gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Women's History Month: Tamara Mazzei

This is my second attempt at writing a WHM guest-post for Gillian’s blog because the first post I wrote was so inadequate, I had to ask her to delete it and let me do another one. After sending that first, pitiful, guest post to Gillian, I asked myself why I had done such an idiotic thing. It was barely two paragraphs long, it contained no sense of my love of history, particularly women’s history, nor did it mention any of my own participation in creating the website for Australia’s first few Women’s History Months.

The answer that I came up with as to why I was reluctant to do a decent post for Gillian is that for some reason I am reticent about anything of my own that resembles an accomplishment. In other words, if I had started out to write about someone else (which I should have done), it would have all right, but I somehow got the idea to write about ME, and then I ran into a brick wall. Hah! And what century did you say this was?

So. I have decided to go out on a limb and write about a few of my own experiences because I am a woman and in some sense, I have a history too. And if I have a “passion” (as Gillian refers to it), it is not easily defined beyond making the best of my circumstances whatever they happen to be. And this, I suppose, is one thing that connects me to so many of the women who have come before me. Women in earlier generations did not have as much autonomy as we do today, and yet, many of them were still able to find ways to "bloom where they were planted" – a piece of advice I picked up from my grandmother and which I try to follow whenever I can.

My backstory is that I was born in Arkansas in the American South, and I lived there until I was eleven years old, upon which my father was transferred to the Chicago area. Except for visits to Arkansas and summers with my grandparents in Florida, I lived in the Chicago suburbs until I married in my early twenties. During all that time, I was relatively oblivious both to history in general and to my own family history. I remained oblivious to my family history as my husband and I moved from state to state for his career, but somewhere around the age of thirty, I developed an interest in medieval history. And really, phrasing it like that, “developed an interest” doesn’t come close to my experience. What happened was that I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with medieval history. It was all-consuming.

In the meantime, I was writing. Instruction manuals, online help for software, checklists, marketing brochures, etc. I was continually playing with fiction as well, but there was usually a high demand for business writing, so that’s where I kept my primary focus. I had, in the back of my mind, the idea of starting my own publishing company someday. A company that would allow me to use the skills I had developed over the years to publish the sort of fiction I enjoyed reading. And then my husband was transferred to Louisiana.

I was not prepared for Louisiana. I had lived in Chicago, in Seattle, in Houston – all major cities. Moving to a small town in the Deep South was not in the plan. I kept my job and an apartment in Houston and commuted on weekends for almost a year before finally conceding to reality and making the move. At first it felt quite alien, but then, something in me began to change. I began to remember all the wonderful things about my childhood in Arkansas, which is also in the South. I began to make connections with my family both literally by making more visits, but also figuratively by becoming more aware of how past generations had influenced me to become the person that I was.

And then I started my company: Trivium Publishing. At the time all of this was in the works, Gillian and I were collaborating on a medieval history project that alas, was so huge I was forced to back away from it (though she did not). But in the process of doing that work, she allowed me to read some fiction she had written, and out of that came the first book we published: Illuminations.

That, dear readers, was very exciting indeed, because Gillian came to the US and we did a book tour. And it was not your average garden-variety book tour either. Oh, there were some bookstore appearances (Bookpeople in Austin, TX and Shakespeare in Little Rock), but the fun was in driving to them in a red Mustang convertible. Yes; truly, that’s what we did. We started out in Lake Charles, Louisiana, then we went to Austin, TX, and then on to Little Rock, Arkansas where we spent a few days. My grandmother made fried chicken for Gillian because she really needed to experience that slice of Americana, and then we went to Louisville, and Nashville, and then to Cincinnati. Finally, we ended up, half-dead, in New Orleans and had to call my husband to come rescue us, but what a trip!

The Lake Charles American Press did a profile on us and we were the entire front page of the business section. My husband faxed it to us while we were on the road so we could see.

All of that happened in 2003, and since then I have moved three more times: first to a small town in southern Texas, then to an island on the coast of Washington state, and finally (I hope) to San Antonio, Texas. I've also experienced some serious health problems and lost someone who was very dear to me. With all that upheaval in my life, it's been very difficult to come to terms with the changes, but I'm slowly working through them. The most interesting in all of this for me is that what seemed like a pinnacle in 2003, now merely seems like a small step on a very long path. Fortunately, the path runs through a beautiful garden, where the sun shines at least some of the time.

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