Karl Williams

Q&A with Author Karl Williams

Karl Williams is an author and songwriter with a special passion for the self-advocacy movement. After meeting Barbara Moran at a conference years ago, Karl felt compelled to help Barbara share her story with the world, both because of the uniqueness of Barbara and her experiences with autism and also because of the universality of the need to be understood and appreciated.

In March, ahead of Autism Awareness Month, Karl and Barbara will release Hello, Stranger: My Life on the Autism Spectrum. Here’s a look at how the book came to be, as well as Karl’s goals for how the book will affect readers.

What inspired you to work with Barbara Moran and share her story with the world?

Barb is compelling. You can feel an intensity of purpose that has enabled her to survive experiences that could have destroyed who she is. But they did not; she did not allow them to. When we agreed to work together, I was, as a writer, excited. She’d come out of a lifetime of everyone she encountered completely misunderstanding her and trying to change her into someone else. What a story! I was honored to be able to help her tell what had happened to her and how she came through it

How did you and Barbara go about working together?

We started by recording long conversations in person. Once they were transcribed, I took out all my words and went to work with “the material”—what Barb had told me, her own words—to create a coherent whole. But as I worked, I had more questions for her. And so next there were phone calls and more transcription. … We learned to communicate so that she could feel understood and so I could help her tell her story. And along the way, we got to be friends.

What was most challenging and what was most rewarding about working with a neurodiverse person?

Working with anyone requires understanding, reconciling points of view and preferences, and accepting each other’s idiosyncrasies. What was most rewarding about working with Barb was learning how much of what we call preferences and idiosyncrasies are actually neurology. We all have neurological quirks—sensitivities to sights and sounds, a need to do things in a certain order, anxiety, etc. We’re all neurodiverse, of course; it’s just that many (most) of us are what could be called “neurotypical.” Barb, then, is part of a “neurominority”—not inferior, just different. I was privileged to come to understand that more completely.

What aspect of Barbara’s life experience resonates most deeply with you?

Barbara MoranBarb’s ability to retain her sense of self no matter how many people were telling her she had to change. This is just one amazing aspect of her story. From her earliest years, she was told she shouldn’t draw traffic signals, she shouldn’t talk to buildings, she shouldn’t continue to pursue her own extremely creative method of dealing with the isolation life had dealt her. She resisted that pressure and held on to who she is. It cost her emotionally (and in other ways because of the drugs she was given as a child), but she did not lose who she is. And then, at the same time, she was constantly struggling with primary overarching questions: Why am I like I am? Why am I so different from everyone else that they refuse to accept me? And she never allowed that struggle to get the better of her.

Please tell us a bit about the self-advocacy movement and why it’s something you’re passionate about.

Self-advocacy, the struggle of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, is part of the larger social justice movement which seeks to make the world fair for people who have no power because they are poor, because of their gender, or because of their racial or sexual identity. People with disabilities are the most recent ones to join the fray. They too, for the most part, have no power because of social discrimination and, too often, poverty. The first step to achieving social justice is for people to find their voices. And to find one’s voice, a person needs to be with others who share his or her life experiences. Self-advocacy results from people with disabilities getting together, sharing their stories, and through that process finding their voice and the power of speaking out together.

What is the primary takeaway you hope readers get from Hello, Stranger?

I hope that after reading Barb’s story, people will approach every child they work with, every child they meet, with openness and acceptance and respect. Difference is not really difference; it’s just identity. The most sacred thing a child has is his or her uniqueness, his or her sense of self, and that must be honored.

Sasha Kulenovic

Welcome New Author: Sanja Kulenovic

KiCam Projects is delighted to welcome Sanja Kulenovic to our family of authors!

Sanja KulenovicSanja’s book, which will publish in September 2019, tells the story of the Bosnian War through the lens of Sanja’s own family. Having grown up in Bosnia, Sanja was in California on her honeymoon when war broke out in her homeland in 1992. As the country of Yugoslavia broke up, Sanja and her husband, Djeno, found themselves stateless refugees, worried about their family and loved ones who were suffering thousands of miles away.

Sanja’s book includes heartfelt letters sent from her loved ones who lived daily with the horrors and uncertainty of war. Meanwhile, Sanja and Djeno worked to build a life from scratch, forced to take on menial jobs while they waited to hear if they would be granted the right to stay in the United States.

Today, Sanja lives in Southern California, where she works as a financial analyst. She and Djeno are parents to two adult daughters, and all are proud to be both Bosnian and American. Sanja supports the Bosana Foundation, which provides scholarships and other programs for Bosnian students in Bosnia.

Sanja’s book reminds us of the horrors of war and the dangers of division. It’s also an inspiring story of resilience and determination. As Sanja’s daughters told her, “You refused to live like a refugee. You built a wonderful and successful life for yourself and your family.”

We’re proud and excited to publish this book, which puts a personal face on recent world history and encourages all readers to fight through whatever obstacles they might face.

Welcome to the KiCam family, Sanja!

Headshot of Kathleen Cadmus

Q&A with Author Kathleen English Cadmus

When Kathleen English Cadmus found herself sitting across a table from a bounty hunter she was hiring to find her missing daughter, she was shocked by the surreal turns her life had taken.

Headshot of Kathleen CadmusShe’d lost her son Shawn to a tragic accident, endured a divorce from her college sweetheart, and now she was trying—again—to track down Laura, the beloved daughter she had adopted from Korea and who was in flight mode brought on by bipolar disorder.

Like all moms, Kathy’s experience of motherhood is at once unique and universal. Her debut book, Intertwined: A Mother’s Memoir, is a raw but loving tribute to the pain and beauty of motherhood and to the way a mother’s life and her children’s lives are distinct yet inseparable. Here, Kathy describes her writing process and shares what she hopes readers will think, feel, and learn from her memoir.

What inspired you to write your memoir and share your story with the world?

I started out a few years ago wanting to write about my son Shawn’s life and sudden death. I felt there was something there that might help other parents who had lost a child. My daughter, Laura, and I enrolled in two online writing classes at our community college. This led to my enrolling in graduate school and earning my MFA in creative writing five years later. As I became braver and bolder in my writing, and with the help of my writing mentors, I came to understand that Shawn’s life was the backstory to my unique mother-daughter journey. It was the writing and reflecting that made me realize my journey could help others. Writing inspired me to want to share my story.

What was the most challenging part of revisiting the difficult moments in your past?

In terms of the writing process, the most challenging part of revisiting these difficult moments of my past was knowing what to include and what to leave out. Intertwined spans a thirty-year period, which makes using the right words in the right place in the book crucial so that those “difficult moments” are reflected correctly and are conveyed at the time when the reader will most benefit from hearing about them. To help me decide what to take out or what to leave in, I challenged myself throughout the writing process with my mentor, Thomas Larson’s, question: “Does it serve the story?”

In terms of the emotional process of writing memoir, the most challenging part of revisiting the difficult moments was dealing with the pain that comes to the surface so abruptly when pulling up the old memories again, and in addition, processing the change in perspective on those memories that comes with the passage of time.

Was there a therapeutic aspect to your writing process?

Absolutely! And pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction when your thesis is memoir is the best, albeit most expensive, form of psychotherapy available. I would have found it very difficult without the support of a writing community who understood the emotional transformation that most often accompanies the writing of memoir.

How did writing Intertwined affect your relationship with Laura? And with your sons, Pete and Ryan?

Writing Intertwined strengthened my relationship with all of my children. I would consult Pete and Ryan whenever I wrote chapters centered on their brother Shawn. They would provide a different perspective on the events or remember other details that I had forgotten. Sharing those perspectives with them as the adults they now are brought us closer and increased my understanding of the experience of their loss.

Since Laura is ten years younger than Ryan and fifteen years younger than Pete, she has no memories of the years surrounding Shawn’s death. She has read most of my completed memoir and has encouraged me to tell events that help the reader understand the situation, even when those events are painful memories for her. She has clarified events and made suggestions on my writing. It’s not easy being a character in a book! There were sections where I felt I needed to hold back or minimize events, but Laura would encourage me to write more. “It’s your story, Mom!” is what she has repeatedly told me. She is amazing. But Laura is a writer too and is currently completing her own MFA in creative writing. Laura and I share our writing with each other. It is one way to share our thoughts and feelings that is natural for both of us. This has given us better understanding of each other and brought us closer. And, I believe it has made us both better writers and stronger and better humans.

What did you learn about motherhood as you looked back on your life as a parent?

Writing about my mothering involved intense reflection on my own childhood and how I was parented. What stands out most to me now is the awareness of how fortunate I was to have both a mother and a father who trusted me and believed in me. Because of the parenting I received from them, I grew up believing I could do anything I chose to do. But, more importantly, I grew up feeling valued for being me. I believe that is reflected in my parenting of my own children. Writing this memoir made me more aware, sometimes painfully so, of how the joys and traumas of my own childhood shaped how I responded to each of my children’s joys and traumas.

How did your experience as a nurse, especially someone with expertise in mental health, inform your writing about Laura’s bipolar disorder?

As I wrote about Laura and her anxiety, depression, and subsequent diagnosis, I tried to provide a balance between the objective facts and the subjective experience of the emotions that both she and I experienced. Since most of my career has been centered in the mental health arena, I had to be reminded at times that the reader needed more explanation. It was a challenge for me to give the reader information about bipolar disorder without sounding too clinical and have the information still serve the story that needed to be told. I am also aware that many readers have had their own issues with depression or anxiety and bring that experience to their reading of my book. There may be similarities with their experience, but hopefully the reader comes away feeling everyone’s experience is uniquely their own.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect of writing and publishing your memoir?

The most fulfilling aspect of this experience has been the effect it has had on my relationship with my daughter, as well as with my sons. I love writing and what it does for me. The cherry on top for me is knowing that my story will give other grieving parents hope and that the short but full life of my son Shawn will help others.

What is the primary takeaway you hope readers get from Intertwined?

Most people who decide to read a memoir do so to get lost in a real-life story, to learn something, and/or to be inspired. I want readers to experience all of this and come away instilled with hope regarding their own human experience, whatever that may be.

Peter Boling Anderson

Welcome New Author: Peter Bowling Anderson

Peter Boling AndersonKiCam Projects is delighted to welcome Peter Bowling Anderson to our family of authors!

Peter’s book, which will publish in September 2019, shares the inspiring and humorous story of his time working for, and becoming friends with, Richard Herrin, a middle-aged man with cerebral palsy. Richard overcame a lifetime of obstacles to earn multiple degrees and become a gifted motivational speaker. Peter worked full-time for Richard for five years, tutoring him, feeding him, dressing him, and taking care of him in every other way.

“I learned many invaluable insights from him, not just about the best ways to care for the physical and emotional needs of someone with CP, but also about perseverance, joy, and the proper perspective on life,” Peter says. “He’d experienced much over the years and possessed a wealth of wisdom. The book is about how limitations should never be placed on someone, either by others or by the individual, simply because of a physical challenge or disorder.”

Peter, who lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, has a master’s degree in communications/writing as well as a master’s in teaching (English, sixth-twelfth grades), and his work has appeared in The Connect MagazineMotherVerse: A Journal of Contemporary MotherhoodGoodtaste International MagazineBecause We Write Magazine, and Ezine Articles.  Peter shares his life with his wife, Leslie; son, Henry; and daughter, Clementine.

Peter’s story is heartfelt, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny in places! We’re absolutely thrilled to bring this book to readers around the world.

Welcome to the family, Peter!

Q&A with ‘Going Through Hell to Get to Heaven’ Author Dr. Scot Hodkiewicz

Scot HodkiewiczDr. Scot Hodkiewicz is a veterinarian who lives in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, with his wife, three children, and a menagerie of animals. He never intended to be a writer until he
was moved to share the story of his near-fatal car accident—caused by a drunk driver—and his resulting journey of faith.

With Going Through Hell to Get to Heaven, Scot hopes his memoir becomes a trusted companion for other Christians seeking to walk more closely with God.

What prompted you to write your memoir and share your personal experiences with readers?

We went through an incredible journey. It started out tragically, and through all types of twists and turns, ups and downs, and surprises that no one could have foreseen, it ended up as the best thing that could have happened to us. I could never have guessed that I would be saying that after having my entire family—everything that was important in my life—very nearly destroyed in an instant. It is a truly amazing story of how tragedy can be a blessing. This story just had to be told.

Going Through Hell to Get to HeavenHow did reliving your most painful experiences—a near-fatal car crash, the ensuing recovery, your addiction to pain pills—affect you? Did it feel therapeutic, or was it harder than you anticipated?

Reliving this was very painful. I had buried the hardest parts of our ordeal far away; they were just too upsetting to deal with. Writing the book brought all those memories back to the surface and forced me to explain each one of them in great detail. It would have been easier to gloss over things as I told the story, especially my drug addiction. Yet it was those very raw and painful moments that connect with people. It took me years to write this book and to get it right. That time allowed me to fully understand how these events changed me. Reflecting upon the struggle we went through and how it directed us onto God’s path was the best therapy I could have asked for.

What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing your book?

The first version of the book was more just a chronological narrative of what happened. To be honest, it was not very interesting. There was a message there that had to get out. This is a story of hope, not just a series of events. God kept telling me, “You can do better.” When I listened, the story told itself and people connected.

Why do you feel your story is suited for Christian groups and readers trying to grow in their faith lives?

When the crash happened, I was Christian in name only. God used this terrible event to wake me up. He showed me what I refused to see: that He was in charge and I needed to listen to Him. It was a slow process with a lot of wrong turns, but He kept turning me back to the faith. Christians always want to grow closer to the Lord. For me, I had to give up the control we all want and think we can achieve. Our story shows us that control of our lives is an illusion. Once we give that up, we can finally see all the wonders of this world and God’s love for us. God was with us in our struggle, and that struggle brought us closer to Him. As people learn to trust in His plan, not our own, we get ever closer to God. Completely trusting in Him is true faith.

You’ve lived through some extraordinary tragedies and challenges. Why does your book resonate with readers who have not endured such difficulties?

I was leading a pretty easy life before the crash. I grew up in a stable, loving family in a supportive community. I had achieved everything that I had set out to do, and life was going well. I reference my “great plan” for my life and I was following it to the letter. That plan was taken away through no fault of my own. Those who have not endured challenges are like me before the crash. At some point, we all will face adversity. What I learned is to embrace these challenges because they are what push us to grow in faith and strength. They are the spiritual workout we all need to find God and find our heaven. For those who have not gone through their own hell, they will be prepared when that day comes.

What’s the primary takeaway you hope readers get from Going Through Hell to Get to Heaven?

Our crash showed us that there is Hell on Earth, but our recovery showed us that Heaven is here also. It took nearly dying and a terribly painful recovery, but I finally saw Heaven through the angels that came into my life. Though it was not my choice to be in the Hell I was in, it was my choice whether I stayed there. Leaving Hell is easier said than done because you have to do something that we are all reluctant to ever do: You have to leave the anger and hate behind. If you hold onto those things, you will be stuck in Hell. The hard part is that you can only get rid of hate and anger through forgiveness, and forgiving someone who hurt everyone you love is not easy. I finally took the Lord’s Prayer to heart and listened to His words: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Once I forgave the man that nearly killed myself and my entire family, I was able to leave my Hell and see God and Heaven all around me. The best part is that once I forgave the man who did something that terrible to me, it became really easy to forgive everyone else. That peace that forgiveness brings opens the doors to Heaven, and it is right here on Earth. I know, because I now see it every day.

Welcome New Author: Kathleen English Cadmus

Kathleen CadmusWe’re delighted to welcome author Kathleen English Cadmus to the KiCam family!

Kathleen’s memoir will publish in March 2019, inviting readers to explore a mother’s journey through the loss of a child, the end of a marriage, the adoption of a beautiful baby girl, and the ups and downs of that little girl’s experience with bipolar disorder.

Looking back now, Kathleen views the highs and lows as the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of Laura, whom Kathleen adopted from Korea.

“Laura is the daughter I needed,” Kathleen writes. “Seeing life through her eyes gave me hope and resiliency and immense joy.”

Kathleen’s story will touch the heart of anyone who has known loss and who has worked to rebuild life after that loss. The book also speaks specifically to mothers and to loved ones of individuals with mood disorders and mental-health issues.

Kathleen, a healthcare professional from Columbus, Ohio, says one of her strengths is being a lifelong learner.

In her forthcoming memoir, she teaches us all about acceptance, healing, and learning to let go. We cannot wait to share Kathleen’s book with readers around the world!

Welcome to the KiCam family, Kathleen!

Sharon Leder holding her book, The Fix

‘The Fix’ Author Leder Creates Program for At-risk Teens

Sharon LederSharon Leder, author of The Fix: A Father’s Secrets, A Daughter’s Search, has used proceeds from her novel to establish Creative Outlets: Finding Your Voice Through ARTS! at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, Mass.

The free program for youth ages 12-16 is offered Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. beginning April 15. Leder, who lost her father to his heroin addiction when she was a teen herself, is driven to help other young people affected by addiction.

“My writing helped me overcome the stigma of my father’s overdose death,” says Leder, a finalist for a Benjamin Franklin Award in the Best New Voice, Fiction category. “I want young people with stresses to know that words, and all the arts, can help them pull through difficult life challenges.”

To sign up or get more information about upcoming workshops in writing, music, visual art, drama, cuisine, piloting, and more, visit www.ccmoa.org/creative-outlets or contact Benton Jones, Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, at 508-385-4477, ext. 15, or Benton@ccmoa.org.

KiCam Projects is honored to work with purpose-driven authors like Sharon Leder. We’re all partners in changing the world, one great story at a time!

diary of a beautiful disaster

Bartzokis, Leder Benjamin Franklin Award Finalists

KiCam Projects authors Kristin Bartzokis and Sharon Leder have been named finalists for Benjamin Franklin Awards as presented by the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Kristin’s memoir, Diary of a Beautiful Disaster, is a finalist for Best Inspirational Book, the category won last year by KiCam’s own Beautiful Scars, written by Kilee Brookbank and Lori Highlander. In her book, Kristin shares her story of growing up and building a life with Treacher Collins syndrome, a craniofacial malformation. Kristin empowers her readers to embrace their own uniqueness and to follow her mantra: “Choose Strong.”

Sharon is a finalist in the category of Best New Voice, Fiction for her novel The Fix: A Father’s Secrets, A Daughter’s Search. In The Fix, Sharon tells her personal story as the daughter of a heroin addict through the voice of young Sara Katz, who’s coming of age in Brooklyn in the 1950s and ’60s. Sharon is passionate about destigmatizing addiction and about providing practical solutions for young people affected by the epidemic.

Gold and silver finalists will be announced Friday, April 6, at the IBPA’s annual Publishing University event.

Congratulations, Kristin and Sharon! We are so proud of you!

 

Q&A with (Extra)Ordinary Women Author Kristin Bartzokis

Kristin Bartzokis is an extraordinary woman. Born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a craniofacial abnormality, Kristin experienced a childhood marked by surgeries and medical procedures, all while she became a champion gymnast. As an adult, Kristin has proudly accepted the challenge to stand out.

That’s why she was the perfect person to write (Extra)Ordinary Women: Ten Inspirational Stories, releasing from KiCam Projects in October.

In her forthcoming book, Kristin, whose memoir Diary of a Beautiful Disaster is a finalist for a Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Inspirational Book, profiles seemingly “everyday” women whose resilience and strength will inspire women around the world.

These women have defeated breast cancer, addiction, and homelessness. They have lived through the Boston Marathon bombing and hundreds of surgeries. They have traveled from foreign lands to create a better life. They have endured brain cancer, abuse, and poverty. They have given a home to dozens of special-needs children. They have known loss, pain, and fear.

And these extraordinary women remind us to never give up, never quit, and never underestimate the power of a woman.

In this Q&A, Kristin describes what she learned from the women in her book and what it means to her to be extraordinary.

What do you think makes an extraordinary woman?

I think an extraordinary woman is someone who isn’t afraid to be herself. She knows who she is and doesn’t forget where she came from, whether good or bad. She has the courage to face her adversity and the strength to prevail when times get tough. She won’t wait around for someone else to make her future brighter; she takes the measures to make it happen herself. An extraordinary woman isn’t flawless; she might falter and make mistakes, but she has the determination to bounce back from those mistakes and learn from them in the process. She is a woman with heart and gumption, and she sees no limitations to her life.

What did you learn from the women you profile in this book?

I learned so much from the women in this book. Some reiterated the importance of staying positive throughout the worst trials of life. Others taught me that even if you make a mistake, you can always right your wrong.  But above all, I learned that no matter what any of us has been through, we can use those experiences to affect the lives of others.

One of the themes throughout the book is the idea of choosing to be strong. What does that mean to you, and how has that played out in your own life?

“Choose Strong” is actually my motto. Having been born with a craniofacial syndrome known as Treacher Collins, I endured numerous reconstructive surgeries throughout my life. I decided at a very young age that I wouldn’t let those surgeries break me. I focused on the positive things in my life rather than the negative. I realized that I could control my reactions to negative variables, and to me that meant summoning my mental fortitude even when I was in pain or in fear. Choosing to be strong helped me realize that I could face my obstacles head on and succeed. And that was a game changer, because it ended up being what people came to admire most about me.

You dedicated this book to your mom. How has she inspired you?

Both of my parents were unbelievable assets to my life. They both raised me to believe I could accomplish anything. They never treated my craniofacial syndrome as a hindrance; it was just an obstacle that needed to be conquered on the road to success. My mom, however, was the person who stayed with me through all my hospital stays, which at times were five to seven days in length. Because she worked in medicine, she watched over me and let the nurses tend to the other patients. She put her life on hold just to be there for me when I needed it most, and her constant presence comforted me.

What do you hope readers take away from (Extra)Ordinary Women?

I hope readers understand that not all inspirational stories require big, heroic measures. Inspiration can be found in the everyday, daily lives of the ordinary people we interact with on a regular basis. Inspiration isn’t only about actions; it is about how we choose to live our lives day in and day out.

Order your copy of (Extra)Ordinary Women today!

Welcome New Author: Dr. Scot Hodkiewicz

Scot HodkiewiczKiCam Projects is delighted to welcome author Dr. Scot Hodkiewicz, whose book Going through Hell to Get to Heaven will release in January 2019.

We first met Scot at BookExpo in June and immediately were moved by his story. Scot and his family were nearly killed when their vehicle was hit by an intoxicated driver on a highway in their home state of Wisconsin. Through the course of his long, painful recovery, Scot learned that he’d been living his life according to his own “master plan”—and that his plan wasn’t the one that mattered. A Christian, Scot realized his faith wasn’t as strong or as active as he’d once believed. In fact, he’d put his own will over God’s will, and he would have to search his soul to find both the humility and the strength to change his approach to life.

Along his journey, Scot encountered many angels on Earth who helped him face his mortality, the fear of losing his veterinary business, worries about not being able to provide for his family, and a dependency on pain medication. With each trial, Scot learned to listen for God’s voice and direction, and his story now enables others to do the same.

Scot’s goal for this book is to help other Christians consider their lives and ask themselves whether they’re living on their own terms or on God’s. Each chapter contains reflection questions perfect for use in Bible studies and other faith-sharing groups, but Scot is never preachy. His style is conversational, often humorous, and always relatable to anyone who has ever had to overcome a challenge or tragedy.

As Scot says, “Heaven and Hell are here on Earth, and we get to choose which one we enter. To enter Heaven, we just have to get rid of the anger and hate that keep us in Hell.”

Welcome to the KiCam family, Scot!