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surviving childhood abuse

Surviving Childhood Abuse: Overcoming Trauma- Part 2

We continue our interview with Denise Brown about writing and publishing her book, Transcending Darkness: A Memoir of Abuse and Grace. Hers is a heroic story of overcoming trauma. To read part 1, click here. To read Part 3, click here. —DL

DL: You must have had periods of time in which you were discouraged or, at least, less enthusiastic. Can you tell us about how you kept yourself going? What worked for you?

DB: When I ran into times when I was frazzled by other things going on in my life and didn’t feel the energy to work on my memoir and deal once again with overcoming trauma, I reverted to my minimum goal of one hour per week. I made myself stick to that even if it was 20 minutes over three separate days to keep even the smallest amount of momentum going. Metaphorically speaking, I wasn’t running a marathon; I was hiking the Appalachian Trail and some months were very slow, but I always stuck to my bare minimum goal.

DL: Tell us what the theme of your book was. How did you come upon this theme of overcoming trauma of childhood abuse? Do you feel you were successful in getting your theme across to the reader?

DB: The theme of my memoir is surviving my childhood abuse through faith despite having no living person to turn to. The theme was simply there from the moment I began to write. I guess that I was fortunate in not having to figure it out. Deciding on the title was the hard part. I changed it at least half a dozen times. Denis gave me some great advice on that. He said to give it a title that lets the reader know what they are getting into—something that can sum up the memoir in just a few words. I stuck to the theme while revising the text a dozen times. Each time I cut out more extraneous material and kept focusing on what was important. Side stories—”little darlings”—were removed, and an entire cast of characters who were part of my life were trimmed out because they didn’t contribute to the theme. I had a lot of “squirrels” in there. I deleted nearly 150 pages in total text by the time I was done.

DL: Is there anything in particular you would say was the most difficult thing to succeed at in this book? Was it scheduling, research, plotting, point of view, believing in yourself, or what else?

DB: The toughest hurdle for me was finding the time to write. By not overwhelming myself with unrealistic expectations on what I was capable of, I was able to persevere even though it took me years to complete it.

DL: Was there a success trait you have discerned for the process of writing? That is, are there best practices you would recommend to readers that would facilitate completing her/his memoir? EG. working on schedule, quitting not being an option, external physical or emotional support from someone, etc.

DB: Don’t give up. If you have a bad week, pick it back up the next week or the one after. It’s never too late to restart even if you took a twenty-year break from writing! However, remember that a break is not giving up. Always keep your goal in mind.

DL: How have you dealt with self-doubt? 

DB: There is always self-doubt even after completion. That is where Denis comes in. When you know that you have a memoir professional on your side to help you through the rough spots and to clean up the issues it gives you enough morale to continue moving forward. If in doubt, reach out to someone who knows more than you.

DL: What makes for a successful memoir? Do you feel your memoir about overcoming trauma was a success?

DB: I believe that any memoir that gets completed is successful. According to Google only 3% of people who start writing actually finish their book. As far as I’m concerned, if you finished your first draft, that’s a success and something that should be celebrated. When I launched the book, I truly had no expectations of whether or not people would like it. Actually, I figured that readers would peg me as a lunatic. Many of us probably feel that way about the dark side of our lives. However, after receiving a few positive reviews on Amazon, my fears subsided. Even though I haven’t sold thousands of copies, I feel it was a success—thanks to the kind readers who left me feedback.

Transcending Darkness is available on Amazon.

This is Part 2 of Denis Ledoux’s three part interview with memoir writer Denise Brown. To read Part 1, click here.

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