Linda, you were surrendered as a newborn by your birth mother and adopted within months by parents who both loved and supported you unconditionally. While the fact that your family had adopted you was never a secret, threads of secrecy always surrounded the process.
When you decided to write Two Hearts, what did you want your audience to understand about the interior life of an adopted child?
Some of the early working titles for my book included the words "detached" and "invisible"—words that describe how I felt growing up, still feel at times, and how many other adoptees feel. I wanted to shed light on the fact that the closed adoption system negatively impacts the psyche of the adoptee by putting them in a position of having to live under an unintentional umbrella of shame and secrecy. Asking a child to pretend to be someone they are not (the natural child of the adoptive parents) and to consciously or unconsciously forbid them to express curiosity about the tribe they were born into causes the child to have a sense that there is something inherently wrong with them. This sense of being flawed at the core impacts every aspect of the adoptees life. It's my firm belief that a child deserves to know the truth—when that truth is available—about their family of origin to be able to grow into a healthy fully-functional adult.
Did you always know you would one day write a book about your adoption experience, or was there a particular moment or event in time that caused you to say, "I'm going to write a book?" And, then, what is your hope for this book, the primary reason you wrote it?
I dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember—but my dreams were of writing fiction. Life took me down a different path, but the longing to write was never far away and I continued to dabble through the years. It was my now-husband who convinced me that I needed to write a book about my experience as an adoptee. Over the years as I talked with him about how I felt growing up—acting as if I was someone I wasn't and knowing it would be wrong to confess my curiosity about my family of origin—and as I shared with him the deep ache that was still within me, he convinced me I had a story that could be used a tool to help others touched by adoption. It was as I wrote, rewrote, read passages to him, and came to understood how adoption had impacted my life that I developed a passion to get my story out. I want to help other adoptees know they are not alone, to tell adoptive parents how important it is to be open and honest with their adopted children. Perhaps most importantly I want to illustrate, by telling my own story, how an adoptee's need to know about her familial tribe in no way changes the love she had for her adoptive family.
When you began to search for your birth family, you encountered only brick walls, yet over time the adoption environment became much more open. Your book is testament to that fact. What additional changes would you like to see for adoptees in the future?
I'd like to see closed adoption done away with. I'd like to see sealed records of adult adoptees unsealed so they can gain access to their original birth certificates, medical history, and birth family members. I'd like to know that children being adopted today will never have to pretend to be someone they aren't and they will have the opportunity to grow up being mirrored by blood-related family members even while growing up in a loving adoptive home.
There are cases, often in international adoptions, where there is no information about an adoptee's birth family. This is a great tragedy, but educated and understanding adoptive parents can help their child by acknowledging their deep-seated grief over being separated from their birth family and helping them learn about the culture of their birth family.
It all comes down to transparency and honesty.
I sense you are very disciplined. Please tell us how you built writing a book into your busy life as a wife, mother, full-time working professional, blogger, and—as you describe yourself—a somewhat-fanatical grandma? Did you have other needed supports during the months you wrote your memoir?
It took approximately four years for me to write Two Hearts. The two things that helped me the most in terms of finding time to write were an understanding and accommodating husband and a flexible work schedule that allowed me to use every second Friday as my writing day.
Sometimes when I was feeling inspired or knew I needed time to finish something, I'd send an email to my husband with one sentence: PID until 6:00 (or whatever time I chose). That let him know I'd be sequestering myself in my office—my "woman cave" as I refer to it—until 6:00 and was not to be disturbed.
PID is our abbreviation for "pretend I'm dead." It's not as macabre as it sounds; it comes from a cartoon we read once together in the Sunday paper. The point is that I asked for what I needed and my husband allowed me that time. There's no way I could have written Two Hearts without his support.
During your writing of Two Hearts, did you discover any unexpected personal gifts? If so, would you like to share them?
As I said earlier, I wanted my book to speak to the sense of detachment and disconnection common to many adoptees. It wasn't until I was well into the writing journey that I realized the depth and intensity of the grief I still carried as a result of losing two sets of parents and other family members. Writing the book was a therapeutic and healing experience.
The book bounces in and out of what was present day as I wrote it so I was living sections of the book at the same time as I was writing it. Perhaps the most unexpected and profound gifts that occurred during the time I was writing was having the opportunity to read my adoption file and arriving at a place where I could wear those two gold lockets on a chain around my neck as a symbol of gratitude and healing.
You decided to self-publish Two Hearts. I wonder about three aspects of that decision: First, what led you to that decision and now, with hindsight, do you still feel this has been right for you?
I started down the traditional path to publication with a deliberate plan. There were two specific publishers I intended to target with my book proposal—each one for a different reason. The first expected to have exclusive access to a manuscript while they evaluated it. This process took three months, during which time I did not submit anywhere else. When they, not unexpectedly to me, ultimately rejected my manuscript I immediately pulled out my proposal and query letter and prepared to target the second publisher on my list.
Then I stopped.
I'm a researcher by nature so during the years I was writing Two Hearts I was also studying and learning about the publishing landscape and the many options available to writers. As I polished my proposal and prepared to send it out again I had a strong sense that I needed to look closer at self publishing my book. I've become a bit jaded with "big business" and the idea of retaining control over all aspects of the book I had poured so much of myself into was extremely attractive.
Today, as I look back at that decision I know it was the right one for me.
Secondly, as a first-time author, what did you find was the hardest part of your publishing process? Was there any part that was easier than you'd expected? Did you experience any surprises?
As I said, I spent a lot of time educating myself about the self-publishing process so I didn't go in blind. The hardest part? I don't think there was anything that I would classify as being difficult about the process other than finding time to do everything that needed to be done!
Lastly, what sage advice would you have for aspiring authors considering self-publication? Is there anything you would do differently, knowing what you know now?
First, get an editor you can trust and make sure your manuscript is the best and most polished it can be before considering publishing it. Second, do your homework so you know how the publishing process works ahead of time. You'll save yourself a lot of time and frustration by knowing what to expect. Finally, as exciting as it is to holding that book in your hand for the first time, try not to rush through the process. Enjoy the journey.
As I look back to the tremendous growth I've witnessed in the past decade in Story Circle Network's resources for writers, I feel we are close to being a one-stop shop. Did you use any of our resources to bring your book to fruition? If so, please tell us about your experience.
Yes, I had an excellent editor courtesy of Story Circle Network's Editorial Service. Kathleen Kelly was invaluable, not only in the nuts-and-bolts of copyediting, but also in helping me find a structure that would work best for my story. She pointed out parts of my manuscript that needed to be fleshed out, clarified, or even cut entirely. I can't imagine considering a manuscript finished and sending it out to prospective publishers, or even self publishing, without going through the all-import editorial process.
I've followed your blog on Facebook for these past few years, and have seen it grow into a strong resource for adoptees. What are the advantages of a writer developing a blog?
Oh my, writers must have a blog! My own blog, A Slice of Life Writing, brought together two separate blogs I once had and it continues to morph and change as I do.
There are many reasons for writers to blog. Of course there is the all-important creation of platform, which is really just getting your name out there so readers can find you. Maintaining a blog also encourages discipline in a writer because you must update it regularly in order to attract and retain readers. A blog creates an opportunity to connect with other writers too; I've had the honor of getting to know many fine and talented writers during the years I've been blogging. Writing about a specific topic, like adoption in my case, also helps build credibility and can open up other opportunities. As a result of the writing about adoption I've done on my own blog I was recently invited to be a regular contributor of an online adoption magazine.
Are you considering writing another book? If so, will it be about adoption or a different topic?
I've just started work on a fictional novel loosely based on the life of my (adoptive) grandma who raised three children on her own during the years of the Great Depression. I may not get deep into this project until I retire from my corporate job though. Writing a book while balancing all I've balanced for the past few years is exhausting! Also, I read somewhere that a writer should expect to spend at least two years promoting a book so I've still got work ahead of me with Two Hearts!
Can you put into words for us what it felt like to hold the first copy of your book in your hands?
I posted a video on my blog the day I received my first proof copy of Two Hearts in the mail. I was goofy, giddy, and had such a sense of accomplishment as I held that book in my hands for the first time that I could have burst! It was more than the culmination of four years of work writing the book; it was a watershed moment where I felt strong and validated as a woman, an adoptee, and a writer.
Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
I encourage everyone to take the time to write the stories of their lives. It doesn't have to be a book, even compiling a collection of short vignettes or descriptions about people, places, and experiences, can help you to understand more about yourself and the path your life has taken. Life writing, memoir writing, call it what you will, can be a profound gift to yourself and to your future generations.
Finally, I'd like to thank you, Mary Jo, and everyone involved with Story Circle Network for all that you do to encourage women to write their stories.
And we thank you so much, Linda!