Judy Prescott is the author of our latest book Searching for Cecy: Reflections on Alzheimer’s which comes out on the 25th November, 2011. We asked her a few questions about the journey she’s been on, both as a poetry writer and the daughter of a mother with Alzheimer’s. Here’s what she had to say:
1. When did you first realize that you wanted to write Searching for Cecy and what inspired you?
I began writing poems about Cecy’s journey into Alzheimer’s eight years ago as an attempt to understand a situation that was entirely out of my control. Putting pen to paper made me feel that I was connecting with Mom in some way, by telling her story.
The fact that I live in California and Mom lives in Maine has presented a real challenge for me. My aunt Rosanne, whose art is featured in the book, used to visit Mom, take amazing photos of her, turn them into beautiful collages, and send them to me so that I would not feel so far away. Inspired by the beauty of Rosanne’s photographs, I asked if she would consider collaborating with me on a book project in which I would pair her artwork with my poetry. She said that she would love to, but that she couldn’t create as many pieces as I needed. I decided to ask other family members to help us in our efforts and called Rosanne’s daughter, Anne Gresinger, my aunt, Susan Winn, and my brother, Tom Prescott, all of whom were happy to contribute beautiful pieces for the book.
2. What selection process did you use for the poems and artworks for the book, assuming you had more than you included?
I looked for poems that captured moments that seemed to best illustrate both my mother’s journey and my own. Once the poems were chosen, I asked my artists to send whatever pieces they thought might be suitable for the project. It was an embarrassment of riches. I knew what the succession of poems would be, as they are arranged chronologically, but had a much more difficult time matching poem to art in a way that would successfully tell Cecy’s story.
3. Was it difficult to work with so many people, especially as the other contributors were family members?
I loved the collaboration. I feel honored to have had the support and insight of such talented artists and proud that they are kin. It was an extraordinary experience. I find the beauty and depth of their work inspiring.
4. What was your mother’s reaction when she saw the book?
We had a gathering of friends and relatives for Cecy in the garden of her facility in Maine this summer, and presented her with the book. My four- year old daughter, Eliza, put “Searching For Cecy” in her grandmother’s lap. At this point in her journey, Mom can no longer speak and is relegated to a wheelchair. Mom seemed to understand that the book was intended as a tribute to her and appeared to be holding court. She quickly began squirreling away copies of “Searching For Cecy” into the corners of her wheelchair and beneath her thighs. High praise!
5. It’s often difficult for Poets to get published, how did you go about getting your work in print?
Initially, I simply wanted a bound volume of the book to give to Mom and the family. During the time I began researching on-line publishing options, I attended a Christmas party at my friend Jay and Deirdre’s house and fortuitously bumped into Jay’s sister, Eileen Gibson Funke, a friend from my hometown in New Jersey. Eileen and her brother Jay Gibson have created a workspace in Santa Monica where writers go to write called “The Writer’s Junction.” I told Eileen about the book and how I intended to create it and she said, “Oh my gosh, you can’t do that!” She felt that the road I was taking would not lead to publication and advised that I contact a woman who had given a talk at “The Writer’s Junction”
called Gemini Adams of Live Consciously Publishing. It was because of Gemini’s energy and passion that the book went to print.
6. How long did it take you to Finish the Book from start to publication?
I called Gemini Adams in early January of last year, as per Eileen Gibson Funke’s suggestion, and found that she was in Australia. We decided to meet upon her return and it was at that meeting that I could see that we shared a similar vision and that she was the right person to help me finish my book properly.
I wrote the poetry for “Searching For Cecy” over an eight- year period and began collecting artwork for the book two years ago. Together, Gemini and I completed the book in ten months.
7. How does it feel to have your book being published next week?
My goal has been to get this book into my mother’s hands while she is still living. I am very grateful that I was able to realize this goal and am thankful that the book will be published next week. I think Mom would be very pleased that her story is being told and I am also pleased that her story will help other families braving the rough seas of Alzheimer’s. I’m excited that a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association, Maine Chapter. They are a fantastic organization.
8. What would you have done differently given a second chance?
I don’t think I would change a thing. This has been a challenging journey in many ways, but the lessons I have learned along the way have been invaluable.
9. Is there any advice you can offer to those in the wings?
Follow your heart, respect your instincts, and keep moving forward.
10. What’s next for you?
I’m thinking of writing a performance piece about my dear friend Ken Kelly who died last year after a long, arduous struggle with HIV/AIDS. He was a remarkable spirit and his tale needs to be told.
You can pre-order Searching for Cecy from Barnes & Noble.