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An Interview with Author Ruth Baird Pollard

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

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.

KLWagoner150_2KL 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 and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Patricia Conoway

It took eight years for former advertising consultant Patricia Conoway to call her first book ready for the public. Her memoir Listening With My Eyes: An Abused Horse. A Mother With Alzheimer’s. The Journey To Help Them Both. was published in 2015. You’ll find Patricia on her website and on Facebook.

Why did you write Listening With My Eyes, and who did you write it for?
I wrote Listening With My Eyes to help caregivers—people in the same situation I found myself: with an aging parent descending into Alzheimer’s that had lost her ability to care for herself, or to communicate verbally. Prior to being a caregiver, I’d purchased my first horse, who’d been abused, drugged and had no use for humans. Ignoring advice to put her down, I decided to learn how to understand my horse Dream and gain her trust, which entailed learning her body language and building upon that learning. This in turn helped me better understand my mother and her body language. While we all incorporate body language into our dialogues, it is often on a subconscious level. It took a problem horse plus determination to push through fear—hers and mine—plus many challenges that achieved the goal of feeling safe then having fun with her. My mother exhibited fear not dissimilar to Dream’s as her memory and ability to function waned. I also wrote the book for animal lovers. I believe there is much we can learn from them if we take the time to “listen” and much we can learn about ourselves through them. Hopefully we become better humans because of them.

What do you hope readers will take away from it?
That being present, aware, and “in the moment” provides the “listener” with more and greater information that is extremely empowering. This is increasingly difficult with all our attention-grabbing and distracting computers, phones, etc. Paying attention to non-verbal communication (body language) in any sentient being not only provides the “listener” with greater comprehension, it also empowers the other being in the dialogue, making for richer, deeper, often profound understanding and empathy.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing it?
Along with completing it and seeing the final product, receiving feedback in emails, calls, and letters thanking me for writing it and for sharing my story. When I give talks or do book signings, people want to share their stories with me, ask for my advice, give me a hug and often buy the book! I’ve made new friends, met interesting people, and found the entire writing and publishing experience, though often challenging, well worth the effort.

When did you know you wanted to write your story?
My book began as journal entries, first with the agonizingly slow progress I made with Dream, gaining her trust and respect, then with the challenges and rewards I experienced as a caregiver. Once I began using horsemanship techniques with my mother (and people I had to deal with on her behalf) and got positive results, I took the advice of friends who said, “You need to write a book!”

During the process of writing Listening With My Eyes, it must have been difficult to relive some of your experiences. Did you ever feel scared of something you were writing or of revealing yourself through the work?
It was difficult and sometimes painful to relive some things, mostly the caregiver part. There were unbelievably sweet, tender, and sometimes agonizing things I experienced, along with great “aha” moments, and profound comprehension resulting from self-examination. Revealing myself wasn’t hard, as my goal was to help and empower others in similar situations. Moving forward from the emotional stuff that accompanied the memories was hard. I took weekly, sometimes monthly, breaks but forced myself to push through when I felt able, because I’d committed to completing this project. I also had a great editor who ushered me through items that were better left unsaid, or stated more succinctly or differently, which allayed my fears.

Tell us how the book came together.
From beginning to finished product it took eight years. I self-published, because I wasn’t prepared to wait to get my message into the world. After it was “finished,” I asked friends to read and edit, then hired a professional editor and made extensive revisions. Re-edited and proof read again, made more revisions. A friend did the fabulous photography for both covers. I lucked out with a great graphics designer who also edited, along with designing it. The editing/revising/re-editing/graphics work took a bit over a year.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for Listening With My Eyes?
Many things, mostly about Alzheimer’s. If not addressed/abated within a few decades, it will bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid. It has touched almost everyone in this country in some way. It is on the increase because of aging baby boomers. The horse research was hands-on. Though I’m no longer a novice, I continue to be amazed at their intelligence, curiosity and sensitivity. I continue to learn from them.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
That my book moves people, sometimes to tears, but gives them hope and optimism while they face their own challenges with the aging and death of a loved one. Also, my honesty about how adverse, sometimes painful situations, almost always result in making us stronger, perhaps more capable, empathic human beings.

Do you have advice for discouraged writers?
Do give yourself breaks, but keep your eye on the ball. You’ve no idea the impact you might have on another person or persons with your own unique story and way of telling it. Don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of sharing your thoughts, story, experience.

What writing project are you working on now?
A coming-of-age story about a bright, ambitious young woman who perseveres with her goals in spite of great adversity, disillusionment, and heartbreak.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
That it’s never too late to begin writing a book (or undertake any project) and never too late to finish it. That you will personally expand and grow when you do it. This can be life changing. Take that first step.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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