Ruth Baird Pollard’s first book, Loving Gordon: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journey (Citrine Publishing, 2018), is based on the journal she kept during the final years she shared with her husband. Ruth is an active volunteer with her local Alzheimer’s Association and a facilitator for two support groups where she encourages other caregivers. You’ll find her on Facebook and on her website TheCaregiversJourney.com.
What do you hope readers will take away from Loving Gordon: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journey?
I hope they take away that they can be effective and loving caregivers during a very difficult period in their lives and that of their loved ones. But getting help, support and education is vital. Do not try to take this journey alone.
When did you know you wanted to share your experiences with the world? What sparked the push to begin the project that became Loving Gordon?
I had read many books on dementia and caregiving during my journey as a caregiver, but I hadn’t found any that were based on a journal and gave personal, intimate stories of what it’s like on a day-to-day basis. Since I had kept a journal, after my husband died I kept getting “nudges” to write a book. Then I found a writing coach and she really helped me take my dream to an actual book.
During the process of reading through your journals to write the book, it must have been difficult to relive your experiences. Were you ever afraid you would reveal too much about yourself, your husband, or your journey together?
Yes, reading my journals was difficult, but also brought back many good memories. At first I could only read a few pages at a time, but once I started transcribing my journals it became easier. Yes, I was mindful of revealing too much about my husband and me, especially because I knew our children and grandchildren would be reading the book. When you write a book on a personal topic, you really do put yourself out there.
When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go, that it was finished and ready for an editor or publisher?
I was very fortunate in finding a publisher way before the manuscript was finished. A friend of mine with editing experience offered to edit it at no cost. Also, after about a year, I just knew it needed to get out there.
What was your favorite part of putting this project together? What was the hardest part?
During the process of writing my book, I gained a deeper respect for my husband and really saw how he handled his illness with acceptance and humor much of the time. I also saw that I was a pretty good caregiver and did everything I could to make our journey easier. The hardest part was just getting started!
Tell us more about how the book came together.
I actively worked on my book for about a year, but it took me over four years to get started. I did a lot of editing myself and took the suggestions of my publisher and editor without getting defensive about their suggestions. My writing coach had published a book and she suggested her editor, so I sent a few chapters to her, and right away she said it was a project she could get behind. I realize I was very fortunate to find a publisher so quickly. She worked with a graphic designer who suggested various cover designs, but I had the final say in the finished project. I knew the cover would be right when I loved it right away.
Why do you think people enjoy reading memoirs and biographies?
People like to read about the lives and experiences of other people. We also learn a great deal about ourselves by reading about others’ lives.
What advice do you have for beginning writers?
Just get started and stay with it. Work with a writing coach if possible. Take classes on writing. Join SouthWest Writers. Read, read, read!
What would you say to people who don’t understand the benefits of keeping a journal?
Keeping a journal helped me maintain a little bit of emotional distance from the arduous tasks of caregiving. It was a release for me and allowed me to record my thoughts and feelings in the privacy of my journal. A journal is invaluable if you want to write a book, but it is also a record of what you and your loved one went through. It’s also a good way to pass down family history.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.