Featured Author: Deborah L. Parker

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Your journey.  The road you’re on.  Following your chosen path.

Do these metaphors sometimes describe your outlook on life’s evolving Parker Covercircumstances?  And we don’t embark on just one road, path or journey — we travel many, and in multiple directions, each unfolding maps that define our unique stories.

In Navigating Life’s Roadways, Deborah L. Parker segments her life’s roads, journeys and paths into narratives revealing an insightful and inspirational personal odyssey.

Parker’s chronicles begin in her rural hometown in Virginia during the 1960s Civil Rights era.  She steers you through the battles and triumphs of her college years, Army and private sector careers, and current ownership of a leadership training firm.

Parker PhotoIf you’re trying to decide what to do with the debris and gems we tend to pick up along life’s roadways, Parker guides you.  You will relate to the allegories of her treks through headwinds and tailwinds of family, career, fun, health and relationships.  Although your details and dilemmas may differ, Parker encourages you to push on.

Navigating Life’s Roadways is available in print and as an ebook.  Learn more here.

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Interview with Stephanie Schroeder, author of Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide

Stephanie Schroeder is a queer feminist writer based in Brooklyn, New York.  She is an independent mental illness awareness activist and advocate for social and economic justice. Her political essays have been anthologized in the classic queer anthology That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation as well as Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage. Schroeder is a Contributing Editor at Curve Magazine. Her memoir, Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide, is her first book.

beautiful wreck coverOne of the things I’m really interested in as a memoirist myself is the process and documentation of memory. Did you have any of the clarity and self-reflection with which you write when you were actually experiencing particular situations, or only afterward when drafting of the book?

On the occasion I had a glimpse, a second, or maybe a minute, to reflect on a specific situation and think to myself “this is wrong” or “I don’t want to be in this position.” But, it took forever to get out of those terrible situations. Mostly because I didn’t have all the information — or any outside help. I was often isolated by my most intimate relationships, by design of others and for their own purposes. I think what you might be asking is how can memory ever be accurate or even how can any writer recreate the past through memoir.

I kept journals for the entire time span of my book and re-reading that documentation helped a lot in my writing process. I used a sprinkling of entries from one journal to locate folks in my world and in my mind at that time. I don’t think, though, that anyone needs prior documentation to write a memoir. Writers, storytellers and others know what happened to them and can recreate it on the page, including dialogue that actually took place. For me, this stuff was burned into my memory. My memory. It’s likely others I mentioned in Beautiful Wreck have different recollections of some of the same circumstances.

Your book is an autobiographical account. One of the things I know a lot of writers wrestle with is whether or not to fictionalize their stories. What made you choose memoir as the genre in which to tell your story?

I cannot imagine fictionalizing my life. With Beautiful Wreck, mainstream agents and publishers were already skeptical that my content was actually true. “All of this really happened to you?” they would ask incredulously. What charmed lives they must lead!

Meanwhile, I wanted my story to be what it was: raw, brutal, and darkly humorous, and I felt I could only do that with memoir. Plus, I hardly ever read fiction, so it’s not a genre I am at all familiar with. And, it paid off, the memoir part. I have received great reader feedback, folks write to me several time a week to let me know how much they enjoyed my book or how it has helped them rethink their own lives, relationships and health.

I received a particularly great review from Velvetpark editorial director, Marcie Bianco: Beautiful Wreck was one of the most compelling, smoothly written books I’ve read this year. And it is arguably one of the better queer autobio-memoirs out there. Period.”

Stephanie_Schroeder_1_photo_by_Maeghan_Donohue

Author Stephanie Schroeder. Photo by Maeghan Donohue.

Positive response from both readers and reviewers is the stuff that makes it worth opening myself up and putting my story out into the world.

Since you choose memoir as the genre in which to tell your story, were you at all afraid about what might happen with those whom you write about in your book?

I changed everyone’s name except for one — a public figure who has blurbed my book. I didn’t really think beyond the fact that I needed to change names only to avoid a hassle, and to protect the person in the story who is still a minor.

Since you mention the minor, Michael, the child you raised with your former partner and left when you left the relationship with her, how has reaction to that part of your story been, either in the media or in responses from readers?

Actually no one has ever said anything about him or the situation. No press has asked me about it and readers have said little, maybe something such as “how dare that bitch force you into parenthood,” but that’s it. However, that is the part I worried about most. Because women who don’t want children or “abandon” them–for lack of a better term–are seen as monsters.

Though, when Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, author of Hiroshima in the Morning, admitted that she “didn’t want to mother anymore” and gave custody of her kids to her ex-husband, it made headlines everywhere and she sold a ton of books!

I never wanted to parent, I was under the influence of an abusive person and was also mentally ill without a diagnosis or assistance to stabilize my moods or my life. And, I haven’t sold a ton of books because of it, by the way!

Were you ever afraid to tell people you were bipolar and when you did, how did they react? What are people’s reactions to you when you disclose now?

Of course, it’s terrifying to come out as mentally ill, especially in the workplace. I’ve had some bad workplace experiences where I was discriminated against in ways that I could not prove legally, but I know to be the case. I’m out as a feminist, I’ve been out as a lesbian since I was 19, but coming out as bipolar is another beast altogether.

I haven’t even discussed the book or my illness with my boss. She knows I’ve published a book, but I don’t know whether she has read it or what she thinks about me or the book if she has read it. I’m certainly not going to ask her. Everything about me is now hanging out in my book, on my website, on my Facebook page, etc. I cannot avoid people knowing, and don’t want to either, and yet I still do not always disclose to people who don’t already know. It’s just a really, really difficult thing to do because of the stigma surrounding mental illness.

You mention in the book the staggering cost of medication and therapy, and call out the U.S. healthcare system. Can you talk about that?

You ‘d better believe it, sister. All that yakking costs money, but it’s so totally worth it. Seriously, without psychotherapy with an excellent therapist (and there are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of really bad therapists!) I wouldn’t be alive, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be happy! Meds are the same story. I need them, they keep me stable, and I don’t really have many negative side effects like a lot of folks do. But, I also don’t have health insurance and the anti-psychotic I take, Abilify, costs $1,000 a month and that’s down from $1,400 just a few years ago. It’s going off patent soon, but it will take years for the price to drop substantially. I cannot get along without it. I tried for a while and felt myself falling back into the abyss. My psychiatrist used to give me samples, but newer drugs are on the market now and there are no more samples of Abilify for me. I’ve put out a call on social media for people with leftover Abilify to get in touch.  Several people have, and I have a stash, but it’s not going to last forever.

It’s a damn shame that in a rich country like ours we are, for the most part, denied healthcare unless we can afford it. And I can’t afford it most of the time. I am living paycheck-to- paycheck just like most people I know.

What are you working on now?

People keep asking if there is going to be more about me, another memoir, or something similar. I know my book is slim and there is a lot left out of my story, which spans more than 15 years, but the really important stuff is in the book. The rest are anecdotes: funny, horrible, beautiful, painful…. I can talk about hundreds of stories, incidents, scenes.  I wrote exactly what I did to convey the essence of my life specifically, but also to illustrate what severe depression and wild mania feel like and how they manifest. There will be no more books about me. I don’t want to be a “disease author”, I have other fish to fry.

Currently, I’m trying to leverage my book and my work as a mental illness awareness activist into a paid speaking career. I also have another book in mind. It’s about a friend of mine who died a few years ago. He was a noted illustrator who worked at Grove Press in the 50s and only illustrated for progressive publications. He lived for 30+ years as an ex-pat in Holland and I think a biography or appreciation about him would be extremely interesting.

To find out more about Beautiful Wreck: Sex. Lies & Suicide, go to www.beautifulwreck.com. You can buy it in paperback on Amazon as well as for Kindle or on BN.com for your Nook.

Featured Author: Belinda Nicoll

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outofsyncIn 2001, when a couple leaves South Africa for a stay abroad, they land at JFK International Airport on September 11th, unprepared for the sight of smoke billowing from the Manhattan skyline, and the horror of a second plane exploding into the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

Over the next ten years, as their host country confronts fundamental change of its own, their marriage buckles under the strain of their disparate experiences. With the international economic crisis making it all but impossible for them to return to their country, they relocate from California to the North, the South, and the Midwest searching for a place they can call home.

Against the backdrop of uncertainties in post-apartheid South Africa, Belinda Nicoll unfolds a contemporary and thought-provoking account of post-9/11 America’s tantalizing hopes and unexpected disappointments. Out of Sync is her insightful memoir about marital endurance that promises to enthrall anyone, expatriate or not, who has ever felt at odds with themselves or the world.

Belinda Nicoll is originally from South Africa. She expatriated to the United States in 2001, became a resident in 2004, and has held dual citizenship since 2010. She and her husband, Bruce, love traveling and share a keen interest in cultural diversity. Their journeys and careers have taken them through large parts of Southern Africa and America, Europe, Ireland, Canada, the Middle East, Mexico, and to exotic islands such as Mauritius, Phuket, The Comores, St. Thomas, and St. John. Belinda holds a BA degree in the social sciences and an MFA in Creative Writing. She was a talent agent and drama coach before venturing into the advertising world as copywriter and client service director. These days, she works as a teacher of creative writing and will soon complete her first novel, an epic mystery set in South Africa and the U.S., spanning four generations and exploring concepts of shamanism, archaeology, and intergenerational shame.

Out of Sync is available from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Kalahari (S.A.) and of course, from Amazon.

Featured Author: Sheila Hageman

wtmrn featured author logoSheila Hageman is a 41-year-old mother of three from Stratford, Connecticut who has defied all odds. A former stripper and nude model, she later became a college valedictorian and wrote Stripping Down: A Memoir (2012, Pink Fish Press).  Here’s what Sheila has to say about her debut memoir:

At twelve years old, everything changed for me with the discovery of my estranged father’s porn collection. Found locked away in a corner of the basement, the glossy images ignited in me an unrehagemanlenting desire for attention and adoration. I lost sight of my dream of being a writer and became obsessed with exercise, working out every day for hours and barely eating. I became that which I thought men adored—a stripper and a nude model.

Many years later when I discovered my mother had breast cancer, I was faced with who I had become and what I had used my body for. I quit stripping and returned to college to graduate as valedictorian; I also became a yoga teacher through which I learned how to take good care of my body and not be obsessive in my looks. I began writing again and then went to graduate school for my MFA in Creative Writing. At that time, reflections on my past as a stripper permeated my thoughts as I took on the new roles of mother, caregiver and wife. While helping my baby daughter take her first steps, I nursed my mother through the final stages of breast cancer and truly faced who I had become and who I had been. The resulting memoir, Stripping Down, was finally published in February of 2012. I am living my dream of writing everyday and helping other women to reach their own dream through exploring their lives in words.

Stripping Down can be purchased here.

Featured Author: Katherine “Cookie” Jones

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Katherine “Cookie” Jones wrote and published a memoir titled I Know a Way Out.  She describes it this way:

featured author jones I Know a Way Out is an account of my life’s journey towards a sense of peace and fulfillment, culminating in personal acceptance of a greater power that resides in all of us.  Emphasizing issues relating to family, much of my work centers on my experiences and interactions in the household of my aunt and uncle after the deaths of my parents, six months apart. While I had a connection with my aunt, my relationship with my uncle posed numerous challenges as a result of his pattern of sexual abuse, beginning when I was a young child and lasting through my teen years. As I moved into my twenties, I began to find some measure of independence through my career path, but events took a downward turn when my uncle decided that I should move out of the home in which I was raised.  Later, I describe starting a new life with my husband, Jay, but this association failed to provide the happiness that I desired.  In concluding sections of I Know a Way Out, I portray the events of my present, depicting a new life with my “stranger” as well as the spiritual re-awakening that I experienced at the age of thirty-one. Although grounded on a level of despair and uncertainty, this narrative frequently injects a spirit of hope based on my personal faith. As a whole, I wish to inspire the reader by rendering the notion that spirituality will furnish the power to transcend the relative limitations that life may present.”

You can read I Know a Way Out in paperback, or on your Kindle:

Buy the paperback here.

Buy the Kindle edition here.

Featured Author: Charles A. Filius

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Charles A. Filius has written his stories — and now they’re available for all the world to share.  Proof that real people are writing their memoirs right now!

FiliusSelections from On A Wing & A Prayer, which is a forerunner to a larger project, was published in 2007. It is a collection of humorous and poignant essays documenting the author’s spiritual journey. He has chronicled the day-to-day existence of a befuddled and sometimes reluctant medium from the point of being a total non-believer to being one of the most unique mediums working today. There’s one thing Filius has learned that’s a constant in life – and in death: you must learn to laugh. And nobody knows that better than dead people. Life is the ultimate joke and the dead actually get it.

Dailies: Day-To-Day Reminders from My Spirit Guides was published in December, 2011. This 405-page channeled volume serves up daily messages of inspiration, encouragement, introspection and, of course, laughter. The voices of the author’s Guides are quite distinctive and diverse. Their channeled words give unique momentary glimpses into their personalities as well as their own heightened perspectives. Filius discovered over time that not all Spirit Guides see everything the same way. They are as much individuals now as energy as they were as physical beings. And, like us, they are still learning. It truly is an on-going process.

Purchase here:

Selections from On A Wing & A Prayer

Dailies: Day-To-Day Reminders from My Spirit Guides

Promote Your Memoir — Be a Featured Author!

Read My Hips reading & book signing at Barnes & Noble

Here’s a reading/booksigning I did for my memoir Read My Hips at Barnes & Noble.

Looking for a publisher for your memoir manuscript?

Or are you looking for the very readers who will LOVE your self-published memoir about carving presidents’ profiles in grains of rice?

Whatever you’re looking for, you just might get it — especially if you’re chosen as a featured author, right here on the Write That Memoir Right Now blog!

Starting immediately, I want to help you expose your memoir (or memoir-in-progress) to the reading universe.  Tell me about your memoir!

  • What’s the title?
  • Is it finished yet?
  • Is it for sale?
  • What’s it about?

Send a brief message.  If I tap you to be featured, I’ll get in touch with you about posting an image of your book cover, a link to where it’s for sale (if it’s already published), and possibly an excerpt. You just might find yourself — and your fabulous memoir — featured right here on the Write That Memoir Right Now blog.  And who knows where that might lead!

So c’mon — let’s get this party started!

— Kim