I went to hear author, Christal Presley talk about her experience of writing and publishing her first book. The session was hosted by the Georgia Writer's Association and was billed as a time to:
Learn how Christal--a previously unpublished author--sold her book to a major publishing company, garnered international media attention, and made her book a bestseller before it was even published--all WITHOUT an agent (and while keeping her day job).
The description was everything that I enjoy hearing from other writers; how they got started, how they marketed their book and their advice for others. What I didn't know was that I was also going to learn about a topic I knew little about: post-traumatic stress disorder, especially as it relates to Vietnam veterans and their families. I also learned an important message that should direct our focus as writers who want to make a difference in the world.
Christal's book is entitled, Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD . It is a healing story of a Vietnam veteran and his estranged daughter who had not spoken to each other in thirteen years. When she left home to attend college and to escape her traumatic childhood, Christal thought that she could overcome her history by separating herself from her dysfunctional family. Her childhood was a nightmare filled with a father who experienced frequent episodes of extreme depression and out-of-control rage. For the next thirteen years she tried to fill the void with everything from alcohol, to therapy and dysfunctional romantic relationships. Christal finally, upon the suggestion of a fellow writer, decides to confront and write about the two things that she fears the most: the relationship with her father and Vietnam. In typical fashion, she asks her mother to propose to her father that he and Christal talk everyday for a month about the elephant in the room; his experience in Vietnam and how it shaped not only his life but the life of his family. To her amazement he agrees and the journey begins. The book chronicles thirty days of conversation and journal entries which leads to a renewed understanding and most unexpectedly, a closer relationship between father and daughter. I truthfully, could not put it down.
Until she began writing about the subject she routinely avoided, Christal was a wandering writer. In other words she was a generalist who wrote about such a variety of things, she had no focus. Once she zeroed in on the topic of her relationship with her father, she wrote with purpose and passion. Along the way, she also not only connected with hundreds of others who had experienced the same problems, she gave voice to their pain and troubles by first starting a blog and finally an organization devoted the PTSD, Vietnam veterans and their families. It is a group that has been too long ignored and shoved aside. A brave and vulnerable writer, Christal challenges us all to look within for the pain, the fear that we avoid, and write to heal those relationships and ultimately ourselves. Absolutely a fabulous read!!
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