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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Judy Haveson talks about her new book, Laugh Cry Rewind, and the experiences that inspired her to write it.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Judy Haveson about her life and career, the experiences that inspired her to write her memoir, Laugh Cry Rewind, and her creative writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Judy Haveson, and I’m a proud Texan living in New York with my husband, Adam, son, Jack, and beloved Yorkie, Toby.
I will never lose my Southern charm or accent and use both when the situation absolutely demands it. I once had a boss tell me that there are two types of people: those who know and those who want to know — be the one who knows. That boss fired me, but his words have always stuck in my head. I’ve been addicted to current events, politics, and People magazine ever since, and not necessarily in that order.
I like to think I’m witty, but many call it sarcastic. You decide! I thought I would be a journalist until my first journalism professor told me to pick a new major. He said I’d be an editor’s nightmare because I wrote like I talked and never stopped talking.
My fascination with compelling storytelling plays well with my lifelong communications career of promoting products, services, companies, and individuals spanning various areas and industries, including non-profits, travel & hospitality, entertainment, fashion & retail, authors, and even rock stars and rap artists. You’ll have to read the book for details on that last piece of information!
The most important things to me in life are (in no particular order): family, loyal friendships, staying fit to always appear younger than I am, a good cut and color, cavity-free dentist appointments, spectator sports, travel, my son’s infectious smile and laugh, and good food and wine (or a dirty, vodka martini) along with the company of great friends to enjoy it all.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I’ve wanted to write a book since I was in grade school, but I never thought I had the talent or the guts. I had an active imagination as a child and loved telling stories. I just wished I’d written all those ideas down, so I’d have them to turn into a book!
When did you take a step to start writing?
While I always wrote business proposals and press releases for my job in public relations, I only took the leap into creative writing once I started my blog in 2011. It was called Judy-isms, and I wrote about life’s observations that never ceased to amaze me. From there, I began freelance writing for various parenting and lifestyle websites.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
It took about two years from start to finish. I first had the idea during the pandemic (we had a lot of time to think!) and published the book more than two years later.
What made you want to write Laugh Cry Rewind?
The original idea for my memoir was to tell stories of my life before the birth of my son. I wanted him to know my life but from my point of view. As I wrote each chapter, I realized this story was more extensive than just my life before I had my son. It started to take on a life of its own, and my focus changed. I had an older sister who passed away in 1983. We had an extraordinary bond even though she was 7 years older than me.
As I wrote each chapter, I realized I was writing more about my life before and after she passed away, and how I carried her memory with me through the years. While she was sick and we realized she would die, I made her big promises about my life moving forward. The most significant promise was I would go on living.
So, the book became that story with a message to others who have experienced tragedy and loss: life goes on because good things await us on the other side of the pain.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Laugh Cry Rewind?
One of the biggest challenges when writing a memoir is recreating dialogue. When recounting periods of your life that happened many years ago, or even last week, you want it to sound authentic and not forced or manufactured. And you want to balance the “show” versus “tell” parts of the story. Fortunately, I worked with a fantastic writing coach that helped me pull out dialogue to keep the story flowing and engaging for the reader.
The other challenge, valid for almost all memoirs, is remembering critical parts of your life when they occurred years ago. Also, the intense emotions of reliving these points in your life – happy and sad. In some instances, these memories may be ones you’ve suppressed for years, and they conjure up hidden or forgotten feelings. For me, the good and the bad brought me closer to my sister’s memory.
What was your research process for Laugh Cry Rewind?
I spent hours looking through photographs, scrapbooks, and home movies. I also researched current events from different periods. But the best research tool I had was interviewing my mother. She became a treasure trove of information for me. She helped me remember various events from my life and filled in the gaps of some of the missing parts.
How did you plan the structure of Laugh Cry Rewind?
I knew the book would have a beginning, middle, and end. Before writing a word, I outlined my life in 3 parts: Part 1 – the early years leading up to my sister’s death; Part 2 – my life and career after she died; Part 3 – meeting my husband to the birth of my son.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Laugh Cry Rewind need?
I had a fabulous writing coach who also doubled as my developmental editor. We worked weekly for about 4-5 months, so I’d stay on track to write the first draft. Then we met a few more times during this process. Once I felt the manuscript was ready for the next editing phase, it was passed on to another excellent editor who read the book with fresh eyes and helped me make the best version. That process was another 2 months or so. Finally, it went to a proofreader, another amazing woman, who fixed every punctuation, grammar, street address, etc. I wasn’t allowed to touch the manuscript once this process was complete. That was challenging because, as a writer, you’re constantly editing yourself!
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Keep writing! If you dream of writing anything: a book, an essay, a blog post, an article, or whatever, write it. Get out of your head with the negative thoughts that you’re not good enough or that no one will care what you say. If you have something to say or a story to tell, write it. There are millions of books available, and not all will be best sellers. But if you can touch one person with your writing, it’s all worth it!
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m playing with Part 2 of my story centered around having a child in my later years. Stay tuned!
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am so proud of my accomplishment! I’ll always remember the day the proof copy of the book arrived at my house. I ripped open that package, held the paperback in my hands, and cried. I smiled, too, of course. Writing and publishing a book is no small fete and deserves to be celebrated. I don’t take this for granted. It’s a lot of hard work and commitment. But as I mentioned, it’s worth the effort if you can touch one person with your words.
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