Please welcome memoir writer and fellow She Writes Press author, Gwen Plano, here today as my JANUARY “Author Spotlight.” I met Gwen almost a year ago as our group of authors prepared for our Spring 2014 launches. Gwen has been an incredible supporter to many of us, and I totally appreciate everything about her. She’s one of those truly warm-hearted and generous people who make you feel thankful you’ve met them. So, I’m thrilled to have her here today, as well as to share my review of her book.
Letting Go into Perfect Love was chosen as the 2014 Red City Book Awards First Prize winner for Memoir/Non-Fiction. She’s gotten glowing reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, the San Francisco Book Review, The Catholic Reporter, just to name some. Plus, she's been a #1 Amazon Bestseller with an average 4.9 out of 5 stars. I hope you’ll be inspired to pick it up! Gwen's contact and purchase info is below…
So, without further ado, Gwen Plano.
Although the topic of your memoir is intensely painful, there is a feeling of healing and triumph at the end. Now that your story is out in the world, tell us a little bit about how the book is being embraced by your readers? Is the experience everything you expected?
I’ve been humbled by the response of readers. I didn’t realize how deeply my book would touch them. Some have written to me about their victimization and their steps towards healing and freedom. Three individuals in particular, however, brought me to tears: an elderly woman, a young student, and a decorated veteran. I will explain.
The elderly woman had been sexually abused by an uncle when she was a very young child. She had kept this terror hidden in her heart, because she was afraid no one would believe her. After reading my book, she finally shared her secret. For 80 years she had silently shouldered this trauma; and now, in the final days of her life, she let it go. She explained that when she read the chapter about my daughter, she wept–not only for her but for her own child-self who she could now finally embrace.
More recently a veteran, a man who earned the Purple Heart in the European theatre during World War II, apologized to me for something he did not do. Well into his 90s, this gentleman approached me after church and mentioned that he had read my book. “I need to apologize to you,” he said simply, “on behalf of any man who would treat you poorly. I am sorry you suffered as you did.” I was so stunned by his kindness, that I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I uttered a simple “thank you.” This man is more than a military hero, he is a man who knows the Perfect Love of which I wrote.
A couple of months ago, I was a guest lecturer at a college in California. I provided statistics, offered graphs and discussed the consequences of violent behavior, but then addressed the question of purpose. “Why are we here?” I asked. Ultimately, I spoke of pursuing joy and offered images of healthy love. At the end of the lecture, a young male student came over to me. Speaking awkwardly and haltingly, he explained that he had Aspergers and then said, “I didn’t understand my purpose in life. Now I do. Thank you for helping me.” And with that he reached over and hugged me.
Can you name a couple of things you learned about memoir writing in particular that you can share with others?
We all have stories to tell – of disappointments and successes, of violations and triumphs, of sorrows deep and joys abundant. When we write our memoir, we walk through these experiences—and feel them afresh. And, we redeem the broken remnants.
When I was writing Letting Go into Perfect Love, there were times when I thought my heart would surely break; because, I felt the terror, felt the blows, and it frightened me to my core. I realized that I experienced that which I could not feel in years past—when my heart was numb. I did not expect this to be the case when I started writing. I thought I would simply tell my story; I did not know that I would experience it. I learned that walking through our past is a journey of the highest order.
Many new writers wonder what it would be like to launch a book. Can you name two of your favorites and why?
I did not launch in the traditional sense, because I had recently moved to a small Midwestern town where few knew me. Because of this, I launched through Twitter and word of mouth.
On Twitter I discovered a large community of writers, artists and humanitarians. They directly and indirectly offer support and guidance, and I do the same. It is a neighborhood of sorts, a place where members share their masterpieces with all who are interested.
In terms of word of mouth, I gave my book to friends and family, who in turn shared it with others. When it was published in the summer of 2014, the headlines featured incidents of domestic violence, and my book found a new audience—organizations addressing violence against women and children. I gifted my book to these institutions and to clergy who often work with victims.
Though I did not write for the purpose of advocacy, I speak on behalf of victims. It is a service I offer freely, and it is an invaluable way of showcasing my work.
What has been the best thing that's happened to you because you've published this book?
The greatest gift of publishing my book is the beautiful people I’ve met along the way. Writers such as you are now friends. We have traveled a common path, through the travails of publishing and the demands of marketing. Importantly, we have emerged stronger for the journey. The respect we carry for one another is amazing, isn’t it?
Similarly, I’ve met readers across the States who have felt recognized by my story and now share their past with me. When I am with them, it is as though I have found another sister or brother. Our shared experiences bind us as family.
In an unexpected way, publishing Letting Go into Perfect Love has opened doors and brought me home.
Gwen, than you so much for stopping by and sharing the background of our incredible memoir!
LETTING GO INTO PERFECT LOVE REVIEW
As a college administrator, Gwen lived her professional life in a highly visible and accountable space–but as a wife and mother, behind closed doors, she and her family experienced the terror of domestic violence and abuse. The statistics are staggering–every 9 seconds in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten–but to Gwen, this was her secret; it was her shame. When her husband eventually turned his brutality on her son, she knew she could no longer stay quiet.
In Letting Go into Perfect Love: Discovering the Extraordinary After Abuse, Gwen bravely recounts a violent marriage that lasted twenty-five-years–and the faith that opened her heart to hope, to trust, and to awe again. As a survivor who came out of the relationship determined to start new, Gwen artfully depicts the challenges and triumphs of balancing the obligations of motherhood and career with her family's healing process.
Alternately heart-wrenching and joyful, Letting Go into Perfect Love is a powerful story of triumph over adversity–one woman's inspiring account of learning how to forgive the unforgivable, recover her sense of self, open her heart, and honor the journey home.
RATING: 5 stars
Inspirational memoir of a woman's journey from abuse into perfect love
An amazing and heart-wrenching journey through the author’s life as she simultaneously shares the story of abuse endured by herself and her children during her twenty-five year marriage, while at the same time cultivating a spiritual path to understanding, freedom, healing, forgiveness, and ultimately the perfect love.
Inspirational, and lyrically written, as Gwen searches for meaning, her answers are sometimes divinely given on the wings of angels.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gwendolyn Plano grew up in Southern California and spent most of her professional life in higher education. She taught and served as an administrator in colleges in Japan, New York, Connecticut, and California. Gwen's academic background is in theology and counseling. She now lives in the Midwest, where she enjoys retirement.
Find Gwen and purchase memoir: www.gwenplano.com
Purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Letting-into-Perfect-Love-Extraordinary/dp/1938314743