She is a recovering attorney turned writer and stay at home mom. Three of her works were featured in the recent publication of Precipice: The Literary Anthology of Write on Edge. She is a 2012 BlogHer Voice of the Year in the Heart category for her piece on postpartum depression, Afterbirth. It was recently published in the BlogHer 2012 Voices of the Year compilation.
Angie is a certified bookaholic and will become frantic if she’s in between books. She’s also a Junior League dropout, PPD survivor, and the founder of the Anti-Scrapbooking League. She squeezes toothpaste from the middle.
She writes at angiekinghorn.com and wastes entirely too much time on Twitter (@angiekinghorn).
1) As a southern belle, how and when do you use the phrase “Bless your heart?”
You know, I’m not sure I’m as much a southern belle as I should be. Yes, I’ve got the credentials, but, as my husband said to me last night, “You’re more like that girl, Skeeter, in ‘The Help.’”
“You mean the one who ends up moving to New York?”
“Well, yeah, but if you were in Mississippi then, you’d have moved to New York to write, too.”
He has a point.
Southern belles are supposed to have a “go along to get along” attitude, and I simply don’t. If something isn’t right, I speak up about it. My house isn’t immaculate, my kids don’t wear smocked clothing, and I don’t do demure.
However, I do have some southern belle traits. I will not wear white after Labor Day. I automatically say “best wishes” to a newly engaged woman, and I subscribe to the axiom that the higher the hair, the closer to God.
But to answer your question, you can’t grow up around these parts without having your heart blessed constantly. And so, without intending for it to happen, you become an adult and find yourself blessing everyone’s heart. It starts innocently enough, “Bless your heart!” when a friend tells you how bad her week has been. Then the phrase insinuates itself into conversation about others. “She’s had a terrible time, bless her heart!”
But then it starts to have a deeper, double meaning. “She just can’t help but try to outdo everyone else in the room, bless her heart!” Or, “Bless her heart, if she keeps carrying on like that, she’ll find herself without a husband.”
Personally (and perhaps this gives you some insight into why I’m a Junior League dropout), I’m absolutely no good with diplomatic niceties and pretending to like people. They could revoke my southern belle card any day. My accent’s great, y’all, but I love a good f-bomb, and my husband’s the better cook.
However, if you come by my house, I do practice the first rule of great southern hostessing and will immediately offer you a drink. Maybe I’m not a lost cause.
2) Why do you worry about sharks on dry land?
The better question is, why don’t you worry about sharks on dry land?!? Do not let appendages dangle off the bed, people. It’s not worth the risk.
Hormones and being tired are contributing factors, but it is so much more than that. It is a mental illness which absolutely requires treatment. There are varying degrees of severity and types of postpartum illness: baby blues, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and postpartum psychosis. (This is not an exhaustive list – I’ve left out prenatal mood disorders completely, and full disclaimer – I am not a mental health professional.)
Postpartum psychosis in particular is considered to be a psychiatric emergency because of the incredible risk of suicide for the mother and infanticide for the child.
The postpartum experience has been glorified by our society. We think of mother and child in pink-tinged clouds of happiness. In reality, it’s a time of grief and loneliness and loss. No matter how much you wanted your baby, your life has changed, and changed drastically and suddenly. Simple things like going out to dinner, getting a full night’s sleep, having a conversation with your spouse; those are all lost to you, probably for many years. And society has not made it acceptable to grieve for those things.
My personal experience was one of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety and panic attacks. Several things made it more inevitable for me than for your average new mom. I had a history of depression and anxiety, twins (twice the hormones), had been on bedrest for three months with an extremely risky pregnancy, had a complicated delivery, and my father was dying. My doctor put me on antidepressants three weeks before the babies were born to try to prevent PPD, but sometimes it’s just going to happen.
I talk and write about my experiences to de-stigmatize PPD and PPA and mental illness in general. It definitely makes some people in my life uncomfortable, but for every one of those I have five emails from a new mom thanking me for bringing the subject into the light.
While I was going through it, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my own family. I was ashamed, even though I knew it was a medical problem like any other, and I didn’t want to burden them with anything else while my father was dying. Ironically, after his death, when I finally told my mother, I found out that she, too, had suffered from PPD.
4) How long have you been blogging?
Since March of 2010. Originally, my blog was called On the rocks and straight up. Because that’s where I was at the time – very much on the rocks. My father died in September of 2009, and I needed a place to write and vent, and I wanted to be straight with people, hence the name.
5) How long have you been writing?
Wow … as long as I can remember! I’ve always kept a journal, and started writing short stories on a typewriter in elementary school. I’m a voracious reader, have been since a ridiculously young age. Reading and writing are my escape mechanisms and my therapy.
6) Do you consider yourself to be a blogger who writes, or a writer who blogs?
I’m a writer who blogs. My blogging schedule isn’t disciplined or regular enough to be, well, bloggy. If I don’t have much to say, my preference is not to post, and sometimes there are weeks where I don’t post. However, I have tremendous respect for those bloggers out there who post every single day, and post great stuff. And I would absolutely consider them writers.
7) Which do you prefer to write, fiction or memoir?
Memoir is more comfortable for me, probably because of the years of journaling, but I love the freedom of fiction, too. They’re completely different experiences. Because I’m so comfortable in memoir, I tend to write in first person POV, and that doesn’t always translate well to fiction. Well, it might, but people have this terrible habit of thinking first person POV fiction is actually about the author. Guess what – it’s not!
So I’m working on writing my fiction in other points of view, and that’s been difficult. My fiction piece in Precipice is written from a third person male POV, and that was a deliberate choice, and kind of a personal challenge. Perhaps the next time I write first person POV in fiction I should try writing as a man. That should clear up any confusion!
After, though I had Christmas Balls practically bursting onto the page even before the call for submissions. I’ve almost always got something brewing in a “works in progress” file, but it takes a hard deadline to get me to a finished product. I blame my experiences as a journalist.
9) What does being in this anthology mean to you as a writer?
Oh, wow, everything! One of my biggest goals has been to be published, and I never dreamed it would happen in such spectacular company. It also gives me confidence that I could publish a longer work.
10) What are your writing goals?
My dream is to go into a bookstore and gaze upon a novel with my name on the spine. Preferably one on a bestseller table and not in a bargain bin. More immediately, I’d love to make the next issue of Precipice.
11) Have you ever again sung “The Wind Beneath Your Wings” in public?
Oh, hell, no. I gave up singing entirely after a football game where I was singing along to the national anthem and someone asked me to stop. Now I lip-sync hymns in church.
12) You have endured seeing two loved ones struggling with deeply personal illnesses, one who kept the illness secret and another who shared the trial. Which choice would you now recommend to others?
Share. You can’t have support if people don’t know you need it.
And here’s the other big thing. Your cancer, while intensely personal, is not just your cancer. It’s your family’s cancer. They suffer as you suffer, albeit in different ways. The fear of losing a loved one is the worst fear I’ve ever faced. If you choose to keep your illness a secret, the impact on your family is tremendous. They have to deal with their fear and grief and anxiety without any support network.
If you deal with your illness as a family, you can come out of the ordeal with your relationships strengthened and your priorities realigned.
Going public with your cancer (and by that I don’t mean shouting it from the rooftops; just don’t hide it) also raises awareness. You may save someone’s life by inspiring them to get a screening. In the case of cancers people tend to find embarrassing (even though they shouldn’t), like prostate, testicular, or cervical, you can help to de-stigmatize the disease.
13) Where is the fine line between intimacy and nagging?
I think I’m the wrong person to ask. My husband might be able to tell you.
14) How shameful is it for a four year sorority girl to become a Junior League dropout?
It’s certainly not the norm. But I’m still a member in good standing of the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution), despite never having attended a meeting, so I’m not completely hopeless.
15) What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
My laptop. For travel, my iPad with an external keyboard.
16) What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
Moleskine notebooks. I keep a small one with me all the time to jot down random flashes of brilliance. If I don’t, they’re gone forever. The only problem is that my handwriting is so bad that even I have a hard time reading it.
17) What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
My children. Five year old twins, even when playing elsewhere in the house, make approximately as much noise as a pack of elephants.
18) When’s the last time you wore a corset?
Um, well, in public, a couple of years ago to a Halloween party, though I put a sweater over it. In private … more recently. 🙂
19) What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?
Silence. No places I need to be. No telephones ringing. And no, I have not been able to create it.
20) Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Han, no question. In revisions or sequels, you need to keep your characters consistent. And Han Solo was a consistently bad-ass guy who would never have felt the need to wait until Greedo shot first.
That change is the equivalent of Gene Roddenberry remastering Worf so that he uses a water-gun instead of a phaser. Ridiculous!
This week, I have a couple of important extras! A few weeks ago, my first story (and not just one, but THREE of Angie’s!) was published in an anthology called Precipice. It’s available in both print and electronic formats. Also, I have a short story entered in the America’s Next Author contest. You can read and download that story for free on the website. I’d appreciate your vote (just takes a click on the site, no log in) and if you’re feeling very generous, please leave a review! (requires a log-in with basic info)