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Personal Memoirs — Pathways to Healing

Author Judith Ford shares her thoughts on writing,healing, & reproductive rights In a recent interview, Judith Ford — a prolific writer and retired psychotherapist — discussed the intricacies of her life journey and the process of writing as a way to heal past traumas.


From the short stories she began to craft in fifth grade to the publication of her latest book, “Fever of Unknown Origin,” Ford’s literary journey has been marked by the exploration of dark themes from life such as loss, illness, and death. PPWI connected with Ford when she shared her poignant short story Green Scarf — a fictionalized true story about the trauma and anxiety of seeking an illegal abortion in the pre-Roe 1960s.


Abortion Stories from the Past


The narrative of Green Scarf sheds light on the emotional and physical toll of Ford’s own personal experience and paints a vivid picture of what women must endure to obtain an abortion when reproductive rights are restricted — a place where (surreally) we find ourselves again in many states across the US.


Judith shared the events from her own life that inspired her to write Green Scarf, “I was 21, it was 1969. I had asked for birth control from my family doctor — which was a big mistake because he was very shaming and angry at me for even thinking about sex. He sent me away feeling terrible — and with no birth control — I was pregnant within a couple of months. At the time, I was living in Milwaukee and had a low-wage job. I had no money, no support, and was unable to get abortion care legally.


“I finally got a contact to see someone in Chicago. So that’s what I did, which was a terrifying thing to do, not knowing who this person was, or if it was even safe. But I went, and I had the abortion. Fortunately, the people were kind and skilled — and I was okay.


“I think the trauma of it all was based on a number of things. I never doubted my decision to have an abortion. I was grateful and relieved after it was over; but the actual experience of not being able to get care legally and close to home was very scary — and also physically painful. I had no support network to lean on. I didn’t know about Planned Parenthood at that point. I wish I had; that would have made a huge difference.”


 


“She would have been more scared if she hadn’t resigned herself to the

likelihood of her death. There was a strange empty peacefulness in that. Like Novo- cain. It had made it possible for her to get up that morning, get dressed, and keep moving into whatever would be.


“Like bungee jumping, she supposed. Or skydiving. You travel to the highest point. You close your eyes and you jump. Falling, you have no more choices.”


~ An excerpt from “Green Scarf” by Judith Ford Originally published by North Dakota Quarterly


To read Ford’s short story “Green Scarf” Click Here!


 

The Need to Share Post-Roe


Since Roe was overturned in June of 2022, many see abortion access becoming further restricted — and Ford emphasized the importance of sharing “Green Scarf” – to illustrate what can happen when access to abortion is unavailable. Breaking the silence and lifting the veil of shame, she believes, is crucial for emotional healing and reducing the stigma surrounding reproductive choices. Her hope is that “Green Scarf” serves as a timely reminder of the need for having access to care and the importance of supporting organizations like Planned Parenthood.


Writing as Therapy


Having a career as a psychotherapist, Ford acknowledges that her therapeutic background, combined with her personal experiences, have enabled her to cultivate self-understanding

and kindness toward herself. The integration of psychological insights into her narratives adds depth and authenticity to her work.


Her body of work spans poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, with a particular fondness for the nonfiction memoir genre. The process of writing for Ford has been a transformative tool, offering her a sense of agency and understanding in her own life journey. It has provided her with the opportunity to reflect on her past, recognize personal growth, and cultivate empathy for her younger self.


Her latest book “Fever of Unknown Origin” and an earlier essay titled “The Smell of Blood,” are among her personal favorites. These works showcase not only Ford’s literary prowess but also offer readers a glimpse into her profound and varied life experiences. Reflecting on her own experiences, she acknowledges the emotional challenges of revisiting traumatic events but highlights the cathartic and therapeutic nature of the process and the intersection of art and healing.




 

“Judith Ford worked as a psychotherapist in private practice for 37 years before retiring and moving with her husband and two dogs to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in literary journals, including Quarter After Eight, Southern Humanities, Lullwater Review, Evening Street Review, and many others.


She has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, in nonfiction, in fiction and in poetry. In 2005 she won the Willow Review Prose Award and in 2008 her series of haiku poems won “most highly commended” in the Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. Her essay “Go Go Go, Said the Bird” was nominated for Best of the Web 2023. She has taught creative writing to sixth graders in a private school, adults at the University of Wisconsin Extension, and teenagers staying in a runaway shelter. She earned an MFA in writing at Vermont College of Fine


Arts in 2016. She currently enjoys hikes in the Santa Fe foot- hills, learning to play the piano, and training her singing voice.


 




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