Book Bag: ‘Paris in Oakland’ by Eliza Q Hemenway; ‘You Idea Starts Here: 77 Mind-Expanding Ways to Unleash Your Creativity’ by Carolyn Eckert

Friday, June 03, 2016


By Eliza Q Hemenway



Northampton native Eliza Hemenway, now a documentary filmmaker living in northern California, has turned to the written word to tell a very personal story. In “Paris in Oakland,” she recounts years of battling skeptical doctors and her own despair as she sought a cure for her young daughter, Katherine, who suffered from the effects of Lyme disease.

The problems began when Katherine was 7; in the following years she began to experience a raft of mysterious pains and symptoms, from aching feet and muscles to dizziness, headaches, exhaustion and nausea. Her heart rate began spiking dangerously from any physical activity, and by middle school she was forced to quit the swim team.

Hemenway writes that she took her daughter to mumerous doctors, none of whom could diagnose the problem; some suggested she was depressed. Doing her own internet research, Hemenway began to suspect Katherine had Lyme disease, a diagnosis that some new “Lyme-literate” doctors she consulted agreed with.

Yet some of Katherine’s regular physicians dismissed that idea, Hemenway writes, and she learned that Lyme disease was a subject of considerable controversy in the medical community, with some doctors believing so-called “Lyme doctors” were charlatans.

One doctor, despite what seemed convincing evidence that Katherine might well have Lyme disease, insisted to Hemenway that her daughters’ problems were caused by something else, even suggesting she was imagining them: “The mind does amazing things.”

That was cause for more despair and frustration, Hemenway writes.

“I was not a doctor. I was a mother with a very sick child. I needed wisdom. I needed truth. I needed this division in the medical community to end and for my daughter to get the health care she so desperately needed.”

Eventually, Katherine did get well, though not before she ended up in a pediatric intensive care ward, her life hanging by a thread. Hemenway says she personally got through the ordeal through her faith in God, the support of others who were dealing with Lyme disease directly or indirectly, and what she believes was God’s direct intervention in Katherine’s case.

Now she hopes her book will provide help and hope to others struggling with Lyme disease, or to anyone looking for inspiration in a difficult time. “God is good,” she writes. “Katherine is flesh-and-blood testimony to His power and grace.”

Eliza Hemenway will read from “Paris in Oakland,” and she and Katherine will speak about their experiences, June 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lyme Disease Resource Center in Northampton, at the Potpourri Plaza, 243 King St., Suite 236. You must call or email to reserve a seat: 588-7388 or info@lymedrc.org



By Carolyn Eckert

Storey Publishing



How can you move a good idea forward and turn it into something tangible? Graphic designer Carolyn Eckert said she began examining that question a few years ago while assisting in an Amherst College photography/book class. Students, she said, were not sure how to take the next step with their initial designs.

Eckert, of Northampton, began thinking of writing a how-to book about sparking creativity. To do that, she decided she’d tap her own experience as a designer of books, magazine covers, logos and advertisements. In other words, she’d tell the story visually, using images to help readers make connections.

The result is “Your Idea Starts Here: 77 Mind-Expanding Ways to Unleash Your Creativity.” The small, rectangular book, published by Storey Publishing of North Adams, uses a minimum of text and lots of graphics — photos, drawings, art, advertisements — to suggest ways to realize creativity fully.

For instance, step 13 — “Play to Your Strengths” — is accompanied by an illustration of Victorian-era weightlifters and acrobats in absurd poses, like an outtake from an animated Monty Python sequence.  Step 16 — “Think Like a Minimalist” — is matched with a photo of a paperclip and the quote “It was invented in 1899. It hasn’t been improved upon since.”

Eckert offers short bits of text that examine the invention of the potato chip, windshield wipers, the Chanel suit and other notable things to show how inspiration can come from diverse places, and she says it’s normal to get stuck. When you do, there are several options for getting unstuck: “Take a Walk,” Talk With a Friend,” “Space Out,” “Go to Sleep,” or “Look to Other Fields of Study.”

“There is no right or wrong way to get ideas,” she writes. “But the more open you are to possibility, and the more you observe, listen, read, talk to people, and travel (even just down the block), the more connections you’ll make. And one idea leads to another ...”