We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy Nicolai and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
Recently, I took a mindfulness class that started with a quote from Viktor Frankl. He said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I reflect on this quote often because I find it so empowering. We always have an opportunity to choose what’s next–how we will act, what we will say, what we give energy to. When we take a minute to pause instead of immediately reacting, we remain in control instead of being controlled by our emotions or a reaction to a situation. I think it’s so vital to remember this idea, especially as we find ourselves navigating stressful situations. One way this has changed my life is when it comes to facing rejection or a roadblock while I’m out on submission in hopes of getting my book published. Previously, I gave so much energy to negative emotions and felt defeated after receiving a rejection–I let those thoughts and feelings take over to my own detriment. Now I recognize my negative emotions and identify specific patterns and what they may be trying to tell me. I’m using my emotions as sources of information instead of letting them take hold of me so that I can bring myself back to a state of peace and happiness. I still have a lot to learn, but at least I’m not more aware of my ability to choose.
The space between stimulus and response holds the potential for us to act like the people we want to be or to react as if on autopilot. When we notice the space and grow our awareness, we can better understand our inclinations to behave in a certain way and decide if it aligns with our values for the life we want to live. Understanding this is understanding that we are creators of our lives and not merely passive participants who have little control over outcomes.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Being in the field of writing is not easy at all. There is so much rejection involved. I once read that writers should plan to have their manuscripts rejected at least 200 times before landing a deal for publication (or moving on to another project). It’s different for everyone, and the market is constantly changing, so one thing I’ve learned is to focus on the things I can control (e.g., improving my craft). I’m still pursuing the path to publication. There were times when I wanted to give up, thinking that my goal was unattainable, but I decided to go about things differently. I previously approached the query process (trying to get an agent) with a type of frantic energy, thinking that I had to get things rolling ASAP if I was ever going to make it. Now I don’t think that way at all. I’m more focused on having fun writing, learning about the craft, connecting with other writers, and taking smaller baby steps, so I don’t become burned out like I was before.
What distinguishes me from others in the field distinguishes all writers from one another: voice. A writer’s voice is not just about style and word choice. It’s about putting one’s authentic self on paper to bring the writing to life. My unique life experiences, values, thoughts, and beliefs helped create and shape my writing voice. I feel like I’m still finding, exploring, and better understanding my voice, but the more I write, the clearer it becomes.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
One of our first stops would have to be Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. It’s an Italian-Renaissance style villa that was once home to James Deering. The gardens and fountains are stunningly beautiful and a great place to discover a bit of history.
We would also stop at the Wynwood Walls, displaying dozens of murals, graffiti, and street art. A trip to Wynwood Walls is an immersion in a unique outdoor gallery that celebrates art in its many forms. It’s a special place where you can get lost in the artists’ creativity.
I’d also plan a trip to the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. My son and I love to explore the aquarium and exhibitions. The planetarium shows are thrilling and a uniquely immersive experience to learn more about our world and universe.
Now for food–there are so many amazing places in Miami, so I’ll mention just a few of my favorites. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is a special spot my husband and I love to visit. My French husband introduced me to gastronomy, and L’Atelier Joël Robuchon offers an authentic experience. There’s counter seating facing the kitchen where you can see how the food is prepared with great care and attention. The cuisine, presentation, and service are extraordinary, and I always look forward to eating there. Another one of my favorite places to eat is Joia Beach, a restaurant and beach club offering European-style food and a relaxed atmosphere. After eating some delicious food, we would lounge by the beach while listening to a DJ. Another local hidden gem I love to go to is Soya & Pomodoro. The restaurant is located inside an old bank consisting of an eclectic assortment of decorations and live music on certain days. The pear pasta is one of my all-time favorites!
Of course, no trip to Miami is complete without visiting the beach. We’d probably hop on a bike and ride over the Venetian Causeway to enjoy the sun and waves. While we’re there, we’d stop for ice cream at Morelia Ice Cream Paletas!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m truly grateful for the support and encouragement of those around me. The first shoutout goes to my son, Gabriel. He’s the reason I first started writing. He reminds me to look at things from a different perspective and find joy in simple things. He’s my inspiration. I also want to give a shoutout to my husband and family. They are the first people to read my stories, celebrate my successes, and boost me up when I’ve encountered a roadblock.
The Florida Writers Association (FWA) was the first professional writing organization I joined and has helped me so much along the way. I won my first writing award in a contest hosted by FWA and am currently judging in that same contest this year. FWA gave me the push I needed to step outside my comfort zone and start sharing my writing with others.
I also want to acknowledge the 12X12 community for being so supportive and uplifting. I’ve connected with a fantastic critique group through this community, and I’m thankful for the valuable feedback they provide on my manuscripts.