What is the Gist of Your Story? #7

A sound premise and compelling themes are undoubtedly the hallmarks of great writing. In another addition to the series on literary themes and premise, I’d like you to join me in welcoming Paige Strickland. Ways to connect with her are: Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook.

Paige’s bio

Paige is a teacher and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. Her degree is from Florida State University in Spanish education. She is married with two daughters and five cats. After teaching and writing she enjoys gardening, travel, Reds’ games and teaching Zumba Fitness ™ classes. Her adoption memoir book is Akin To The Truth: A Memoir of Adoption & Identity, which will be released within the year.

Paige on her work-in-progress memoir

My story is centered on my life as an adopted kid. At the time of my growing up, adoption, for many adoptees, adoptive and birth parents, was a source of embarrassment and shame. Birth mothers were often sent away to have their babies. Sometimes, adoptive parents felt shame if they had problems with conception or carrying a pregnancy. However, the focus for this story is on my shame and awkwardness as the only adopted child and young adult I knew in the 1960s and 70s. This was before there were blended and alternative families in every neighborhood, and when lifestyles that weren't so black and white were barely emerging. The message to adoptees of the era was clear: Consider yourself lucky. Be thankful for what you got. Just embrace the family that adopted you, and let the rest go.

I couldn't do that. Not completely. My adoptive family was great. Don't get me wrong. I was fascinated by my adoptive heritage, and I did turn out "okay." Still, I didn't have a clear picture of the real me. I behaved in a way that people expected and told me to be. No one could understand, even under the best of circumstances that I felt isolated, inadequate and downright weird about being adopted. I hid my adoption status from everyone I came in contact with for fear of being bullied as a school kid, over frustration from having a missing past with unanswered questions, to dodge potential rejection socially and the extreme need to not be so different. I hated my secret identity, and I hated not being able to find the truth. I grieved for the loss of loved ones in my life, for losing what I perceived as "normalcy” and for the loss of a self I didn't even know.

Unbeknownst to me, in the 1980s, other people in my life were also redefining their own identities and felt in crisis because they could no longer cope with the self-images they'd lived with for so many years. In the book, my need for finding my birth family is mirrored in the need for other changes my family experiences, particularly my dad who raised me.

The premise of Paige’s memoir

Everyone at every age needs and deserves to have true self-identity and acceptance. This cannot happen when hiding behind false information and feeling ashamed. A closed adoption prevents the adoptee from having an authentic heritage and accurate health history, which other people often take for granted.

The themes that drive Paige’s story

The dominant themes of this book are identity, grief, acceptance versus rejection and exploring father-daughter relationships. It is also a story of adoption, family, love, secrets versus truth and coping with change whether it’s our choice or not.

Remember, effective book publicity relies on strong promotional messages, which are extracted from the themes contained in your writing that, collectively, make up the premise of the story. 

Promotional opportunities for Paige’s book

The themes of my memoir should appeal to members of the adoption triad, educators and others interested in child development, plus counselors and therapists. Anyone who is pro-adoption reunion will also favor this story. I hope to promote my work via book signings and social networking on line and in real life connections. I work in a variety of school districts and would love to participate in “meet the author” type assemblies with older teens and college-aged students. Ideally, connecting with an organization like The Dave Thomas Foundation would be a huge bonus.

Join me as I discuss the need for compelling themes and a sound premise with published and newbie authors over the next few months. If you want to participate as a guest blogger in this series, please do not hesitate to contact me for details. You can also participate by leaving a comment for Paige below.