Saturday, July 22, 2023

Q&A with Barbara Wolf Terao



Barbara Wolf Terao is the author of the new memoir Reconfigured. She also has worked as a teacher, psychologist, and television host. She lives on Whidbey Island in Washington state.


Q: What inspired you to write Reconfigured, and how long did it take you to write the book?


A: Going through medical and marital difficulties, I accumulated stories, experiences, and insights I wanted to explore and share with others. Shortly after my final cancer treatments, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, meaning I was mostly isolated at home.


At the beginning of 2020, I sat down at my desk one day and said to myself, "I'm a working writer." With that inner declaration, I was no longer an aspirational writer, thinking, "Someday I'll write a book." I was someone who started a book about moving from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest—and wrote almost every day for more than a year to complete a first draft.


I'm nerdy enough to enjoy the research process and I tend to gather more material than I can use. On the other hand, I worry about losing readers' attention, so I skim over things too quickly. I leave out too much.


Time and again, my editor prodded me to say more, and I'm grateful to her for it. Not only do readers get more details, but I learned so much by trying to explain concepts (karma!) and information (the lymphatic system!) and, hardest of all, myself.


Reading other writers' memoirs, such as Educated by Tara Westover, or spiritual books about Buddhism and other topics, inspired me to go deep in my own writing. We're all different, but perhaps my examples, humor, and perspectives can encourage and uplift others going through tough times. That's my hope anyway.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: When I learned the meaning of the Japanese term wabi sabi, the recognition of that which is imperfect and impermanent, I was tempted to call my book My Wabi Sabi Life, because it summed up so much of how I felt when I was facing chemotherapy and surgery.


But I landed on "reconfigured" as a word that implies multiple aspects of my story, from figuring out my figure after mastectomy to reconfiguring my home, my life, and my marriage.


Q: The writer Christina Baldwin said of the book, "Her story illustrates how the healing of one life challenge can become a healing for all, and her style invites readers to reflect on their own lives while reading." What do you think of that description?


A: Christina is a longtime mentor of mine, since we both lived in Minnesota. And now we happen to both live on Whidbey Island! She's grasped exactly what I hoped to accomplish by writing Reconfigured—shine a light on our healing potential, relationships, and the solace of nature. I agree with Christina that addressing one life challenge affects all areas of our lives!


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book?


A: I've written in my personal journals since I was a kid, which is a useful practice in many ways, but writing an entire book about a particular series of events in my life was even more valuable. As I processed my experiences through writing, I noticed fascinating metaphors, synchronicities, and lessons.


Because one of my editors suggested I include takeaways for my readers, I became more aware of insights and wisdom I have to offer. By the end of the book, I could see how far I've come.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm working on a children's book based on a true story of a shipwrecked teen I think will encourage young people to face and overcome their obstacles. Research shows that grit and perseverance are crucial factors in academic success, so I want to share one of my favorite role models of those traits. I'm also writing a book of essays about authenticity, spirit, and being human.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My author website is and my Of the Earth website is I'm on Facebook as Author Barbara Terao. Reconfigured: A Memoir launches Aug. 1, 2023, 7 p.m., at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park (north of Seattle). My memoir is available at bookstores as well as Amazon, Bookshop, and other online sites.


Thank you for your thoughtful questions!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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