“This is how you find her: / hands clamped around the broom handle / like a bulldog’s teeth, / working the far corners of the room / till the dust spins around her….” ~ from Jennifer Highland’s “Sonya Sweeping” in DONE DARKNESS
Recently, I spent a weekend on a retreat with a group of ladies, and I reflected on many things, one of which was my experience with depression. I’m a functional depressive; when it hits, I ride low but not too low. Still, it hovers in the background even during a good stretch, so that–I realized when I was away–I wear it like a badge, one identifier among many: Christi, the Mother; Christi, the Writer; Christi, the Depressive. Silly, I think. But in the next breath I wonder, Who am I if I’m not sunk or on the verge?
To answer that question is a journey in itself, one that begins in recognizing depression does not have to define me and that, even when the low feels much like how Jennifer Highland describes it above, with my hands clamped around it “like a bulldog’s teeth,” it’s a quiet fight I don’t face alone.
Pam Parker and Kathy Lanzarotti have co-edited DONE DARKNESS, curating the work of eighteen authors who write about the quiet fight: depression and the life beyond. Today, Pam talks about the anthology, and I’m offering a giveaway. Drop you name in the comments for a chance to win a copy of DONE DARKNESS. Now, welcome Pam Parker!
CC: This is a unique anthology on the topic of depression in that it includes not only personal essays but short stories and poetry as well. What sparked the idea for this book, and what was your biggest challenge?
PP: I’ve had personal experience with depression, as many of my family and friends have had too, so certainly that played a huge part in the choice of subject. I also believe strongly in the power of literature and art to build empathy. Without building empathy, we can not hope to continue chipping away at the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
There were a number of challenges with creating the book, including my extensive traveling in the first half of 2015, but for me, I think the most difficult thing was having to reject a large quantity of wonderful pieces, simply because they really weren’t the right fit for the final book. That hurt. (Can you even imagine having to send rejection letters to folks who had submitted for a book on depression?)
CC: I’ve edited a few tiny anthologies and know these kinds of projects can be labors of love. When you envision DONE DARKNESS in the hands of readers, what do you hope they will discover?
PP: I hope they will find voices, feelings and stories to connect to and gain understanding. Maybe they will think of a friend or a relative who has struggles and gain some patience! More than anything, I hope they discover ways to spur conversations when they have concerns — about themselves or others.
CC: Instead of dividing the book into poetry, nonfiction and fiction, the collected works fall into chapters of Morning, Afternoon, or Evening. What is the significance of those chapter headings?
PP: I had in mind Shakespeare’s “All the World’s A Stage,” speech and the seven ages of man. Since depression can affect anyone at any time in life, we used the times of day to parallel the seasons of life. So, in the morning section, we have some important younger characters and a mother coping with post-partum depression. Afternoon represents the longest season of life — prime and middle-aged — whatever words we want to attach to it. Evening represents the senior years and end of life.This was one of the most difficult aspects of the book to finalize. We wanted to stay true to that concept, but not be beating folks over the head with it. I didn’t mind at all if many people didn’t truly understand the decisions for the divisions.
CC: Neil Gaiman says, “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story….” What advice can you offer for writers (or readers) who desire to share their story but don’t know where to begin?
PP: Stop worrying about where to begin and simply begin. Put the pen to the paper, the fingers to the keyboard, whatever works for you and start. Absolutely nothing happens when you spend all your time trying to figure out where to begin. People have to determine what is stopping them from starting and for so, so many writers I’ve known, it’s that “where to begin” question. Most writers will admit that the “first beginning” of a final piece, is often absent from the final piece or has been moved elsewhere. So, if it’s no longer in the piece, did it matter? Of course! It got the piece started. Without it, there would be no final piece.
Pam Parker’s short fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in numerous print and electronic journals, including Potomac Review, Grey Sparrow Press, The MacGuffin, and more. She is a regular contributor to “Lake Effect” on Milwaukee Public Radio. Her work has earned accolades from the Wisconsin Broadcaster’s Association, Wisconsin Writers Association, and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. She makes her home in Wauwatosa, WI with her husband, though her heart is often in western Massachusetts or Glasgow, Scotland. To read some of her work, find links at pamwrites.net.
Don’t forget to drop your name in the comments for a chance to win a copy of DONE DARKNESS! Deadline to enter the giveaway is Tuesday, February 23rd, at noon.