Tag Archives: Memoir writing

Finishing Book Projects Top of My New Year’s Resolutions

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It’s a new year, and a time to reflect and make resolutions. For me, 2016 will be the year I finish my book on moving to Atlanta and my historical novel. Both of these projects are special for different reasons. I last wrote a book in 2005, after losing my mother to lung cancer.

 From Mother-Daughter Memoir to Moving Guide to Historical Romance

A Breath Away: Daughters Remember Mothers Lost to Smoking, my anti-smoking memoir, was A Breath Away cover (hi-res)written while grieving the loss of my own mother as I was becoming a mom.  I find myself saddened that many of the daughters in my book have been stricken with cancer, including my friend  Jackie Graff, who passed away last month from lung cancer.  At the time my book was independently published, and it it didn’t benefit from today’s social media environment, where you can create an author platform and connect with your readers.

My next book is called Moving to Atlanta: The Un-Tourist Guide, It came about by a chance meeting with Newt Barrett, publisher of Voyager Media in Estero, Fla. We met through a mutual friend right before my family’s move back to Atlanta this past June. I learned that Newt, a fellow Ohio buckeye, was a successful publisher of city moving guides, mostly in Florida and other Southeastern cities. Why not Atlanta?

High Res M2A coverWe agreed that I would be able to tackle this since I was moving back to a city where I’d lived for 16 years — and also the place where I had met my husband, had a family and started my writing company. I’ve enjoyed researching what makes Atlanta such a cool place to call home…and have met and interviewed some amazing Atlantans along the way, including Ryan Gravel, the visionary behind the Atlanta Beltline.  

I included a spotlight on key intown and suburban communities, where I interviewed residents on what makes their neighborhood unique. I believe these firsthand accounts set my book apart from other guides. Expect to see Moving to Atlanta: The Un-Tourist Guide on bookshelves this spring.

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I also intend to finish my historical novel, Torrential, set in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, at the time of the 1913 flood. The last year of relocating to one city and coming back made it difficult to do the final editing of this turn-of-the-century love story focused on an Irish seaman who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic only to find himself facing a catastrophic flood after moving to Dayton to start a new life.

I fell in love with this story, partly because it was loosely inspired by my grandmother’s family, who owned a boarding house in Dayton at the time of the flood. My grandmother met and fell in love with a boarder, a theme that I bring to life in Torrential I wrote this manuscript in 2013 and 2014, received feedback from numerous advance readers and even had it evaluated by a professional editor. Many people think this story is made for the Big Screen, including a screenwriting coach who I’ve consulted with. I will begin the final content edits for Torrential this month.

One thing the last few years has taught me is that I am happiest when I can write stories about people and events that resonate and inspire me. Atlanta is fertile ground for this exercise, and so is my historical novel.  What a great time to be a storyteller!

Author Bio

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Anne Wainscott-Sargent moved to Atlanta in 1998. She is a writer, blogger and strategic storyteller specializing in the tech and education sectors. An avid history buff and movie-goer, she loves following Atlanta’s growing film industry, connecting with other writers in the Atlanta area, and enjoying the natural beauty of the Chattahoochee River’s many bicycle paths.  She and her husband live in Roswell with their two children. She hopes to finish her first novel, a work of historical fiction, in 2016.

Visit Anne’s consulting website at: http://annewainscott.com/writing-consulting-services/ or her blog, The Writing Well, at: http://annewainscott.com/blog/. Connect with her on Twitter: @annewainscott.

Guest Blog: Betty June’s Gift

Today’s guest blogger is Mari Ann Stefanelli Perusek, an aspiring author and a member of my writer’s group. Mari Ann and I share a common sorrow – the loss of our mothers too soon from the ravages of cancer. We also have found healing through the power of writing.   As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, Mari Ann shares what her mother meant to her and how that loss has led her to the path she’s on now. I hope you find it as touching as I did.

Mari Ann with her mom Betty June (left), her former brother-in-law Dave Luke, and her dad Bob Stefanelli.

I wish I could send my Mom a Mother’s Day card.  I always seem to find a perfect one, and there’s so much to tell her.  If I only knew heaven’s address…

Betty June Stefanelli passed away December 9, 2001.  She was an amazing, fun-loving, compassionate and youthful 65-year-old woman, so cherished in her roles as daughter, wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, aunt and friend, that it’s sadly ironic only a rare cancer–gall bladder–could extinguish her singular flame. Gall bladder cancer is horrendous, second only to pancreatic cancer in nasty severity; my beautiful, imperfect, but kind mother–loved by everyone who met her–suffered a grueling, painful two-year battle.

Ten years later, her loss is still a raw wound in my heart and, all this time, I’ve felt a relentless urge to chronicle how her passing affected my life.

I didn’t write.  But I felt that I should.

That urge to write was so strong that in February 2010, I pitched my book idea to Jedwin Smith, respected author of several books, including Our Brother’s Keeper.  I felt an instant connection–a communion of loss, perhaps–while reading Our Brother’s Keeper.   That connection solidified when I met him in person.

Jedwin loved my idea.  But I didn’t write.

Yet that compelling urge was still there, gnawing at my subconscious and conscious alike.  Although I didn’t know why, I knew I needed to write.  A few months later, I attended author Jessica Handler’s inspirational workshop, “Writing Through Grief.”  She asked, “What obsesses you?”

Oh, that’s easy.  My mom.  Why didn’t I talk to her about dying? How did she feel?  That’s it–I don’t know how she felt, and it eats at my heart.  I let her down.  Oh, how I let her down.  How could I not do this for my mother?

Jessica tells us to stop thinking and start writing.  As I clutch my pen, words pour on the paper, flowing easily, like my pent-up tears.

Why didn’t I bring tissues? 

In one way, the workshop was successful–I finally had a few pages written–but I also felt guilty.  I wanted my mother with me, alive, but that felt like a betrayal to God, whose loving presence in my life has always been a constant.

Since Mom’s passing, I feel her, too.  Her gentle presence keeps nudging my subconscious.  Somehow, I know exactly what those two want.

My mother and God want me to write a book.  About them.

Seriously?

Yes, I loved writing.  In my former public relations career, I loved my clients, loved their products and services, but what I loved most was sharing their stories through my writing.  Now, as a stay-at-home mother of two kids; the vision of breaking into the shimmering mirage that is the writing industry seems overwhelming.

Still, a few months later, I pitched the same book idea to Jacques de Spoelberch, a respected literary agent.

Jacques loved my idea.  But I didn’t write.

It was summer now; the kids were out of school, and it was “too hard” to write.  I told myself I’d begin in the fall.

School began in August.  I still wasn’t “ready” to start writing.

In September, after being misdiagnosed by two different doctors, I was admitted to the hospital with a life-threatening bacterial infection, which necessitated open-heart surgery in January 2011.  I am lucky to be alive.

Okay, God.  I thought you were furious at me for not listening.  But you and Mom were trying to save me.  That’s why you’ve brought all these people into my life. Somehow, writing will heal my heart and help me understand her death.   As much as I miss Mom, I want to be here on earth for my children.  Like she was for me. 

I write, knowing that it’s no longer optional.  Writing isn’t easy.

That’s not entirely true.  Sometimes, the words come in a downpour; my fingers fly over the keyboard at warp speed to keep pace with the torrent. 

Most of the time, though, I still fight doubts about my ability to write and my ability to persevere.  I’ve since joined a writers’ workshop led by, ironically, Jedwin Smith.

Jedwin tells me to trust God’s plan.  “Just write.”

And so I do.  Writing is healing me.  Tears, a constant accompaniment to my keyboard clicks, release years of toxic anguish.  As they leave my body, I become stronger, my heart lighter.  With support from my new writer friends, I find confidence and opportunities to share my voice, perhaps even opening doors to a new career.

I’ve stopped questioning this journey.  My way is becoming clearer.  Just walking, even slowly, creates a path if I do it every day.

I smile as a Bible verse drifts into my subconscious:  “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

I feel Mom’s gentle hands touch my heart, hear her words in my mind: “This is my gift to you.”

Maybe I don’t need heaven’s address after all.  Mom knows how to reach me, and I now know how to listen.  It has taken me a long time, but I am writing regularly.  My memoir, Finding My Peace of Faith, is my medicine.  I understand my mother and my Father:

Just write.


            And your heart will be healed.

She is with me.  God is with me.  That’s quite a gift.

About Mari Ann Stefanelli Perusek

A Florida native, Mari Anngraduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and loved working in the industry.  Her career ran the gamut from managing local level politics, to helping cancer patients at the American Cancer Society, to launching life-saving new drugs at Hill and Knowlton.

As much as she loved her clients, Mari Ann loved writing about them even more.  She now lives in the Atlanta, Georgia, area with her husband, daughter and son and is launching a second career as an author.   Reach her at: mariann.stefanelli@yahoo.com

Remembering Mom

Mother’s Day for me is always bittersweet – it’s a time to enjoy my kids (and be pampered a little). It’s a time to reconnect with other moms and let them know that they’re appreciated. And it’s a time to thank my own mom for all she’s done  — as a parent, confidante and trusted guide. This is my sixth Mother’s Day without her.

A true coal miner’s daughter, Billie Jo Siler was born on Sept. 17, 1939, in Pruden — once a tiny coal mining town straddling the Kentucky-Tennessee border in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  She was the youngest of seven children (six girls, one boy), and as was common during those days, began smoking when she was only 16. A tomboy and a hard worker, she joined the Air Force out of high school. She had a natural writing aptitude and was assigned to work on the base newspaper at Lackland AFB in Texas. She met my father after returning to civilian life. They married and eventually had four children. A devoted wife and mother, Mom made the holidays special and never knew a stranger. She also was my best friend. She passed away on Aug. 3, 2004, at age 64, when my son — her first grandchild — was only three weeks old. 

I spent that first year mourning her by penning a book, A Breath Away: Daughters Remember Mothers Lost to Smoking.  Each chapter featured a mother-daughter story (the common thread being the early loss of a loved one from lung cancer and other tobacco-related illnesses). Writing helped me grieve and heal; it made my loss less isolating. I discovered that many people have turned to the healing power of writing. In 2009, I attended a Wellness and Writing conference in Atlanta (see post, “Words Really Do Matter”) and that conference has since blossomed into an active online community interested in the connection between overall health and expressive writing as a therapeutic practice.
 
A lot has happened over the intervening years since Mom’s passing – including the arrival of eight grandchildren (thankfully, not all mine!). I often wonder what she would have thought of her kids as parents. I am in awe of her patience, grace and strength of character in the face of years and years of chronic illness and eventually, cancer. She never let it get in the way of what was most important to her — family. I know she would tell us to enjoy the blessings of family and never to take anything for granted. 
 
Here’s to you, Mom — for everything you continue to mean to me and my siblings…we miss you every day.