Post #230 – Memoir Writing – Matilda Butler
Welcome Kathleen Pooler, Memoir Author
Interviewed by Pamela Jane
My guest today is Kathleen Pooler, author of the memoir Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. Please feel free to ask Kathleen a question in the comment section; she will gladly respond.
Pamela: Kathy, congratulations on your new memoir, and welcome to womensmemoirs!
Ever Faithful to His Lead is an ambitious work and a compelling story of courage and triumph. What inspired you to first begin to write the story?
Kathy: Thank you, Pamela. At the time I wrote my memoir, over a fifteen-year-period, I did not think of myself as being brave. I certainly was in touch with how difficult it was to relive painful memories and be able to make sense of them. I think the main thing that inspired me to write was that when I looked around and saw the life of joy I was living, I simply had to try to figure out how I got from there to a point of enjoying my life. I wanted to share my hope with others—that no matter how far down into the abyss you may go, there’s always hope for a better life.
Pamela: That is indeed a hopeful message! Beginning a project is one thing, but it takes great persistence to see a book all the way through. What kept you motivated to keep going?
Kathy: When I see something I want, I tend to wrestle it to the ground until I get it! And once I start something, I like to finish it. Those traits definitely helped me stick with it for as long as I needed. Of course there were many times when I put the manuscript aside—sometimes for six months at a time. Too. Darn. Painful. But when I retrieved it from the dusty pile, I was able to see it with fresh eyes. I needed to take care of myself first so I could continue to write from my heart and stand in my own truths. Reading other memoirs and craft books on writing, taking memoir writing courses and writing in my journal all kept me motivated to keep writing. The other important element in staying motivated was being connected to my purpose for writing. Once I felt deeply connected and clear on my purpose– sharing hope with others–, there was no stopping.
Pamela: Being clear about your purpose for writing is a powerful motivator, and it’s helpful for all of us to remember. What obstacles did you face in writing and publishing your book, and how you overcame them?
Kathy: Probably the biggest obstacle in my writing process was dealing with my pesky “inner critic”. I think I was particularly vulnerable since this was my first attempt at publishing. I eventually learned to give myself permission to write freely. I will add that while it is very important to stay open to constructive feedback, I feel it is equally as important to claim and honor your voice. For example, while I received substantive feedback from beta readers and editors, I learned that I didn’t have to accept every single suggestion. Because I had claimed my story and my voice, I was able to hold fast to what stayed and what I was willing to remove.
Pamela: It sounds as if you found the balance between listening to yourself and listening to others. Looking back, would you have done anything differently in writing the book?
Kathy: In all honesty, I wished I had been kinder to myself sooner, i.e., not listened to the naysayers—internal and external. It took me a while to embrace that this was my story and I was the only one who could tell it. On the other hand, you have to start somewhere and writing this memoir provided me with many lessons that I am taking into writing my second memoir. Also, there are some scenes I wished I had included but I have made a decision to not do a revision. It stands as it is. Progress not perfection. At some point it has to be good enough, otherwise it would never get published.
Pamela: What advice would you give other writers who are interested in writing a memoir?
Kathy: Read in all genres but especially in the genre you are writing. Take craft courses, join a critique group and keep showing up and writing. For me, my story revealed itself through the writing. Memoir writing takes you deep into past memories that may shake you to the core. Write for yourself first, let the creative process unfold. When you speak from your heart you do not need to know where it will lead. Trust in the process. Be kind to yourself.
Pamela: I think trusting that the writing itself will ultimately take you where you want to go is important for writers to understand and embrace.
Kathy, please choose a short excerpt of your book to share, and tell us why you are choosing this particular one.
Kathy: I chose this excerpt from Chapter 13, The Engagement, 1971 because it exemplifies an incident where I ignored the red flags and did not honor my inner voice that told me to run, not walk away.
At that point, I had never seen Ed drunk, even though he always drank when we went out.
But on our way home at 2 a.m., I noticed the strong stench of alcohol as soon as I got into the car. Then he began swerving all over the highway with a glassy look in his eyes.
Thankfully, there were no other cars around. My God, he was drunk. How could I have missed that? I had visions of dying that night, as I grabbed the steering wheel.
“Ed!” I shouted, in a panic. “Stop the car and let me drive.”
“I’m fine,” he mumbled. “Don’t you worry your little head off.”
“You’re not fine,” I said, trying to maintain some calmness in the midst of the terror. “Now slow down right now!”
Screeching and swerving, he slowed down enough for me to keep steering the car until we stopped in front of my apartment. I felt my heart pounding in my chest; it was beating so fast and so loudly.
“You’d better sleep on my couch tonight,” I said.
As we climbed up the winding staircase, I put my arms around his waist to bolster him up. When we reached the top, he swayed first one way, then the other. I grabbed his belt, thinking he might fall down the stairs. Then he passed out in the doorway, all 230 pounds of him, gasping and snoring and reeking of alcohol. My roommates, Martha and Polly had to step over him on their way to work a few hours later.
I was relieved when he finally left later in the morning with bloodshot eyes and the odor of stale alcohol on his breath.
When Martha came home from work at 4 p.m., I sat on the edge of her bed, crying.
“Kathy, you don’t have to marry him,” she said with a look of concern.
She reached over and held my hand, looking right into my eyes with a steady gaze. I felt like she was pleading with me. I knew she was speaking out of genuine concern and I trusted Martha’s judgment. She made sense to me. It wasn’t too late to change my mind. But could I?
Twisting my ring off, I hurled it across the room, listening to the clinking sound as it bounced and skimmed across the hardwood floor. Then I put my head in my hands and sobbed as Martha sat silently, rubbing my back.
Pamela: That is a powerful scene, and I love your twisting your ring off and hurling it across the room. Those kinds of palpable details really bring the reader into the scene with you.
Kathy, thank you so much for sharing your book and your amazing writing journey with us today. You are a great inspiration to me, and I know you will be to others as well. We look forward your next book!
About the Author
Kathleen Pooler is a retired Family Nurse Practitioner and writer. Her memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse and work-in-progress sequel, The Edge of Hope: A Son’s Addiction , A Mother’s Love (working title) are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointment—domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure—to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.
One of Kathleen’s stories “The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment by Pat LaPointe, 2012. Another story: “Choices and Chances” is published in the My Gutsy Story Anthology by Sonia Marsh, September, 2013.
She writes weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog, and lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.
Find Kathleen Pooler online:
Website: Memoir Writer’s Journey http://krpooler.com
Twitter: @kathypooler https://twitter.com/KathyPooler
Facebook: Author page https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.pooler
About Pamela Jane
Pamela Jane has published over twenty-five children’s books with Houghton Mifflin, Atheneum, Simon & Schuster, Penguin-Putnam, and Harper. Her books include Noelle of the Nutcracker illustrated by Jan Brett, Little Goblins Ten illustrated by NY Times best-selling illustrator, Jane Manning, and Little Elfie One (Harper 2015).
Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover’s Romp Through Jane Austen’s Classic (Skyhorse) was featured in The Wall Street Journal, BBC America, The Huffington Post, The New York Times Sunday Book Review and The Daily Dot, and has just come out in paperback. She has published short stories and essays with The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Antigonish Review, Literary Mama, and The Writer.
Pamela is a writer and editor for WomensMemoirs.com, and her memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story has just come out.
Reviews of An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story
“Pamela takes us masterfully through this story of a lifelong writer struggling to emerge.”—Deborah Heiligman, author, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
“…incisive, funny, and touchingly candid evidence of the power of the stories we tell ourselves.”?—Howard Rheingold, author, The Virtual Community and Net Smart
“Pamela has a way of describing things that I never knew existed…her story is inducement to all writers who aren’t afraid to take their past experiences and use them towards the future of their dreams.” – a comfychair
“After reading hundreds of memoirs it is the first one I’ve found that talks about this shadow side of the sixties. By reading Pamela’s memoir, the rest of us have the opportunity to go into her heart and mind, behind the flashy images of Woodstock and hippies.” – Jerry Waxler, author The Memoir Revolution
An Incredible Talent for Existing: Book Trailer