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Ellen Blum Barish

Ellen Blum Barish

There is great truth in that line from Ecclesiastes, the one that The Byrds borrowed and turned into a hit song:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

I believe many of us have a certain season in which big things happen; the kind of events that change the trajectory of a life.

The idea that there are seasons that bring change has been on my mind lately because it’s  been a major theme in the memoir I’ve been working on for the past four years.

Turns out, my season is spring. In the spring of 1972, I was a 12-year-old girl in the back seat of a Volkswagen station wagon getting a ride home from school when a Mack truck sped through the intersection and crashed into our car. After the collision, a cone of silence kept me from talking about it with anyone. Decades later, when I reconnected with my friend and seatmate at our high school reunion – an event that took place in the spring  –  a journey of personal discovery, healing, faith and doubt was set into motion.

Seven particular springs across a twenty-year period cracked me open physically, emotionally and spiritually and changed the course of my life. Each spring transformed me just as the earth was in its own shape-shifting and growing phases and led to the book’s title, Seven Springs.

I began writing it in 2016, the year our world began to look noticeably different. If you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you’ve probably read the updates I’ve been posting since January 2018.

Once the first draft was down, I wrote about revising it. Sending it to an agent.Then life intervened and my mother died. I found an agent. I waited to hear from publishing companies. There were lots of rejections. More waiting. Another revision.  All told, there were seven revisions which somehow seems appropriate for a book with seven in the title.

Soon it was spring again and I was reminded what time and patience can do. After a book editor sent the words I’ve been waiting so long to hear –  “I’m interested” –   and an exchange of email and some conversation, a contract was signed.

The manuscript I’ve been laboring over for the past four years will now become a book, published by Shanti Arts!

My heart is soaring, but I have to admit that it feels strange to have such heartwarming news in the midst of such a heartbreaking time. Writing a book about a childhood trauma that was, in and of itself, a healing experience taught me that two seemingly diametrically opposed truths can be present at the same time. The story was challenging to write, but it’s release was a balm.

A lot has been written about finding and telling one’s story. That we all have our own story to tell. But this experience taught me that when we dig deep for truths in our lives, committing our findings to words,  we not only understand ourselves better, we also make space and access empathy. These qualities allow us to be patient and accepting of ourselves which, in turn, enables us to be more patient and accepting of others.

Which is something we really need right now.

I think we are in a moment where we need to look at ourselves, first,  for what may be painful truths about how we operate in the world. We need to reveal our own hard truths before we can take others to task.

Virginia Woolf wrote, “If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.”

Personal essays and memoir that tell stories about universal human truths is one way in. I’m hoping my memoir will be a window in words, encouraging readers to shine light and fresh air on themselves.

Plans may change of course, but for now, the book is scheduled to come out next spring.

 

Upcoming Summer Workshops

“Truth in Memoir,” Lighthouse Lit Fest, June 10 (online)

“Essay as Song: What Essayists Can Learn from the Songwriters,” Lighthouse Lit Fest, June 15 (online)

One True Sentences: Writing Sentences that Stick,” Lighthouse Lit Fest, June 23 (online)

“Reading & Writing the Personal Essay,” Wednesdays from 1 to 3 pm, July 1 – August 5 (online)

“Eight Essential Elements of Essay,” Story Studio Chicago, July 13 (online)

 

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