What inspired you to write your memoir?
The manuscript for WATB evolved over a period of many years. First, I wrote only as a means of emotional release and in an effort to make sense of a confusing situation. I had no expectation of ever seeing the result in print! However, something happened as I continued to work with this, the most important story in my life, and to organize the ideas underlying what happened. I began seeing it as not only a story about helping a disabled child but about fighting an uphill battle without much guidance, about going to the limits of what you know how to do and then trying to do more, and about how to live with the outcome.
About your Book:
Nobody knew what hurt little Joseph, and no one was offering a way to help him. He cried most of the time, and thrashed about as if in pain. He wasn’t learning how to crawl, talk, or interact normally. Doctors told his parents to seek counseling, because nothing could help their son, and the quality of their own lives was at risk. Refusal to accept that advice changed their lives forever. WHAT ABOUT THE BOY? A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son chronicles a family’s rejection of hopelessness and their commitment to the pursuit of normal life–for themselves and their child.
How did you decide how to publish your book and where is it published through:
After burnishing the story off and on for a long period of time, I joined critique groups with other writers and began getting their feedback in terms of how to make it more accessible, so it would be meaningful to readers who don’t necessarily have similar experiences. In 2008, I entered the manuscript in a book awards competition, and to my astonishment it won. That’s the point at which I began seriously considering publication. Then, as the other writers I’d worked with began bringing out their own books, I decided it was time to do likewise.
The economy was bad and the publishing industry was in flux. Because I was an unknown, publishers were not willing to take a chance with me. However, I believed WATB to be an important work and so my response was to form my own publishing entity, Lestrygonian Books, line up professional guidance in order to do the job right, and then proceed on my own.
How do you see writing a Memoir as different from writing other genres of books?
Memoir writers are relativists, that is, interested in relational truth–issues between the self and another person (questions like “why is it that when growing up I had so much difficulty with my mother?”), or even between the self and the self (“did I become the person I wanted to be, or did I become somebody else?”). There are also issues of the self’s interaction with experiences, ideas, and beliefs. The kind of memoirs we see these days are a fairly new development. I think previously someone who wanted to write like this would disguise it as a novel.
There’s a struggle between the novel and the memoir, between what is remembered and what is imagined. The basic rule is that whereas a writer may base a novel on personal experiences, he’s free to make changes in what happened, where it happened, who was there, etc. But in a memoir there’s a kind of implied trust that you are telling the truth. Also, there’s more explication. You still use a lot of narrative devices from fiction. It’s still important to show and not tell. But I think it’s also more or less expected to step in, for example, to contrast the viewpoint of the older self writing the book with that of the youger self who’s a character in the story.
Since 1977, Stephen Gallup has worked as a technical writer in the aerospace and wireless telecommunications industries, with projects ranging from proposals for satellite launches and feasibility studies of space missions, to user guides for trendy new cell phones. In the early years, he wrote occasional short fiction on the side, and features for newspapers.
His life changed dramatically with the birth of his son Joseph in 1985. Upon learning that there was a problem, he applied his energies to a pursuit of answers that he felt certain must exist. After a year of consulting with physicians to no effect, he located other resources. For the next four years, he and his wife Judy implemented an intensive two-pronged treatment campaign that resulted in dramatic improvements in Joseph’s condition.
His memoir What About the Boy? shows what the family did, and what happened next. The book has twice won “Best Memoir” in the San Diego Book Awards competitions, once in the Unpublished category (2007) and again following publication in 2011.