We’re mere weeks away from the launch of AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief and we’re excited to keep sharing the profiles of our contributors! Next up is Stacya Shepard Silverman, whose piece, “The Mark” is about the author’s coming to terms with her father’s double life. The official launch for the book is on April 26th at Greenlight Bookstore, where Stacya will be in attendance to read her story. Check out the Facebook event page for more details. We hope to see you there!
Can you introduce yourself as well as your contribution to AFTERMATH?
I was raised in California, and I now live in Seattle with my husband, David. During the day, I’m a make-up artist and an eyebrow waxer, although I spend most of my time talking people into wearing less make-up and growing their brows out, so I’m not sure why I’m still in business. After work and on days off, I channel Peter Falk from the show “Columbo” and do research on my father’s past. I’ve been working on personal essays about my relationship with my dad, who had a career in show business, but who was also a con artist. Back in the 1940s he did the lecture circuit, sometimes pretending to be a doctor. He sold shares in musical projects that were never produced. Since I began snooping around starting in 2005, I’ve discovered four older half-siblings. I’ve been informed that he convinced two of the mothers—both of them actresses—that he was sterile. I’m wondering if I have any more brothers and sisters out there…
What attracted you to the theme of the book?
In Spring of 2016, I took some of my dad’s ashes to North Carolina, where he was born and raised. The visit left me with a bit of culture shock. I felt the need to see where he came from, and I wanted to meet my distant relatives, who offered to show me the private Shepard family cemetery. While driving around, I noticed many “Make America Great Again” signs. My father was very adamant that I never visit his hometown; he felt that his people were racist, religious fanatics. My parents were progressives, and Dad made disparaging, blanket statements about the South, but I wanted to see for myself. I did feel that I was in “another America” and came back to Seattle worried that Trump could win. My friends thought I was being crazy. When he won, I was still as depressed and anxious as anyone. I wrote this essay in the midst of a big depression about how easily conned people are, and how stubborn they can be about admitting that they’ve been had and maybe never will admit to it.
The theme of this book, grief and its aftermath, reminded me of that quote from Carrie Fisher, “take your broken heart, make it into art.”
What are you hoping to convey to readers with your essay?
Before I wrote this piece, I read a book from the 1940s called The Big Con by David Maurer, and I recognized my father. The book doubles down on the lesson I knew so well: con men aren’t that excited by the money. They are motivated by the successful swindle. They like getting away with whatever they had planned. My funk about the direction of the country motivated me to try to explain what being manipulated by a con man feels like.
Talk about some of your favorite projects you’ve been involved with.
Another writer and I started a space for writing teachers to hold classes in my neighborhood. I noticed that this yoga studio was empty most of the time, and I worked out a deal with the instructor there. We’ve had some fantastic classes and teachers. I’d like to keep that going. One of the projects I love working on is with the Northwest artist Thomas Schworer called “The Portrait Project,” a collaboration where we do highly personalized, photo illustration portraiture. We take the sitter’s inner life into account, interviewing them, and drawing out their story.
Here’s our short film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPUYDbNmX1A
What’s next on the horizon?
I’m working toward a book, and the research part has produced a goldmine of interesting stuff. I’m even tempted to hire a private investigator, just to see what else turns up.
If you’re in or around New York City, be sure to check out Stacya as she reads her story, “The Mark” on April 26th at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. You can see more information about the launch for AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief and RSVP on the Facebook event page.