Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why did I write this book?

Why did I write this book?

A publicist sent me a list of questions I could expect to be asked during any interviews – real and virtual – over the course of the promotional campaign for This Bird Flew Away. These, she insists, require thoughtful answers – and it won’t do to sit and stammer while I think one up.

The first question is: Why did you write this book?

Not such an easy question as one might imagine.  You’d think after writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting again, more editing , more rewriting, query letters, advance readers, author’s review sites – more rewriting, and finally, an offer to publish … somewhere along the line, I would have asked myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’

The first answer to fly into my mind was simple – I had to.

I’ve known two great passions in life, writing fiction and working for justice and social change as they relate to children and the abuses children suffer; yet up to this time, they didn’t come together.  Strangely, for a long time, aside from articles in professional journals, I avoided writing of this subject. Why?  I think I wasn’t ready to do so.

Not only did I have a painful bout of depression related to child protection work and the growing sense of impotence I felt, as though trying to empty a river with a teaspoon, I also had issues relating to my own childhood. Certainly, I hadn’t suffered from some of the hideous abuses I saw, but what I had survived required a lifetime to sort out. There are many forms of abuse, and destruction of self-esteem may well be the worst.

Writing ‘This Bird’ was a healing process for me. This is a story of courage, of healing, of triumph, but in the most ordinary sense, with sadness, yes, but dedicated to the sheer joy of life, survival and the profound resilience found in all of us.

So it came to me, the second part of the answer was more complex – the writing of this book was a journal of healing, not just for me, but for all of us.

Although much emphasis has been placed on the sexual abuse component of this story in discussion and in the promotion, in truth, it is a minor element. For our fictitious Bria that was the least of her concerns, and is not the real focus. The true damage done to her is best echoed in her cry, “I am nothing; I am no one. I am the nobody nobody wants.”

Does it matter the form our degradation takes? Whether it is a rape at a young age, ongoing molestation, simple neglect, over-zealous punishments or emotional abuses, the healing follows the same course.  Sometimes, that healing may involve an entire life.

Lastly, I wrote this novel as a testament to the girls it was my privilege to meet, to help, to befriend and most of all, from whom I learned so much about the strength of the human spirit.

Over the years I met many young girls and did my very best to help them. I wasn’t a very good professional in that I lacked the ability to maintain my distance.  When it came time to go home, I couldn’t ‘turn it off.’  I cared; I became too involved; for some I opened my home and for all, my heart.

Some didn’t make it. 
Some did – barely. Others triumphed, and went on to live fruitful, happy lives of purpose and love, and some few to fine accomplishments, against all the odds.

Bria’s story holds elements of all of them. I hoped, as I wrote, this story would be accepted by mature girls, as well as the adult audience and they would find within its covers a message of optimism, faith in themselves, a belief in a better future and a road map of healing hidden deep inside a good tale.

There’s more, of course and I’ll talk of them in future musings, no doubt. There’s an exploration of the nature of true love, as in the depth of attachment based not on romantic myth and infatuations, but on respect, friendship, and selflessness. Perhaps we might consider the ties of family in a non-traditional form – very timely in these retrospective times.  Certainly, there are questions of morality to delve into, as no one in this novel is worthy of sainthood.

But then, I’ve never met a saint, but I have a very strong suspicion that should I one day do so, I probably wouldn’t like him or her very much.

Sincerely yours,


PS: Here is a rose blooming in my garden. Too bad you can't smell it -- divine. 

Which brings to mind an old article of mine: 

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  1. Good question we writers should ask ourselves. I told someone yesterday that I wrote mainly for own personal therapy.
    You've said it well here, Lynda, for "a message of optimism, faith in themselves, a belief in a better future and a road map of healing hidden deep inside a good tale". So true.

  2. Thanks Peg. It's true writing is good therapy. That's why I counsel many adult survivors who contact me to write it all down, and send it to me, if no one else. Just the act of putting the words on paper helps, and having someone you can trust to read it is even better. Thanks for commenting.