Can you tell us about your new book How Was The Party?: A Year Living With Alzheimer’s?
This is a book about my mother. And me. About our experiences dealing with her Alzheimer’s. It spans just over a year.
What made you want to share this story?
I started writing as a way through the process. Of navigating what was happening. It started off as a blog.
Then it just grew. People started having an active interest in it. The writing. The experience. I kept going.
I didn’t know it was going to be a book when I started. I was just writing as a way to get through.
Can I ask, how has the change of roles with you taking care of your mother and her affairs affected you and do you think it’s changed you?
Taking care of Mum is gruelling. It’s a constant worry. I don’t know how it’s changed me. That’s hard to calculate. More tangibly, it’s changed US.
The way we communicate. We’re closer. More intimate. Mum was very hard to know. Hard to get close to.
She was an exacting mother. We’re more intimate now.
And we’re more affectionate. Physical.
I have enjoyed this part of the experience.
We’ve just registered the Power of Attorney. So I have taken over a greater role now. More responsibilities.
With your success writing plays for theatre and BBC Radio, and the brilliant reception this book has had becoming a Kindle bestseller, have you any plans for How Was The Party? the play?
No. I don’t think of it as a play. It’s written in the form it should be. I think of it more as scenes from a life. Snippets maybe.
I am currently working on How Was The Party? 2.
The experience keeps on unfolding. We’re approaching all the difficult stuff.
Mum not eating, Mum not swallowing, Mum not recognising us.
Has sharing this part of your life in a book led you to consider publishing other works on your personal experiences?
I have written some articles for OpenDemocracy.Net. About being a mother – to my mother and also a mother to my son. I’ve also written about working inside prisons. But for the moment, How Was The Party? is all-consuming. Generally, I have written imagined stories, invented worlds. I’m not used to writing autobiography. It’s been an intense few years.
My father passed 2 years ago. Then Mum went downhill. I’ve just been trying to document it.
My family has experienced a lot of pain. Mental Health issues. I cover these in the book.
Not a message as such. I’ve just shared my experiences. Things that have happened to me. Everybody’s take is different. I am on a few forums and websites for people with Alzheimer’s.
Carers share their experiences. It’s amazing to see the parities and the differences. The universality of the experience. I’m aware Mum is only going to get worse.
As far as I can gather, she has stopped writing, stopped walking.
I haven’t been able to visit her for awhile.
Her reality is quite removed. When I speak to her on the phone, she is different now.
More absent. But more loving also.
She says: “Help yourself to supper when you come in.”
As if I’m coming home.
But as much as it is tender, it is also scary.
As someone described the other day, Alzheimer’s is not all “Butterflies and Roses”.
Readers write to me weekly, about how HWTP? has informed them, helped them, some people find it uplifting also.
“Positive.” has been said more than twice.
I didn’t know it had this quality.
I didn’t know it would sell so well. Or be so well-received. It’s amazing.
What are your plans for the future?
With Lambert and Bridgeman, we’re pitching to get another commission with Radio 4. We’ve had 2 original dramas aired already.
We’re going for our 3rd.
And I’m working on, How Was The Party? 2.
Where can people buy the book?
Where can you be found online?
Laura Bridgeman is a writer, editor and lecturer. She runs hotpencil press with Serge Nicholson. Recent Credits include: The Butch Monologues (In collaboration with Vital Xposure and The Drakes), The (Trans) Mangina Monologues (Hotpencil Press). Caterpillars, Dogfood Diary co-written with Charles Lambert (BBC Radio 4). She teaches Creative Writing at Kingston and Imperial Universities and in 5 UK prisons.