Leader columnist Carrie Classon publishes memoir

Mary Stirrat | Staff writer
Being alive in this world means experiencing joy and sorrow, contentment and loss, excitement and pain.
The details of our stories are different but the outlines tend to be similar.
In her recently published memoir, "Blue Yarn,” writer Carrie Classon shares her own story with the hope that it may encourage others who find that the life they knew has been upended.
With courage, transparency and a healthy dose of wit, Classon tells of losing her marriage of 20-plus years, her career and her home – as well as having a warrant issued for her arrest – all within a matter of weeks.
"I had been successful as a theater producer, then as a businessperson working overseas,” she said. "I had a 22-year marriage that, while it had experienced some ups and downs, I assumed would last forever.
"In the space of two months, I found myself without a job, a husband, or even a home, living in Lagos, Nigeria – and I had not seen any of it coming.
"How the heck did this happen? I had to write to figure it out. I started writing "Blue Yarn,” honestly, to try to understand what had happened to me.”
Hence the subtitle, "A Memoir About Loss, Letting Go, and What Happens Next.”
Alone in Nigeria except for the company of her blind cat, she experienced multiple betrayals and setbacks, trying to survive, recover and discover who she is and what she was created to do.
But along with those betrayals and setbacks she finds courage, true friends, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, beauty and joy, eventually rediscovering the things that are most important to her.
Although each person’s journey is unique, said Classon, the journey to figure out who we are after losing everything that defines us is a road that most people have to travel.
"Who am I now, after everything is lost? What happens next? These are questions I think everyone grapples with at some point in their life,” Classon said.
Expressive and sometimes raw with emotion, Classon’s writing takes the reader through the pain and confusion of loss as well as the nature of trust and strength. Her use of language brings colors, aromas and sensations to life.
In the mind’s eye, the reader can see the destitute, tumor-ridden beggars on the street and smell the freshly roasted peanuts sold in old gin bottles.
One can feel the gentle rocking of a dhow, an "ancient, single-sailed Swahili” ship, off the east coast of Africa under a full moon and the pain of being rejected by the one you thought would love you unto death.
One experiences the feeling of taking baby steps toward once again being fully alive.
And although many of the particulars of Classon’s situation were not of her own doing, she freely admits her blind spots, her faults and her missteps. Her story is at times appalling, at times sad and at times quite amusing.
Classon and her writing should be familiar to Leader readers. Her first column, Letters from Home, ran for five years starting in 2009.
She had returned to St. Croix Falls after living in Africa for four years and was wondering what to do next.
"When I returned to Wisconsin,” she said, "I hatched the idea of writing a weekly column.”
Although she had done little writing up to that point, she said, the idea persisted until one day in the fall of 2009 when she approached Leader editor Gary King with four sample columns.
"I asked Gary if he’d consider running it, and he said he’d give the column a six-month trial. Letters from Home ran for 255 consecutive weeks.”
Partway through those 255 weeks Classon decided to write "Blue Yarn.” She enrolled at the University of New Mexico and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing while teaching two classes a week.
While at UNM she met her agent, who was interested in her writing. "I realized this was the opportunity most writers never get so I reluctantly called up Gary and told him I had a chance to get a book deal.”
She took time off from her column and finished "Blue Yarn,” which eventually sold. Realizing she missed writing her weekly column, Classon again contacted King at the Leader and he invited her back as a columnist.
Her column was started again in 2019 under the name "The Postscript.” Classon offered it to other papers as well and it currently is carried in more than 100 newspapers in 21 states and is heard on Public Radio.
Classon is also known in the area and in the theater world for her work in helping to found Festival Theatre in St. Croix Falls in 1990.
"Those were exciting times and a tremendous amount of work. I later went on to get an MBA, but everything important I know about marketing I learned while selling theater tickets in St. Croix Falls.”
Classon’s acting was on hold while pursuing her education and careers in business and then writing. She is back at it now with a show titled "I’ve Been Waiting All My Life to be Middle-Aged,” which combines her columns, memoir and improvisation into a commentary on everyday life.
"Blue Yarn” is available online at Barns and Noble and at Amazon. It can also be ordered from the publisher, Aevitas, by any bookstore.
Classon, however, urges local readers to stop at the Inter-County Leader for a copy.
"It will be for sale in the Inter-County Leader offices,” she said, "and that’s where I’d recommend readers buy it because that’s where the whole thing began.”

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