Ann Putnam is here with us today to give us the story behind her memoir, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye (Southern Methodist University Press).
The writing of the book came from a series of little notebooks of lines, phrases, sometimes single words I carried with me like a talisman through the months when I lost my father and my uncle, his identical twin. Those notebooks seem like relics to me now because I remember the places I carried them, where I sat when I wrote in them: hospital cafeterias, emergency rooms, ICU unites, hospital hallways, elevators, lobbies. I carried the notebooks to keep me safe, to keep me from rushing out the doors of those hospitals and never coming back. Months after my uncle and my father died (six months to the day apart), I realized I had the beginnings of a book, and a book which I wanted and needed to write, not knowing how it would ever see the light of day. I wondered what interest there might be in reading of this inevitable journey taken by such ordinary people, and did not know. But turned to the light just so, the beauty and laughter of the telling transcend the darkness of the tale.
The first thing I wrote described the death of my father, which comes late in the book as it was finally sculpted. I’d written that part for a creative reading I was giving at a conference. It was about six months after my father had died and I thought I was ready to write about it. I didn’t sit at my computer with tears running down my face at all. I was cool and very much the writer at work, telling herself that she could do this just fine. But after about an hour, I would begin to feel ill. And sure enough found myself running a fever—aches and weariness, the works. I’d take a couple of Tylenol and lie down for an hour or so, and it would pass. So I learned that I could only write about an hour at a time through those summer months. That feeling eventually just sort of left me, and only returned now and then. But as I wrote the memoir, I experienced more losses—the death of my mother, and then when I was doing final revisions, the death of my husband. So I guess now that I look at it, it was all very very hard.
Writing this right now I’m pulled back to that hard time. But I’ve come up for air and the sun is shining and the world goes on. I think the most joyful moment of writing the book was also the very hardest if that doesn’t sound totally contradictory. I wrote an “afterward” while my husband was dying of cancer. He was on the couch in the living room and I was on a little cramped table in the dining room. My office was downstairs and that seemed too far away from him. This “afterward” became a love poem in prose to him, and to this day I do not know how I managed to write it. It came forth all of a piece, almost unbeckoned. I am most proud of that little page at the end of the book, which came at such cost.
Ann Putnam holds a PhD in literature from the University of Washington. She teaches creative writing and gender studies at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. She has published short fiction, personal essays, literary criticism and book reviews in various anthologies including Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice, and in journals, including the Hemingway Review, Western American Literature, and the South Dakota Review. Her latest work is a memoir, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye. Information about her book and how to order it can be found on her website: www.annputnam.com, which includes reviews and radio interviews and bio. Her book can be ordered at any bookstore, through Amazon, and directly from the distributor at www.tamupress.com or by phone: 1-800-826-8911. She has a Facebook page also, as well as a website through her University: www.ups.edu/faculty/aputnam.html.