Tag Archives: memoir

My Interview with Charlene Diane Jones at SoulSciences.net

The podcast of my interview with Charlene Diane Jones about my memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened is now available on her website here:

http://www.soulsciences.net/2015/10/podcast-interviews.html

There’s some distortion in the first few minutes, but it clears up after that.

Charlene is a terrific interviewer and a wonderful speaker as well. You may also enjoy her discussion of Meditation and Writing with Aurelia Maria Casey on The Writing Well:

http://www.soulsciences.net/search?updated-max=2099-01-03T09:55:00-08:00&max-results=1

Charlene Diane Jones Header

 

 

My Interview with Dorit Sasson on Giving Voice to Your Story!

Well, here it is – my first live interview and my first radio show!

As those of you who saw my post last week already know, last Thursday I had an interview with Dorit Sasson on her BlogTalkRadio program “Giving Voice to Your Story.” Dorit is a freelance writer, coach, and memoirist whose memoir Accidental Soldier: What My Service in the Israel Defense Forces Taught Me about Faith, Courage and Love will be published by She Writes Press in 2016.

I considered myself lucky to have such a good host, and I thought Dorit did a great job of making our talk sound more like a conversation than an interview. I also felt fortunate in being somewhat familiar with the BlogTalkRadio setup, which made me considerably less apprehensive. I knew, for example, that I needed to keep quiet once I heard the “Blog Talk Radio” intro, and also that the program would cut off promptly at the thirty-minute mark, so I was prepared for that. And although I tend to worry about technical issues, it went quite smoothly (on my end, anyway!) as all I had to do was call in at the appointed time and hang up when it was over.

As for the interview itself, I think it went pretty well. It was interesting discussing my memoir with someone who had her own distinct perspective on it. Dorit’s focus tended to be more on the mother-daughter relationship than on the illness, which is something that few people have emphasized, although it is, of course, a vital part of the story, and also a vital part of Dorit’s own forthcoming memoir. I really felt as though I learned something about my own book in the process, and I hope you will, too.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/givingvoicetoyourstory/2015/06/04/giving-voice-to-your-story-with-lori-schafer

Dorit Sasson, host of Giving Voice to Your Story and author of Accidental Soldier: What My Service in the Israel Defense Forces Taught Me About Faith, Courage, and Love

Dorit Sasson, host of Giving Voice to Your Story and author of Accidental Soldier: What My Service in the Israel Defense Forces Taught Me About Faith, Courage, and Love

Rest Stop

Rest StopTwitter

It was hot; Texas-hot, hot like she’d never known. It relieved her to gush forth from the car, to leave the non-air-conditioned enclosure for the open heat, heat that seemed more natural, less oppressive and confining somehow. She looked ruefully down at her body: tank top soaked with great splashes of sweat, denim cutoffs sticking rudely to her skinny thighs. Embarrassing.

Her windshield stood splattered, smashed with insects, unfamiliar enough in their unwrecked form and unrecognizable at all now, their gooey guts of green and yellow speckled and crushed all over everything, everywhere. Resisting the full force of her forearm and the gas-station window-washer, they clung tight to the tempered glass, insistent stowaways for the remainder of her journey.

“Where you headed?” a voice called out.

She glanced up and saw him, an affable-looking man in his late thirties, perhaps early forties, bearing a bit of an accent but no cowboy hat; maybe a local, and maybe not one. There were only two of them there; he had to be speaking to her. She supposed there was no harm in answering.

“California,” she said, bending her elbow again to the window.

“That’s a long way off,” he replied, whistling softly.

“Yes, it is,” she agreed.

He approached her, thumbs tucked into the pockets of his own full-length dungarees, evidently immune to the heat.

“Say, that’s an expensive trip,” he observed. “You, uh — you got enough money to get there?”

Instantly she was on her guard. She circled casually around to the other side of the car, in the direction of the shop and its sleepy attendant. Was he going to rob her? Find out if she had any cash and then knock her down and take it? Instinctively she felt for it with the muscles of her behind, the wallet tucked tightly into her back pocket, crammed into a space too small for its contents, and plastered there now with sweat and fear.

“I think I’ve got enough,” she equivocated, ears burning with the lie.

“You sure?” he prodded encouragingly, penetrating her with moist periwinkle-blue eyes. “Because I, uh, know where you could make some — you know — some extra money. If you needed it.”

So he wasn’t going to rob her; he was offering her a job. The windshield was nearly clean now but she continued scrubbing, pondering the proposal. She wondered what kind of work it would be. Day labor, no doubt. But didn’t people usually want young men for that kind of thing?

He stood smiling kindly, warmly down at her, almost fatherly in aspect. She really could use the money. It had already been two days since she’d eaten. Was saving the rest of it for fuel.

“Thanks,” she said finally, deciding. “But I’m in a hurry; better get going.”

“You’re sure you won’t change your mind?” he replied, a hint of pleading in his voice.

“No,” she asserted. “But thank you for the offer.”

What a nice fellow, she thought as she headed back towards the highway. People sure were friendly down here in Texas. They sure were friendly.

* * *

“Rest Stop” is the true story of something that happened to me when I was seventeen. I had run away from my home in Massachusetts shortly after graduation, and now found myself baking in the scorching heat of July in rural Texas. I was supposed to start school at U.C. Berkeley that fall, but since I was still underage and therefore subject to recall if caught, I was understandably anxious about conserving the little money I had, as I wasn’t sure how easy it would be for a kid with no parents, no home, and no local references to find a job. Being mathematically minded, I quite naturally spent the long miles driving in calculating a fairly precise budget, which, once I’d paid for necessities like gas and oil, had little room in it for luxuries like food. And then I stopped at this gas station and here was this wonderful man asking me earnestly if I had enough money to get where I was going or whether I wanted to earn a little extra to tide me over until I arrived safely at my intended destination.

I’m embarrassed to admit now that I was just as naive as the girl in the story. I spent a lot of time traveling alone in the years that followed, and was propositioned numerous times by other equally friendly fellows seeking the company of a young woman for an afternoon or an hour. But this was the first such occasion, and I was so utterly confounded by this man’s incomprehensible behavior that I spent many miles pondering it in my head. Why had this stranger been so inexplicably nice? Who offers money to a girl he doesn’t even know, in exchange for services he isn’t sure she’s qualified to perform? I’d probably driven a good half hour before comprehension finally came roaring into my addled teenaged brain and I understood that I’d come unbelievably close to becoming an unwitting body for hire. At length amusement over the incident replaced my horror, and at least the next time it happened, I was prepared with a polite, “No, thank you, sir.”

* * *

“Rest Stop” is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past. You can learn more about it by visiting the book’s webpage or by clicking the image below to be taken to the Amazon details page:

Past and Present

“It was lucky I forgot my keys,” her mother was saying, rubbing the raised scar between her daughter’s thumb and forefinger. “I came back and found you lying in a pool of blood.”

“I don’t remember that,” Gloria answered, astonished that such a noteworthy event had slipped from her mental grasp.

“Well, it was several years ago. You were only five then.”

“How did it happen?” the child inquired curiously, still struggling to picture herself prone in that gruesome pool.

“I don’t know exactly. I think you were playing with scissors. They were those rounded ones they let you use in kindergarten, but somehow you got them in there good.”

An image burst into her mind. The scissors in her right fist, attempting a difficult cut, snapping suddenly towards the web in the crook of her left hand. And then darkness.

“I found them afterwards on the floor. Your sister, of course, was nowhere to be found,” her mother continued bitterly.

Of course not. Her sister, eight years older, was often stuck babysitting her while their mom was at work, and was never very enthusiastic about the job. Gloria had numerous scars from lacerations that had probably needed stitches that her sister had merely slapped a band-aid over.

“An artery runs through there,” her mom was explaining. “That’s why it bled so much.”

She remembered now, what she had been doing. It was the homemade wrapping-paper. She’d taken some of her white lined school paper and drawn pictures on it. Pictures of what? She thought hard. What had the present been for?

Seasonal pictures, that was it. Pictures of Christmas, of fat gift-boxes and skinny stick-figure Santas and reindeer with glowing noses and Christmas trees rife with ornaments that glowed even brighter, crayon yellow and red and orange. Sloppily drawn but carefully colored, and then cut to fit, cut to fit the present itself.

“What was the present?” she asked abruptly.

“What present?” her mom replied, bewildered.

“I was making wrapping-paper. For a present. I think it was for you. I remember now.”

Her mother shook her head. “I don’t know, dear. I don’t remember seeing a package anywhere.”

What had the present been? Something childish, no doubt. A ceramic ashtray, maybe a milk carton with dirt and a single flower growing in it. Funny how she remembered the wrapping-paper but not the present. As if the paper were the more impressive part of the gift. Perhaps it had been.

What had happened to it? There must have been blood all over it. After she’d worked so hard to make it pretty, to make it nice, for it to get all bloody and then disappear without a trace. It was a darned shame.

“I really wish I knew what happened to it,” she said aloud.

“You nearly died, Gloria,” her mother said emphatically, as if her daughter was missing the point of the story.

“But I didn’t,” Gloria answered, equally certain that her mother was missing the point as well.

***

This story is based almost word for word on one of my own childhood memories. I discovered a strange scar between my thumb and forefinger when I was about eight and my mom told me how I had severed an artery with a pair of kindergarten scissors and nearly died. And at that point I realized that I did sort of remember that — that is, I remembered up until the moment of the cut. I was handmaking wrapping paper for a Christmas present — drawings on lined school paper — and somehow sliced my hand open. My mom had already left for work, but she’d forgotten something and came back upstairs to find me “lying in a pool of blood.” That mental image has really stuck with me all these years.

I tried in this piece to put a more positive spin on the memory. As an adult, I understand now that all a parent would see was the blood; the sight of your daughter dying in the kitchen. To the child, however, it was all about the present.

***

“Past and Present” originally appeared in The Avalon Literary Review in August 2013 as the 3rd place winner of their quarterly contest. It is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past, now available in eBook ($2.99) and paperback ($6.99) at retailers worldwide. For more information, please visit the book’s webpage or subscribe to my newsletter.

Your book is available for sale in Kindle Store!

That’s the email you get when your Kindle pre-order goes live. It happens at midnight, local time, all around the globe, at a different time in every market in which your book is being sold. It’s four o’clock right now where I live. This one was for the UK.

My book has been available in Australia for roughly ten hours. It will hit here in five or in eight – I don’t know what time zone Amazon uses in figuring twelve o’clock in the United States.

Only five to eight hours. I confess I’m not ready – not close to ready. Not only because I still have guest blog posts to write, not only because I have yet to make trailers or even my tweets, not only because I haven’t yet chosen what sites I am going to use for promotion. I’m simply not ready to know.

I’m not ready to know whether my book’s going to sell. I’m not ready to learn whether the months of pre-release preparation will have been worth it or a complete waste of my time; I’m not ready to see my book flop, flounder, or fail, or what is most likely, get lost in the shuffle of millions of others that no one will find.

It’s a great book, if you don’t mind my saying. Although, as always, there will probably be some who won’t like it, I expect, in general, that it will be well-read, well-received, and well-reviewed. That is, if anyone finds it, if anyone buys it, if it gets any reviews.

There’s a hollow in the pit of my stomach that visits me rarely; I have few occasions in my life that prompt this response that most people call nerves. My body is tired and my brain is exhausted but there’s still so much to do, so much to prepare, so much to research, so much to write.

I wish that so much of my future wasn’t dependent upon this. I wish that I could write books and not have to sell them; I wish more than anything not to have to rely upon selling them. I wish I were sitting on the beach in Oxnard and that it was warm and that there was sun and that I was writing a book and not trying to sell one.

If wishes were horses…

… I’d grab hold of the nearest stallion and let him run me all the way to Utah.

This ought to be fun, I think, not a day filled with dread, but it’s still better, still better than what tomorrow may bring, or the day after that, or the following week, or the month after next. Still better than knowing what I don’t want to know, still better than facing the fact that countless authors have faced in the opening moments of their potential careers – that it makes no difference if your work is good, if no one ever reads it.

But I’ve still got my rooftop: I’ve still got my greenhouse; I’ve still got my sunshine. And if I still have far too many blog posts to write, that’s all right, too, because at least I am writing. It feels good to be writing. Not good enough to de-tangle my nerves or de-jiggle my jitters or fill the hole in my heart where there ought not to be one. But close. Close enough to keep trying.

I’m Sick of the Sound of My Own Voice – But I Hope You’re Not!

Well, I’ve finally done it! I’ve finished editing the audiobook of On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened. I confess it was a much more laborious process than I had originally anticipated, and even now I’m not sure I’m quite going to meet ACX’s specifications. I suspect that I may have to do a bit more digital manipulation and possibly even some re-recording before they give it the go-ahead, but with only three days remaining until my book release, I’m thrilled just to move it to one of my two dozen back burners for a while.

I’ll admit that I was surprised to learn that my book cover would have to be reformatted for the audiobook. I mean, I understand why they want a square cover – presumably to mimic the look of a CD, laserdisc, or vinyl record – but in the current digital age, it doesn’t really seem as if it should matter, particularly when the cover is for browsing purposes only and no one is actually going to receive a physical product. Evidently technology moves faster than consumer preferences over what their book covers, whether audio or eBook, ought to look like. Anyway, here is the adjusted cover. As you can see, although the execution differs, the “empty chair” theme remains:

Mother's Death Audiobook

But more on the audiobook production and publishing process later. For now, here’s the five-minute sample recording I submitted along with the rest of my files. I would really appreciate any feedback you could give me on this, because I’ve just noticed something very strange – when I play it back on the desktop computer on which I did the editing, it sounds pretty clean, but on my laptop there are quite a few annoying clicks and pops, and it also seems a lot quieter. I thought you weren’t even supposed to get degradation on a transfer of a digital recording, so maybe it’s my crappy laptop speakers or my even crappier internet connection.

So what do you think? Could you listen to me read for two and a half hours? At this point, believe me – better you than me!

New Goodreads Review of On Hearing of My Mother’s Death!

Byron Edgington (http://www.byronedgington.com/), author of The Sky Behind Me: A Memoir of Flying and Life, has posted his review of On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened on Goodreads. I read it yesterday, and his remarks about the book are so kind that I’m still blushing – in fact, his only complaint is that the book is too short (see my comments following the review):

“Here we have an extended essay/memoir on surviving a parent’s psychosis, inventing a life and then learning of the death of the long-forgotten parent many years after her passing. It’s much too easy to compare such works as Ms Schafer’s to other neglected childhood fare: Jeannette Walls ‘Glass Castle,’ Christina Crawford’s ‘Mommy Dearest’ etc. Too easy, because the parents in those memoirs cannot be easily forgiven; they can only be easily explained. Their cruelty stems from ambition, neglect, the depredations of poor parenting skills. Ms Schafer’s mother, on the other hand, offers a much more subtle, we might say inexplicable source of her wanton neglect and cruel treatment: mental illness and its untreated ravages.

Lori Schafer is an accomplished writer at the apex of her craft. Her images and reflections shimmer on the page: “grilled cheese and tomato…butter-brown bread…’ including good alliteration and excellent use of sentence length variation, she keeps readers moving forward. “The sidewalks were empty. I was empty.” Beautiful stuff.

Transitions are well done, despite many flashbacks and oblique references. Only one time, at an end chapter, and a reference to ‘Lila’ did this reviewer lose the thread, but then it picked up again.

Schafer’s use of a fictional device inside her memoir is very well done. She writes as ‘Gloria,’ to explain the horrors of a childhood in crisis, while giving herself a bit of remove as the writer. It’s an excellent device, and it works very well. It’s also entirely understandable. Much like any child will have an invisible friend, or a security blanket, Schafer has Gloria.

The writer’s voice stays consistent throughout, shifting with subtlety between the teenage, angst-ridden Lori and the determined older Lori living in a car in Berkeley and making her own way. “I was learning,” she writes, scraping for bottles and cans in Berkeley “…like the poor man’s Santa Claus.”

There are a few loose threads: We’re never told what happened to ‘Sandra Johnson.’ Indeed, none of the siblings’ lives are explained. There’s a reference to Schafer’s own concern about being poisoned, a thinly-veiled worry that she might have acquired her mother’s mental illness, but this is not addressed or enlarged. We don’t hear about mom’s own family history, or what may have contributed to her instability, only that ‘Judy Green-Hair’ is a serial marrier. Just open a vein, as they say; readers want more details.

Indeed, one critique of this memoir may be that it’s too darned short, that readers want to know much more about who this writer is: how did that young woman survive all she did? What resources did she uncover in herself? How’s she doing now? Has she finally found ‘a safe place?’

Wordsworth wrote, ‘…the child is father to the man,’ and we must assume he meant mother to the woman as well. If so, at the end of her fine memoir, Lori Schafer pays tribute to that young mother of herself. This is a good, fulfilling memoir. I just wish it was longer, darn it. Four stars, only because it’s too short.”

Byron Edgington, author of The Sky Behind Me: A Memoir of Flying & Life

Although it’s not an unqualified five star review, I’m really very pleased with it because Byron’s feedback actually gave me a great idea. It’s true that there are certain parts of the story into which I do not delve, in particular, regarding my mother’s family history, or what ever happened to my sister. I can’t provide answers to those questions simply because I myself don’t know the answers. My mother’s parents died when I was too young to know them; I don’t remember her sister and was merely acquainted with my uncle. I know very little about my mother’s life before me, and virtually nothing about the rest of her family. Likewise, my sister and I fell out of touch even before I left home, and as to Sandra Johnson, she’s a mystery that will forever remain unsolved.

But at no point do I ever make any of this clear to the reader. Most people, I think, see “family” as constituting a group of people; a set of relations with whom one shares varying levels of affection or bonding. For me, “family” meant Mom. She was it; there really wasn’t anyone else to fall under that heading. So it frankly never occurred to me that I might need to explain why I wasn’t talking about those larger family issues. But, of course, Byron is absolutely right; readers will be curious about those aspects of the story, and even if I have no real answers to give them, I like the idea of explaining why.

And this, of course, is one of the beauties of independent publishing. I’m not bound to someone else’s contract, or to a print run of thousands of copies that are already stacked and waiting in warehouses. So why not add another chapter? Even with my current crazy schedule, I can probably even get that done before the release date, and start fresh with an improved version of the story. A good idea is a good idea – even if it wasn’t my idea!

So thank you, Byron, for taking the time to detail what you thought was missing from my book. Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I hope you’ll be glad to know that someone is listening.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened by Lori Schafer

On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened

by Lori Schafer

Giveaway ends November 23, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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