THE SJ CHILDS SHOW

Episode 263-From Legal Briefs to Literary Crafts The Chronicles of Life with Reyna Gentin

March 22, 2024 Sara Gullihur-Bradford aka SJ Childs Season 11 Episode 263
THE SJ CHILDS SHOW
Episode 263-From Legal Briefs to Literary Crafts The Chronicles of Life with Reyna Gentin
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever considered abandoning the career you spent years building to chase a dream? That's exactly what Reyna did, trading her lawyer's briefcase for a pen and paper. Embark on an intimate voyage with us as Reyna, a former lawyer with a newfound vocation in writing, divulges the intricacies of her career metamorphosis. Her narrative isn't solely about making a change; it's a celebration of passion and the profound experiences that writing unlocks. We delve into the solitary yet fulfilling life of a writer and how community can be found in unexpected places like writing workshops and classes, underscoring the beauty and bravery in sharing one's work and embracing feedback.


Our exploration doesn't stop at personal transformations. We navigate the varied terrains of a writing career, discussing everything from weaving personal essays into novels to the unique flavor of children's literature. She shares her ambition to piece together interlinked short stories, revealing the hurdles in crafting a woven tapestry of narratives. We unravel the value of feedback from writing classes and workshops, emphasizing the importance of community and constructive criticism for growth. For those standing at the precipice of their own creative endeavors, we offer up our insights on taking that first valiant step into storytelling.


The conversation takes a turn towards the significance of neurodiversity in literature as we discuss Reyna's book that beautifully portrays dyslexia. We reflect on the Moonbeam Children's Book Award her work garnered and the overarching message of empathy and inclusion it champions. Books have a transformative power to shift perspectives and cultivate compassion, and Reyna's work stands as a testament to this truth. Discover the enchanting world of her storytelling, from the allure of her book covers to her dedication to inclusivity, and join us in looking forward to the impactful narratives she has yet to share.



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Speaker 2:

Welcome to the SJ Childs Show, where a little bit of knowledge can turn fear into understanding. Enjoy the show, hi, and thank you for joining the SJ Childs Show today. I'm really looking forward to my conversation today with Reina. It will be, I know, just very informative and exciting. I'm thrilled I'm going to say that Right Pun to talk to her and learn about her passions and what she loves and how we can support her most of all. So thank you so much for being here today. Thanks for having me. Yeah, introduce yourself and let us know kind of a little bit about you.

Speaker 1:

Sure, my name is Reina Marger-Ginton and I live in Suburb of New York City and I spent many years practicing law and I still do so on a volunteer basis, but I stopped practicing on a full-time, paid basis about almost 10 years ago and when I stopped doing that, I started doing some writing, so I actually kind of fell into it. A friend of mine was taking a class at a local university and she invited me to come along with her and I really changed everything. I've written now three novels and then also just a lot of other essays and short stories and all sorts of stuff that I've been able to have published, and it's been great. It's been a whole different outlook on what to do with my time and how to reach people and how to talk to people, and it's really been great.

Speaker 2:

That's amazing and I can really resonate with that change, that really vast and very deep change that you made from I was a paralegal for years and I at the moment just thought, you know, I need to do something different, and I went into massage therapy. You know, like you just completely changed the grid 100%, and so I completely understand you have to like that new mindset and you like this new outlook and new perspectives and you take so much with you that you've learned I absolutely love attorneys by the way, I'm probably one of the few people in the world, though.

Speaker 2:

I think that there's just so much value that you can offer to the community and yeah, so thank you for your service and doing that way, you know, in your legal career, and it's so exciting when you then find a passion, especially in you know. Your later years, after you know you've established a career, tell us what that transition was like for you. Was you know? Did it have like kind of a darker, you know, lower places, or was it just like hit the ground running?

Speaker 1:

No, I would definitely say it was a transition. I mean it came at the same time as my kids were kind of transitioning a little bit. I mean, 10 years ago my kids were 13 and 16. So that's a very different kind of parenting than when your kids are small and need help with everything and you know, but they do, they do need help and they're around. But it was, you know, a different kind of time perspective that I had because of them and it's a very different way to spend your day. Obviously it's, you know, it's much more solitary. You have to work at figuring out how to make a community for yourself because you're not going to an office. And I know a lot of people listening now are, you know, saying, well, we don't go to offices anymore.

Speaker 1:

I mean everybody's working remotely, but it wasn't like that when I was practicing.

Speaker 1:

I went to the office and I had colleagues and I had people to talk to, and I went to court and, you know, this was all of a sudden. You know me trying to figure out, like, who could I have read something that I wrote and give me an honest opinion, or who can I talk to about the process of writing or what it's like to be a writer or getting something published? You know, it's just a whole. It was a whole new world that I didn't know anything about and it definitely, you know it had its ups and downs for figuring things out and figuring out how to have friends that were doing the same kinds of things, and so I definitely don't think it was like a straight shot, like, oh, now I'm a writer, you know it doesn't really work that way, but it was good.

Speaker 1:

I mean, I think it was a tremendous learning curve and you know, I think it was good. I went in with a good attitude and I think you know, so far things have worked out.

Speaker 2:

I love that. Yeah, I love that. You said you know building that sense of community, because I can completely agree with that, and 10 years ago they didn't have the Facebook, author groups and writing, all of the you know chat, gbt, writing tools, whatever you know you want to use but also to have the availability to find that within, like your local community, even harder. It's easier to find things online and people are so spread out, but there's so much you can find, so it makes it a little bit easier, it seems. What was that like? Where did you find book clubs? Or what did you find in your local community for resources?

Speaker 1:

So, first of all, as I mentioned, I did start by taking classes at a local university and that was incredibly powerful and also I just met so many people that way, and the school that's near me is called Sarah Lawrence College and it's got a well-known writing program. But what's so wonderful about it is it has well-known programming for people that are actually enrolled there. It also has a separate standalone program and building and faculty for people who are adults, who are just coming back to do something that they find interesting, that are not looking for credit and I'm not going to get a degree, I just wanted to be there and to learn from people and to meet people. So I met a lot of people that way and then through that, I ended up getting involved in a writing workshop. So I do that every two weeks and I meet with those folks and that's kind of who reads my first drafts of things and we workshop each other's materials and I would say, and definitely even things that I wouldn't have thought of like when my first book came out.

Speaker 1:

I went and I met with the people that own the local bookstore and just to introduce myself and to say I would love to be a part of this and I would love to kind of have you help me and me help you, and it's been great, and so I see them all the time at different launches for other writers that I know They'll be there selling their books and I've known them now for 10 years and so all different things, both locally, and there is a lot of stuff online also. Now Everybody has to take advantage of that because that's where a lot of stuff is happening. But it is nice to have real people that I see in real time also.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, that's certainly true, and there's so much passion that comes in finding those groups of people and ways to collaborate with them. Where did you and when did you know kind of what genre of writing you were going to do? As that, and it sounds like in your career you went kind of down the same path. Was it from that that you wanted to write from that, or was that way before that you even had a passion for that genre?

Speaker 1:

So what ended up happening to me is that this class that I took with my friend was a memoir class and I knew I wasn't going to write a memoir. Like I didn't really have that kind of life and I think of memoir as like I don't know whatever you think of as your favorite memoirist, but those are like big lives that are out there that you see them on the news and you want to know what kind of life did they have and this, that. But the great part about memoir writing when you take a class is that it's really very distinct. It's writing about different moments. How do I make this moment that I want to write about, whether it's a relationship with my mother or a relationship with your spouse or whatever it is? How do I make that relatable to other people so that when they read it they say that's not what it was like with my mother. But I see it, I see where she's coming from and I understand how that could be and it reminds me of something with my mother.

Speaker 1:

So I did a lot of that writing at first, which was mostly kind of personal essay writing, and then, when I kind of had done that for like a year, I sort of felt like I had enough characters, even though they were based on. They were real people but could I write a novel with these inspiration of these characters in it? So that's what I did, and so my first novel was very much set from true life. It was set in the office that I worked in. It was about a case that I had handled and the characters. There was a mother character that was similar to my mother and there were definitely a lot of similarities into what I was doing.

Speaker 1:

But I think that's really very common amongst debut authors. It's just so much easier to write about things that you can picture the story in your head because you lived it. So that was kind of where I wound up and I guess it turned out to be kind of women's fiction, just because the protagonists were turning out to be women and following their life story. So I did write two novels like that and then I wrote the middle grade novel, which is about a girl with dyslexia, and then, yeah, and then now I'm working on another novel, but it is sort of, I guess, still women's fiction. So it's not really a great like I knew I wasn't like a romance writer or a thriller writer. So knock off a lot of genres. You know you're kind of what you're left with.

Speaker 2:

But yeah, interesting. Well, and I really like that. You said that because about kind of relating it, making it relatable and things like that. You know I have seven self published children's books and the same thing. It's all in relatability. It's all my children's stories, or stories that I can understand to tell, because that's where the authenticity comes from, is having those living experience to say, I live, you know, through middle school anxiety or I can remember the feeling different when I was in this age group or whatever, because of my neurological or physical differences, for children to understand. So, yeah, I think that it is so important that there's those pieces of realness in the stories and even when you're writing fiction, it's still you draw from your own experiences still in those, in those things. So I love that. What are you going to be working on in the future? And you don't have to give, like all the you know, don't all the great details, but what are some kind of, maybe even your bucket list and what are some other things you're looking forward to?

Speaker 1:

Well, the big thing I'm looking forward to and I haven't really started it yet, I've really honestly written like two paragraphs is I would love to write something that's short stories but they're linked together by something, but they each stand on their own.

Speaker 1:

So I'm working on and I really have written two paragraphs. But I'm working on something about a woman who works like the night shift in a 24 hour diner and then, you know, kind of linking the stories up through the diner, like that's cool, that work in the diner or different things that happen in the parking lot of the diner or other people, you know, people that come into the diner, and I think it would give me a lot of freedom to kind of write stories from different perspectives and and yeah, that would kind of be exciting, I think it. I think it's very hard to do because the stories really have to stand on their own. It can't be that they're just you know they have to like you'd have to be able to read and say, oh, good story and not worry about that. It was also linked to some other story, but so it's. It's a tricky thing to pull off, but I'm excited to try. So definitely.

Speaker 2:

Wow. I just love that you're expanding on those ideas and things. What are some general, maybe tips that you can give the audience on? You know, if they are passionate about wanting to change their careers, or even as a hobby, to write a book, where's a good place to start?

Speaker 1:

So I would say a class is really a great place to start and you know, if you can do it live, I think that's all the better. But even if you can't I mean so many places offer Zoom classes now and they're really well done and they're well organized and you still get feedback from the teacher and you still you know it's very streamlined now, not, you know, maybe it wasn't so well organized 10, 15 years ago, but now people understand that. You know this is how people need to get access, and so I would definitely try to start with something like that. It's really really hard to do on your own and it's it's very hard even Like I have a friend she's actually my best friend, my college roommate, and she's she's, honestly, she's got more talent in her little finger than I have in my whole body, but she is so reluctant to get feedback on anything that she just never gets anywhere because she writes and writes, you know, and writes and I hope I'm now. I can't tell her to watch us, but she writes a lot and she doesn't ever subject herself to people telling her.

Speaker 1:

You know, this is not working. You know this is too much description or this is not getting to the point or whatever it is that you just you can't see it when you do it yourself and you really do need someone else to tell you and it's, you know, you have to kind of plunge, take the plunge if you want to try to start. It's just really and a lot of communities have like I teach one myself here like an adult ed writing workshop and you know it's very laid back. I don't I never have a lot of students, I have like between four and eight students, but it's, you know, it's super fun and I give them prompts and they learn to write, you know, their stories down and they learn to workshop, they learn to say you know I'm going to read this out loud and it's going to be okay. When someone tells me I don't understand this part or you need to expand on this, you know and it's. I think any of those kind of things are really great ways to get started. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

I love that. I mean, you literally took the words out of my mouth like completely. I was going to say next, like what about feedback? What about how do you set that mindset that you have to take constructive criticism and how do, how do you best set yourself up for that? Do you go to someone that you know that you feel more comfortable with? Is that like a good gateway, kind of crossover, or? Do you straight plunge into like public opinion and like how does that fair yeah.

Speaker 1:

I mean, I think you can do it a lot of different ways, you know, and when you do get a group that starts to understand how you write and how you think, that's really helpful because then they can, they can zone right in on what you've done that is even just not in accord with your style, you know they can say to you like this doesn't sound like you, and that's that's a big help, you know, because sometimes you you can't see it and you know it's not. I'm not saying it's fun, it's not fun. I mean, when I finished I just finished a draft of a new novel and and my writing group had read it and they liked it, but they read it. You know in pieces over three and a half years, that it took me to write it and I felt like I needed some people to read it, like from start to finish, that could just look at it, and I couldn't ask any of my friends because I knew I would not take it.

Speaker 1:

Well, like I don't like to be criticized, I really don't and I just felt like it was gonna be bad for me to have a friend tell me like this is not working. So there's actually like companies even that. Do that Like. I paid for this company and they had three readers read it and it was painful to hear from them too, but at least I didn't know them. So it's like you know what.

Speaker 1:

Like I'm gonna take what I can from what you've said and then I'm just gonna ignore the rest because it's too upset. But you know it's hard. It's hard to figure out what your best way is to get feedback. It really is.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, I love that we made that point because it is it is like a risk taking type of industry that you really have to know the value of your what you're bringing, your product and your words and what you have to share with the world.

Speaker 2:

But there was a wonderful reading coach that I had on once and he just said something that has always stuck with me and I love to share is that if you have written something, you owe it to the world to share it because it's the only perspective that the world will ever see. They'll never get a different perspective If you don't share that one, that'll always just be hidden away and it'll never be something shared. So I kind of love that and, as scary as it is sometimes, especially when you're putting something out that involves something personal to you I think I've, you know, wrote several of the children's books, but it was the one that was most specifically about my autistic son that I was afraid and almost pained to like. Please, you know I don't want, like I want to put this out because I want to share it but nobody say anything, okay.

Speaker 2:

I've never been thinking about it, like, and you know, this crazy thing is is that that one actually is the only one that got a poor review on Amazon, and I'll tell you what it broke my heart, it hurt me feelings and at the same time, it's now been seven years and I can really look at it perspective and say, you know, it wasn't this person's journey, they couldn't relate to it, they didn't find that it, they understood this process and that's okay. Now, that's okay, like I, it took some time, though, and I think that's an important thing. You know, is those the reviews that you know, because, boy, the public is open to leaving them.

Speaker 1:

All right, all right, and it can be harsh. It can be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, definitely. But, like you said, you know what to ignore and to walk away from or what. Maybe somebody says that you can say, yeah, you know, maybe 10 years later here, maybe I'll revise it and make it a little bit more or make preface the beginning. You know, this is my personal journey. If it doesn't resonate with you, then you know, I hope that you can share your journey with and let kind of let us know what that's like. So, yeah, how do you encourage maybe your students to reply to feedback and things like that?

Speaker 1:

You know the classes I have been teaching, they, I think the students, you know they're older people and I think that they feel they're shy about making comments about each other's material, not so much because they don't wanna hurt feelings, but I think that they feel that they're not qualified, from like a writing craft perspective, to say anything and in a way they're sort of, you know, they're not totally wrong, but I mostly encourage them to, you know, to comment on the content, comment on the emotions, comment on where the energy is. Where did you feel that you were excited to hear the next part of the story? You know, don't worry about making comments about the structure or about, you know, the particular language used if that's not something you feel qualified to talk about. You know, but mostly I encourage them, you know, as I say, to comment on the energy. Do we? You know, where did you feel?

Speaker 1:

Like you, you sat up in your chair and said, oh, you know, I'm hearing something there that interests me and that I wanna know more about, and it's a memoir writing workshop. So they are taking stories from their own lives and, you know, and because they're sort of around the same age and they're kind of living in the same sort of community. You know they have a lot of things in common and they tell stories from their childhood and a lot of it will resonate with other people in the class because their parents were also whatever. You know depression era babies or whatever it is. They are able to relate. You know quite a bit to each other. You know that's where you get when you have a homogeneous kind of class like that. It's a little easier in some ways.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, and it must be also unique to find ones that maybe are more diverse and have kind of different ideas and perspectives, because I think that even in this medium of podcasting to be able to do you know, this is maybe my 270th interview or something to have that understanding that even how much I've learned from you today and what a new way it can enter your life at a time where, okay, yeah, I've known attorneys, yeah, I've known authors, but it's so unique to hear your story and how it happened for you. And I love the memoir part of it, actually, because it really kind of set the tone for the way you wrote and the way you connected to the writing and to the words. Let's talk about the dyslexia book. That's interesting to me because my show is a lot about neurodiversity and my husband and daughter both dyslexic. Is that something you relate with or something you had to learn?

Speaker 1:

about to write about. No, I had to learn about it. I didn't. I don't have dyslexia and none of my kids don't have it. I had cousins and whatever. Everybody knows somebody who has dyslexia.

Speaker 1:

But it kind of opened up a whole new thing for me to learn, which I really appreciated. The books that I had written before were much more centered on criminal law or things that I knew about, and this was something I really didn't know about, and it was just interesting to see how you researched it and how much do you have to know. I feel like I learned enough, and many people with dyslexia have read the book and told me that I definitely hit the points in certain scenes and whatever. But other people said to me why didn't you write more specifically about how they worked with the protagonist after they discovered that she had dyslexia? And I said you know what I knew?

Speaker 1:

I wasn't going to get that right. I'm not an expert. I wasn't going to get the treatment right. I said more generic things like allowing more time to take the tests, things like that, and I mentioned working one-on-one with a teacher or somebody that would know how to help. But I didn't want to try to go places that I knew I was going to get wrong, and so it was good for me, I think, to learn something about it and to then try to apply it. And it's fiction. I wasn't trying to write a textbook on dyslexia.

Speaker 2:

No, I completely get it. One of my children's books is also, but their elementary age is also about dyslexia and I also am not dyslexic and so I think and I found out later in life through a brand scan it said that I have some dyslexia, but I didn't struggle with that. That wasn't a struggle I had. But now, looking back, I mean I had to learn from what my husband was telling me and what I saw was happening with my daughter, and now I can go back and there are a few changes I would definitely make and revisions, now that I've learned so much more and I can like. I think that's what I'm gonna have to do to most of the books and maybe that's the case. Maybe with that style or kind of more like educational or informative books, you might have to go back and revise with five or 10 years when language or situations change, and that's okay too. I think that that's showing, you know, that growth in that author's ability to kind of change with the world.

Speaker 1:

Right, yeah, yeah, just to evolve. You know, as you say, like if you're, if your knowledge evolves and you feel like it would have an impact on the story, why not? I mean, what's yeah?

Speaker 2:

Exactly. Well, I'm really excited to see what things are coming up for you. So now, what about, like do you attend, like, award ceremonies? Have you gotten awards and things like that? What does that look like? Have you ever done those things?

Speaker 1:

No, I actually got an award for the book about the dyslexia. Oh wonderful, I got a Moonbeam Children's Book Award, which is very exciting for me. Yes, I mean, I don't know. You know, people who aren't writers don't understand that, like you, actually have to enter for all these awards?

Speaker 1:

Yes, and it's not like a free thing that somebody you know no, it's a strange thing. It's not like the Nobel Prize Somebody gives you the Nobel Prize, true? So I didn't really like go out on a limb and do that with my other books, but this seemed like worth doing.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely I was excited.

Speaker 1:

I was excited that they recognized the book because I feel like it's a really To me. It has a very important message about you know, inclusivity and then understanding that, like everybody has something you know, like you look at you know. So my kids don't have dyslexia, my kids have other things and I have other things and I'm sure you have other things. And it's just like you know what everybody has something and it's foolish to walk around looking at you know you look at other people's houses, you know she in the book she looks across the street and she thinks the boy across the street lives in the most perfect house and his mother always has dinner on the table and she can see through the window in the living room that they're always there with their family and she thinks everything's great and it's not that everything is not great, it's great. But the kid also has like an executive functioning disorder and he sits with them and they help him pack up his knapsack every day and it's not. You know, everybody's got something and it's a really like it's a huge lesson that she learns and it's hopefully something.

Speaker 1:

I think that readers of the book you know will understand that there's things that you can see. You know there's kids. You know there's kids in a wheelchair. There's things you know you can see those, but something like dyslexia, you know you can't really see, it can be invisible and you can hide it and kids compensate for it by being good at other things and you know whatever. But it's just having the compassion to understand that everybody's walking around with. You know cards and you know you have to play your best one, but it's. You know there's all sorts of things going on and you know it's just really important to remember that.

Speaker 2:

I think I agree no, I agree I think we have a quote for SGA Childs that a little bit of knowledge turns fear into understanding, and books do that for children. You know. They can start to understand their peers, they can realize just what you're saying and have a little bit more compassion. And I hope that this book's getting into middle schools and high schools and things.

Speaker 1:

I really hope it is too.

Speaker 2:

Sounds fantastic and there's any way I you know find hear of any ways to help push that along. I'll certainly be in touch and I would appreciate it yeah.

Speaker 1:

It came out during COVID, it came out in 2021 and it was just impossible. You couldn't get into the schools, you couldn't get into the libraries. You know it was very difficult.

Speaker 2:

So hard. Well, hopefully these types of things podcasts and getting the word out and everything will definitely help, you know, push that along. And how can we find out more about your books, more about your other writings and upcoming things that are going on for you Thanks so much.

Speaker 1:

I have a website. I can give it to you. It's just reina martigantoncom and everything is on there short stories and stuff about the books and, yeah, pretty much everything is. It's a nice website. I was there.

Speaker 2:

Go and visit it. It's lovely. I love the book covers. It drew me to them, made me want to learn more about what was going on.

Speaker 2:

I love that about books and how they can kind of, you know, grab your interest that way, and so really great job, and I wish you the best of luck and you know, your future endeavors in that and I definitely would love to stay in touch and, you know, when the next book comes out, reach out, we'll have you back on to talk about it, and yeah, that'd be good. Thank you, thanks.

Speaker 1:

I so appreciate it.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Thank you so much for your time today and, yeah, I really look forward to staying in touch.

Transitioning to Writing
Navigating Writing Careers
Discussion on Dyslexia and Writing Awards
Discovering Reina Martigant's Books