If you’re interested in winning a free, personalized copy of Room for Two, fellow author and friend Anne Bradshaw is sponsoring a contest for one. You can read the contest details on her blog here. Contest is open through Wednesday, September 4th.
A couple months ago I was approached by the Open to Hope Foundation about writing a blog for those who had lost a spouse. (I was a guest on the foundation’s radio show last November. You can download the MP3 of the program by right-clicking here.) I was hesitant to accept. Between my widower blog (no longer updated) and Room for Two I didn’t think I had anything left to say on the matter. Besides, I’ve been happily married to Marathon Girl for five and a half years. I haven’t thought of myself as widower since the day she agreed to marry me. In a lot of ways, I’ve put that sad chapter of my behind me. Thought thoughts of the late wife and daughter occasionally enter my mind, 99.9% of my thoughts are on making a better life for me and the family I have now.
I also have a novel and other writing projects that take up most of my free time. Even if I had something to say, I was unsure I’d have the time to write regular blog posts.
Then I checked my email.
There were three new emails in my inbox. Two were from women dating widowers. One thanked me for writing an essay that helped her see that her widower boyfriend wasn’t ready to commit to a serious relationship and she was going to finally end it. The other was from a woman asking for advice about her widower boyfriend’s behavior and whether or not she should be concerned about it. The third was from a young widower who thanked me for my website and telling me it had given him hope that he could one day again be happy.
These kinds of emails flood my inbox every day. (I’m not complaining about them – just stating a fact. If you have something to say, you can contact me here.) In the back of my mind, I thought the number of widower related emails would stop after my book came out and this blog focused on other things than widower related issues. But every day there are new emails in my inbox similar to the ones above and I realized there are a lot of people that are hurting out there.
And I thought back to a wintry afternoon six years ago. I had just spent most of my Saturday afternoon searching for something – anything! – online that would make me feel that I wasn’t the only young widower in the world. Something that would give me hope that tomorrow would be a better day and if I just put one foot in front of the other and stuck with it.
I found nothing.
And in that brief moment of grief and anguish I vowed if there was some way I could help someone else from feeling the pain and loneliness I felt at that exact moment, I’d do it.
So I called to the foundation’s director and expressed my concerns about writing a blog and we came to mutual agreement. I will write an occasional blog post (three or four times a month as time allows). And instead of making it a traditional grief blog, I’m going to focus on putting your life back together and moving on instead of becoming bogged down with self pity and the “woe is me” attitude that infects so much of grief literature and makes it completely worthless – often hindering people from putting their lives back together.
It’s going to be very different from typical grief blogs. It’s going to have an attitude.
So be warned.
If you’re content wallowing in grief and self pity then the blog’s not for you.
If you don't want to think of yourself as anything other than a widow or widower, then find another grief blog to read.
If you don’t want straight up advice about learning to put your grief aside, making the most of your life, and becoming happy again, then do not read it because I’m not going to mince words.
Finally, though I have permission to do so, I won’t be reposting the content on this blog. However, I will post the first paragraph or two and link to the latest entry for those who are interest in reading it. (As soon as I complete some other projects, I will create a URL on this website for them, however.)
Also, I have about 30,000 words of material that I cut from Room for Two before it was published. Some that content will probably find a home there – in a slightly modified form. (My first entry is a part from my book that was cut from the book and tweaked for the blog.) For those who have read the book and want to read vignettes that were cut between the first draft and the published manuscript, I’ll let you know when those are posted too.
The website I'll be writing for can be found here.
I’ll let you know when the third one is up.
Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to a literature class at Weber State University that is using Room for Two as one of their books. I was very impressed with the students and their questions, comments, and insight they had. The following are some of their questions and my answers I thought others might find interesting.
Q: What audience did you have in mind when you wrote Room for Two?
A: I was trying to write for a very broad audience. I wanted to tell my story in such a way that even those who have never lost a spouse, child, or had a friend or loved one take their own life could enjoy it. It seems to have worked. Though I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from young widows, young widowers, and suicide survivors, most of the emails I receive have been from people who don’t fall into any of those categories. No matter what group the reader falls in, however, the vast majority of respondents tell me the book has touched their lives in very positive ways.
Q: Why did you write Room for Two?
A: The biggest reason was that I read or, rather, tired to read a lot of “memoirs” about losing a spouse soon after my late wife’s death. I found most of them to be completely worthless. Most of the time the writer would try to make him or herself out as a “wronged hero.” I felt authors were being less than honest about their experience and were hiding their own faults and imperfections. Because of this, I had a hard time relating on any level to the story they were trying to tell. I wanted to write a book that, in my opinion, showed the human side of the surviving spouse as well as the pain that that accompanies the death of a loved one.
In the case of books that dealt specifically with losing a spouse to suicide, I thought the authors were trying to make excuses or justify the actions of their loved ones that killed themselves. Some of the books went as far to romanticize suicide. I find that to be extremely dangerous. The reasons people take their own life is very complex and trying to rationalize or validate their actions is impossible without being able to talk with that person. And since they’re dead, that impossible. Instead of justifying the actions of my late wife, I tried to portray the devastating effect suicide has on those left behind.
Q: There’s a strong religious undercurrent in Room for Two. After reading the book, one can tell that you’re very religious but you don’t much in the way of specifics about what faith you belong to. Was that intentional?
A: Yes. Outside of the mountain west, most people don’t know much about the LDS (Mormon) Church. I didn’t want to alienate or distract readers who are unfamiliar with the church. Hence the reason I used very generic terms to describe my religious affiliation. Those who are familiar with the LDS church will, I think, know what faith I’m a member of rather quickly.
Q: If you were to rewrite Room for Two for a Mormon-only audience, what would you change?
Q: How did you come up with the title for your book?
A: The working title of the book was Running Forward. However, that never seemed to fit with the story I was telling. One day I was editing a part of the book where I was struggling with making room in my heart for another person. Though the exact phrase “room for two” doesn’t appear in the text, while reading that paragraph, those words formed in my mind as I read it. I immediately knew I had the perfect right title for my book.
Q: I really enjoyed reading your late wife’s poem “Ten Toed Children of Eve” that was in Room for Two. Have you considered about publishing the rest of your late wife’s poetry?
A: I’ve thought about putting a website up that contained her poetry and some of her other writings. Right now it’s more of a time issue. I have other writing projects are more pressing.
Q: Which writers have influenced you the most?
Q: How do you find the time to write?
A: I make time. Once my kids are in bed, I spend some time with my wife and then write until I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s easy to talk about being a writer but hard to actually put in the hours required to write something worth publishing. I went to school with a lot of “writers” that were more talented than me. However, I’m the only one with a book. Though talent has something to do with getting published, most of it has to do with dedicating the time to writing, editing, and rewriting your manuscript.
Q: Are you writing more books?
A: I’m currently writing a work of fiction. If I can hold to my self-imposed deadlines, I should have a publishable manuscript sometime this summer.
Q: Do you have any plans to write a follow-up to Room for Two?
A: Yes. After I complete this work of fiction, the plan is to write another book that picks up where Room for Two left off. The main focus will be on the early years my marriage to Julie. The working title is Seconds because the book is going to focus a lot on second chances, second marriages, second loves, etc.
An article about Room for Two appeared in The Signpost, the paper of Weber State University, today. I've pasted the text of the article below. However, if you read it on the The Signpost website, you can see a photo of my late wife -- something I've never posted before. WSU alumnus writes about spouse's suicide in new novel, 'Room for Two'
by Seth Durfee
"Young pregnant wife commits suicide," that's a headline, which never ran - although it happened to author Abel Keogh's wife. Krista killed herself in November 2001.
"There's a taboo about suicide," said Keogh, who decided to help break that taboo by writing "Room for Two", a novel about his late wife's suicide.
Keogh, a Weber State University alumni, released his book August 2007. The book gives a straightforward look at his experience with his wife Krista, also a Weber State University graduate, who suffered from depression. She committed suicide at age 25 when she was seven months pregnant with their first child.
Keogh, who has since remarried and is the father of three children.
"After my late wife Krista's death," Keogh said, while holding two squirming sons on his lap in the living room of his Utah County home. "I tried to find on the Internet even one example of another pregnant woman committing suicide. I couldn't."
Keogh said a local newspaper ran an ongoing story about his wife's death for a day or two, but as soon as the paper realized was a suicide, all coverage stopped.
"You're not supposed to talk about it," he said.
The book relates the events following Krista's suicide. Keogh stressed the fact that he did not write the book to say, "I got through it and so can you." He wrote it to try and chip away at the taboo surrounding suicide. "People should know that it's OK to talk about," Keogh said.
He made almost daily entries on a blog after his wife's death.
"Ninety percent of what you find in the book is not in the blog and, in my opinion, the real meat of the story."
Keogh's motivation for writing the book is very personal.
"I didn't feel like there was a story out there that was really helpful to me." He said he wanted to write the book that he would have pulled off the shelf after his wife died.
"I've gotten a few e-mails from people who haven't necessarily had a suicide in their life, and they say how much it's helped them," Keogh said. At the time he recognized there was a problem but he didn't know what to do.
"Looking back I can see that there are things that weren't right. If she hadn't been pregnant I would have asked 'What's wrong with you,'" Keogh said.
For those who don't know what to do, Diane George, a licensed clinical social worker at the McKay-Dee Behavioral Health Institute in Ogden has some insights.
"Signs of depression can be Anhedonia, or a lack of interest from activities that normally provide pleasure, lack of appetite, weight gain or weight loss," George said. "People suffering from depression can also become isolated from friends and family or have a lack of concentration."
George said if an individual is experiencing these types of changes or feelings, talking to someone who will listen is a good course of action.
"Take a stress inventory," George said, "Reevaluate your status. Decide if the depression is situational or biological"
George said those who commit suicide often feel hopeless and alone.
Rebekah Clements, long-time friend of both Keogh and Krista, said she is still trying to cope with the guilt that came following the unexpected suicide.
"Krista's story was even more difficult to talk about because she was pregnant," Clements said. "There wasn't a support group for something like that. We really were alone." Clements said that it was very difficult when Keogh gave her one of the first copies of the manuscript. "There had been five years from the suicide to when I read it. It opened up a lot of memories that I've tried to forget," she said.
There isn't anything you can say about a situation like that, explained Clements, but maybe this is the only chance to bring a silver lining to the whole story. "I hope Krista would think two things about the book: that she would be proud of Abel for writing it and that the book will help people," Clements said.
"If I can help even one person feel like they aren't alone with something like what I went through," Keogh said, "then I did what I wanted to do."
Order a Personalized Copy Today
You might notice a new image on my website that looks something like this.
If you click on them, they'll take you to my web store, keoghcreative.com. At this store you can order personalized copies of my book, Room for Two. (You can also order non-personalized copies for family and friends if you want too. The personalization is optional.) This is a great chance to get early copies of the book.
Room for Two is also listed on Amazon.com though the copies from the publisher haven't arrived at Amazon's warehouse yet. If you prefer or order that way, you can do so by clicking on these icons that are also conveniently located on my website. Just remember that it might take 1-2 weeks before they receive books from the publisher and are able to ship it.
If you're looking for Room for Two in bookstores, be patient. It usually takes 4-6 weeks after the publisher receives copies for them to arrive on store shelves. Iâ€™m not sure at this time which stores will be carrying it but it won't reach shelves until mid-September or early October.
If you can't wait that long, order a copy from my store today!
I received copies of Room for Two from the publisher. They look WONDERFUL!!!!
It's hard to believe I'm actually holding a copy of this book in my hands. All the years of hard work has finally become a reality.
I know many of you have asked to purchase signed copies of Room for Two. Iâ€™ll have a mechanism set up to do this on Thursday.
Please note it won't be available in book stores until mid or late September. Though it's listed on Amazon.com, they wonâ€™t have copies in stock for another 2-3 weeks.
Look for more information about getting copies before the general public on Thursday....