Garden City, NY - July 25, 2017 - After publishing her first novel, The Ropes That Bind, Tracy Stopler submitted hard copies in two categories to the Independent Press Awards Competition: Women’s Issues and Women’s Fiction, the latter for which she was selected as the “Distinguished Favorite” winner. However, Stopler, who is a registered dietician in private practice for 30 years, an adjunct professor at Adelphi University for 20 years, and who recently took on a new role as the Enough Abuse Campaign Coordinator, does not consider herself a writer. “I have what I really hope is a terrific, inspiring story,” said Stopler. “I’m thrilled that I got it done and now I’m moving on.”
Based on Stopler's own life, her novel tells the story of nine-year-old Tali Stark, a girl from the Bronx who is sexually assaulted one morning when she stops to give "The Man" directions. After blaming herself for what happens, Tali embarks on a spiritual and emotional journey of healing that spans several decades from the time she is a child to almost 50 years old.
In regards to why she began the novel, Stopler had this to say, "First it was to help me overcome my own adversity but second, to help readers overcome their adversity. Readers will relate to Tali because nearly everyone experiences childhood trauma, whether it's abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction. Each of those traumas, even neglect affects brain chemistry and can prevent us from reaching our full potential. Only when we climb our own mountain, whatever that is, do we really learn to become our best selves and live our purpose."
The novel is largely based on memoir writing and took Stopler 15 years to complete. "You know what, it's based on the research. It's based on the timing. There are a lot of factors that go into it," said Stopler. "I had to develop as a person to know where Tali would go. I had to heal myself before I could finish the book and build the character."
The official process began in 2002 at Gothams Writing Workshop in New York City, where Stopler took a memoir class. "I've been told the story reads like a memoir," said Stopler. "That's why it comes across so authentic. Even my family didn't know what was fiction and what was non-fiction."
Describing her writing process as disciplined, Stopler spread her three hours of writing throughout the day and used her own dreams and journals to remain authentic to her character, particularly when writing in the voice of nine-year-old Tali. As far as her other characters, Stopler revealed that every character in the novel is based on a real person in her life, with some characters based on several different people.
It is just one of the areas where Stopler was able to implement more of the creative writing that sets this story apart from memoir. "There is one particular scene that was not true. It was creative writing," said Stopler. "But it was something in my mind for years and it was the strong character that I wanted to be in real life, but I didn't have that opportunity so I let Tali have that moment, and when I wrote it I felt so empowered as the writer but also as Tali."
Stopler's debut novel brings to light the under-reported crime of child sexual abuse. It is a cause that Stopler has been heavily involved with for almost a decade. Before being hired as the Enough Abuse Campaign Coordinator, Stopler worked as a volunteer for The Safe Center in Bethpage, NY for eight years as a child victims' advocate and later, a SAFER (Survivors Advocate for Emergency Response) advocate.
"It was interesting because I wasn't looking to be anything more than a volunteer... But they knew I was very passionate about this and they needed someone to run their program. And I have to tell you, I was the one. I knew I wanted to do it," said Stopler.
There are currently 50 volunteers working with Stopler to educate adults throughout Long Island on how to protect children against childhood sexual abuse. There are anywhere between one and six disclosures from victims at each book club and library discussion Stopler has presented and because of her position with The Safe Center she now has the means to get survivors the help they need, whether the abuse took place recently or in the past.
In addition to winning the Independent Press Award, it is the chance of empowerment and great opportunity to help others that Stopler values most.
Although Stopler doesn't wish to make a career out of writing, she is happy with the story she has written and is currently working on a second book about dogs.
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