When the Phoenix Rises

THERAPY BY MEMOIR

    Setbacks Create Comebacks

One of my favorite genres in the book world is the Memoir or Autobiography. We all experience the contrasts of heartbreak and joy. Memoirs help us feel connected and hopeful—we aren’t alone in our pain, and pain can be overcome. I’m currently working on the life story of an Englishman who grew up in Rhodesia, lost a leg when he was eleven but went on to race cars and build race cars before he got married and had a family. And that’s just the very abbreviated version.

I’ve had the privilege of editing, rewriting and even co-writing 15 memoirs, at last count. Each one was an emotional, meaningful journey for the author and for me. William McCloud, author of Setbacks Create Comebacks, proclaims: “It matters not what happens to you; it only matters how you react to what happens to you.”

The books I discuss here were all edited by me and are currently available on Amazon. William McCloud’s book, Setbacks Create Comebacks has a fairly recent new cover.

Bill’s mother Fannie, who was dark-skinned, gave birth to five children by four different fathers. When Bill was born, Fannie told the nurse he was too white to be her child and to take him back! In a sense he was “taken back” because his tough, no-nonsense grandmother raised him and his other siblings very strictly. She could be mean: she believed in whipping, but she made him a proud survivor. Every time life knocked him down, Bill stood up and managed to laugh about his misadventures with his grandmother, his mother and his siblings; it was great fun to edit. In 1985 Bill won an Emmy for his work as a cameraman on The Benson Show, starring Robert Guillaume. It had been a long journey from a small Ohio town to Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry.

I had a wonderful experience co-writing Wendy Wong’s memoir, When the Phoenix Rises. To help me with the project, she sent me a variety of photos, newspaper articles and other mementoes from her home in Honolulu. I had a privileged view of her life growing up in poverty in Hong Kong and her struggles to make something of herself. Although her family was a loving one, they didn’t think females really needed much of an education, and when she did get a college degree, they assumed she would teach and then marry. She surprised them all with her skills in the real estate business, a talent nurtured by a very affluent Hawaiian businessman/developer known as the Hawaiian Rockefeller, who had been her lover. Wealth, success and marriage, however, don’t ensure a carefree life. Wendy has weathered various financial depressions in Hong

Kong and Hawaii, and she’s endured the heartbreak of a mentally challenged daughter. Her son, however, after graduating from Yale became  a doctor.

When the Phoenix Rises

A Survivor’s Closet by Debra Luptak and Andy Walks With Me by Ralph Heidler and his co-author wife, Twila Lopez, were both horrific memoirs of childhood abuse. It was amazing to me how these individuals survived their physical and emotional torment. Humans manage to live through some incredible challenges. My own childhood heartbreaks seemed so minor in comparison.

Ralph’s father was a psychotic tyrant, who fancied himself a preacher when he was truly an avenging devil. During the frequent beatings he suffered from his father, Ralph would have an out-of-body experience. His consciousness traveled to a garden where “Andy” walked with him. His child’s mind had given new meaning to the old hymn “I Walk in the Garden Alone.” He interpreted the line “and he walks with me and he talks with me”  to mean: “Andy walks with me.” Andy (Jesus) gave him moments of peace and joy. However, when Ralph’s mother would appear to doctor the wounds from his father’s beatings, Ralph would awaken in pain, back in his bruised and bloody body.

Andy Walks with Me

In later years, although grown and married with children, his extreme childhood caused Ralph to one day disassociate from his past and disappear from his home in Pennsylvania. During the next 20 years, totally unaware of his former life, he married twice more. Ralph was living in Hawaii when his children found him, and he discovered the missing horror of his past.

He happily connected with his children, and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Johnstown got to know Ralph and started using his book in a psychology class.

 

Debra Luptak’s strength of spirit and determination kept her alive despite the murderous attempts of her profoundly mentally ill mother, who claimed her daughter was part of the devil. She was tied up, placed in a straitjacket, burned with cigarettes, hidden in a dark closet and fed sedatives, all before the age of five. There was no magic rescue or instant healing: A Survivor’s Closet tells the gruesome years-long tale of Debra’s survival. When she was an adult, it took years of therapy, hospitals, family and friends to come to peace and self-love.  The mother of grown sons, Debra’s used her book and her talent as a speaker to help others deal with traumatic childhoods.

 

WORDS ON MY MIND – 1st ANNIVERSARY

At my desk, contemplating, with the globe behind me.

 

I began this blog, WORDS ON MY MIND, on May 13, 2010. Since then I’ve written  123  blogs on all sorts of subjects, from life as an Army brat, especially in Tripoli, Libya, to adventures living in Southern California. Since I’m considered a senior citizen now and have worked/created as a writer and an editor for 33 years, there have been lots of events to write about. Over the years I’ve interviewed many fascinating people, edited over 80 books of all types, written a screenplay, Drake,  an historical novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade, and co-written a memoir with Wendy Wong, When the Phoenix Rises.

Starting a blog can be daunting, even though I’ve been writing all my life. When I was ten, I sat down in front of an old portable typewriter to write a story about a dog, a story I have long forgotten. If memory serves, my family was on vacation in Jacksonville Beach, Florida at the time. That’s my memory, at any rate, but I’ve recently learned you can’t completely trust your memory! You change it, someone else may add their two cents, which revises the story, etc. As is touted all the time, the only thing in life that’s constant is change…

My life has been one of many changes; perhaps that’s a reason I wanted to write: it was a way I could create some kind of base, a form of security. I’ve kept a diary off and on since high school and have saved the notebooks. I’m even one of those people who composes a yearly Christmas letter to friends. I work on keeping it balanced: describing highlights as well as the lowlights from the past year. Currently, I write on my computer. Who will be interested in what I’ve said once I’ve gone on to non-physical pastures? What difference does it make? Probably none, but I’ve pleased myself. Conclusion: it’s the reason I’m now blogging. I want to share my thoughts with more people.

Born in Danville, VA, I was raised an Army brat—on my way by age four to Murnau, Germany. I learned to speak Deutsche—it’s easy when you’re young. My family moved many times: after Germany came New Jersey, Ft. Leonard Wood, MO; Jacksonville Beach, FL while dad fought in Korea, the Bronx, Ft. Knox, KY; Tripoli, Libya; and Alexandria, VA. During my years in college at William and Mary, in Williamsburg, VA, my family went briefly to Carlisle, PA before landing once again in Germany (Mannheim and Frankfurt). The wanderlust was still with me when I graduated, and I ended up working as a secretary at Heidelberg Officers Club in Germany. Marriage brought me to Los Angeles and I’ve been here ever since. At last count so far, I’ve lived in about 27 different homes in my lifetime.

Los Angeles, which I love, is a microcosm of the world—we’ve got nearly 4 million people from every culture here and we come in various colors, shapes and sizes. In my apartment building, I can visit with neighbors from Romania, Israel, Turkey, El Salvador, New York City, and all over the US.   Some who have grown up here have families that have come from: the Philippines, Armenia, China and various Latin American countries.

I believe we’re all connected as humans, no matter what the country, religion or political view. Writing is communication…connection…about everything. To remember the wonderful connections, the uplifting or sad experiences, the oddities and synchronicities, I write to share my experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a Memoir

One of my favorite genres in the book world is the Memoir. We all experience the contrasts of heartbreak and joy. I find it comforting to read about someone who’s suffered and managed to rise above it to create a good life for themselves. Memoirs help us feel connected. We can feel hopeful—we aren’t alone in our pain and pain can be overcome.

I’ve had the privilege of editing, rewriting and even co-writing 15 memoirs, at last count. Each one was an emotional, meaningful journey for the author and for me. All the authors were amateurs. All felt they had an important story to tell. “Here I am, World, see how I survived,” they seemed to be saying. I feel my sympathetic/empathetic nature helped me nurture these authors in writing a book they were proud of.

In general, the authors had a general outline of their book in their heads or a rough draft of a book. It took a good partnering relationship with me, their editor, to coax out and create the full story. I felt it was like a cleansing for them.

I believe most of these books are currently available on Amazon. William McCloud recently alerted me that his book, Setbacks Create Comebacks, with a new cover, was for sale on Amazon. As Bill proclaims: “It matters not what happens to you; it only matters how you react to what happens to you.”

Bill’s mother Fannie, who was dark-skinned, gave birth to five children by four different fathers. When Bill was born, she told the nurse he was too white to be her child and to take him back! In a sense he was “taken back” because his tough, no-nonsense grandmother raised him and his other siblings. She could be mean: she believed in whipping, but she made him a proud survivor. Every time life knocked him down, Bill stood up and managed to laugh about his misadventures. Bill tells his story with lots of humor, and I still chuckle about many of the incidents, especially those concerning his inimitable grandmother.  In 1985 Bill won an Emmy for his work as a cameraman on The Benson Show, starring Robert Guillaume. It had been a long journey from a small Ohio town to Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry.

I had a wonderful experience co-writing Wendy Wong’s memoir, When the Phoenix Rises. To help me with the project, she sent me all sorts of photos, newspaper articles and other mementoes from her home in Honolulu. I had a privileged view of her life growing up in poverty in Hong Kong and her struggles to make something of herself. Although her family was a loving one, they didn’t think females really needed much of an education, and when she did get a college degree, they assumed she would teach and then marry. She surprised them all with her skills in the real estate business, a talent nurtured by a very affluent Hawaiian businessman/developer, who had been her lover and known as the Hawaiian Rockefeller. Wealth, success and marriage, however, don’t insure a carefree life. Wendy has weathered various financial depressions in Hong Kong and Hawaii, and she’s endured the heartbreak of a mentally challenged daughter. Her son graduated from Yale and is training to be a doctor.

A Survivor’s Closet by Debra Luptak and Andy Walks With Me by Ralph Heidler and his co-author wife, Twila Lopez, were both horrific memoirs of childhood abuse. It was amazing to me how these individuals survived their physical and emotional torment. Humans manage to live through some incredible challenges. My own heartbreaks seemed so minor in comparison.

Ralph’s father was a psychotic tyrant, who fancied himself a preacher when he was truly an avenging devil. During the frequent beatings he suffered from his father, Ralph would have an out-of-body experience. His consciousness traveled to a garden where “Andy” walked with him. His child’s mind had taken the old hymn “I Walk in the Garden Alone” with the line “and he walks with me and he talks with me” and changed it into his own interpretation. Hence, “Andy walks with me.” Andy (Jesus) gave him moments of peace and joy. When Ralph’s mother, a very passive woman, would appear to doctor his wounds, Ralph would awaken in his beaten and bloody body.

Although grown and married with children, this extreme childhood caused Ralph to one day disassociate from his past and disappear from his home in Pennsylvania. During the next 20 years, totally unaware of his former life, he married twice more. Ralph was living in Hawaii when his children found him, and he discovered the missing horror of his past.

Last time I heard from Ralph, a few years back, he had happily connected with his children, and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Johnstown was using his book in a psychology class.

Debra Luptak’s strength of spirit and determination kept her alive despite the murderous attempts of her profoundly mentally ill mother, who claimed her daughter was part of the devil. Among other things, she was tied up, placed in a straitjacket, burned with cigarettes, hidden in a dark closet and fed sedatives, all before the age of five. There was no magic rescue or instant healing: A Survivor’s Closet tells the gruesome years-long tale of Debra’s survival. When she was an adult, it took years of therapy, hospitals, family and friends to come to peace and self-love. Happily married now and the mother of grown sons, Debra’s used her book and her talent as a speaker to help others deal with traumatic childhoods.

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