About the Book:
Aimee Ross was living a perfectly normal life raising three kids, married to her high school sweetheart, and teaching at her high school alma mater.
Life was perfect—right until it wasn’t.
Unhappy in her marriage, Aimee asked for a divorce. Three days later, she suffered a heart attack at age forty-one. Five months after that, she survived a devastating car crash caused by an intoxicated driver.
Her physical recovery took months and left her body marked by scars. The emotional recovery, though, would take longer, as Aimee sought to forgive the man who almost killed her—and to forgive herself for tearing apart her family.
Aimee Ross writes with candor, wit, and humor as she finds the power in her story and chronicles her transformation into the woman she was always meant to be.
About the Author:
Aimee Ross is a nationally award-winning educator who has been a high school English teacher for the past twenty-five years and an aspiring writer for as long as she can remember. She completed her MFA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing at Ashland University in 2014, but she also dabbles in fiction and poetry. Her writing has been published on http://www.lifein10minutes.com, http://www.SixHens.Com, and in Scars: An Anthology (Et Alia Press, 2015); Today I Made a Difference: A Collection of Inspirational Stories from America’s Top Educators (Adams Media, 2009); and Teaching Tolerance magazine.
Praise for ‘Permanent Marker’
“Aimee Ross possesses an indomitable spirit and fierce humor that breathes new life into every page.” — Jill Christman, author of Darkroom and Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for Motherhood
“Filled with brutal honesty, heartbreak and humor, Aimee Ross’ gut-wrenching story is an inspiring portrait of strength and resilience. Aimee, a truly gifted, creative, and award-winning high school teacher, discovers that it was her students who help her abandon her fears, renew her passion for teaching, and find the joy and meaning in her spared life…sharing a lesson that can help any one of us in our personal or professional life.” — Debra Hurst, 2016 National Teachers Hall of Fame Inductee
“A remarkable account of healing, courage, and finding the strength it takes to rewrite your life’s story.” — Tina Neidlein, humor writer and author of The Girl’s Guide and It’s a Mom Thing
“Aimee Ross sees the patterns of literature weaving through life. So when she is slammed with catastrophes that shatter her body and threaten her soul, she finds signposts to recovery through foreshadowing, symbols, and yes, irony—which makes hers not just a resurrection story, but one laced with laughs.” — Jan Shoemaker, author of Flesh and Stones: Field Notes From A Finite World.
What would you do and how would you react if your life changed completely in 6 months? 6 months in which award winning high school teacher Aimee Ross experienced more in her life than many people do in a lifetime. Her happiness is shattered by divorce. Then, shortly after, there’s her heart attack. Then, the car crash caused by a drunk driver. Aimee Ross talks openly and honestly about all these events in this, her thoroughly engrossing and poingnant memoir.
I was captivated by the title, and the cover is perfect for this book. As a person who spent more than their fair share of life in hospitals undergoing invasive and life-saving surgery, I could really identify with Aimee’s experience of hospitalisation as well as being left badly physically scarred for life and learning to live with a body that looked different to how it did before, and not through a choice of her own or purely aesthetic purposes
I identify with it all so much, trying to hide the scars and with the learning curve that is accepting the scars as part of one’s own body and then accepting others’ reactions to them. Aimee openly shares her story with us and it’s beautifully written with a pace that had me hooked. I was gripped by her resilience through the good and bad monents and by her positive, strong attitude.
I for one have always believed that our scars show our story, and “Permanent Marker” is a perfect metaphor illustrating this. They are permanent, but they show our personal journeys.
Thanks to Aimee Ross and KiCam Projects for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. It’s a pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for this truly unique title .
Five Minutes with…
What prompted you to write your memoir and share your very personal experiences with readers?
I had to understand what happened to me: Who had I been, and who did I become? I knew I was different. I knew something life-changing had happened to me, and I needed to understand how it had affected me so deeply. Sharing the experiences is education at its basic level—teaching and learning from each other. It’s so ingrained in me that I don’t know how not to share.
How did reliving your most painful experiences—a divorce, a heart attack, a near-fatal car crash—affect you? Did it feel therapeutic, or was it harder than you anticipated?
I’ve been working on this for more than six years, to tell the truth. When I first started writing, it was only about the accident. Before I knew it, the story of my divorce and heart attack was bubbling out of me without control. Within months, I realized that even though I’d chosen to get divorced, the heart attack and accident just happened to me; my first reaction was that karma was paying me back. Guilt made me wonder if I’d deserved all of what happened, and ultimately, that’s when I started asking the bigger questions of myself through writing that most definitely—as the book explains—became my therapy. I cried a lot and processed a lot. And thank goodness, because it worked.
Which writers and works inspired you to put your own story on paper? Who has influenced your writing style? Darin Strauss’s Half a Life and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love both inspired me. Strauss experienced a traumatic accident as well, and as a result, he dealt with his guilt through writing his memoir—I took strength from that. Early in Gilbert’s book, she briefly writes about the end of her marriage, and it has always stuck with me.
My younger sister is a humor writer, and she’s been influencing and guiding my writing for years, whether I was working on an essay, a lesson plan, a presentation, or an application. I’m also a huge fan of Abigail Thomas’s writing, which I studied during my MFA. She writes almost conversationally and experiments with voice and chronology (or lack of) brilliantly. Both Jill Christman’s (Darkroom) and Cheryl Strayed’s (Wild) writing also have influenced me, and not just their books—both women are prolific essay writers with unique, straightforward creative voices.
What makes a great memoir? What advice would you give to other aspiring memoirists?
A great memoir, no matter the writer’s experience, makes you feel as if you have been through it with her. Not only does the writer have a voice that’s relatable and realistic, her story has universal qualities that help you identify with it while making you feel something.
After hearing the same advice over and over again, from editors, writers, and publishers alike, I decided, “Hey, maybe, they all know something I don’t,” so here it is: Figure out the story you want to tell and why it needs to be told. Then get it all out in writing. After you do that, then you look for patterns and similarities and gaps, or ways you could experiment or change the structure.
What has been the most fulfilling part of the writing and publishing process for you?
It has been the challenge of the writing itself: telling my story the best way I can and finding just the right words to say what I want. That gives me a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.
What’s the primary takeaway you hope readers get from Permanent Marker?
Ultimately, I think we’re all asking the same questions of ourselves—Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? How do I get through this struggle?—and memoir is the perfect genre to find possible answers in others’ experiences to help us answer our own.
Huge thanks to Aimee Ross and Kidcamp publishers for permission to use this open letter from Aimee as an addition to the material in this post.
An Open Letter to the Young Man Who Almost Killed Me and My Daughters
I’m writing this letter to you because I feel like I have to, even though I don’t know you, and I never will. I can only know my version of you, an idea in my head, and to be honest, it’s not a good one.
I know you were the driver of the red Mini Cooper who ploughed recklessly into the side of my 2008 gray Saturn Aura, oblivious to the stop sign that warm July night.
I know you were only nineteen, and not one of my former students.
I know you died the next day in a room across from mine in the Trauma Center after doctors declared you “brain dead.” The impact of crunching, crushing metal had launched you through the sunroof of your father’s car and onto the road. After the accident, visitors told me rumors about you. They knew people you partied with. My two teenage daughters knew people you were friends with. They warned me of a Facebook memorial page.
I looked too soon.
You—the party boy with swag—were loved, and by many. They called you Zach. I wish that throwing bangers, getting baked, and blowing smoke at the camera didn’t consume those posted memories and fuzzy photos.
A friend of your mother’s told me you had been in trouble with the law, and I know your driver’s license was suspended at least twice. At only 19, that’s two times in less than three years. Now I wonder if other rumors I heard were true. That you spent time in a detention home. That you and your buddies played a very dangerous game earning points for traffic violations.
And then there’s your family. Good people, I heard. I know you had dinner at home with them that evening. You asked your dad for the car, the one titled to him but given to you, so you could go to a friend’s house. You were on your way when you crashed into us. I wonder if you brushed your mother’s cheek with a goodbye kiss, yelled, “Later, Dad!” and hopped through the front door, your older sister rolling her eyes at you one last time.
I know your family loved you. My brother told me your father and sister hugged him, moments after finding out you had passed, crying, hoping that I would pull through. I imagine that your mother was broken in a corner, lost in her own sea of tears. They had just been asked about donating your organs.
I know your parents—an older, more settled couple—adopted you and your sister from another country far away. Maybe they couldn’t have their own children. Now they can’t even have you.
The most devastating thing I know about you, however, isn’t that you ran a stop sign that night. It isn’t that you were most likely speeding, either. What devastates me is that you were driving under the influence. The highway patrol officer who came to inform me I was the “victim of a crime” told me. They don’t know how fast you were going, but they do know about the marijuana and benzodiazepine in your bloodstream.
Why did you do that, Zach? Why?
Did you smoke pot and do drugs so often you drove stoned all the time?
Did you forget you had family and friends who loved you, a whole life ahead of you?
Did you think you were invincible, maybe even above the law?
Three beautiful girls, teenagers on the dance team I advised, were riding with me on the way back from dance camp that evening. I couldn’t protect them from you. You could have killed them. You almost killed me. Four more lives could have been lost. I believed my daughter, also on the team, had left ahead of us, but in fact, she was only moments behind in a different car. You could have killed her that night. The thought makes me sick.
I love her, just like your parents loved you. Our worst fear as parents happened to them: You didn’t come home. They must miss you desperately. I imagine they didn’t know about your regular drug use. I wonder if they were shocked, horrified maybe, to find out. Perhaps they have forgiven you by now. You were their only son.
But I am finding it difficult to do.
We all make mistakes and poor choices. I know this. And if you had lived through the accident, maybe you would have apologized. You probably would have been sorry, too. If you had lived through the accident, maybe you even would have changed. You probably would have stopped being reckless, too.
But maybe your life ended because of how you chose to live it. Maybe change would not have been possible for you even if you had lived. I don’t know.
I changed, but not by choice.
I am a different person today. Body, heart, and spirit.
I wonder what I would be like if it never happened. But that’s silly to consider, because it did.
You crashed into me.
I don’t want to hate you. And I don’t want to be so angry, still.
I even want to try to forgive you.
But I just can’t yet.
Aimee, the woman whose life you changed
Permanent Marker is not the first KiCam Projects title I have read and reviewed. Also check out my review of Salvation on Death Row: The Pamela Perillo Story. I’m not afiliated with KiCam Projects in any way, and my reviews and opinions of titles are my own and given voluntarily.