Spotlight: Rita Plush

Rita TURAbout you;

Tell us about yourself

I’m an author, interior designer, teacher and lecturer on the decorative arts. My writing practice includes fiction and non-fiction. Lily Steps Out (Penumbra 2012) is my first novel. Its publication was the feature article in  Newsday’s Act II section in July, 2012, and “Rita Steps Out,” was featured in the Times Ledger, August, 2012.  My short stories appeared in many literary journals including The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Iconoclast, The MacGuffin and Passager before they were included in the collection, Alterations (Penumbra 2013). As the coordinator of the Interior Design/Decorating Certificate Program at Queensborough Community College, I teach several courses in the program and have lectured on the decorative arts at libraries throughout Long Island. 

 Share with us some of your interests

I like to read, garden, knit, walk and do yoga.

What makes you the person you are?

My background certainly enters into the can-do attitude I have toward life. My father was that way, and both my parents were creative.  

About your writing;

When did you start writing?

I started writing about 20 years ago. Iwas in my mid-fifties and it was just after I’d graduated with a B.A. in English and a M.A. in Creative Writing. It was a course of study that took me eleven years part time, while I raised my family and ran my interior design business. I’m a late-bloomer. 

What inspires you to write

There seems to be an internal driving force that pushes me to write, to express myself in stories with characters that are at times made up, and at other times contain little nuggets of truth.

How do you figure out what you’re going to write about?

I usually start with a character. They seem to present themselves to me. Characters are my favorite thing to write about, dressing them, giving them little quirks and idiosyncrasies, a particular way to speak, rather than beginning with “what happens?” For me, story evolves from character.

What is your writing style like?

My writing style is conversational and up front. My characters are real folks with real problems, who talk in an unaffected natural way—unless of course, their affectation is part of their personality. It has been said that I write from the heart and from the gut. 

What topics have you explored in your writing?

My topics run the gamut, from a mother taking revenge on the man who raped her teen-aged daughter, to a woman’s mid-life crisis—that would be Lily Gold in my novel, Lily Steps Out—to a father’s longing to reconnect with the grown daughter he abandoned when she was six years old. Many of my stories revolve around family life.

What topics would you like to explore in the future?

I would like to set a story in the 1920’s and 30’s (my favorite decorative arts era) that deals with a woman or group of women who share a secret but don’t know it.



Adding something else;

If you spend the rest of your life in a novel or novel series, what novel would it be and why?

I’d be overstating it if I said “the rest of my life,” but I so enjoyed Olive Kitteridge, that I would have liked to linger a while longer with Olive, and got to know her a better. Maybe she’d have taken me along with her on a visit to one of her neighbors. I wouldn’t say a word; I’d just sit there taking it all in. Olive isn’t always admirable, but she’s never boring.

Share a couple of your favorite things and or things you like?

Let see, favorite things… planting in the spring—I love to dig in the dirt—in anticipation of abundant colorful flowers all summer long. I love spending time with my grandchildren.

What couldn’t you live without?

I think I could live without anything, but it would break my heart if something really bad happened to my husband.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about writing?

I liked what James Michener said about criticism. Paraphrased is goes like this: If five people say five different things about your writing, don’t listen to any of them. If five people say the same thing about your writing, listen to all of them.

Is there a character that annoys you in the literacy world? Or even one of your own?

Some of Ann Tyler’s characters annoy me. I find them lame and apathetic, in need of a kick in the pants.

What kind of books do you like?

I read mostly novels and short stories:  Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Attwood, Alice Monroe, Phillip Roth and T. Coraghessan Boyle are some of my favorites.

Any characters of yours or in the fictional world you do not like?

I don’t like Thomas Shane, a character of mine who’s a fabric salesman in my short story, “Red Dress and Curls.”It’s about him, and a woman who falls for him in a restaurant. Thinking he’s charming and that they’ve hit it off, she makes a date to see him the following evening. When they meet again, he’s despicable.

How do you stay confident in yourself especially by putting yourself out there in the internet world?

I have a bad habit of looking up other fiction authors on Amazon, comparing my sales to theirs and feeling bad when mine don’t measure up. It’s stupid, I know, but sometimes I’m not as smart as I should be.

How do you handle rejection? What advice can you offer to moving past it?

Writing is not for sissies. My first short story was rejected 93 times, and it took me 7 years to find a publisher for Lily Steps Out, but along the way I received encouraging comments from editors and publishers—they said I had an original voice—and that gave me confidence to keep on writing. You have to develop a thick skin to be a writer. Curse them out, all those who reject your work—to yourself of course—and keep at it. An attitude of I’ll show you! helps.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

See if you can join a writers group. Writing is communicating. Communicating our ideas to other readers. A writers’ group provides those objective listening ears and can tell us if what is on the page is what is on our mind. The group can also let you know if you’ve got too much narrative and not enough dialogue, if your dialogue sounds like real people talking. We writers fall in love with our words, they’re our darlings, and like our children, we can’t see them objectively. We need others to do that for us.


Featuring your work and or upcoming work;Front Cover Penumbra

Tell us about your book [s]

Lily Steps Outis about an empty nester who begins to assess her own life after her husband retires, and what she sees, she doesn’t like. Thirty-three years of making beds and cooking dinners?She’s had it! She has a brain. Why isn’t she using it? To the mocking disbelief of her now retired husband and grown son, Lily “steps out” of the comfortable life she knows and decides to look for a job. It isn’t so easy to find one, but once she does it’s a perfect fit. Antiques! Right up her alley. Lily works and loves it, but Leon doesn’t like not having her at his beck and call. When he finds out she wants to open her own antique center, he runs to the bank and empties their joint savings account. This is marriage? This is war! Follow Lily as she turns the status quo into quid pro quo and gives her husband a run for the money.

Alterationsis a short story collection about a whole slew of characters.Little girls and adolescents, a teenager, a father, a son, grown women, characters from different types of families and mindsets—with all their messy complications, their intrigues and dramas, their loving and sometimes mysterious bonds—who are altered by their circumstances as they make their way through life.

Who is your favorite character and why? [If you can share without spoiling your work]

That would be Lily Gold. I like Lily because she’s a mature woman who becomes dissatisfied with her life, and decides to do something about it. She’s smart, but she doesn’t know how smart or how capable she is, till she “steps out” and gets a job. Lily takes a chance on herself, and though she realizes she may be risking the long time marriage she values, she also has come to value her own capabilities.

What character do you hope readers understand?

Hank Calvo, a con man/mama’s boy in my short story, “Going by the Book,”who wants to commit to a woman, but convinces himself he can’t. 

Do you have a favorite part of your own book (s) ?

My favorite part inLily Steps Out is the scene in which Lily goes head-to-head with the indomitable Miss. Douglas, the owner of the old house Lily wants to turn into an antique center. It shows how determined and fearless Lily is to see her plan through.

As far as Alterationsgoes, I have a special affection forthe short story, “Love, Mona,” which appears early in the collection.I worked and reworked that story—it was rejected 93 times—before a journal picked it up.

Have you had trouble writing about any of your characters?

I had trouble writing about Jack Paul Scanlon, an important character in Feminine Products, my second novel, not yet published. What I did then, was to take him out of the novel, and just start writing about him. I wrote and wrote, and through that writing I found out what I needed to know about him and was able to fit him into the story. 

In your book (s) what had been the hardest challenge you’ve faced so far?

It was finding a publisher for Lily Steps Out, after seven years of sending the manuscript to both agents and publishers and having it rejected—one agent loved Lily but couldn’t place it. I was all set to self-publish when I put my hand in the pocket of a coat and found a slip of paper with Penumbra Publishing written in my handwriting. What’s this? I said to myself. This turned out to be the answer to my prayers, a publisher who found my characters interesting and believable, and a heroine who folks could relate to.

If you could meet any of your own characters, who would (they / it) be?

I’d like to get Lily Gold, she’s such a sharp lady, to have a heart-to-heart with Hank Calvo, the con man from “Boing by the Book.” I think she’d be able to set him straight on relationiships. 

What do you to for marketing?

Whether you’re a self-published writer or have found a publisher, you’ve got to be your own press agent and publicist. You could write the greatest book in the world, but if no one knows it’s there, what good is all the time and effort you spent writing?

One way I promote my books is to research blogs and see if I’d be a good fit for an interview or guest post. There are dozens of such blogs, and reviewers who specialize in indie fiction and unknown writers looking to make a name for themselves. Maybe only a handful respond to my inquiries. I keep them short, a sentence or two describing my book and why they should feature me—Thank you Ky!—but it’s worth the time and trouble.

Another thing I’ve done is to contact my local newspapers, tell them a bit about myself and my books and ask them if they’d do a story on me. Libraries are another venue I explore, as are local open readings. Search the internet. Google has it all.

Promote your books in a sentence or less :)

Promo for Lily Steps Out: Watch out as Lily Gold, wife, mother and family mediator, “steps out” of her comfortable domestic life and gets a job, to the mocking disbelief of her now retired husband and grown son.

Promo for Alterations: Written from the heart and from the gut, these stories,immediate and alive, are about a whole slew of characters whose lives are altered by their circumstances as they make their way through life.

What are you working on now?

I’m trying to find an agent or publisher for my 2nd novel, Feminine Products, the story of baby-boomer Rusty Scanlon who owns a trendy boutique. She’s got an eye for fashion and a gift for messing up her love life. When she finds Walter, a guy who adores her, she thinks she has it all. Not so, she discovers when she tells him she’s pregnant and he suggests a paternity test. The story is written from her point of view, and that of her father, Jack Paul Scanlon, the fellow I mentioned before who had trouble fitting into the novel. It also continues Rusty and Walter’s romance from Lily Steps Out, and has some cameo appearances from Lily.




Lily Steps Out: 




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