Tag Archives: Ann Patchett

The femoral derotational osteotomy: The longest marathon.

14 Jan

I was born with Cerebral Palsy. In my case, I was born with my femurs angled inward and my hips tilted forward, and my angled femurs caused my feet to point in as well. Therefore, as a kid, when I would walk, I’d end up tripping over my feet, which made it harder for me to walk properly. On October 8, 2001, I had my first intense operation, a femoral derotational osteotomy. In some ways, it doesn’t seem like that long ago. The femoral derotational osteotomy was an intense operation in which the surgeons straightened out my femurs in order to allow me to walk straight. Rods were also used in order to keep my legs straight, but they would be taken out the following year once everything had fully healed. Even though the operation itself isn’t something I remember since I was asleep, I do remember the conversation I had with the OR nurses before I was put under. When the nurses looked down at me on the operating table and asked me to tell them about my animals, I proceeded to include the names of my pets at home as well as the names of all of my stuffed animals (and I had a lot). The nurses just smiled. They didn’t seem to mind.

When I woke up in the ICU, I had on two long-leg casts that were connected by a bar in the middle. I also had an epidural, so I couldn’t feel the full extent of my pain. However, those first few days in the ICU were spent not eating as much jello as I could manage, but continually getting sick from the anesthesia that had put me under during the operation. Trust me, having a nurse come over with a tube to suck the vomit out of your throat is completely disgusting, but it’s better than having the full taste of vomit in your mouth by waiting for it to come all the way up. Though I did eventually leave the ICU and Shriner’s after my first intense operation, I had to keep those long-leg casts on for the next 8 weeks, and during those 8 weeks, I became completely dependent on my parents. They had to help me shower, help me go to the bathroom, and help me change my clothes among many, many other things. It was only the beginning of the very long road to gaining my own independence.

In many ways, the femoral derotational osteotomy was the beginning of a marathon that would last much longer than just a few days. It was the beginning of the complete hell I would go through over the next 6 years until I reached the age of 15. By the age of 15, I had endured 3 intense surgeries, 15 years of physical therapy, and more pain that I ever thought possible. However, despite all of that, I persevered. I pushed through because I knew it was the only thing that would allow me to be independent. In the beginning, after that first operation, my parents were helping me do everything. I was completely dependent on them. However, by age 15, I was not only independent, I was gearing up to leave home the following year to attend an all-girls’ boarding school in North Carolina. Though leaving home was and always will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done (not including my operations and all the intense physical therapy that followed them), it was also the best decision I ever made for myself. As with so many other things in my life, I’ve learned from it all, but more than that, I have been able to better understand the person I am supposed to become. Though I would have never imagined that I’d be using experiences from my own life in order to relate to and lift up other kids with CP and other disabilities, it’s beginning to feel like a permanent place I belong.

In the right hands, a memoir is the flecks of gold panned out of a great, muddy river. A memoir is those flecks melted down into a shapable liquid that can be molded and hammered into a single bright band to be worn on a finger, something you could point to and say, “This? Oh, this is my life.” Everyone has a muddy river, but very few have the vision, patience, and talent to turn it into something so beautiful. That is why the writer matters, so that we can not only learn from her experience but find a way to shape our own. -Ann Patchett, afterword of Autobiography of a Face

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Writers and their bookshops.

20 Dec

As my Christmas break continues, so does my “month-long reading hibernation.” Therefore, when I came across My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop by Ronald Rice, I couldn’t stop smiling. Although I have not had the chance to read the book yet, a novel focused on writers discussing their favorite bookshops seems like such a wonderful read, and I can’t wait to read it sometime during my break from academics. I enjoy discussing my own favorite bookshops, and I think it’s such an amazing idea to give readers a glimpse into the bookish world of their favorite authors. Here is the synopsis of My Bookstore (according to GoodReads.com):

In this enthusiastic, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous ode to bookshops and booksellers, 84 known authors pay tribute to the brick-and-mortar stores they love and often call their second homes. In “My Bookstore” our greatest authors write about the pleasure, guidance, and support that their favorite bookstores and booksellers have given them over the years. The relationship between a writer and his or her local store and staff can last for years or even decades. Often it’s the author’s local store that supported him during the early days of his career, that continues to introduce and hand-sell her work to new readers, and that serves as the anchor for the community in which he lives and works.”My Bookstore “collects the essays, stories, odes and words of gratitude and praise for stores across the country in 84 pieces written by our most beloved authors. It’s a joyful, industry-wide celebration of our bricks-and-mortar stores and a clarion call to readers everywhere at a time when the value and importance of these stores should be shouted from the rooftops.Perfectly charming line drawings by Leif Parsons illustrate each storefront and other distinguishing features of the shops.

Contributing authors and bookstores include:
Fannie Flagg–Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL
Rick Bragg–Alabama Booksmith, Homewood, AL
John Grisham–That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, AR
Ron Carlson–Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ
Ann Packer–Capitola Book Cafe, Capitola, CA
Isabel Allende–Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
Mahbod Seraji–Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA
Lisa See–Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
Meg Waite Clayton–Books Inc., San Francisco, CA
Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown–The Booksmith, San Francisco, CA
Dave Eggers–Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
Pico Iyer–Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, CA
Laurie R. King–Bookshop, Santa Cruz, CA
Scott Lasser–Explore Booksellers, Aspen, CO
Stephen White–Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
Kate Niles–Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, CO
Ann Haywood Leal–Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
Florence and Wendell Minor–The Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT
Rick Atkinson–Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC
Les Standiford–Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL
Robert Macomber–The Muse Book Shop, Deland, FL
David Fulmer–Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, GA
Abraham Verghese–Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA
Charlie Brandt–Chapter One Bookstore, Ketchum, ID
Luis Alberto Urrea–Anderson’s Bookshops, Naperville, IL
Mike Leonard–The Book Stall Chestnut Court, Winnetka, IL
Albert Goldbarth–Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
Wendell Berry–Carmichael’s Bookstore, Louisville, KY
Tom Piazza–Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA
Edith Pearlman–Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Mameve Medwed–Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.–Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
Simon Winchester–The Bookloft, Great Barrington, MA
Nancy Thayer–Mitchell’s Book Corner, Nantucket, MA
Elin Hilderbrand–Nantucket Bookworks, Nantucket, MA
Jeanne Birdsall–Broadside Bookshop, Northampton, MA
Martha Ackmann–Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
Ward Just–Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Vineyard Haven, MA
Ron Currie, Jr.–Longfellow Books, Portland, ME
ancy Shaw–Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI
Katrina Kittle–Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI
Ann Patchett–Mclean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI
Louise Erdrich–Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, MN
Peter Geye–Micawber’s Books, St. Paul, MN
Kathleen Finneran–Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
Barry Moser–Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS
Jack Pendarvis–Square Books, Oxford, MS
Jill McCorkle–Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC
Carrie Ryan–Park Road Books, Charlotte, NC
Laurent Dubois–The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC
Lee Smith–Purple Crow Books, Hillsborough, NC
Angela Davis-Gardner–Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, NC
Ron Rash–City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC
Ian Frazier–Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ
Audrey Vernick–Booktowne, Manasquan, NJ
Joan Wickersham–The Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH
Carmela Ciuraru–Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
Matt Weiland–Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
Kate Christensen–WORD, Brooklyn, NY
Mick Cochrane–Talking Leaves Books, Buffalo, NY
Caroline Leavitt–McNally Jackson Books, New York, NY
Arthur Nersesian–St. Mark’s Bookshop, New York, NY
Francine Prose & Pete Hamill–Strand Bookstore, New York, NY
Jeff Smith–Book Loft German Village, Columbus, OH
Chuck Palahniuk–Powell’s Books, Portland, OR
Larry Kane–Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, PA
Ann Hood–Island Books, Middletown, RI
Mindy Friddle–Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
Adam Ross–Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
Douglas Brinkley–Book People, Austin, TX
Terry Tempest Williams–The King’s English Book Shop, Salt Lake City, UT
Howard Frank Mosher–Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT
Jon Clinch–Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, VT
Jonathan Evison–Eagle Harbor Book Co., Bainbridge Island, WA
Tom Robbins–Village Books, Bellingham, WA
Timothy Egan–Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
Stephanie Kallos–Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA
Ivan Doig–University Book Store, Seattle, WA
Lesley Kagen–Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI
Liam Callanan–Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Though I haven’t read the book yet, I love that the GoodReads synopsis provides readers with the list of contributing authors and bookstores. Since I normally enjoy doing any and everything related to books, I am now determined to keep a Word document of these bookstores on my computer and try to go to as many of them as possible. Since I love traveling so much, I think it would be such a fun adventure to go to the bookshops that seem to be the most interesting (after reading the book, of course). After scanning the list, I can definitely say I haven’t been to any of these bookstores (though I did order Jodi Picoult’s House Rules from Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC before attending one of Jodi’s book signings in March of 2010). Though none of the bookshops sound familiar, I am looking forward to reading about the following writers’ favorite bookshops: Lisa See (author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love), Ann Lamott (author of Bird by Bird), Elin Hilderbrand (author of The Love Season), Ann Patchett (author of Truth & Beauty), and Lesley Kagen (author of Whistling in the Dark).

In my opinion, a novel discussing bookshops that writers love is such a wonderful idea for a book. For writers, as well as all book lovers, bookshops are such a wonderful place to get lost in books and allow ourselves to be completely immersed in a world we love so much. I definitely can’t wait to read this novel! I’ll certainly be reviewing it once I have the chance to read it.

Wanting to find my niche of writer friends.

12 Dec

Since starting this blog in November of last year and realizing my own need to share my story of living with CP, I think it’s accurate to say there have definitely been days with no words. Days when I would sit at my computer for hours before a memory would find its way into my mind or I’d realize I wanted to share a certain lesson I had learned. However, I think it’s important to realize that we all have days where we get stuck. Though I’m most familiar with it in terms of how it relates to being a writer, I know the concept of being stuck affects people in different ways.

In my experience, I have gotten over many of my ruts by reading. I imagine it has something to do with having the chance to get out of your own head for a little while to enter the world of someone else’s creativity and writing style. Though it doesn’t always act as an immediate jolt, placing myself into the worlds of other writers allows me to gain perspective as well as achieve a better understanding of the message I want to get across through my own writing.

Last month, when I read Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, I spent time imagining how things would’ve been different for me now if I had made the decision to major in English instead of Psychology. Though I love Psychology, I have always had a love of words, literature, and the power of writing. However, I think I ended up choosing Psychology because I knew it would hold many more opportunities for me in terms of a future career than English would. Though I am very happy with my decision to study Psychology, I do miss the English courses I took my freshman year of college. In those classes, I flourished. I poured over the short stories we discussed in class, but since my freshman year was a time in which I took a break from my writing, I wasn’t keen on writing my own stories. Though I knew I had the ability, I was fully content to live inside the worlds of the authors I only hoped to one day emulate.

In Ann Patchett’s memoir Truth & Beauty, writer friends Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, to study English. The entire time I was reading of Ann and Lucy’s adventures as English majors in northern Manhattan, I imagined myself in a similar place (not in terms of living in New York, but studying English and being surrounded by others who also had a love for writing). I pictured myself finding my writer friends, forming writer groups and spending hours discussing our own writing projects as well as the works of the authors we hoped to be like. I pictured myself spending hours in bookstores pouring over Flannery O’Connor, only to one day find someone sitting near me pouring over an entirely different book, while finding comfort in the silent conversation we shared. Despite the fact I now live in the artsy city of Asheville, I have not found the writing niche I long for. In some part of my mind, I wonder if I would have found my writer friends easier if I had chosen to be an English major instead, especially since it seems to be an unspoken fact that English majors love to write, read and talk about books. Though I hope to eventually find a group of writer friends my age who are able to fully understand my love of literature and writing, sometimes I just wish I had put myself in a better position to find just that.

Though I know I have a lot of time to “find my niche,” I think each of us longs to be around a group of people who understands us and encourages us to fully embrace the things we love. Though I do have friends my age who fit that mold, none of them are writers. I do remember coming across a Literature Club on my college campus, and that may be a place to start. However, I also know that I’m interested in connecting with others who not only love to read, but have the burning desire to write on a daily basis (and end up doing so, for the most part). So yes, I feel like I would benefit from a niche of writer friends. Maybe all it takes is being willing to go out into the community in search of a writers group. Though stereotypically most writers categorize themselves as introverts and would much rather spend a day inside reading than out socializing with friends (and I definitely categorize myself this way), I think the only way I’m going to find my fellow writers to talk with about books, writing and the deeper complexities of life is just by going out and looking for it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. But who has ever said that something worth finding ever is?

Why we need more memoirists.

10 Nov

In the right hands, a memoir is the flecks of gold panned out of a great, muddy river. A memoir is those flecks melted down into a shapable liquid that can be molded and hammered into a single bright band to be worn on a finger, something you could point to and say, “This? Oh, this is my life.” Everyone has a muddy river, but very few have the vision, patience, and talent to turn it into something so beautiful. That is why the writer matters, so that we can not only learn from her experience but find a way to shape our own. -Ann Patchett, afterword of Autobiography of a Face

Though I do love everything about this quote from the afterword of Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face, the last line of the quote is what really speaks to me. Since I am in the process of writing my own memoir, over the past few months I’ve vowed to read more memoirs to gain a greater understanding of the genre I’m trying to be a part of. Spending more time reading memoirs rather than fiction, I’ve begun to realize what’s so appealing about them. Memoirs tell the stories of people…they dive deep into the love, pain, fear, excitement, love, and joy that has filled each and every one of those stories. People love reading about people. That’s a fact. However, more than that, I think memoirs allow readers to find pieces of themselves in the memoirist, even though the understanding behind those pieces may feel unclear. Either way, those pieces, however different, provide connection…a sense of belonging that was otherwise lacking.

It may seem obvious that the desire for more memoirists in our society is strong. However, though that may be true, the fact of the matter is that writing about one’s own life isn’t easy. It’s hard. Really, really hard. It’s the process of stripping away every mask that you’ve hidden behind for much of your life. It’s what happens when you force your true self out into the harsh light of day, continually resisting the urge to look away in shame. In my opinion, writing a memoir shows vulnerability. It shows courage, strength, and every emotion that we experience throughout our lives. Through vulnerability, it shows authenticity in its rarest form, and that in itself is truly miraculous.

Through reading Lucy Grealy’s memoir, Autobiography of a Face, I’ve started to understand just what memoirists can offer. Other than providing us with the obvious pieces that connect to form a complete, living, breathing life, memoirists give us the opportunity to embrace our own vulnerabilities rather than shrinking behind them. They allow us to come face to face with the contentment that results from being able to face your past, scars and all, head on. They give us the chance to find our true selves, no matter how frightening or foreign that part of us may be. They present us with the opportunity to love ourselves, which in turn allows others to love us just as much, if not more.