Our guest today is Gudrun Mouw, author of the visionary fiction, From Ashes Into Light. Gudrun was born in East Prussia (formerly part of Germany) in 1944. At the age of 7, she arrived in the United States as a displaced person. Mouw moved many times in the US before ending up in California in the 60s. There she studied at San Jose State University, receiving her Master’s Degree in English Literature in 1969. Mouw has worked as a college English teacher, a Stanford librarian, a columnist, a California poet-in-the-school, as well as a yoga and meditation teacher. She lives in Santa Barbara County, California and has for over thirty years.
Mouw wrote From Ashes Into Light beginning with a research trip to various locations in Eastern Europe, Germany, Austria and Switzerland (in the 1990s). Her research took her places like Dachau, the concentration camp, a Jewish graveyard in Prague, and the streets of Salzburg.
Mouw is a prolific and award-winning poet and her poems have appeared in literary journals such as Praire Schooner, Practical Mystic, The Chariton Review and others. Her collection of poetry called Wife of the House was published in April 2014. Mouw won first place in a short fiction contest at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference in 1992. From Ashes into Light will be her first published novel.
From Ashes into Light is a transpersonal tale of epic tragedy, spirituality, family, and personal redemption. It is told through three distinct voices: the haunting story of Ruth, a Jewish adolescent during Kristallnacht in World War II Austria, Saqapaya, a stalwart Native American from coastal California during the time of the Spanish conquest, and Friede Mai.
Friede is born during WW II to a Bavarian soldier and an East-Prussian mother. As those around her struggle with the inevitable chaos and paradox of war, young Friede opens her heart to gruesome enemies, at times helping her family members escape atrocities.
With war behind them, the Mai family immigrates to the US, where Friede, her veteran father and ex-refugee mother, struggle with reverberations of trauma, suspicion and prejudice. Upon leaving home, Friede meets her spiritual guide and confidant in her fiancé’s Rabbi, who helps her see that the voices from her past are teachers and the horrors of history also contain beacons of light.
Dorothy Thompson: Can you tell us about your publishing experience?
Gudrun Mouw: I have been publishing my poetry and essays since the 70s. Back then, you had to mail countless copies of your work to publishers and there were many rejections. But hard work paid off and my publication credits include numerous literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, The Chariton Review, Practical Mystic and The Kansas Review. In the 80s, I had two collections of poetry accepted for publication that ultimately fell through. Those were huge disappointments. In the 90s I let go of publishing my poetry, and began writing my novel.
In 2014, Raincloud Press published my first collection of poetry, called Wife of the House. Working with them has been a straight-forward, positive experience. They are publishing my first novel From Ashes Into Light as well.
D.T.: What can you tell aspiring authors on their quest to be published? Any advice?
G.M.: Persistence and a strong ethic of striving towards quality work, I think, are important qualities for an aspiring author. Also, the ability to bounce back from rejections without taking on a mantle of bitterness or arrogance is important. Humble, hard work may be more fruitful than an attitude of entitlement.
D.T.: Where can we find you on the web?
G.M.: My website is where I post my blog twice a month. I write in various genres, such as poetry, short essays, journal entries and excerpts from my published works. I am a yoga and meditation teacher, as well as a writer, so my blog also focuses at times on spiritual practice.
Currently, I am working on a blog titled, “Reading the ‘A Word with Chiitaanibah Johnson’ Interview by Vincent Medina in News from Native California.” This article discusses the subject of indigenous genocide denied, which is one of the themes in From Ashes Into Light, and a subject close to my heart.
I am active on Goodreads where I keep track of what I’m reading and review books. And of course, you can find me on Facebook where I don’t post a ton, but love to hear from friends and fans.