GLASSWORKS LITERARY JOURNAL
In this interview, titled, The Aftermath of Tragedy, the author discusses her creative choices and emotional journey to produce her poetry chapbook, Aftermath, and her memoir, Shot in the Head, a Sister's Memoir, a Brother's Struggle.
When I wrote my memoir about caring for my brother Paul, I had no idea of how many people suffer from a serious mental illness (SMI). I didn’t know that Paul wasn’t someone who accidentally slipped through the cracks; he was one of millions of people with SMI who are ignored by our mental health system. Four percent of our population suffers from SMI—that’s over 10,000,000—ten million—people in the U. S. alone. And the problem is worldwide. Every one of these millions of people has a family and childhood friends and long-time neighbors who suffer along with them. I learned about the system as I was writing, then promoting, my book.
I realized that I could help. I could connect with people who are dealing with a troubled family member; I could tell them they are not alone, give them courage. I could let advocacy groups use my story to illustrate the problem to lawmakers.
Telling people that 72,000 people died in the U.S. of an opioid overdose in 2017 is just numbers.
Similarly, showing how the sorrow of losing my nephew impacted me and my family, helps to put a face on the tragedy that is substance use disorder (SUD) and its aftermath. Aftermath started out simply as one woman processing grief and moving from that to anticipating her own death. But through the particulars of my experiences, I believe others can more fully grasp the SUD tragedy, as well as face death and dying a little more openly.
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The interview begins on page 45.
Writing through Trauma: Two Published Memoirists Share Their Experiences with Writing and Finishing Their Books
Two of my past students released new books this year. Katherine Dering, of New York, launched her second memoir, Aftermath, and Judith Mattison, of Minnesota, published her first, I Will Not Break. Both write about trauma, Katherine about grave mental illness and loss and Judie about abuse. Not easy subjects, so this week I interviewed each of them about their journey through writing these books, how they mined their difficult subjects, and how they took care of themselves during the process.
Katherine Dering has written two memoirs that deal with trauma: a prose book, Shot in the Head, a Sister's Memoir, a Brother's Struggle, and a poetry book, Aftermath.
She began her writing journey with a story about growing up in a traditional Catholic family, leaving her religion, and going into a business career. But she couldn't finish it. She kept adding chapters about caring for her mentally ill brother, Paul, until she finally decided to write about taking care of Paul as a book on its own. Shot in the Head was published in 2014 by the small press, Bridgeross.
But that wasn't Katherine's only trauma memoir. After her teenaged nephew died of a heroin overdose, through the death of her daughter-in-law's mother from incurable, progressive lung disorder, and the passing, a few months later, of a good friend from pancreatic cancer, Katherine wrote poetry. "It seemed like the losses were piling up, and all I could do, writing wise, was write a poem now and then. Only after another year had passed did I perceive that a compilation of my poems told a story." Aftermath, her poetry memoir, was the result. It was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018.
After each book was published, Katherine did readings and author signings. "Every time I read a few chapters or spoke about my family's encounter with schizophrenia, with my poor brother's mental prison, with his poor health care and death, or with all the losses from the three deaths, I cried again. It was like picking at a scab that kept bleeding and wouldn't heal."
the rest of the interview is available at: http://howtoplanwriteanddevelopabook.blogspot.com/search?q=Aftermath