Monday, June 16, 2014

Straight from the Mouth of Making Lemonade with Ben author Katherine Perreth

Katherine holds UW-Madison Social Work and Sociology degrees, is a reporter for her hometown newspaper, the Middleton Times Tribune, and conducts a class on reminiscence writing. In addition, in her role as administrative staff with WESLI (an ESL school on Madison’s capitol square), she deals in chalk. And paper. Oodles of paper. She recently took an EmptyNester Victory Tour with her husband of 28 years, but hasn’t yet changed the locks on their home. Their three kids can still get in. Her latest books is Making Lemonade with Ben: The Audacity to Cope Drop by to pay her visit at:

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Thanks for letting us interrogate interview you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

         Who said I ever “wanted” to be an author? Right back atcha, Mr. or Ms. Sassypants interrogator! (You originally had the mot juste.)

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

         The perks are that about two billion pounds worth of words are now out of my system. Each word weighs differently, you know, and they can compound pretty quickly. For example, the sentence, “I found Ben in a coma when he was seven,” weighs exactly 50 million pounds. Whereas, “The Madison Children’s Museum hired 23-year-old Ben as a one-handed juggler, then selected him to represent the museum at a national award ceremony typically attended by the First Lady,” although a much longer sentence, really only weighs five pounds.

         The demands are that I must self-promote, something I’m not fond of.

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

         With the help of a professional editor and an author’s group, I chose self-publishing. I am somewhat of a control-freak, borne of living a life where I have often felt I had zero control or choice. In order for me to get the book written, given my subject matter, I needed to retain complete creative control. That included the book’s cover. I had always known what it would be. The picture of Ben running through a field with a butterfly net was taken by my mother. It’s been a family treasure as it shows the right side of his body properly working, and encapsulates boyhood Ben BC (before coma): legs always on the go, often in search of insects.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

         For about 12 months I wrote like a madwoman. Writing the sweet story of the fall of 2011, how the trip to D.C. unfolded, was pure joy. Especially recording fresh dialogue – yes, we actually said those things. Of course, not everyone in the house was thrilled with obnoxiously accurate reporting. My then-16-year-old daughter remarked snarkily, “Oh! Look, Mom. It’s another conversation, better write that down!”
         I deserved it. (Yes, we are friends again.)

Do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?

         More to the point, do I actually get my food on time? Does my bladder get regular attention or does it have to wait until I type just one more word? Ditto for personal hygiene and water. (In a pinch, this can also be the answer to what my family really felt about my writing Making Lemonade With Ben.)

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?

         Easy. I didn’t answer the phone, I cooked family dinners at half-strength while muttering to myself about word choice, and I slept with my boss. My various responsibilities at the English school my husband directs allow for a flexible schedule. I also feature write as I please for my hometown newspaper and lead a group of older women in reminiscence writing.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

         The Fleuron Fiasco of December 2012. I had found a version of the Celtic trinity online for free to use as breaks within chapters. The first time the publisher submitted it for my proof I said aloud, “Tiny Christmas trees?” The second time, I clenched my lips, or teeth, or both, and marched down the hallway to my co-worker. Just handed her the print-out of the proof and she said, “The nuclear symbol?” After three weeks, whatever nasty communication was going on between my computer and theirs settled down. Celtic trinity it is!

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

         The social networks are killing me. Literally. I cannot handle the screen time and frustration stemming from a non-tech-savvy brain. (You may have noticed the blue lines across this interview – not sure where they came from or how to get rid of them, despite my following the step-by-step extermination process I found online. I’d use Raid but I don’t like toxic chemicals in the home.) Making Lemonade With Ben has a Facebook page, is on Goodreads and Amazon, I have a web site (shambles that it may be), I’m on LinkedIn and I check these as infrequently as possible.

         I am much better in person, speaking to groups with Ben about the book and mental illness.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
         Now we’re getting somewhere. The stigma that comes with mental illness. In many ways, mental illness is just like physical illness. It’s nothing new, nothing to be ashamed about, is a global concern, and can be a killer— just like physical illness. Even if we can’t be “fixed,” the choices we make can either alleviate or exacerbate our illnesses, physical and mental. There is a measure of empowerment in that.
         And powerful good can happen when a community values all of her citizens through intentional employers, like the Madison Children’s Museum, and by offering proper mental illness treatment. Ben’s life bears witness to that.
         Ben is a member of Yahara House, our local Clubhouse model of mental illness treatment, support and recovery. I believe this approach, espoused by Clubhouse International, is critical. The Yahara House motto is: “Yahara House Works!” And it does.
         There. I was serious for a whole three ’graphs!

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

         The best thing? I did it. It’s done. And I don’t have to do it again!

         I wrote about our lives and in so doing I’ve been able to help others. I know this because strangers contact me to tell me so. It’s up to word-of-mouth now, I can’t stomach much more self-promotion! Now, gimme that chamomile and I’ll head to my back yard corner of refuge with my husband. Ta much!

Making Lemonade with Ben
With deftly wielded humor and heart-wrenching candor, Katherine Perreth vividly recounts the myriad physical, mental, emotional and spiritual repercussions stemming from her son’s massive brain hemorrhage. Seven-year-old Ben suffers numerous disabilities and, later, mental health challenges. Yet, love wins. Making Lemonade With Ben is a compelling Cinderella story tracing sixteen years of Ben’s life. It begins with the night a University of Wisconsin Hospital neurosurgeon saved Ben, and follows Ben through young adulthood. Although he encounters years of substantial obstacles, in 2011 his never-say-die cheery attitude and uber-outgoing ways ultimately carry him to Washington D.C. There he represents the Madison Children’s Museum, his employer, at a national award ceremony. Wearing his ankle-foot-orthosis with a smiley face on the back, Ben juggles one-handed everywhere he goes, accomplishing his life goal: “Make humanity smile.” Universal themes of perseverance and compassion encourage readers to contemplate contemporary issues: mental illness treatment, recovery and stigma, the role of intentional employers in the lives of those with disabilities, and the success that can occur when a community values all of her citizens. 

Katherine is giving away a Kindle Paperwhite!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • This giveaway begins April 21  and ends on July 1, 2014.
  • Winners will be contacted via email by August 1, 2014.
  • Winner has 72 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

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