Changed by tragedy

“Alive in the Sunshine,” a memoir written by Hoboken resident of 19 years Nancy Colasurdo, explores life themes “everyone can relate to,” in places very familiar to anyone who has spent time in the mile square city, including Symposia Bookstore, The Brass Rail, Sinatra Park, and others.
The memoir chronicles the life and inner workings of Colasurdo for a decade. Readers can follow her ups and downs as she explores life, and the book’s themes include new beginnings, reinvention, and overcoming obstacles.
The self-published memoir details her journey of self-reflection and change, beginning with the staggering effects of being in New York City on 9/11 and her subsequent layoff as a television producer.
“In the first six months,” said Colasurdo, “I went from finding a volunteer coaching gig for a young boy, to having an affair, to turning forty, to the Catholic Church imploding, to getting laid off. I mean that was all within six months of 9/11. It was a wake up… I was in New York, and so it just had such a profound impact on how I saw everything and how I acted and I was just determined to grow from it.”
Colasurdo said writing the memoir just happened because she found writing cathartic.
“Something just compelled me to record what was happening right before and after 9/11 to right on through,” said Colasurdo. “I can’t say I had this clear notion of the memoir genre at that point. I think it really emerged while I was writing it. There’s almost a cathartic part of it as you’re writing it. I wasn’t looking to provide an instruction manual for anyone, it was sort of just ‘this is what happened to me and here it is’.”
Colasurdo added that one person thought she was using 9/11 as a promotion tool.
“I thought no… If you don’t use 9/11 to change, what the hell will make you change? I am the type of person who doesn’t understand how you came through it not changed. So that’s really where I come from with it. I still can’t believe it happened.”
The memoir has Hoboken written all over it. The cover design was even created by a Hoboken resident Mary Ann Farley and Colasurdo said the memoir wouldn’t have happened if she lived elsewhere.
“I think I may not have written the memoir if I didn’t live here in Hoboken,” said Colasurdo. “I may not have understood the value in the average person’s experience. I think I saw the value of it because of the collection of experiences living here for sure. At Symposia we had such an array of Hoboken residents, we had such exciting and thought provoking conversations, and I’d start to see what they were getting out of the town. I think Hoboken contributed in so many ways and still does. It’s really an interesting time here.”

Creative empowerment

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Colasurodo said she was reluctant to self publish and originally went the more traditional route but publishers felt she didn’t have the platform. “They didn’t think I was big enough and that I was too unknown.”
“I lot of people think you have to be a celebrity, that you have to be a somebody to have a memoir,” said Colasurdo. “I just knew this story had to be birthed. It had to be out there.”
She said that self-publishing gave her a sense of empowerment as she was part of the entire creative process.
“First I just published it as an eBook using Amazon,” said Colasurdo. “It was already professionally edited so I really just had to pull the trigger. Once I did I was overwhelmed with emails asking when the physical book comes out because ‘I don’t do eBooks.’”
Then, using Amazon, she decided to try it out, get a proof, and if it turned out well she would run with it.
“It was actually really easy and a lot of fun,” said Colasurdo. “I have a whole wall of books in my apartment so I’m plucking books off the shelf asking myself do I like page numbers flushed right or left, do I like white pages or do they look too pristine and so you just go through and you play. It was empowering. I was part of the creative process the entire way through. The satisfaction level is really worth it.”

Be on the look out

Colasurdo said she is working on a second memoir.
“I have a ton of material for what my friends affectionately call ‘Sunshine Two’,” said Colasurdo.
She said the next book will focus on a few things including grief and possibly Hurricane Sandy as the book will begin around 2012.
“2012 was packed with death,” said Colasurdo. “Sequentially it was a weird year for that, and then it culminated in Superstorm Sandy, so that year was a big reality check. So that looks like the beginning of another book.”
“And I don’t want it to be like ‘Let’s find another tragedy to start a book with.’ For me it’s about grief and post traumatic growth… I feel like that’s what I’m about. I think it’s important to take a tragedy if possible and grow from it.”
Ultimately, “Alive in the Sunshine” is about learning to appreciate simple pleasures and be present.
“Read signs,” Colasurdo said. “Follow the breadcrumbs. I touch on signs a lot in the book. Pay attention to it. The whole book is about how I learned to pay attention and I guess the wakeup was 9/11.”
“ ‘Alive in the Sunshine’ is about authenticity,” said Colasurdo. “The messy parts of real life are there. It’s all true. Nothing is glossed over.”
The print copy can be purchased at Little City Books, Symposia Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at

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