by Eileen Watkins
Written by Eileen Watkins
7 George St.
Wanaque, N.J. 07465
Ash said her view of life changed the day she went into the hospital to deliver her daughter, and the doctors couldn’t find a heartbeat. After a Caesarean confirmed the baby was stillborn, her overwhelming grief compelled Ash to research her experience on the Internet. She found that although stillbirths are far from uncommon, very few of the mothers had documented their feelings in print.
She set about writing her book Life Touches Life--A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing.
“I realized I had no immunity,” she said. “I knew then that anything could happen to anybody.” Although in the past Ash had written fiction, she decided this this had to be nonfiction to express her emotions as directly as possible.
She spent about two-and-a-half years trying to find a publisher and received 250 rejections. She believes this happened because of the “cultural denial“ surrounding the subject--“We want to believe medicine always can save us, and that this kind of thing doesn’t happen.” The patronizing feedback she received made her all the more determined to place the book with a “mainstream” publisher, not a vanity press, so it could not be dismissed as merely therapeutic. She finally found a home for the project with New Sage Press, based in Oregon.
Ash read a moving passage from her book in which she held her baby, Victoria, for a postmortem baptism, and tried to establish a spiritual relationship with the child who might have been.
A journalist with The Daily Record, Ash was assigned in 2001 to interview Brad Kennedy about his new book on the Viet Nam war, Heroes or Something. Ash felt an emotional connection because they both had lost people important to them, and had vowed to carry on in memory of those they’d lost.
Kennedy presents his story as a novel, and said, “I chose fiction because I believe it can express as much truth as nonfiction,” he said.
“What (historians) won’t tell you is what it felt like to be drafted off the street, trained to kill and shipped to the other side of the world,” he said. “Or how it felt to go to town and see the troops in the brothels…to go out on ambush patrol and know it was kill-or-be-killed.” One of his worst moments, he noted, was finding a superior officer he especially liked and admired lying dead on the field and barely recognizable.
Kennedy recalled his k.p. duty, during which he hauled the cooking grease from the soldiers’ meals to a nearby dump and watched the starving Vietnamese catch it in cups and drink it. He read an excerpt from his book describing an ambush on a supply convoy that kills several American soldiers and a young Vietnamese woman.
Kennedy said he started writing the book the weekend he came home from
Viet Nam, but then it took him 15 years to get back to it. Like Ash, he
wrote the book at night while working at a full-time day job. He chose
to self-publish, explaining with a smile, “I don’t take rejection well.”
He actively markets the book now by speaking to veterans’ groups, and is
working on a second, Blood and Country: A Soldier’s Call.
Ash agrees this is equally important in a memoir such as hers. “You have
to be prepared to do it fearlessly, with not a nuance of emotion left
out. It’s important to take your time and not gloss over things.”