A nice endorsement for me and my memoir from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE.
Big thanks to the folks of North Platte, Nebraska for inviting me to speak at their Town Hall Lecture Series. Past speakers have included some very big names including my inspiration, the lovely Jeannette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE.
My sister-in-law drove all the way from Missouri to meet up and brought my nieces along for the trip. It was great learning how to loom rubber band bracelets, teaching them how to make things with Bucky Balls, touring Buffalo Bill’s ranch and, generally, just seeing their pretty faces. The girls were mostly happy about my hotel pool and seeing their cousins while I’m pretty stoked about my bull horn turned beer bong necklace.
BUT…the reason I was in town was to give a speech about my life turned memoir and what BURN DOWN THE GROUND means in the literal and figurative sense. There were about 400 people in the lovely Neville Center, including students from the special high school for “troubled” kids. I had no idea they were going to be there but was overjoyed when I found out they were. I hope my story and message about choices and reinvention resonated with at least ONE of them.
Huge thanks to Keppler Speakers and the amazing ladies of North Platte. Who knows if our paths will ever cross again but I will carry the experience with me forever and always.
I’m at the Rock House and had a Skype call with a book club in Minnesota comprised of deaf women and mental health professionals working in the Deaf community. The whole thing took place in ASL.
Man, I love technology and so wish this convenience had been around for my parents and grandparents. How wonderful to simply click a button on my laptop and be visually connected with no need for a special service or interpreter.
We had a nice chat about my book, family, the Deaf community, and mental health issues before signing off so I could make a trip to the dump and walk with Griswold around the lake.
While they’re busy reading books to help them in their important (thankless?) careers as therapists and DV counselors, I’m busy reading, too. I read THE BEDWETTER by Sarah Silverman (enjoyed it) and just finished Tina Fey‘s BOSSYPANTS (really enjoyed it). Tonight I’m starting Sara Barron‘s latest book THE HARM IN ASKING then it’s GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR by Rachel Dratch.
I’m highbrow, what can I say?
My super talented, sweet, funny and dynamo friend and fellow memoirist Sara Benincasa is now a YA author with the publication of GREAT, a contemporary retelling of THE GREAT GATSBY. I was so excited not only to see her back in NYC but to introduce my protege Jeaniah to Sara and a few other friends at the book launch party. Sara read from her novel then signed books as the crowd chit-chatted and ate cake that was designed to look like her book. Clever and yummy and a lovely night.
My friends are all comedians, actors, writers and artists so they’re not stiff grown ups and immediately treated Jeaniah like a long lost friend. Here’s the conversation we had as we walked away from the party:
Me: My friends are fun, right?
J: Yeah and funny! I like being part of the conversation.
Me: Yeah, nothing beats a good conversation with friends.
J: I like how the conversation keeps going…like, I make a comment and then they make one and that makes you think of one and then I comment and it goes on and on.
Thanks to my awesome friends for having a lot to say & being so funny and charming while they do it. She really enjoyed meeting you all & we got some good advice about the upcoming state math tests.
And, of course, huge congratulations and continued success to Sara who has more books & TV show pilots coming down the pike than I can shake a stick at.
Don’t ya just love when the Universe sends a clear message? I’ve been pretty lazy about a few projects and haven’t been able (wanted?) to focus on them even though they get me excited simply talking about them. These horses have got legs, some of them are even saddled up, I’m just not hopping on and taking the reins for whatever reason(s).
Then I got an email from a reader asking me if it was okay for her to use a line from my memoir as a tattoo (see pic). I’ve shared part of that email below with her permission:
I wrote to you about a year ago after I read your book for the second time. I had told you about a passage in your book that struck me.
“Events in my life just seemed to happen to me. Now, however, I wanted to make life happen.”
You responded telling me about how you made lists and started making things work for you, having the universe respond. And again…it struck me.
I have that passage written down and look at it daily. It’s on the wall at work. It’s a note in my phone. I even have it written on a post it note I keep in my wallet just in case I need that reminder. I have held that phrase, that power, with me since I first read it.
In any sense, I appreciate your words and your kindness and I genuinely appreciate you for helping me to change my life.
How nice, right? I replied to her that, of course, she could use the line. Her email came at the perfect time to remind me that I have to hop on the saddle and take the reins.
She inspired me to live by my own words:
Make life happen.
I’ve had the book Far From the Tree on my wish list since it was published late last year. His inclusion of deafness and Deaf culture sparked my interest. In his book, “Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.
Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.”
He spent a decade on this project and that intensive research is reflected in the book’s length, a whopping 976 pages. That’s partly why I haven’t read it yet, as I have a full Kindle & bookshelf. But after watching Mr. Solomon’s incredible Ted Talk, Far From the Tree is now next on my reading list. Watch his speech here:
I’ve had a whirlwind tour for my book Burn Down the Ground. My last out-of-state event in Cleveland for the regional conference of the National Black Deaf Advocates was amazing, but I’m happy to take all of August off to recharge. Dates booked for this fall are below and details are on my calendar. If you want me at your event or store –especially if it coordinates with dates already booked below– email me at kambricrews@Gmail.com
17 – NYC for Bare! at the PIT
19 – NYC for That’s What She Said at Public Assembly
26 – NYC for the How I Learned series at Happy Ending Lounge
13 – Portland, OR – Wordstock Book Festival
13 – Cannon Beach, OR – Cannon Beach Library
18 – Winstead, CT – North Connecticut Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
20 – Cincinnati, OH – Books by the Bank Book Festival
23 – Lansing, MI – Schuler Books
24 & 25 – Grand Rapids, MI – Grand Rapids Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
27 – Texas Book Festival (Free & ASL interpreted)
29 – Montgomery, TX – Montgomery Middle School
30 – Conroe, TX – Hauke Alternative School
1 – Austin, TX – Book Woman book store (Free & ASL interpreted)
7 – Washington, DC – Bare! at Black Fox Lounge
10 – Madison, WI – Wisconsin Book Festival
14 – New York, NY – Administration for Children’s Services
17 – 20 – Jefferson, TX – Girlfriend Weekend – Pulpwood Queens Book Club
Happy birthday to my book!
Happy birthday to my book!
Happy birthday dear Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir!
Happy birthday to my book!
After a long gestation process, I’m happy to announce the birth of my book Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir. The reviews are in and they’re raves!
“Poignant and unsettling.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Crews’ story has heartbreaking depth and complexity...this is a rich read.” —Library Journal
“A compelling testament to the strength of the human spirit.”—Booklist
“Harrowing . . . A remarkable odyssey of scorched earth, collateral damage, and survival.” —Publishers Weekly
“Crews’ account (the title refers to lighting brush on fire to clear out snakes) is as well-paced and stirring as a novel. In her fluid narrative (she’s also a storyteller on the side, a gig that helped her develop this book), Crews neither wallows in self-pity nor plays for cheap black-comedic yuks. Instead, this book stands out for what matters most: Crews’ story, bluntly told.” —Elle magazine
ABOUT THE BOOK
For fans of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, an unflinching, emotional memoir by the hearing daughter of two deaf parents, about the rampant dysfunction of her rural Texas childhood and the searing violence that left her father serving a twenty-year prison sentence.
Successful New York producer and publicist Kambri Crews always knew that her childhood was unusual– she spent much of it in a tin shack deep with her family in the woods of Texas. But when, in her early 30s, her charismatic and adored father is sentenced to twenty years in prison for stabbing and nearly killing his girlfriend, she must confront for the first time his violent, destructive behavior. In her brutally honest, completely captivating memoir, Crews struggles to forge a relationship with her incarcerated father and revisits her unconventional family and the long road she took to her current life
Y’all. Mom found my Penthouse magazine while searching my office for paper!
I flew Mom up to New York City so she could attend my book launch party. Not just any book…my first book. A memoir, you know, about my whole life. And the publishing process took four years. Having a publication date is a monumental event –much like a wedding or a birth– and I couldn’t NOT have Mom here to celebrate. It’s her life, too. Plus, I had a fun idea for her and I to perform a little something at my party*. It would make the event even more special for her and my guests.
Mom arrived and we had a few days of tromping around New York City and rehearsing our surprise treat. I was also dragging her around Manhattan on not-so-fun errands in rainy weather with her achy knee and my split jeans. In the book, I divulged many things that Mom would probably prefer to keep in the closet with the other dusty skeletons. The time for her to accept that our laundry was about to be aired and for me to unleash my life to anonymous reviewers was drawing near.
To distract us and work on something that had zilch to do with book stuff, I suggested she and I work on our new Ancestry.com project. Her face said it all: “GREAT IDEA!”
She leapt up and said, “I’ll grab some paper.”
Quicker than a wink, she was at my office printer.
PRECISELY WHERE I’D HIDDEN MY PENTHOUSE! I thought that had been the perfect spot for it, but lo how wrong I was.
“Why did I have a Penthouse?” you ask.
For the articles, of course. Duh. Seriously! I swear! Well, one article in particular: a review for my book. It was a good review, too.
So, why hide it then? Well, I know my mom better than most people and I knew –could lay my life on it– that she would take offense to it. Not because of the vaginas, boobs, penises and balls, silly, but because of the very first line:
“Kambri Crews grew up dirt poor…”
Whether you agree or disagree with that sentence, makes no difference. Mom disagrees with it and vehemently so. It’s one of those things that really gets under her skin in a hot second. It’s a pride thing. The same way I fight tooth and nail over small injustices. Justice is my thing. Pride is hers. SO…anyway…
In the mere seconds it took her to fly off the couch into my office heading straight for the offending material, two choices flashed through my mind:
1) Let Mom think I had a girly magazine hidden in my office and was possibly a closeted lesbian; or
2) Show Mom the review and face the ensuing argument.
I can’t have Mom thinking I like looking at nekkid girls! EEEEEWWW! So, I swallowed my fear and said, “Oh, hey, my Penthouse…did you see the review?”
Instant relief swept across her face. I cringe and laugh out loud thinking of what must’ve gone through her mind in those brief moments.
As predicted, she was offended. We hashed it out: There are finite lines in a girly magazine; ya gotta have a strong lede. We were poor to some people and had it good compared to others…it depends on perspective. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
At the end of the day, I wrote a book. It got reviewed in a major magazine. It was lauded. Let’s celebrate! And, boy, did we ever! We raised our glasses and laughed and hugged and smiled till our faces hurt.
We’re done keeping secrets, she and I. If there’s anything writing a memoir taught me it is this: While it might hurt to bare the truth, secrets will make you sick. They will corrode your love and trust until all that’s left is a rusty heap of worthless scrap.
*Here’s the fun idea I had for my book party. Enjoy!
A colossally badday in NYC!
I was walking around in the rain, carrying two heavy bags filled paper sacks (in the rain!) that are meant for my book launch party. I was hangry, cold yet sweaty from wearing an overcoat while slogging through the sloppy streets, futilely trying to use an umbrella, but can’t go any faster because my mom is trailing behind me with her bum knee. I hang up a call that was frustrating PR news, and that’s when Mom calls from behind me:
“Kambri? I think your jeans are split.”
OF COURSE THEY ARE!
And now there’s a giant hole near my ass, the day can screw me a little easier now!
“If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere…”
So the song goes. People assume this line is true because of the cut-throat competition, the hordes of talent that live and work in this town. I think it’s much simpler than that. If you’re not wealthy, day-to-day life in NYC can be tough and unrelenting. It’s days just like today that make many a newbie throw up their hands and say, “I quit! You win New York! You win you filthy, filthy whore.”
If one can suck it up and stickit out, one can be rewarded with the best the City has to offer. Then after a few years, if one chooses to leave, the world is a much simpler place to navigate and dominate. A world in which you own a car and have a place to park it and a dishwasher and laundry facilities inside your very own home. Like the Jetsons! Can you imagine?
This city can be like an abusive boyfriend. Every now and then it beats you up, but then it loves you harder and better than before as if to say, “I’m sorry. Truly. Don’t leave me…see, look how amazing I can be?”
In my case, it was having my book published by Random House, throwing an amazing party with free (paper) gift bags filled with free goodies, free Lone Star Beer, bonafide celebrities blurbing my book and at my event to help celebrate. By the end of the night, I’d forgotten about the beating NYC had given me and decided to give it one more chance.