Dancing at the Shame Prom

I loved Dancing at the Shame Prom so much I couldn’t help but ask co-editors and contributors (both have chill inducing essays in the book) Hollye Dexter and Amy Ferris some questions regarding how it came about and where they are going next. Hope you enjoy this interview, with Hollye’s responses first:

How did the book come about? What was the aha moment?

We wanted a title that was provocative, but not obvious. One that would make people stop and think. In a way, life is very much like prom night. When you’re young, you have these preconceived notions of how perfect and tidy it will all be. You envision yourself in the perfect dress, with the perfect date, like Cinderella at the ball. But then the actual prom happens and you can’t zip your dress because of the ten pounds hormones just gifted you with, you have a zit in the middle of your forehead, your date ditches you for the prom queen and you end up hitchhiking home, your boyfriend decides to confess to you that he’s gay, or maybe you confess to your boyfriend that you’re gay, you lose your virginity in the backseat of a car and it’s nothing like you imagined, you get your period at the dance, fill in the blank. The prom, like life, doesn’t live up to our fairytale projections, but … we’re here- so let’s dance!

Where did the book title come from?

Amy, wonderful whimsical mind that she is, just blurted out in conversation one day, “I feel like I’m at the shame prom!” We nabbed it for the title, then added the verb “Dancing” so people could see that this was not some maudlin book about wallowing in shame. This was celebratory.

How many submissions did you receive? Were writers just bursting forth to share, or was it pulling teeth to get people to submit such personal stories?

We invited over 30 women to write for us- they all said yes. Then came the very hard part of writing it. We lost a few engines there. Those who did write endured us prying, questioning, and pushing them to go deeper. Some got irritated with us (understandably). Some cried. Some threatened to quit. All wrote brilliant, raw, courageous essays that were worth every tear.

I think there is such value in releasing shame (and did so in my memoir), but it circles around and bites me in the butt often enough. Do you think we are ever fully healed, free of it once and for all?

I think healing is a lifetime process, like a spiral that grows smaller as we circle around.

Is there any value in shame? Might some in our society do well to have a little of it? Think….much of reality TV.

Shame, like fear or pain, has a message for us. It tells us, this is not right for you. If we take heed and act on the shame we are feeling, we will not suffer. If we bury it, and then drag that baggage around all our lives, shame leads to self-loathing, which will have us acting out in a myriad of self-destructive ways.

Do you think that as a society we are moving toward less secrets, less shame?

Good God- I hope so!

What’s next for each of you? Will there be a volume II?

This book is just the beginning of what we hope will be a long-lived movement. Amy and I teach workshops, “Righting your life through writing your life”.  In October we’ll be teaching in Woodstock, New York. In 2013, we’ll be in San Miguel, Mexico and Costa Rica, hoping to spread our message around the globe.

We will continue this conversation about shame by interviewing men, getting their voice in the mix, and who knows…maybe a volume two.

And from Amy Ferris:

Hollye & I jumped off this amazing cliff together. We did. We held hands, and jumped… and in the ‘jumping off’ process, we invited many women – many friends – to join us. Most said yes. Many said yes … and some said yes, and then decided – after all – they didn’t want to jump.

It was too scary.

I completely and utterly understood their fear (the ones who couldn’t) only after having read all the essays.
I have layers of shame.
Layers upon layers.
Upon layers.
In (co) editing this book with Hollye, so much shame came up/manifested for me.
In re-reading the book, so much shame came up/manifested for me.
In hearing snippets … so much shame came up/manifested for me.

I hope, more than anything, that our lives – every single bit – give others hope and confidence and the sheer, absolute power to say, “I AM ABSOLUTELY, IRREFUTABLY… INVALUABLE.”

Thank you ladies! I am excited about the possibility of a book on shame from the point of view of men. I am so glad you made Dancing at the Shame Prom happen. This is a good, good thing you are doing and I wish you so much success.

Quote at the top from Monica Holloway. Her Shame Prom essay about infidelity was amazingly honest. My friend Jenny Rough also contributed a gorgeous essay about her journey with infertility and her ambivalence about adoption. Every story in the book was beautiful and heartfelt. The editors did a great job. There were no weak links.

May reading Dancing at the Shame Prom be the impetus for many to release their own shame.

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4 Responses to Dancing at the Shame Prom

  1. Meg says:

    I can hardly wait to read this book! And I am going to find out about their workshops – as always, thank you Michelle, for being the scout on my journey!

  2. kario says:

    Thanks for the interview, Michelle! I loved Shame Prom and even though I tried my best to read it slowly, I ended up devouring it whole this weekend. Such valuable voices and lessons in there! I think we should all do this exercise, whether or not we get published. Writing about our shame is cathartic on so many levels.

  3. Carrie Link says:

    What a great and helpful interview, Michelle. Thank you!

  4. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Michelle, thank you for sharing this important book with us. I’ve always felt that I alone among my classmates felt shame. Just the little I’ve read here tells me that all women–and probably all men–feel shame at some time in their lives. Thank you for the freedom that even that nugget of learning gives me. Peace.

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