Waltzing with Ghosts (Forgive My Absence)

There is truth in memory. It is a truth laced with opinion built on years of re-framing life images. As I work on my second book (first memoir) spirits long since transcended, sit beside me urging me to their truth. I dig deeper and deeper to see them as whole human beings, frail, wanting to be loved, unsure, making their way in the best manner they could. mansion-1

Haunted. It is the best word to describe the process of trying to uncover beautiful prose in a past so horrifying that I often think it happened to someone else. The words never seem right. Never large or accurate enough to tell the tale of honing my faith in hell. How does one describe God’s grace? When my finger left the trigger of my father’s rifle, on the day I planned to kill him, I looked up to the marble crucifix. Porcelain Jesus looked back. His suffering was more than mine, and somehow at that moment I knew my tortured family would be okay.

Denial. I have spent more than thirty-years hiding from my truth. I did not know I was running, swiping away what my heart owned. “I survived. I’m strong”, I would tell those who asked about growing up in a constant state of battle. Shhh. Don’t mention your adoption anger. Dysfunction cast in a light of character-building is easier for others to stomach. So, I swallowed the loathing, fear, and vulnerability of abuse in a great big pill called denial, riding the effects until earlier this year. Now, as I experience inevitable withdrawals, I withdraw from you my readers, and friends.

As I write, monsters who choked the justice from my childhood encircle. Scratching at my soul, they fight the exodus that will free me. They crowd my mind, pushing and hollering to be heard on my precious pages.  I dance with and away from the exposure they flaunt.

Winter is coming as I work to complete this book. As frigid nights zap the green from marsh grass to reveal roots and decay, so topple barriers long forged to hide my truth.  If I seem distracted, please forgive me. I am waltzing a glorious, tortuous last dance with powerful apparitions.

Blessings for a peaceful, loving Thanksgiving,

V.L. Brunskill


Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
View the Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

Conrack Gone- Pat Conroy Remembered

 

When I read of Pat Conroy’s death, I prayed it was not so. In my continued prayers since learning of his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, I imagined Pat fit, healthy, and miraculously healed by the prayers of his well-wishers, readers and fans.

Pat deserved to be well. Pat needed to be at the next book festival, filling literary minds with encouragement, humor, and his painfully honest recollections. The book world could not survive without Pat’s pink-cheeked smirk, wry humor or masterful manipulation of words. Yet, this dark day, we must find a way to do so.

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Decatur Book Festival

Pat was my author. It’s hard to describe why, or how, he became ‘my’ author. It likely started where every literary love affair begins, in a book. Water is Wide was my first foray into Pat Conroy’s world. It was love at first read. After that, I devoured everything Pat wrote, and attended every reading, festival and signing where I might feast on his opinions, learn a literary trick, hug greatness.

I think a quote from Pat’s My Losing Season- A Memoir describes my feelings best-

“The great teachers fill you up with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life. I wanted to follow Mr. Monte around for the rest of my life, learning everything he wished to share or impart, but I didn’t know how to ask.”

I had the good fortune of breathing the same air as Pat Conroy many times. So many times in fact, that a few friends asked if I was a Conroy stalker. Every greeting from Pat buckled my knees, and quickened my heart in a fan girl manner that made deep questions on writing, survival, and other important life issues, impossible.

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Savannah Book Festival

Pat was always patient and gracious despite my goofiness. He laughed when author Mary Hood (who’d witnessed my breathless approach) told me to, “breath” from a nearby signing table at the Savannah Book Festival. He teased me as we took a photo together, making up tales of knowing my mother in high school, and having a great time with her (wink, wink). He greeted my daughter and I at the opening of the Mina and Conroy Fitness Center as if we were long lost family, delivering a peck on the cheek that made me swoon.

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Mina & Conroy Fitness Center

As a fellow abuse survivor, and writer, Pat represented for me, the hopeful idea that I might someday capture the brutality of my own childhood in a prose that prickled reader’s skin and healed their hearts.

To open a Conroy book is to watch Pat slice a vein, and bleed precisely and eloquently on every page. Pat Conroy was a beacon for the beaten down, a man who reigned over a kingdom of readers with the touch of a healer.

He was my author, and I miss him already.

Blessings for Pat’s loving wife Cassandra, his family & friends,

V.L.
———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weep, Write, Repeat- ‘Transgressions in Rouge’

Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Well, as I bleed through the first draft of my next book, Transgressions in Rouge, I am learning the truth of Hemingway’s statement, along with a breathtaking amount of my own truth.

Transgressions is based on the story of my life as an adoptee and abuse survivor. It is also the story of my adoptive father, who lived an angry lie during the first 60+ years of his life.  It was a lie so deeply buried (and secret) that it ate away his humanity, and ability to be a decent father or human being. My father was a transgender woman. hemingway

As I research the male-to-female transition process,  I discover more of my adoptive father’s psyche than I ever understood while he was alive. He died in February. Some of you will recall the Eulogy that I penned for him that month. I wrote it in a whirlwind of pain.

My father’s only friend (who had her daughter call me about Jo’s death) made me out to be an evil person, a sorry daughter who abandoned the righteous woman she’d befriended. During that phone call, I whimpered out my story to the stranger on the phone. I explained that my family was the victim of Jo’s hard handed actions. I told her about the brutal attacks, wondering out loud if they  might have been born of Jo’s desperate cover-up of her true self. Jo was angry at us, herself, the world and resolved her frustration with both fists raised.

Writing a novel that is based on my life is like pulling my lower lip over my head, and hanging a bowling bowl from the end.

It sucks, and then again, it doesn’t.

For along with the writing down of scenes so dramatic they adapt seamlessly to fiction,

  • Dad drowning neighbor’s cats in the backyard.
  • Dad kicking Mom until she had internal bleeding.
  • Dad brushing my seven-year-old brother’s teeth until blood poured from his gums

…there is relief and a deeper understanding of the insanity that was my childhood. When I look at the events as a writer, the motives of everyone involved become clearer. The strong do not loom half as large as they appeared when I was a child living each crisis.

There is power and perspective in bleeding on paper.

Write, weep, repeat.

Blessings that you find your demons and the power to slay them,

V.L. Brunskill
———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

 

Halloween- Masked Revelations

Just back from the Spooky Empire Halloween convention in Orlando, and as I pack away the heavy rubber mask I wore at the Con, I reflect on the happy faces of the people who rushed to take a photo of my family’s group costume. Completely concealed by the mask, with the sounds of people’s voices muffled and only a tiny slice of sight, I had the rare opportunity of being completely incognito.spooky4

It was an oddly freeing experience, as I posed for one photo after another, still myself, but unknown for my true face. My new hair color (I went from blonde to brown) did not matter to the joyous faces who asked me to turn this way and that. People put their arms around me, hugged me, smiled, and stared openly. My anonymity made them comfortable.

I have to admit that people are not always at ease in my presence. I wear the intensity of survival in my eyes and tight jawline. I often look stern, even when I am feeling as vulnerable as a newborn. My tendency to wear a grumpy look when pondering my latest story line, is often assumed by others to be moodiness. I look serious.

In life, we all make assumptions based on people’s appearances. The mask I wore this Halloween freed me from onlooker’s judgement based on my looks. The mask also forced me to look at my own assumptions.

One of the media guests at the event was Burt Reynolds. He is nearing 79-years-old. His face looks pained, his posture bent. If I saw him on the street, it would not be his fame that I witnessed. I would not see the mega movie star, the actor who defined a generation of 1970’s movies. I would have seen an old man, looked past him, and missed out on the lessons of a superstar who had it all, lost it, and learned how to survive.DSCN5645

Whether we like it or not, it is human nature to react to physical appearance. Wearing a mask made me realize how much joy is lost to assumptions made based on looks.

A few thoughts from my time under the mask-

  • The less we assume, the more we will know.
  • Physical beauty captivates, but its fade is the true freedom.
  • Inside every frail, aging form is the bright soul they wore in youth.
  • Facial expression is an unreliable measure of humanity.

Blessings to be seen in your truest form,

V.L. Brunskill

———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

The Quiet Revelation of Tea Leaves- E. Shaver Bookseller

On Saturday September 19th, I arrived at E. Shaver Bookseller to sign copies of my debut novel Waving Backwards. I unrolled my ‘Author Inside’ banner, unpacked my Penguin Sharpie, and headed to the antique-filled room behind The Tea Room.

During the three years I spent rewriting my novel, while sprouting gray hairs, and dreading the idea of allowing anyone to read my work, I visited E. Shaver often. I tiptoed through room-after-room of the 1842 Greek revival home (turned bookstore) immersed in a reader’s oasis of classics, bestsellers, and rare finds.

During these visits, posters announcing book signings, and shelves filled with local author’s works, tantalized and tempted me to think about someday joining their ranks. Daydreaming of my Savannah novel, and how it would feel to hold a bound version in my hand, or (mercy me) see it on an E. Shaver shelf, made each visit to the store a mystical trip into the realm of possibilities.

Anywhere one dreams is magical.

After my book was published by SYP Publishing in July, it was far easier for me to contact local chain stores about carrying it, than to approach E. Shaver.  Sometimes we hold something so dear that we also hold it at a distance. So, when the lovely ladies at the store contacted me about carrying my novel, I waltzed around my living room. Later, when I approached them about a signing and they said ‘yes’,  dizzy does not begin to describe my reaction.

eshaver2On the day of the signing, the ancient building welcomed me with the same creaky floorboards, and bookish aroma of freshly bound dreams.  I sat at the signing table, peering at the store’s heavy wooden entrance doors with a fresh perspective. A new aroma joined the sensory party as the scent of fruit, jasmine and joyful spices made its way to my nose. A relatively new addition to E. Shaver’s offerings is The Tea Room that now resides where large format books once rested.

From my signing spot, I was privy to the whispering of the Tea Room ladies as  they described in aromatic detail the hot and cold beverages they had freshly brewed for patrons that afternoon. Adding to the ambiance were a delightful array of bookish shoppers, and the symphonic calm of classic forties tunes playing quietly throughout the store. eshaver

I met wonderful friends, an adoptee (who found that his mother became a nun after his relinquishment), and signed a book for a young man who wore a Cheshire grin when he asked me to inscribe his book to, “the amazingly handsome Doug.”  I also met the resident kitties, who pranced through tea cup and saucer displays with enviable feline grace. However, it was a moment of solitude that made the signing a true success.

As I partook of a cup of hot ‘Emperor’s Bride’ tea (a name that made me giggle) I  picked up a copy of Waving Backwards, and reread the back cover describing the story that lived in my heart for so long. I teared up at the blurb written by author John WarleyA Southern Girl, The Moralist, Bethesda’s Child). I admired the texture and color of the richly designed cover, and I gave thanks.

The hectic pace of launching, marketing, and selling a book (when you’re not J.K. Rowling) steals a bit of the achievement’s sparkle. In my little corner of E. Shaver, a quiet knowing replaced success metrics that rely on the latest positive review or sales ranking. I found among the steeping tea leaves, a solitude and pride of completion. Not showy, nor outward, I caressed my story, amid people who appreciated words, and felt for the first time what it really means to be an author.

Thank you to E. Shaver Bookseller (and all independent booksellers) for embracing local authors, and breathing life into the continued sharing of words  and stories.

Blessings for thankful insight and a great read,

V.L.
———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

Snowflakes in a Blizzard blog about ‘Waving Backwards’

‘Snowflakes in a Blizzard’ wrote a beautiful piece on ‘Waving Backwards’ today. As most of you know, ‘Waving Backwards’ is an adoption search themed novel.

 

Snowflakes in a Blizzard

OUR OTHER CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOK, “CHASE,” BY SYDNEY SCROGHAM, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

THE BOOK: Waving Backwards.Waving Backwards

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR: V.L. Brunskill.

THE PUBLISHER: Southern Yellow Pine Publishing (SYP) Publishes fiction and non-fiction books that are set in the South, or written by Southern writers.

SUMMARY: Imagine not knowing who you are, until you find yourself in a statue 800 miles from home. Waving Backwards is the story of intensely passionate and fiercely independent New York college student Lara Bonavito’s unforgettable journey of self-discovery in sigh-worthy Savannah, Georgia. Adopted into an abusive and impoverished home, Lara’s quest to find her roots lands her in the Southern jewel’s historic district.

A vivid cast of characters help her unravel clues found in a cryptic letter hidden in the family bible for two decades. “The baby’s roots are with the Southern lady who…

View original post 1,078 more words

For My Favorite Survivor – Pat Conroy at Decatur Book Festival

Yesterday, in a standing-room only session at the AJC Decatur Book Festival, I sat in the choir loft of the First Baptist Church, mesmerized once again by Pat Conroy’s candid and comedic telling of a life spent writing about survival. Pat was interviewed by his longtime literary agent Marly Rusoff, and shared the stage with novelist Jonathan Odell.

Like Conroy, I was raised in a family where mental illness, violence and dysfunction flourished. Unlike Conroy, I have not yet found my full voice for describing the damage and self-delusion of my parents. Conroy knows more than any writer, the danger of family estrangement that is inherent in writing novels that are semi-autobiographical. Conroy has lived a lifetime of emotional repercussions as a result of his near-mythic ability to bleed-out parental flaws onto page-after-page of heart-wrenching prose.

My debut novel hints at the atrocities of my childhood, including months spent homeless and hiding in a shelter for battered women and children. However,  unlike Conroy who slaughters familial beasts with open-fisted humor, Waving Backwards swats at the underbelly of childhood violence.

Waving Backwards is a story of family dysfunction, coming-of-age, adoption search and abuse.  Listening to Conroy yesterday, clarified for me the reasons (beyond my extreme newbie status in the craft of novel writing) that I did not delve into the morbid details of childhood terror with more clarity. Conroy explained how his book editor for The Great Santini, edited out some of his father’s bad behavior in the novel, because she did not believe that “any father could treat his children so badly.” Conroy went on to say that at the time of Santini’s publication in 1976, “America was not read for that kind of abuse.”

Long before editors tucked and trimmed my novel, I did a fair amount of abuse-editing. Conroy’s comments made me realize that I was seeking to protect the pro-adoption segment of American society.  An an author and adoptee, I judged them ill-equipped to deal with the fact that many adoptive parents are not suited to adopt; and that sometimes a biological parent is a better care-giving option, even if they are financially needy. Abundant monetary resources do not make someone a better parent. Adoption can be healthy and successful. However, that is not my story to tell.

I have been blessed to hear Pat Conroy speak on three separate occasions, and each time I am left with a new nugget of eloquent insight into the task of writing as an abuse survivor. Like Mr. Conroy, I am a reluctant memory keeper. The daily battles that my family locked away, flourish vividly and painfully in my writer’s mind.

Yesterday, as I descended from the choir loft, I thought about sharing my book with this masterful author. In typical writer’s fashion, self-doubt reared its ugly head, and I almost decided against it. Yet, the desire to give something back to the man who has gifted me (and the world) with such courageous literature, made me open a copy of Waving Backwards and write, “For my favorite survivor. Thank you for inspiring me to write.”

Hands shaking, in what I now refer to as the ‘Conroy quake’, I handed him my book, snapped a few photos of it sitting on his signing table, and walked off in a teary cloud of giddy delight. conroywb

Thank you Pat Conroy for accepting my humble gift, and for helping to pave a path for my next novel, which will delve more fearlessly into the life-long burden of child abuse in adoption.

Blessings for less self-editing and more truth,

V.L.
———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

 

‘Waving Backwards’ Book Launch Reminds that Family is All

To say I was nervous on Friday July 10th is an understatement. I arrived at the Marriott Riverfront in Savannah a couple of hours early for set up and to  sign dozens of pre-sale books. My niece who was visiting from North Carolina sat in the passenger seat assuring me that it would be a grand success. She was one of many angels who helped me shine that night.

After speaking to spectacular Marriott staffer, Cindy Johnson, about the arrangement of food tables, I was finally able to greet my publisher Terri Gerrell of SYP Publishing. She found me a signing spot at a large table, suggesting that I sit and breath. She reminded me that I was the author.booklaunch5

I watched as the lobby was transformed into a sparkling party place. Musician Greg Williams arrived on time, wearing a guitar and easy smile. The palm rose maker, Peanut (the oldest artisan on River Street) sashayed  in with a shoulder loaded with palm fronds. Plans fell into place. Imaginings became reality.

Like the moment when a storm passes, and a first ray of sunlight appears, the literary launch I had dreamed of was born. Three years prior, as I sat in the same lobby writing Waving Backwards, I had no way of knowing that we would launch the book there. I did not even know if the book would be published.booklaunch9

Perched happily at my very first book signing table on Friday night, I had hardly taken a breath before a stream of well-wishers arrived. Family, friends, new friends, book lovers, tourists, all stopped to say hello; purchase a book; take a photo. When the first reader asked to have her photo taken with me, I glanced over my shoulder wondering if she meant someone else.booklaunch2

An hour or so into the signing, a voice rose above the murmur of party goers. It was instantly recognizable, and transported me back to the age of seven. I said, “That cannot be the voice I think it is.” When I finished signing the book in front of me, I looked up and there stood a woman I had not seen in a dozen years. It was my adoptive mother’s youngest sister. The aunt who taught me about Barbies and The Beatles had traveled from New York to Savannah to attend my book launch.

In rare moments, when I was able to pause from signing and look around that booklaunch6night, I witnessed my biological and adoptive families in a wash of commonality that sent shivers down my spine. My birth mother posed with my adoptive mother. My adoptive and blood brothers discussed movies and shared a toast. My nieces from both sides of the adoption triad chatted, smiled, shared.

I searched thirteen years to find my biological family, and while they have met my adoptive family before, this was the first celebration we shared as one brood, one clan, one bright reminder of the importance of nature and nurture.

My friends too, joined the fray of family that night as they learned who I look like, who I grew with, who I love, and who loves me back. From our local book club; to a group  I spend Sundays with exploring the world via documentaries; the night was a perfect celebration of the ‘Waving Backwards’ message.booklaunchbertice

Family is all. No matter how they come to join you, family is made of the connections that define us. 

Open records for all adoptees at age eighteen, and access to Original Birth Certificates (OBCs) is essential! All adoptees deserve to experience the completeness and co-mingling that permeated my book launch.

The time for adoptee rights is now.

Blessings and thanks to everyone who attended the Waving Backwards book launch. Thank you city of Savannah, friends and family!  I love you!
Hugs, V.L.

——

Twitter- @RockMemoir
Facebook- www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwardshttp://www.syppublishing.com/waving-backwards/
Amazon author page- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

You’re Invited to the ‘Waving Backwards’ Book Launch Party

You have never experienced an adoption search mystery like this.
Adoptionfind readers, it is with great pleasure that I invite you to the book launch party for my Savannah Novel Waving Backwards.

invitation
To learn more about the book,
or pre-order,
and get your copy personalized by me,
visit

 

Hope to meet you there in July!
Blessings for a shared Savannah adventure,
V.L. Brunskill

An ‘F’ Word to Feel Good About in the New Year

It came to me after spotting one of those cutesy postcards on Facebook that read, ‘we’re all faking it’. A epiphany of influential interactions flooded my head, followed by a vision of the most powerful F word to ever grace humankind. A word that has made kings of slaves and built a thousand empires. Fword

The word is FAKE.

As an international music journalist, I interviewed top artists of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. From Aerosmith to Skynyrd, I picked the brains of the best. Later, as a documentation specialist in the tech world, I was surrounded by  a bevy of brilliant physicists. From rock stars to ion rockers, I viewed the success of these men and women in perpetual awe.  I mingled among them in a state of insecure impostering. After all, I was born, given away, re-placed and forced to figure out where I fit in.

During my very first national music interview with the late, great Joey Ramone, my voice cracked, and I giggled a lot. My hands shook as I settled in to an hour long conversation with the punk icon. Sizzling behind every word was my imposter voice. Who are you kidding? He’ll think you’re a groupie.  He didn’t, and the interview was brilliant, fun and launched my career. Before I knew it, record labels were calling on me every time a big act came through Boston. Still, I felt like a flounder flipping about in a dwindling puddle of made-up reality. Evaporation was imminent.

With my physicist colleagues, it was worse. I have a college education, but the terminology tossed about by these men and women was as foreign to me as a ride on the space shuttle. In fact, I went home after the first day on the job and cried. I was a scientific novice, and felt sure they would toss me out. I purchased a periodic table, learned atomic abbreviations and prayed, a lot!

As a kid, the feeling was the same. I was adopted. I knew nothing about my birth family. I pretended that I was like everyone else. But inside I felt made up. Despite the fact that my music and science careers came after I found my birth family. (Read how I found them in this post), I still assigned the source of my fake-dom to being adopted.

What I failed to examine as I trudged through the firestorm of adoptee insecurity were the stories of the rock stars I interviewed, and the scientists I worked with. If I could have tuned out my tenacious imposter’s voice for longer than a nano-second, I would have heard the universal message, “I’m faking it too.”

During an interview with singer Gary Cherone of the band Extreme, he told me about the first time he sang for his mother and grandmother.  He was so shy that he sang from inside the kitchen closet with the door closed. In his heart, Gary was insecure about his talent.

A physicist co-worker from overseas once shared with me his story of studying under the streetlight at the center of his town (because there was no other electricity) and despite being at the top of his field, wondered out loud if a man from such a humble beginning deserved success.

These men were not adopted, and yet they were faking or questioning their success. It never occurred to me that someone who always knew their bloodline could feel like a fake. Everyone appeared so solid, and confident. They were big, important people who wore success like a golden cloak of superiority.

Yet underneath, they questioned their family connections (blood or chosen), life choices, and career successes. Dear readers, in no way am I discounting the extra anxiety and loss of being adopted. If you have read my other blog entries, you already know my heartfelt belief that finding your family is essential for growth and peace. My New Year message to you is one of inclusion.

Knowing that everyone feels like a great big fake at sometime in their life goes a long way to settling in to become who you are meant to be. Feeling like a fake is the result of fear. Worrying about being found out for the authentic, learning, seeking and not so perfect human that you are is universal.  While I don’t recommend you sling the ‘F’ word around this year in an effort to even your human playing field. I do hope you will start 2015 on better footing by listening for the helpful (and humorous) ways your friends, colleagues, and fellow planet-dwellers admit that they too – are faking it.

Blessing for a year of revelations and improved self-worth,
V.L. Brunskill