Author Elizabeth Silva
“I ALWAYS WONDER WHEN I GET my friends’ and family’s annual holiday newsletters what really happened in the writers’ families. What titillating tidbits are they leaving out?” –Elizabeth Silva in Another Cheesy Family Newsletter.
I met Elizabeth Silva at on online writers forum we belong to, and was drawn to her story immediately. I enjoyed the searing honesty of her memoir, which follows the twists and turns of her adult children making unexpected choices that leaves Silva and her husband raising their three grandchildren.
I’m happy to have her as this week’s guest.
When did you decide to write your book? Was there one pivotal moment, or did you always know you’d write your memoir?
I really had no intention of publishing a book, though I’d written for a magazine and The Dallas Morning News for the last few years, and I’ve always written about experiences that were important to me, a sort of hit-and-miss journal. It wasn’t until I found all my Christmas newsletters at my parents’ house after they died that the idea of writing a memoir took hold.
The structuring of your book is brilliant. Tell us how you arrived at it?
I remember several years ago, as I was writing my annual holiday newsletter, I thought to myself that the people we never see any more haven’t a clue what’s really going on in our lives. Yet the idea of including all the family drama in each letter was absurd. These were Christmas letters, after all. But I never kept the letters, and I never backed them up. It wasn’t until I found all of them together in an envelope that I decided how to structure my story. With the letters as an outline, once I got on a roll, I churned out the story pretty quickly. I would write while my husband was watching the Texas Rangers play baseball, after the boys got settled in to whatever they were doing for the evening.
What was the most difficult part about writing Another Cheesy Family Newsletter and why?
The hardest part was that the more I wrote, the more I realized to what extent I had enabled my daughter and my son to become helpless – over and over again- and how I had allowed my daughter’s outrageous behavior to affect her children. Even now, it’s hard for me to admit how toxic our home was at times. When I remarked recently to my other daughter how surprised I was by a reviewer’s insight into our family, she said, “Mom, you’re just now realizing this?” And this was AFTER the book was out.
What kind of feedback have you had from other people in your position who are raising their own grandchildren?
Relief that they are not alone – that their feelings of anger, disappointment, and resentment are normal and ok, especially when others tell them that they’re saints for taking on such a responsibility. We’re not saints. We’re doing what almost anyone would do for these kids we love so much.
How did you arrive at your pen name? Why did you use one?
My grandmother’s name was Elizabeth. I just chose Silva because it starts with an S and has 5 letters, like Sisco. I ridiculously thought if I changed all the names and places, no one would connect my family with the story – still thinking of my daughter’s feelings. If I had to do it over, I would have used my real name, and I still may put out a new edition under my real name someday.
What message would you give to parents of adult children who are struggling to launch? Where can they find support as they find the middle ground – somewhere between assisting their adult child and enabling them?
That’s a hard one. You love your kids so much, and you take on their failures as your own. But I think you have to examine your own behavior and ask yourself whether what you’re doing for your child is supporting them in their quest for independence or simply making it easy for them to rely on YOU, delaying the “growing pains” we parents had to face and conquer to become independent ourselves. Especially today, we live in a different society. I was expected to move out when I graduated and never come back. Somehow, though, in the way we raised our kids, we conveyed the message that we would fix everything for them along the way, and they would always have a soft place to land.
What are you working on next? And where can readers find you and your work?
My granddaughter is a phenomenal artist. We are working on a children’s picture book specifically for children raised by people other than their biological parents.
You can find Elizbeth Silva on Facebook: @lizsilva47 Twitter: @pattysisco2 Website and blog: elizabethsilvawriter.com, or order Another Cheesy Family Newsletter by clicking here.
Wondering if you’re an enabler? Elizabeth has a quiz on her web page.
Thank you for stopping by. Feel free to share this link if you like what you’ve read.