Maria Lizza Bowen is a Scientist and Director of Oncology Clinical Development with nearly 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry. Her experience includes: molecular, chemistry, biochemistry and virology laboratory studies; quality assurance in pharmaceutical manufacturing; and clinical cancer research with a focus on executive leadership, program management, talent management, inspection readiness, quality systems development, and process excellence.
Maria is also an author and a student of life. Growing up surrounded by her compassionate mother’s vast book collection and her father’s simplistically raw yet deep perspective on life, she began reading at a very young age and dedicated a significant portion of her childhood and adult life trying to understand why we’re all here. Maria’s quest for answers resulted in a large collection of books on physics, philosophy, and spirituality, which led her to acquire a different perspective on the curve balls that life has thrown her way.
Where are you from?
I’m from northeastern PA (NEPA, as most of us natives call it), but I’ve been in NJ for the last 17 years because of work. I’ve been doing pre-clinical and clinical research for almost 30 years, mainly cancer research.
Why do you write?
I have always read books and I’ve always journaled – I absolutely LOVE books! I also LOVE to organize things (you’ll see how this all comes together). I am a super curious person, always researching something… Could be anything from understanding chromatin remodeling to how gems are faceted to brain chemistry of serial killers to the theory of annihilation in particle physics. I’m also very fascinated with the way people think and interact; even how different languages emerged across the planet. So, to answer your question, I probably write to make sense of it all.
What do you write about?
Well, I wrote my first book on understanding our personal reality and how to get unstuck. This book, called REFLECT, is basically how I made some sense out of the problems that I’ve overcome in my life over the years. I suppose it resulted from a culmination of reading psychology, philosophy, physics, and spirituality books in combination with f$%&#ing up a lot. I’m certain my next book will have nothing to do with this topic, at least on the surface.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m a bit new to this author business, so I would say conversational?
What are obstacles that come in the way of writing?
You might be sensing a theme here, but after a year of purposeful writing, I realized that I was trying to pack too much into one book. Once I tricked myself into dividing what I wanted to write about (into about 8 potential books), I was able to laser in on one topic. It magically came together after that!
What’s the most memorable thing asked/said by a reader about your work?
Actually, I was in complete awe of all the reviews that I had received so far on Amazon – I’m so grateful for every single one of them. So, just seeing how the readers interpreted the book – more importantly, how the readers felt about themselves after reading it – is most memorable for me. My goal was to help others get through difficulties by understanding (down to the core) why things ‘happen to us’ so that we can learn and move on from the things that get us stuck. Everyone is in a different place in their lives. Individually – as we grow and change, we find ourselves having a different level of understanding of our lives, throughout our lives. If someone who read this book picked it up and read it again 10 years later – I would be so curious how they would feel about themselves after reading it again. On a personal level, I will say my sister-in-law Pam and my niece Bri had both said they were in tears after reading the first chapter. I can tell you the exact sentence that triggered them, because it was a reference about my mom’s gentle but powerful spirit. When I started recording the audiobook, owner Chris at Portrait Studios had to give me a few minutes to stop crying and get my composure back after reading that sentence.
How long have you been writing?
24 months and 40 years. 😊 I started writing the book 2 years ago but have been journaling forever. What’s interesting is that the stuff in my book is nothing new. I realized that I’ve been telling myself this story my whole life but never put two and two together! Seriously, everyone should write a book – or at least journal. You clarify so much about yourself!
When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
When a self-publishing publisher reached out to me. I mentioned before, I’m super curious. One day, I was randomly clicking and downloading some piece of valuable information (I’m every marketer’s dream) and didn’t realize that I would get a call from this place to convince me to write a book. Their great marketing skills and my spontaneous nature turned me into an author! I never would’ve considered it otherwise.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
VERY random. I have a very demanding full time day job, so thank goodness for voice notes. If I’m driving and get smacked with a deep thought, I can easily record it, download it, then clean it up later in the evening when I bang out a chapter or paragraph. I did not have a true schedule or timeline (that would take all of the fun out if it). I also realized that writing is a nice break from my day job – helps me put things into perspective and keeps me out of trouble! In fact, I’m able to think more clearly when I’m at work, after I get all those random thoughts out of my brain and onto paper.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Ha! I tend to write my thoughts out of order, so I had probably printed the ‘final’ manuscript 3 times, cut it into chapter sections (literally, with scissors), rearranged it in a more ‘logical’ order, then switched everything around on the computer!
How long does it take to write a book?
I would say, once I zeroed in on the topic of the book, about 6 months. I will say, my father’s unexpected death resulting from a very aggressive cancer really pushed me to finish it. What are we waiting for, right?
Do you have suggestions on how to become a better writer?
YES! Don’t be hard on yourself! My first book is far from perfect, but I’m proud of it, mistakes and all! Don’t be afraid to keep going. This is ALL new to me. I only knew what I knew about the process (nearly nothing!) as I wrote. My suggestion is to keep going, make sure you have a good editor (maybe more than one), so they can see the things you don’t readily see. Feedback is your friend!
What challenges do you come across when writing/creating your story?
For me, understanding the target audience. I realized the importance of truly understanding who you are writing for. I didn’t get that concept until now. If you are truly writing your book to help people, you need to understand who you will be helping so that you can reach them!
What do you think makes a good story?
Easy – Authenticity! Nothing else matters. I know it’s cliché, but people really connect with you when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to show the world (and yourself) who you are!
What does your family think of your writing?
Ah, I am the only girl after four brothers – all men of few words, so I’m not sure if they even read it! (Just kidding). Then there’s my husband who is painfully honest (a trait which I undoubtedly love about him). He was super impressed. I guess because we mostly talk about what to make for dinner or the boys’ sports schedules. Aside from the editors, my husband was the first to read it (I didn’t want anyone else’s opinion, so I gave it to him right before it was published – no turning back). Sadly, my father unexpectedly passed away while I was writing it. As tough as that was, he inspired me to move forward, to keep going. Finally, my mom has vascular dementia to the point that she can no longer communicate, but I think she can listen and understand. My dear friend Nicole suggested I personally record an audiobook so that mom can listen, so I hope it’s not torture when I play it for her!
Do you see writing as a career?
I’m too much in love with my career in oncology to be a full-time author, but I cannot imagine life without writing books. Hint, more coming. 😊
Do you have anything specific you’d like to tell the readers?
Yes, if you would like to find out more about my book REFLECT: A perspective on understanding your reality and becoming unstuck, please visit my website. I’m in the process of upgrading it and getting more stuff on there (including podcasts, interviews, updates, a blog, and giveaways), so if you see the black and mint green website, check back in a week or 2 for the revamp! Reflect is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats. You can get links to buy the book on my website, which is sold just about everywhere (Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Kubo, and many more). From the website, you can also order a personally dedicated copy of REFLECT for yourself or as a gift for someone you care about. Finally, if you read it, please consider writing an honest review, which would help the book get to more readers. I would love to know what you think and if it helped you in any way!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When REFLECT was finally published. In a flash, I went from owning more than a thousand books to becoming an author! Listen, we all have a story to tell. You never know how you might help someone by sharing it!
Amazon Author website: Amazon.com: Maria Lizza Bowen: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle