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.

Dreaming A Dream

The night before I announced my book, Musing Off the MatI had a vivid dream. I was climbing a concrete obelisk similar to the Washington Monument, only it was on a slant instead of vertical. I had no climbing gear. I was wearing only a t-shirt and pants. No shoes, hat, gloves, or goggles.

I was pulling myself up like I used to do on the ropes in junior high school gym class. Near the top, the concrete mountain was wrapped in a thin, cotton quilt. As I continued climbing, the quilt would slip me farther down the obelisk. I could see the top but couldn’t get there. Finally, I summoned strength from somewhere, raised my left arm, placed my palm on top of the surface, and pulled my body onto the landing.

I stood up and found myself inside a small, undecorated, empty, square lobby with dusty windows. There was no scenic view.

Then Kelly Ripa walked into the lobby. She congratulated me for making it to the top and asked if I wanted a photo taken. I told her I regretted wearing a t-shirt with St. Thomas written across it. (The cover photo of the book was taken in St. Thomas.) Kelly said it didn’t matter. She placed a beaded wreath on my head and snapped a photo.

Next, Kelly’s husband, Mark Consuelos, appeared. He told me it was easy to take the elevator down to the street level. He asked if I needed a ride home. I said no, that I’d walk to my car that was several blocks away in the Villanova parking lot.

That was the end of my dream.

Obviously, climbing a mountain alone without gear is symbolic of self-publishing. The journey is strenuous but perhaps may be more satisfying than actually completing the goal. Villanova, my alma mater, is where my dream of becoming a writer started. As for Kelly and Mark? Who knows how they entered my psyche?