June 2019 Newsletter

June 2019 Newsy Letter  From Karen DeBonisA quarterly update on my writing journey, with news from my world . 
Quick facts in case you’re new here (or your memory is as bad as mine): The working title of my memoir is Growth: A mom, a son, and the brain tumor they survived. The tagline: I couldn’t stand up for my son since I never learned to stand up for myself. I’m not proud of that truth, but I’m proud of telling the story. The main characters are me, my husband Michael, and my sons, Matt and Steve. Matt is the son with the brain tumor, diagnosed when he was 11. He’s 32 now. Not to be a spoiler, but as tough as the story is, the ending is uplifting like you wouldn’t believe. You won’t want to miss it!
Memoir update
My 90,000-word final draft is in the hands of my freelance editor. When I gave it to her, it was about 86,000 words, with an ending that fell into place almost on its own. Then I realized that ending focused on my son’s inspiring recovery, but left questions unanswered about me. So I wrote an epilogue. I’m not sure if my editor or future publisher will keep it as is, but at least the words have been written. In the memoir-writing business, “final” is never “final,” until the book sits on a shelf. While my editor is running her red pen dry on my draft, I’ll be working on a book proposal. Not all agents require one, but I want to be prepared. I’ll also continue my research on agents, so when all my pieces are in place, I’ll know who I want to entice to take a chance on me, a novice writer. I’ll really need your continued support, folks, so I hope you’ll stay with me!

A totally useless and possibly embarrassing fact about me:
When I was in eighth grade, a friend gave me the nickname “Big Ram.” Big came from my being taller and otherwise more, uh, developed than most of my peers, as seen in this graduation picture. Ram came from my maiden name Rampolla. A few years later, I used Big Ram as my CB radio handle on a car trip with a different friend’s family. Diane and I posed as older girls and invented a fictitious car, then watched the truckers fly by in pursuit. We were too young and innocent to understand why a trucker would be so anxious to find Big Ram, but I imagine Diane’s parents in the front seat got a good laugh. I haven’t had a nickname since. It’s probably better that way.
My most exciting byline to date is with the New York Times! My Son, the Homeowner is a 100-word essay about Matthew’s first house purchase. (You’ll need to scroll down after clicking on the link.) It’s a tiny essay but a huge honor. Also, in May, I had this piece published in Pulse; Voices from the heart of medicineA Hard Lesson in Humility. 
Read or Reading: Books that inform my writing.
In looking for stories of other undiagnosed illness, as in my memoir, I discovered The Art of Misdiagnosis by Gayle Brandeis. It’s my favorite of the memoirs I’ve read recently. The author tells the story of her mother’s mental illness and eventual suicide, using narrative, letters written to her mother posthumously, and excerpts from her mother’s unfinished multi-media project on misdiagnosed rare illness.

 Another recent fav is The Beginning of Everything, by Andrea J. Buchanan, about her debilitating spinal CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) leak, and recovery. CSF is basically the opposite of hydrocephalus–having too much fluid in the brain–which was the culprit in my son’s story. It was interesting to compare the two.
For my own personal growth I had to set out on my own.– Frank Press, American Scientist


  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

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