Pam Saffran by J. Wilder Bill
None of us are impervious to tragedy, and Pam Saffran feels it is about time someone discussed the inevitable. In her Amazon Best Seller memoir, Listening for Echoes, she shares her journey from security to family devastation.
Always an overachiever and lucky enough to find her true love, Pam Saffran’s life was bliss until one conversation pulled the carpet out from under her steady stance. Below, she is candid about what made her personal account gain such a large readership.
J. Wilder Bill: Pam, in your memoir, you bare your soul with candid emotions and opinions. When you were writing about your experiences, was it intended to be therapeutic for you or was it always for publication?
Pam Saffran: I never considered myself a writer because I wasn’t a writer. When I was a practicing psychologist, I used to give my clients assignments. A lot of them were to write in journals about what was happening to them and specifically what they were feeling in the moment.
From my days as a therapist, I decided to practice what I preached when my husband was in his illness and my mother was in a coma. I decided to start journalling when I collapsed into bed each night. I decided to find a silver lining even though my two rocks were dying in front of me.
I had to find something to be thankful for that day. It could have been someone bringing me a hot coffee or bringing me a magazine.
When my husband died and my mother was still in a coma, I decide to put myself out there and tell what it was like to go through. Death was the elephant in the room and I felt like it was time for someone to talk about it. When I was writing and, as I was converting the journals into a memoir, I felt like it was very cathartic. Every time I processed them, it was healing.
J. Wilder Bill: You have remarkably positive reviews regarding your concept, your frank accounting, and your resolution to a tragedy. What characteristics of your writing attract such a wide audience?
Pam Saffran: Because it took me three years to write the book, I had a lot of ups and downs while working on it. The more research I did on loss and grief, the more disappointed I was.
Nobody talks about grief but everyone will go through it. We talk about marriages and babies being born, but we don’t really talk about death.
Even though mine was tragic and unexpected, I had a very large loss. Because everyone is going to go through this, everyone is going to deal with the same thing. My loss was my husband but it compares to the loss of a grandmother who raises someone or the loss of a job. Nobody talks about death but it is a universal theme.
J. Wilder Bill: The people you include in your book have unique personalities and respond to the circumstances differently. At times, friends and family don’t see themselves the way they are portrayed in a story no matter how lovingly or favorably a writer attempts to describe them.
Did you leave out some people who played a role in your crisis to develop a more interesting storyline or were you strictly accurate?
Pam Saffran: I was so accurate. Before the manuscript was published, I went to every person who I wrote about in the book. I asked if they wanted their real name or a made up name.
With the partners, I changed all their names because I felt like that is what my husband would have wanted me to do. Some of my friends have real names and some have fake names. It was a mixed bag of what people wanted. I portray them to a T and did not embellish anything.
J. Wilder Bill: While leaning on a friend’s shoulder comes naturally for most, organizing events with a strong story arc can be daunting. How did you go about planning the format for the story aspect of your memoir?
Pam Saffran: When I first wrote the book, it took me three years. I wanted to make sure what I wrote wasn’t going to be boring. Sometimes when you read stuff you put it down.
To keep the reader engaged, I did a lot of flashbacks and kept the chapters short. It goes very quickly. I wanted the reader to feel like they were inside my head and coming along with me on the journey.
J. Wilder Bill: Thank you, Pam Saffran, for not only providing inspiration to other memoir writers, but for opening up about how a woman who was dragged to the depths of tragedy can become a strong influencer.
Best wishes for a beautiful ending to your story!
Listening for Echoes is available on Amazon at, https://www.amazon.com/Listening-Echoes-Pam-Saffran/dp/0998926205.