I had a great time at the Atlanta Writers Conference Book Fair. It’s been awhile since I’ve attended a conference in-person. It’s always inspiring to see so much creativity on display.
To that point, I met several caregivers at the Book Fair who shared their personal caregiving stories with me. If you are on the fence about writing about your caregiving experience, I would encourage you to try, even if it’s in a personal journal and not for public consumption. Doing so can be a cathartic experience. You may find that you do have lessons to share that would benefit other caregivers. If so, there are many self-publishing platforms available, in addition to the traditional publishing route.
Understandably, while you are an active caregiver, you likely will not have time to work on a book project. I scribbled down notes, quotes, scenes, anything that I thought I might want to revisit in written form later. Sometimes having a bit of distance can help in framing an experience in a balanced way, but capturing those visceral images in real-time was important for me. I published The Reluctant Caregiver 2 years after my mother’s death and 6 years after my father’s death. Of course if you’ve been following my blog from the beginning you know I began The Memories Project within weeks after my father’s death. At the time I thought I would mainly be writing about my father’s journey with Alzheimer’s but then my mother fell ill. By the end of my caregiving journey with my parents, I had a variety of experiences and lessons to share.
No doubt you will too.
[To give you inspiration, check out the recording of Poetry for the Dementia Journey, a poetry reading event hosted by AlzAuthors. At about the 37-minute mark, you can hear a poem I shared about my father.]
It’s Read an Ebook Week. While I’ll always love the feel of pages in a physical book, I do almost all of my reading using my Kindle. It’s just more convenient for my lifestyle.
If you are an electronic book fan, this is a great week to take advantage of special deals. I’m participating in the Smashwords promotions. You can get The Reluctant Caregiverand CBD for Caregivers for just 99 cents today through March 11. Note: It looks like the promotion is so popular that the Smashwords website is experiencing some technical difficulties. If you get a broken link, check back later.
If you are looking for a digital children’s book, you can get Slow Dog for just $2.99 on Amazon.
As many of you know, I am a member of the AlzAuthors group, which has grown over the years to include a diverse and impressive membership. I love how the AlzAuthors library represents so many varied genres, from memoirs to self-help to children’s books. We have non-fiction and fiction books that focus on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. We have books for those living with dementia and books for their caregivers and other family members, such as grandchildren. Much gratitude to the organization’s leadership, who have tirelessly worked to encourage the group to grow in membership and outreach.
In honor of Caregiver Appreciation Month, AlzAuthors is hosting a book sale and giveaway. The promotion runs through Nov. 17. It’s a good time to stock up on books that are heavily discounted, some even offered for free. These books can make thoughtful gift ideas for the caregiver in your life.
You can get the digital version of my award-winning collection of personal essays, The Reluctant Caregiver, for just 99 cents.
Please share the giveaway information with fellow caregivers.
November is National Family Caregivers Month. The National PACE Association says this year’s theme is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” If you’ve been a caregiver, you wholeheartedly agree with that theme!
AlzAuthors has two exciting promotions going on to mark the special month. First, the group of Alzheimer’s authors has released an anthology, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Stories, featuring the personal stories of 58 AlzAuthors contributors. I am honored to be one of the contributors. The book will be released Nov. 7.
AlzAuthors is recognizing and honor family caregivers of those with dementia across the country by hosting a book sale and giveaway. The eBook sale will run from Nov. 7-Nov. 13. Books will range in price from free to $2.99, to help those on limited budgets access worthy books that can help them on their own caregiving journeys.
My book, The Reluctant Caregiver, will be on sale for just 99 cents during the promotion. The award-winning collection of personal essays offers a nontraditional view of family caregiving, and includes several essays about the challenges of caring for those with dementia.
The award was a pleasant surprise. I entered a handful of book contests after the publication of The Reluctant Caregiver last year. The Independent Publisher Awards, better knows as the IPPY’s, is well-known, having been around 22 years. The award ceremony will take place on May 29 in New York City and I’m going to fly up for the day to attend the ceremony and hopefully track down a few of my dad’s old haunts.
There are some people who feel these contests are a waste of time and money. I understand the concerns and some are valid, but I choose contests to enter where I would appreciate the prize, even if it isn’t money. For self-published authors like myself, every bit of promotion is worth, ahem, gold.
If you want to learn more about The Reluctant Caregiver, you can visit my website, joyjohnston.com.
Even though the library included free ones in every book, Dad insisted upon “dog earing” pages. My mother would nag him about it, saying the books were the library’s property and they probably didn’t appreciate him returning books with creased page corners. But Dad continued to do it, and to be fair, I never heard him getting chewed out at the library about it. Certainly he wasn’t the only person who dog eared books.
As I was going through some books and sorting them for donations, I came across one of those library bookmarks. The bookmarks served dual purposes: marking your place in the book and reminding you when the book was due.
The bookmarks, with the sketch of the Downey City Library at the bottom, are so ingrained in my memory, having checked out hundreds of books from the library during my childhood.
The due date on this one was Aug. 29, 1981. I would have just turned 6 the month before. It would’ve almost been time for school to start, as we started just after Labor Day. I would’ve been entering first grade.
What’s even more interesting is that I found the bookmark in an old, worn copy of East and West, a collection of short stories by Somerset Maugham. That book is from the New Orleans Public Library and had a due date of Sept. 2, 1959. (Dad lived for a brief period in the Big Easy.) The next time I visit I may return the book just to see the reaction of the librarian!
Sorting through Dad’s book collection was the ideal task to mark Father’s Day.
I attended the Atlanta Writers Conference this weekend and learned interesting tidbits about the publishing industry and enjoyed hearing about other writer’s projects.
Raymond L. Atkins, an author and guest speaker at the conference, told about how he handled a situation where the publisher selected a cover image that he felt didn’t fit the plot of his novel. The publishing house wanted to market the book as a mystery, when the author knew his book was a romance.
The chosen cover featured an ominous barn. The author was puzzled because there was no such building in his book.
The publisher said they knew that, and wanted him to add a barn to the story.
The author didn’t really want to, but according to his signed contract, the matter was out of his hands and at the discretion of the publisher. So he added the darn barn.
Two pages later, that barn burned down.
To me, this was a great example of “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
As caregivers, we may find ourselves following advice we question but feel powerless to challenge. But we always have power over our own actions and our attitude.
Don’t be afraid to burn barns, figuratively speaking, of course!
I came across a receipt for a book that Dad checked out from the library in July 2010. That was just a few months before he became sick and then went to live in the memory care unit of the assisted care facility. His dementia had progressed quite far by this point; he was wandering and unable to accomplish many simple tasks.
The book was “Children of the West: Family Life on the Frontier” by Cathy Luchetti. Despite the disease progression, he picked a book that was in one of his all-time favorite genres: history. It’s a bit of a relief to know he wasn’t checking out unauthorized biographies on Justin Bieber, ha!
Still, I wonder if he actually read any of the book or if he just looked at the photographs. Did he comprehend any of it at all, or was checking out a book just a vaguely familiar task that he still was able to indulge in? I guess I will never know. I do know he never read at the care center he ended up in, at least that I know of. The staff asked us what his hobbies were, and reading and walking were really the only things we could come up with.
Sadly, the ability to read is stripped from many of those afflicted with dementia. So instead, Dad wandered up and down the hallway of his memory care unit, a man who had lost one of the greatest pleasures of his life.