Age has granted me the clarity needed to comprehend something that has plagued my understanding since I was very young. Even as a six-year-old I remember watching people hurt. I remember watching those hurt people turn away and push away those people they longed to be close to.
I understood, as a teenager, that the reason for this was primarily fear of rejection. Never short on hubris, or words, I have attempted to open their eyes to the fact that they hold the power to end their own pain and the pain of others by reaching out to them. I have achieved varying degrees of success, understandably. I need people to understand that they can change everything by turning toward people and sharing their fears and passions. That by sharing our fears and passions we open the floor to others to do the same, bolstering them by our courage.
What age has finally granted me is the knowledge that reaching out to others when one is afraid requires a profound amount of courage that most people cannot summon. And, that when a person (of any age) can and does summon the courage, one must act to recognize it for what it is, no matter the outcome.
The unshakable faith and fervor of a convert is insufferable. I know, because I am one.
The reason I think the faith of convert is unshakable is that they have often been through something for which God had to intervene, personally. Faith, for a convert, is less about blind belief and more about personal experience.
I am Catholic.
I became a Catholic, surrounded by Mormons. While the LDS people I grew up around carried some of the strongest testimonies of faith, it was the hand of Christ himself who put me on the path I am on.
At 12 years old, I had already been seeking a home church. I begged every person I knew that went to church to take me to theirs. I got dressed up on Sundays and Wednesday nights and went tagalong to any services I could go to. In the meantime, I read the Bible and holy books from many other churches: the Book of Mormon, the Talmud, the Quran, and all the literature from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. By the time I was 14 I began to flounder. None of the messages I heard, none of the scriptures I read, none of the lessons I followed spoke to my heart the way prayer did. I wanted church to feel like prayer, like a connection between me and God.
I already had faith that God existed, loved me, and saw each person as valuable; no matter whether their clothes fit or not. I knew that God loved me (and everyone) and cared about what we did with our lives. No one could take that away. I had faith that there were Godly people in every church, but I could not always find them. I wanted a church where the people treated each other like God would, with love and acceptance, and I wasn’t finding it.
On the verge of giving up, I told my best friend about my search and how it was failing. We were at a bus stop on 2100 so and 500 East at 5:30 AM, like we had been every day of high school.
She pondered for a minute and said “Have you been here?” She nodded at the church building right behind us.
“No,” I replied, looking up at the unique building. It said “St. Anne’s Catholic Parish.” I blanched at the idea of anyone named “Anne” being saintly, but mused about the name and how it might be a sign.
I knew that my grandfather had been Catholic, but I had never known any personally.
“I don’t know anyone there.”
“We’ll go with you,” my friend said, volunteering her family to go with us.
We got all dressed up and met at the front doors of the church on Sunday. Crowds of people were filing into the building, and we tried to act confident as we followed them in. I was stunned to see cigarette ashtrays outside the doors. I was also stunned to see that many other people were there in shorts and T-shirts, which would’ve been far more comfortable than my long dress in the June heat.
We found a place to sit along the middle of the room and sat back to listen and watch. We knew nothing of the service. It was startling that the congregation participated in the prayers and responded to the priest, though I didn’t know that’s what he was called. Because I didn’t know enough about the service at the time, I couldn’t say just when during the mass it happened. What I can say is that I was sitting. I looked up at the suspended statue of the ascension of Christ over the altar and was overwhelmed with a vision. Instead of sitting in the church I was suddenly standing in a field, a meadow. As I spun around in the field, feeling the warm sun on my face and a breeze against my skin, looking around at paradise; I saw Jesus. He saw me and threw back his head laughing, then opened his arms to hug me. As he wrapped his arms around me, still smiling, he said “Welcome home.”
I came back from that vision, determined to join the church. It was not easy for a 14 year old girl to jump through all the hoops required. Just finding godparents was complicated. But after two years, I was finally baptized and confirmed.
Which Church (if any) a person belongs to is a very personal choice. I would never proselytize and tell others that being Catholic is right for them. For many years, being a convert was very difficult. Like being a Muggle born witch, I felt so far behind all the people who had been born and raised Catholic. Eventually, I found my footing and my place and I’ve never looked back. For me, I know I was home. It’s the only home I’ve ever really found.
I now have a completed manuscript. My memoir project is moving from the ‘writing’ stage to the ‘editing’ stage and tiptoeing into the ‘querying’ stage, too.
Nearly two years ago, I set a goal of completing the memoir that I promised myself I would write 30 years ago. Over those two years, I have had to take large breaks during the writing process. The work has been difficult. I needed time to think, heal, and learn. Despite being a capable writer, I needed to hone the tone and voice I was using. I’ve also done a great deal of learning about website creation and management, the publishing industry, and even looked into self-publishing. I have learned how to research agents, how to craft a query package, and tried to ignore the daunting statistics about first-time authors.
I know that I am meant to publish this work. I will. It’s only a matter of when.
Last month I attended an online event called the Boston Writer’s Conference. During that day I met with an agent via zoom. She liked my idea and asked me to send her the full manuscript. It was a big day and might eventually turn into something, though I haven’t heard back yet. Since sending it I have pressed on, sending the manuscript to an editor as I had planned. I now have it back, with some great feedback. I plan to revise it again as soon as I manage household logistics that have been hovering. After revising again I will look into sending my query package to new agents. (For those of you who wonder: an agent helps sell rights to publishers/media and is an invaluable partner in the traditional publishing process.)
I have chosen, at least for now, to publish traditionally because I want the reach that can only be granted when you have teams marketing with you. I know that publishing this work will lead to many opportunities to spread awareness and create positive change. I don’t know the path yet, but I have faith: I am focused on success. I’m waiting for signs from Creator about where to turn next as I work to complete yet another round of revisions.
You are what keeps me going. Though I have no set deadlines or timetables, I want you to know that I am moving forward. I want to say “thank you” to everyone following along and giving me a reason to keep working.
Throughout the process of writing and revising I have relied on many amazing people to read sections and offer advice. I want to mention both Katrina Ray-Saulis and Borbala Branch, who are amazing editors that offer useful insights and reasonable rates. Please reach out to either if you need an editor? (I can’t promise they will be available.)
Until I know more, that is all for now. Stay healthy, keep moving toward your dreams.
“The answer is ‘no’ if you don’t try” – Translated Dutch proverb.
For most, it is either that they are a celebrity or near-celebrity and want to share an intimate look of life behind-the scenes, or they have a particular brand of traumatic experience and want to share that. Of the latter, there are also at least two categories. The ones I recognize are ‘writing for therapy’ and ‘writing from hope.” I’m trying very hard to write from hope; a sense of hope that comes from having made a life for myself despite my early circumstances.
It’s my childish hope that one day my story might shed a little light into the dark places of another’s hardest moments. Be they in the past or present, there is a chance that those times can be made a little easier for others by reading about my determination to thrive.
It keeps me writing.
But, the writing process is fraught with triggers. I am intentionally looking into my own darkest moments, dusting them off and making them look brand-new for my reader’s viewing.
How does a writer work to take care of themselves as they willingly put themselves through that process on a daily basis? We all know about prayer, meditation, and yoga. I’m a mom-of-four, if I try to do yoga I typically end up with kids climbing on me. Prayer and meditation are hard with the constant screaming and interruptions.
I’ve looked for years and collected some of the best bits of other advice on how to recover from triggers. I’ve paid attention to what has worked to get me back to writing. Some have worked well; others have not. There is little rhyme or reason to the success or failure of any method, because each trigger and person is unique. My advice is to try them out and see what works best for you.
Take a break: This works, but doesn’t help you get back to it if it turns into days or weeks.
Take a walk: Did not work for me. The more you walk, the farther you are from home.
Take a drink: I mean alcohol. This works, in moderation. I don’t like to “write drunk, edit sober.”
Breathe: This works to bring me down one notch, but it is not effective if I need to come down ten notches.
Change your temperature: This gem of advice from my therapist has been a game-changer. Get a cold cloth on your face, or warm sweater and socks on your body. It really helps shut down the physiological trigger process and helps me get back to center.
Eat/drink: Really, how many of us forget to eat and drink enough while writing. Hunger and thirst can be triggers all by themselves. Self-care means feeding yourself!
Call someone: Do you already have friends or family that support you through the process? Find someone you can call and talk to about your process. It will make your writing better.
Journal: Not for the memoir, but just to get out all the thoughts and feelings you have that need to get out of the way before you can get back to writing good, concise stories.
Watch mindless TV: Shut down your brains and dissociate! You have permission. Sometimes it can be very good to let go and let your brain work on it for a while. I have found it is much easier to go back and edit/finish writing that triggering piece after I have stewed on it awhile.
Read something unrelated: For the same reason as mindless TV, but possibly more productive as reading helps to develop your voice. I also find that reading helps my own stories bubble up. Twice this week I have put down a book to write a story that needs to be added.
Take a bath/shower: I think this works, in part, because it changes your temperature. I think it also helps to clear the air, ground out negative energy, and reset the mind. It can also help you to feel better about your appearance, which can give you an added boost.
If you have more coping strategies or want to share how these worked for you, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
To read a memoir is to immerse oneself in the life, and trauma, of another person. If doing so also triggers flashbacks of my own trauma, it can take me weeks to recover. I generally take care to avoid or prepare for such experiences.
As happened with The Glass Castle, this story surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it. I joined a group of women in my town who all agreed to read it. We were given a timeframe and planned to hold a discussion once we were all done. It sounded like a fun way to maybe meet some new friends. I hadn’t read the blurb. I agreed to read it, knowing nothing about the subject matter. Despite the surprise at how triggering the content could be, I am so glad I did.
Tara Westover was raised by parents who ascribed to some of the more radical beliefs I knew to be part of the LDS faith. I met some people like them growing up in the Utah/Idaho area. I even share some of their desire to be self-sufficient and to be prepared for ‘the worst.” It was strange to read her story and identify with both the author and her family at times, given the divide between them today.
Like mine, her story is one of leaving all she knew and held dear as a child to reprogram herself: to decide for herself what was right, good, and valuable. We also both lost many of the family relationships we valued in our process of becoming who we are now. I honestly hope to meet Ms. Westover one day, share a glass of wine and talk over who she is today. Her story is inspiring and stays with me. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Domestic violence is the most common killer of women around the world. (Global study on Homicide, Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls, U.N. publication, Vienna, 2018). We know this. It’s not a surprise. Leaving a domestic violence situation is most deadly in the first two weeks, but a few very determined men continue to find ways to abuse their wives, ex-wives, partners, and children even after they successfully leave.
For Lizbeth Merideth, nothing could have prepared her for what happened. She got away. She had custody of her daughters, though the courts insisted on allowing their father unsupervised visitation despite his severe violence against her. She had a gut feeling it was the wrong choice but she was following the court order when she allowed him to take the girls for what should have been a weekend visit.
Years later, across oceans and borders, she fights to find and rescue her daughters. This is the subject of “Pieces of me,” her story of how she eventually recovers her girls and brings them home.
I particularly love the honest account of her struggle to reconnect with her daughters after years of parental alienation and across a language barrier. It is well worth the read. I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think in the comments below.
I promise you, I’m working hard. I’m very close to completing the draft writing process but there are so many more steps. Editing of the first chapters is underway and they are turning out so much better. Thanks for sticking with me!!!
I found this video and I’m struggling to decide what to do about publishing now. (I already have an agent/publisher I have spoken with and have a shortlist of others to query if I decide on that route, so take those warnings with that in mind).
I’m so ready to have a copy in my hands. I promise I’ll get one in yours as soon as it’s ready! I may offer pre-sales soon, with some bonus material on a Kickstarter or other campaign. What would you think about that?
If you have not read Jaycee Dugard’s Memior “A Stolen Life,” you should.
You may remember that her life was changed forever when she was kidnapped one morning on her way to the bus stop. The world watched in shock 18 years later when she walked into an FBI office with her two daughters and the kidnappers that had posed as her ‘parents’ while keeping her prisoner in a backyard full of tents and trash. She writes an unflinching account of her ordeal and how she managed to hold onto hope in the direst of circumstances. Hers is a tale of resilience and hope.
This memoir was published by Simon and Schuster (2011).
A memoir that was really striking was The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. I found it very difficult to read because many of Jeanette’s experiences were raw, real, and far too familiar for me.
I chose this story from a list in college and completed a review assignment on it for my Human Behavior course. It was and has remained a beacon of hope for me. Not only because she survived and created a wonderful life for herself, but because she was able to share her story with so many people. I truly hope to be able to share mine like that, someday.
Jeanette lives a transient existence as a child, suffering due to the careless and ineffectual parenting of her flighty artist mother and mercurial father. His lofty plan to build a glass castle for them all to live in entrances her as a child, but develops into a symbol of disappointment. Her strength and resolve lead her to a successful life doing what she loves. This has given me hope for many years. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.
One of the first memoirs I read after watching the movie it was based upon was this one.
Homer was a young boy growing up in a coal town in the ’60s. He met JFK while he was campaigning and went in to experiment in amateur rocketry. The movie “October Sky” was based on the story, but this book is much better than the movie. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️.