Interview with memoirist Ruth W. Crocker

Today’s
guest is non-fiction writer Ruth W. Crocker to share some tidbits with us about
her memoir, Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion after War.
Bio:
Ruth W. Crocker, PhD, is a 2013 Pushcart Prize-nominated
author, writing consultant, and expert on recovery from trauma and personal
tragedy. Her memoir Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion After War describes
her experience following her husband
s
death in Vietnam and how she found resources for healing.
Crockers essays have been recognized in Best American Essays and
her articles have been featured in the Gettysburg Review, Grace Magazine,
The Saturday Evening Post, O-Dark-Thirty,
and T.A.P.S. Magazine.
She received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from
Bennington College, a PhD in Nutrition and Human Development from the
University of Connecticut and a Master of Education from Tufts University.
Along the way she also became a Registered Dietitian.
Crocker worked in health care administration and clinical
nutrition before becoming a full-time writer. Currently, she is the
Writer-In-Residence at Riverlight Wellness Center in Stonington, Connecticut,
where she teaches the art of writing memoirs and personal essays to aspiring
writers who want to express their own stories. She lives, cooks, and writes in
Mystic, Connecticut and is available for workshops, readings, and public
speaking.
Welcome Ruth. Please
tell us about your current release.
Those Who Remain: Remembrance
and Reunion After War

is a memoir about my husband’s death in the Vietnam War in 1969 and what I
chose to do immediately following his death as a way of surviving grief. The
decision to bury our letters and significant memorabilia in the coffin in which
he returned, and to have him cremated and take his ashes to the Swiss Alps,
seemed, at the time, to be the only way to cope with the tragedy. In the book I
also look back on my earlier experiences of growing up in a family against war
to reflect on what might have influenced my dramatic decision and also helped
me to survive. The story then moves ahead thirty-five years to the experience
of meeting, by chance, the men who were with him when he was killed. This
meeting, and hearing their stories of his great leadership and compassion, created
the ultimate healing and eventually convinced me that I should dig up the
letters and revisit his words written during his last six months in Vietnam.
What inspired you to
write this book?
Back
in the 1990s my son started urging me to tell my story but I wasn’t ready, so I
started by writing a fictionalized version (a one-act play). I also started
writing personal essays about my early experiences. Eventually, in 2006, after
meeting the guys who served with my husband in Vietnam, I realized that I
needed and wanted to write my story, and also to include some of their stories.
Today, after the long silence that followed the Vietnam War, more and more
people are sharing their experience of that tumultuous and confusing time.
Here
is a link to the book trailer that was created by my son, actor and director,
Noah Bean. 
What exciting story are
you working on next?
I’m
collaborating with photographer Steve Horan to create a unique portrait of
Yellowstone National Park through the pictures and stories of people who live
and work there, including: back country rangers, wildlife preservationists,
search and rescue team members, troubadours, artists, hikers, animal tracking
experts, oral historians and many more. Some of these people have been drawn to
Yellowstone after traumatic experiences in war. They all have great stories.
When did you first
consider yourself a writer?
The
experience that confirmed that I was writer was when I received my first
acceptance for a personal essay from a literary journal. In this case it was an
essay about growing up with my younger brother who eventually died of AIDS. I
was paid for the essay! And, eventually it was listed as a notable essay in
Best American Essays 2013. That was a huge confidence booster, but I remind
myself everyday that I can’t continue to call myself a writer unless I keep
writing!
Do you write full-time?
If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and
how do you find time to write?
I
balance my writing life between teaching, editing other people’s manuscripts,
reading and trying to keep my house from falling down. I also participate in
community service activities and serve on two boards, The Community Foundation
of Eastern Connecticut and the National Board of Gold Star Wives of America.
Some weeks are busier than others. I don’t have a regular writing schedule.
Usually it helps me to give myself a deadline on a daily basis – like, just
write one page. That gets me started. I make notes continually in a journal.
Some of it is useful and some not. Sometimes my journals are a mixture of writing
ideas and recipes I want to try. I don’t use outlines unless it’s a writing
project where I know I have to cover particular areas. I prefer to write in the
afternoon into the evening. I also try to keep up with some social media
activities everyday and answer letters and e-mail.
What would you say is
your interesting writing quirk?
I
usually don’t know where I’m going when I start to write. I just follow my
thoughts as they come to me, get them down on the page, and then go back and
figure out what I’m trying to say later. I revise a lot.
As a child, what did you
want to be when you grew up?
Until
the age of ten or twelve, I wanted to be a nurse like my mother. Then I began
to draw and paint every day and was sure that I would be an artist.
Anything additional you
want to share with the readers?
If
you’re trying to find a way to start your story, try starting with, “I
remember…”

It’s
amazing how those two words can free the mind and the imagination.
Thanks, Ruth!

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