Today, Hartford Books Examiner is joined by Melissa Crandall.
Ms. Crandall is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness: 101 Stories about How to Let Go & Change Your Life (Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC, $14.95). An author of fantasy, speculative fiction, and non-fiction essays, she has published the novel, Weathercock, and a collection of short stories, Darling Wendy and Other Stories. Her earlier works include media tie-in books for Star Trek, Quantum Leap, and Earth 2. Ms. Crandall was recently chosen as one of only twelve Connecticut writers to participate in The Great Connecticut Caper hosted by Connecticut Humanities.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness was published earlier this month under the authorship of Amy Newmark and Anthony Anderson. Newmark is publisher, editor-in-chief and coauthor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. Anderson is a writer, producer and award-winning actor who has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows; he currently stars in and is executive producer of the new comedy Black-ish.
From the publisher:
Forgiveness frees us to get on with our lives! We can all benefit from letting go of our anger, and the 101 personal, touching stories in this collection will help you see the power of forgiveness and how it can change your own life.
Whether it’s forgiving a major wrong or a minor blunder, forgiving someone is healing and frees you to move on with your life. You don’t have to forget or condone what happened, but letting go of your anger improves your wellbeing and repairs relationships. You will be inspired to change your life through the power of forgiveness as you read the 101 stories in this book about forgiving others, changing your attitude, healing and compassion.
Now, Melissa Crandall takes readers between the lines of her story, “These Things Take Time”—and offers a glimpse into the year ahead …
1) What inspired you to submit to CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS –and what was that process like?
I was researching writing markets on the Internet and CHICKEN SOUP came up. On their website they list the forthcoming books, submission criteria, and all of that. THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS leaped out at me because I’d recently made the journey of forgiving someone for past hurts and it was a very powerful experience.
The folks at CHICKEN SOUP work very hard to make the submission process relatively painless. As with other markets, you must follow specific criteria in submitting your work. The hardest part, as always, is waiting to hear whether or not your work is accepted.
2) Tell us about your story, THESE THINGS TAKE TIME. How do you balance candor with discretion – and what is the benefit of hindsight?
THESE THINGS TAKE TIME tells the story of my relationship with my step-son Anthony, how we went from being good friends to not speaking for six years, and our journey toward reconciliation. I’m pleased to say that now he is one of my very best friends.
Balancing candor with discretion is a bit of a tight-rope walk. You want to tell the truth (which, of course, is only the truth from your point-of-view), but also have a care for the feelings of others. In my case, I wrote and revised (and revised and revised), then shared the essay with Anthony to get his take on it. If he’d had issues with it (if, for instance, he did not want our story told) I’d have dropped it and written something else.
There’s truth in the old adage of hindsight being 20/20. I can look back and see quite clearly where I made mistakes in my relationship with Anthony. On the other hand, I can also see more clearly where I did pretty well as a step-mom. Fortunately, it’s balanced itself out.
3) In your opinion, what is the ultimate power of forgiveness – and how can writing be used as a tool to promote catharsis?
For me — and I stress that this is an opinion only about my experience with forgiveness; I can’t begin to talk about anyone else’s — for me, it was the release of weight. The negative emotion in carrying that sort of animosity is extremely heavy and it impinges your life in so many ways…particularly if you wish things were different but don’t know how to approaching giving forgiveness or asking for it from others. To take those steps – to learn what forgiveness entails (forgiving is not the same as forgetting or protecting yourself from further hurt), to decide to take the step and ask forgiveness or offer forgiveness to another, can be a powerful, very freeing experience. I recently made the decision to forgive someone who has hurt me deeply and repeatedly throughout my life. Even though I didn’t feel particularly forgiving on that day, I looked this person in the eyes and said out loud, “I forgive you.” And I felt the weight drop. It was extraordinary! Are the old hurts still there? Sure. But now, in some strange way, they’re mostly manageable.
I believe any creative endeavor can be a tool for catharsis. For me, that tool happens to be writing. It’s what I know best. For someone else, it might be painting or sculpture. They might plan and bring into being a garden. They might dance or run or skate. It works when you use that skill — whatever it is — to slow down your thoughts, to silence the monkey mind and see how it’s poisoning you.
4) You have written both fiction and non-fiction, and in lengths that range from short story to full-length novel. How do these disciplines influence one another – and do you find that there’s a varying degree of difficulty depending on whether you’re writing short or long?
Both disciplines require accuracy and consistency. With nonfiction that’s a given, but it’s true in fiction as well. As Herschel Brickell put it, “Always be sure to get your moon in the right part of the sky.” Fiction allows more room to play — sometimes — but I like the “just the facts, ma’am” discipline of nonfiction. I don’t find length of story to be a problem…once the story tells me how long it wants to be! I’ve had short stories demand to be novellas, novels decide they’re best told as shorts. Either length can be frustrating until you find the story’s heart. That’s the real trick to writing.
5) What can readers expect next from you?
I’ll continue my very sporadic blog on my mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s (http://melissacrandall.wordpress.com). I recently sold an essay to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. January brings my participation in the Connecticut Humanities “Great CT Caper” (CTHumanities), an interview on the podcast “The Drunken Odyssey” (The Drunken Odyssey) which will appear in January and, I hope, a radio interview. In March, two of my shorter pieces will appear in The Exquisite Project hosted by The Bill Library in Ledyard, CT. I’m doing research for a couple of stories, and hoping to codify an idea I have for a nonfiction books, so I’m staying busy.
With thanks to Melissa Crandall for her generosity of time and thought.