(In-Progress) MODEL HOME: A Memoir
Creative non-fiction was my first foray into the writing world. I wanted to capture the feelings and emotions of my tumultuous childhood living with a mother with bipolar disorder.
My mother was an interior designer. She knew how to create ambiance. Growing up, our home sparked of custom design, personal touches; it felt loving and solid. Until, one day the flimsy facade was revealed. MODEL HOME is a story of hope and heartache. It’s about the choices we make and the repercussions on others.
Setting the Groundwork
“I’ve written hundreds of pages about and for my mother: essays, short stories, the start of a novel; several versions of this memoir, construction paper cards with a smear of crayons and a dab of glue, journal entries, letters, and blogs.
When I first began, I was seventeen. No, sixteen. Before that, even. I sat at an avocado-colored cabinet in the unfinished basement of our new house on Carman Woods Drive. We had only been in the house about a month. My knees were covered in scrapes and bruises from traipsing in the woods. Mom was unpacking, snapping thorough the tight brown tape containing all her precious sewing equipment. She wiped her brow and looked up, briefly, before hefting out her Bernina sewing machine.
“Hey!” I said. “This would be a perfect desk for me,” I clamored up onto a chair and pulled it closer, my fingers blanching with strain, the chair legs scraping against the concrete floor. “Can I have it? As a desk?” I twisted so I could see Mom better.
She was lost in memory, her mind flying away like a kite on a warm spring day; that’s the way her face looked anyway.
She snapped back from wherever she was and said, “Why do you want that ugly old thing?”
“It’s not that bad,” I insisted.
She made a humpf sound and turned back to the box she was unpacking.
“For me, with memoir, you already have the characters and plot and you can’t change that, but everything else is up for grabs.”
~Shannon Leone Fowler
Material. Pithead Chapel. Vol 7, Issue 5. May 2018.
[Cover art by Alexis Rhone Fancher]
Pretentious Backside: A Story of an Abandoned House. Common Ground Review. Fall/Winter 19.2 (March 2018).
Excerpt: “Today, if I didn’t have to stay alert for the children, I’d like to do absolutely nothing but dream into this whole back-of-the-house space where yard touches yard, touches yard—nine in all— pooled within the elliptical loop of Mayfair Lane, the sky a brilliant blue, and the tittering of leaves, legions of birds and squirrels, the errant chipmunk. For a moment, the sun sparks shards of butter-yellow and mystic white, a mirage on the less pretentious sides of homes, flattened and shapeless. A plastic pool perches on its side, a layer or sludge sluicing at the rim, a holdover from when the days were trapped under a bubble of humidity. From my vantage point, if I twist to the right, an overturned flower pot, its contents gritty and dark, smeared and marred across the patio of my neighbor, who, God-love-her, doesn’t have a green thumb to save her life.”
Growing Up with a Mother Who Experienced Psychosis. The Mighty. February 2018
Is Writing a Memoir Automatically Therapeutic? A Craft Essay on Writing about Mental Illness. Cleaver Magazine. January 2018
My Mother is Crazy. Manifest-Station. January 2018
Help! My Parent Has Bipolar Disorder. International Bipolar Foundation. December 2017.
Sorting. The Nervous Breakdown. November 2017
What I Had Wished I’d Said, but Didn’t. Juncture Notes. October 2017
Growing Up with a Psychotic Mother. Psych Central. October 2017
Interview with Laura McHugh in trade paperback edition of ARROWOOD: A Novel. Random House, June 2017
Your Mother Before She Was Your Mother. Gina Sorell’s Discover Your Mother Blog Series. April 2017. (MOTHERS & OTHER STRANGERS. Prospect Park Books, May 2017)
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”