of meaning strictly personal to us. Such a curious little bird – if only they could be seen elsewhere, but then, they might lose their special antidotes and meaning. I think some species are meant to live in a specific place for a given reason; if only we could understand the ‘whys’ as we find them. Perhaps the magpies you’ve met were trying to inspire you to bring this story to life even before you wrote it?

Your novel feels semi-autobiographical as your lead character is in the same field you were in yourself – did you find drawing on your past experiences as a teacher helped shaped the heart of who Samantha is as we meet her in the novel?

Schoellkopf responds: When people find out I was a special education teacher, they assume it’s a very frustrating job and that I must be a very patient person—and sometimes I am. But what they don’t know is that working with these kids can be more fun than anyone can imagine. Often these students are less inhibited than their neuro-typical peers, unembarrassed to give compliments and affection, eager to try new things, tolerant of other people’s differences. These wonderful children shaped me over the years and they shaped Samantha.

Although I must emphasize that the story is fiction, I wanted to convey a classroom that is realistically gritty, poignant and joyful, because that is how I experienced it. To give Samantha a hopeful perspective, I bring her in contact with a wise and spiritual man who is based on a dear friend of mine who passed away recently. He was still alive when I wrote the first draft and he gave me permission to name the fictional Craig after him.

I love finding out Craig truly existed IRL and this part of the story had an autobiographical realism to the the story as a whole. It’s a special part of the novel as it’s broaching a topic that many might not consider focusing on but it’s a true spirit of where Samantha is when we arrive inside her life and how effective Craig was at teaching her how to embrace her life. My sympathies for his passing and the impact this left on your heart.

I think people tend to have misconceptions about a lot of things – they tend to overlook what they do not understand or what they have trouble accepting. Everyone has something different about them, but if people are only looking with their eyes and not seeing people with their heart, we have a harder road to climb towards true acceptance and empathy. I also think sometimes children get placed in Special Ed when they really need a tutor or a teacher to give them extra help on what is becoming a difficulty for them in their education.

It’s a novel about life and how life evolves forward out of our hopes and dreams – how did you find a centering focus on how to show the greatest growth on behalf of Samantha’s journey?

Schoellkopf responds: Every story’s got to have some conflict! In Yellow-Billed Magpie, Samantha’s internal conflict arises when she learns she is unable to have children. She wonders if she will be able to cobble together a happy life now that this dream has died. She takes refuge in work and relationships: this is the plot. But the deeper focus of the story is on Samantha’s spiritual core and her struggle to maintain her faith despite the obstacles life throws in her path. This was always my focus as I wrote the novel just as it is a great focus in my own life.

Yes, I saw how you had two threads of thought running through the story; the greater of the two was Samantha’s internal journey towards understanding her place in this world. Her spiritual path was very important to her and it’s how she moves through uncertainty to clarity to understanding that definitely drives the novel forward. She’s choosing how to live and how to keep her faith with her actions and her intentions of belief each turn of the page.

What creative outlets inspired you as a child to become a creative economist as an adult?

Schoellkopf responds: I’m not sure what you mean by “economist,” Jorie, unless you’re harkening back to my description of myself as “pragmatic.” But I’ll say this: I was blessed to have very supportive and cheerful parents. But my Dad was a neat freak and my Mom was a pack rat. They made it work but left me feeling a bit torn. I love everything to be neat and clean, but I hate to throw anything away! I’ve had to be very creative to accommodate both sides of my personality.

I picked up on a term ‘creative economist’ coming out of the Northeast which suggest that writers, artisans, musicians, and artists are all creatively moving the economy forward and the idea behind that terminology stuck with me. I’ve been using it ever since I discovered it (a few  years ago) to express all of us who are striving to create art and beauty through our creativity. It’s a cross-medium and platform term which recognises us all at the same time.

What was the impetus which gravitated you into writing? (presumably in 1978?) And, when did this occur? Who was your best cheerleader?

Schoellkopf responds: My high school English teacher, Sister Mary, told me in junior year that I as an “insightful writer,” with skill beyond many of my peers. I was thrilled with this praise. Looking back I realize she was the one who gave me permission to be a writer. She gave me the confidence to explore my creativity.

Over the years, I’ve been encouraged by writer-friends and companions, but my late mother was always my biggest cheerleader. When I was overwhelmed with life and work, worried that my writing was becoming stale, she’d say, “Don’t worry. It’ll come back.”

I’ve struggled over the years with writer’s block due to different reasons, and my own cheerleaders (my Mum & Da) have encouraged me at each step I’ve reached a cross-roads where I would find the inspiration returning back to me. Looking ahead, having a vintage typewriter in my life is a beautiful thing because it erases my stress with the loss of data I’ve had with computers who erased my writings without a way to retrieve them. Sometimes finding a way to de-tech your life is a surefire route back inside your own writerly pursuits. Whichever way we find a connection to keep connected to our creativity is something to celebrate. On a personal note, yes, I too, did wonder — will the words come back? Where were they when I sought them?

What centers your joy when you’re not creating or working professionally?

Schoellkopf responds: I’ve found that joy is often an elusive goal, especially when you go looking for it. In recent years I’ve lost a few people who were very important to me, and I’ve spent more than a bit of time wondering how to get happy again. Better to focus on meaningful work, prayer and meditation. Then celebrate whatever comes! Hanging with people who love to laugh (like my Thursday night writing circle) is always helpful.

Life ebbs and flows out it’s own cycle of seasons for us to travel through, this much I’ve learnt from a very young age. And, like you, I’ve found that although joy might feel elusive at times of adversity or sorrow, it’s as ready for us to find again when we’re ready to embrace as the soft whispers of a butterfly who flutters past us on a day we weren’t expecting to find even a welcoming smile of a flower. Celebrating the little moments are the best way to keep joy alive and I do agree; happiness is sometimes on holiday, but it does resume in the hours where the unexpected mirth of life finds a way to give us a reprieve.

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I’d like to thank Ms Schoellkopf for this stimulating conversation about her writer’s life and the joy she has in creating stories with words. I composed my questions for this interview prior to reading her novel ‘Yellow-billed Magpie’ and found equal enjoyment on my end to create the questions as I did in her responses to them!

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This blog tour is courtesy of: iRead Book Tours

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I look forward to hearing your reactions if you’ve read this novel too

and/or if your curiosity had become piqued to read it after reading my own ruminations!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Yellow-billed Magpie”, book synopsis, author photograph of Nancy Schoellkopf, author biography, and the quotation from the novel and the tour badge were all provided by iRead Book Tours and used with permission. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers and My Thoughts badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 19 October, 2015 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 21st Century, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Bookish Discussions, Cats and Kittens, Debut Author, Indie Author, iRead Book Tours, Modern Day, Vulgarity in Literature

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One response to “Blog Book Tour | “Yellow-billed Magpie” by Nancy Schoellkopf

  1. Jorie–thank you so much for your thoughtful review, and the wonderful conversation! Did I mention that I wrote Yellow-Billed Magpie during my first Nanowrimo? That was in 2010. I have two more Nanowrimo novels featuring the same characters which will be released when the time is right. Now I’m gearing up to write another first draft starting November 1st! How about you–will you be writing a novel this November?

    Thanks again–Nancy

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