This year we debuted Create! Birthparents Arts Grant, as an opportunity for birthparents to tap into their creativity by encouraging projects that use the arts to allow for healing, growth, and advocacy in response to their adoption. 2021’s $500 Create! Birthparent Arts Grant was awarded to Carissa Losey, who is currently working on her memoir, The Lies They Told: A Birthmother's Journey Out of the Fog. A second grant of $250 was awarded to our first runner-up, Candace Cahill, who recently completed a birthmother memoir and is currently in the process of having it published.
We had the opportunity to sit down with both writers to talk all things books and writing. This week's conversation is with Carissa, who is currently researching and outlining her book, and next week, we talk with Candace about her completed birthmother memoir.
Carissa, we are just going to dive right in here: what prompted you to write a book?
I pretty much have always been a writer. I first started dreaming about writing a book and being published in the first grade. I used to write little comics in elementary school and novels in middle school. It’s just kind of been a lifelong thing. And for this book, I started coming out of the fog earlier last year in 2020. I started my Instagram, and just slowly started telling my story, researching what actually happened to me specifically, and coming to terms with all the things I didn't know happened. And for me, writing a book was just the natural next step that made sense.
You use the term ‘adoption fog’. What does that mean?
It's a little different for everyone. You're not as informed about adoption, you're still kind of in the rainbows and sunshine narrative, you think everything's fine, you know, and you might have emotions of sadness or loss or grief, but it's not really huge. You haven't really processed what happened. And so, for me, coming out of the fog started once I was able to leave my ex-husband and start thinking about my son's adoption for the first time in ten years, and then really learn what happened to me, and what happened to him, and finally see the whole picture, and then start to realize, hey, this wasn't actually good. And not everyone has that same reaction of, oh, this was completely terrible. It's different for everyone, but mine was, oh God, this was awful.
Where are you in the writing process?
I'm still in the outline phase, and researching memoir-writing in my spare time, and doing a lot of reflecting on the different events that have happened in my life. And putting together the puzzle of what fits, and what doesn't.
What is the most exciting thing about this project for you?
The most exciting thing was, honestly, seeing so many people start rallying around me, once I started the [grant] application process. And then even more people once I got it, you know: friends, family, On Your Feet Foundation, coworkers. It was really kind of a surprise, to have all these people wanting to support me and hear my story and read my book. So that's been really cool!
That is exciting! But what has been the most daunting part of this project?
I think the most daunting part, even more than writing a book in a year, which in itself is kind of daunting, is really just telling more explicitly how I was treated by my ex-husband and his family. Because I've mentioned it here and there, publicly, like on Instagram, and I've talked to friends and relatives – you know, a lot of people know things – but getting it all down and out there, and especially having to balance that with the fact that my son may read this book one day, it's very very nerve wracking.
Who is the audience for this book?
The most important audience, for me, is anyone who's been in similar shoes; whether they're birth mothers or they're survivors of domestic violence, or survivors of childhood abuse, just people who can see themselves in the story in some way that would be helpful for them. Just kind of help them see that they are not alone. It's okay, you know, you may have not always made the best choices but that doesn't mean that the bad things in your life, are your fault, or that you're unlovable, or that you're a bad person.
My high hopes dream is that my book really takes off, and it's read by adoptive parents, and by prospective adoptive parents, and just by more of the public at large, and is at least a small piece in helping educate more people about the realities of adoption, and to help them realize that it's not the happy Win-Win-Win fairy tale that Western society thinks it is.
What advice would you give women who are thinking about telling their own stories?
My biggest piece of advice would be to be kind to yourself and allow yourself whatever time you need to reflect on your journey, or heal from your trauma. For me personally, it took me about 10 years to even start talking about it. Everyone in my life pretty much knew about my son and the adoption; they’d seen pictures there’s stuff all over my desk at work, on my fridge, so it's not a secret, but I didn't really start diving into my story.
It took over well over a year for me to start getting really deep, and feeling like I'm at a place where I've learned enough about my own story, my own feelings, and the things that happened to me that I didn't know about, to really tell it. It's okay to take that time. It's okay to need that time, you know, there's no rush. And I would also say, if you realize that you're not ready to tell your story, or you're not ready to tell certain parts of your story, you don't have to. It's okay to stop; you can take a break. You know, you can pick it back up later. Whatever you need to do for you, that's what you should be doing. And that's the right way to do it.
We cannot wait to read this book, and are cheering Carissa on as she writes it! To follow her journey, you can find her on Instagram. Be sure to come back next week, when we talk to our second Create! Birthparents Art Grant recipient, Candace Cahill, about her completed memoir.