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Memoir Author Interview

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #244 – Memoir Writing Interview – Matilda Butler



Interview with Author Kristin I. Morris

[BOOK GIVEAWAY NOTE: Kristin I. Morris and her publisher Wisdom House Publishing have graciously offered two copies of Jamarr's Promise. All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment below. Kristin will choose two. If one of the winner's lives outside the US, then an ebook will be given. In the US, a print book will be mailed. LEAVE your comment today. This contest is open for a limited time. Once the contest is closed, we will update this note.]

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: Kristin, welcome to WomensMemoirs. We are a community of women writers who share our ideas, inspirations, and concerns about memoir writing. Every since I finished reading your book, Jamarr’s Promise: A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare, I’ve looked forward to talking with you and finding out more about your experiences.

Kristin, you have written a powerful story about a series of experiences that have profoundly changed your life, a story that has no conclusion at this point. I wonder if you would tell our readers a little about your memoir.


Kristin I. Morris, memoir author of Jamarr's PromiseKristin I. Morris: Hi Matilda. Thanks for inviting me.

The memoir tells of my time as a caseworker in the New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services, and the corruption I experienced there after the death of one little boy. In the beginning of the memoir, I share my experiences working with nine-year old Jamarr Cruz, pictured on the cover of the memoir. After a home visit, I knew that Jamarr could not be moved back into the home of his abuser … but my recommendation was denied, Jamarr was moved back, and was soon beaten to death in the home. From this point forward in the memoir, I share a very intimate journey of my depression and therapy sessions, of losing my job, of court trials, and of corporate cover-ups.

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: Your story leaves the reader in a state of disbelief at the callousness of agencies responsible for the care, for the lives of children. I know that writing a memoir can be an overwhelming task. I hope you’ll share why you decided to write your story.



Kristin I. Morris, memoir author of Jamarr's PromiseKristin I. Morris: It took me a long time to write my story. Jamarr was murdered in 2009, but the more I shared my story and told of the corruption I experienced, the more I realized that the story wasn’t just about me or Jamarr. I realized that this could happen to other children and other caseworkers, and hoped that publishing this book could help someone else in a similar situation.

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: Kristin, I’m so glad that you brought up the “why” of writing and publishing our life stories. We do want to help others, to let them know that pain is shared, to give them insights, to make people aware of situations going on especially if they aren’t well known. Memoir writing is about more than just about telling our own stories.

Working on a memoir brings back memories, some of which focus on dark times. What was the hardest aspect of writing your memoir?

Kristin I. Morris, memoir author of Jamarr's PromiseKristin I. Morris: There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t see Jamarr in my mind, and it was certainly hard to put my experience into words without reliving the pain. And, because I wanted to make the story as true to my memory as possible, I had to relieve the intimate details over and over. Even harder, though, was the thought that I was putting myself out there. People blamed me for Jamarr’s death – even though I did everything in my power to save him. After being through so much personal and political trauma which made me the target of many attacks, the thought of making my personal story public stalled me. Publishing my story meant opening myself to critique to an even larger audience. Thankfully, though, the feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive!
 
Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: You’ve raised a great point, Kristin. Memoir writers are willing, and have to be willing, to expose personal vulnerabilities with the hope that we can help others. The reward or return for our honestly is the many lives we touch and the support we receive from our readers.

My next question deals with healing. Although focusing on difficult life situations can be daunting, many believe that writing is healing. Did you find working on the memoir brought any healing to you? If so, in what ways?

Kristin I. Morris: Working on the memoir was absolutely healing because it gave me a concrete purpose: to bring justice for Jamarr. Although it was a difficult writing process, I knew I had to get my story out there so that people knew exactly why that little boy died.

The publicity process has also been amazingly positive: I’ve met so many other social workers and child care reformers who have shared their kind words and have helped me be proud of the good I have done, and it has inspired me to work harder to connect with my community. For example, a few weeks ago, I collected school supplies and volunteered at Jamarr’s school.

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: You know a lot more about memoir writing now than you did when you began this process. Would you share some tips or advice that may help other women who are just now starting to write or who are stuck?



Kristin I. Morris, memoir author of Jamarr's PromiseKristin I. Morris: Sure, Matilda. I have two tips I’d like to pass on it:

Tip #1: Know that your story is worth sharing! The more I thought about what good my memoir might do, the more it inspired me to write. Inevitably, it’s going to be hard, not only because writing can be hard but because it’s difficult to be so vulnerable.

For me, it took talking to someone else – especially Dr. Z, but also my family, friends, and some former co-workers – to help see why my story was valuable and how I could change others’ lives with it. So, my second tip is:

Tip #2: Talk through the process with someone you trust. This tips helps throughout the writing experience but is especially true if you’re feeling stalled in the process.

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: Thanks Kristin for talking with me. I appreciate you telling us more about your memoir, Jamarr’s Promise, as well as your perspective on memoir writing.

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More about Kristin I. Morris, the author of Jamarr’s Promise: A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare.

As a caseworker for DYFS, Kristin helped many children and families; it was her life’s passion. Nine-year-old Jamarr was living with his grandparents after his mother’s boyfriend, Vincent Williams, beat him repeatedly. Jamarr told Kristin it was not safe for him to return home. Kristin urgently tried to keep Jamarr safe with his grandparents, but was told by superiors that Latino children are kept in the home at all costs. This time, the cost was Jamarr Cruz’s life. In 2009 after Jamaar’s return to Omayra Cruz and Vincent Williams, Vincent beat Jamarr to death. Not only did Kristin’s superiors at the DYFS block her efforts to help Jamarr, but when he was killed, they blamed Kristin for his death.

Jamarr’s Promise is a call to end corrupt loyalties in New Jersey’s DYFS. It is a call to protect children from Jamarr’s fate. It is a call for justice for Kristin Morris, who did the right thing and was punished unjustly for it.

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Interview with J.P. MacFarland, Author of New, Uplifting Memoir

by Matilda ButlerJune 27, 2017
Interview with J.P. MacFarland, Author of New, Uplifting Memoir

Do you sometimes feel down? Maybe an inspirational memoir is just what you need. In today’s WomensMemoirs post, I interview J.P. MacFarland about her new memoir, Hope Alive. In addition to sharing her story, she provides 6 great tips to help you in your writing.

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by Pamela JaneMarch 22, 2016
An Interview with Kathleen Pooler, Author of Ever Faithful to His Lead:   My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse

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Interview with Memoir Author Pamela Jane…or…How It All Came to Be

by Matilda ButlerFebruary 29, 2016
Interview with Memoir Author Pamela Jane…or…How It All Came to Be

Matilda Butler interviews Pamela Jane about her just published memoir–An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story. Learn about her big challenges as well as her advice to other writers.

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Women’s Memoirs Interviews Author Pamela Jane

by Matilda ButlerJune 16, 2015
Women’s Memoirs Interviews Author Pamela Jane

Matilda Butler interviews memoir author Pamela Jane who shares writing and publishing tips based on her experiences.

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Interview with Memoirist Shirley Hershey Showalter

by Matilda ButlerApril 14, 2014
Interview with Memoirist Shirley Hershey Showalter

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My Long and Zig-Zaggy Road to Memoir Publication

by Matilda ButlerFebruary 26, 2014
My Long and Zig-Zaggy Road to Memoir Publication

Women’s Memoirs interviews Becky Povich, author of From Pigtails to Chin Hairs. Check out her experiences and see if they shed light on your memoir writing situation.

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