Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler with Skye Blaine/@skyeblaine
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be obtained~ Marie Curie
I am very pleased to introduce you to memoirist Skye Blaine whose heartfelt, compelling memoir, Bound to Love, highlights the challenges of mothering a special needs child with love, hope and courage. I am the mother of two healthy children and reading this book gave me a realistic and painful view of what life is like for both a special needs child and a mother.
Writing My Memoir Mended What Was Broken
As an avid teenage writer, I curled on my bed and penned poetry swamped with longing and (imagined) steamy scenes. I showed my writing to no one.
- Twenty years old. My first semester as a junior at the University of Cincinnati after transferring back home to marry. The urge to express myself in words nagged, so I signed up for a creative writing class. Bold and self-assured, the professor paced in front of the room. I shook with fear and awe. For our first assignment, he asked us to complete a short story up to 2,000 words. I had never tried to write a fictional story before; as a reader, I was a novel enthusiast, and wasn’t familiar with the short story form. I went home and over the week eked out 359 words, edited and retyped at least five times. Excited and terrified, I bicycled to class to hand it in.
A few days later, the professor strode into the room with a sheaf of papers in his hand and tossed them on his desk. “Terrible,” he said. “Shockingly bad. But the very worst,” he picked up the story on top, “is Skye Blaine’s. It’s drivel. It isn’t even a story because it goes nowhere—I didn’t even bother making comments.” And with that, he tore the paper in half and flicked it into the metal wastepaper basket. Drenched with humiliation, I stared down at my desk. His words, “I didn’t even bother making comments,” rang in my ears.
I didn’t write for twenty-seven years.
In 1992, I shut my office door and hobbled to my computer. Three weeks earlier, I’d been slammed by a massive oak branch my husband and I were sawing off. I suffered broken ribs, torn spleen, battered kidney, and abdominal surgery. The doctor had told me—prior to the operation—that it’s rare for a person to survive such an injury.
But I was alive, and somehow cracked wide open. I clicked on Microsoft Word and stared at the blank page. I heard that teacher’s voice in my head—his sneering, patronizing, cruel tone. Am I going to let him rule my life forever? I sat with that thought for long moments. No! I plunged in: “Events rolled like tumbleweed in a rising wind.”
Over the next ten days I wrote twenty pages, and completed the story of birthing my son and learning about his life-threatening heart defect. Then I stopped. I needed … what? Support. Instruction. Feedback.
That year, in the Wild West days of the internet, I found an online course called WriteLab through Pennsylvania State University. Students worked through twenty-six exercises covering point of view, developing characters, creating an arc, portraying emotion, and many other craft topics. Participants submitted work to the online community—about sixty writing souls—and received feedback. Sadly, it doesn’t exist anymore. It was a free, rich education in the solid basics of craft.
A couple of years later, I joined a local critique group. After I read, participants said it seemed the narrator was standing fifteen feet back from her own story. It lacked intimacy, they thought. I learned the term “narrative distance.”
In 1999, I signed up for a creative writing class at the University of Oregon. Then I took another. And another. At the end of the third class, the professor, Robert Hill Long, invited each student to have an exit interview. Memories of my first writing professor flooded as I sat with sweaty hands in Robert’s office, terrified of what he might say.
He reached up, pulled a spiral-bound book from his shelves, and handed it to me. I saw that it listed all graduate creative writing programs in the country. Two opposite internal responses jumbled together—Jeez, I need that much help? and I guess he sees potential!
“Skye, consider graduate school,” he said.
After talking with my husband, I applied to three programs. I was accepted by Antioch University, and earned an MFA in Creative Writing. By the end, I had a complete draft of the memoir. Later that year, I tried marketing it—but James Frey had just published A Million Little Pieces, and his memoir got outed as flagrant exaggeration. No agents or publishers would consider memoir—avenues to publishing were blocked.
In 2005, I entered the manuscript in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association contest. After months of waiting, the contest spokesperson notified me I was one of eight finalists in the nonfiction division. All eight were encouraged to attend the PNWA summer conference where the four winners would be revealed.
My oldest adult friend, Margaret, traveled from California to Seattle to be with me. When the nonfiction winners were announced, my heart rat-tat-tatted so fast I could barely breathe. Fourth prize—to someone else. Third prize—to someone else. Second prize—to someone else. At that point, I lost all hope. I was simply one of the finalists. Then they called my name for first prize. I froze in place and frowning, stared at Margaret. “Did I hear right?”
“Go!” She nudged me. “Go get your award!”
As I walked to the front of the room, my shoulders squared. The professor from so long ago was wrong—even then, there had been latent potential in my writing. He just didn’t bother to look for it.
Writing and publishing Bound to Love has mended what had been broken so long ago. I move differently in the world today—with confidence and gratitude.
The simple story of a mother raising her disabled son was worthy of being told.
Photo Credit: Google Free Images
Thank you Skye for sharing your heartfelt story of facing your only child’s serious health challenges and showing your readers how your mother love gave you the courage and grit to persist. You remind us how the power of a mother’s love can fuel the path to a better life. Surely, there must be a dedicated place in Heaven for mothers of special needs children. You also show us how persistence and hard work eventually led you to tell the story only you could tell. You remind me that we all have that power within but we need to claim and honor it. Congratulations on claiming and honoring your voice and for sharing your heartfelt story.
Bound to Love is the true story of a single mother who encountered and navigated a complicated nightmare for any parent. My child, the only child I could ever bear—was born with a life-threatening congenital heart defect, and suffered a more brutal health diagnosis soon after. Walk with me as I birth the courage and grit to meet Thom’s compounding challenges. The memoir won first prize in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association contest under the name Blood Bond.
The memoir covers Thom’s first twenty years as we confront prejudice, injustice, and a share of compassion as well. This is an important read for any parent who feels alone raising a child with complex disabilities.
My memoir may be purchased here: http://amzn.to/1Q6JTZY
Skye Blaine writes memoir, fiction, poetry, and blogs, developing themes of aging, coming of age, disability, and awakening. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in 2003. Bound to Love: a memoir of grit and gratitude was published in 2015. Her memoir has won two first prizes and an indieBRAG medallion. Her novel, Call Her Home, is in final editing, and she’s working on the sequel. Skye’s writing is included in seven anthologies and in national magazines: “Yes” and “Catalyst.” She teaches creative writing to older adults as adjunct faculty of Santa Rosa Junior College.
Author Contact Information:
Author website: http://www.skyeblaine.com
Nondual (Spiritual) blog: http://www.theheartofthematter-dailyreminders.org
How about you? How do you muster the courage to deal with your child’s challenges? When has your mother love led the way?
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