Today I interview the lovely author of the memoir Amen, Amen, Amen: memoir of a Girl Who Couldn't Stop Praying (among other things), about the author's struggles to overcome obsessive compulsive disorder, a book selected for Oprah's Reading Room, ELLE Readers' Prize, and the Chicago Tribune's Best of 2009. She is also the author of the Young Adult book Kissing Snowflakes and has experience doing lots of other fun stuff like voiceover work and improv.
What was it about the SELF article that you published helped you complete your book?
The SELF article was about the time I thought I killed a woman with a grocery cart. A really kind editor read it and got in touch with me. She thought there was a bigger story there. There was; I just wasn't sure I was ready to write it.
Which parts of Amen, Amen, Amen were most difficult to write well or accurately?
Actually, the more recent history was the hardest. I still have many parts of myself that feel unresolved.
What are some of your favorite memoirs?
Great question. There are so many. I loved Susanna Sonnenberg's Her Last Death and Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone. Mary Karr and Jeanette Walls. I loved Drinking, A Love Story too. It takes a lot to get me to read fiction these days.
Do you find yourself being extra sensitive to noticing any potential signs of OCD in your daughter? How do you maintain a balance between being vigilant and not being paranoid?
Wow, that's a doozy. Yes, I am definitely aware of her, especially because she's in this delicious imitative phase being one year old. She's made this kissing sound to echo me when I kiss the mezuzah, and I had a book that I had to kiss for a while, so I put it away instead of reading it to her. I also work very hard to eat something with her so she sees us enjoying food together. Really, so I see that too :-)
Did you receive any negative reactions from friends or colleagues after you published the book? I know its subject matter came as a surprise to many of them.
The hardest thing I've experienced from friends and/or family is silence. It makes me a little nuts to imagine what they're thinking...
Did you talk to your family very much about the book before you published it or they learned about it when they read it?
Except for my husband, I think it was a surprise to most of my family.
For your next book, do you feel a sense to either depart from or maintain the seriousness of the subject matter in Amen, Amen, Amen?
I'm really trying to write something lighter. Especially fiction. But a lot of my characters have dark pasts. I guess we all do.
What's it like to see a reading guide for your book? Which of the questions you've seen are your favorites or seem strangest?
That's funny, someone just told me tonight about a reading guide in Oprah. Which is hilarious to me. I did get to approve the questions for the publisher's reading guide, but I think it was such an out of body experience that I decided I was talking about Abby the character, not me.
Do you have any readers come up to you and tell you about their own experiences with OCD, cutting or eating disorders? How do you handle them?
This is probably the greatest part about publishing. I've had some remarkable emails from people all over telling me their experiences with OCD. It's truly humbling. And I am so grateful that people have reached out like that. I do have a resource section at the end of my book and hopefully some new helpful links will be on my website soon, but I still wonder how much more i could help. There was a caller on a talk show I did whom I just wanted to reach out and hold. She was so brave and it hurt so much to hear her pain.
What's the last thing you prayed for?
The walk home from the subway.
Since your book was given props in O and you were on Tyra, you are probably the best person to answer this: will Tyra be the new Oprah?
Don't think so. Unless Oprah becomes the new Conan.
Seriously, tell me something about Tyra.
You can publish this: she is incredibly gorgeous and her legs are as long as a sedan. Just between you and me: [redacted].
Are you planning on writing another Young Adult book? What on?
I am hoping to. The book I have in mind is called Sssssh and it's about a family of secrets.
How did you come to publish a YA book before your memoir or, say, a humor book?
It was really a fun coinkidink. An editor at Scholastic read an essay of mine in the newspaper and called me. I went to grade school with her and we talked about writing young adult stuff. The next thing I knew I had an assignment to write a winter romance.
Who are some of your favorite funny females?
Gilda, Gilda and Gilda. Rachel Dratch. Stephnie Weir. Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey.
How does it feel to be the 248th person interviewed for Zulkey.com?
Delicious. An honor. Thank you so much.