It was great this week to be welcomed by Brooke Warner as a SheWrites author! I'm so pleased to be part of this group and to have a professional team mentoring my book through its stages to publish my new edition of Don't Call Me Mother. Every book, and author, has a history of how the book came to be, its growth and development, which I'll share here.
I was not a "writer" yet, nor did I know the fine points about story structure, writing a memoir, or dealing with the emotional ups and downs of memoir writing when I started writing the story of three generations of mothers who abandoned their daughters in the early 1990s. I even thought that I was writing a novel--memoir was not "In" in those days--until I was told that the antics and reactions of my mother and grandmother, which went from dish throwing to dramatic rants, were so unbelievable that they were over-exaggerations. I said, "But it's all true." They said, "In fiction, it doesn't matter what's true. It's has to be believable." I realized I had to take on writing this book as true and not stand behind the fictional wall.
The journey of the book begins with me as a five year old who is living with my mother's mother, Gram, because my mother left when I was four. I missed my beautiful mother, who visited once a year, each visit punctuated by fights between her and Gram, the legacy no doubt of Gram having left my mother when she was a girl. We all know that girls and women are profoundly shaped by the emotional legacies of the family--I was etched by a deep loneliness along with a profound desire to change the legacy of abandonment.
In every dark story, and in every life there are the uplifting blessings of those who understand and inspire a child to hold onto hope. For me, it was my cello teacher Mr. Brauninger, whose love of music and joy showed me a way to survive and thrive; my Grandmother's friend Aunt Helen, whose down home food, belly laugh, and warm hugs gave me a home away from home to relieve the tension in my house with Gram, who gradually changed from a rescuer to being irrational and frequently abusive.
Preferring to be cheerful and positive about life despite the pattern that unknowingly I was woven into, I launched myself into adulthood in the era of the sixties and seventies, determined NOT to be Gram and mother. It was a good era in which to learn about personal development and spiritual progress, though we all know that promises to the Self to change deep patterns can take some detours along the way. I wanted to learn how to love and how to forgive. I saw how Mother and Gram never forgave each other for their wounds, and they both died unhappy and in mental illness, undiagnosed in their lifetimes.
When my book was finally finished--I grew and healed as I wrote it--I thought my tale weaving the dark and the light, the successes and failures of a changing legacy of mothers and daughters could inspire others to continue their journey to find peace and forgiveness. In this new edition, I share with the reader the legacy my daughter is passing down to her children--love, acceptance, and heartful joy as a result of the years we have spent weaving a new story.
As the founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers, I present programs to members and to the public that address the challenges of memoir writing that I encountered and offer teleseminars, audios, and workshops to help other memoir writers. Memoir writing is a path of growth and inspiration for many, and I love being involved and getting acquainted with other writers! Sign up for the free newsletter at www.namw.org.