WEbooker of the WEek Writes with Poisonous Passion


I never took Latin in school, but
when WEbook intern AndiJayne added Botanica Toxica to
the big list of cool projects we keep on the virtual wall at WEbook, I liked the sound of it right
away. Who doesn’t need a little Botanica in their lives? Not to mention a healthy dose of Toxica. Plus it had a cool picture of a bug for the
cover. After reading a few chapters, I checked
out the author’s profile and other writings on the site. Bingo! WEbooker
of the WEek time.

The most important thing about Danya (from a WEbook point of view) is that she has a great
imagination, and she knows how to create unique characters and settings on the
page. But there was a time not so long
ago when Danya couldn’t even
read, let alone write. She suffered a
stroke five years ago, and was left unable to use a spoon or read a book. Amazingly, her ability to write returned
first, and when she started work on Botanica Toxica a
few years ago, she couldn’t yet read what she was writing! She got others to read her work for her, and
the feedback was encouraging, so she kept at it. In the past two months she has regained the
ability to read and revise her own work, although the strain of reading
prevents her from getting involved in many other WEbook projects. (Sorry, WEbookers.)

To find out more about Danya, I asked her a few
pointless questions.

Q: What non-professional accomplishment would
you like to add to your resume?

A: Right after my stroke, I went on an art bender – wild stuff, now that my
fine motor skills were gone.  I created a
giant spider web out of one-hundred thirty feet of small, bright chain,
measuring eight feet wide by six feet tall.  I figured out in my head how much chain I'd
need – a guess that turned out to only be two feet short! – and linked and
unlinked the chain to make the web bits.  My husband, an engineer, helped
me with the linking and unlinking, but he couldn’t figure out how to put the
whole thing together. He was amazed when
my stroke brain figured it all out, savant-like, and told him how many links to
put here and there, until it was all done. I’m very proud of that one. It's
still one of the front pieces to our fence!  It’s gorgeous when it rains, or
when the sun shines on it. When it
freezes, it's amazing!

Q: What is your biggest flaw?

A:  I'm much too hard on myself, and I tend not to
rest when I need to. The brain goes, but
my fingers keep tapping!  Oof!

Q: What’s your greatest inspiration?

A: I e-mail with another stroke survivor in Zagreb, Dras. He writes haiku, as he's ‘locked in’ – his second
stroke left him totally paralyzed and unable to talk.  He writes with a fancy
new headstick with lasers, translating from his native tongue to English as he
goes. All that, and he's good, and
prolific to boot. Beyond
impressive! He was one of the first ones
to encourage me in my writing. I can
never thank him enough – it’s the greatest escape ever.

Danya traveled and lived in
Eastern Europe as a child in the 1970s and early ‘80s (“Communism, tanks, and
Russian soldiers – oh, my!”). She says
she packed in more than enough adventure in those years to sustain her now that
she’s permanently grounded. Her father
is a sociology professor and her mother has been both an English teacher and a
research assistant. Says Danya, “I thinks that’s as good a
background for writing as you could have: Travel; adventure (both good and bad); an early introduction to studying
people and their lives; and a thorough grounding in the technical aspects of
writing an research.”

Danya got the idea for Botanica Toxica from
her sixteen years as a garden designer. After
her stroke, sheBotanica_toxica
found the work and travel of garden designing too physically
demanding, so she told her husband she wanted to try to start a small nursery
of toxic plants.  According to Danya,
“He looked at me as if I'd gone totally mad and said No! He talked about all the dangers and complications
and legal problems – but I wanted to start one so badly! I started thinking about it all the time, and
before too long, a whole world was in my head. Without being able to open my own nursery, Botanica Toxica
came about.  Writing it gave me an outlet for all my pent-up knowledge,
as well as a wicked release for other stuff in my life.” One of Danya’s writing secrets is that,
as she writes, she often sketches her characters in pen, pencil, or charcoal.

Danya says that the most
important thing she’s learned from working on this book is that over-thinking
is useless, and being able to re-write is a gift. Besides Botanica Toxica, her
WEbook work includes
essays, poetry, and love letters. Be sure
to check it all out!

-- Melissa

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  1. A bit of trivia that provides more than a bit of insight is that Dostoevsky sketched all of his characters.


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