Sherry Palmer

PALMER - Photo

Zharmae Bibliography:

Life with Charley (S&E): Published October 2014

charley(1)2-Front

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Sherry Palmer has been a writer since she was able to hold a pen. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul and I’m Glad I’m a Mom, as well as essays in Down Syndrome Today Magazine, and Foliate Oak Online Literary Magazine. Her guest columns have appeared in The Breathitt County Voice, The Tennessee Star Journal, and Monroe Life magazine.

Palmer’s latest work, Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption, is the result of a love story, twenty-four years in the making.

Palmer holds an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University. She works as an assistant for Knox County Library in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband Brad, her son Charley, and their two cats. One won’t stay off of her side of the bed. The other won’t stay out of her knitting.

You can visit Palmer on Twitter, Facebook, and the blog that inspired this book, also called Life with Charley.

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The “Author Exposed!” Interview:

or, Things We’d All Like To Know…

- You, the Author -

Why do you write?

Because I can’t imagine not writing. Writing for me is part recreation, part discovery. The blank page is my playground. I love playing with words.

What do you write?

Mostly memoir, and creative nonfiction. But thinking about dabbling in some fiction.

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by many people. First, My son. When he is around there’s no shortage of writing material. And my husband. Brad is a wordsmith. He has a way of saying things that just make sense, and his insight is uncanny. Also, two people I have never met. Stephanie Holland’s “The Road We’ve Shared” is a blog that seeks to improve the quality of life for persons with Down syndrome. Also, Char Ruff Mertes. Her son Nathan is a young man with Down syndrome. She inspires me because she enjoys Nathan. I never see her trying to make Nathan into something he isn’t; rather, she has so much fun with him just the way he is. There is always laughter in Char’s video blogs.

Who are your influences?

My writing influences are Erma Bombeck, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, and Rick Bragg, Richard Goodman. Put simply, I love humor and good writing. These writers are funny, yet say so much. Rick Bragg is in a class by himself when it comes to writing from the heart.

What are your three most favorite books and why?

A New York Memoir, by Richard Goodman. This book is written with such passion. Because I know Richard, I can hear his voice on the page. I love when an author doesn’t think he’s so perfect that he can’t just tell the truth. What you get in this book is truth.
When You Are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris. I love the way he tells on himself. If you like raw honesty served up with a side dish of funny, then this is the book for you.
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Raw, witty, candid, laugh-out-loud-funny, thought-provoking. A writer’s writer. She leaves it all on the page.

- The Mechanics -

How do you write?

I write until I think of something to say. Sometimes I write in my journal, other times I put my fingers on the keyboard, but always, I give myself permission to write the worst stuff ever. Only then can I be creative. I never pressure myself. If something doesn’t feel right, I toss it and start again. And again. Then I pace the floor, kiss the cat, drink iced tea with lemonade, eat something fattening, and try again.
When I think I’m finished, I revise. And revise.

Where do you like to write?

I often write in the study in my house, but I prefer a quaint coffee shop with a bottomless cup of Joe. I get my energy from other people. Chatter and background noise doesn’t bother me.

Do you set a goal of so many pages per day, or something else?

No, I never know how much time I’m going to have…I get interrupted often by my family. And cats. I’m not a good boundary-setter. But then, they are my muse. And, my biggest support. Without them, writing wouldn’t be any fun.

What program(s) or tool(s) do you use to write?

I use Word for Mac. And a good old fashioned fast pen.

What do you do when you get stuck on a problem which blocks the writing process?

Oops…pass the pie. Or the popcorn. Did I mention I never met a cake I didn’t like yet?

Do you envision the entire story at once and just fill in as you go, or do you just see where the writing takes you and troubleshoot as necessary?

I tend to visualize it all at once, while knowing fully well that I don’t have a prayer of having a plan. I’m way to scattered. So, let the words fall where they may.

What do you have the most fun with during the creative process?

Revision. Some people hate it. I’m always thinking of something more I can add, or something I forgot to say, or wish I hadn’t said. Then, just when I think I’m finished, I get cranked up again.

Do you have any special rituals or superstitious behaviors you must follow while writing?

No. I write wherever, whenever. It’s hard to ritualize writing on the closest post-it note. Only then can I have the fun of hunting for that stupid yellow piece of paper I thought I’d put in my pocket, only to find it in the bottom of the washing machine, ink-smeared, trying to make out what the words were.

- Human You -

What is a cherished memory from your life you’d like to share?

How much time have you got? I’ve got some great memories of us kids on the houseboat my Dad built when I was eight years old. Water skiing, fishing with Mom, feeding the ducks, eating corn on the cob with real butter, Mom’s legendary blue cheese ball and Angel food cake, and sitting on the deck playing my guitar at night while dodging the bats that would swoop down at us. My favorite memory by far though, is the day Brad and I adopted Charley. It changed my life forever.

Do you prefer coffee, tea, or something else entirely?

Donuts.

What comes first, the chicken or the alien egg?

Easter.

What is your favorite {movie}? (Author’s Choice)

Sense and Sensibility. I could watch it over and over again. Oops…I already did!

– This Particular Story -

Who do you most identify with in this work?

Charley. He has Down syndrome. I have Pastor’s Wife syndrome. We both feel like we are being watched. Neither one of us feel like we fit.

Why this story?

Because Charley’s is a story that needs to be told. In this day and age of dark trending, I believe the world needs Charley. His simple wisdom is fascinating. He is a lightning bug in the darkness. He makes the world a better place. I hope you will think so, too.

Who do you think would be most affected by or touched by this work?

Hopefully everyone. I know it is a story of adoption, and Down syndrome, but we can all stand to learn a thing or two from someone who is as unassuming and knows how to be himself 100% of the time. This is a person who knows how to live, how to laugh out loud, how to love unconditionally, and who is propelled by his heart.

What is a profound memory from this title’s writing process?

The day I graduated from the MFA program. I was walking out with my graduating class, holding my diploma, proud to have completed my degree, excited to be in the company of such great peers, when Charley stepped out into the aisle and grabbed me around the neck. “I love you buttons, Mom.” I looked into those innocent big blue eyes, and everything else faded away. My elevated sense of importance suddenly dissipated, and I was the one who was honored to be in his presence.

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