A unique and ambitious contribution to the annals of the memoir genre. It tells the story of a Washington, D.C. journalist-turned-lobbyist who disguises his bipolar disorder as well as his estrangement from his parents and heads out on a five-week cross-country U.S. road trip, engaging with creative and generous individuals who trigger in the author a yearning to pursue an authentic, art-committed life.
To embrace that life, however, would require tremendous change. He would need to break with his funders, face down his fear of a bipolar spiral that might endanger his relationship with his wife and children, and come to terms with his family legacy of mental illness. The book’s intricately woven narrative lines form a brutally honest self-portrait of fear, loss, and growth.
Patrick Ross took me on a five-week road trip from Portland, Maine, to my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I should clarify and point out that it wasn’t a journey we made together, in the same vehicle, on the same plane or train. It’s what I felt as a I read Patrick’s memoir, Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road.
I have followed Patrick’s blog, The Artist’s Road, on and off for the last several years. When he posted recently that his memoir was almost ready to launch, I emailed and offered a review. I was so pleased that Patrick took me up on my offer, especially after I had read the first few pages.
Evocative of William Least Heat-Moon’s famous, Blue Highways, Patrick, by this time a journalist-turned-lobbyist, travels from one end of our country to the other interviewing artists of a variety of genre–painters, musicians, writers–seeking their response on issues of ownership and copyright of an artist’s works.
What usually happens is that little of ownerships or copyrights is discussed, but more likely Patrick and his interviewees connect on a different plane entirely. One senses that with each interview something inside the artist interviewed is touched, and something inside Patrick sparks on a level he hasn’t experienced in a while. Both people gain immeasurably by the snatched time spent together.
Interwoven like the threads of a fine fabric, Patrick’s personal story meshes with the stories he tells of the people he met on this journey. He manages to deal graciously with his family’s mental health history, his own bipolar disorder, and the familial dysfunction and estrangement he experienced with his parents.
Patrick’s writing style is moving, soothing, and rich in tone. His characters are real people, ones he met face-to-face to write this book. And he gives us the best of each of them. Once an interviewee’s story had been told I felt as if I knew him or her. Places visited are shown in highly descriptive language, like the Boise Valley appearing as a small village you might find in a train set. Or the restaurants, bars, and taverns and their eclectic menus across this land of ours.
Ending his journey in Portland, Oregon, also ends Patrick’s personal journey with the realization of what he wants from life. But what he wants will cost him dearly. He’ll have to walk away from his lucrative lobbyist position. Furthermore, he worries he might suffer a bipolar downward spiral that could impact his wife and children, even destroying the family he loves. Patrick’s need to face down his fears about his family’s history of mental illness also plague him.
What Patrick Ross has given us is bi-fold: a lovely bird’s-eye view of his cross-country travels and a raw and often painful view of his own fears, growth, and potential loss.
If you enjoy reading memoirs, stories of people in other places, or a dual story line created by bringing the two together in one book, I highly recommend you read Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road. I could not stop reading passages aloud to my husband as the writing begged reading aloud. And I did not want to see that I had turned the last page.
I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to rate as on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.
Today I’m pleased to give Patrick’s book, Committed: A Memoir of The Artist’s Road, a stellar work, a 5-star rating.
DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
Award-winning creative writer Patrick Ross is the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road (October 2014). He has been a professional writer for more than 25 years, and has chronicled the challenges and rewards of living an art-committed life on The Artist’s Road since the fall of 2010. For more information, visit his website.
Today I have the pleasure and honor of welcoming Anne Peterson, author of Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival. Anne has graciously prepared a post recalling how she came to write Broken and what the process of that writing was like. As I prepared Anne’s post for publication, I was struck by many of her words and their combined power as an affirmation of the healing benefits found in writing. Please join me in welcoming Anne!
I knew it would be hard. I just didn’t realize how hard.
When I started writing my memoir Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, all sorts of challenges met me head on. You don’t write painful events without reliving them. And in my case, it was a full length movie.
Loss is hard
Loss has been a recurring theme in my life. I was actually introduced to loss when I was a little girl. Our neighbor called out for her son. Into the street he ran after his ball. He just never came back. All night long his mother wailed through open windows on that summer night.
But that wasn’t the only loss. They would come one after the other for years upon years.
Why write a book about loss? It’s what I’ve known.
Experiences are great teachers
We are products of the experiences that make up our lives.
We don’t have control over many things that happen to us. But we do have control over how we respond to them.
I found as I continued to pour my life into the pages of my book, I found healing. It’s not the first time I had shared these stories. For years, I’ve shared them to various groups of people. Highlighting how God taught me about his character through my pain. And what was the benefit? Apart from pain, I would never know God’s comfort. Continue reading “In the Rubble by Anne Peterson, Guest”→
I know from personal experience that writing has a healing effect.
From the age of eleven when I received a pink journal with a lock and key, I have written my way through my life challenges. Writing in my journal always makes me feel like I have a safe place to go to unload my concerns and fears. And when I do, I can make sense out of what I am feeling. It feels like my concerns take on a different shape once they land on the pages. Often times when I go back to read my entries over, I will see something I haven’t seen before—a new insight or idea that might help me understand myself a little better.
What I didn’t know when I started writing but have since found out is there is scientific evidence that what I experience intuitively has a tangible health benefits.
Dr. James Pennebaker (http://www.utexas.edu/features/2005/writing/) is a noted psychotherapist who has studied the therapeutic effects of writing on health. Now a professor of psychology at the University of Texas and the author of Opening Up, he chronicled his own journey of healing from depression through writing.
Recent research suggests writing may even ease the symptoms of serious non-psychiatric diseases. For example, blood tests show that subjects have more robust immune systems several weeks after completing writing exercises. http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun02/writing.aspx this link refers to all material through quote on next page.)
Another leading researcher in this field of writing to heal is Dr. Joshua Smyth of Syracuse University. He is quoted by Bridget Murray, in this article as saying:
There is emerging evidence that the key to writing’s effectiveness is in the way people use to interpret their experiences, right down to the words they choose. Venting emotions alone—whether through writing or talking –is not enough t relieve stress. To tap writing’s healing power, people must use it to better understand and learn from their emotions.
In a landmark study which appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 1999), involving 107 asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients, Dr. Smyth discovered that
70 patients in the stressful-writing group (wrote 20 minutes /day for three consecutive days) showed improvement on objective, clinical evaluation than the control group. He concluded that “writing helped patients get better and also kept them from getting worse.
Both Drs. Pennebaker and Smyth acknowledge that writing’s effectiveness in healing will be dependent upon several factors, including a person’s willingness to find meaning in the memory and integrate it into a healing process.
Writing’s power to heal lies not in the pen and paper, but in the mind of the writer.
The journals I wrote in throughout my trials became the seeds for my memoir. Writing my way through the painful memories helped me to get on the other side of them and find a new meaning for the part they played in shaping me into the person I am today.
But there were many days, I put my manuscript aside; walked away and came back to it when I felt strong enough to face my past mistakes. I’m not the same person I was back then and it was excruciating to re-visit those times when I could have, should have made different choices…
Eventually, with the support of mentors and fellow writers, I did find my way to the other side. I began to forgive the young woman in my story who made so many self-defeating choices that had led to untold heartache for not only her but her children. I shed the guilt and shame I had carried around for twenty-five years and started feeling compassion for her. She did the best she could. She acted in good faith, albeit naïvely.
Writing my memoir helped me find my pathway to healing. My greatest hope is that others who have struggled or are still struggling will find hope for their own healing on the pages of my story.
And, if and when I have the chance to talk with my readers, I will tell them that writing helped me to find my pathway to healing. It’s research-based.
Get to Know Kathy Pooler:
Kathleen (Kathy) Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28.2014 and work-in-progress sequel, Hope Matters: A Memoir are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: 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 that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.
She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.
A young woman who loses sight of the faith she has been brought up with attempts to find her way in the world, rejecting her stable roots in lieu of finding adventure and romance. Despite periods of spiritual renewal in which she receives a prophecy, she slides back, taking several self-defeating detours that take her through a series of heartbreaking events.
When Kathy’s second husband, Dan’s verbal abuse escalates, Kathy finally realizes she must move on before she and her children become a statistic.
How does a young woman who came from a stable, loving family make so many wise choices when it came to career, but so many wrong choices when it came to love, so that she ended up sacrificing career and having to flee in broad daylight with her children from an abusive marriage? What is getting in her way and why does she keep taking so many self-defeating detours?
The story opens up the day Kathy feels physically threatened for the first time in her three-year marriage to her second husband. This sends her on a journey to make sense of her life and discern what part she has played in the vulnerable circumstance she finds herself in.
She must make a decision–face her self-defeating patterns that have led to this situation and move on or repeat her mistakes. Her life and the lives of her two children are dependent upon the choices she makes and the chances she takes from this point forward.
Some of the links contained in this blog are affiliate links. This means that I may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase from the affiliate. It’s free for you, but I receive a portion of the sales, which funds go to support this blog. I only recommend products and services that we know or trust to be of high quality, whether an affiliate relationship is in place or not.
The remainder of Kathy’s tour:
Monday, October 13 @ Women’s Writing Circle
Kathleen Pooler sits down with Susan Weidener for a friendly conversation about how Kathleen crowdfunded her memoir, Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://www.susanweidener.com/
Tuesday, October 14 @ Lauren Scharhag
Don’t miss Kathleen Pooler’s interview with Lauren Scharhag as these ladies discuss the hot topic of memoir. Find out more about Kathleen and her own Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://laurenscharhag.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, October 14 @ Vera’s Version
Join Kathleen Pooler as she guest blogs about “How Writing Memoir Helped Me Find Self-Forgiveness” at Vera’s Version and shares insight into her memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://verasversion.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, October 15 @ About Amish
Kathleen Pooler and her memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse makes a stop to visit Saloma Furlong at About Amish where you can read Saloma’s review and get in a giveaway for an opportunity to read Ever Faithful To His Lead for yourself! http://salomafurlong.com/aboutamish/
Friday, October 17 @ Jerry Waxler
Author, Friend, and Fellow Memoir Writer Jerry Waxler reviews Kathleen Pooler’s Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse This is a blog stop you won’t want to miss! http://www.jerrywaxler.com/
Monday, October 20 @ Romance Junkies
Join Kathleen Pooler as she stops at Romance Junkies for an insightful interview about herself and her memoir, Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://www.romancejunkies.com/rjblog/
Tuesday, October 21 @ Mary Gottschalk
Kathleen Pooler shares her latest project: Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse as she visits with friend and fellow author Mary Gottschalk and fittingly writes about “Girlfriends Matter”. This is a blog stop you won’t want to miss! http://marycgottschalk.com/home/
Wednesday, October 22 @ CMash Reads
Join memoir writer Kathleen Pooler as she guest posts at CMash Reads. Kathleen will share her story of “Writing Through the Pain” and tell more about her popular memoir Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. http://cmashlovestoread.com/
Thursday, October 23 @ Bring on Lemons
Hear what Crystal Otto has to say as she reviews Kathleen Pooler’s Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse Don’t miss this blog stop as Kathleen Pooler has graciously provided a copy of her memoir for one lucky reader to win via a giveaway! http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
Victims of domestic abuse include men and women, husbands and wives, grandparents, children, the elderly, employers and employees, wealthy and poor, and more.
Even if you are not the one abused, the atmosphere of abuse and violence impacts your life, sometimes forever.
Lately much has been reported and debated by everyone via social media, newsprint, and TV surrounding recent incidences of domestic abuse by professional athletes, entertainers, and ordinary human beings against girlfriends, wives, children. Those who end up labelled victims.
However, most coverage focuses on the perpetrator of the abuse and rarely on the abused, the victim. It makes one question whether anyone is taking notice.
Because I grew up in an abusive environment, I am interested in the subject. My abuse was invisible because it was usually emotion or verbal, and sometimes physical. My mother inflicted the abuse. No one outside our family likely knew what went on at home. Mama was very careful when in society to show the loving mother, loving child scenario.
What I find so hurtful now is why no one in our family spoke up. Of course, many of them did not know either, but I’m certain some did.
Could they so easily turn a blind eye to demeaning and degrading language thrown like garbage at a child?
Could they also close their eyes to adult hands hitting a small child, belt buckles used as instruments of punishment, or hearing a child told to go and pick the switch and strip its leaves so it would hurt more?
Do you have the courage when you see bruises on a friend while having coffee to ask her about them? Or ask him about the gash on his arm from a kitchen knife?
As co-workers could we see harassment, another form of abuse, happening around us and close our minds to it? Would it be so hard to mention to your own supervisor it is disturbing to you?
Like witnesses to car accidents or burglaries, people do not want to get involved. And I understand the fear of revenge. Try, however, to fathom the fear that resides in the mind and heart of the abused.
If you knew your neighbor’s family was dysfunctional and there was abuse in the home, whether it was the children, the husband or the wife abused, would you be willing to say something to the authorities? Would you get involved?
If you were visiting a nursing home or rehabilitation facility and saw or heard an elderly patient being abused, would you speak up?
If you were walking down the street passed a homeless man or woman and by chance saw someone kicking at them to move their feet or to get off the sidewalk, would you look for the nearest law enforcement officer?
If we are not the ones who speak up for our fellow human beings, who will speak up for us when this insidious behavior strikes our own?
As members of today’s society, we must reconsider the thought process of “not getting involved.” Being involved is what we should be about. Reaching out to another by whatever means–contacting law enforcement or social services offices, helping to find shelter or food, becoming foster parents, and anything else which lifts up the victims–is what we need to once again began caring for one another.