I actually started writing as a result of losing my father. I would wake up every morning for months at 4 a.m. with a compelling need to write about what happened in the hospital and afterward. All the images, emotions, and insights swirled around in my mind and prevented me from sleeping. The only way to calm myself was to release them from my inner world and put them into words. That took quite a bit of time and involved reworking the content of the book countless times over a period of many years.
Why did you become a writer?
I started because I couldn’t help it, and in the process I discovered that I loved it. About ten years after I started writing the stories that became Losing and Finding My Father, I discovered educational writing and fell in love with it. I’ve also written some personal essays and magazine articles, such as this one.
What was the best part of writing Losing and Finding My Father?
There were a lot of good parts, but the best part was having an opportunity to honor my father and the journey we went on together, and being utterly certain that he would want our story told in order to inspire others who are working on their own healing. I don’t believe that he and I went through all those difficult years just for our own personal healing, even though that was huge. When people engage in authentic healing, it benefits all of humanity.
What was the hardest part of writing Losing and Finding My Father?
The hardest part was all the rewrites and all the times of knowing it wasn’t yet ready to be declared finished, but that was also a very valuable process. A few parts of the book didn’t quite sit right with me, even when I was almost ready to wrap things up. I hired a memoir consultant to review those parts, and she gave me some insightful feedback that helped me improve those sections.
The other hardest — and sweetest — part of writing the book is how quickly it still brings me back to actively missing my dad. During the last few months of getting the book ready for publication, I purchased a memorial bench to honor him and also to have a place within walking distance of my home to commune with him. That’s a big comfort.
Losing and Finding My Father is ultimately a story of healing and empowerment. How do you keep that process going in your life?
I mentioned Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy in the book. Over the years, I’ve found it to be an incredibly valuable approach to my own growth and healing as well as a powerful way to work with coaching clients. As IFS developer Dr. Richard Schwartz says, “IFS is more than a therapeutic technique. It is a conceptual framework and practice for developing love for ourselves and each other.” I use IFS regularly in my life, both on my own and in my marriage. I also do process art, particularly when I’m feeling stuck or overwhelmed, and I do a lot of “nature therapy.” Taking time to be present in nature, whether with wildlife, plants, clouds, or the night sky, is incredibly healing for me.
What are some of your favorite books?
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (personal story, brilliant universal theme)
Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate
Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser
You Are the One You’ve Been Waiting For: Bringing Courageous Love to Intimate Relationships, by Richard C. Schwartz (If you’re not already familiar with IFS, you might start with Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model, also by Richard C. Schwartz and available via the same link.)
I also have a passion for well-written historical fiction, particularly about the Civil War era.
What’s your favorite way to relax?
I love art quilting and taking long nature walks just after sunrise. I play clawhammer banjo and hope to someday find time to learn Celtic mandolin. I’m a fan of So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars as well as PBS American Experience and Nature programs and old episodes of West Wing and What’s My Line?
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Let out whatever is inside — not what other people think you should write (or be) or what you think will sell. Write as part of cultivating a deeply authentic relationship with yourself. Write about your truths, your dreams, whatever is inside. Don’t worry about polishing it until much, much later.
* * *