We took a moment to chat with Felicity Chapman, author and sometime MAA client. We first had the chance to work with Felicity when she won the Kingdom of Ironfest Author in Residence Contest, of which we were a sponsor. Her book, Counselling and Psychotherapy with Older People in Care: A Support Guide, is a non-fiction exploration of how society can tackle the issue of ageism and how psychotherapy can be offered to advanced seniors in a ‘user friendly’ way. Felicity says that her book is for our parents, our grandparents and for our future selves.
We wanted to know a little more about her, and how she came to write this book… and she kindly agreed to spend some time with us.
Counselling and Psychotherapy with
Older People in Care: A Support Guide (CPOPC)…
Can you provide a short synopsis of CPOPC?
It is a text book with a twist – actually quite a few! It offers a practice-based clinical social work perspective on psychotherapeutic work with seniors – minus the dull and boring.
It uses a conversational tone to make it easily consumable. The case studies read like mini novels so the reader sees, hears, and feels all that is happening. They are also written in second person, allowing the reader to imagine that they are the therapist to help give them a sense of ‘can do!’ The aged care sector is in serious need of people feeling excited and equipped in this work, which is why it was very important to me how this book was written. It needed to be engaging and emotional in a warm-hearted way.
It offers a sociological analysis, which dismantles some traditional ways of working in the field of gerontology. It also advocates for a psychological model that is more generationally sensitive for the current 85-year-old and above age group. So it’s not just for psychologists or mental health buffs. It’s also for those people who like ‘bigger picture’ thinking and who like challenging the status quo – especially in relation to social justice issues.
It not only guides the clinician or aged care professional in their work but also considers how they can take care of themselves. These care strategies are mostly about how clinicians can view themselves and their work differently to protect against burnout or disillusionment. My favourite section here is protecting against the ‘Mickey Mouse mindset’ which is when practitioners are tempted to devalue their work because it relates to aged care, or because they experience others not taking them and/or their work seriously. This is one effect of ageism. And when it relates to practitioners or older adults themselves feeling unworthy its called ‘internalised ageism’.
What motivated you to write CPOPC?
Each time I am asked this I delight in answering it because it has me ‘falling in love’ all over again. Two events kick started me into writing this book.
The first was a resident’s smile. I had just completed twenty sessions with this 93-year-old woman, who chose not to take anti-depressants. As I was saying goodbye, her smile illuminated the room. It meant more to me than any positive psychometric result. I knew then that her sunset years would be a whole lot better, and I wanted more clinicians to feel confident about how to approach this age group without giving up – or being thrown out (because psychotherapy for this age group is as familiar to them as a Martian is to an earthling!).
Soon after this event I was scheduled to do an inaugural lecture for students of the Graduate Program of Counselling and Psychotherapy at the University of Adelaide entitled ‘Counselling Seniors’. Trying to stuff years’ of thinking and practice into just one lecture was a challenge! Afterwards I think my brain hurt as much as theirs, but I was excited. I had more information in me than was relevant for them, but I knew it would be relevant for experienced practitioners who were thinking of turning their hand to a senior population. I wrote the first draft of my book in just one month after that lecture. I wrote like a mad thing – in between the usual stuff – and was completely spent, but very happy. A book was in the making and passion now had a purpose.
How did CPOPC develop, both in your initial thoughts and in the revision/editing process?
After that initial burst of energy it was stop/start and took a couple of years to develop and refine. I have at least twenty drafts, which were worked and reworked. I actually quite like this process when it feels like I am making headway. That first draft gave me a rough plan to work with.
I plan and I don’t plan. Most times I think deeply about something and then – especially if I have blocked time out for my project – get caught up in a whirlwind of energy capturing those thoughts.
In this ‘energy stage’ a structure or plan can develop in a concrete way like sub headings or the beginning and end of a piece but mostly it is a sense of what I need to convey and my fingers just do my mind’s bidding.
What happened in writing/editing process that you didn’t expect?
I did not expect how long and arduous the process after writing the book would be aka once the publisher had it ‘in house’.
Geez, I thought I was a perfectionist. I’ve got nothing
compared to the microscopic eye of an editor!
Every single ‘t’ must be crossed and ‘i’ dotted. Because I had written a text book I had to be certain about every single reference and seek permission (and/or pay for them) from people whose work I really wanted to include. It was a bit of a shock for me, and a little paiiiinful! I’m not very good with tedious tasks.
What part of the process did you most enjoy?
Seeing it all come together. That sounds really clichéd but, truly, it was how it almost miraculously got knitted together. During the final edit phase I had a bunch of specialist reviewers read either the whole book or sections of it. It was great getting their feedback but what was better was how their comments enabled me turn the text in such a way – add to it and reshape it – that was like finally finding those last few pieces of the jigsaw and putting them in place. Every word was in its rightful place and every conceptual thread was sewn in a way that did justice to the whole picture. In all honesty though I’ve probably appreciated this more recently because at the time of finishing I was just so exhausted. But I do remember having a sense of ‘Yes!’ at the time too.
Do you have a favourite time and place to write?
When I’m in full swing ‘writing mode’ it is not uncommon for me to get up around 4am and enjoy the tranquillity with no ‘mother guilt’ poking at me because I’m being a little neglectful or self-absorbed. My mind is most fresh early in the morning. I would not for one minute want you to think that I’m one of those disciplined types who regularly rises early but when I have a project on the go, or immersed in a meditation retreat, I do find the dawn experience very refreshing.
Nature is where I like to work and where I think best. To answer the question about my favourite place to write I first need to explain that the most crucial and enjoyable part of the writing process for me is day-dreaming and thinking. If I’m in ‘full bore’ mode getting words onto the page it doesn’t matter where I write. My poky study can suffice. But if I need time to reflect then I prefer to be able to look out at nature. Writing in the kitchen allows me to stay more connected to my family even if I am not able to gaze at nature. My second best place to think and write ‘with a view’ is in our lounge room.
You worked with The MAA in the development of a different manuscript, how do you feel that process helped shape that work? Would you suggest a service such as this for other authors?
Okay, if you are reading these lines you might have some idea of how the MAA has helped you and you can probably relate to my answer here. I swear Kit did not put me up for this – she was amazing!! When I received The MAA report on the manuscript for my novel I was gobsmacked. It was so thorough and generous in the explanations of what worked and why or why not. The last and only other time I have been coached with my writing was by my honours thesis supervisor a million years ago.
But this feedback was on a whole other level. Not only were the critical comments highly constructive, but the personal reactions were also extremely helpful. I wanted razor sharp feedback from an objective professional, but I also wanted those visceral reflections that you can’t easily justify in a quantifiable way. Hearing when and how she felt transported was not only instructive from a technical point of view but it also injected confidence in me that someone ‘who knows good stuff’ can feel like that.
Writing my novel (Connected) and CPOPC has been like rearing twins. Technically I started and finished the novel before my psychotherapy book but really they have both breathed into each other in very important ways. While I’d already found a publisher for CPOPC by the time I received feedback from Kit, the appraisal comments emboldened me for it as well as for Connected. I can’t wait to be able to find a decent slab of time to rework my novel according to the recommendations. It really was a boost to hear that it is worth taking to a publisher. But even if I had to deal with a mountain of ‘improvement’ comments and the climb for that piece seemed too insurmountable I know that her comments would have still been invaluable for my writing overall – no matter what I might be working on.
I would strongly recommend the MAA to anyone writing a fiction or non-fiction piece. Kit’s professionalism and her personal touch is second-to-none!!
KIT: Thank you, Felicity!! This means so much to me. We aim to provide value to our clients and so it is wonderful to know that we’ve hit the mark 🙂
What are the reasons you decided to publish?
Trying to find a publisher for CPOPC was a bit of a ‘no brainer’. A publisher can offer credibility (if not much profit) and this was likely to yield a positive compounding effect for my career as a clinician, educator and presenter. Already I think this is the case.
How did you find a publishing place – did you seek an agent, or go directly to a publisher? Or did they find you?
FELICITY: Do publishers really ‘fall out of the sky’ and find you?
KIT: Good question! Sometimes they will find an author through their self-publishing exploits or in other random ways (like via social media, or through your professional experiences etc). But, generally speaking, authors tend to be the ones to seek out publishers’ attentions!
FELICITY: I’m afraid I wasn’t that lucky. It was a hard, hard slog trying to find a publisher. It got me practicing what I preach though. It challenged me to embrace the hard stuff with compassion and to not look at pitfalls as the end of the world. I actually got to the point where I would be elated at a rejection. If there was just silence from a publisher then that was a bad rejection, but when a publisher took the time to write back and with much positivity it was a good rejection, and actually felt really good!
Deep down I knew I needed to believe in myself, my cause, and the stories of the older people who I represented. And I knew ageism was working against me. “There just has to be a way,” I would tell myself. It’s hard to know when this gets to the point of being delusional but my entrance into university gave me faith when I had that sense that this will all work itself out. When I tried getting into university as a mature aged student in my twenties it took me three years – three sittings of the entrance exam – until I got accepted. Then I went on to get a first class honours so I guess that steely persistence held me in good stead for finding a publisher. In the end the editor at Allen and Unwin referred me to Jessica Kingsley Publishers in the UK. I hadn’t heard of them but they were the perfect fit. I am so thankful of that editor for recommending them to me.
KIT: I understand what you are saying about rejections, silence is the worst.
A rejection that provides you perspective on the ‘whys’ of their decision is so encouraging and productive. And that’s wonderful about the editor at Allen and Unwin, what a champ!
OTHER BOOKISH STUFF…
Do you usually read ebooks or traditional format?
Where do you mostly buy your books from?
In the last few years I have ‘gone to the dark side’ and bought ebooks for my kindle. The kindle is so versatile and I love stealing time away to read in the car at the beach so the convenience of this is very attractive. That said, the feel and the smell of a ‘real book’ is irresistible. You just can’t beat it. For any book that I really want to own I will always get the traditional format. Amazon is my ‘go to’ place for buying books. It’ll be a big shame if it means the death of the ‘bookshop’, although I am as guilty as the next person for wanting convenience and a good price.
So, now to the important stuff: where can we buy your book?
Amazon Australia 🙂 I have three reviews already from Amazon America but I would welcome some local Australian ones!!
Thanks Kit for this opportunity!!!