The Moment I Knew
When it happens, you feel something crawling up your spine to stroke the back of your neck. Your mouth goes dry; electricity quivers inside arms and legs. Something clicks in the brain and you suddenly know something you didn’t only seconds ago. The veil parts and you are offered this opportunity, this gift. Forgiveness. Understanding. Love. Such moments are dramatized in a new book called The Moment I Knew: Reflections from Women on Life’s Defining Moments ($14.95 from www.sugatipublications.com), a collection of brief, compelling essays and poems by women from six countries. It’s a book men should read as well as women.
Eyes of Love
Recently my fellow Yellow Springer Cyndi Pauwels and I sat down at the Underdog Café to chat about Reflections, in which her essay, “The Powerful Eyes of Love,” appears. “When I read, I want to be enlightened, uplifted or entertained,” Cyndi told me. This collection achieves at least that; I found it so compelling I read most of it in a weekend. It also has the power to move the reader toward greater wholeness.
Cyndi’s essay appears along with twenty-nine others in the second “Reflections from Women” series, founded by editor and psychotherapist Terri Spahr Nelson, who hopes to provide writers as well as readers the chance for self-examination, expression and healing. The limit was 2,000 words, meaning the writing is tight and concise, lending credence to the adage “less is more.” Writers of greater or lesser writing experience from Granville, Ohio to Reading, England tackle topics ranging from relationships to pregnancy, family, children . . . and love.
When Cyndi began writing her essay, she figured it would be light, perhaps humorous; the finished product, however, turned out to be a clear-eyed, unflinching look at childhood trauma, a look that moved me deeply
The Past is the Present
In Cyndi’s essay, “Powerful Eyes of Love,” the present met the past on a recent icy day in Ohio following an eight-inch snowfall. “I realized I was having an inappropriate instinctual reaction to a situation,” she explains. I believe the essay is one of the most powerful in the collection, and that’s saying a lot—she’s in very good writing company.
At the wheel of her husband Geo’s new truck while he frantically works to free it from the icy driveway, Cyndi re-lives, in the span of a few minutes, the years between ages seven and seventeen when her step-father abused her for everything that went wrong in the household—just the way everything seems to be going wrong on this day. But Geo isn’t her step-father, and, in a shattering climax, Cyndi discovers she is not that abused, fearful child anymore. I won’t spoil your reading pleasure by quoting one of the most loving—yet spontaneous—speeches I’ve ever heard from a fellow man, but its utterance, accompanied by “the eyes of love,” promoted Cyndi’s long, slow healing, which continues to this day.
Why Put Yourself Through It?
During our conversation, Cyndi and I agreed that, while writing is not therapy, it can certainly be therapeutic.
“I work through it [trauma] on the page,” she says, “from my perspective as a disinterested bystander, not just what I was experiencing, because situations aren’t black/white; there are nuances. My involvement had an impact on the situation. I re-lived the experience [of abuse], but not in a negative way. My responsibility is to work through it; if my closure helps somebody, I’m glad.”
The experience of publishing such an emotionally naked piece was, she maintains, very positive, though she confesses, during the weeks following acceptance, she almost withdrew her essay for fear of what her mother might think. As it turned out, her mother’s response was “noncommittal.” However, through reading the essay, a sister from whom Cyndi had been largely estranged for a number of years re-established contact. About her abuser, Cyndi admits that compassion is something she struggles with, and she has no interest in her step-father’s reaction to her essay.
A Collaborative Experience
The process of writing and publishing the “Powerful Eyes of Love” was “a learning experience and taught me a lot about myself,” Cyndi concluded, adding, “I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t say publishing was also validation after drowning in rejection.”
Writers could look long and hard and not find as writer-friendly a venue for publication as the Reflections of Women series, designed by editor Nelson to be an extremely collaborative process. Cyndi said she never felt forced to accept Nelson’s proffered editing; some suggestions she took and some she didn’t. Also, the writers were allowed to vote on the book’s cover photo as well as which charities the book would benefit. (A “significant portion” of proceeds from the book’s sale will go to three charities that assist women. Purchasing online from Sugati guarantees a greater percentage to these worthy organizations.) Furthermore, a week before publication Cyndi participated in an on-line salon with 6-8 other Reflections authors. If the book’s sales exceed $5,000, all 30 writers will split the resulting royalties. Such a democratic process is rare in the small press publishing world.
Another feature of the book I enjoyed a lot was that the author’s bio note appeared immediately after the respective author’s piece, often with an update, briefly telling us what’s transpired between the time of the story and the present (it’s usually good news).
Writers and Shoppers Alert
From initial query to publication, the entire process took about a year, according to Cyndi, which in this business is pretty fast! Interested writers should visit the website to see topic areas for upcoming books in the series, along with deadlines. Interested readers might want to take advantage of November’s “blog roll,” during which Nelson is offering a 25% price reduction when you buy two copies of the book from the website; you can also receive free shipping (given at checkout). How about a copy for you and your significant other—or a woman friend? I don’t think you’ll be sorry.
If you live close by, Cyndi will be appearing at the 23rd annual Lebanon (Ohio) Horse Drawn Carriage Parade and Christmas Festival on Saturday, December 3, 2011 in the Chapters Pre-Loved Books Booth from 4-6 p.m. with Tami Herzer-Absi , another Yellow Springs resident, who also has an essay in the book. Cyndi blogs in candid detail about her experience being published in The Moment I Knew on her website: http://cpatlarge.blogspot.com/2011/11/moment-i-knew.html.
To purchase the book (Sugati Publications): www.sugatipublications.com
Cyndi’s blog: cpatlarge.blogspot.com
Lebanon Horse Drawn Carriage Parade: www.ohioslargestplayground.com/lebanon-antique-horse-drawn-carriage-parade/
Chapters Pre-Loved Books in Lebanon: www.chaptersprelovedbooks.com/
Underdog Café: www.emporiumwines.com/