Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Heidi Cave

I attended the Canadian Authors Association, Vancouver Chapter, tonight at the Arts Club on Howe.  Jean Kay greeted me at the door.  Bob Mackie said hello as I sat down. Margot Bates, president, opened the meeting inviting those present to share any writing news that had occurred over the summer.  Lots of cause for celebration.
Then Margot introduced Heidi Cave.  Heidi's first book, Fancy Feet, had just been published in August in the US and Canada.
" I Loved to read," she said, " but I never thought of myself as a writer."
"When I was age 23 a driver hit my car, killing my friend……I was on fire.2 weeks later I woke in the ICUboth my legs needed amputation..50% of my body was burned……I was 7 months in a burn unit."
"I decided I was not going to have my whole life defined by my losses." 
"I had been encouraged to journal to sort through my grief and healing

Words carry weight

It would mean something if I wrote it down"

"My 24 yo self couldn't put a word to paper"

"Sometimes we search for destiny, sometimes it comes for us".

She was asked "to tell my story for burn survivors……but I didn't want to be a poster girl for burn survivors….I had worked so hard to get my life back to normal"

But because it would help, she agreed to talk, and spoke before and audience of 2000 then another audience of 3000.  She found she enjoyed it, giving speeches, engaging with the audience, telling her STORY.

"Friends gave me magnetic letters and I put them on the fridge, STORY"

"My husband encouraged me to Blog."

"I had all this angst…..doing it unearthed my passion for writing….I wrote about everything….my STORY crept in…..I knew I needed to learn more about writing autobiography….I joined a UBC Autobiography week long class….I cried.  I wrote, I wrote."

"I took breaks when I needed to because it was painful…uncovering emotions….opening old wounds….it took a lot of time… truly expose myself in print, to give over to the STORY……but I stayed true to the voice inside me….and eventually I was ready."

"I researched writing a query letter….queried agencies….got lots of rejections…..
I could speak to audience of 3000 but sitting across from an agent pitching my story terrified me.

I attended my very first writers conference and it was like coming home, the mother ship

I got my publisher at that conference, pitched her over dinner for 3 minutes"

She went on to describe the process of working with her agent and the publisher, discussing in detail the ups and downs of editing and rewriting. 

"First round of revision - I was so tired of the manuscript

I was sure it was the worst Id ever written

The second round from the publisher was 

I scrolled through the manuscript with all the writing in the lines

It was before christmas

I left it 2 weeks and that was good - I was tired Id told my story 100 times
Her pair of eyes told me that Id rushed through some parts
She said it was all about feelings
I spent weeks shining a light on the dark places
It was a room that held remarkable power for me"

"Then my editor said I had to dig deep…...
When you do something crazy like writte a memoir, everything is up for grabs….
Memoir is about honesty, being naked…...

Here are my darkest thoughts, this is what devastation looks like…... 

Along the writer way I failed in some of the details…...

I went at it again……..

The chapters that needed the most work were that guy who hit us….
I forgave him…..
I couldnt skim over the details…..
The answer was survival…..
I needed to let the reader in….

I needed to let the driver in….
(Later in the question and answer period she shared how the driver had lied and that he had been driving without a license…..she wrote about that in the discussion of the trial….. she used the word cruel, then talked about the family of her friend who had died and their experience.)

"I wrote and wrote …..

I was a mess,  a zombie, I couldnt look people in the eye, ….

I pushed and pushed ….

[But] I made my deadline"

"One of the best days of my life

Was receiving email from my editor:

Final deadline accepted"

She closed by saying that "I wrote the book for people…..[to tell] …about an extraordinary thing happening to an ordinary person….to tell this story about survival….how I chose to be a survivor instead of a victim ."

She has since had two very successful book signings at Costco and Chapters where her books sold out.  

She had copies with her. They sell for around $15.  She signed mine, "Have the courage to dream".

She was the moving speaker, so inspirational, so full of life, vivacious, zestful even.  And what a speaker! What a story.  She said that people told her that they picked up the book and couldn't put it down.

I'm afraid to read it.  I have work tomorrow and it's already late.

I just know it's a masterpiece.  

It begins "I picked up a red shoebox at the bottom of an old suitcase."

I said good byes to friends, including poets Bernice Lever and  Leilija Valis.  Feeling deeply for Heidi, her husband and children, I  walked out into the Vancouver night.  

(my notes are just fragments of an hour long presentation that held us all at the edge of our seats." )

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1 comment:

Jean Kay said...

Thanks, Bill, for the summary of a memorable evening. Heidi Cave is a wonderful role model for anyone who needs to know they are more than their disabilities.