Life According to M. D. Stuart

About the book:   M.D.‘s book is a biography of a young girl that describes, through short chapters and delightful illustrations, the challenges and experiences growing up with a visually obvious birth defect and the emotional impact engendered by the negative reaction from society.  The author shares, "that in spite and because of this, humor and joy can exist in great abundance".  Ms. Stuart says: "By airing my struggles and triumphs publicly I hope that people might become more aware of the impact of the simple, elongated stare whispered remark, or overly direct question..." The book is comprised of short chapters beginning with descriptions and line drawings of her first experiences in the public world such as "Kidney Garden", surgeries, and her first prom.  It ends with the successful understanding of her situation by a former "heartless curmudgeon" and her summary thoughts just after 9/11.

Why did you write this book? y did you write this book?

     To tell my story of shame and joy…an irony: from pain comes great empathy and a large appreciation of life and the good people in it.

Who was your target audience?

     Everyone in the world – Western or Eastern makes no difference.

What was your message?

     Celebrate, and respect, differences of any kind.

Where did you get your inspiration for the characters?  The Scenes?

     The people were all known to me, so real life “characters”!

     The scenes were also from real life.  They actually happened.  I think as I was less mobile and too ashamed to be in public much, my world was very focused on my immediate surroundings, the immediate spaces I occupied. So the scenes were created from my hyper-awareness of both pain and the wonderful simple joys in life: smell of yeast in a kitchen towel over a bowl of rising dough, the smell released when squeezing a waxy white lily of the valley flower, tasting a sweet drop of honey suckle when you learn how to pull the string on that wonderful weed, the sight of beautiful billowing clouds on a deep blue sky,   walking on smooth surfaces and the many kindnesses of strangers as juxtaposition to the cold stares and unthoughtful remarks about my appearance.

Who have you touched?

     I hear that my story has impacted people – more than I could understand or EVER know as many are strangers.  Most of the feedback, especially the feedback from people who have shared their stories, has touched ME!! A couple of these stories are in the book – the stranger whose mother had just died, the elderly Chilean couple at the airport where I got to “drop in” for a short while on their life.  Other stories are in email or letters from readers: mostly about their own struggles in a world that requires perfection – a person that struggled with stuttering as a child, a parent that has the deep need to ‘fix’ their mentally challenged child, but the child just needed to be loved...

How has writing the book touched you? 

     Many have said to me: “ I bet writing the book was cathartic”.  I tell them that the catharsis happened over my life time of writing and drawing, but the publishing of the book was very powerful: terrifying and I think very brave.

Where did you train to become an author?

     I had no formal training other than English classes in high school and college although I was a reporter/writer, and later editor-in-chief, of the newspaper at my college.  But mostly I had lots of “practice” in writing childhood diaries, notes, scribbles and journals during my life.  In fact, my first book was distilled from ~1200 pages to 81 pages in the book (including my drawings…which are my favorite).  Also, people that know me, know that I like to talk a LOT!  I have always been criticized for that – in childhood and adulthood.  So my training for writing also came from talking and deep thinking.  My writing is my safe place to “talk”.

What honed your writing style?

     My best writing comes as a stream of consciousness – not too much thought or crafting – just writing out loud.  Honing it would ruin it.  The editors can handle the rest.  It is the same process for drawing – immediate without thought.

What are your plans for the future?

     I am working on two more books – both very different.  Stay tuned.

Although I didn’t have an amputation, finally at age 54 I found a device that greatly improved balance and helped ‘hide’ the problem

RITCH-An M.D. Stuart Interview by RK

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