Once in a while comes a book so encompassing of experience it holds the potential to touch each person’s heart. WOW’s own Chynna Laird has written such a book; today we are very proud to share with you White Elephants, a memoir.
White Elephant is a term used to describe a difficult issue people would rather overlook or ignore. Chynna’s family had a very large elephant devouring their very foundation and the only person willing to name it was a small girl named Tami who stood her ground against the charging pachyderm.
The heart of this raging beast is a mother thrown out of control by bipolar disorder and alcoholic binges. Despite loving relatives and friends, the children find themselves alone in a world of pain and confusion. Where others may have crumbled, Tami raised herself up.
As an adult Tami took on her first name, Chynna; this is her remarkable story of abuse, survival, and triumphant recovery. White Elephants will touch your heart. Within these pages you might see your own story, or that of a neighbor or your best friend.
Chynna couldn't help her mother, but she would consider it worth everything if her family's story helped another. That said, writing a memoir and promoting that memoir are two very separate experiences. It takes a strong soul to reveal what, for many of us, still lies in the closet. We feel honored to launch White Elephants on The Muffin today.
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Eagle Wings Press (February 1, 2011)
Twitter Hashtag: #WhtElephts
White Elephants is available in paperback at Barnes & Noble and both paperback and Kindle at Amazon. A portion of every book sale goes to Zebra Child Protection Centre.
Read a chapter here (PDF): http://eaglewingspress.com/embed-whele.pdf
Did you know… April is: Alcohol Awareness Month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month?
Check it out!
White Elephants is #1 on Goodreads Best Books On Recovering From Childhood Trauma
Book Giveaway Contest: If you would like to win a copy of White Elephants, please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in the random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, April 19 at 11:59 PM PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #WhtElephts, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet. We will announce the winner the following day--Friday, April 20. Good luck!
About the author:
Chynna Laird is a psychology major, freelance writer and multi award-winning author living in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner, Steve, and their three daughters [Jaimie (almost nine), Jordhan (six), and baby Sophie (three)] and baby boy, Xander (five). Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs.
You’ll find her work in many online and in-print parenting, inspirational, Christian and writing publications in Canada, United States, Australia, and Britain. In addition, she’s authored an award-winning children’s book (I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD), two memoirs (the multi award-winning, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With SPD and White Elephants), a Young Adult novel (Blackbird Flies), an adult Suspense/Thriller (Out Of Sync to be released March 2012), and a Young Adult Suspense/Mystery/Paranormal/Sweet Romance (Undertow, to be released 2012). She’s also working on a sequel to Not Just Spirited called Not Just Spirited: The Journey Continues and a few other projects in the works for Middle Grade and Young Adult readers.
Find the author online:
Author site: Chynna Laird’s Lily Wolf Words http://www.chynna-laird-author.com/
The Gift: http://www.the-gift-blog.com/ A place for writers, readers, Beatles lovers, moms, and ‘Sensational’ families…to reach out, to help or just to give cyber hugs. SPD (sensory processing disorder), Autism, and Aspergers are favorite topics.
White Elephants: http://www.seethewhiteelephants.com/ A Blog About Bipolar and Mood Disorders, Mental Illness and Survival
---------Interview by Robyn Chausse
WOW: Chynna, I first “met” you a few years ago via the Longridge Writer’s Group; I can’t tell you how fun it has been to watch you grow as a writer and now to help you launch your memoir White Elephants…who would’ve thought!
In addition to numerous articles you’ve authored an award-winning children’s book, at least one award-winning memoir (so far), a second memoir, some YA fiction, and an adult suspense novella just released (whew!)—when did your writing journey begin?
Chynna: Gosh, I’m reading the introduction and hardly believing that’s me. LOL! I know this is going to sound really cliché but I’ve actually been writing all of my life. I’ve always loved books and started journaling when I was in my single digits. The story I like to share is the first book I wrote…in elementary school!
In Grade Four, we had a publisher visit our classroom. She taught us about the process of writing books, editing, printing and finally holding the books in our hands. She told us about the exciting life of an author. Well, at least I thought it was exciting. Then we got to participate in the most exciting part: we got to write our own books!
My book was called The Adventures of Superbug. He was invincible with the exception of the size 12 tennis shoe that sealed his ultimate fate. We wrote our stories, created the illustrations, bound them and they were ‘published’! Okay, so we wrote them on plain printing paper, the binding process involved lamination and staples and the publishing part was just our books in the school library but, to me, it was the greatest thing ever! I must have checked every day to see how many kids took it out. It did pretty good, actually. We were supposed to take our books home at the end of the school year and, unfortunately, I forgot about poor Superbug.
Several years later, my sister came home from school waving a book she took out of the library. She was hysterical! You won’t believe what book she had. That’s right! It was Superbug! I took it as a sign that writing was what I was meant to do.
WOW: LOL- how fun! I definitely would have checked that one out! So when did you realize the focus of your writing?
Chynna: I’ve always been someone who writes from my heart. Whether I’m doing a nonfiction essay, a journalistic research piece or a fiction novel, my heart is right there. You can’t go through the experiences I have and not write that way. It can be a minus on some level because you can get refusals for jobs for being ‘too personal’. On the other hand, it’s a huge plus because not only can I write great nonfiction that folks can relate to, I can breathe a reality into my fiction characters that some writers struggle to do.
I just decided a long time ago that I would always be true to myself. I may not necessarily stick to what I know (like they often tell you to in writing school), but I will never be told not to write from my heart. I simply don’t know how to write any other way.
WOW: How did you come to write White Elephants?
Chynna: It’s funny you should ask that. I remember having a conversation with my Uncle Craig about how I’d gone through so much and jokingly telling him I should write a book. “You should,” he said. “Your story would really help others. And I’d be first in line to buy it.” And he was!
I actually started writing the first draft the day after Uncle Craig told me my mother had died. I was finally strong enough to sit down and talk to her about how I felt about our relationship and things that had happened. Even if nothing transpired from the conversation, if nothing changed, at least I could live the rest of my life knowing I tried. But she died and I was left with all of these feelings of resentment, anger and other negative emotions I had to release. It took me less than a month to write that first draft and, admittedly, it was awful.
Not ‘awful’ in the sense that the writing sucked but more in the sense that it was a total regurgitation of all of those emotions I’d kept inside for so long. If I’d published that version, it wouldn’t have done my story justice. It was from anger, and you just can’t write these kinds of stories from anger. So I hired a memoir expert to help me edit it (Thank you, Felice!). She helped me shape it, tone the anger down while bringing out more of the ‘real’ stuff I felt. Man! That was so tough.
From there, I had a manuscript that was real. It’s a difficult read but it’s real and, I think, fair. The whole process (excluding the querying process to find a publisher) took about three years. (I actually ‘shelved’ it for a bit until I could handle selling it to someone.)
WOW: Once published, in February 2011, was there some apprehension in actually promoting the book?
Chynna: Yes, definitely. When I finally found the right ‘home’ for White Elephants, the editing process was very draining too. Each correction or re-read was like going through everything again and some chapters were so tough. But the loving ladies at Eagle Wings Press were empathetic. They held my hand through the entire process (thank you Barb, Becky, Karen and Ginny!) and made me feel safe. I remember becoming so emotional when the book finally came out and I held it in my hands the first time. I thought, Wow! It’s real! It’s finally real!” Then I thought, Oh my GOD! It’s real! And people are going to read it!”
I guess you could say that it’s sort of like going through everything all over again—as I talked about how I felt during the editing process. But there’s are reason I wrote White Elephants—to heal, to raise awareness and to let others in similar situations know that they aren’t alone. That is what I think about if that panic feeling tries sneaking back in.
I was strong enough to write it and allow others to read it. I was strong enough to put it out there for the world to read. I am strong enough to make those steps to get it into the hands of those who need it the most.
WOW: I admire you for undertaking this incredible healing journey and having the strength to follow all the way through.
After reading White Elephants, I can see your experiences imprinted in your fiction such as Blackbird Flies; tell us a little about your experience transitioning from non-fiction to fiction.
Chynna: Yes, Blackbird Flies is sort of a loose take on one part of my life with my mom. The story is very special to me. Actually, it was a very natural transition from nonfiction to fiction. Both genres are very similar in that you have a story to tell that need engaging characters, a good plot, catchy dialogue and keeps the reader wanting more. The main difference, of course, is that I can channel everything through my characters without putting myself out there as much.
I thoroughly enjoy writing fiction and have several projects on the go. My readers will recognize a few main staples I have in each book: a musical element (a tribute to my mom), grandparents somewhere in the story (a tribute to my grandparents) and one of the characters struggling with some sort of issue, whether it’s a special need or a tragedy they’re trying to cope with (a tribute to my kids and my past). And there is always a sprinkle of humor because life is better with laughter, no matter what else is going on.
I still have a few nonfiction projects in the works but I like being able to go back and forth.
WOW: In addition to being an award-winning author you are also a psychology major; how do your psych studies influence your writing?
Chynna: Great question! Ironic that I ended up being a psychology major, huh? LOL! My studies affect me a lot, actually. Not only does it give me answers to questions I come across along the way but it helps me understand people better. It helps me see more than just a label or behavior but what’s going on underneath. Honestly, I went into psychology to understand my mom, myself and my children (who have special needs) better. And that brings another element of realness into my writing, I think.
WOW: So, here you are… award-winning writer, wife, mom to four beautiful children—if you could go back and hold a conversation with your young, frightened, punked-out self what would you most like to tell her?
Chynna: Oh Robyn. You’re going to make me cry. I think I’d give myself a hug (which I would have hated but really needed) and I’d have said something I always say to my oldest daughter Jaimie and my son, Xander, whenever they struggle:
You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. (Christopher Robin, Pooh’s Big Adventure)
I’d probably look at myself like I had three heads but I know I would have ‘gotten’ that.
WOW: You give a portion of all your book sales to a charitable cause—would you like to share some words about that here?
Chynna: Thanks so much for asking about this. A portion of every book sale goes to a local charity called, Zebra Centre. A few years ago, I was doing research for a paper and came across this amazing place. It’s a Child Protection Center that helps children who have been abused or otherwise victimized. What drew me to them the most, aside from what they do, is their mandate. They are strictly a child-focus center and they do everything they can to help these kids define their own paths in life, rather than being defined by what’s happened to them. I so appreciate that.
What I love the most is why they call themselves Zebra Centre. In nature, zebras will form a protective circle around their young when faced with danger or predators. They put their lives on the line for those babies, and do it as a community. I can’t even tell you what it meant to me to find such a tremendous charity.
In addition to donating proceeds, we’ve also created ‘Chynna’s Gift of Reading’ where I donate books to these kids. They have absolutely nothing when they’re removed from their homes. One thing that always gave me comfort was reading and writing. So I give books and journals to, hopefully, give back. I guess you could say, things have come full circle.
You can read more about Zebra Center here.
Learn more about Chynna’s Gift of Reading here.
WOW: What’s Next?
Chynna: I love that question. Let's see....I am working on a sequel to Not Just Spirited called Not Just Spirited: The Journey Continues where I pick up from where I left off with Jaimie and move more into what it's like raising two kids with SPD. Craziness. I also have a sequel in the works to the YA suspense paranormal coming out in the summer. AND my big goal is to get into screenwriting.
WOW: You’re just having all kinds of fun! I think I’d call that a very happy…new beginning :)
---------Blog Tour Dates
Tuesday, April 17 @ Journal of a Male Childhood Abuse Survivor
It's hard enough to be a parent but what do you do when your own parents were either absent or abusive? Join Chynna for a talk about being a mother in the absence of mothering.
Wednesday, April 18 @ The Guilty Parent
Join Nichole for a review of White Elephants by Chynna Laird and a chance to win a print copy of this touching memoir! Return to The Guilty Parent on April 30th for a special guest post by Chynna Laird.
Thursday, April 19 @ Meryl's Notes Blog
Join award-winning author Chynna Laird as she shares her top 10 writing tips!
Friday, April 20 @ Words from the Heart
Bad, difficult, or moody... is that child a handful or is she crying out for help? How can you tell? Join us today and find out!
Saturday, April 21 @ All Things Audry
Join Audry Fryer for a review of White Elephants by Chynna Laird!
Monday, April 23 @ Cheryl Loves to Read
Bad Childhood? Don't let it hold you back! Join Chynna today for a talk about moving from abuse to ability. She'll be giving away a copy of her book White Elephants and our host, Cheryl, will share her book review!
Tuesday, April 24 @ Empty Nest
Chynna Laird is a mom, a student, and an award winning author--whew! Come by today as she shares her thoughts on how to stay motivated. Also, Pam reviews Chynna's memoir White Elephants.
Wednesday, April 25 @ A Slice of Life
Come have some fun! Award-winning author Chynna Laird has a special writing challenge for you. You might win a copy of White Elephants!
Monday, April 30 @ The Guilty Parent
A "white elephant" is something that people know exists but choose to ignore... Today Chynna talks about writing on "taboo" subjects.
Tuesday, May 1 @ This Mama Cooks
Dealing with a mentally ill family member or one with substance abuse problems can be exhausting and stressful. Come by for a talk on how to keep yourself healthy while under emotional duress.
Wednesday, May 2 @ Thoughts in Progress
Chynna is an award-winning author and mother of four--how does she do it all? Come on over for a talk about balancing life as a writing mama!
Thursday, May 3 @ Stacy Eaton, Author
Join best-selling author Stacy Eaton for a review of White Elephants by Chynna Laird.
Friday, May 4 @ Mom~E~Centric
Award-winning author Chynna Laird talks about living with and educating on mental health issues. Don't miss this chance to win a print copy of her straight-forward memoir White Elephants!
Saturday, May 5 @ Callie Kingston
Join Callie Kingston for a review of White Elephants by Chynna Laird!
Monday, May 7 @ Writer Inspired
You are not your past! Today author Chynna Laird talks about defining our own lives.
Tuesday, May 8 @ Dream Hour
Love It, Share It! Writing about what you love is the topic today. Join award-winning author Chynna Laird & her host, Jessica for a guest post and book review.
Wednesday, May 9 @ Workaday Reads
Get to know award-winning author Chynna Laird. Come by for a chat about how and where she started out. Enter to win a print copy of her fantastic new memoir White Elephants!
Friday, May 10 @ Happy, Healthy, Whole--The Journey to Find Balance
Yes you can...make it through the rough times, heal your scars, and carry on. Join us--Chynna Laird shares her knowledge and encouragement and our host shares her review of White Elephants.
To view all of our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar here.
Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email Robyn or Jodi at email@example.com.
Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a print copy of White Elephants by Chynna Laird! Here's how you enter:
1. For your first entry, just leave a comment on this post! Just leave Chynna a comment or ask a question to be entered in the random drawing.
2. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #WhtElephts then come back and leave us a link to your tweet.
The giveaway contest closes Thursday, April 20 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day--Friday, April 20, and if we have the winner's email from the comments section, we will also notify them via email.