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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

the memoir FIRE SEASON by Hollye Dexter is not a book about defeat but VICTORY !

Chris Rice Cooper 

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Chris Rice Cooper on
Hollye Dexter’s Memoir Fire Season
“The Mustard Seed of Victory”
      
     In 2010 Hollye Dexter https://www.
came to the realization that she had been living a depressed and defeated life since November 18, 1994.   

In a Facebook interview with Chris Rice Cooper Hollye said: Until the night my house burned down in 1994, I was a strong, independent woman, but after the fire, as one catastrophe after the next hit — bankruptcy, cars blowing up and a child in need of surgery — I unraveled. I became clinically depressed, struggling with persistent suicidal thoughts. I didn’t know it then, but I was in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder from both our fire and events in my childhood. I was a complete mess.
For years I couldn’t talk about the fire. I couldn’t allow myself to look back at how I came so close to losing my children. I also didn’t want to remember how I came so close to losing my mind. But it was a grey cloud following me through life, never letting me sleep through the night, never letting me go.”
       Then the year 2010 came to pass and she found herself in so much despair that she finally confided in her writer friend Amy Friedman http://www.
amyfriedman.net right who gave Hollye a sound piece of advice:  Hollye’s only escape and only effective therapy was to write about her deep painful experiences and memories; and so Hollye Dexter began writing Fire Season.
       “What I learned in the grueling process of writing and reflecting was that though yes, I was an emotional disaster, I also fought harder than I ever knew I could to find something to believe in again. Faith is hard earned and, like a beating heart, is a muscle that must be worked. I worked to find mine so that my children would not grow up in a hopeless world.
Instead of focusing on the loss, I focused on the hope that can be found in the most disastrous of circumstances — like the kindness of others who came to lift us back on our feet.  Above right. I found, while bankrupt and destitute, we still had our ability to dream, to love, to create, to hope and to remember. And in writing, I discovered that though we had lost everything, on a deeper level we really hadn’t lost anything. These are the jewels we unearth when excavating our complicated histories.”







     For the next three years from 2010 to 2013 Hollye wrote Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. surrounded by pets, piles of laundry and an unanswered phone.
  

     “I wrote while my youngest was in school.  I was very disciplined about it.”  
And discipline in writing was something Hollye practiced since she was a little girl:  “I’ve kept a diary since I was in the second grade.”
       In 2013 Fire Season was completed and the next step was the publishing process, which proved to be almost as arduous as writing the book itself.
“In the three years it took me to write the first draft of Fire Season, the publishing industry had completely changed. So I sat on the book, and hemmed and hawed for over a year, deciding what direction to take. I attended conferences, lectures, read books about it, asked the counsel of my friends. I did send it out to about a dozen or so agents and publishers and though I got good feedback and had a good track record with my first book Dancing At the Shame Prom with Seal Press, I kept getting the response that they just couldn't take the financial risk with an “unknown” memoirist.
Because my stories are the only thing of true value that I own, I decided I had to move forward in a way that felt right to me, and that meant having more control over this book’s destiny. Time and again, friends had recommended Brooke Warner’s http://brookewarner.com above right new hybrid publishing option, She Writes Press, and because I have deep respect for and trust in Brooke after publishing Dancing At the Shame Prom with her at Seal, I finally committed. She Writes gave me all the perks of traditional publishing, but more creative and financial control.”
       On October 14, 2015 She Write Press http://shewritespress.com published the memoir Fire Season My Journey From Ruin to Redemption written by Hollye Dexter http://hollyedexter.blogspot.com with jacket cover art by Stacey Aaronson https://www.facebook.com/stacey.aaronson.7.    


Hollye Dexter is on her second marriage with the love of her life Troy Dexter.  At the time the couple shares two children – Cissy, age 8, Hollye’s daughter from her first marriage, and their son Taylor, age 4.
Hollye and Troy each have their own business they are passionate about:  Hollye owns her own child clothing business out of her home and Troy http://www.
music.com is a successful Los Angeles based musician.  Along with their variety of pets, the family of four are happy and joyful in their beloved rented home partially situation in a Los Angeles cliff. Above right Troy and Hollye a few weeks before the fire.
      
On November 18, 1994 there is a sense of smoky fore- 
shadowing in Hollye’s soul – she doesn’t know why she is feeling this or where it’s coming from so she pushes it aside.  She drops her daughter Cissy off at her biological father’s house for the weekend and then heads back home. The foreshadowing continues and in the middle of the night she senses a voice telling her to go check on the baby; and gets up from her own bed and lays in bed with her four year old son Taylor.  She awakens to her Troy’s panicked voice and to the blazes of fire.

       A guttural, instinctual wailing fills the air – a voice I’ve never heard before.  It’s my voice.
       Fire behind me, a thirty-foot drop to concrete below.
       Troy shouts from our bedroom window,  “Hold on!  I’m coming – I’m gonna jump.”  Following his words is the loud thwack of his body, the sickening sound of bones against cement.  I scream his name over and over but he doesn’t respond.  I start to cry but there is no time for panic.
       Taylor and I hang out the window, engulfed in smoke, suffocating.  I lower him as far as my arms will stretch so he can breathe.  I hold only his tiny hands, his body dangling midair.  I am in the center of the firestorm. Above right a thank you card Taylor wrote to his mom Hollye. 
    
   The fire completely destroys everything except for their very own lives and very tiny burnt pieces of mementoes, which are discovered by Troy and his father Dennis.
       “My husband, wearing thigh-high fishing boots, dug through piles of rubble four-feet deep and pulled out small blackened squares. They looked like charcoal briquets, but they turned out to be my childhood diaries – one of them used to have a Holly Hobbie cover and a little gold key attached.”
       Other mementoes are discovered which gives Troy and Hollye reason to feel hopeful.  There, in vivid color, is a photo of me and Troy on our wedding day.  The edges are singed, the colors running together.  Like us, our wedding album is damaged, but it survived.  I smile and wrap my arms around him happy tears in my eyes.  Of all the things to be saved from the ashes.  Is this a random coincidence?  I take it as a sign.

Soon Hollye realizes it is more than just one fire but many fires that traumatized her throughout her life.  The physical fire that November night was just the tip of the ice burg.  And the ice burg is massive in titanic proportions.
       Hollye has to deal with the traumatic events in her childhood concerning her mother, her suicidal brother, the disturbing truth about her father whom she was led to believe was dead, incidences of violence that happened to her as a child and that she witnessed as a child, and the rejection from Troy’s family. The two pictures above are of Hollye and Troy inside their burnt home. December of 1994
       Hollye goes through intense PTSD about all the fires in her life that results in flashbacks, intense weeping, nightmares, insomnia, depression, suicidal thoughts, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.                                                              


May 13, 1995

I tried to throw myself from the car today.  I didn’t care anymore what happened to me.  I wanted to hurt myself.  Troy grabbed me by the hair and yanked me back.  I lost a lot of hair, but now I see how drastic a situation this is.  I called the psychologist who helped me after the fire.  I am going to see him tomorrow.


New fires are started when they are conned by a supposedly reputable man in the music business, betrayed by close friends, and betrayed by Hollye’s business partner.  The couple is forced to lose the next two homes they reside in – one due to the owners going through a nasty divorce and not placing the rent money toward the mortgage; the other due to the owner not abiding by the rent-to-own legal contract between them.  As a result they lose thousands and thousands of dollars and have no choice but to file for bankruptcy.

Everything I once felt certain of is shaken loose like soil from the roots of an upturned tree, leaving me raw, exposed.  I have to find a way of taking root within myself.

       The fires of not knowing who to trust, of deep depression, of emotional hurts within Troy and Hollye continue to grow stronger making the PTSD incidences almost intolerable.  Hollye begins to question the existence of God and why all of these bad things are happening to their family.

       I pace the house for hours like the night watchman, my anxiety never letting me rest.  I lie awake thinking about our dogs and cats – trying to remember how their fur felt the last time they slept with me in bed.  I wonder if I made the right decision in letting my business go.  I pray that if I dare fall asleep, God will protect my children.  But I don’t trust God. Above right is an image Taylor drew about the fire; and Taylor himself in December of 1994.

There are moments of respite – Hollye managed to reach inside herself and find her own art which proved to be therapeutic and her next business venture called One of a Kind; Troy and Hollye create memories drinking red wine as they sit conversing in their backyard; romantic evenings the couple shared in their famous 12-seater Jacuzzi above top left;  and numerous times the family as a whole turns what should have been a bad day into a day of good memories; like when they were so broke the electric company turned off their electricity.  Hollye and Cissy go to their regular art class and return home to a something magical.

       Troy and Taylor sit in camping chairs on our back lawn our tent behind them, sleeping bags rolled out on the grass.  Taylor is roasting marshmallows over the hibachi.  Troy plucks at his acoustic guitar.  Peering through that window, I marvel at how Troy is able to turn this disaster into a tiny miracle, and my heart swells with love for him.

      
But these are only happy little breadcrumbs in a life of many fires and soon their marriage is tested; and Holly finds herself at her breaking point in a field of mustard flowers, praying to a God she doesn’t even know exists.

       I wander into a wide-open field, with yellow mustard flowers growing waist high.  At the center of it I plunk down, where no one can see or hear me, and I wail with grief.  . . .
       I feel all the color drain from my face and from my life as I come to the realization that my marriage is failing.  Since I’m already on my knees, with nothing else to lose, I pray . . .

       Fire Season is more than a memoir about the Dexter home being destroyed by fire, Holly overcoming her PTSD, but it is also a memoir about the power of love so strong it conquered all.  And remains victorious. Right Hollye and Troy with their son Taylor (middle) and son Evan bottom left and their daughter Cissy bottom right. 

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