So meaningful to me

butterfliesYou know, it’s hard to figure out what to share here, and I know self promotion is rampant and I am as tired of it as you are, but sometimes I get emails from people who have found my book, #Replacement Child, and I am so moved I want to tell you all about it. Just this morning, I got this email from a woman in Ireland who found my book referenced online. This kind of email is why I wrote the book, and why I am glad I did.

Hi judy,
I have just ordered your book and can’t wait to read it.
For some reason last night when I lay in bed, I started to get upset about childhood issues. I decided to look up a child that comes after death of a sibling. Wow! One click on google and I realise something at the age of 36! I was a replacement child. I always knew my position in the family in that I came after death of a brother. But now suddenly I have an actual position that is recognised! I felt huge relief is all I can say but also amazement at how I did not realise that’s what I was , a replacement child! Feel a bit stupid too. I ordered your book and I am looking forward to reading it. I don’t feel so alone now.   I am married with kids but have always felt alone and different. Why am I telling you this?! Why email you?! I don’t know. You are a stranger who knows what I am feeling somewhat and after last night revelation I had to tell someone 🙂! Thank you,
B. in Ireland

I wrote back and asked her if I could share this, and she wrote:

Thanks for your reply. Yes of course you may use my mail for your blog. I actually feel found judy. It’s actually the single most exciting thing I feel to have happened for me. Struggling all my life with guilt of being on this earth in place of my brother. I don’t blame anyone, I always said, it’s just life , no ones fault. But the pain and unworthy feeling all my life has been crushing. Grateful to you and others for being there on Google , thank you from the bottom of my heart. When others verbalise another’s secret pain it is so liberating. Happy beyond words. Excited for a new chapter in life . Bless you X 

Getting to Know My Mother

MomFav     0069_1Some of us get to know our mothers better after they have passed from this life, through writing about them. It can be one of the benefits of writing a memoir, that we gain a unique insight from mining our life experience through a writerly lens.

Writing, by necessity, makes us take notice of the details surrounding an event or a meaningful moment in our lives. Sometimes the writing helps us see the significance in a conversation, or the scar left by a parent’s action or inaction. This was certainly the case as I wrote the chapters for my memoir Replacement Child. The writing especially let me understand how losing her eldest daughter affected my mother’s life.

By writing the scenes of my mother’s true-life nightmare in the aftermath of a plane crashing into her home, I gained an understanding of the depth of her grief and the struggle she had to go on with her life. And old friend of hers told me of a phone conversation shortly after the accident, in which my mother confided that she just wanted to walk into the ocean. As I wrote about her strength in caring for my surviving sister, through years of surgery and rehabilitation, and then her hopefulness in having another child, I knew more about her intrinsic character than I ever did during her lifetime. And, when I realized how my mother and I both suffered from my father’s indifference, I was relieved to learn the secret of my mother’s affair with a family friend. Glad that she had found someone to show her that kind of love for however long it lasted.

Researching my book, I found myself awed by the evidence of my mother’s strength. As a child, I had no insight into what it took for her to give herself over to loving another child (me), with her new knowledge that the child could be snatched from her without warning; that the world was an arbitrary and dangerous place. Writing about my mother, I gradually realized that the pain of losing a child never goes away. It became a new way of being for her. But, although her pain may have defined her, it never stopped her from giving her love fully, deeply, and completely.

If she were alive today, she would be a wonderful role model for parents who have lost children and go on to have others. Still, she is such a model, if I tell it right.

THE SPITAK QUAKE: Dr. Felix recalls delivering replacement children

The Spitak Quake: Dr. Felix recalls the dark days of delivering ArmeniaNow.com

By Gayane Mkrtchyan
ArmeniaNow reporter                                                                                           
Those women, still in reproductive age, who had no more maternity plans, bore children again to replace the ones they had lost. They were not young, still they 
 

 

An old friend of the family brings a new perspective

I just got a call from Donna’s second grade teacher—my sister’s last teacher before she died when the plane crashed into my family’s home. The teacher, also named Florence like my mom, was only 22 years old when the accident happened. Young and impressionable, she never forgot my sister, who she said was the “sweetest girl.” She remembered my mother fondly, too, as “one wonderful lady.”

After the accident, when my mother was still in the hospital along with my surviving sister Linda, this teacher went to visit. My mother had requested that she come, wanting to know more about what Donna was like in the classroom. I can understand how my mother would have wanted to have just one more parent teacher meeting, hanging on to Donna through her teacher’s more objective sense of her. They chatted for while, and then teacher Florence went to visit Linda in the ICU. She says she will “never forget the smell in that room” of burnt flesh.

They kept in touch. My mother confided to her that, as she took a walk along the river, she thought about how easy it would be to end her own suffering, but knew that she couldn’t do it because her remaining daughter needed her.

“Not long after, your mother was pregnant with you,” Florence told me. “I went to see you when you came home and brought you a small gift. But, I have to say, reading your book, Replacement Child, I think the title should really be Healing Child, because that’s what you did for your family. Linda would have grown up so alone without you. You were just what they all needed.”

I thanked her, as best I could, through unexpected tears.

Getting the Agent and Book Deal After Self-Publishing my Memoir

RC-final-cover-web-size8.jpgPeople have asked me how it happened. How my memoir, Replacement Child, was picked up by a traditional publisher after being self-published two years earlier. It was released in March from Seal Press/Perseus.

What’s Luck Got to Do With it?

Most authors don’t give any credence to luck, but they lie.  Luck has so much to do with everything. It was luck that I decided to put my book up on Barnes & Noble’s PubIt website in the summer of 2011. It was luck that I had met my incredible agent Rita Rosenkranz at a conference four years earlier. It was luck that I had knowledgeable colleagues to confer with to help me navigate my next steps.

Now for the Work

It was not luck that I attended many writer’s conferences prior to self-publishing, to figure out my best course of action. Those conferences gave me a good deal of valuable information about sending out queries, doing proposals and the ins and outs of approaching agents. I knew I wanted an agent and a traditional publisher, but I also knew that as an unknown memoirist, it would be a tough road. I gave myself a year to query agents, send out chapters when requested, to do my best to procure an agent. I wasn’t getting any younger.

When that year was over I had requests for partials and the entire manuscript from 50 agents. My query was working. About half of them showed interest in the book, but were wary of taking it on in the market at the time in 2008. Not a great year for any beginning endeavor. At that point I started looking at self-publishing and decided to form my own imprint to publish my book. I had been in marketing for twenty years and knew how to project manage any creative project. Although, looking back, I didn’t know exactly all of what I was taking on. I hired an editor, a designer and an online marketer to start.

I did a great deal of marketing for Replacement Child in 2009 and 2010 when I first self-published the book. I went on a nationwide book tour at my own expense, visiting bookstores that would have me in towns where I had friends or family to put me up.  It was a great adventure really, and a chance to see people I normally don’t get to visit.  Some of the stops were great, where I was able to get some advance publicity. And some were terrible where only one person showed up for a reading. C’est la vie.

The online blogging community was very receptive and I am very grateful to them for their support with reviews and guest blogs. Review copies were sent out to blog reviewers before the book was released, to bloggers that had reviewed memoirs in the past.

Local media was receptive, and I had articles in my local papers in my town in Connecticut, and did readings at local libraries.  I had several radio interviews, both for blog radio and traditional stations. I joined organizations and took advantage of opportunities to speak and do readings whenever possible. Replacement Child also garnered several awards for self-published books, including a National Indie Excellence Award and a Writer’s Digest award.

By the summer of 2011 I had sold about 2,000 print books and a few hundred ebooks on Amazon. It’s very hard to say which marketing tactic worked best, but all combined produced this modest success. I decided to list the eBook on the Barnes & Noble site in July and was encouraged to see that they had picked it for a featured book of the month. I credit that pick for bringing more awareness to the book.

Surprise, Surprise

Just after I listed the eBook for that last shot, I wound up in the hospital. My book was the farthest thing from my mind that fall, knowing I had to go back for surgery in a few months. It was Christmas when I noticed some weird deposits in my bank account online.  Again, I absolutely forgot that I had arranged direct deposit for the eBook sales. It turned out I was selling between four to five thousand eBooks a month. I wasn’t Grisham, but I was selling many books.

That’s when I contacted Rita Rosenkranz and we talked about whether it made sense to approach a publisher. I was grateful for her wise counsel that helped me think through the decision. In the end, I felt that that there was still a measure of credibility in having a traditional publisher. Reviews come more easily and you are taken more seriously.  That is changing, but I believe it is still widely the case. After considering the pros and cons, I told her I would like to try if she was up for it. She sold it very quickly to Seal Press.

Find more information about Replacement Child.

This post previously appeared on Jane Friedman’s blog, Writing on the Ether.

Reviews and Blog Tour News for Replacement Child – a memoir

April is off to an incredible start, with a new review in Publishers Weekly, and the start of a blog tour.

Check out the review in Publishers Weekly–so exciting!

Nonfiction Review- Replacement Child- A Memoir by Judy L. Mandel. Seal, $16 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58005-476-8

 

 

 

 

And, my blog tour starts today with Women on Writing.

 

Talking About #Memoir: Themes, Messages and Book Marketing

In the last week I’ve been talking a lot about my memoir Replacement Child, the writing process and book marketing.

Booktalk Nation, a new author program from Authors Guild, was kind enough to have me as a guest. The idea is to support authors as well as local bookstores, and I want to thank The Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington, CT for sponsoring my talk and agreeing to send out signed copies of Replacement Child. Also, a big thank you to Karen Holt, who interviewed me for the talk.

Booktalk Nation Interview

 

Women’s Memoirs, who have been my supporters and cheerleaders for several years now, interviewed me last week as well. We talked about writing memoir in terms of theme and message, and also about publishing and book marketing. Thanks to Kendra Bonnett for a great talk.

Women’s Memoirs: Taking Your Memoir Mainstream

 

Thanks to everyone who tunes in and follows my events and interviews!

 

 

Upcoming Events and Talks About Replacement Child – a #memoir

Judy L. Mandel
Judy L. Mandel

I am excited to be reaching out to more people at some events and talks in the coming weeks. I hope you can join me!

March 12, 2013: Connecticut Press ClubPanel Discussion: Getting a Book Deal.Tickets available at:    www.ctpressclub.com‘m excited to be reaching out to more people through interviews and bookstore events in the coming week. Hope you can join me!

March 14, 2013, 6:00 PM: UCONN Bookstore, 2075 Hillside Road, Storrs Mansfield, CT Click here for more details.

March 18, 2013, 7:00 PM ET Booktalk Nation – Online video interview and live Q&A. Author signed copies of the book available for purchase. For more information and to register click here.

March 23, 2013, 2:00 PM: Barnes & Noble, Book Talk, Reading and Book Signing. Blueback Square, 60 Isham Road, West Hartford, CT. Click here for directions.

March 25, 2013: 7:00 PM, Stony Brook University Manhattan, Book Launch Celebration, 101 East 27th Street & Park Ave.

 

On #Replacement Child, Writing, and Hearing Your #Memoir Story

Wildflowers 2In the past week, I’ve been contacted by people who were touched by my book, Replacement Child, my writing here and on my Psychology Today blog. Some are replacement children, and we seem like long lost relatives when we compare notes. Some have had relatives who were challenged physically, or disfigured in some way. A brother, a father, a sister. Some are struggling to dig up memories that illuminate their own memoirs.

I am grateful for these connections for many reasons. First, for the growing community of replacement children that seems to be springing up like multi-colored wildflowers; distinctly separate but of the same seed. We talk about our families and at some point in the conversation there is always one “aha” in our experience that we share so completely that I get goose bumps. A mother’s overprotection, a father’s rejection, a dream un-pursued, a love lost to indiscretion or withdrawal.

People who are the “other” in their family, for whatever reason have a great deal in common. An adopted child, now an adult, tells me she still feels that otherness in her life. And, those of us who assign ourselves as protector of a loved one who is different – whether physically or mentally, know that we can’t always lay the reeds down flat in the grass for them to pass unscathed. We, nevertheless, keep imagining how we could have done a better job at it.

The writers of memoir are all wrestling with synapses of memory. Molding and ordering disjointed scenes into a sculpture that reflects their journey. Discovering where the journey began and where it has led is sometimes the function of their writing, as it was for me. I offer some tips to anyone who asks, things that worked for me while writing Replacement Child. But, always with the caveat that everyone needs to find their own method. While some writers need a strict schedule, others recoil at that discipline. Many like outlines; others would rather put a pin in their eye. One constant, I believe, is to have other eyes evaluate the work and give advice. I’ll stick to that one.

As I start to have some book related appearances in the coming months, I am looking forward to talking to more of you who relate to my story, or are writing your own. Come talk to me if you are in the audience at any of these conferences or bookstore events coming up. Or write to me here. I promise you I am interested.

A Psychoanalyst’s View of the Replacement Child

butterfliesRecently, I had the good fortune of speaking at length with psychoanalyst Kristina Schellinski about her in-depth work with replacement children in her practice.

Kristina Schellinski has an M.A. in Political Science and Literature. She worked for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in New York and Geneva from 1983-1998 and received her Diploma as Jungian Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist from the C.G. Jung Institute in Zürich in 2002. She practices as a Jungian Analyst in Geneva, Switzerland. She is a training analyst and supervisor at ISAP (International School of Analytical Psychology), Zürich and a member of IAAP, AGAP, ASP and EAP, the Swiss and European Association of Psychotherapists, and a founding member of the Rencontres Jungiennes at Lavigny, Switzerland.

Judy: Thanks so much for sharing some of your insights with my readers. I understand that you have done a great deal of research on replacement children; children who are born after the death of another child in the family. Can you explain what brought you to the subject, and why you feel it’s an important topic to research and write about now?

K.S.: Being born after the death of another child may be a very special experience; depending on the circumstances, this may mean being born in the shadow of death of another human being, whereby one’s own life may slowly over a lifetime reveal itself as being overshadowed by the “presence of the absence” of the other.

Whether the joy of the newborn – or the sorrow of the one who was lost before, will be in the foreground of the consciousness of the parent, in the unconscious of the child there is the other who was not – and who she or he is to replace. Yet if she or he replaces that other child who died before, he or she is not really himself or herself…  This is the existential dilemma of the replacement child.

I have found many persons suffering from the replacement child syndrome, sometimes even in the second or third generation, i.e. those born to replacement children, or even their grandchildren, still may carry this special type of suffering in their soul.

I discovered this in the late stages of my training as an Analytical Psychologist at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zürich.

Judy: Do you have any personal experience as a replacement child, or with replacement children?

K.S.:  I was born six months after my baby-brother died of an undiagnosed appendicitis at the age of two. I knew this fact, growing up, but I only started to understand it meant for my own life and my relationships during my analysis when  training to become a psychoanalyst.  Research in the 1960 with children rescued from the Holocaust had first identified the specific suffering of the replacement child.

Judy: How about in your own practice? I understand that you have treated replacement children. Have you found similarities among them as to the issues they face? What are some of them that you find most often?

K.S.:  I have worked with many adult replacement children in my practice, and with children of replacement children and even with grandchildren of replacement children.  When we try to imagine the terrible loss the parents suffer when loosing a child, we can but begin to imagine the effect this may have on their attachment to a child born thereafter.

Judy: Do you find that parents are aware that they are having, or have had, a replacement child? And do they usually prefer the term ‘subsequent child?’

K.S.:  In my experience, it depends on the grieving process, whether the parents were able to have help and receive empathy and understanding and whether there was enough time between the loss of the child and a new child being born.  Sometimes, the grieving may have been so hard, that the awareness is not there, is dissociated or cut off together with the unbearable grief over the loss.  “Subsequent” child may be a term which recognizes that no human being can truly replace another one; each human being is unique. Yet, the term “subsequent” still evokes the presence of the other.

Judy: Can you talk about the spectrum of issues you see with replacement children? Some who may have more issues than others, and why there is that difference?

K.S.:  Each person, also each replacement child is unique, also in their suffering.  There may be some issues that are faced by many: such as the quest for their true identity, feelings of survivor’s guilt, difficulties in their own relationships, their attachment patterns… Their level of awareness, and the degree of consciousness of the parents may also play a role.

Judy: Are there measures that you believe parents can take to minimize any potential negative effects of having a child subsequent to another child’s death? What would you advise parents to look out for?

K.S.: First and foremost, the parents are advised to live through their grief as consciously and completely as humanely possible, hopefully assisted. Leave enough time between the loss of a child and a new conception.  Watch your fantasies and images, that they may not merge the two.  Do not name the new child with the same name, or any recall to the name of the lost child.  Be mindful of the unique new being that will be born and that is not to replace anyone – but just to develop to the fullest potential possible of his or her own new life.

Judy: Are there any surprises as yet with your research? Things about replacement children or their parents that you did not expect?

K.S.: What has surprised me in the beginning was the level of unconsciousness about this issue – of the replacement child or their parents; later on, what surprised me is that one can still find traces of this two, three generations later.

The most wonderful surprise – if I may call it that, is that the soul of a replacement child will try and find a way to resurrect, to come into being, to rediscover – from under the ashes of a replacement-like existence – the true originality which may once have been lost.  Seeing how an individual may rediscover the inalienable self that was once smothered by the others’ shadowy memory is like a miracle which never ceases to amaze me in practice.

Judy: What is your advice to those who discover that being a replacement child may have had a negative effect on their life?

K.S.: Do seek good counseling! Try to understand yourself, your life.  This is one promising way of discovering who you really are, of stepping into your own life.