Author Spotlight With Ann Campanella
A former magazine and newspaper journalist, Ann Campanella is the author of two memoirs and four collections of poetry. Motherhood: Lost and Found, Ann’s first memoir, was twice named “One of the best Alzheimer’s books of all time” by Book Authority. Ann is a manager and director of AlzAuthors.com, a website that represents hundreds of books about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Ann has a degree in English Literature from Davidson College, and she lives with her family in North Carolina.
Hi Ann! I'm thrilled to finally have you here, I can already foresee this being a very emotional interview. How are you?
I'm doing great. I'm so honoured to have this time to connect with you and share some of the story behind my writing.
First of all, I want to say a huge thank you for writing such a heart-breaking, yet incredible memoir, and not only that, but sharing the hardest, and most personal times of your life. I don't need to ask you what your inspiration was, because it is clearly obvious. However, how do you feel as a writer now you have shared these experiences for everyone to read? You're so right that this was a very personal book. But as a writer and an introvert, I've never done "small talk." I've always enjoyed diving deeply into the experiences that make us who we are. My mother's Alzheimer's and my own miscarriages were things that shook me to the core, and the fact that they happened at the same time made the experience even more intense. So, I wanted to explore my own feelings about the turmoil involved in an Alzheimer's diagnosis as well as give other people a handrail through the grief that comes with the kinds of losses I suffered. I actually feel a deep sense of satisfaction that I've been able to touch others who may feel alone in their circumstances. Out of the whole book and the time span of your life that is reflected in your book, which bit would you say was the hardest to write? What a great question! This may be surprising, but I think the hardest scene for me to write was when my beloved horse Crimson was dying. He had been such a quiet source of support for me during my mother's illness and my pregnancy losses, that it absolutely crushed my heart that I could not save him and keep him out of pain. Unlike with people, the love that comes from animals is such a pure thing, so unblemished. For instance, I read somewhere that horses are so intuitive they will actually match the rhythm of their heart to the heartbeat of their owner. So, to recreate the day Crimson died through my writing was really really tough for me. In what way do you think writing your memoir helped or changed you? I've always believed in the transformative power of writing. I didn't know what would happen when I started writing this story -- and it took me a LONG time (20 years!) to do it. But what I discovered is that by capturing in words the scenes that had been so vivid in my mind, I found beauty in even the most painful moments. The process of writing gave me a lens to look through that allowed me to not only preserve pieces of my mother and our history but to appreciate the many facets of it. I hope that writing this book matured me and made me someone who values each moment of life. Do you feel as though you have learnt lessons about yourself while you were writing this? Oh yes! Some of them were not so pleasant. A writer I admire greatly says when you write memoir you have to be harder on yourself than anyone else. I learned that I am not a very patient person. I want what I want, and I want it now. I guess you could say I have a huge capacity for selfishness. In that same vein, I learned that I'm not a natural caregiver. It's hard, exhausting even, for me to take care of others, even those I love. At the same time, I also learned I am inspired by nature, animals and beauty, and that writing brings me joy.
I was amazed at the amount of recollection in your book, how did you manage to remember all the memories to fill it up from start to finish? I kept copious journals during this period of time. In fact, every time I was with my mom, I'd end up pouring my heart into those pages -- partly as a way to diffuse my intense emotions, and partly because I knew I might one day write this story. Also, I had written a collection of poems called What Flies Away about the same events before I wrote Motherhood: Lost and Found. The images in those poems stayed with me and helped solidify in my mind many of the scenes in the book. So, I had a lot of material to draw from. Also, to be honest, this memoir falls into the category of creative nonfiction. So, there were times I used memories which were somewhat vague and recreated scenes that I knew held the spirit rather than the exact details of those moments.
This was only my second ever memoir that I've read, and I'm going to be honest, this hurt. Knowing that this was a true story, and that you went through each individual experience made me feel so incredibly proud of you. Who would you say was your biggest support as you were writing this? Thank you so much, Aimee. You are such a treasure. I was so blessed to be a part of a weekly writers' group with amazing women in it. Most of them were older than me, so I received not only helpful feedback on my writing but incredibly kind encouragement and perspective about life. I realize now these women were my replacement mothers, and they helped me stay afloat emotionally. My husband, though he travelled a lot, was also a huge support. The fact that he never questioned what I was writing and always believed in me meant the world.
You struggled a lot with infertility within your life, and you have been blessed with a beautiful daughter, has she read any of your books? If so, what did she think? I love this question. She has actually read both of my memoirs. It was important to me that she do so because she's such an important part of them. I gave her a copy of Motherhood: Lost and Found before it was published, and she stayed up very late one night and read it. She was only 12. I was at my desk working, and she walked upstairs and came behind me. She slipped her arms around me and put her head against my shoulder and whispered into my ear, "I am loved." I will never forget the sweetness of that moment.
You also have another book, as someone who suffers with gluten intolerance, could you please tell my readers what this is about? I would love to! When my daughter Sydney was two years old, she barely registered on paediatric the growth chart. She had an array of symptoms including dark circles under her eyes, stomach pain after eating, severe bloating and sleeplessness. My second memoir, called Celiac Mom, tells the story of Sydney's celiac diagnosis and the challenges of our family's transition to a gluten-free lifestyle. The book includes recipes, helpful websites and gluten-free shopping lists. Celiac Mom was a finalist in both the Indies Today Book Awards and the Wishing Shelf Book Awards. I wish you the best of luck in your future, Thank you so much for taking part, I really enjoyed your memoir. Take care!
Thank you so much, Aimee! It was an absolute pleasure. I so appreciate the lovely support you provide to so many authors.
To Follow Ann On Social Media: Twitter: @authorAnnC Instagram: @glutenfreeforgood Website: www.anncampanella.com