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Monday, April 16, 2012

Spotlight on Merrill Edlund and Kim Hensley Owens

We are pleased to share these interviews with Merrill Edlund and Kim Hensley Owens.

Merrill Edlund

Merrill Edlund contributed various poems to this anthology, including “Kalem,” “Leaving Earth before you planned,” “When I miss my kids,” and “They Said.” She can be reached at gedlund@shaw.ca
and on twitter @meedlund

What are your poems about?
“Kalem” is a short poem about my oldest child leaving home and travelling to Australia. “Leaving Earth before you planned” is dedicated to a friend who died shortly after her third child was born. “When I miss my kids” is a poem about grieving the loss of children and how my husband helped me cope. “They said” is a poem about miscarriage and the responses I experienced when I had my first miscarriage.

Please tell us about yourself.
A mother of three grown children and one grandpuppy, I am a poet and writer of short stories and creative nonfiction. I currently teach online high school English and Creative Writing.

Where have you been published?
My recent manuscript of poetry titled “a dissimilar memory” is currently looking for a home. I am also working on a chap book. “Blue Skies Poetry Worth Architectural Magazine.”

Why did you contribute to this anthology?
The topic of motherhood and loss was a perfect fit for my writing. My poetry focuses on being a mother, loss, love, and marriage which I felt would contribute to the anthology.

What other representations of motherhood move you?
Of Women Born, Adrienne Rich
The Birth House, Ami McKay
A Fine Daughter, Catherine Simmons Niven
A Complicated Kindness, Miriam Toews
Hanna's Daughters, Marianne Fredriksson

Kim Hensley Owens

Kim Hensley Owens contributed “On Being Luck” and her blog is at okhensley.wordpress.com.

What is your piece about?
“On Being Lucky” is a first-person creative nonfiction examination of the many and varied losses of my friends, at all stages of their lives, through the prisms of 1) my own "lucky" status as a mother of two without losses and 2) a society that places burdens of expectation on women's procreation.

Where have you been published?
Most of my published writing is in academic journals such as Rhetoric Review, Written Communication, Pedagogy, and Enculturation. I have written about mothering and work in a career advice piece for Inside Higher Ed and with co-authors in Composition Studies.

What moved you to contribute to this anthology?
I have been researching childbirth for several years, and have learned a lot about loss through that work. Perhaps because of my familiarity with childbirth, and just having many friends who have had fertility issues and losses of all types, I have heard more loss stories than I could process. The call for papers for this anthology allowed me to write about those losses, which affected me even though they weren't my own. The only book I know of about loss is Motherhood Lost, by Linda Layne. I thought a book collecting many women's stories in different styles was important and would be valuable for women to not feel alone. I hoped my story, reflecting many women's losses, would speak to the audience for this anthology. I also hoped it would in some way honor my friends' losses. Loss is significant, and it is also common, and that dual truth is important.

What other representations of motherhood have you enjoyed?
What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty. (fiction) Breastwork, by Allison Bartlett. (academic monograph) Textual Mothers, Maternal Texts, Ed. Andrea O'Reilly and Elizabeth Podnieks. (academic edited collection) Steel Magnolias!

Kim can be reached by email at okhensley@gmail.com

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spotlight on Olivia Good and Rebecca Manning

Check out these interviews with Olivia Good and Rebecca Manning, two contributors to our anthology, "Joy, Interrupted."

Olivia Good

Olivia Good contributed the short story, “The Island” and can be reached at ogoody@windstream.net

What is your piece about?
The Island is an allegorical short story about the isolation one feels when mourning the loss of a child; the methods employed by those seeking to console the bereaved parent; and the promise of hope and strength, found in faith, to move forward with a life which is vastly different than the one previously anticipated.

What would you like to share about yourself?
I am the mother of two beautiful pre-schoolers, in addition to my daughter who inspired my anthology contribution. I have always been a writer. I am a firm believer in the power of creativity, and have always been a writer, even from a very young age. I love creativity in all forms--especially lyrically- and stylistically-interesting music, and well-structured writing. Dabbling in the world of academia, which I simultaneously love and loathe, I have presented at several international conferences on topics ranging from cultural preservation and identity to urban renewal and race relations. As a writer, I have an unfortunate propensity towards wordiness that I have thus far been unable to cure.

What inspired this piece?
My oldest daughter, Laurette, would be 5. She was stillborn on November 2, 2006. She taught me things about myself and spirituality that I had not previously realized, and for that, I am forever grateful to her.

Olivia also shares:
I believe in the power of creativity to soothe, communicate, teach, inspire, and heal. It is my hope that my contribution is able to do at least one of those things for someone else who is faced with the loss of a child.

Rebecca Manning

Rebecca Manning contributed the piece “The Sign” and can be reached at gochoroser@live.com

What is your piece about?
This piece is from a unique outside perspective. As a mother and random bystander presented with a tragic circumstance, I am forced to take a hard look at my own situation, as well as see it through the eyes of someone who has fallen to the depths of pain that only a mother could perceive.

Who are you?
To be honest, I am just a regular person, not particularly noteworthy, but I love writing and the art of written expression in every form. The two proudest accomplishments in my life are my daughters, Amanda and Justine. As for writing, even as a child, it has always been my outlet and expression of freedom that I never take for granted.

What else have you published?
I had a short anthology of poetry published in the 80's, but this is my first real run at putting a story out there for the world to embrace or analyze, whichever comes first.

What inspired your piece?
This particular story was actually inspired by a real event. After I eventually made it home that day I started the initial threads of what would become the basis for a mother's perspective on loss and general societal ignorance. Both are frightening and tragic and, I believe, emotionally haunting. I believe I found the perfect forum to share this unique story and my hope is that if it touches even just one person, it was worth every word.

What other representations of motherhood have you enjoyed?
I treasure the book (anthology) “When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” and my favorite movie on motherhood is “Steel Magnolias.” Both are very real and touching representations of successes and failures that we, as women and daughters, experience.

Olivia also says:
I am a mother and daughter who has succeeded and failed and gotten back up again to do it all over. As long as I have breath within me, I hope that I will always find the strength to continue that path. I also hope my story gives you something to ponder and that it stays with you for a bit to absorb and share with other mothers.

Spotlight on Lisa Wendell and Gabriella Burman

It is an honor to introduce Lisa Wendell and Gabriella Burman as contributors to our upcoming anthology, "Joy, Interrupted."

Lisa W. Wendell

Lisa W. Wendell wrote the piece “Hiatus” and has a blog at http://momslogonly.blogspot.com/ and can be reached at lisawendell2003@yahoo.com

What is your piece about?
Maxx was diagnosed with Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma on July 11, 2007. He died 16 weeks later on December 6. He was 21. It took two years before I was able to begin writing about what had happened and how losing him had reduced my life to rubble. “Hiatus” is an excerpt from my journal about feeling literally insane with grief, trying to “live” in the real world, pretending to function when inside I was holding on by a thread. I was trying to describe the surreality of appearing to survive when all I really thought about was why I hadn't yet died from the force of this constant heart-rending pain. At that time, I needed to come to terms with the fact that I had to rely upon medication in order to achieve some temporary periods of relief if I intended to stay alive--the validity of which I am still struggling to accept. The whole concept of deserving to live after one's child dies is fraught with minefields. It either takes tremendous fortitude to withstand this mind-crushing new reality, or a primal fear of self-annihilation. Perhaps it is a combination of both that occurs in varying degrees at different times that is the closest we ever come to carving out a place for ourselves. I go back and forth still.

Lisa shares this about herself:
In 1975 after I graduated with a BA in Political Science I went to work as a waitress. Two years later I had earned enough to return full-time to graduate school for an MPA (Master's in Public Administration). I worked in the public sector as an administrative assistant for several years, married my husband in 1977, and had my daughter, Megan in 1981. Then, after a miscarriage in 1985, I became pregnant with Maxx who was born in 1986. My August babies, five years apart. Despite my college degrees and growing work experience, I chose to stay home full-time at the height of the working-mom craze. Though eventually I returned to work when Maxx entered Kindergarten, I never got back on any career track. Having little extended family and growing up an only child in an alcoholic environment, I was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with whatever a family “norm” was considered or supposed to be, but I knew how much I loved my children and I worked hard to build a safe and loving home. In the process I rebuilt myself. Mothering became my skin. Whatever else might be “interesting” about me, I have defined myself, rightly or wrongly, as the mother of my children. Though my daughter is 30 and on the brink of marriage and perhaps starting her own family, I am still defined by my role as a mom. The challenge, the daily fight for me now is how to live and be in this world as the mother of a dead boy.

I am an obsessively private person. I do not share anything about myself easily and find that I am often offended and intimidated by the self-serving nature of a popular culture that is informed by, and in turn determines, personal value on the basis of a “web presence.” I don't feel at home in this milieu and I have never understood the drive to tell everyone everything as if what you have to say is worth hearing. There is a distinct difference between the quality of an offering and the volume of what, by virtue of age, energy, and circumstances, one is able to produce and subsequently discard en masse.

Having said this, I admit that my experience of grief in all its evolving complexity is something I feel the need to discuss--make public as it were. This may be more a function of timing along my own emotional spectrum of this new and distorted reality than a sincere offering, but in this moment I have allowed myself to think that what happened to me, what is still happening to me-- with all the attendant isolation, fear, confusion, and loneliness-- might contain a few nuggets of truth with which the despairing can identify. As important, is my wish to “attend to” the death of my son in a way that keeps the loss of his life at the forefront. Maxx lost everything. And he knew what was happening. Imagine, at 21 knowing you are dying from a cancer caused by medications you were taking to treat a non-fatal illness? Sharing my grief in this way gives form to the catastrophic purposelessness of his death.

Where else have you been published?
I have had several pieces appear over the years in small publications, free-lance feature stories and a column in local newspapers; nothing of note anywhere. On the other hand, I have been a closet writer since I was 10--personal essays and poetry. Apart from knowing that I will continue to write, I'm not certain where I will “go” with my writing, or even that I have to go anywhere. I have a blog on maternal grief and I post entries about once or twice a month. For now, what I can manage feels minimal by comparison to what others are able to accomplish but I do what I can when it is possible.

Lisa shares:
One of my recent favorite quotes is in Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsher, “Something in us dies so the rest of us can live on, but it must not be the heart.” That is where I am in this moment.

I live in the Bay Area with my husband of almost 36 years, Steve, a sales manager in the digital printing industry, and my two dogs, Koda, a Chocolate Lab, and Bruiser, a chihuahua. My daughter, Megan is an attorney in Northern California. I have worked for the last 8 years as a Project Manager in a small private university library.

What inspired your work?
One of the only things I was able to do after Maxx died was to read. Apart from my husband and daughter both of whom were in shock, I had no living family and the few friends I did have were not prepared to offer any consistent support. Reading became a way of comforting myself. I read several books about grief, though none stand out, and many many more novels that have helped me to absorb the psychic irresolvability that is the bedrock of grieving. I read several Civil War and Holocaust stories. I drank up tales about individual survival against hopeless odds, or conversely about why people chose to end their lives or how they came to terms with situations over which they had no control. I read Kay Jamison's,an Unquiet Mind, John Styron's Darkness Visible, The Noonday Demon: an Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon, Man's Search for Meaning (Victor Frankl). I was probably most struck by the stories and writing in The Book Thief, This Side of Brightness (Colum McCann), The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien), The Widow of the South (Robert Hicks), Sarah's Key,(Tatiana de Rosnay, The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) and Women Who Run with the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes). Primo Levy, Howard Bahr, Joyce Carol Oates, Marilynne Robinson, and Phillip Roth, are some of my favorite authors, but any literary work (or film) that probes the nuances of sorrow and beyond that, sorrow without any resolution are the stories to which I find myself most drawn. Reading as much as I do has also encouraged me to write with more discipline and commitment. And this in turn led me to explore the possibility of sending what I was writing somewhere. And that led me to the Anthology.

Gabriella Burman

Gabriella Burman contributed the essays “Push Pull” and “Mobility. She can be reached at by email at gnburman@gmail.com, on twitter @gabriellaburman or on the website www.bigtentjobs.com

What are your essays about?
Both essays are from my memoir-in-progress about my time as mother to my oldest daughter, who had cerebral palsy, and the unique grief of special needs parents, following her unexpected and sudden death at age 5.

Where else have you been published?
I have been writing since childhood, have a BA in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University, and am an award-winning journalist. But I feel my life's purpose has been to be a special needs mother and now an advocate for people with disabilities. I serve on the board of United Cerebral Palsy of Metro Detroit, am communications director at Big Tent Jobs, and coach families whose children have CP. I will be published in the Bear River Review in June 2012. I have contributed to several books.

What inspired you to contribute to our anthology?
A classmate of mine from the Bear River Writers' Conference let me know about the opportunity to submit to Joy Interrupted, and I am so grateful that she did.

I want the world to know my daughter lived. I want to write down her story for my surviving children. I want to keep my daughter alive. I cannot bear that she has passed away.