Content Warning: This episode discusses the guest’s experience with child mortality.
Writing for Herself
Allison Langer loves writing. She teaches it, both to people in prisons and as a private coach. She reads it—Her favorite memoir is Half a Life by Darren Strauss. She talks about it with her best friend Andrea on their podcast, Writing Class Radio. And, of course, she writes it: You can find her work in periodicals like The Washington Post and 50GS Magazine.
Allison wasn’t always a writer. Her first career was photography. She came to discover writing after unimaginable tragedy rocked her life. After giving birth to twins, Allison discovered one of her babies had a congenital heart defect. Her daughter passed away when she was just sixteen months old. She died on the morning she was scheduled to have life-saving surgery.
“You think you’re doing everything right, but life sometimes has its own plans,” Allison says.
Not long after Allison lost her daughter, she heard an advertisement for a writing class on the radio. Writing had always been a dream of hers, so she took the class. It wasn’t until the last day of the class that she finally wrote the story of losing her daughter. “I realized writing was allowing me to rid myself of some of this pain,” she explains.
Writing for Others
She finished the course with both a sense of purpose and a new friend: Her writing teacher. Both women now co-host their podcast, Writing Class Radio. She describes the podcast as a resource to help other people who are “writing through pain.”
Her determination to help people write through pain doesn’t end there. She also teaches writing to men incarcerated at Homestead Correctional Institution in Florida City. She learned of a program that partners incarcerated people with writers through a TEDx talk called Voices from the Inside. “It has really opened up my heart to people I would never have chosen as friends,” she says. “By hearing their stories and understanding them, I am less judgmental and critical.”
Tragedy strikes again
In the last year, tragedy struck Allison’s life once again. She had ovarian cancer. Although she was scared for herself, Allison's biggest concern was her children. As a mom who had children on her own, without a partner (using donated sperm), if something happened to her, who would take care of her children?
In the end, however, Allison didn't need to worry. Her incredible community came together in the most magical way. Allison's friends promised to take care of her children while she undergoes treatment and always support them if the worst case happened. Allison credits her friends for helping keep her spirits up. Their love and support mean everything.
“In the wild, the female elephants gather around other female elephants who are in trouble and they protect them, and that’s what all my girlfriends did.” Allison gifted each of her friends an elephant hat to honor this coming together and to show her gratitude.
Her favorite way to celebrate life, she says, is to celebrate with her friends.
Books, books books
Throughout the interview, Allison and our Host, Heather Vickery, shared many wonderful book recommendations.
Memoirs referenced in the show
- Half a Life by Darren Strauss
- The Master Plan by Chris Wilson
- The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton
- We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union
- What's Wrong With You! by Omar Yamini, available to purchase through his website. You can also listen to his episode of The Brave Files here.
- Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
Get to know Allison
Allison Langer teaches memoir writing in prisons. Additionally, she is a private writing coach, tutor, and editor. She also co-produces the podcast Writing Class Radio with Andrea Askowitz. You can find her work in The Washington Post, Mutha Magazine, Scary Mommy, Ravishly, Modern Loss, and 50GS Magazine. She currently lives in Miami with her three children. You can contact her here.