If you’re joining us today, this is Part 2 of my interview with author Kim Richardson. She’s sharing the knowledge gained in writing her memoir, The Unbreakable Child, which recounts how she survived both a decade of abuse at the hands of — and a successful lawsuit against — the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
If you missed it, Part 1 features one of the most arduous struggles to publication I’ve yet encountered. Today’s interview will focus on life after publication.
My own feelings about Kim’s book are captured in this review:
“The Unbreakable Child is an act of courage, a book that insists on the primacy of justice, no matter how long the delay. Kim Michele Richardson, an author determined to give traumatic memories a rightful meaning, is one indestructible woman.” —Jason Berry, author, Vows of Silence
Jan: I’m fascinated by how an author’s writing life has a relationship to their greater place in the world. Your activism hasn’t been limited to helping survivors of clerical abuse. Can you say more?
Kim: My family and I have always found a way to reach out and get involved in our community. We love working for Habitat for Humanity. And many years ago, I founded a reading club for elementary students which quickly grew and morphed into a learning club focusing on culture and social understanding and growth. I’ve implemented and designed successful programs to help homeless shelters — programs which were purposely blueprinted to teach students about servicing — giving back to their communities. And on any given day, I’m working with and am available to victims and survivors of any type of abuse. It is a wonderful catharsis to minimize one’s own problems when you’re able to reach out to another and give unconditionally.
Some might think that both the topicality and sensational subject matter in your memoir would guarantee you a place in the spotlight. However, I know you to be tireless in your efforts at promotion. Can you tell our readers what you’ve done, and which measures you’ve found to be the most helpful?
A writer is only half done after they write The End. The foundation of a platform and promotions should begin years before publication. You’ll need to plan on devoting at least half of your writing time to building and sustaining a powerful platform. With all the resources available to writers today via the Internet, there is no excuse not to do your homework and prepare. Writers can learn by connecting to agents’ and editors’ blogs.
One strong resource I pass on is Michael Hyatt’s blog. Michael is the CEO of Thomas Nelson, a speaker, leader, and a loving husband and father to five. And it shines in his blog. Never hurtful or snarky, always respectful and helpful to others, Michael’s advice to writers is invaluable and the resources he offers are many.
Blog. It’s a valuable connection and blogging is a way to keep your writing skills sharpened, fresh and without borders.
Connect with the libraries and attend their events and conferences. Sponsor / mentor a youth reading / writing group.
Visit your bookstores and connect and know their managers. Book your events well in advance and learn the important events of the city you are booking in so your signing does not conflict. And when you’re finished with a book store signing, offer to autograph and sticker any remainders.
Connect with other writers and offer support. Connection, an operative key in promotions. Respond to feedback from your readers. It is not uncommon for me to pick up the phone and respond to a letter sent by a reader living thousands of miles away. Or to stay up into the wee hours helping another writer in need.
If you do not like speaking, attending book events, book signings or speaking on the phone — all necessary keys in promotion and platform, you need to be doing something else.
The new 2nd Paperback edition of The Unbreakable Child features a learning/reading guide. Who wrote it, and why did you leave that job to another person, rather than doing it yourself?
Because The Unbreakable Child was becoming an important resource tool in the fields of social work, psychology and law, along with the high school students in language arts etc., my agent and I decided to offer a professional Readers’ Discussion Guide in this new 2nd Paperback edition. Also, it would be useful for book clubs. Many times, publishers will do their own in-house Readers’ Guide.
However, I asked Linda Hoye and Mary Ann Ledbetter to do the professional Readers’ Guide because of their vast knowledge. Ms. Hoye is an expert on memoirs, an editor and awesome writer and one I felt would weave that knowledge beautifully into a Readers’ Guide. Ms. Ledbetter is a writer and an educator who has successful experience doing Readers’ Guides. And as a teacher and writer, I knew she would be able to make this crucial contribution to Unbreakable easily. Together they produced an amazing, comprehensive and thought-provoking Readers’ Guide for The Unbreakable Child. I’m very grateful for their generosity.
What have been the rewards for all your hard work?
Rewards, for any writer, come from the first thank you receive from a stranger you’ve touched with your work. And the public response, as well as that from the clergy, has well-rewarded my efforts. I field literally hundreds of emails at any given time in response to The Unbreakable Child, while working with advocate groups and former victims of all types of abuse.
My biggest prize is my loving and supportive family along with treasured friends who have given me wonderful second and third and fourth chapters to my life. Not everyone who starts out terrified and harmed is so lucky. One of my most cherished goals is that my story will kindle the hearts of people who have been victimized.
So the next however many months or years will involve ongoing work with this book’s promotion and your social activism for survivors of clergy abuse. Any sense of what comes after that in your writing career?
My husband and children are always my top priority and between them and the four adopted furry critters and my laundry-queening duties, I stay busy.
I’m committed to TUC promotions and seeing it out into the world and into readers’ hands and I continue to labor on different writing works in progress. I’m also a contributing writer to the Huffington Post and look forward to creating more articles on important societal issues for them.
I, for one, am wishing you good luck and plentiful energy for that, Kim. Thank you for being here!
Thank you and your readers, Jan, it has been a pleasure.
Jan here: Peeps, should you care to read more about Kim Michele Richardson, her advocacy work, and her book, The Unbreakable Child, you may reach her at her website and/or blog. As before, we welcome your comments in the space below, but please confine their content to issues about writing.
Kim’s photo courtesy of Andrew Eccles.