Editor’s note: Charity Tillemann-Dick, soprano, former PHA spokeswoman, and two-time double-lung transplant recipient, reflects on her upcoming book, the writing process, and looking forward. This Q&A is a continuation of her interview ahead of the release of her book, “The Encore: A Memoir in Three Acts.” The first part of her interview can be found here.
What has been the most difficult part of the process of writing a memoir? What have you found to be the most rewarding part of writing a memoir?
Ugh. Well, PHers, I’d say that ironically, that memoir is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of pain in life and illness. Revisiting it over and over and over again takes a toll mentally and physically. Even more challenging is coming to better understand the underbelly of how others saw me. It made me feel tremendously insecure.
On the bright side, creating something of true, lasting beauty was this glorious contrast to what was going on with the cancer, chemo, and radiation. Writing sentences and scenes that made language dance with musical imagery and telling stories about the best of human nature made me feel powerful in an otherwise powerless situation.
What do you hope readers take away from your memoir?
We all live our own operas. I have my own that has been quite harrowing. … I stopped worrying about living the opera or the story that I thought I should be living.
As an opera singer, how important has music been through your various changes and challenges with your health? Why do you believe it is important that people facing health challenges are able to pursue a passion?
I can’t say it’s been everything, because there have been family and doctors and medicine that’s kept me alive. But in many ways, it is what I lived for and why I felt I was still alive. It gave me purpose. It gave me a reason to wake up and press on. It was the physical and audible embodiment of hope. And that’s what life is really about, isn’t it?
When will your memoir be released, and where can readers purchase it?
So soon! October 3rd! You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or you can find local, independent bookstores through IndieBound.org. It will also be available in e-Book or you can hear me sing and narrate on the audiobook.
What do you plan on doing now that your book is finished?
I’ll be on a book tour for a while. After that, I have a couple projects I’m really passionate about. In particular, I’m writing a musical that I can’t wait to put into the world. I also really love mentoring people who are facing transplant and illness. I know the people who mentored me made an enormous difference in my life. At times, that wisdom felt like all I had. Passing it onto others facing the same challenges feels like a gift and responsibility. For now, though, “The Encore” is my baby. I love it dearly and want to give it the best introduction into the world that I possibly can.
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