Joanell Serra – Horse Lessons in Wine Country

An MFT puts her counseling experiences into an impressive premier novel

Joanell Serra going bareback in wine countryHello all and welcome to our continuing series of author interviews. Today’s guest is The Vines We Planted author Joanell Serra.

Basically, Joanell opened up a can of sensory detail and started writing.

NOT REALLY but it sure seems that way reading her book.

I’d like everyone to stand up and give Joanell Serra a big round of applause for taking part in our exciting adventure.

I decided to throw away all the books on how to write a book and write myself short stories I loved in a location I loved.

Joanell Serra’s Bio
Joanell is an MFT (she explains in the interview) whose stories have been published in literary and online journals such as Manifestation, Eclectica, Blue Lake Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine and Poydras Review. She was short listed for Storysouth Million Writers Award, won the grand prize at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and won the 6th Street short play festival.

Every time I feel stuck I go for a ride. I walk the neighborhoods. I hang out in the bar and listen.

Joanell and I talked about the Sonoma Valley, the mysticism of horses, being an MFT, researching by sitting down and listening to others, bringing in the psychological aspect of people, writing primers on dealing with depression without meaning to, public readings, the joy of wine, dogs as mascots and first listeners (they can’t read), being influenced by Louise Erdrich, her next book, creating authentic characters, writing groups and authors supporting authors.

I spend my life with my dogs. I take pictures of my dogs, put them on Instagram and call them my writing support group.

You can find links to Joanell’s books on the right or at the bottom of this post (depending on your device). You’ll also find links to Joanell’s social presences underneath the video.

I’m determined, creative, thoughtful, unpredictable and warm.

The Interview

People tell me they’re coming to Sonoma because of the book.

Joanell’s Links
Joanell’s website, Facebook and Instagram.

My first publication was when I was six. My parents published a poem I wrote in the local newspaper. I was horrified.

An excerpt from Joanell’s Your Steps Alone
In the airport, waiting for another delayed flight, and Jerry Garcia is singing in my earbuds. When you’re waiting for a miracle. I find myself reflecting on the things we wait for, and the roads we take.
About thirty years ago I took my college degree, two suitcases and a back pack full of journals and got on a plane from Newark to San Francisco. My best friends took me to the airport and waved goodbye at the curb, after sharing the end of a joint for courage. I curled up in a window seat, crying for approximately five of the six hours, in sheer panic. I had turned down my law school acceptances at the last minute. I had no job or clear path and no discernible reason to leave on that day, August 8, 1986. Just an internal diving rod that seemed to point as far West as the country would allow. I had visited San Francisco once. I’d read Kerouac’s On the Road, tasted Napa Cabernets and hugged a real Redwood tree not far from where the Grateful dead lived. (!!)
Neither New Jersey’s pastoral green fieldsnor their gritty cities could satisfy me any longer. My sister waited for me on the other side of the country in a spiffy new red VW cabriole. She was prepared to share her apartment, friends and adventurous spirit.
“It’s just for a year,” I told my parents and friends. Just a year, I told myself on the plane. You’ll go home again.
I didn’t know I’d meet my husband the night I arrived in San Francisco, my face still tear soaked. That the fog rolling in and out across the water would become the blanket of my days; that I’d raise small fine humans who grew up to the rhythm of the Bay; that my parents would follow me and finish their lives watching the sunset over this golden city; that my childhood friend would join me for a weekend and never leave. That I would become a true Californian, slowly shedding ski jackets for flip-flops.
Had I known what I was embarking on – a whole life – would it have been easier or harder to get on that flight?
Now my oldest son prepares to take the reverse geographical leap, heading off to explore life in Manhattan. He might be back in six months, clear that it’s not for him. It’s New York – loud, expensive, intense and winter is. .. well, winter. Or he might dig into New York the way I did with San Francisco. He’ll eat the cannolis of my childhood, build campfires in the Catskills, fight for a spot on a sweltering NJ beach day and run downtown for half-price tickets to the theater. With any luck, he’ll jump on one of those stages himself. I’ll enjoy the ride as his observer for as long as he chooses to stay, visiting as much as possible.
When I arrive back East, the same friends that took me to the airport years ago will be waiting, ready to share a glass of wine and continue our endless conversation. They always are. Three thousand miles and thirty years hasn’t made a dent in our closeness. They will be my son’s New York family.
I went with these friends to see Jerry Garcia perform a few days before I left New Jersey. We sat on the grass on a balmy August evening, singing along, feeling the bittersweet moments before parting, like sweet fruit about to spoil. Someone slipped a cassette tape into my hand for the trip across the country, a live Jerry tape. A passport of sorts.
On the plane ride, Jerry crooned and I cried as the tape played over and over. Together we travelled to my new life.
There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone.

Ripple in the water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow.
You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone.
If you should stand, then who will guide you?
If I knew the way, I would take you home.

I became very attached to Uriel Macon, the main character of my story.