Empty Cradle, Diana Walsh’s nightmare account of the kidnapping of her infant daughter, has received two prestigious literary award nominations; the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction & the Arthur Ellis Prize for crime writing.
Anyone who has lived in Burlington long enough to remember the kidnapping of a newborn infant from Joseph Brant hospital two days before Christmas in 1993, may remember what they were doing when they heard the news, as well as how they felt the following day to learn the child had been returned to her parents. Stranger abduction in Canada is a rare occurrence, say authors of an RCMP study. "Each incident, however, tends to shock the nation," says author Marlene Dalley, of the National Missing Children Services.
This may account partially for the growing popularity of Diana Walsh’s true crime memoir, Empty Cradle, but a good story doesn’t always guarantee a good book. “Walsh is more than a writer with an interesting story to tell, she is a natural storyteller,” says Jim Shephard, co-founder of Northshore Wordsmiths, our critique group where Walsh honed her writing skills. “I’m not surprised to hear that so many groups are making Empty Cradle a book club selection,” says Shephard, author of the P.E.Eyes detective novel series.While there are still aspects of the event that Walsh finds too sensitive to discuss, in Empty Cradle, she writes openly and honestly about the most excruciating aspects of her ordeal. The public has responded by buying the book—one tea room in Stoney Creek placed an immediate order for 500 copies—and readers are sharing their own hurts with the author through her website.
I sat down with Diana recently to quiz her about the writing process.
Q: Why did you write Empty Cradle?
A: So many people over the years have wanted to learn the details of my daughter’s kidnapping, but it was too difficult a subject for me emotionally. By writing about it, I was able to give the story a voice without feeling so vulnerable. I can now put the horror of those eleven hours in perspective.Q: In the book, you touch on the subject of post traumatic memory loss. How did you deal with this as it relates to the writing of your book?
A: Memory recovery is a gradual process. I liken it to opening a filing cabinet. As you slowly open the drawer and remove each file, you focus on individual sheets, and as you do, others fall into place. That being said, I do have a complete 2 hr. blackout period. I don’t remember anything about being moved from the crime scene to another location within the hospital. And, of course, I have relied upon court records and other official documents as well as family members to fill in some of the details.
Q: Your infant daughter was abducted from the maternity ward of a hospital, a presumably safe environment. What advice would you give to new parents?A: Be empowered. Follow your instincts. We have a transparent health care system and educational system. Be involved.
Q: Burlington is home to a number of experienced and novice writers. What advice would you offer your colleagues?A: Prioritize your time and fiercely protect it. Do your research. Join a writers group. Believe it can happen.
Northshore Wordsmiths member, Diana Walsh, will be appearing at a Book Lovers Tea:
Date: April 6th, 2013
Time: 2 - 4 p.m.Location: St. Matthew's Church
126 Plains Rd. East, Burlington
Refreshments: First & Forever Cakes