Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Reason to Write

Thanks for stopping by here today. I have a very special guest, some of you probably know already from her awesome blog, Following the Whispers. .... the lovely and charming Karen Walker.

I've asked Karen to share with us her path to publication for her memoir, Following the Whispers. Thanks for being here today, Karen. Take it away ....

Thanks, PK! 

It’s hard to know where and when dreams begin and even harder to make them come true. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-forties that I allowed what was in my heart and soul to come forth. Until then, it had been so far out of the realm of possibility, it never entered conscious awareness. I’d lived most of my life on auto-pilot, emotionally, physically and spiritually shut down.

But the root of the dream was seeded 34 years ago. I was 28 years old and had just lost custody of my only child. Like other tragedies, such as a severe illness, or death of a loved one, unless you’ve experienced it yourself, it is hard to imagine. It was in the 1970’s, a time when women didn’t lose custody and it fueled an already rampant self-hatred that was burning in my soul. Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan were fighting for women’s rights, and in later years, some friends thought my losing custody might have been a backlash to the women’s movement. I’ll never know.

But out of the depths of that depression and despair, I found a way to cope. I began keeping a journal. At the time, writing was a way for me to get in touch with my feelings. Over time, it became a therapeutic tool for healing.

Several years after the divorce, I helped a friend start a business—a public relations consulting firm for therapists in private practice. At first, he handled all the creative aspects of the business, and I handled administrative duties. But at some point, I learned to write--articles, essays, op-ed pieces, brochures, press releases, all with someone else’s name attached.

Then, in 1999, my wonderful husband suggested I quit my job to write full-time, a dream I hadn’t allowed myself to imagine. In addition to personal essays and op-ed pieces, I wrote health articles for SAGE (a monthly supplement in the Albuquerque Journal) as well as for the Journal’s Health section.

The very first essay I wrote was called “Following the Whispers.” It was a short piece about leaving Portland, Oregon and coming to New Mexico. My dear friend Clara suggested I submit it to a mutual acquaintance of ours who was in the process of publishing a second anthology of women’s stories called “Chocolate for a Woman’s Blessings.” It was accepted. I received a number of emails from women across the country, thanking me for sharing my story and telling me how much it inspired them. I began to think that if a short piece like that could help women who were going through similar pain, how much more helpful would my whole story be. I somehow hoped my pain could have healing potential for others.

Over the next 2 ½ years, I poured through my journals, an excruciatingly painful, but cathartic process. I ended up with a 700-page tome. To me, it was a nonfiction, self-help book. During those 2 ½ years, I was frequently overcome with self-doubt—who was I to think I could write a self-help book? To get past that dilemma, my working title for the book became “I’m Nobody…Will You Listen Anyway?”

When I was finished, I hired an editor who said to me, “Karen, you have a book inside you, but it’s not on these pages. You have an incredible story to tell…you just need to tell it.” Well, I’d written journalistically for years, but had no idea how to “tell my story.” By this time, it was 2001 and we’d brought my 86-year-old father to New Mexico after my mother’s sudden death. I decided to go back to school. I’d only gotten an associate degree in 1969, then got married and had a child. I’d always felt unfinished. This was an opportunity to fulfill that lifelong dream and learn how to “tell my story.”

After taking every creative writing course UNM had to offer, four years later I graduated. It was December, 2005. For the next two years, I wrote. And rewrote. And wrote. And rewrote. Then I hired another editor. Dina has a gift of helping authors find what she calls the “golden thread” that runs throughout a memoir. This enabled me to select which parts of my life should be included and which could be left out. Several months later, I had a finished manuscript, now called “Following the Whispers,” the golden thread of my memoir—learning to listen to the voice of Spirit, rather than the voice of self-doubt or self-hatred or parents, or society.

Over the next few months I sent letter after letter, hoping to find a literary agent to represent my book, but was unsuccessful. All along, I knew self-publishing was my plan b, but hoped I wouldn’t have to do it. I think every writer dreams of being a big publishing success.
The only way I felt I could get my story out, and I wanted desperately to do that so that other women might be inspired to begin their own healing journeys, was to self-publish.

It’s been 12 years since my husband offered to support our household so I could write—an unbelievable journey of having a dream, trusting myself, my hubby, and the universe, questioning it every step of the way, learning to listen for the whispers and paying attention to the wisdom.

Pk, thank you so much for allowing me to post here today. I hope my story inspires those who have a dream to go for it. It is so worth it!

(PK note:) Wow! What a great story, eh? Heartbreaking about the custody loss, but such inspiration for pressing forward. I've got my copy of Karen's memoir. How about you?

    Available in paperback or eBook at Amazon or Smashwords

Please leave a comment for Karen, and one lucky winner will win a copy of this inspiring story!

Thanks for being here today, Karen! We all wish you mucho success with your story! :) And thank you, readers! You make everything worthwhile.


Siv Maria said...

You are very inspiring to me Karen. Just wanted you to know that.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

So sorry you had to go through such heartbreak, but what an inspiring story. I guess every writer has a journey, some are just harder than others. Glad yours turned out well. Thanks for sharing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I downloaded my copy last night on my iPad!

Madeleine said...

Karen, it's fabulous that you had such great support from your husband for your writing. So glad you were able to fulfill your desire to write. Sounds like a long and rewarding journey.

PK there's an award for you over at my blog :O)

Jess said...

How inspiring! Karen, thank you so much for sharing part of your journey. The book sounds powerful and full of hope.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Being a follower of Karen's I've followed her tour, it sounds a wonderful book.


Nancy LaTurner said...

Karen, Your words convey the underlying power of your spirit --thank you for sharing your hard-won wisdom. I look forward to following your blog tour and learning more about your journey.

Misha said...

It's always so scary to start out after your dream, especially when our dreams aren't on the beaten track.

Good luck with your memoirs.


Karen Walker said...

Siv, thank you and let me say the feeling is mutual.
Susanna, I've read other journeys recently way worse than mine, people who are way more successful than me - the message is the same - just don't give up your dream.
Alex, woo hoo - thank you! Didn't know it was available on Apple.
Madeleine, if you read my memoir you'll find I didn't have a great history with relationships - till this one. I got lucky!
Jess, that is my wish, that it gives people hope.
Yvonne, thanks for your continued support and friendship
Nancy, thank you so much for everything

Pk, thanks so much for hosting me today. I know your readers are mostly fiction readers and writers, so this is a departure.


Anonymous said...

Karen is an inspiration. I'll be downloading my copy this weekend!

Karen Walker said...

Misha, yes it is scary, but exhilarating as well.
Stephen, thanks so much for that support.

fOIS In The City said...

Karen: It was a strange time and many of us who struck out on our own paid a heavy price.

I raised two alone from when the baby was five months. My work with children and families helped me heal and along the way I met women like yourself. My heart reaches out to you for the pain you must have suffered.

The wonderful part is that you used that pain to make something beautiful and meaningful for others. I look forward to reading your book and following your site.

Thanks PK ... this was a real treat and it came to me at a time when I am finally doing something with my work (also long in the tooth) ... Love this :)

Karen Walker said...

fOIS in The City, thank you from the bottom of my heart for these words and for the work you do.

LTM said...

what a beautiful story--thanks so much for sharing it, Karen! And PK! I'm baaack~ :D woo!!! ((hugs))

Karen Walker said...

LTM, thanks - and I love that photo of you - is that a feather boa?

Michelle Fayard said...

Karen, I wouldn’t wish what happened to you on any one. It amazes me how some of us discover the way to come through the other side with dignity and faith. To care enough to relive those times so that you could help others with your story makes you a 10 in my book. I can’t wait to read your memoir.


Talli Roland said...

What a fantastic story, Karen. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I'm loving following your blog tour!

Karen Walker said...

Michelle, I wasn't sure I'd survive what happened, but I did and now am a fairly happy,content person. Thanks for the "10."
Talli, thank you for following me on my tour.

Jennifer Jackson said...

Such a gripping story! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

Blessings to you.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Thanks for sharing so much of yourself, Karen. Great post!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi PK and Karen .. it's just wonderful to learn a little more .. and I do look forward to getting the book shortly and enjoying the read - despite the reason.

I love your words:

"I had a finished manuscript, now called “Following the Whispers,” the golden thread of my memoir—learning to listen to the voice of Spirit, rather than the voice of self-doubt or self-hatred or parents, or society."

Listening to you - was the right thing .. and probably 'the now' is the right time - there are so many ways of getting your book out - around the world, where it will be read for interest, for necessity, for support ...

Wishing you all the best - cheers Hilary

Karen Walker said...

Sharon, yes, I feel a bit exposed, but it's worth it.
Hilary, yes, learning to listen to me was key. Thanks so much for your continued support.

Old Kitty said...

Thanks PK for hosting and thanks Karen Walker for sharing your writing journey here. Yay for your supportive husband and determination too!!! Wonderful!! Take care

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Karen, 700 pages is huge. I think it's the perfect length now.

Jacqueline Howett said...

Quite a story- indeed. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to getting the book. My very best wishes to you.

Karen Walker said...

Old Kitty, It took me several tries, but I finally got a winner and a keeper!
Diane, yeah, 700 to 120 pages - much better!
Jacqueline, you're welcome and thank you so much.

Pk, I want to thank you so much for hosting me today. It has been such fun connecting with your followers and have some of mine pop over here to meet you.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, PK,

What a terrific interview....

Karen, you are an inspiration. I am so proud of you for continuing your journey and not giving up. Yes, your story HAD to be told and only you could tell it.

I can't wait to read it.

Ladies, have a great weekend.

Pk Hrezo said...

Thanks to everyone, and Karen ... it was a pleasure! :) You're a shining light to us all.

Liz Fichera said...

Wow. Very inspiring story. Karen, so glad you did not give up. You're one tough lady. :-)

Lauren F. Boyd said...

Great interview! I'd love to win a copy of the book!

And thanks so much, Pk, for commenting on my blog and for becoming a follower! It's great to meet you! How awesome that you get Highlights! I look forward to hearing what you think about my piece come February!

Thanks again! :)