October 2020 Newsletter

Memoir update
The new working title and subtitle, subject to change at a moment’s notice:
 The tagline: People-pleasing is a liability when your child is sick. 

I’m not proud of that truth, but I’m proud of having the guts to tell the story.
 Here’s my pitch (a short description to entice agents to read the whole manuscript):  
 Karen has always been compulsively agreeable. So when her eight-year-old son Matthew, formerly bright and active, gradually becomes forgetful and lethargic, Karen is unable to assert her concerns. His alarming deterioration even makes her wonder if he will die. Finally, she demands answers, and gets slammed by the discovery that her precious child has a brain tumor. Matthew’s agonizingly slow recovery of cognitive skills presents another life-and-death challenge, and for twenty years, Karen worries he’ll never become self-sufficient. Only when she knows the answer can she try to make peace with her flaws and discover the outspoken woman hiding behind her timid exterior.
Would YOU be enticed to read this book? 
I put querying on hold for the summer as I returned to my “finished” manuscript to do some polishing. Finished is a slippery eel to hold on to, but I’m confident I get a firmer grip with each pass. 

It helps that I’m in two critique groups now, with a total of seven other memoirists sharing their feedback on my writing.
 With all the webinars I’ve listened to, online classes I’ve taken, and staying active in multiple Facebook writers groups, what’s been missing is the critique of my work by other writers. Their input has been the key to unlocking my best writing.

I can’t wait for you to read it…

These uncertain times.
 Times are no less certain now than they were in my last Newsy Letter. In a week, the elections will be over, and we’ll have more certainty, with or without peace of mind to accompany it. Whatever happens, I hope kindness is the thread that binds us together, even as we refuse to tolerate hateful speech and actions. A few short years ago, early in my journey to confront my people-pleasing, I couldn’t have imagined how those seemingly opposing positions–being kind and yet intolerant of hate–could co-exist. But now, not only is it imaginable, it is part of who I am. Personal growth isn’t easy, but it’s so worth the effort. 
Calling all people-pleasers! I need your help!
Whether you consider yourself a full-fledged people-pleaser or just someone who struggles occasionally with being “too nice,” I’d love your input. As I go forward with my memoir, essays, and my workshop Wipe Your Feet Before You Walk All Over Me, I want to better understand what the disease-to-please looks and feels like for others. To that end, I’ll be doing a series of Zoom discussions with small groups of about six people. The specific dates and times for these focus groups will be scheduled according to individuals’ availability.

If you’d like to give me your input, but would prefer a one-on-one conversation, I can set up a personal phone or Zoom call. 
 To find out more, email me at contact@karendebonis.com. 

I hope to hear from you!

A totally useless and possibly embarrassing fact about me:
This is my fourth-grade school picture, at the beginning of my awkward phase. I remember this orange jumper, as toward the end of the school year when it was warmer, I wore it to an evening school program without a blouse underneath. While we waited for our teacher in the classroom, some girls asked me to jump up to touch the top of the door frame. Being one of the taller girls, I did. Then they laughed at me. I didn’t know why until I got home and saw my underarm sweat stains, and the few scraggly hairs sticking out–awkwardly. Puberty was such fun, wasn’t it?
Do you remember my Tiny Love Story in the NY Times last year? It has been selected for a print anthology of stories the Times expects to publish before the end of the year! I’ve done two guest posts on the award-winning Writers in the Storm blog: Becoming our Own Best Advocates and The Timeless Writing Struggle: Ego vs Humility.   (What is it with me and humility lately? I wrote this blog on the same topic.) You may remember this essay on the Writing Class Radio podcast, about how the weak are stronger than the strong.  Now, a longer version of this essay will appear in HerStry.com in December.  

Books that inform my writing.

Each of these books is written by a mother about her son’s brain tumor. It’s a club you never hope to join, but so often life signs us up whether we’re interested or not, right?

In Loving Large, Patti M. Hall writes about her son’s journey with acromegaly–gigantism–caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland.


In The Opposite of Certainty, Janine Urbaniak Reid writes about the discovery and aftermath of her son’s pilocytic astrocytoma–the same tumor my son has. Her story reminds me to be grateful for all my son has achieved, rather than what he’s lost. 

I hope you’ll support your local indie bookstore by buying these books. 
 RIP, Dad.
My dad, one of the kindest people you could ever hope to meet, died early in the morning on October 16, 2020. I was grateful to have spent his final week at his side. 

Don Rampolla
 July 13, 1932 – October 16, 2020.


  • 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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