“‘Annie’s Song’ is an open-hearted memoir about a life spent loving the most vulnerable among us. These are stories full of joy and life that keep loved ones close, even after they’ve passed from this world. This poetic writing of untiring advocacy, compassionate witness, and deep love is a gift to the enormous community of writers-yes, those who have felt seen and uplifted by Annie McDonnell over the years, but also those who might be hearing her voice saying ‘you matter’ for the first time. This book is our chance to see how a life of empathy is born.” -Diane Zinna, author of “The All-Night Sun”
My Interview with Author Annie McDonnell:
I’d like to congratulate Annie McDonnell on Annie’s Song: Dandelions, Dreams and Dogs appearing pre-release at #2 Amazon Hot New Releases in Biographies/Memoirs for People with Disabilities and #21 Amazon Hot New Releases in Poetry/Grief, Death and Loss.
Q: In the book description of Annie’s Song: Dandelions, Dreams , and Dogs, it reads: “Annie’s experiential memoir, for which she’s provided QR codes linking to her favorite songs throughout, allows the reader to get a hint of what it’s like living suspended between this earthly existence and the afterlife.”
Can you tell us what it is that makes your memoir experimental?
A: The experiential element of this book is a vital part of my approach. I’d like the reader to have an experience when reading “Annie’s Song.” At the beginning of the book, I invite the reader to experience the book and give them ideas to engage each of the five senses. The first is the visual, and there are design elements throughout the book meant to make you slow down and absorb the essays and poems. I believe if you close your eyes, you might recall part of your own story or maybe that of a friend of yours. These stories can help you gain more empathy and compassion. The next sense will be touch, which will activate when you’re holding the book or Kindle in your hands. The next is scent, which is the most difficult one for me to offer, but a powerful one because certain scents have been proven to be a important trigger for memory. I typically offer it in all of my swag bags. Light a scented candle or some incense. I suggest choosing a scent that you absolutely adore. The next one is taste. Jennifer, who you’ll learn about, gave me a sticker that said, “She loved me more than chocolate itself, so whenever I’m reading a good book, I like to indulge in a piece of chocolate. Lastly, I invite you to enjoy your sense of hearing. I have included QR codes to add music to each essay and poem. Each song is tied to a particular person, event or time in my life, and the music fits what the memory means to me.
Q: How have you developed your career as a writer?
A: Honestly, I’ve wanted to write since third grade. But since I didn’t know how to become an author, I became a book reviewer. I absolutely love being a book reviewer. I had to learn how to be creative and interesting when I wrote the reviews. And then a few years ago, everything was just birthed from love among friends and teachers like Diane Zinna, Jennifer and Gordon, and Lauri Schoenfeld, Lisa C, Kerry Anne King and more. I started reading my essays and poems to some of my closest friends, and I was hooked. After my grief writing class, I’d call Echo Garrett of Lucid House Publishing and read my essays and poetry to her. She told me she would be honored to publish my book. She truly believed that they were wonderful. And my husband said, ”Annie, Echo believes in your work so much, you should let her publish a book she’d be the perfect person.” It’s been an amazing feat to get this book right. I had a lot of requests and then Lucid House editors and the designer had a lot of wonderful ideas.
Q: What gave you the idea to write this book?
A: The whole premise of this book came from my grappling with trying to understand how the various traumas that I have carried through the years may have contributed to my illnesses. Sometimes I do believe I carry them because of survivor’s guilt. Other times I believe what doctors at Mayo Clinic say. They told me that when I broke my neck in a car accident in1989 that spinal fluid got into my bloodstream, which caused an infection, and that’s why I had all these illnesses. I later found that the root of most of my diseases are the genes that I was born with. However, both the accident and other traumas that I carry could certainly contribute to me not healing properly or not going into remission like some people do. My health just always seems to be declining. I’ve been bullied online by plenty of people claiming I’m not sick. Over the years, I have had some doctors misdiagnose me or doubt that I was that sick. At one point, I started doubting myself and thought maybe I was going nuts and there wasn’t really anything wrong with me. But I did not stop fighting for myself, because I knew what I was feeling was real.
My hope for “Annie’s Song” would be that readers will either see themselves or somebody they know in my story. I want my words to wrap around their heart and foster empathy, compassion, and kindness. The world needs a lot more love and understanding. Often, your struggles stem from traumas that others don’t know we have had. I have been told that I let myself be a pincushion. I have also been told that I should be over my traumas. We have to stop blaming someone who is suffering for being sick or having a hard time with a traumatic event. For those of us with invisible wounds and illnesses, such statements only add to our pain.
Q: The idea of providing QR codes to your favorite songs is unique! Can you tell us three songs that are included in your book?
A: The idea to provide the QR codes was because we couldn’t name the artist, the group, or the song but legally we can use QR codes that connect to the performer’s personal YouTube videos. To understand a moment in time, you need to know the music of that era. Music brings it to life, and music is a healer. When I was caring for my stepmother when she had breast cancer, I would put on music and dance with her to get her to the bathroom. She would laugh, and say, “You make dying fun.“ That was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received in my life, and taking care of her was one of my highest honors. A few of the songs included are: “Easy on Me” – Adele, “World Before You” – Lauren Duski, and “Ain’t No Sunshine “ – Bill Withers
Q: What inspired your book’s title?
A: I’m inspired by writing and songs that have a series of beats—where you feel like you can actually hear the heartbeat of the writer or the musician. Writers and musicians have so much in common. We are all storytellers. It was too perfect to name it “Annie’s Song: Dandelions, Dreams and Dogs.” If you listen to the lyrics of John Denver’s song that’s what my book is about: “You fill up my senses,” “Come Let Me love you,” and “Let me die in your arms.” His song perfectly sums up my life.
I’d also like to believe that my book has a beautiful heartbeat, a lot of love between the covers. My hope is that this book will be remembered, the kind of book that you read again and again, just as “Annie’s Song” is still beloved all these decades later.
Q: Can you tell us about your work with dogs?
When we lost our dog Simon, who is on the cover of the book, I had to find a place to put all of his love. His presence was still in the house. I could feel it, so I started what I called #OperationSimon. I started volunteering for One Love Dog Rescue. I started off as a foster. I failed on two of them and wound up adopting them myself. One got adopted. Everything I did, I called #OperationSimon. It made me feel like he was still here. The statement “who rescued who?” is not lost on me. Then I started doing pick-ups in Queens and at JFK airport and then I went to New Jersey. I just had so much fun picking up the dogs as a FREEDOM RIDER. Not many volunteers want to do that job, but I’m in love with picking up these dogs and loving on them. When I got them in my car, I cleaned them up. I would sing to them. I would take them out of their crates. I tried to get them as comfortable as I could before we made the trek out from JFK, Newark or Queens to the eastern end of Long Island. I have some great stories about these pick-ups, and one day I hope to tell them.
I worked every fundraiser for many years. Now, I help with fundraisers when I can. I also love sending thank you cards to donors and adopters. I also help to press releases in all the local papers for events that we’re having, and I hope to God one day I get to be a freedom rider again. That’s the best thing I ever did.
Q: What is the targeted audience for your memoir?
People who have illnesses or are disabled and those who have experienced trauma, grief or loss in the course of their lives. I believe that this book is good for everybody for the simple fact that it promotes compassion and empathy for others and for those of us, who tend to be hardest of all on ourselves.
Q: Where is your book available?
It’s available in print and eBook from independent bookstores, Bookshop.org, all major online retailers, libraries, and has global distribution in major markets around the world. An audiobook will be released at a later date.
You will laugh, cry, and be moved. In this shimmering debut, a cross-genre blend of memoir, auto-fiction, magical realism, and poetry. Annie pours out her dreams, her loves, and her hopes along with grief, medical misdiagnoses, and innumerable losses. Her determination to live a life of love, joy, and meaning despite her great suffering shines throughout her essays and poems.
Meet Annie McDonnell:
A lifelong reader and advocate for writers and books, Annie McDonnell is an Alum of High Point University, Class of 1991.
In 2006, Annie won a contest with Elle and became a book reviewer for the magazine. When Elle stopped running book reviews in print, Annie moved to blogging and The Write Review community was born.
Annie is the author of her debut “Annie’s Song: Dandelions, Dreams & Dogs,” released on 3/14/2023. Writing book reviews, blurbs, articles and beta reading for almost two decades. Annie hosts interviews authors and runs workshops. She enjoys consulting with authors and planning online events. While having fun as a co-admin to the World of the Write Review Book Club, she also runs The Write Review page and blog.
In December 2020, Annie was the recipient of the Doug Marlette Award for a lifetime achievement in book promotion.
Annie lives in Mastic, NY, with her husband, three beautiful dogs and five adorable cats. She also volunteers at One Love Dog Rescue as much as possible. Annie supports both Adult & Children’s Literacy through book drives and Operation Paperback.