An Angel Named Ginny

You never know where an angel may appear. I didn’t know what kind of reception I’d get for my memoir, Jimmy and Me. After publication, I spent a year promoting the book at local events and libraries and attending book club meetings.

My friend Peggy graciously hosted me at her book club near the town in Pennsylvania where I grew up. The 20 members gave me a warm reception and asked insightful questions.

A couple of months later, one member named Ginny contacted me to say she was an avid Philadelphia Flyers fan just like my dear brother Jimmy who has special needs. She asked for his address and said she wanted to send him hockey swag.

Shortly thereafter, Jimmy opened a box filled with Flyers t-shirts, hats, a signed puck, a variety of other goodies, and a personal note from Ginny. He called me to share his excitement and expressed a sense of wonder that someone he’s never met sent gifts related to his beloved Flyers.

I’m still in awe of the kindness of someone who came to know Jimmy only by reading about him. Never did I imagine my words would impact a reader who’d feel an urge to do something to bring my brother joy in his mid-60s.

Ginny’s selfless act reminds me why writing the book was worthwhile and it far surpasses any public recognition I could receive.

 

Sharing on Community TV

Recently I was interviewed by Danvers Community TV about my memoir, Jimmy and Me. (Start at 1:30.)

This family story will resonate with many readers: people who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, siblings of individuals with intellectual disabilities, mothers, Italians, educators, health care professionals, and more.

Jimmy and Me and my essay collection, Musing Off the Mat, are available on Amazon. These books make great gifts for yourself, as a stocking stuffer, or a Yankee Swap.

My TV Interview

Recently, I was interviewed by a local TV station about my books, Musing Off the Mat and Jimmy and Me, A Sister’s Memoir. Take a look!

You can purchase the books on Amazon or BN.com.

I really enjoy book club meetings, so contact me to arrange a date.

Happy Summer! Happy Reading!

 

January Book Events

Bring a friend and join me for a book discussion about Jimmy and Me, A Sister’s Memoir. This is a relatable family story that will particularly appeal to parents, siblings, teachers, and caregivers of special needs children. Hope to see you!

Thursday, January 11 at 7:00pm
Tewksbury Public Library
300 Chandler St., Tewksbury, MA

Saturday, January 20 at 6:00pm
I AM Books
189 North St., Boston
(across from the Paul Revere House)

Journey of a Memoir

Post-it notes, color markers, index cards, notebooks, flip charts, Excel spreadsheets. I used all of them and more to write a book. What started out as an essay in a one-day seminar eight years ago grew into a memoir.

I read lots of memoirs, studied books at Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores, and on my own shelves.

I called my sisters to verify family facts. “Do you remember . . . ?” and “When did we . . . ?”

I bought easel-size paper and wallpapered my writing room. I moved a rainbow of 3×3 sticky notes up, down, and across.

I asked people to read the first page and clunky, raw versions that I thought were complete. How embarrassing!

I was over-eager, and prematurely sent out query letters thinking I could land an agent. Who wouldn’t want to represent me? I had a unique story, didn’t I?

Then I met Chris who said, “You have to deliver the goods. Dig deeper.”

So I took his sage advice and sat on the floor of my writing room to make myself physically uncomfortable. I spit out pages of difficult scenes or “islands of memoir,” suggested by William Zinsser in Writing About Your Life.

I spread pages in neat columns on the floor, stood up, noticed themes and color-coded them.

I laid pages on the kitchen island for another view. Then I took scissors and cut up paragraphs to rearrange them.

Back at the computer, I deleted sections large and small and moved them into a file titled “Lost pieces of manuscript.”

I’d wake in the middle of the night and think of a better word to use in a specific sentence. I’d reach for a notepad on the nightstand and scribble words before losing the thought.

I met with Kathy who would critique sections and pose question after question. She patiently took my calls that were filled with self-doubt and she nudged me forward.

I eliminated chapter titles and felt immediate freedom.

I secluded myself in the rotunda of my local library where not even a bottle of water is allowed.

I asked Mary and Bridget and Martha to read the manuscript and met with each of them for feedback.

And all the while, I asked, “Why am I doing this?”

One voice said, “No one cares. This is junk.”

Yet another voice whispered, “Keep going, Joyce.”

I read it and read it and read it, with a pencil in one hand and sticky page markers in the other, until I got so tired of my own story.

I put the manuscript away and didn’t touch it for months at a time. I told myself it was marinating.

I dabbed peppermint essential oil on the back of my neck to stimulate creativity.

I wandered museums, lit candles, listened to classical music, and drank herbal tea hoping for inspiration.

I stared out the window – a lot.

I diverted my attention by watering houseplants and shopping on Amazon.

I meditated.

I took a lot of walks.

Then one day last November I talked to my friend Tina and told her I was stuck.

“You’re not stuck. You’re done,” she said.

Those five words catapulted me forward. I gave myself a deadline to self-publish and kept driving to it. I hired a graphic designer and a copy editor. I proofed the manuscript multiple times before approving it for publication.

Did I really need all those writing methods and stationery supplies? I don’t know but they got me to where I am now: a published author.