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"Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir," by Kambri Crews

Burn Down the Ground, Kambri Crews

Jeff Glor talks to Kambri Crews about "Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir."

Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?

Kambri Crews: Peer pressure. Friends kept saying, "Come on, Kambri, just try it. Everybody's doing it. Trust me, it won't hurt. What's the matter? Your mommy won't let you?"

But I had read Jeannette Walls' amazing memoir "The Glass Castle" and thought she could have been telling my story. What more could I possibly have to say?

When I told my husband about my hesitation, he was dumbfounded. He reminded me that her family wasn't deaf and her father never tried to kill anyone!

So, I guessed I still had a tale worth telling. Keeping quiet sure didn't do anyone any good over the years. I found that sharing my life and experiences was energizing and liberating.

JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?

KC: How much I could drink. No wonder writers are notorious for being anti-social alcoholics. Writing is a terribly lonely, isolating enterprise. So, let me get this straight: I sit by myself for hours, cull material from the most difficult, tumultuous times of my life, then turn it over for the world to judge? Sure, I can do that. Once I fetch a vodka gimlet. I should have bought shares in Grey Goose once I inked my book deal. Oh hindsight, you sly devil.

JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

KC: I haven't quit my day job. There is no better incentive to working than having once resided in a tin shack with a family that lived hand-to-mouth. I still work as a stand up comedy producer and publicist. I also perform in storytelling shows and give speeches at high schools, colleges, domestic violence organizations and prison support groups.

The fear of losing it all, living in a shack again, or not having enough to never leaves you. I will always have at least five irons in every fire because to not do so would mean that I'm one step closer to failure. It's not the healthiest mindset, but it's better than sitting on the couch eating pints of Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk while watching "The Biggest Loser." (I totally do that, too.)

JG: What else are you reading right now?

KC: I am re-reading "Closing Time" by Joe Queenan. I have underlined more quotes and made more notes in the margins in his book than all books I've read combined. He manages to put into words the way I often feel about the spiritual gut punches life can dole out. He has a negative outlook on life, his impoverished childhood and relationship with his abusive, alcoholic father. My optimism gets in the way, and I end up looking at the bright side. Queenan, however, is unshakably jaded, cynical, and unforgiving. I love him for it.

Bonus: I am finally ready to take the SAT exam. The man taught me words that I had no idea existed. Keep a dictionary handy unless you, too, know the definitions of "caliginous," "panjandrum," and "poltroon," which, to me, just sound like a crazy night in a brothel.

I'm also reading Mike Doughty's memoir "The Book of Drugs." He's a talented singer and songwriter-something I could never, ever be--so I'm enjoying this glimpse into the inner workings of a musically gifted mind.

JG: What's next for you?

KC: I'm adapting the book into a solo show that I'd like to take to festivals and theaters around the country. Since American Sign Language is purely a visual, unwritten language and storytelling is a huge part of Deaf culture, a staged performance seems like a no-brainer.

For more on "Burn Down the Ground" visit her website.

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