I first met Melody Owen when she took over running the YVR Authors Meet-up Group.
Her passion to support our goals stood out from the beginning. Over time I began to get to know a little more about her personally. She worked one-on-one with writers to help them reach publication, had published a couple of books herself, and was a single parent caring for her mother who suffered from dementia as well as a teenage daughter struggling with the medical aftermath of a cheerleading fall. How did she do it all?
This spring she surprised us all with an unexpected announcement. At the age of 51, Melody was writing a monologue based on her memoir – The Devil’s Daughter (in the editing process) – she would be performing at the Vancouver Fringe Festival September 5-15th. This made it the perfect time to reach out for an interview. One of my questions was simply, “Why now?”
Please share a little bit about yourself and all you’re involved with?
I am an entrepreneur, writer, storyteller, performer, and mom! My passion is creating a just world for everyone. I do that by sharing my stories as well as helping others share theirs through writing, publishing, and promoting their work. I try to encourage each person to see their own intrinsic worth, regardless of their age, weight, music choices, gender identity, religion and every other divisive label mass media and society seem to use to either make us boringly all the same or to divide us.
Because I am so passionate telling our stories, I produce and host a series of events for a group called YVR Authors. I also work with individuals and businesses that incorporate a social consciousness into their work.
Can you share a bit of your young years and your teen years that influenced the person you have become today?
I grew up on a family beef cattle farm in Ontario. The farm was isolating and my father an abusive alcoholic. I never knew what he was going to do next. One day he killed my cat’s kittens in front of me after encouraging me to train them. The abuse was significant. However, I loved spending time with the animals. I would hang out in the barn singing to the cows, for example. The isolation was both damaging and my saving grace. I couldn’t connect with people, but I could connect with the farm animals. Sounds odd, doesn’t it!
As a teenager, I became very angry and in many ways embraced my father’s lessons. Drink so you don’t feel, for example. I got into lots of trouble. Many people thought I wasn’t going to make it. Then, someone came and told me a family secret that shook my whole world. I realized that I didn’t want to be like my father and that I needed to make different choices. I won’t give it all away, but I turned my life around. Very slowly, I dealt with the trauma, built new skills, changed whom I spent time with, changed how I spent my time, and actually left Ontario to become a new person. I left to start again with a clean slate.
As a part of the Sandwich Generation, how did you navigate the dual care roles demanded of you as you cared for both your elderly mother and your daughter?
It has been quite the journey. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just before she was set to retire, so none of her retirement plans worked out. I spent over 10 years caring for her while raising my children. It was tough. I couldn’t work full time so my income was quite limited. Looking after people is important to me and is part of living in a community.
I learned so much during those years about being with someone while they experience growing pains (as in my children) or the pain of slowly leaving this world, as in the case of my mother. At one point, I realized that the grief of watching my mother decline was becoming overwhelming and I had to take a step back and look after myself. I felt guilt along with grief when I stepped back, but I knew that I had to look after myself. I made sure she felt as safe and as joyful as possible during her leaving. She passed in 2017.
At the age of 51, you have opened the door on a whole new experience – performing The Devil’s Daughter, a dark monologue you wrote based on your very difficult early life, on stage at the Vancouver Fringe Festival. #VanFringe2019 Why share it now at this age and not before?
I had never planned on sharing my story. There was something transformative about the process of writing it. I left what others told me behind and owned my story fully – the good, the bad and the ugly. I took responsibility for what was mine and made clear to myself what was not. For example, when I did things that were wrong as a kid, I can take responsibility for the wrongdoing, but not the abuse that followed. The abuse dished out to me was wrong. I never ‘made’ my parents ‘do it’ so to speak.
Once the story was written, I started sharing it with close friends and using bits and pieces at open mics and in speaking workshops. People responded and wanted to hear more. I realized many people live with the shame of abuse, family secrets, survivor’s guilt, or whatever pain they are holding onto. This gets in the way of us living our true selves. I want to help people see they can come through trauma to a better place. They can thrive. I want to encourage storytelling to heal, to connect and to grow.
Apart from all that, my mom has now passed. I think it would have been hard on her to hear this story. She never quite accepted that she played a role in the abuse. Despite this, we found a place of peace where we could have a decent relationship and express our love for one another. This play would have upset that peace.
What can the audience expect out of both the script and your performance? Any teaser you’d like to share? Also where can readers get more information on performance dates and purchasing tickets?
I took my memoir and pulled out a selection of stories to make three acts. Then, I took workshops on developing a solo show, revised it several times and had outside people dramaturge it. I wrote four performance poems. One to start each act and one to end the show. I added two songs from my childhood as well.
Once the script was the best possible, I started working with the Artistic Director of Crooked Teeth Theatre, Danielle Benzon, who also helped me in the editing and on the performance side. The audience can expect to laugh, cry, cringe and hopefully feel satisfied and empowered. It is a dark tale told lightly. Information and tickets can be found at http://bit.ly/2ZoYNca.
You are also in the editing process on a book called The Devil’s Daughter. How can we get notifications on its launch date and how to purchase a copy?
Yes, I am. I can’t go into the details yet as I haven’t finished the editing process. You can keep up with the news by joining my email list at www.melodyannowen.com.
Any last things you like to share with readers on the doors and opportunities that open up as we reach a more mature age?
I hope for women that as we age, we can stop caring about what anyone else thinks. We can change how mass media and society see us by not living to their standards. By being authentic, passionate and courageous, we can create a world we want our great, great-granddaughters – and everyone else – to grow up in. A world where women take their place as culture builders, as inclusivity role models, as mentors and leaders.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/melodyowen
Artist Website – http://www.melodyannowen.com
Business Website – https://www.nutritioustruth.com/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/omelodyann/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/omelodyann
YVR Authors – https://www.facebook.com/groups/YVRAuthors/
Crooked Teeth Theatre – http://www.crookedteeththeatre.com/