Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the two hundred and forty-sixth, is of non-fiction and crime writer Kathy Brandt with mention of her artist and photographer son, Max. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/author-spotlights.
Kathy Brandt writes The Hannah Sampson Underwater Investigation Series (Swimming with the Dead, Dark Water Dive, Dangerous Depths, and Under Pressure), which were recently released as ebooks. She is also the co-author of Walks on the Margins: A Story of Bipolar Illness, written with her son, Max Maddox. It was a finalist for the Iowa Review Award in Non-Fiction. Kathy was on the Board of Directors of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Colorado Springs (NAMI) for six years and served as President. She is currently the NAMI-CS liaison to the Mental Health Court in Colorado Springs. She received the 2012 National Member of the Year Award for her outstanding service to NAMI. Kathy has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Rhetoric and taught writing at the University of Colorado for ten years.
Max Maddox is the co-author of Walks on the Margins: A Story of Bipolar Illness, which was a finalist for the Iowa Review Award in Non-Fiction. He has a BA in philosophy from Grinnell College and an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, where he was nominated for the Joan Mitchell Award and received the Fellowship Trust Award. He has exhibited his work in galleries including The Slought Foundation, The Print Center of Philadelphia, and the Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum. He was the preparator, photographer, and curator at the Sun King Gallery and Pyramid Museum in Philadelphia and also assistant to artist and curator Richard Torchia, Director of Arcadia University Gallery. He now lives in Colorado where he teaches and continues to pursue his career in art.
And now from Kathy herself:
In 1999, my son, Max, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was twenty and a junior at Grinnell College. I was shocked at the diagnosis, clueless about what it meant, and I was scared. What would the future hold for Max? We spent years trying to find good treatment in a mental health care system that too often fails those who struggle with mental illness. I was angry that we couldn’t find the help Max needed. Finally I found support through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and became an advocate for those with mental illness and their families. As a writer, my advocacy inevitably involved writing about the issues. And I wanted to tell Max’s story so that people would understand the difficulties of having this illness, made worse by stigma, and that recovery is possible. But I wouldn’t do it without Max. Though reliving the years of illness would be painful, Max agreed to write the book with me. The result is a memoir about our joint and separate struggles with the illness entitled, Walks on the Margins: A Story of Bipolar Illness.
Writing the book brought us together in ways I never imagined and it helped us make sense of the years of chaos. We have told an honest though often painful story that ends with the understanding that mental illness is for life but that redemption and recovery are possible. In doing that, we hope that others with mental illness and their families will find comfort in knowing that they aren’t as alone as they might think. We also hope that we have succeeded in breaking down the barriers of stigma and made human and understandable an illness that so many fear or demonize.
This was a difficult book for us to write. We dredged up memories that we would have sooner left buried. We wrote things that we’d rather have left unsaid. We took a lot of risks, especially Max, as he told his story for everyone to hear.
Then there was the actual task of writing the book. We knew our story began the day Max had his first episode, and he called to tell me to turn on the news because the world had changed. Hoping that it was the world that had shifted, not my son, I’d switched on the TV. By noon that day he was in the hospital in Des Moines.
Nothing was quite as clear as that beginning though. We wrote and rewrote, restructured, revised. So much amazing material ended up on the cutting room floor. We realized we shouldn’t be including scenes just because they happened, but that those scenes, though dramatic, simply developed the same points. It’s hard to axe what you love or what you want to share with people, all the hurt, angst, humor, but if the scene didn’t add to the forward movement of the story, we let the it go. And we realized that we needed to consider the story arc more carefully. Having written several mysteries, I should have been tuned into the story arc from the beginning, but I’d lost sight of that need with the memoir. We asked ourselves what the final crisis was, the defining moment. And finally we finished.
You can find more about Kathy and her writing via…
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