JULIE FREED: MY HOME WAS LEVELED BY HURRICANE KATRINA
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
The Hurricane Katrina changed many lives. The hell’s opening during August 2005 will be remembered as the most brutal natural disaster ever produced by Atlantic Ocean. Almost 2000 people died. The damages were counted to a monstrous number of $108 billion.
Julie Freed witnessed the nightmare. With her debut memoir Naked she shared the personal level of destruction that was caused by Hurricane Katrina. The readers gave huge appreciation to the book with average 4.9 stars in Amazon from 77 reviews.
– What is your memoir Naked about?
– Naked is a true story of parallel tragedies. What happens when a mother loses everything to Hurricane Katrina? What if her husband never returns? Surrounded by the rubble of life – I was stripped bare by love and loss.
Naked is raw and touching – a story of motherhood, choices, marriage, addictions, family love, redemption, and survival. I describe the incredible event that was Hurricane Katrina and is the context of the majority of the memoir. Most people just watched the episodes unfold on the news but my story takes the reader there, on the ground to grapple with all that I saw, felt, smelled, touched, and suffered. Even though I was stripped, left naked on the slab of what was my house holding my one year daughter – I was never alone, and we are never alone! I hope my story gives readers hope that when faced with extreme unthinkable situations there is a well of strength deep within that can quench our thirst and propel us forward.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– The summer of 2005, at age 32 my life transformed. My home was leveled by Hurricane Katrina. My husband of seven years left suddenly that same week. Holding my one year old daughter, a single mother looked back at me from the mirror.My life split in two – Before and After Katrina. The physical loss and destruction paralleled my broken and confused heart. Initially, I wrote to get my story, the dialogue out of my head. A great purge indeed. Late nights at the keyboard with wine or tea in hand turned my journey into something almost artful. Not a diary or a chronology of events, instead patterns and motifs emerged as I reflected, fingers typed. The craft energized me.
The writing process took me somewhere I’d never been. The soil runs deep in Mississippi. The history, art, and culture of storytelling have perhaps grown on me and in me.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– After I began writing Naked, I lost my mother to cancer. I grieve with an immense heart still filled with love for her. A mother cannot be replaced. Writing and editing our conversations were most difficult.
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is she close to someone from your real life?
– Indeed! She is me and vice versa! I chose the title Naked because of the candor and revealing nature of the text. Some reviewers have likened it to reading a secret journal.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– I wrote the initial draft in three weeks in 2007 at night while my young daughter slept. Work, parenting, deaths, new marriage, another baby … all came first with eventual publication April 2014. That spring I also really enjoyed designing the cover and creating the book trailer! The art of communicating my memoir and its message in different forms was most fun.
– Who are you?
– I’m a mother, mathematician, university professor, and now an award winning author. I’m also a Hurricane Katrina survivor which means life is defined as pre and post Katrina. The oldest of three daughters, I grew up in Connecticut and now live on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. I have two strong independent daughters and am terribly lucky to have found a man I adore who became my second husband. We four travel as much as possible exploring this great planet and all its cultures. I love the arts, oils and photography, play cello,violin and a bit of piano, dabble in pottery, enjoy hiking, biking, boating, and breathing in the outdoors.
– What are your writing habits?
– I read and write daily. We don’t own a television so our evenings are spent at a sports practice, doing homework, playing a family game, or reading. With two young children my schedule is shaped by their needs so I cannot be too regimented about … anything!
The actual typing and writing happens quickly for me. It’s all the thinking and sketching beforehand that requires time to simmer. I use both electronic notes on my phone and computer as well as my favorite little yellow moleskin.Graphical representations help me identify themes and patterns. Then the editing process is like a puzzle for me. I play with the words and sentence length. I read out loud to massage the timing, flow, rhythm. There is much satisfaction in the crafting.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– Yes and overwhelmed by the amazing readers who make time to write me. They share how my memoir made them feel or how it reminded them of their own experiences. Connecting through my book has been an incredibly emotional experience. Writing and essentially reliving the events were difficult at times but the unexpected emails and notes bring fast tears! Memoir is a powerful mechanism to connect and understand humanity.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– I think the best publicity for a book is word of mouth. People share books that have moved or changed them. Naked readers are people who enjoy a meaning filled and meaning making read. It’s a book full of powerful messages of growth and self-love for women in particular. Book clubs are reading Naked and when I’m able I’ve been able to join in the discussions too. There are almost 80 five star reviews on Amazon and it’s slowly getting traction. Memoir is a challenging genre because so many have turned readers off with pity parties. Even great books like Wild by Cheryl Strayed took almost a year to get readers’ attention. Eventually more and more readers will find my story.
– When we will see your next book?
– I’m currently sketching a second memoir. I’ve truly enjoyed sharing my story and seeing it resonate with so many readers. It’s amazing to have readers write and feel as if they know me and even better when they are empowered to make changes in their lives because of my experiences. The connecting with readers has been truly inspiring and humbling, only encouraging me to write more.
– You’ve got a frog as a pet. What is the story of the animal?
– Genoa my daughter received a frog as a birthday gift years ago. It’s a fast little aquatic frog. About the same time a close friend got a large orange cat and aptly named her Pumpkin. Genoa, at age three loved that name so much. So we have a green feisty frog named Pumpkin!
– Why you don’t use a personal photo as author picture?
– Both the front and back covers usesymbolic abstract images. The front cover is my own body’s naked outline merged with a photo of my property post-Katrina. This represents the raw candor of the text that I hope makes the reader feel as if they’re beside me. It also represents the nakedness I felt as my home and those surrounding were destroyed … and then the freedom from material possessions and a dying marriage I ultimately experienced. I used color inside the figure to represent the light and love I found within, despite all that dissolved around me.
The sculpture of mother and child on the back cover is a special piece of art captured in the book. I’ve chosen to use this as my author photo. It conveys the intense love between a mother and child that is central to my story. And I hope its abstraction invites readers to see themselves in that love and in my journey to freedom.
– You have a PhD in mathematics, how does such an exact science help your writing creativity?
– I’ve always looked for patterns in art, nature, and literature. I do this naturally. My writing tends to weave themes I’ve observed, felt, or sensed. I think my logical and quantitative background also makes my writing clear and concise. Mathematics is an extremely efficient language. Complex relationships can be described with just a few symbols that are not culturally bound. Like music, it is a true world language. With a music and math background I try to write succinctly but also rhythmically so the reader feels the ebbing and flowing of the story and my cadence, my breathing as if I’m sitting right next to them sharing my story.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– What advice do you have specifically for aspiring memoirists?
– You are the only one who can tell your story. To do this well it should not just be a description of events but written instead so that both the writer and the reader gain and learn from the reflection on these experiences. It is an opportunity to clarify and build on your past as well as provide readers the opportunity to come inside your world. In doing such, you provide a record of the human experience and connect others through your story.
Take a look at her book