Guest contributor: Debora Black

Table for Two: An Interview with Mira Ptacin

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Table For Two: Interviews



Debora: Poor Your Soul is such a lonely title. Very sad. Tell us about what’s inside your pages.

MIRA: Here’s the story: in 2008, at age twenty-eight, I accidentally got pregnant, despite taking birth control pills and never missing a dose. (I’m that 1 percent.) It wasn’t easy, I wasn’t happy about it, but I embraced it. And even though we’d only known each other for just three months, my boyfriend Andrew and I got engaged. Five months later, during the ultrasound that was to predict the sex of our baby, doctors found instead that our child had a constellation of birth defects and no chance of survival outside my womb. I was given three choices: terminate the pregnancy, induce delivery, or do nothing and inevitably miscarry. Poor Your Soul simultaneously traces my mother’s immigration from Poland at the age of twenty-eight, the adoption of her son Julian, his tragic death, and her reaction to the grief that followed. Both our stories examine how woman copes with the inevitable but unexpected losses a woman faces in the search for her identity. But overall, this isn’t a sad story. It’s a love story, about how I found love in my marriage, in my family, and for myself when everything around us was in chaos. It’s about perseverance and will.

Debora: A first book is a special undertaking. What was your experience with the process?

MIRA: Writing the book was my way of exorcising the trauma and sorrow out of me. It was what I did to heal, and it was also my job. It was very difficult selling the book, because for a long time, no publisher wanted to tackle a book that was not only a memoir (those are hard to sell/publish), but a book that involved a taboo/controversial subject: abortion. It took me one year to write the book, but almost eight years to find a publisher that I was happy with. Soho Press launched the book in January 2016, and I’m very happy and relieved, and have moved forward in my life as a human and as a mother. It’s almost like I put a tombstone on that part of my life.

Mira Ptacin PYSDebora: The scene with your father and brother together in the car is really well written—the particular way the action moves, the way that ends with your father rocking your brother in his arms, and how you are there in your mind’s eye in the telling. How did you arrive at the right structure for the writing of your memoir?

MIRA: I didn’t know how to write about my emotions and feelings about the crash. I still don’t know how I feel, other than sadness and anger. I took it back to the basics: show, don’t tell. And I wrote it cinematically, with a few threads of scene weaving together. My inspiration was Jo Ann Beard’s essay “The Fourth State of Matter”. This helped me tremendously with structure. I was writing it like an omnipotent narrator, watching from above, watching the character of Mira as well.

Debora: What did you feel like when you finished the manuscript?

MIRA: I still haven’t read the final manuscript from beginning to end. I’m not sure if I ever will. I need some space from it. Perhaps in a decade or two I might read my memoir. Perhaps I will write another one in a decade or two. Perspectives change over time . . .

Debora: And now you live on an island in Maine. What is that like?

MIRA: Andrew and I have two kids now; Theo is three years old, and Simone is five months. I write from home, spend a lot of time in the woods with my kids and dogs. Peaks Island is a very strong community, very supportive, very quirky. I feel this is where we belong. The winters are full of solitude and peace, the summers are bright and vibrant. It is an island somewhat frozen in time, and I love it.

Debora: It’s an unusual place to end up. What took you there?

MIRA: We wanted to escape the hassle and rat race of New York City. We wanted to live a quiet and slow existence, take walks in the woods, not be burned for being ultra sensitive. You can read more about it here:


Debora Black is a writer and athlete living in Steamboat Springs, CO

  1. Richard Gilbert writes:

    Thank you for this lovely interview about what appears to be a special book. What a compelling story, and love the author’s thoughts on structure.

  2. Jan Aarsheim writes:

    I agree with Stephan! I want to read the book. Sometimes a good cry and appreciation for your own life is a good thing. I congratulate Mira for her courage. You Debora for the interview. Thank you both.

    • Debora writes:

      Thanks Jan. You always bring a healthy and positive perspective to the conversation. Appreciation for life, indeed, hit me in a special way when I read Mira’s book.

  3. Stephan Zittel writes:

    Very interesting subject matter . . so personal and difficult. Looking forward to reading this book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    • Debora writes:

      You bet, Stephan. And, as far as the subject matter, I surely keep thinking about it…