GAIL: Lori, you have mentioned something called “Whirled Peas Cafe.” I would love to hear the story behind the name. What inspired you to create the name, and does such a cafe actually exist?
LORI: For a couple years my girls and I lived in Spokane, Washington. I ran a small espresso bar/deli near the courthouse. The hours were perfect for me as a single mom. I would bundle the girls up ready for school, cook them breakfast at the deli while I was roasting the turkey for that day's sandwiches and whipping up three featured soups, then put them on the school bus. At two o'clock I went to volunteer for the last hour of their school day. We'd walk home together. After the normal nightly ritual of supper, homework, playtime and baths, it would be story time.
At that time Spokane was part of a program that gifted books to both school libraries and the public library. We read lots of books as per normal, but we also wrote reviews and in doing so earned dozens of books for both libraries. If you ever go into the Main Library in Spokane and flip open a jacket, don't be surprised to see our names inset. Whirled Peas Cafe was our small family's daydream place. The name came from a t-shirt shop that had on one side "Stop the Violins" (Stop the Violence) and Visualize Whirled Peas (World Peace) on the other. Whirled Peas Mysteries is a synthesis of our dreams, our experiences, and our sense of humor as well as our taste in art. The series is set in the Whirled Peas Cafe. Maybe if I'm lucky, it will be a brick and mortar that smells of great coffee, locally-sourced soups, and intriguing characters. (http://www.whirledpeasmysteries.com)
GAIL: Any setting with the name Whirled Peas Cafe could draw only intriguing characters! You are active with a group that uses a Twitter hash tag of #MNINB and #WSChat. What is the focus of this internet group?
LORI: #MNINB was the hashtag we devised when we joined our first Twitter chat as part of The 2012 April Platform Challenge developed by Robert Lee Brewer for his My Name Is Not Bob (MNINB) blog. Robert is an editor at Writer's Digest, but this was an effort of his personal blog.
His rules were that we needed to comment by at least posting a "done" after we completed a daily challenge for the month of April. By the middle of the month, the participants had bonded and had spun off activities to supplement Not Bob's material.
At the end of April, we declared ourselves "done but not over." This became the tagline of our "#MNINB April Platform Challengers." (http://notbobbers.wordpress.com/). Our ambitions to help each other with our writing outstripped what we could accomplish on this WordPress site and we are currently transitioning to our more permanent home, Wordsmith Studio. (http://www.wordsmithstudio.org) Each Tuesday, we hold two separate Twitter chats. Our moderator, Khara House, also uses Spotify to transcribe them and posts to our FaceBook fanpage. (https://www.facebook.com/WordsmithStudio)
GAIL: Hawaii is home to you, but you lived on the Mainland for awhile. Which states were you in and did your experiences there spark any ideas for future stories?
LORI: I've only been back in the Islands for a little more than a year. My history goes back many decades. My mother was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base back in the 1950s. (Well before I was born, thank you!) I grew up visiting the Islands multiple times throughout the years. I went to public school in suburban Chicago. My family is from Southernmost Illinois which is also known as the Appalachia of Illinois. The Cherokee Trail of Tears runs through my father's farm, land that my ancestors owned as the Cherokee made their way to Oklahoma. I grew up on old Indian tales. My grandfather's mother was Cherokee, born in Georgia and raised in Oklahoma. Also heard the settler's tales. From an early age I was interested in borderland places, places where folks from different backgrounds interact.
GAIL: What type of research is necessary for your writing and where is most of your research done?
LORI: A writer's archive is the whole of life. Research is in taking notice. Taking notice of the word choices and mannerisms of the Microneasian woman who works graveyard at the Waikiki 7-Eleven is as important to me as the information I find on the internet. I also have my favorite hangouts at University of Hawaii/Manoa, a handful of Hawaii State Library branches that I haunt, and of course, the Bishop Museum. I'm a docent at the Bishop. I always say I learn as much from our visitors as from anyone. There are no end of experts and wonderful archives. I have a series titled Writerly Nooks (http://larabritt.com/category/writerly-wednesdays/) on my blog where I show some of my favorite places to write and research.
GAIL: Of all the locations you have visited, where would you most like to spend your time writing and why?
LORI: The Big Island or Hawaii Island, as it's more frequently referred to these days. It is remote and has a slower pace than O'ahu. I can hole up and not be distracted. But if I'm looking for inspiration, there is plenty of that as well. International scientists do their research high atop Mauna Kea at the observatory, but others study the volcanic data spewing from Mauna Loa. Oceanographers study the local sea life. Physicists study geothermal and solar energy sources. Then the botanists and agriculturalists who are expert in local vanilla, coffee, cocoa, macadamia nuts, citrus, orchids, and regional teas...horses and cattle, lamas. So much going on and yet the pace is so wonderfully mellow.