Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Q&A with Amy Turner


Photo by Lena Yaremenko



Amy Turner is the author of the new memoir On the Ledge. She has been a lawyer and a social studies teacher, and she lives in East Hampton, New York.


Q: What inspired you to write On the Ledge?


A: A few months after being hit by a truck as I stood in a crosswalk and then my brother’s sudden and unexpected death, I wrote a thank you note to our high school English teacher. The words just flowed and soon I found myself writing something well beyond the bounds of a personal note.


Eventually, I started writing to “make sense” of these seemingly random events, and realized that I was actually uncovering the long buried impacts of a much earlier trauma-—my father’s attempted suicide when I was 4 years old.


Q: The author Susan Scarf Merrell said of the book, “On the Ledge is an extraordinary memoir of the way trauma harms both body and soul.” What do you think of that description?


A: I'm honored that a writer as highly accomplished as Susan Scarf Merrell considers my memoir extraordinary. She certainly zeroes in on one of the book's core themes—that unresolved trauma (in my case, a childhood developmental trauma)—can have lifelong impacts on both body and soul.


Yet, my memoir also conveys an equally important positive message. The healing of trauma can trigger life-changing psychological, emotional, and even spiritual growth.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Early in the writing process, I brainstormed a list of titles, almost all of which included “ledge.” For me, the word has both literal and metaphorical significance. In 1957, my father climbed onto the ledge of his hotel room window and threatened to jump. He stood on the ledge for 20 minutes until a priest finally convinced him to climb back inside.


Metaphorically, the “ledge” represents our challenges and fears around confronting vulnerability. In one way or another, we are all in a precarious position. My “ledge” was the vulnerability I felt as the daughter of a depressive and potentially suicidal father, and then decades later, as I looked into the rapidly nearing windshield of the truck.

Finally, the “ledge”—from which we can climb back to safety—represents the idea that we can face, but not be consumed by, our vulnerabilities.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book, and what do you hope readers take away from it?


A: Writing the book has impacted me on many different levels, and those impacts are still unfolding!


Perhaps most importantly, writing the book released a powerful flow of creativity, strong enough to dissolve the blocks that plagued me. It was as though a cork had blown off, granting me access for the first time to memories, insights, and connections that were both liberating and surprising.


Additionally, I certainly got to know myself better through the writing process. I can't say that writing is therapy, but I do think it facilitates insight.


Most surprising to me, the book has brought me closer to my siblings and has generated a sense of collective—maybe even intergenerational—healing. 


Lastly, as a friendly warning to anyone writing about trauma or other challenging personal subjects, please take care of yourself! I found that writing can have physical impacts as well.


As far as my readers, I hope they will be inspired and reassured by my experience—that you are never too far along in life to start over—and find the courage to confront any emotional issues, including unresolved trauma, that may constrain them.


Although my discussion about the book has involved serious topics so far, I hope my readers will appreciate my memoir's humor (which, in my case, has always been therapeutic).


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm in the midst of promoting my book—which involves getting comfortable with yet another layer of vulnerability and exposure!


I'm also looking forward to starting my next project, which will focus on the 95-year-long life of my great-grandmother, who grew up in Brooklyn and remembered watching the NYC funeral procession for Abraham Lincoln in 1865.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the support I received (and continue to receive) during my writing journey. I could not have completed this memoir without the generosity of my writing teachers, fellow writers, friends, and family.


For additional information about me and On the Ledge, please visit my website (


--Interview with Deborah Kalb 

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