Category: bloggers

An Interview With Screenwriter Marina Shron



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Marina Shron is the writer and director of the film, “Fruit of Our Womb”; here is a link to the website:



Q: What is, “Fruit of Our Womb” about?


A: The story follows Christina is a 13-year-old sexually fluid street girl who has grown up trading sex for love and protection. Her chance meeting with an affluent Manhattan couple turns out to be a stroke of luck when she is welcomed into their world.  But what starts out as a utopian dream soon degenerates into a nightmare of love, deceit, and mutual manipulation.



Q: What inspired you to make the movie?


A: My inspiration for the screenplay was two-fold. On the one hand, I was inspired by the character herself – Christina. She’s the heart of the film. Innocent and manipulative, ethereal and lethal – she’s a child-woman who discovers the world by touch.  She was deprived of childhood, of normal family… But there is something elemental and powerful about her existence that makes her a magnet for others, more privileged than herself.  Her presence reveals the best – and the worst – in those who come in touch with her. Once dropped inside the couple’s world, she will either make it explode — or alter its entire fabric…


But if Christina herself is unique – her story is not. While doing research for the film I’ve heard countless stories of women and girls who were exploited, betrayed – and, ultimately, blamed for that very abuse by the adults who were supposed to protect them. Unfortunately, we live in a society that makes this cruel paradox possible.  By making this film, I wanted to dig deeper beneath the surface of the incestuous, in nature, family dynamic and try to understand what makes it so pervasive.




Q: What would you say motivates each of the three main characters in the film?


A: Initially, each character has very simple, basic motivation – Christina needs home, Lynn needs a child, Joe needs peace and quite in his family. But like all of us, humans, they tend to misconstrue their needs – and when their true needs surface, they come as a surprise to the characters themselves and to us, the audience. Without giving away the ending, I can just say that Christina leads the couple to the brink of the discovery of what really missing from their lives… I say “the brink” because it scares the hell out of them. And I’m not talking about the couple’s sexual needs or fantasies but something that’s much more sublime… and uncanny.





Q: How do you think an American audience will respond to the character of Christina?


A: Haha, this remains to be seen!  I’m sure she will be a divisive figure…. She’s not your girl next door. Christina is an outsider, and her existence is marginal, both regarding her social status and her sexuality… But on the other hand,  that’s what  make her a quint-essentially American character… So I hope people will relate to her!



Q:  If people invest in your film, will they be able to share in any profits?



A: Absolutely! We will be drafting a profit-participation agreement with each one of our investors once the film is fully financed!



Q:  Who are some of your film making influences?


A: I love Lynne Ramsay films – her early  “Rat Catcher” is one of my biggest inspirations. Catherine’s Breiilat “Fat Girl” is another one…  I’ve always been inspired by films with a uniquely female perspective… but not only by films directed by women. My biggest influence — in the way I approach filmmaking in general –  is the grandfather of surrealism, Luis Bunuel.



Q:  You teach screenwriting at The New School. What makes your class different from other screenwriting classes?


A: I give a lot of creative exercises to my students – and not just the exercises on structure and character development but exercises that help to develop their imagination… that tap into their physical and emotional memory.


I also show my students a lot of films of diverse styles and perspectives, from different time periods – and I show them next to each other, without providing a “historical perspective.” I believe the best cinematic works belong to the natural world, and not just the world of culture. I’m sure many academics will disagree with me! But this is how I teach film and screenwriting…


Q: What is your most memorable classroom story?


A: In one of my introductory filmmaking classes, I showed two short films, almost back to back… One was a very well executed if somewhat cheesy love story. Another was an experimental 1972 short film by Chantal Akerman,  “La Chambre” – a circular shot with a camera panning around the room for 11 minutes. I thought my students hated that film… But at the end of the semester, when they were presenting their final films, I was surprised to discover that one of the students drew his inspiration from both of these very different  films. His film was a love story told by a pan that goes around the room for 10 minutes!  And it was a gem of a film!


Q:  What mistakes do you see new screenwriters making?


A: One of the biggest mistakes new screenwriters make is relying too much on dialogue…over-explaining what the character feel and think.  Another mistake is trying to make a point or send a message that’s too obvious or clichéd.  Some say: “cliché is a cliché because it’s true”… something like that. I hate this expression.

I think real truth is always rooted in a paradox.



Q:  If you could remake any movie in history, what movie would you remake and why?


A: Kubrick “Lolita”… In a way, that’s what I’m doing with “The Fruit of Our Womb” –  remaking Lolita it’s from the girl’s perspective.  And because it’s a female point of view, Christina has to be a stronger, darker, more complex character than Nabokov/Kubrick’s heroine… She’s not at all a victim. I think of her as a perverse messenger of change.



Eliza’s interviews are done by email; all answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


An Interview With Writer Tantra Bensko



Tantra Bensko is the author of the book Glossolalia; here is a link to the website:


Q: What is Glossolalia about?


A: Nancy can only keep a job at her uncle Geoff’s pesticide company, because she has amnesiac fugues, and she’s addicted to the drugs he gives her to stave off strange visions, which present themselves almost like surreal memories. When she sees a crime happening at the company, she has the choice to risk her job and life in order to turn him in. But there’s a catch. A big one.

Her pursuit of a waste truck carrying away a poison legally deemed too toxic to dump leads her to a world of political intrigue, occult practices, shocking revelations, and her own involvement in layer after layer of a conspiracy.

It’s about the need to become authentic, and the power of determined individuals to transform themselves and the world. The series is about the heroism of recognizing, resisting, and exposing social engineering.


Q: What inspired you to write it?

A: I feel empathy for people who have gone through trauma induced by US intelligence agencies. I also feel empathy for the agents, and sometimes, they are one and the same.



Q:  What makes Nancy a sympathetic character?

A: She cares about the environment and wants to do the right thing, though she struggles, like many people, with being forced to take a job that bothers her conscience.



Q:  Are the characters in the book based on real people?

A: They aren’t portrayals of specific individuals but they’re influenced greatly by reality: the globe-trotting politically connected evangelist, the businessman with a conflict of interest, a president of a country trying to get off the dollar standard, the manipulative handler, the YouTube activist. The pills Nancy takes illegally are called Jolly Wests. That’s a nod to the famous MKULTRA doctor of that name.



Q: You teach fiction writing on several different websites. How did you get your first teaching jobs?


A: Part of getting an MA involved teaching in labs, which I’d already done in high school, so I was well prepared to teach at FSU while studying. I then simply applied to Memphis State and taught years there before teaching at Iowa while I got my MFA. I was happy to be offered the teaching jobs while studying and to accepted to the application to the instructorship in Tennessee. It was a simple process to be accepted everyplace I applied, possibly largely because the people hiring me liked reading my publications, and maybe were also impressed by the number of them.

I never wanted my path to be academic straight though, partly because that wouldn’t let me live a varied enough life to write deeply in the way I want. It was a long time before I applied to online teaching jobs and again, I think I was originally accepted partly because of the quality of my writing and my reputation in the Innovative Fiction scene as well as the classes I proposed in experimental fiction, which was not being taught much. I think I helped raise awareness of that style a bit through my popular resource website about it. I then very quickly expanded to also teach other forms.



Q:  What are some of the most memorable questions students have asked you?

In a 10 weeks fiction writing class: “I dont rely no Enlish. Can you maeke all the editos at all my assignments for I learn English?” (I did.)


“Do you mind if I announce to the class that the story I wrote in the last class with you just won an award?”



Q: What are some of the qualifications for your job?


A: MA in English from FSU and MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. Getting my early teaching jobs rested partially on my good grades throughout school, publications, reference letters from impressed professionals, and the quality of my writing. Having those jobs in tow and letters from pleased superiors, I could apply to the online schools. Being a consistent teacher students got a lot out propelled me forward from job to job, as well as continuing to be published and do a lot online to promote literary awareness.

I live the kind of life expected of a writing instructor to obtain and keep a job: participating in panels such as at the &Now Festival of Writing, winning honors here and there, guest editing a magazine and putting out my own magazine as well as a resource site about experimental fiction and publishing people’s chapbooks, doing readings locally and at conferences. I continued to get work out to the public, with hundreds of short stories as well as other genres in magazines and anthologies.

My love for helping students prioritize their passion for writing I think is an important qualification for actually teaching, though. I’m patient, encouraging, friendly, and can appreciate a wide variety of genres: I studied them all to be prepared for anything a student might write. I’m sincerely thrilled by their stories and progress.

Q:  What kind of music do you listen to when you write?


A: I don’t. I pay attention to the rhythms of the words and make that musical instead. It’s subtle and I wouldn’t want to override it. I get up and dance regularly when writing fiction, to silence. I hear the music in my head of the plot arc, how the audience should feel at a certain moment. I act out the characters, scenes, the mood of what comes next.



Q:  What has been the most effective thing you have done to promote your book?
A: I have a Facebook author page, and I took out ads to attract people with interests related to the book, such as Conspiracy Fiction, Barry Eisler, Psychological Thriller Novel. I wrote a guest post about how the rise of indie publishing and movie production allows for a new paradigm of spy novels that flip the old default good guy – US intelligence VS bad guy formula. I posted about it on the author page and then boosted it. No one sees posts on pages now unless you do that.

225 people liked the post as they saw it scroll through their news feed. I then invited them to like the page, and those who did are perfect for my book. In any case, they read the information with links I included about the historical facts about the CIA, and that’s an end in itself. I cover many of the topics in my blog as well. Promoting the book is finding people intrigued by the series and also fostering awareness about a reality that’s important to address, whether the people buy any of The Agents of the Nevermind or not.



Q: If this country turns into a dystopia would you want drugs to anesthetize you or would you stay sober and fight?

A: I wouldn’t take drugs. I completely avoid pain killers as it is, and I’ve been in a lot of pain in my life. Pain is there for a reason. I listen to it rather than ingest a chemical with lasting side effects. Still, if I’m stuck under a truck that’s run out of the last of the gasoline, and I’m flailing around, yeah, if you don’t mind, a little morphine over heah.

Also, are you saying it’s not a dystopia now?


Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.



An Interview With Blogger Nicholas Gomez


Nicholas Gomez runs the blog Feedback Junkies, here is a link to his blog:

Q: What inspired you to start Feedback Junkies?

A: I think lots of different things motivated me to start Feedback Junkies. I listen to a couple guys on this podcast for who basically review movies and make people laugh. But before they were professional movie critics, they were a group of average Austinites who just happened to be into movies a lot. So, rather than starting a podcast, I decided to write about my experiences with books, movies, music, and sometimes life in general. It probably also has to do with the fact that I used to have a close group of friends that I discussed movies with, and as time has gone on, we’ve grown apart, but my need to talk about these things has not.

Q:  What kind of articles can one find there?

A:  For the Feedback Junkies page, I mostly write reviews for movies, music, and books, as well as short stories and poems every now and then. But I did recently start another blog on where I talk in-depth about things like dating, health, education, and lifestyle, and my experiences in those areas.


Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your writing?

A: Given the fact that I just moved to Austin, the day job still hasn’t arrived. I would tell you about past jobs and how those have influenced my writing, but the truth is they haven’t. Most of the things I have learned, or written about, have nothing to do with my job as of today. I think most of the interesting stuff in my life, which is the shit I write about, has happened at times when I said yes, where others might have said no.

Q: Your write a lot of reviews, what separates you from other critics?

A:  I don’t really like to consider myself a critic. Yes, I write a lot of reviews, but not because I want to judge the art in front of me. I mostly write about the things that have had a positive impact on my life, and I do that in hopes that it will help impact others’ lives just as much. Maybe that’s what separates me from other critics, the fact that I don’t put myself on a pedestal and look down on things that I don’t like, or praise the things I do. My goal, is to be a middle man for people who don’t know where to find material that is actually worth learning and/or experiencing.

Q:  You have promoted other artist in the past. What qualities do you look for in an artist to promote?

A:  Of all the artists I promote, I’ve only ever met two of them. Both were genuinely humble, passionate, and extremely talented. There’s a key point I want to make here. Most people think that if something is good, you have to like it, and vice-versa. That’s just silly. I have heard hundreds of bands, watched hundreds of movies, and read lots of books that I didn’t necessarily care for, but if these forms of art were well executed, I could recognize it. Just because I thought it was a waste of my time, doesn’t mean everyone else will. And sometimes that plays into why I promote them. I write for my audience, which is still embarrassingly small, but if I know a certain percentage of them will enjoy this movie, or that band, then I write about it for them. Which is who writing is supposed to be for. The audience, not the writer.

Q:  What are some of the things you have done to promote your blog and how much did they cost?

A: Oh boy. First things first, I’ve spent nothing on promotion.  90% of my promotion has been word of mouth. There’s a reason for this, which I didn’t fully understand until a few months ago when I heard Tucker Max explain it in an interview. He said the best way to make people want to buy your stuff, or read it or whatever, is to constantly keep putting great work out there. Because by doing this, not only will the people who see it want to recommend it to their friends and so on, but once they finish the first piece, they will want more and more. This is a mistake a lot of people make. They put one great project out there, and people love it. But then they stop, and the few people who loved that project have nothing new to get their hands on, and thus end up forgetting who this person even was to begin with.


Q: Who are some of your favorite bloggers?

7- I don’t really follow blogs as much as I probably should. I like podcasts much more for some reason. The only real blog I keep tabs on is Tucker Max’s and Charlie Hoehn’s, because…well, because they put out some of the most groundbreaking and meaningful pieces out there. And they write with their audience in mind, which is something not a lot of bloggers do.

Q: What trends in blogging annoy you?

A:  The kind of blogging that just seems pathetic and useless to me is written by people who think they will find healing from comment sections on the internet. You know, the ones who pour their hearts out online, expecting people to respect them for being brave. If you want to be respected for being brave, stop hiding behind the keyboard, and go do something with your life. If all your blog talks about is you, nobody will care. At least not in the larger scale of things.

Q: What makes Austin a good place for a writer to live?

A:  I got here a few days ago, so I can’t say with certainty what’s great about it.

Q: If you could meet Pere Hilton or Arianna Huffington who would you pick?


A:  I wouldn’t pick either one of them. Meeting Perez Hilton would be the biggest waste of my time, and Arianna Huffington could probably care less about me, so meeting her would be a waste of her time and mine.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Blogger Lisa Hackett


Lisa Hackett runs the blog Where’s my Xanax; here is a link to the website:



Q:  What made you interested in writing?

A: Writing has always been a way for me to get out certain emotions, whether its something heartfelt and serious, to something snarky and witty. It’s my voice. I can write things that sometimes you can’t say sometimes.

Q:  What is the overall theme of  Where’s my Xanax?

A: My “Where’s My Xanax” blog is a little mix of everything. Sometimes serious but usually silly and outrageous. Stupid things I’ve done and experienced and I like to talk about topics that people want to talk about but are afraid too.

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your writing?

A: I worked for Lancome cosmetics. So it really hasn’t influenced my writing much. I do wonder why I dont write on beauty topics or makeup application, but I suppose when you work with make up last thing you wanna do is write about it. I call being a mom my primary job in life and it influences many things I have written about, because being a mom, there are always things to make fun of.

Q:  What are “The Fulls”?

A: The Fulls are a set of characters designed by Cheri Silard for ages 3-8 and their parents, they offer optimism and positive quotes, photos, articles and other. They are designed to inspire and entertain and self discovery. They pride themselves in teaching kids, honesty, responsibility, community, confidence, respect. consideration and other good values.

Q:  Who is Delightful?

A: DelightFull is an inspiring little character who posts kids food crafts and recipes with optimistic energy, all things sweet. She tries to teach young kids good values like sharing.

Q:  Who are some of your favorite bloggers?

A: I love Fits of Wit, she is down right awesome, it is witty and always leaves me in tears from laughing. Nanny Goats in Panties always has something interest to say. All Fooked up, she writes about offensive silly things, even warns you that she may offend you and to start drinking before entering her blog.

Q:  Why do you think sex is such a popular subject for bloggers to write about?

A: Well for me and what I write. I think its the fact that people do think, talk about sex but many are afraid too with society today, because they are afraid of judgement. I think sex has always been popular. Now is the time with all the Sex and the city and 50 shades type of books and movies. I think sex is easier for some to discuss openly without judgement, in blog especially.

Q:  What trends in blogging annoy you?

A: I have issues with all the fashion blogs or curator type blogs, the ones where they take everyone’s stuff and just repost it with an opinion. I would much rather read stuff from the heart, mind, other. Even if it offends me, I’d rather it be real.

Q:  What other kinds of writing do you do?

A: I write a little bit of everything, from deep dark from the heart to silly poems and witty outrageous stories. I am working on a book, which will be a cross between Erma Bombeck and Chelsea Handler.

Q:  What have you done to promote your blog?

A: Well I just got a new blog and host. I will slowly build my blog through social networking and just hopefully people will love what I read. With Where’s My Xanax, primarily through blogs and follwers and facebook sharing. Twitter is a must have for bloggers, great way to get your blogs seen and isn’t that what we want, people to read what we have to say?

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Poet Maggie Stringham


Maggie Stringham is a poet and blogger; here is a link to her website:

Q: What inspired you to start writing poetry?

A: I was young.  I had a very bad homelife and I was depressed.  I found Emily Dickinson and found that I could relate to what she was saying.  Later on, I found Nirvana.  Nirvana’s lyrics kind of made me realize that I didn’t have to write any particular way. I could write the way I wanted and still say something.  Ever since then, I haven’t stopped writing.

Q: What are some of the ideas and themes you like to write about?

A: I write about addiction, mental health problems, grieving.  I write about topics that people feel, but have trouble putting into words.  I write about experiences I have that I couldn’t express in another way.  Writing actually helps me clarify exactly what it is I am feeling.

Q: Who are some of your influences?

A: Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Frederick Seidel, Henrik Ibsen. I am inspired by so many writers whether it is poetry, plays, song lyrics, etc.

Q: Why do you think addiction is such a popular theme in poetry?

A: I think because explaining what an addiction does to you is hard to describe in simple terms.  Its so complex that we need a complex description.  To describe addiction, you need to describe what it feels like, not what it is.

Q: What kind of day job (or income source)  do you have and how does it influence your writing?

A: I work as an assistant operations analyst for a bullet mfg company.  I also write SEO content for some other  companies.

Q: What kind of educational background do you have?
A: I have some University credits but I have not yet received a degree.  I’m still working on that.

Q: What are some of the things you have done to promote your blog?

A: Not a lot.  I use Facebook and Twitter.  I network with other bloggers and on fb pages, stuff like that.  I like doing interviews or features for blogs and other sites.

Q: What is the ABC Award and how does one get nominated?

A: The ABC Award is the Awesome Blog Content Award.  A nominee nominates another blogger and so on and so forth.  The idea of the blog is for bloggers to help each other drive traffic and learn more about each other in the process.

Q: What is your weirdest Vegas story?

A:   Hahahaha….Oh my gosh I don’t think I should share this. Let’s just say that if I become a more popular writer one day, then I will share some of these secrets in a book.

Q: What trends in poetry annoy you?

A: OH my gosh I could go on and on…writing that mentions other poets (total cliché), writing talking about sitting on a window sill smoking a cigarette….we get it already….people can tell when writers are writing feelings or writing words….some writers just like the idea of being a “depressed poet”…..that’s not what poetry is.  Being a poet itself is a trend….it’s a trend that takes away the experience of actually writing poetry.  It saddens me more than annoys me.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Helping Survivors Manage Founder Kat Reed


Kat Reed is the founder of Helping Survivors Manage, which is an organization dedicated to delivering practical everyday assistance to the people left behind after a death; here is a link to the website:


Q:  What inspired you to start Helping Survivors Manage?

A: After my mom’s death, I stayed with my dad to help him with all the odds and ends (the business side of death) that needed to be handled; cancelling appointments, reporting the death to creditors, sorting all the mail (condolence cards, donations), notifying credit reporting agencies, and more. There are so many tasks to manage, so I got on my computer and searched – thinking to myself, “this will be easy, I will just search for the tool that MUST exist to help me get through this” I knew there had to be something to help guide me step-by-step through the process. Turns out, it did not exist. There were tons of resources scattered about in hundreds of different law sites, funeral sites, planning sites, but nothing comprehensive that would hold someone’s hand and walk them through it. As with most new ventures, I filled a void, which I didn’t think was possible anymore. The result was a self-help workbook called Begin Here: helping survivors manage. It helps the survivor through all the necessary tasks left behind after a death – after the funeral – by means of the book (available in hard cover and PDF) as well as online tools and downloads on the site.

Q: What are the basic things everyone needs to know about settling a person’s affairs after death?

A: Of course ‘settling a person’s affairs after a death’ brings to mind the legal side, of which we have tips on our site and in the book for what the attorneys will need, however, we do not provide legal advice. The Helping Survivors Manage mission focuses on the day-to-day tasks that need attention from a survivor perspective. There are many basic things, but I will break it down into the most important/urgent things:

  • Providing for any dependents of decedent, human or pet. Make sure the people and pets whose livelihood relied on the decedent are safe. Do they need medication? Do they have a place to go? Who will care for them?
  • Checking the home for safety measures. Make sure the stove/oven is in the ‘off’ position. Check for food that needs to be removed (in fridge, cupboards, or scattered inadvertently in the home) that could cause vermin infestation or mold, check windows and doors to make sure they are locked. If in an owned home that is now vacant, turn off the water pipes, set the thermostat properly, retrieve medications and valuables and remove them, turn on a few lights and keep an eye on the mail and the yard, arrange for a trusted or experienced house-sitter if possible, to avert potential burglar issues.
  • If decedent is in any type of rental unit (apartment, retirement community, etc.), notify the owner as soon as possible to set a move-out date. Many places have long waiting lists for new tenants and items should be removed as soon as possible. Take possessions to a safe, separate location for disbursement later.

Of course there are more, but they are in the book and these are the most urgent and important measures to take.

Q:  What are some of the legal resources available to people after a loved one dies?

A: Fortunately, in these times, there are legal resources for just about anything. Unfortunately, on the flipside, the internet is saturated with companies that may have been formed on a whim in the in the past couple of decades that may have ceased to exist, but their websites linger. Side note: Whenever I do an online search and want to make sure I find an updated site, I used the setting to search for the past year or less. This will weed out any old sites that may have not been touched in a long time, meaning, they are likely not doing much to keep up the business. This is not an absolute, but as a general rule, that is my personal preference when I want to find something relevant online. I want to use companies who are keeping up with the times. A few legal resources that are helpful that should, or definitely will, be around for years to come are:

  • The SSA (Social Security Administration) has helpful legal information on survivor benefits.
  • The Funeral Consumers Alliance “is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting a consumer’s right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral” excerpt from their website. If anyone is confused and feels they need guidance in the funeral planning, it is important to know your rights, and the decedent’s rights.
  • The National Military Family Association is a good resource for survivors of military personnel. The US Department of Veteran Affairs (aka the VA or Veteran’s Administration) is also a good resource for survivors of military vets.

These sites will help a survivor with basic information. Depending upon the net worth of a decedent, a survivor may want to hire his/her own attorney, just remember that fees add up quickly.

Another important thing to remember is that if the survivor is emotionally close to the decedent, it may be difficult to make good decisions due to the grief. Having a trusted friend who has been through the experience may be prudent as they may be able to provide constructive and helpful feedback. It is a difficult time to think clearly – no matter how together anyone thinks they are, grief is a whole new plane on which to function.

Q:  Why do you think there are so many organizations dedicated to grieving, but only one like yours?

A: What a great question! This is the best question I have been asked, and the answer is…drum roll, please…it is not fun and it is a thankless job! It is like being a janitor; no one wants to look at the mess, or clean the mess, but they are happy when it is clean (which is what happens after a survivor gets and uses my book for a decedent). Death in general is such a tough topic, especially for Westerners.

It is difficult to pick up the phone and tell a creditor “I need to report a death” especially if it is someone with whom you have spent your entire life loving. Because it is not easy, it is typical for people to just let the decedent’s attorney handle it (never underestimate the power of denial), which means you are paying someone between $100-500.00 an hour to do something you can do yourself – or delegate it to someone who wants to help you do it (with the help of my book and the tools on the website). From a practical standpoint, it is not the wisest financial choice to hire a law office to, for instance, shut off the water and electricity of the decedent’s residence, right? Bottom line, it is neither fun nor glamourous and no one will care when you finish; and when you finish, you never want to think of it again.

Also, there is no sense of happiness or achievement when you complete the tasks because it means the decedent is really gone in every way (physically). To get a perspective on not wanting to let go (which is what managing all these tasks is accomplishing), my dad died in 2008, I still have his email address in my contact list, I cannot (of course logically, will not) delete it. Almost everyone I know has the last voicemail someone left a survivor before the decedent died. I have my grandma’s last voicemail message she left me on my answering machine tape (and I no longer have the answering machine) and she died in 2001.

Plain and simple, it is not fun; but that doesn’t make it unnecessary.

Q: What kind of professional background do you have?

A: Since 1984 I have worked as an Office Manager, an Executive Assistant, an Accounting Manager, a Business Analyst, a Technical Writer, an Editor, a Bookkeeper, a Training Coordinator, and an Instructional Design Developer, now an author and blogger – all jobs that have anything to do with details. I love details and organization and take great pride in every job I have ever had. I also have an affinity for the elderly and have been a Hospice Volunteer, and I am an avid reader and true crime fanatic.

Q:  What are some of the ways a person can manage a person’s online presence after they die?

A: Again, as with anything available now, companies come and go on the internet. Great ideas are a dime a dozen and people have them every day – and these ideas are thrown on the internet with a free website that may only be touched once or twice. I have done this myself with ideas. It is what we do with those ideas – and how we cultivate something lasting that will be sustainably reliable – that matter. Frankly, from my research, I have not seen anything stand out as a great product yet. In my opinion, it simply has not been a long enough period to make a judgment on the credibility of some businesses out there that claim to want to help you with your online social media presence after a death. This is why I recommend having your own plan (we will have a tool on our website by mid-2015) that you can use as instructions for your survivor. It is old school, but until a company proves to me it has the best method for decedents and survivors, manual is the only way.

Q: What are some pitfalls of prearranged funerals?

A: There are many aspects of prearranging. Part of prearranged is preplanning, which is not necessarily the same as a prepaid planning. You can plan everything and not pay for it; there are dozens (and dozens) of preplanning toolkits available online, in fact, we will have one on our site in mid-2015 after many requests for it. Right now, many of our customers purchase our book and fill it out for themselves and leave it in a place where a decedent will find it. My dad would have done this, and this is a wonderful gift to give your survivor.

From my research, I think the best description of some of the setbacks is described in the New York State Department of Health site for prepaying for a funeral, which states, “As with any financial transaction, there are potential drawbacks. While the law gives New Yorkers some of the strongest protections in the country, it does not provide absolute protection, as the money is controlled by the funeral director, not you. There are some things you must study carefully before entering into a prepaid funeral arrangement:


Make sure you always have a pre-need agreement for services whenever you prepay a funeral, whether it is directly with a funeral home or on your own with the funeral home as beneficiary.


Let someone you trust know that you have prepaid your funeral arrangements and the name of the funeral home. Otherwise, they may select a different funeral home and pay again.


Always deal with a funeral home with which you are familiar and comfortable, or that has been recommended by someone whom you trust.


Know how and where your money is being deposited.


If you pay by cash, get a receipt and keep it in a safe place.”

Of course, every state varies, but I think these guidelines are solid and worthy of following no matter where you live or the decedent lived. From my personal experience, both my parents were completely prepared, they preplanned and prepaid their funerals, including their headstones, which they bought decades before their death. However, I am not sure that would have been the case had they not known their funeral director their entire lives and trusted the funeral home implicitly. It was a great relief for me to know they had prepaid, but I am very pragmatic by nature. In my case, I preplanned what I want to happen to me when I die and I will leave enough money for my decedent/executor to pay for what my plan is.

Q:  What are some things a person should include in a living will?

A: As you readers may or may not know, a Living Will is also called a Health Care Directive. I recommend every adult have a completed Health Care Directive now! They vary by state (search online “Health Care Directive”, and your state) and should be completed and shared with a trusted source (one or two family members and a lawyer) and easily found if you become incapacitated. I think my dad kept his Living Will on his person beginning around age 65. I recommend reviewing them yearly when you do your taxes to make sure it is still applicable to your desires.

The directive addresses matters such as how you would like to be cared for if something happened to you and you are unable to make decisions on your own. If you have a stroke and lose the ability to speak and communicate, the Living Will directs your caretakers, nurses and doctors how you want your care bestowed. Another example is you may state in your directive that you do not want to be put on a ventilator if your health declines to such a state that it would be necessary to keep you alive.

Q:  Do you think the Brittany Maynard case will change death with dignity laws around the country?

A: I definitely do. I am a big advocate of death with dignity and the group Compassion & Choices (the leader in the fight for individual end-of-life choice) has a wonderful example in Brittany. This is also a good case in the use of a Living Will, while not always adhered, at least it is something substantial for an attorney as evidence of a patient’s rights and desires. I wrote about it on my blog not long ago, and here is an excerpt:

“In November, Brittany Maynard captured the world with her determination to end her life on her terms, death with dignity. Brittany’s terminal cancer gave her the unfortunate vehicle to be a crusader for the cause. The topic is no doubt one that has affected us from the beginning of civilization. The discussion, however, is more recent in our western culture. According to Compassion and Choices, in 1967 ‘A right-to-die bill is introduced in the Florida legislature. It arouses extensive debate but is unsuccessful.’ Since then, much work has been done to address the need and evident desire for choice when one is terminally and exceptionally painfully ill. We are all survivors of Brittany; and her immediate family and friends grieve the reluctant legend in their midst who made a sea change in our views of dying with dignity.”

Q:  What can a person do to protect themselves from posthumous identity theft?

A: I must preface this answer with the disclaimer that I found people in the funeral profession to be profoundly funny, an unexpected perk to my research and continual work in the industry.

Answer: To my knowledge, there is not much one can do about that, and frankly, there are not many repercussions of it since the potential victim is dead, after all, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip!

But seriously, folks, I was shocked to find on a well-known religious website (a group regarded for their meticulous recordkeeping) that my mom and dad’s full social security number and their full name was listed. I thought “Oh no!” then I thought “what horrible things will someone do with this information?” then I thought “What can they do – they are dead?” That said, this is a perfect example of how important it is to do all the things that are outlined in my book to avoid fraud that may occur before you have reported the death. For example, if someone got the credit card of a decedent and the survivor had not yet reported the death, it would be a bigger hassle to get the charges removed after the fact. I am not saying the credit card company will not honor your copy of the death certificate and remove the charges eventually, but why take the chance in having to do all the extra work of managing that when you can just let them know right away and avoid the extra work. It is already not fun handling all these tasks, why make it more difficult on yourself?

For survivors, I always say when it comes to death, it never gets easy, just less difficult – and we want to help survivors in that journey as much as possible.

Disclaimer: Helping Survivors Manage has no affiliation with any of the organizations mentioned in the article.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)