I was recently interviewed on Meeting the Authors.
Learn what I miss about being a kid, which cartoon I’d love to be trapped in, and what happens when a giraffe in a bowler hat knocks on my door …..
Today we travel to Reno, Nevada, USA to chat with Camilla Downs about how a Swedish actress, going for walks, chromosome deletions, tiny house living, a construction company, being a paralegal, nature photography, and tenacity come together to form the ingredients for the alchemy of Camilla’s life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey! I’m Camilla Downs (pronounced like Pamela, but with a “C”). I was named after Camilla Sparv, a Swedish actress in the 1960’s and 70’s. I’ve been told that I’m the great great grand-daughter of a full blooded Chickasaw Indian and Irish immigrants (haven’t researched this yet, it’s on my to do list for this year).
I have lived in Reno, Nevada, USA for the past 14 years, moving here from the Seattle, Washington area in 2006. I spent my first 18 years in Jackson, Mississippi and Houma, Louisiana.
I love walking. I am out for walks anywhere from three to six days a week. Nature is partly the inspiration for my writings and poetry. The other part is a desire to process my life experiences; to give them an outlet through writing.
Writing in this way allows me to feel and release experiences and to receive comfort and answers. I also write narratives of my life experiences and how I’ve processed the experiences; sharing these on my blog and in my books.
I have been single parenting fourteen year old Thomas and eighteen year old Lillian since Thomas was 1 year old. Lillian has a chromosome deletion simply called 18p-. This means she is missing the short arm of chromosome #18.
My kids and I call ourselves Team TLC to correspond with the first letters of each of our names. During 2015-2019 we were tiny home dwellers, living in a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 810 square foot apartment. That was one heck of an adventure!
In addition, we are an unschooling family. Thomas and Lillian focus on what interests each of them and learn about that topic. I act as a facilitator and provide assistance when asked or needed. Lillian is a proud graduate of 2019.
I am inspired by this place I chose as home in 2006. When he was seven years old Thomas summed it up with one beautifully inspired comment ….
“It’s like we are at an art show and nature keeps changing the art for us.”
In which genre do you write?
So far, my genre writing of choice has been memoir, with this latest book being a free-verse poetry memoir. However, I feel a fiction, maybe a creative nonfiction, bubbling and brewing along with more books to follow.
How many published books do you have?
I have 4 published books. Two are authored by me and the other two are with my children.
Words of Alchemy – Published December 2019
Where Would You Fly and Other Magical Stories by Lillian Darnell with Camilla Downs – Published January 2018
Biggest Little Photographer by Thomas Darnell with Camilla Downs – Published October 2016
D iz for Different – One Woman’s Journey to Acceptance – Published February 2012
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading four books. I read different books during different times of the day, also depending on my mood.
Anywhere That Is Wild – John Muir’s First Walk to Yosemite, Edited by Peter & Donna Thomas
What We Talk About When We Talk About Books by Leah Price
The World of Serendipity by Marcus Bach
Beyond the Known – How Exploration Created the Modern World and Will Take Us to the Stars by Andrew Rader
List 7 interesting facts about yourself.
We haven’t had a television since 2008, and do not miss it.
I have not used a microwave, for heating or cooking food, since about that same time, and have not missed it. However, I do use the timer and I store food inside it to keep it warm.
I’m headed into my second year of being a vegan and fourth year as a vegetarian.
I am certified in Reiki.
I was a paralegal for 10 years before I had children.
I swear a lot, I mean loads.
I’ve been a grocery checker, a bookkeeper, a receptionist, a paralegal, CEO of a construction company, social media consultant, substitute teacher, route delivery driver, pet and elderly person sitter, and an author.
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
I didn’t set out to write poetry, an accidental poet, perhaps? I began an incredibly deep and profound healing journey after my divorce. A major part of the healing was going for walks, lots and lots of walks, allowing nature to help me in healing. When in nature, poetic words would simply bubble to the surface of my thoughts. That was the original inspiration. Following this, I began to receive intuitive nudges to take photographs while on these walks.
After a walk, I would scroll through the nature photographs, choosing one to post on social media. As I began to type a comment to accompany the photo, poetic words spilled from my heart and mind, through my fingers, landing on the screen. This began to happen more often with the poems becoming more in depth. Eventually the poems began to flow simply from events I was in the midst of experiencing.
I thought my next book was going to be a memoir or creative nonfiction, detailing the years from 2012-2019. It turned out to be something like that, just not what I was originally thinking. Every time I sat to work on the next book, my thoughts would turn to the poems I had written over the previous six years. I finally listened to that knowing and began organizing the poems; which led to Words of Alchemy being published on December 2019.
Is there something special you do with your book before sending it to a reader?
I personalize each book with a hand written message, at times including a special message within the book. It’s always a little different. Sometimes it’s a handwritten message on a small card, others it’s a micro short poem or message created from the words of a book destined for the trash.
In addition to that, I offer readings from the book via telephone. I’m happy to do this one on one or on speakerphone to a book club (or in person if you are in the Reno/Tahoe/Sparks surrounding area). This is done at no charge and I’m happy to have discussions after the reading. If interested, go here to reserve a slot … https://camilladowns.youcanbook.me/
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
I go for walks, take nature photographs, read, meditate, do the grocery shopping (Ha!), cook for the three of us, have a solo dance party, update The Team TLC website, post on my personal website, post author interviews on this website, and keep track of and complete paperwork having to do with my special needs daughter, Lillian.
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
The absolute most enjoyable aspect of writing is the feedback from those who are touched, inspired, and moved by the words that flow through my fingertips.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done to help create a scene?
This has to do with the nature photographs I take … I have been known, and seen by onlookers, to lay flat on the freezing cold ground (or burning hot ground) to get at the perfect angle for a photo. I’ve contorted my body in all manner of ways, stood in precarious places … just so I could get the perfect photo. All of this fueled by my intuition. Many times I’m in the midst of a walk, and get the urge to stop, look up, look down, look sideways and know I’m supposed to take a photo. These photos are what inspired the early poetry.
Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?
Yes, I do. When I was a young girl I kept a diary, and still have those early diaries. When I reached Jr High and High School, and throughout my early adult years, I discontinued this practice, picking it up again when I separated and then divorced in 2006.
Writing holds my heart and guides me to confront the unlovely and harsh thoughts that litter my mind at times. Yet, also to fully experience the joyful and peaceful moments. Writing gave me solutions and direction for decisions I was faced with making. Many of the poems in Words of Alchemy came forth in journal writing. I feel writing is therapeutic and I suggest everyone write, even if they have no desire to be an author.
What do you miss about being a kid?
I experienced a pretty rough child hood in my home life, and always felt like an outcast in school, so … I certainly don’t miss that. However, I do miss both of my grandmothers, Estelle Mann and Elnor Downs. Their essence is within me and I call upon it, and them, often.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
Definitely the old school Scooby Doo, having adventures in the Mystery Machine! I would choose to be a new member of the gang, a cool cat! I’d be able to fit into all the places the rest of the gang can’t fit and I’d have a smashing sense of humor!
What were the last three movies you watched?
The Aeronauts – Based on the true events in 1862 of badass balloon pilot Amelia Wren teaming up with meteorologist James Glaisher to advance knowledge of the weather, while flying higher than anyone in history.
The Farewell – Beautifully warm true story of cultural differences when a family member is diagnosed with a fatal illness.
Blinded by the Light – A heartwarming true story set to the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s songs.
A giraffe knocks on your door and is wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?
Excuse me, madam. I’m sure you may not remember me. We were childhood friends in middle school. It’s been a lengthy journey finding you and making my way here. I wonder if you would like to have lunch with me. I have never forgotten you and would like the two of us to catch up with one another.
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
Laser focused attention to detail
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on getting the word out about Words of Alchemy, having my hands quite full with paperwork now that my special needs daughter has turned 18. If any book bloggers, or authors who blog about other authors and their books, are reading this, would you be interested in hosting me on your blog? Follow the link to read the full interview ….
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“Words of Alchemy” has arrived, December 2019! A free-verse poetry memoir covering the last 6 years of my life. The poetry of nature, the poetry of healing, the poetry of appreciation, the poetry of love, in one beautiful book.
Amazing news! My 18 year old daughter, Lillian Darnell’s debut book, “Where Would You Fly and Other Magical Stories” was published January 2018. Learn more and order here.
Wonderfully exciting news! My 14 year old son, Thomas Darnell‘s book, Biggest Little Photographer is published. Be inspired! Learn more and order here.