Saturday, November 2, 2013

How I Got Here by Dee Phelps

The Disappointment Room will be available soon at all venues and at:

Dee can be contacted at her web page at,, or on facebook.

She will be participating in the following book conferences/festivals/fairs:

February 2014:  Murder in the Magic City, Birmingham, Alabama
                          Feb 8-9

                          Savannah Book Festival, Savannah, Georgia
                          Feb. 15-16

                          Amelia Island Book Festival, Amelia Island, Florida
                          Feb. 20-23

May, 2014:        Malice Domestic, Bethesda, Maryland  May 2-4

                          South Carolina Book Festival, Columbia, SC
                          May 16-18

June, 2014:       High Country Festival of the Book, Boone, NC
                          June 28

August, 2014;    Killer Nashville, Nashville, TN  Aug. 21-24

Dee Phelps

Nearly every writer has a past occupation before they jumped into the murky waters of literature.

I’m no different.  Here’s my former life:  I schlepped bed pans for a living, aka, a nurse.  When my three sons, (lovingly called, The Three Stooges) were little and before I transferred to our local hospital’s surgical floor, I worked in a physician’s office for a gastroenterologist.  Yes, yes –a proctologist--a butt doctor.  But it was the perfect mommy job – 9-5, off weekends.  Here’s the rub…as the stooges got to be teenagers, they began teasing me about my job.  David:  “Hey guys, come meet my mom, the butt nurse.”  Ross:  “Mom, you never recognize anyone until they walk away.”  Wade:  “Mom, you know ever butt-hole in town.”   Hahaha.  Very funny!  NOT! 

I loved my nursing career.  It was fulfilling and I felt like I was “giving back” so to speak.  Making a difference with the life I have been given, and making a difference in the lives of those I cared for. 

Nearly ten years ago, my precious husband passed away tragically, and suddenly.  Understandably, I was a mess, but I also had a big life altering decision to make.  I could go along down the familiar path, OR, I could take the thorny, scary rutted road of writing.  I wish I could tell you that I have always wanted to write, but I didn’t.  I also wish I could tell you that I had always written, but just never had the time to do so, but that would be untruthful.  I chose the road less traveled; the scary path, because it was therapy for me (and a lot cheaper than a shrink!)  I wrote because my heart was broken; my soul shattered.  And because the heinousness of my youth would have looked like the Conroys grew up in Disneyland, I had buried a child, and after Bill’s death I needed to purge my mind of my past.  I had to learn to like and love me and life in all of its beauty, that I had repressed my entire life.  I pulled up my boot straps and took the first step on the scary road of writing full time. 

I started with a children’s book, The Flower in the Thickets, about a seedling unknowingly dropped in a thicket patch by a gardener on his way to plant his garden at a mansion on the hillside, and how that little seed struggled to grow and receive nourishment as the horrible thorn-laden thickets tried to prevent him from surviving.  Subconsciously, perhaps I was writing about my life.

Then I went on to do international travel journalism for a national magazine and some feature writing for a local on-line newspaper.  But I wanted more. I wanted to write fiction—the Great American Novel. (Don’t we all!?)  Thus began my journey writing The Disappointment Room.  Now, a disappointment room was a real thing.  A fact.  My husband’s family, before the Civil War, owned a cotton and indigo plantation nearby where I live in Beaufort, South Carolina.  One day, and I remember it as if it were yesterday, my mother-in-law and I were sitting around her kitchen table drinking coffee.  David was on her knee and she was feeding him cheese grits with little pieces of tomato and eggs cooked in.  She looked up at me and said, “Darlin’” in her sweet, thick, Lowcountry accent, “I want to tell you a story…”   She told me about disappointment rooms and a hundred different tales of life on the plantation that had been passed down to her from generations before.  I was enthralled with every story and shocked at some of them, especially the one about the disappointment room.  I carried those tales with me for years…and the day I decided to quit my day job and began my journey as a writer…I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

Knowing an untrained novice writer has a snow ball’s chance in hell of succeeding in the world of literature; I went back to school at our local college then spent a year learning the “business”.  The next year was spent on researching the historical aspects of the book—then there was no turning back.  I was all in.  I felt compelled to tell the story of a child, whose mother was so ruthless and selfish, and her husband about to be elected to the US Senate, that she, in order to save face, sentenced her toddler son whom she mistakenly thought was mentally challenged, to a disappointment room. 

Here is my question for you:  What did you do before delving into your career as a writer and what was it that made you do so?



Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Dee, Welcome to Meanderings and Muses, my friend!!!

Since I'm one of the very lucky, very lucky people, who has already had the opportunity to read THE DISAPPOINTMENT ROOM, I feel very confident in telling folks they are in for a treat. You have a brilliant future ahead of you, girlfriend!


lil Gluckstern said...

I have to admire your strength and how you came through some very difficult times. In such a creative way. It's nice to meet you, and your book sounds very moving. I will keep an eye out for it

Anonymous said...

Dee, this is very touching - thank you for sharing with us... I will look for The Disappointment Room... Thelma in Manhattan