Julie Freed - Surviving a Hurricane and Divorce
In one week, Dr. Julie Freed lost her house to Hurricane Katrina and her spouse to deceit and divorce. With her daughter barely a year old, Freed had to fend for herself and deal with the devastation of it all. Naked is her survival story and as our author of the day, Freed gives us some insights in what it took to write this award-winning memoir.
Please give us a short introduction to NAKED: Stripped by a Man and Hurricane Katrina
One woman, one storm – An incredible true tale of motherhood and survival emerge from the rubble. Dr. Julie Freed loses her Mississippi coastal house and possessions, and must protect her one year old daughter Genoa from Hurricane Katrina’s wrath and aftermath.
Tell us a bit about the cover and title for this book - how did that come about?
NAKED – Being authentic, being vulnerable, being alive. Both the title and cover image capture being naked in several ways. My body’s naked outline is merged with a photo of my house and yard after Hurricane Katrina. My body represents the raw candor of the text that I hope takes the reader with me on my journey. It also symbolizes the nakedness many felt as our surroundings and homes were stripped bare and destroyed. And naked also embodies the freedom from material possessions and a dying marriage I experienced. Color inside the figure expresses the light and love I found within, despite all that disintegrated around me.
What inspired you to write a memoir?
Initially, I wrote to get the memories out of my head. Replaying conversations – “I should have said…” “I can’t believe he …” The initial writing was a great purging. I had hoped it would be healing, allowing me to live more in the moment without distractions from my immediate past. My daughter needed my attention and I wanted to be able to give that to her fully.
When I completed a first draft, I was actually surprised at the product – it was almost a little poetic. I found myself enjoying the writing process beyond the mental health exercise intended.
I had never before viewed my writing as “creative.” I always wrote in a technical, factual, organized, concise style for an academic audience only. I’ve always loved reading memoirs but I’d not intended to write for a public audience. However, what appeared late nights at the keyboard with wine or tea in hand – needed to be shared.
The feedback on my manuscript from family and friends was shocking. Some were authors, college and university English professors, others just heavy readers. Bottom line, I respected their opinions and encouragement. I decided to dedicate some time to the manuscript between life, job, single motherhood, and prepare the work for publication.
Did you ever have any reservations about sharing the intimate details of your life with the world?
YES! And that is part of the title’s metaphor. My story is quite intimate and personal. Even close friends said, “There were times when I felt I shouldn’t be reading it, but I couldn’t stop!” Divorce brings with it such a feeling of exposure. It is a public failure and I felt like I was wearing the letter “D” on my chest. But when reader after reader thanks me for writing my story - because it validated their feelings or helped them with issues in their relationships – I don’t feel naked, I feel embraced.
When writing such a personal story how do you decide what to share and what to omit?
Such a great question – When writing I always suggest writers tell it all at first. Messages and patterns will appear as thoughts and scenes become organized. Later, when editing and perhaps restructuring those hard decisions can be tackled. But the question to ask always is, “What will the reader gain from this excerpt?” A writer’s vulnerability becomes a gift to the reader. But deciding how far to go is an individual choice based on a multitude of factors.
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I hope readers gain hope and strength from my story. I felt such shame in my divorce, my husband's addictions - I want other women to read and know they are not alone and also know there is life and love after divorce. My marriage and home both disintegrated in one week. It was an incredible time in my life, both pivotal and clarifying. It gave me strength and vision I never had. From the darkest of times, we can and do grow stronger. There is a well of strength deep inside each of us waiting to be tapped. My daughter Genoa and I survived, others can too.
What has the reaction from readers been like after you have shared your experience with them through the memoir?
I certainly never dreamed of holding an award winning memoir I had written. It was a thrill to see my love, my heart, my tears, all assembled with the hope that others might enjoy and learn from my journey. It was incredible to first see my book on a shelf at the gorgeous Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee. NAKED was a staff pick and still sits next to the work of Ann Patchett and Jesmyn Ward.
As a young memoirist – still so close to my experiences – the most tender moments have come from readers. People write to connect through my story. They have been moved in some way through my words, my struggles. To touch strangers, in deep and sometimes soulful ways, was completely unexpected and indescribable. It’s been the ultimate gift - and brings me such hope in humanity. I’ve been able to connect with so many I will never meet. We are never alone! And I want everyone to feel that way.
Where can our readers find more of your work or interact with you?
I absolutely love to get notes from readers! So many share their stories, have questions about my life now and my family. Please write an email or sign up for my updates and news at my webpage. There are more photos, quotes, and fun tidbits there along with a book trailer.