The Final Piece of Me/Meeting My Brother After Five Decades and Other Adventures on My Book Tour

 

I mopped my floor with zeal.

This was how I knew my recent two week trip to Kentucky and Indiana, a combined book event and family reunion, was a success. Moments after getting home after sixteen hours of travel including layovers I was home, diving in to chores I often dread.

What a trip it was. I wish you could have been there. First, there was time with my niece and her kids, and with my sister, her mom. Then Great Day Live with the amazing Rachel Platt. What a terrific opportunity, and how lucky was I that my brother Danny encouraged me to reach out to her.

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Then time with my brother, more nieces and nephews, a cherished ritual of driving to family reunion with my favorite aunts, family reunion, and more sister/ brother time. And a trip to Berea, a place I’ve felt a magnetic pull to, was the icing on the cake.

But the single thing I’ll never forget was my book event itself at Barnes & Noble. The arrival of family, one by one. Some I knew. Some I’d never met. And I finally got to meet my brother Bill.

It had been five decades since I’d seen Bill. I was a wee one when we were separated, and don’t remember he and I hanging out as kids. But he did.
And then on June 8th, thanks to the intervention of my sister Maddy, I got to meet him. The final introduction. No more missing pieces in my sibling puzzle. Sure, I blubbered as I read from my memoir about a time when I was looking for my little girls in Greece without the benefit of family. But they were good tears. Tears of appreciation for the family Alaska was to me, and tears of joy for the family I later fell in love with. My big, loveable, sometimes dysfunctional, always colorful family.

Never did I believe I’d meet all of my missing siblings. We’d been scattered across the country growing up. But it happened. And it was spectacular.

Returning to Alaska, I tackled my little life with gusto. I mopped. Slept a bit. Went to a memorial service of my daughter’s old kindergarten classmate. And slid in to my first tango lesson. More relaxed and centered than I’ve been in a long, long time.

Thank you for  joining me today. Thank you always for the Facebook shares and online reviews also.

Next stop: Washington, then Sitka after a summer break.


Smile Before It’s Over

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Dr. Seuss

Just as I was packing for my Portland book event, I got the call that a friend died. Jim was more than a friend. To my little girls, he was a hero that defended their right to safety when they were in Greece, a rare rescuer who tried to stay in regular touch with them as they grew to be women. A great lawyer. An even better uncle. We will miss him, and will always be grateful for his love and support.
Portland was a comfort. From my hostel owners to the bookstore owner (thank you, Elisa at Another Read Through!) to the community at large and the other authors from She Writes Press, I couldn’t have had a more restful/low stress venue.
Me with memoirists Marianne Lile, Karen Meadows, and Nadine Kenney Johnstone.
This May I joined Zonta International, and am excited at the many people and possibilities that membership will provide to work empowering women and children around the globe. Since Zonta has chapters virtually everywhere, the opportunities will follow me into retirement, wherever I am.
Just when I was sure books sales would climb with time, Amazon has found a way to sell books without compensating authors and publishers. If you Google it, you’ll read about the crushing news this is to the publishing world.  Deep sigh.
Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters is a finalist for the International Book Awards! That, and a finalist for the USA Best Book Awards and a silver medalist for the IPPY’s in memoir/personal struggles. If I had endless personal leave and cash, I’d be flying to New York right now for the fancy IPPY ceremonies. Instead I’m plugging away at work and other writing projects, excited about next week’s event in Louisville Kentucky, the city of my birth. I’ve not ever had two sides of my family under one roof. I’m sure I’ll be a nervous wreck in the moment, but for now, it’s exciting to think about.
And that’s life in a nutshell. Still loving book groups and other events, but finding time for rest. Eight months after publication, I’m able to finally take a deep breath and look at both my book life and my regular life with calm energy. I stayed in my PJ’s last Saturday until 3PM and made myself an amazing smoothie, and was mindful to appreciate each ingredient-the spinach, the avocado, the raspberries, and the chia seeds. I let myself listen to my cats purr and didn’t worry about the messy house.
If you have friends or family in Louisville, Kentucky, please tell them I’ll be at Barnes and Noble-Hurstbourne soon! And I’ll speak with Rachel Platt at Great Day Live! even sooner.
 Life zips by quickly. It will forever be a mixed bag. It is so important to make a point of smiling before it’s over.
Thank you for your support.

Remembering the Magic of When a Community Unites

March used to be one of those months for me that held dreadful anniversary dates.

We all have those dates. Whether it’s the dreaded anniversary of a death, or a divorce anniversary, or maybe even a natural disaster like a hurricane, there are the dates that split our lives in two. There was life before the traumatic event, and life after the traumatic event.

I left my husband on March 5, 1990. He abducted our daughters on March 13, 1994.

There was life before the abduction. There was life after the abduction.

This March, I’ve been busy with book events related to my memoir. The events have given me time to think not just about those anniversary dates, but the phenomenal amount of kindness my family was gifted that helped put trauma back in our rear-view mirror.

My coworkers at the battered women’s shelter donated their leave. Friends threw every kind of fundraiser imaginable to help with expenses. My Alaskan lawyers donated their time and resources, and then my Greek friends donated their time and opened their homes to me. People of diverse backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, and ages worked along one another to help us achieve the impossible. When I look back on that awful period in my life, I am filled with gratitude.

What is it about a disaster that brings out the best in people? And would I have the same experience today, in this age of social media where too often we camp up and talk about each other rather than to each other?

Often, people do show up when help is needed. Think of a car accident with people inside a smoldering vehicle.  A human is in peril. In that moment, it’s all that matters.

Alaskans have long had a rich history of helping one another, especially in the 90’s when my daughters were kidnapped. The weather, the location, the physical isolation serve as reminders that we need each other to survive.

After the girls and I returned from Greece in 1996, we resumed living small, quiet lives. And then two decades later, as I began promoting Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, all the memories came back. Not just the bad memories, but the beautiful memories of all the grace and love we’ve received.

I wish we didn’t need to go through hard times or traumatic events for people to unite for a common goal. But I’m so fortunate to have once been witness to the miracle of unity inside my community, both in the states and overseas. And to have commemorated that period in my book makes me both humbled and proud.

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of my daughters’ kidnapping. A reminder that I am one of the lucky parents whose kids returned.

Thank you for being a part of my story.

 

 

 

And Contentment for All/Reflections from a Protest-Weary Woman


I surprised myself by getting a little protective of my estranged mother at a book event recently as I answered  readers questions. While my mother made a complicated and fascinating character in my memoir as she did in life, I know it wasn’t only her children she made miserable.

By the time my memoir Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters was published, I was years past being angry with her for her wackadoodle and sometimes sadistic parenting. It helped to assume she was mentally ill, and to look at the time from whence she came.

Being stuck in a trailer full of their unending demands threatened to choke the life right out of her. She fancied herself a Hollywood starlet waiting to be discovered. But the discovery never happened, and her home became littered with ungrateful children.—page 78.

My mother was born in a time when women’s choices were defined by gender. The expectations of women were, in short:

To marry. To have children. To be satisfied with being married and having children. To turn the other cheek when struck by the father of those children. To accept having as many children as she became pregnant with.

That didn’t turn out too good for those who had different wants.

Not everyone is cut out to be married, and not all people are built for parenting. Just ask my mom. Better yet, ask any of her children.

When I went away to college in my late teens, I first heard the term feminism. It surely didn’t fit into my then-conservative belief system. Sure, I was pursuing an education to do something beyond having children, like working, but I was no feminist. Or was I?
When I looked up the definition of feminism in the dictionary, I found it to be pretty simple:

The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

Oh. That’s it? Nothing in there about not liking men or rejecting God like I’d been told feminism was. Just a simple belief that we should have equal rights and opportunities.

Today, I shudder when I hear young women today disavow feminism. “I’m not a feminist, but…”

Do you enjoy the right to vote? I want to ask them. Are you glad you can work and have kids, or not have kids? Or have kids and stay home with them?  Are you tickled that you can stick with having pets instead of children? Pleased not to replicate 19 Kids and Counting unless you want to? And are you grateful that it’s no longer legal in the US for a husband to beat his wife?

In this loud and divisive time in history, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant images of protests. Then I’m reminded of role protesting has played in our nation’s history, and that those who’ve historically risked their lives for our freedoms weren’t only soldiers. They were also the soldier’s brave and sometimes unruly wives and mothers and sisters who wanted better for us all.

I like to imagine who my mom would have been had she been born a generation or so later. I picture her as an artist of some sort, living a quiet yet contented life, although given some of  her other issues, that’s  unrealistic.  Still, I remain committed to appreciating mine, a most imperfect life filled with more work than I can  accomplish balanced with a spectrum of friend and familial relationships and hobbies of my choosing with no pressure to get remarried.

And I want nothing less for my own daughters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks always for stopping by.

 

The Collateral Beauty of This Christmas Season

It’s deep December, and I’m a bit late in checking in.

Then again, I’m also late on Christmas shopping and cards and decorating and the like. But I’ve found my Christmas cheer and am enjoying myself silly instead of feeling engulfed in guilt about my failings.

Yesterday, I saw Collateral Beauty at the theater with a friend. It’s a sweet film with a not too subtle message that has always resonated with me: In the middle of a tragedy or even a prolonged period of bleakness, don’t forget to look around for the splendor that’s right there in the middle of it.

I’m pretty good at finding collateral beauty in the midst of tragedy, having had much practice. But when life is simply too busy, or when it’s dark out around the clock in Alaska, or when my car stops working, it’s a different story. The little stuff bugs me. A lot.

But lately, I’ve found myself at so many events related to my memoir this season, recounting the endless acts of collateral beauty I’ve experienced. I can’t remember a time when I’ve cried more or felt so vulnerable. And so grateful.

Just this  week, I met with two classes of high-schoolers for a discussion about the book and on recognizing signs of unhealthy relationships. Their insights were both sharp and gentle. I was in a daylong online dialogue on We Love Memoirs, and  finished the week with a book signing at Kaladi Brother’s Coffee, my second home and the place where I logged many hours of evening writing. New and old friends joined me and settled in for a relaxed talk about our community, twenty or more years ago to now, and where they were when my girls were abducted, and the role they played to aid the recovery.

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Holidays can be tough. I remember feeling stung in years past when I’d look at social media posts or holiday letters from what appeared to be closer or wealthier or just happier looking families than my own here in Anchorage. My friend and blogger Jen Singer wrote a beautiful post about her similar sentiments here in The Holiday Card No One Ever Sends.

Isolating during the holidays is a tradition for some of us. I don’t enjoy big groups, especially when I’m feeling blue, but this year, there’s been no time for that. Whether it’s been through book events or my day job, volunteer work or time spent doing nothing in particular with my girls, I feel a part of something great. And I can’t even begin to say how much love I feel with every email or post on social media and Christmas cards I’ve received. Thank you.

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Truth is, I still live an imperfect life, but so long as it’s filled with love and connections and purpose, I wouldn’t trade it.

I wish to you that same feeling of connection. I hope you know that if you are alone, you don’t have to be. I recognize that just you stopping by to check in with me here is a wonderful effort. There are volunteer opportunities and other people around, looking for connection and meaning, looking for you.

Later today, I get to meet up with a woman who phoned me after a book signing a week ago. She reminded me that in 1990, she’d sold me her TV at a garage sale. I was in my mid-twenties then and was already on my own with my little girls.  It took me a moment to place her, now nearly 30 years later.

“Don’t you remember?… I let you pay me for the TV in installments.”

I can’t wait to see her. Anyone who is kind enough to allow a broke young woman to essential rent-to own a garage sale item is definitely a part of my collateral beauty.

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Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Thank you for being here with me. I’m happy to report that Pieces of Me:Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters has been a popular Christmas gift this year. Thank you!

After the Release/Balancing Expectations with Reality after Publishing My Memoir

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In life, I like to keep my expectations low.

It may sound negative, but I learned a long time ago that if did, I would rarely be disappointed. Instead, I’m often happily surprised when things turn out better than I could have expected.

I didn’t know what to expect when I published my memoir. Picking apart memoirs seems to have become a national pastime over the last decade, and I braced myself for a challenging launch and turbulent landing afterward. I decided early on that I wouldn’t whine when people gave me negative reviews, and I wouldn’t check my Amazon ranking often enough to make myself nuts. Above all else, it wasn’t wise to assume that simply because I spent two decades writing a book, the world would pay it any mind.

I’d carefully identified my target audience. If I was lucky, women readers from ages 35-75 would be interested (and maybe a brother or two of mine).

I’d carefully planned the release date to be timed close to Domestic Violence Awareness Month since it’s a theme in my book.

And I decided to be intentionally open to new experiences, not simply including local agencies in my launch, but welcoming their invitations when they included me in their fundraising or awareness-increasing efforts.

 

So how did my expectations measure up to reality?

First came the heartfelt messages from family and friends, in Alaska, then in Kentucky, followed by other states,and finally in Australia and the UK.

“As you probably already know, dad bought 7 of your books to give all of his kids and grandkids. I got mine Sunday night and could hardly put it down.”

“We’re at the cabin. Dave was up early. I found him downstairs, riveted, by the time I needed coffee. He is engrossed! Liz — it’s really, really good. No surprise, but still needs to be said.”

“I’m so impressed, and I just can’t say how proud I am!  I hope you feel that way too and are walking two feet taller!!!”

That’s just a few. Meanwhile, my amazing public relations team at SparkPoint Studio made sure that Pieces of Me met the rest of the world.

“A stunning, adrenaline-inducing memoir that could double as a thriller, Pieces of Me is the story of one mother’s spiritual fortitude and the limitless measures she takes to protect her children.” —  She Knows

Also-

10 MEMOIRS FOR FALL BY TRAILBLAZING WOMEN   – The Spark  

5 Memoirs That Remind Us Of The Meaning Of Family- Buzzfeed  

THE TOP 10 inspirational books to take on your next journey – The Culturalist

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I’ve been so grateful for the reviews on Amazon and on Goodreads also, and from them learned that my readers are from men and women alike. And within a month of its official release, a local high school student made international parental child abduction her topic to report on at school after she read Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters and interviewed my youngest daughter about her experiences.

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In all, I participated in 14 events related to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, reconnected with old friends and family, and was even joined by my daughters for some of the events.

Thank you for every bit of it. Thank you for being with me and cheering for me and for advocating that others read my book. Thank you for the reviews. I am truly surprised and honored.

But if you’re wondering if I might change my approach to expectations, the answer is a resounding No.

I went to treat myself to a hair color and style at an Anchorage beauty school as a reward to myself for making it through the hardest parts of publishing my memoir.

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I think you’ll agree that the results below validate how I manage expectations.

See you soon.

 

Why Now? When is the Right Time to Publish a Memoir?

Why Now?

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It’s a natural question. My memoir Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters will be officially released on September 20, 2016– nearly four months after the anniversary of the event it’s based on.

The twentieth anniversary.

The why now question comes up a good deal, and there’s more than one answer:

  1. I waited for all the signs of healing to be in place, and when they didn’t come, I knew it was time.
  2. I fiddle-farted around with writing it. Then one of my brothers gave me a nudge, telling me if he worried that if I didn’t finish up, he wouldn’t be around for it’s release. (No pressure there!)
  3. I couldn’t ignore the feeling that there was a cloud over my head. I’d committed to tell the story of addressing intergenerational patterns and then didn’t do it. It felt like I was one class shy of a degree for more than a decade.

But the bigger question is– why bother to write a memoir at all?

At first, it was based on the fact that I loved to write, and thought the double-abduction theme would make a great story. But I was angry for a long time, at the kids’ dad, at the failed judicial system. It would have been an angry book.

It took me a while to figure out that writing a memoir is as much about connecting with readers as it is sharing my story. And during these last few weeks, I’ve heard from family, friends, and new reader friends about parts of the book that resonate with them, triggering memories about their own challenging times. “During my divorce…” or “After my wife died…” or “When my insurance didn’t cover the chemo…”

Stories of strength and survival are what join us as humans. We all have them. And I’ve been so honored to hear other people’s stories as I share my own.

Thank you so much to everyone who has posted, texted, e-mailed, or published reviews. I would be lying if I said this has been an easy and stress-free process. It has not. But I’m increasingly convinced that now was a good idea to publish my memoir, thanks to you.

img_1480img_1483unnamed  Special thanks to Dorit Sasson, Tracy Sinclare at KTUU, and Carol Krein for making this past week successful in getting the word out about my book.

Five Easy Ways to Help Launch My Book/Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters

Spotted by my friend Ruth at Cabin Fever
Spotted by my friend Ruth at Cabin Fever

I’m thrilled to announce that Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters was released a little early!

In fact, today some of the pre-orders were filled, and I was so touched to see the Facebook posts about it. It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying.

Below is a revised letter my terrific team at Sparkpoint Studio gave me. If you’re a writer, feel free to keep it on file to use it as a template for your own use later.

I hope after reading Pieces of Me, readers will better understand domestic violence dynamics, glimpse the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, and experience the incredible difference a caring community that spanned the globe made to me and my daughters.

Thank you always.

Dear Friends and Family,index

You’ve all been so supportive of me during this journey. This is my first memoir, and I am thrilled by the positive reviews and reception it has already received. Now that Pieces of Me is available in both print and eBook, I hope you will support me by buying a copy for yourself, a friend or family member, or to donate a copy to a local library.

Below, I have listed the 5 easiest ways you can help me spread the word about Pieces of Me. If you’ve already done any, or all, of these, I can’t thank you enough. If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, now’s your chance to celebrate with me on this very special occasion.

How you can help support Pieces of Me:

1. SOCIAL MEDIA: LIKE my author page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/lizbethmeredithfan/), follow me on Twitter (@LizbethMeredith), and share news about the book via social media (tag me when you do, so I can thank you, and please be patient while I catch up with thank you’s!)  Also, feel free to join the conversation by using the hashtag #PiecesOfMe when posting.

2. BUY THE BOOK: Please consider buying the book! The first few days it’s on sale are VERY important for a new book release. You can order it through your local bookstore, at Barnes and Noble or online, and through Amazon. Amazon sells it in the U.K. and Australia as well.

3. REVIEW: After you’ve read the book, post a review/rating of the book on Amazon. Reviews like yours will help potential readers decide whether or not to buy the book, and the more reviews, the better. If we’re friends or family and/or Facebook friends, please acknowledge that or Amazon may erase your review. Full disclosure is the best policy.

4. GOODREADS: Add Pieces of Me to your shelf on Goodreads and rate it honestly.

5. FOLLOW ME FOR INFO ON READINGS & EVENTS, OR SET AN EVENT UP YOURSELF: Join me at one of my upcoming events, and keep an eye on my website for more updates at http://lameredith.com/upcoming-events/.  Or feel free to schedule your own event. From civic groups to fundraisers, book groups, faith communities, the possibilities to connect in person or via Skype are endless.

Whatever you decide to you, how big or small, it helps and it means so much. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement, and please let me know how I can pay it forward.

Thank you so much,
Lizbeth

Four Thank You’s and An Apology/Publishing My Memoir

 

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Next month, my memoir will be published, and just after that, I’ll have my book launch.

It may not seem like much, writing 80,000 words (give or take) and getting them published, but for me, it’s been monumental. And while I went to great effort to thank people in my Acknowledgment section – those who helped me find my kidnapped daughters, the people who later helped me to raise them, and who were above-and-beyond supportive as I wrote my story- it turns out that it doesn’t come close to a complete list.

Four Thank You’s.

Thank you to my family, near and far, from daughters to siblings, aunts, nephews, nieces, and cousins, I’ve been so fortunate to have your support. The book covers my childhood and young adulthood when family dysfunction ruled, when I felt all alone and believed I always would be. Each of your social media shares, every text, email, or contact through my website has positively made the stress of this effort so worth it, and I hope in the end, you’ll be proud.

To my fellow She Writes authors, thank you for connecting daily on our Facebook page. I’ve loved learning from your experiences, getting to know some of you and exchanging our books for blog interviews or reviews, and sharing the journey on our path to publication. It’s become a sisterhood I will always treasure.

Thank you also to the non-profits and other sponsors partnering with me to launch Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters in October:

  •  The University of Alaska, Anchorage’s (UAA) Consortium Library
  • UAA’s Pre-Law Society, Alaska Book Week, Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC)
  •   Green Dot Anchorage
  • Victims for Justice Eva Project
  •  YWCA Alaska

Thank you for joining my effort to kick off the launch during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Together, we’ll make a positive impact on our community.

To my friends, old and new, thank you for your excitement about Pieces of Me. It’s contagious. Your shared enthusiasm has resulted in two gift shops asking to consign books, a radio interview, book clubs, and more speaking engagements. Finally, I have confidence in my book.

An apology.

I was so tickled last week to get a late night message through my website’s Contact button from the Republican Women’s Group in the MatSu Valley, requesting I speak about the late Senator Steven’s efforts to aid me in rescuing my daughters in the mid 90’s.

And then it hit me: I’d completely forgot to thank Senator Stevens in my Acknowledgments section.

photo courtesy of UAF

Alaska’s Senator Ted Stevens was haunted by my Alaskan support network from 1994-96, especially by my former supervisor and now dear friend, Heather Flynn. At one point, Heather arranged a calling tree to his office. My friends at Faith Daycare and Learning Center took turns ringing his DC number all day long when my case heated up. After my arrest in Greece, he called the American Embassy to make sure the girls and I were safe, reinforcing to the Embassy staff that we were important to Alaska.

I’m sickened by the omission, and will do what I can to get this error corrected in the second printing.

Thank you, always and forever to Senator Stevens and his talented staff.

Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters is available now for pre-orders through your local bookstore, library, or on Amazon. The first launch is on October 5,2016 at the UAA Bookstore upstairs in Anchorage from 5-7PM.

Click here to find out what others are saying about my book.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of Balance in Memoir

It’s hard to explain in a sentence why I was so hurt.

My bedroom was a crime scene. Pinky, my 49 year-old stuffed rabbit, had been taken from her shelf of honor by my cat, her throat ruthlessly slashed, and her innards splayed all over my bedroom floor. I was crushed.

imagePinky is one of three relics left from my childhood. She’s survived countless moves, a house fire, and an early violent marriage which ended with most of my belongings being destroyed.

Her first near-death experience came at the hand of my mother. My mom, whom I write about in my memoir, was often a domineering and tortured soul who worked hard to pay the torture forward with her kids. And yet it was Mother who went to the dump to find Pinky after her efforts to dispose of my hard-loved Easter bunny, replacing her with a newer model left me as me sleepless and bereft. I don’t know how many hours it took to find Pinky among the rubbish, but it meant everything to me to have her back. She lost an ear and her button eyes, but the core of her remained.

Pinky represents everything I’ve agonized over writing about in Pieces of Me. Did I give my mom enough dimension? Were any of my former husband’s charms shared in enough detail that my reader would know why I married him? And does my meddling sister’s good intentions ever seep through my anger?

Amye Archer, author of Fat Girl, Skinny wrote a wonderful piece in Brevity Magazine about this in her article Writing the Truth in Memoir: Don’t Skimp on Objectivity after struggling to write with balance about her first husband.

“Through revision, I have learned two important lessons. First, it was more important for me to be honest than vengeful, and to show the reader why I fell madly in love with this boy, to build a connection to him emotionally, a connection that would break down that wall I had put up.”

None of us are fully angels or fully devils. I hope I’ve succeeded in my first book to add dimension to my characters.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts once the book is published.

Meanwhile, thank you to my childhood friend Marti for mending Pinky back to her former old self.

Next post will be author Ann Anderson Evans about her book Daring to Date Again.

And here’s Pinky’s perpetrator. A handsome, flawed fellow himself.

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