Good morning everyone and welcome to Gloria’s Corner. As most of you know, I’m a reunited #adoptee so today, in celebration of #National-Adoption-Awareness-Month, I would like you to join me in welcoming Laura Dennis, author of Adoption Reality: a Memoir.
Laura Dennis was adopted in New Jersey, raised in Maryland, and learned how to be a (sane) person in California. A professionally trained dancer, Laura also worked as sales director for a biotech start-up. With two children under the age of three, in 2010 she and her husband sought to simplify their lifestyle and escaped to his hometown, Belgrade, Serbia. While the children learned Serbian in their cozy preschool, Laura recovered from sleep deprivation and wrote Adopted Reality, a Memoir, available on Amazon.
But first I’d like to share some events going on this month.
National Adoption Day is November 23, 2013. At this site is their one day project, page where adoptees can share their stories of the day their adoption was finalized.
But what if you’re not an adoptee, what can you do to support adoption this month? Here are some ideas”
1. Write a post or letter to the editor of your local newspaper on the blessing of adoption.
2. Read a story about adoption, need help, there is one being discussed here today. (Hint: You’ll be able to read mine, too, if you know of any agent or publisher who might want to pick it up, I’d appreciate the referral.)
3. Watch a movie about adoption.
4. Ask your librarian to display books on adoption (fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, etc.)
And there are many more things you can do. Get creative, put on those thinking caps and as Nike says, “Just do it!”
And now let us welcome Laura.
GO: Hi Laura, it’s great to have you here at my corner. What do you do when not writing?
LD: With two small children, aged five and three, I spend most of my time caring for them. School, activities, play dates, normal mommy stuff. That, and I am trying to learn Serbian. I keep telling myself that I will join the gym this winter, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
GO: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
LD: Did I mention I don’t really speak Serbian? I’m kidding. I have passable language skills, but when I first arrived three years ago, I felt isolated and home sick. So, as an outlet for my need to speak English, I decided to write a memoir.
LD: First and foremost, I wanted my memoir, Adopted Reality, to be a good read. Yes, it’s
true, and yes, I have a message, but I didn’t want to pound people in the head with it. I’ve found that people take away very different messages, depending upon their own life experiences.
For example, adoptees most closely relate to the “outsider-ness” of my adopted life growing up, to my feelings about search and reunion, and to the ongoing juggling and processing that we do our entire lives. I can’t ever not be adopted. Adoption isn’t a one-time event; it’s life-long.
Others take away the sense of personal resilience, strength and sheer audacity of the story, of overcoming a mental breakdown, and living a normal life. (Whatever “normal” is.)
GO: If your book were made into a movie, who do you picture playing each character’s role?
LD: Ohhh, now you’ve got me. This is the well-worn adoptee modesty and complacency, not wanting to be the center of attention, and all that. I don’t even know! Some have compared Adopted Reality to the memoir, Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, which was made into a movie. A lot of time has passed since that came out, and the majority of my memoir is about my life from age 18 to 23, so if you twisted my arm, I’d have to say a young Angelina Jolie.
GO: How do you market your work?
That said, I find that adoptees and first moms have a low bullshit tolerance. It’s not appropriate to be directly marketing my memoir all over the adoptee community. However, I do create relationships with those connected to adoption, those working in mental health, and memoir writers. From there, we help one another, guest on each other blogs and generally provide support.
I think the best way to market one’s work is to have multiple books out there. So, I’m working on it, slowly but surely.
GO: What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
LD: Social media and social networking, definitely, but it means creating real relationships, not just pasting the link to my memoir everywhere.
For connecting with the adoption community—there is so much out there. You can join Open Adoption Bloggers, and adoption groups on Facebook and Google+. I also write for The Lost Daughters, an amazing blogging community of woman adoptees. It’s a great way to stay in-the-know about legislative changes in adoption in terms of opening adoption records, and adoptee access to original birth certificates. We also discuss important emotional, psychological and social justice issues as they intersect with our adoptee experiences.
For self-published writers, I also highly recommend Story Cartel. They have 11,000 and counting enthusiastic readers who can help writers get those all-important Amazon reviews. It’s great to join a Facebook group like Gutsy Indie Publishers by Sonia Marsh—her group is a great way to learn about and ramp up other book marketing activities. Specifically for memoirists, I have to mention Kathy Pooler, a blogger who is amazing at social networking and who hosts memoir-writers on her blog.
GO: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
LD: Well, I’m working on three projects right now. I have an anthology called, Connected, Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age that I’m currently editing. It will include voices from adoptees, first moms, therapists and adoptive parents—all writing on the theme of reunion.
My next book, Belgrade Intrigue, is a historical thriller set in 1990s Balkans. The novel explores the real, human devastation wrought by governments, and the resilience of the Serbian people.
I also want to turn some of the funnier posts on my blog about living as an American mommy in Serbia into a book.
GO: What has been the toughest criticism you’ve been given as a writer?
LD: My harshest—and therefore best, critic is my husband. He always tells me what he thinks, honestly and concisely. During the writing process, he’d read drafts and point out the boring parts. That was the toughest, but most important to hear.
GO: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
LD: Probably distilling my life into a book, what gets left out, what’s imperative, that type of thing. Also, how to present it—I hate pity parties, but you have to explain the hard parts to get to how you survived them.
GO: Why did you feel you had to tell this story?
LD: Oh! I could write a whole post on this! The short answer is: I needed to get the story out of my head. There is a certain strange mixture of relief and freedom in telling one’s own truth.
Thanks for stopping by today and I will leave you all with this thought. Laura, I was born and adopted in New York so at one point in time we could have been neighbors. I doubt it though, as you seem to be much younger than me. But you never know where those thin strings that hold us together will lead. By the way, Laura and anyone else from Jersey, if you haven’t read Elle Druskin’s Liberty Heights series yet, you’re missing out. And yes, this is meant to be a shameless plug from her editor.
Hope you enjoyed this post. As we celebrate NAAM, leave a comment and let us know what you feel about adoption, adoptees searching for their birth parents, what you choose to do to help celebrate, or whatever other feedback you wish.
Until next time,