It was back in October 2016 that I contacted Helen to ask whether she would be interested in editing my memoir. This is what she says about working on my book:
“Intrigued, I replied that it would indeed be a project I would enjoy working on and asked you to send me the first 5000 words, and thus began a relationship which would continue for nearly two years. You didn’t complete the first draft until the summer of 2017 and I was involved every step of the way. It has been such a privilege. As I worked through the words you wrote, the sections where the pain of the memories was almost too much to bear were apparent in your writing; for example, the death of your nursing friend, Debbie, and the tragic suicide of your father. It had clearly been exhausting and traumatising for you to revisit the anguish of these events.
You were very concerned that your book would not become a ‘misery memoir’. After all, your story was full of suffering as a child and an adult. However, the resulting book cannot be summed up by such a label. Throughout the narrative is a strong sense of your growing spirituality and your abiding love of beauty in nature. From a very young age you knew that your life would be different, you were not going to live the life your parents had followed. You knew there was hope and that your own trajectory through life would allow you to develop and grow away from the emotional poverty of your upbringing. Your story ends on a wonderful uplifting note, sending the reader away with a song in their heart.
You share quotations from a host of writers throughout the book, writing which has inspired you and which allows the reader to pause for thought and to consider the relevance of elements in your story to their own life stories. We read to know that we are not alone. That is very true of the experience of reading your memoir, Mary Anne.
I greatly admire your honesty. It is a great gift to be able to share so openly and unselfconsciously the many traumas you have experienced in your life. As I think I said to you at the start, many lives are visited by tragedy and suffering to some degree but this pain is repressed and a ‘brave face’ shown to the world at the expense of emotional honesty. A passage that really spoke to me was when your friend Julie is embarrassed by your grief at your father’s death and she subsequently shuts you out of her life. Your book gives others the permission to share their own pain and suffering, rather than feeling they have to shut it away so as not to make others uncomfortable”.
Helen Fazal Summer 2018