Today’s Guest for our Whether I’ll Live or Die?
Pre-Launch party is
and her book?
Tell us some stuff about yourself like where you are from, your family, your job, your hobbies, etc?
I?m a freelance writer and author living in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). My greatest passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs, as I have two children who live with SPD and ASD.
I have four children: three girls Jaimie (nine), Jordy (seven) and Sophie (four) and a beautiful boy, Xander (five). [Jaimie and Xander are my ?sensational? kids.] I?ve authored a children?s book, two memoirs, a Young Adult novella, a YA paranormal suspense novel and an adult Suspense/Thriller.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Oddly, I write to relax. But I also practice yoga and meditation. A calm mind and body are so important.
How long have you been writing?
I love this question. I don?t remember a time when I wasn?t writing. In Elementary school, I enjoyed doing reading and writing assignments. I started journaling when I was ten, and still do! I think once you start writing, or feel your talent for it, you never stop.
What is your writing schedule like? Do you listen to music when you do?
With four kids in the house, I don?t have a set writing schedule. I write around their schedule. Some days I get a lot done, others next to nothing but I always try squeezing a bit of time every day where I can. I?m one of those writers who may not write for a spell then get an idea (usually through the weird dreams I often have) and type like mad until the story is out.
Yes, I often listen to the Beatles or classical when I work.
Questions about your book:
Tell us the name of your book and what it is about.
My book is called White Elephants. It?s a memoir about my childhood being raised by a mother who lived with untreated bipolar and alcoholism. It?s a very tough read but an important one, I think. It shows what really happens behind closed doors, not just with the afflicted person but also to those around him or her when one isn?t forced into treatment for mental health issues. There is no shame in having mental health problems, only in making someone feel as though there is.
In your book you talk about Abuse or addiction, sometimes both, what made you write about this?
I went through a lot with my mother when I was young and all throughout my teens and young adult life. I was so angry with her for so long. Then when I was finally ready to sit down and hash it all out with her, she died. I was left with all of these unresolved emotions and decided to write it all out instead.
I never had any intention of publishing it at first. It was my purging of anger and memories. Then while doing research for an article I was writing, I was connected to the most amazing charity: Zebra Centre. This is a place that helps children who have been abused or otherwise victimized. After getting to know how they help kids (like I had been so many years ago), and getting close to the CEO, I decided it was time to start getting others talking about it.
Abuse is wrong. Period. Every child deserves to grow up healthy, happy and safe. My book was a way to get people to talk about these issues and to know that they aren?t alone.
Is the abuse you wrote about from firsthand experience, research or some other knowledge?
It was from firsthand experience. My mom was bipolar so her moods changed from out of control highs where she?d be doing a million things at once and have tons of projects on the go all the way down to devastating lows where she wanted to kill herself. She never sought proper treatment for it but she did drink and abuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Of course, to a person with untreated bipolar, that?s like scary ammunition.
I?m not sure why but when my mom drank or she was crashing from her mania, I was her main target. I still haven?t figured that out but she took her anger out on me a lot. She was mostly a yeller but in the right mood (or after the right amount of drinks) she was very violent.
I mostly experienced verbal, physical and psychological abuse from my mom but I was also sexually abused and raped by others I was exposed to because of her partying and neglect to keep me safe.
If you came across someone who was in the shoes of your lead character (I know that sometimes this is you the author), what would you tell them?
The first thing I would do is tell that person that he or she isn?t alone. That?s the main thing. We don?t realize that there really are other people out there going through these horrible things because it?s still considered ?taboo? to talk about.
Then I would tell the person to find someone they trust who can help. Tell someone. Trust me, that?s the most difficult part because even though a caregiver or other person is hurting us in some way, we still have a strange loyalty not to say anything?either to protect the person or others who might get hurt too.
Finally, I?d make sure to let that person know that he or she shouldn?t let those experiences define who they are. It was a horrible experience, yes, but we have to use it as a way to keep moving forward and to draw strength from it rather than letting the experience to take us over. The moment we allow ourselves to stay in that ?victim? mould, we have allowed those experiences to ?win?.
Surround yourself with positive, strong, protective people. Draw from that support network to give you strength when you feel yourself slipping back a few steps and allow them to guide you back.
I have a blog called White Elephants where I talk about my experiences in the book and show how I try to keep moving forward.
I also work very closely with Zebra Centre. Books and writing always pulled me through tough times as a kid so together we created ?Chynna?s Gift of Reading?. Zebra House has a small room filled to the brim with toys, books, jewelry, etc. for children who come through there. These kids literally have nothing as many are taken from their homes in the middle of the night, given a short period of time to gather all the stuff they?ll need in foster care while an investigation is made. The room, called ?Hope?s Chest? gives the child one new thing to call their own while they heal. ?Chynna?s Gift of Reading? is a shelf I?m stuffing with books from preschool to YA. (If anyone is interested in helping us, feel free to check out information on my author blog (www.chynna-laird-author.com).
What did you hope to accomplish when you wrote this book?
The only goals I had for writing my book was to educate others on these issues as well as to verify the feelings of so many children out there suffering with abuse, neglect and other forms of victimization.
I know in my heart that my book will get into the hands of those who need it the most. And I?ll be here to reach out to if readers need to.
Your other work:
What else have you written?
In addition to White Elephants, I have also written an award-winning memoir about raising a child with SPD called Not Just Spirited: A Mom?s Sensational Journey with SPD. It?s the first memoir on this subject and I?m very proud to have been able to help others through our story. I?ve also written a few fiction books: Blackbird Flies (YA novella), Out Of Sync (Adult thriller/suspense), Dark Water (YA paranormal/suspense coming out on July 15th) and an award-winning (newly re-published) children?s picture book called I?m Not Weird, I Have SPD.
What projects are you working on now?
I am currently working on a sequel to Dark Water, a contemporary YA book called Just Shut Up and Drive and a YA fantasy series. I have also written another children?s picture book called, Don?t Rush Me, that I?m hoping to find a good home for very soon.
To Contact Chynna Laird:
Author Blog: http://www.chynna-laird-author.com
Special needs blog: http://www.the-gift-blog.com
Mental Health blog: http://www.seethewhiteelephants.com
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Chynna-Laird-Author/203311629699211
Author?s Den: http://www.authorsden.com/chynnatlaird
To Purchase White Elephants:
Eagle Wings Press (publisher?s site): http://eaglewingspress.com/ewp/wp/eagle-wings-press-books/white-elephants/
(Note: You can view a sample chapter on this page. Just scroll to the bottom on look on the left side.)
A couple months ago I had the chance to read White Elephants.? Here is my review:
I tend to measure the books I read by what happens when I am not actually reading them. When I set the book down, does it speak to me? Does it push me to pick it back up? Does it suck me in and hold me there and then when the story is over, does it stay with me? To me that is a 5 star book and “White Elephants” was exactly that.
When I started the memoir, I had no idea how the story would go, I was quickly sucked in by Chynna’s words and when I had to set the book down to do something else, I quickly came back to it. Even a day after reading the book, memories of her words written still linger in my mind.
Chynna Laird laid it all out on the line, showing us in words the essence of her very dark and stressful upbringing. Chynna gave insight into a world that very few know about and those that have firsthand experience sometimes will not share because of the painful memories associated with it.
The writing of the memoir was excellent. The scenes written graphically enough to show you what needed to be seen, yet not over bearing. Chynna starts out when she is 5 years old and continues on until she is in her thirties. The stories she reveals will tear your heart and make you wish that you could reach into the pages to help.
I applaud Chynna for allowing the painful barriers to come down and for sharing her story. If others could read this, then maybe more people would get the help that they need. Thank you, Chynna for sharing. And thank you for fighting and surviving your past so that you could share your message with everyone. Your story will live inside of me for a long time, and that right there makes your book worth every word written!