Making a Ruckus about Self-Love and Depression: Interview with Author Amy Ferris
Amy Ferris is an author, screenwriter, editor and playwright. She is dedicated to helping women ‘awaken to their greatness’. I know her through shared online writing communities and her incredible ‘this is what I know this morning’ Facebook posts that serve to inspire, uplift, instigate, provoke and set people’s imaginations on fire. Here’s an example of one of her posts that began the year:
this is what i know this morning.
all that crap we hold onto, that swirls inside our head, that reminds us over & over & over every mistake we made, every wrong turn we took, every bad choice we made and/or slept with/dated, reminds us that we’re broken, useless, unlovable, undesirable, all that crap that swirls repeatedly, relentlessly is not the truth. it is not the truth. most of the shame & the guilt we hold onto, carry around is not even our own. all that crap is old & stale & more than likely was told to us by folks – friends, family, ex’s – who didn’t like themselves enough, or love themselves enough to want us to be huge, or happy, or successful.
so today is a great day – a balls-out fabulous day – to kick that shit to the curb, say goodbye & farewell to all that noise & chatter & crap that keeps us small, invisible, in the background, keeps us at arms length. keeps us from believing in the greatness & beauty & awesomeness of our own lives. keeps us from standing tall, standing up, speaking up, making a ruckus, strutting our gorgeous stuff, wearing our scars like stardust, and our flaws & imperfections like beauty marks.
today is a really good day to leave your permission slip at home – declare your worth, & fall madly, deeply, crazy in love with yourself – because the world is all yours.
go for epic.
Yeah, Amy rocks. She tackles difficult issues with humor and a precise ferocity. Her subjects include women’s experiences being shamed, menopause, and depression. Her memoir, Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from A Midlife Crisis debuted theatrically (Off-Broadway) in 2012. Ruth Pennebaker of The New York Times called her memoir “poignant, free-wheeling, cranky and funny.” Amy co-edited, along with Hollye Dexter, an anthology DANCING AT THE SHAME PROM: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small. She has contributed to numerous anthologies including: He Said What? The Drinking Diaries, Exit Laughing, and The Buddha Next Door.
I recently discovered that Amy will be coming out soon with a new anthology from Seal Press about depression. Her story of what brought her to tackle the topic of depression is inspiration for us all. I’m delighted to welcome Amy Ferris to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.
-Tell us about your forthcoming anthology 30 Shades of Blue. What inspired this book?
This book, anthology was inspired (unfortunately) by robin williams’ suicide. it was such a full-on horrific shock to everyone, and i thought, i have to do something. I must do something. I have to write something. a friend of mine, who is manic-depressive, sent me an email, and all she wrote/asked (in the email) was, did you ever try it? and of course, i knew instantly what she was asking me. yes, i had tried to kill myself when i was young – a teenager. i was so sad and so unhappy – so miserable – and i wanted to die. and so, after robin williams killed himself, her email, coupled with his death, made me think about how many people – millions upon millions – suffer and are affected by suicide, depression, emotional instability. bipolar, manic depression, PTSD. i literally whipped together a book proposal within 24 hours, and reached out to about 30, 35 friends, acquaintances – writers, authors, artists, musicians, politicians, health workers, veterans, and even some local teenagers who were suffering from depression – asking if they would consider contributing to a book like this, to share & tell their story… or share someone else’s, and a good 95% said yes immediately, and SEAL PRESS bought the anthology within a week. a great publishing success story. i am thrilled to be doing this. over-the-moon. i hope it saves lives and nurtures, and nourishes many broken hearts and souls.
-In 30 Shades of Blue, you asked contributors to write about depression, sadness and suicide. Why are these important issues for women to write and read about?
i think suicide and depression is not something you can wish away, or medicate away, or pray away. it’s also not something that should be hidden or closeted any longer. it’s a disease, an epidemic, and it kills more people every year than we even know about or can fathom. and more and more folks – men & women alike – suffer silently because there is so much shame and guilt, and self-loathing attached to it. connected to it. i think – and wholly believe – that the more people come out and talk about it, say it out loud, write about it, offer up their stories – the more courage and clarity it creates. it creates a bounty of courage so others can speak freely about their own pain, and sadness, and their own depression. i don’t know anyone, not one soul, who isn’t affected by depression in one form or another. there are so many shades of blue. so many. and women go through many layers of depression – beginning with puberty, getting their period, hormonal imbalance, postpartum, and menopausal. not to mention how many people – men, veterans – who suffer horrifically from PTSD. PTSD is so paralyzing. we need to push the door full out wide open on this subject, and remove the taboo connected with it. and also, assisted suicide. another hot button topic, and one essay in the book is devoted to that.
-This is your second project as an editor. What do you enjoy about being an editor? How was editing this project different than Dancing at the Shame Prom (Seal Press)?
i love editing. i was an editor (and Editor-in-Chief) at three magazines, and i just adored when a piece truly ‘came to life.’ many pieces are almost perfect. polished. truly. just a few little nips and tucks, couple of typos. and some are a bit more challenging. but there are two very important pieces connected with the editing process. one is to make sure the writer’s voice stays intact. each writer has their own unique voice and it should never be comprised. editing is not about losing or eliminating someone’s voice, it’s about enhancing it. and the other piece is having the opportunity to collaborate with the writer, helping them tell their story. whether it’s a piece of fiction, or non-fiction. i think of editing as being a bit like, similar to, midwifery. you’re genuinely helping someone breathe and push. breathe and push. with dancing at the shame prom, that was co-edited with hollye dexter, and we had such an amazing collaborative experience. amazing. and no, we didn’t always agree on what or where needed an edit, but we always worked through the process and that was such a delight. with this book, i’m the sole editor, so i’m throwing out a couple of editing life lines. i’ve already lassoed my husband, ken, who is a grand & great editor (he edits everything i write), and of course, krista lyons – the publisher of seal, who i’ve had the grand pleasure of working with now on four books, and she is the best there is. she is truly a magic-maker, and has become a great friend/sister.
-You are known as bringing both great vulnerability and great humor to the page. I’m thinking specifically of your memoir, Marrying George Clooney. Can you tell us about your writing practice and what enables you to consistently go deep?
my writing practice is inconsistent. i do write every single day, but i’m not a four or five or six hour a day writer. i wish i were. but, only when i am writing a book can I literally sit down, and write for hours and hours and hours – like ten or twelve hours – and lose myself entirely. it’s such a luxury. like flying first class, or something like that. when i’m not working on something specific, i tend to get very lazy. horribly lazy. and in terms of going deep, yes, i go deep – real deep – because i don’t know how not to. does that make sense? i love going deep. and then going deeper. and then deeper. i’m not talking rewriting. i’m talking plunging. it’s like excavating. and, i am a firm believer that if you’re going to write your story – your truth, then write it full on 100% completely, unabashed. don’t withhold. don’t censor yourself. my family imploded and exploded after i wrote marrying george clooney. Im-fucking-ploded, and at first i was so deeply cracked open, and devastated, and was filled with regret, and sorrow, and why did i do that, write that… but after a few very intense raw therapy sessions, i came to truly understand that my family was going to implode no matter what, it was just a matter of time. and i was the catalyst. and more than anything, truly, i want people to know that they’re not alone. so, when i’m writing about anything and everything in my life, my intent fully is to inspire and encourage everyone to speak up, stand tall. period. and the other thing i found out, and this is huge: most of the shame we carry is not even our own. holy shit, right? that’s pretty huge. so, yes, write deep, and then… go deeper. and then find an ax, and crack the earth open. and humor is vital. life-saving. dementia sucks, it’s fucking horrendous, but dementia with a side of humor is the real deal. for me anyway. humor and foul language. a great example of someone who is balls out truthful and humorous, david sedaris. i mean, when i read the piece about his sister’s suicide, i found myself snot nose sobbing, and howling, laughing. side splitting. he knows how to tell an amazing story with all the rough scary edges and all the smooth lines. genius. just-like-life genius.
-I hear that you and Jenna Stone will have a radio show soon. This is exciting news. Can you tell us a bit about the show’s theme?
oh my god, it’s so exciting, thrilling. it truly is. getting a radio show was – and is – such a big, great thing. the show’s theme is for all women to stand tall and up in their own gorgeous, messy, complicated, exquisite lives. to stop apologizing for being imperfect. to “do” by example, to love ourselves balls-out fully – flaws, scars, foibles, mistakes and all. the radio show will be called, ‘you’ve got moxie’, because, well, we all have moxie. and what we want for all women – and all girls – is to awaken to – and believe in – their own greatness, and their own beauty. to stop taking crumbs, to stop settling for mediocrity, to stop going back to the end of the line and start a whole new line. jenna said something so wonderful the other day, she said we need to change how folks think and speak about being empowered, and empowerment, because so many women believe that empowerment is about being overpowering, overbearing, overshadowing, but true empowerment is about stepping – standing – into our power, not stepping over, or standing over someone to get to our power. i loved that. and that just resonated so deeply.
-What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?
write as if no one – not one single soul – will ever read what you’ve written.
yeah, write that kinda balls-out scary heart-wrenching beautiful truthful.
Amy is on faculty at The San Miguel de Allende Literary Festival, on the Advisory Board of The Women’s Media Center, she serves on the Board of Directors at Peters Valley Art, Education, and Crafts Center, and is a founding Board member of the Scranton, PA based Pages & Places Literary Festival. She primarily writes about all things women-centric. While she often feels like she’s in retrograde, she quite enjoys her life, and her fervent wish is that all women awaken to their greatness. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her husband. Visit Amy on Facebook for more of ‘this is what I know’ posts or at her website.
30 Shades of Blue will be released soon from Seal Press.