DAVIDSON – Writing feeds Ann Campanella's spirit. A 1982 graduate of Davidson College, her memoir, "Motherhood: Lost and Found," is the product of 20 years of hard work.
The 300-page paperback centers on her journey through infertility as she simultaneously cared for a mother spiraling into the depths of Alzheimer's disease.
Her mother, Elizabeth Williams, was a journalist who wrote for the Carteret County News-Times on the North Carolina coast as well as The Windsock, which is published by the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point.
Williams' diagnosis in 1997 shattered her daughter's comfortable life.
"It was really my first experience with loss and the world not going the way I thought it should," she said. "As a Davidson grad, everything was like, 'Oh, life is good. I'm in control.'"
Campanella married her college sweetheart, Joel, in 1984, and spent several years writing for magazines in Atlanta and editing newspapers in Houston before turning to poetry.
She now has multiple books of poetry to her name. And in 1999, she won the state's Poet Laureate award through the N.C. Poetry Society for “The Chase,” a poem about her mother's illness.
"It was about capturing verbal snap shots that were fading away with my mom," she said. "Poetry provided islands of solace for me in a sea of uncertainty and homelessness."
Poetry later blossomed into the pages of memoir. Campanella said having a baby wasn't an immediate concern after saying her wedding vows.
"I was pretty hell-bent on having a decent career and focused on my writing, and I thought it would be no problem in my early-to-mid 30s to stop and have a baby," she said. "I remember having a cousin who didn't have a child for 10 years, and I thought that was a long time. No, try 17."
When she was ready, a series of miscarriages left her heartbroken. But the birth of her daughter Sydney, 12, became her tale's silver lining.
"I was in this weird age continuum. My mom had me when she was 40, and I had Sydney when I was 40," she said.
As Campanella fed and bathed her daughter, she was doing the same things for her mother.
"It was so strange dropping Sydney off at nursery school, and there are all these young moms with – what seemed to me – not a care in the world, and I'm thinking, 'I've got to go to the nursing home right after this.'"
Williams passed away in 2007, but her outgoing nature and love for stories lives on in Sydney.
A home-schooled student, Sydney is already the published author of "The Mysterious Birthday Gift" and "Mystery on the Trail," both works of fiction.
Campanella let Sydney read her memoir, even though it features adult content.
"When she finished, she found me working at my computer and gave me a hug," Campanella said. "I don't think she had any idea – and what child does – of what we had gone through to actually have her."
Want to read? Look for the memoir this month at Main Street Books and on www.amazon.com.