**Giveaway is now closed**
Jennifer Gardner Trulson has strong memories of the events of September 11, 2001. That is because her husband's life was one of the many lost on that day. She later decided to put her thoughts down on paper and a book came out of it. Ten years after the event that changed America, "Where You Left Me" tells a personal account of that day and all the time that followed afterward. Even though she has remarried since then, her late husband remains in her heart and is now immortalized on the pages of her book.
Thanks to Emily Gambir of Engleman and Co., one reader from the US has a chance to win Jennifer's memoir.
If you'd like to learn more about Jennifer and her book, visit her on Facebook.
MP: What is your usual writing routine?
JT: To write this memoir, I forced myself to follow a strict routine to ensure I’d stay focused and complete a manuscript on a very tight deadline. To that end, I dedicated three days in a row each week to writing as much new material as I could. On the other three days, I edited my work and outlined new sections (I took Sundays off). To avoid distractions, I’d sit at the computer by 7am on the writing days and type continuously until I was faint from hunger and dehydration. I’m not sure I’d recommend this method, but it’s basically how I studied for the bar exam twenty years ago, and it seemed to work then.
MP: How do you like to spend your time when you are not writing?
JT: I am a voracious information junkie and will read everything from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to Perez Hilton and Bravo’s blog sites. When I’m not reading about the U.S. deficit crisis or the latest Real Housewife scandal, I’m usually on the sidelines watching my daughter play soccer or my son play basketball. Other than that, I try to go to the theater once in a while, read books on Kindle, and try new restaurants in Manhattan with my husband and friends.
MP: "Where You Left Me" is a very personal and emotional book about losing your husband on 9/11. What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing it?
JT: Other than revisiting in detail some of the most horrific moments of my family’s life, my biggest challenge was talking openly about my husband’s murder and the aftermath. Because 9/11 was so massive, I’ve always worried that Doug would be reduced to a statistic, the magnitude of his loss diluted by the sheer number of deaths, memorial services and news stories. Accordingly, I tried to keep our personal agony private and did not participate in many public tributes. Though nothing dulls the loss – I miss Doug as much today as I did at ten days or ten months, I’m finally at a place where I’m more willing and able to share my experiences.
MP: What was the journey to publishing like for you?
JT: I never intended to write a book. After the 9/11 attacks, I panicked that my children would never understand who their father was or the devastating impact of his loss. I feared that time would blunt memories and Doug would fade into an abstraction. I wanted my kids to have real-time, detailed recollections of their father. To keep his memory as vivid as possible, I stored notes, journals and emails in a box that I hoped would become my children’s private archive which they could mine for information when they were old enough to ask.
A few years ago, an author friend looked at my jumbled collection and cajoled me into writing an organized narrative so the kids would have a real history of their father’s life and the aftermath of his loss. When I started to write, I found I couldn’t stop. One story turned into two and suddenly I’d written fifty pages. My friend insisted on forwarding a few passages to her literary agent, and before I knew it, Gallery Books decided to take a chance on me. I admit, with the ten year anniversary of 9/11 less than two years away, the timing was right for a memoir of this kind. I was fortunate to find a publisher who believed my story was worth telling.
MA: You founded the Douglas B. Gardner Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk children in New York. What has been the most meaningful experience that you have witnessed for one of these children?
JT: The foundation exists to support high quality after school programs for at-risk children. We use small dollars to make the biggest impact. Over the years the DBG Foundation has created an instructional swim program now in its third year, sponsored several AAU boys and girls’ middle school basketball teams through which kids are mentored and tutored as well as coached, and funded arts and leadership development programs.
I think our most meaningful project was one my son, Michael, established with me for the kids at the Ideal School in Manhattan in 2008. Ideal is an independent, non-profit elementary school that advances educational diversity by welcoming into its classrooms all children, including those with special needs like Down syndrome, autism and learning disabilities. Fifty percent of the families receive financial aid, and the average award is 90% of tuition.
Michael helped create an after-school basketball program at the school. We hired the coach, purchased all of the equipment and provided full scholarships to qualified families. Every Friday after school for over a year, Michael assisted the coach in teaching skills and working individually with the students. The kids responded enthusiastically to our program’s fun, supportive and non-competitive environment. It has grown from a one ten-week experiment to a three season after-school program. Michael is currently helping me develop criteria for scholarships and training requirements for volunteers. We hope to grow the program to include other sports and possibly a summer day camp.
MA: What song currently describes or relates to your life?
JT: "Empire State of Mind," by Jay Z, is the song of the day for me. With the ten year anniversary of 9/11 looming and my emotions starting to churn as they always do at this time of year, this song reminds me why New York is always going to be home. Whenever I hear the chorus, I feel Doug. He reveled in showing me, a recent Massachusetts transplant at the time, the beauty, grit and romance of his city. The song elicits tears on occasion, but it also makes me want to push through the ache and keep moving forward.
MP: What is your favorite thing about living in New York?
JT: There is something nearly symphonic about the pace and hum of this city and the spirit of its citizens that cannot be replicated elsewhere. I love that I can find a tranquil oasis in Central Park and, within minutes, get lost in a crowd in Times Square. I love that I personally know almost every vendor and doorman in my neighborhood, but if I travel twenty blocks, I’m a virtual tourist. I mostly love, however, the diversity of the people one sees every day. Living here makes all of us New Yorkers, regardless of where we were born or raised.
MA: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
JT: In five years my husband and I will be on the verge of becoming empty nesters. Our son will be a freshman in college and our daughter a junior in high school! I’m shaking my head just thinking about that. As a practical matter, I sincerely hope that our kids will be able to schlep themselves to their daily sports practices and activities and give their aging parents a break. On a more serious note, I think in five years my husband and I will start to make plans for our next chapter when both kids are away at college. Travel will be a priority, but I also see myself continuing to write (though I hope my next projects will center on more cheery subjects).
MA: Whom do you admire most?
JT: I know it sounds like a cop-out, but I admire my children, Michael and Julia. Their ability to remain optimistic and retain their childhood innocence despite the horrific loss of their father continues to astonish me. They pulled me out of the pit by showing me their strength when all I felt was weakness. The 9/11 attacks shattered our foundation and shook us to our core, but over the past ten years, my children have exemplified for me what life is all about - live happily and love fully.
MA: What is the one piece of advice that you could offer someone else who lost a spouse?
JT: If the loss is fresh, I probably wouldn’t offer much advice at all. I would most likely wrap her in a warm hug and offer her a sympathetic ear. In the early stages, a devastated widow needs a patient and kind listener. I might also encourage her friends and family to keep in close contact for an extended period. Grieving isn’t a linear process – one can have a good day followed by three awful ones. A widowed spouse doesn’t get better in a few weeks or months. It’s a marathon – enervating, painful and lonely. The friends who call regularly and stay by her side months, even years down the road are true lifesavers.
Just tell us if the events of September 11, 2001 have had any impact on your life, views, way you relate to people, etc. Or share where you were when you first heard about what was happening that day.
Please include your e-mail address or another way to contact you.
US only. Giveaway ends September 11th at midnight EST.