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Ask the Writer: Terry Perkins Mitman
An interview with Jen Knox
Terry Perkins Mitman (TPM): For as long as I can remember, I've loved to write and draw. For much of my life, I looked at those activities as hobbies, as tools, as outlets. When the kids were little, writing about parenting helped me be mindful. When my dad died, illustrating the stories he'd told me helped me to keep him close. When my mom got Alzheimer's, writing about caregiving for her helped me to process what I was learning and also to connect with others. Blogging about that experience at thejoyofcaring.com taught me to set my writing free and to receive feedback with grace. Then, in studying to become an interfaith minister, I learned that writing and drawing are actually two of my spiritual practices; this realization allowed me to commit time to them daily, to treat them as essential, not extra.
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JK: What is the best piece of advice I've ever received as a creative person?
TPM: The best piece of advice I've ever received came from my mom, way back when, not in relation to creating, but in relation to adventuring - which, in a sense, creating is.
"Go for it!" Mom said when I asked her about taking a year off of law school to teach English at a university in China, and [she said it] again when I asked her about taking our newborn child to live in the Czech Republic, and again when I asked for her two cents on all kinds of other things.
JK: Do you have any favorite lines from your own or someone else's work?
TPM: I can't say that I have favorite lines... I like to stay open to whatever lines find me, trusting they land here when they do, for a reason. One of my favorite practices is to sit with my journal, and open books from my shelf, jotting down words that catch my eye as I flip open to the lucky passage. When my journal page is full, I read through the various quotes, underlining what resonates. It amazes me how the messages gel, giving me the inspiration, guidance, and reassurance that I need. This practice is fun and light, and takes me out of the driver's seat, which is much-needed, now and then.
JK: How did you find your first publication?
TPM: My first publication, Living Is for Living: A Caregiver's Story was challenging, as it dealt with such a personal experience, one that part of me wanted to hold close and protect. Another part of me, fueled by responses I got from blogging, wanted to offer what I'd learned more broadly, in the hope doing so would help others. Even after all the ways writing the book had helped me to process the experience, the loss, and the growth, the multitude of publishing decisions and final submission meant letting go in a whole new way. It felt like I had continued to care for my mom, even after her death, in writing our story, and finally publishing that story allowed me to let my mom go. This process also gave me the confidence to turn to my next project: the Douglas the Rabbit Adventure Series, based on characters my dad had invented way back, was a fun change of pace.
JK: What's next in your creative career?
TPM: After publishing Living Is for Living: A Caregiver's Story, I had time away to reflect on that process. I realized that I didn't want my kids to get stuck someday with a box of things I'd written, and that I wanted to share those things while I was alive and well. So I made a bucket list of writing projects, for readers of all ages, based on my experiences living in China and Prague, raising kids in the Midwest, being married for over 35 years, and officiating all sorts of weddings. Check out walkwithme.site to learn more.
Raised in Maine, graduated from Dartmouth College ‘86 and Harvard Law School ’91, Terry Perkins Mitman had spent the better part of three decades parenting three kids in Wisconsin when her mother moved in from Maine, leading to precious time and daily opportunities they’d never anticipated. Mitman learned, in large part by trial and error, how to give care to an elder with Alzheimer’s disease and other health challenges, while also walking with her children into adulthood.
In June 2021, a year and a half after her mother died, her nest empty for the first time, Mitman was ordained an Interfaith Minister by the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine. She’d come to believe that sharing her caregiving journey was one of the ways she was called to minister, so she set to work self-publishing Living Is for Living: A Caregiver’s Story. Mitman hoped that the reflections she shared would inspire insight and growth, humor and joy, and a sense of community to fuel others facing challenging times.
Today Mitman is grateful for how revisiting these real-time reflections helped her to process and heal in the wake of her mother’s death, and in the midst of a nest refilled during the pandemic. Mitman is eager to share the recently published Douglas the Rabbit Adventure Series, inspired by stories her dad told her when she was a child. She hopes that these fun stories entertain readers of all ages. To learn more about Mitman’s current projects, check out her blog at https://thejoyofcaring.com and her website at https://walkwithme.site.
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