Reprinted from the Wilkie-Unity Press-Herald
On Amazon, the prelude to The Witty Widow states, “If you’re reading this book, you either A) like a good laugh, whether it comes laughing with me or at me, or B) joined a club you wish you weren’t a member of. I’m hoping you’re reading this book for option A, but if it’s for option B, I’m sorry girl, but you’re in for a long, hard road (and not the long, hard we all need more of in our life). My name is Zoe Emily-Anne Parkinson-Fisher (yes, I’m a fan of hyphens), and I became a widow at 25 (in addition to an orphan at 22, but we’ll dive into that hell-hole at a later time). So sit back, relax, pour a glass of wine (then drink the rest from the bottle), and enjoy the show.”
On opening day of its release this book was number one on Amazon in the Grief and Bereavement category and number nine on the Amazon bestsellers list – and that was just the beginning for Zoe Parkinson-Fisher. However as one Facebook poster so perfectly stated, “I have mixed feelings, I am so looking forward to reading your book ... but so sad you had to write it in the first place. You are truly an inspiration.”
Zoe Parkinson-Fisher grew up in Unity and graduated from Unity Composite High School in 2010. Those who knew her remember the same bright smile as her mother with the sparkling eyes of a girl full of enthusiasm for life and what lay ahead in her life’s journey. She went on to Minot State University to obtain her degree in speech language pathology and currently lives and works in Cochrane, Alta., with her dog Layla.
“It has honestly meant the world to me to know so many people are in my court and cheering me on. It’s been a really challenging few years, but I’m thankful to be doing much better now and it’s largely due to the amount of support and love I’ve received from people I had no idea cared so deeply.”
Many readers know her story. No one ever expects that chapters in their life stories will include incredible losses in a short period of time. However, Zoe decided as a way to help her heal from the tragedy of becoming a widow and orphan in just a few years, writing her story could be a form of therapy in her healing journey.
The Witty Widow was released on all Amazon platforms on June 19. Opening sales were brisk and brought this publication into dual best selling categories.
Zoe said, “I wrote this book as a form of therapy to deal with my husband, Quinton Fisher’s, death. Originally, I started writing it just for myself, but as I began to write more and more I realized I couldn’t keep this story to myself. I knew that I had to be vulnerable and share my story with the world to break the silence and end the stigma surrounding mental health. If sharing my story can save just one life, then I feel I’m doing my part. It really is OK to not always be OK, and I want the world to know that.”
How did she come up with the title?
“My dad always said, ‘if you don’t laugh you go crazy,’ and I feel I’ve been dangling on that crazy cliff for a long time. Humour has always been my go-to, and I strongly believe if you can laugh on your worst day, the next day will be a better one. Humour truly got me through the last few years, and I’ve gotten through some pretty hard days by making jokes and light of horrible events. Thus, the title, ‘The Witty Widow’ just seemed to fit. I said it as a joke once to some friends, and it just stuck. I’ve very glad it did, as it just feels like the right fit.”
Zoe went on, “I started writing this book when I wrote Quinn’s obituary and eulogy for his funeral a few days after he died. Little did I know at the time, this was the beginning of the book. In October, two months after Quinn’s death, I began to joke to my friends that I should write a book about all the crazy things that were happening around me, such as questionable ‘advice’ people were trying to give me to ‘cheer me up.’ When self-help books kept showing up at my door, I started joking to my friends that I should just go ahead and write my own book, because none of the books quite fitted the genre of 25-year-old orphaned widow. Eventually, I began jotting down thoughts and ideas for chapters, and suddenly I just began to write. It began to flow out of me, and it really felt good getting it out there.”
“Sometimes I would start a chapter, then drop it for a while and pick it up months later, whereas other chapters I would suddenly get inspiration to write and I’d keep pumping it out until the chapter was complete. I wanted the book to be about my first year of widowhood, but also about mental health and what to do/not do, or say/not say when someone dies. I wanted it to be my story. Not Quinn’s, my mom’s, or my dad’s, but mine. How I’m surviving, despite such great losses. And, how I truly got through that first year. Unfiltered, raw and honest. With a few too many morbid jokes, bottles of wine and witty comments.
“I largely wanted this story to stay as my own, so when I had it complete and was happy with what I wrote, instead of getting one person to edit the entire book, I decided to send different chapters to different people in my life to edit individually. I wanted it to remain my voice and not take the shape of someone else’s voice. I wanted it to be raw and as imperfect as I am. I decided to self-publish it through Amazon versus seek out a publisher so I could keep control of my story and get it out to the public faster. I never had control in the death of my parents or the death of my husband, so control has become a big thing for me. This book is my story, and I wanted it to remain my voice.”
A portion of the royalties earned from this book’s release will be donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association in memory of Donald and Shirley Parkinson, Zoe’s parents; and Quinn Fisher, Zoe’s husband.
About the huge response already from purchasers, Zoe exclaims, “The response and support has been nothing short of amazing. I never expected so many people to reach out and let me know that my voice matters and that I am making a difference by sharing my story. It is humbling and beyond moving to know that what I’m doing is changing other people’s lives and stories. The number of people who have reached out to me in the last few years, sharing their own struggles with mental health or their own losses to mental health, and letting me know my voice has inspired them to get help or reach out, is truly incredible. I don’t want anyone to suffer in silence, and I sure as hell don’t want anyone to experience the trauma and pain I have, so if my voice can help prevent that, I’m doing my job and Quinn and my parents didn’t die for nothing. I am their legacy, and I won’t let their deaths be for nothing.”
Zoe is as of yet unsure if she will ever be in Unity for book signing or if she would consider this option. This summer she will travel to Australia and New Zealand to continue her own healing journey, stating “grief is a long process, and I still have a ways to go. I honestly find it challenging being back in Unity and find my anxiety heightens when I walk through streets once walked with my husband, mother or father; no doubt residual PTSD from so many lost happy memories in that town.”
She hasn’t completely ruled out the idea of a book signing but will wait and see what the fall brings.
What was her biggest inspiration in writing this book? Zoe said, “My husband, Quinn. Quinn was a man of little words, but the words he said were deep and always straight from the heart. He was kind, and he was funny; he was loving and he was so damn genuine. He lit up so many people’s lives and he didn’t even know it. Quinn changed my life when he fell in love with me, and he made me who I am today. His love is what got me through the last few years. Without that love, I wouldn’t be standing here today, as there were some pretty dark days in my life after his death. He was fierce, but he was tired. He fought long and he fought hard, but he just couldn’t fight anymore and, unfortunately, he didn’t have or know how to get the resources he needed to keep on fighting. Quinn can’t share his story, but I can share ours. And sharing it not only keeps his memory alive but hopefully will also keep others alive who are struggling with mental health just as he was.”
Asked how she fit in book writing with her own self-care and full-time career, Zoe replied, “I found writing this book to be a form of self-care. There were months that would go by where I just wasn’t strong enough to write, but I’d keep mental notes or little notes on my phone, and when I had the strength and energy back to write, it just poured out.”
Now that this book is written, what’s next for Zoe? Perhaps further writing?
“I’m not sure yet. I’ve been joking about writing a sequel, and I feel that it could definitely happen. I’ve been doing a lot of travelling to find myself since Quinn’s death, so maybe the sequel will be geared towards that travelling aspect of my life now as I continue to become comfortable with my new normal.”
Has she been approached or would she consider motivational speaking?
“I have, yes, and I definitely see myself doing so one day. When the time is right and the opportunity arises, I feel my life will be guided down that path.”
Where has Zoe’s biggest support come from in this venture? Her answer is heartfelt: “Truly my family, and my friends who have become my family over the last few years. I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t have such a massive support system holding me up and catching me when I fell. I truly feel the love and am so blessed to have so many people I can call on when I don’t have the strength to do it myself.”
Zoe was asked what words of wisdom she could offer for life, for those afraid to seek help and for those moving on with life after profound loss. She offered reassurance, saying, “It’s OK to not always be OK. It’s OK to fall down and spend days, weeks or months falling flat on your face and struggling to find yourself again. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not grieving in the right way or you’re not healing fast enough. Take things at your own pace, and always remember if what you did that day got you to the next, then you’re doing the best you can and there will be better days in time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Someone is always out there ready to help out. You never have to battle any battle alone, despite how lonely you may feel sometimes. You are fierce, and we will get through this together. It’s OK to not be OK.”