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‘every feeling is big’: Realizing her dream of publishing a book, Rogers’ Sloan Butler opens door for big conversations, belonging

03/15/24 11:30:am

book3.jpgSloan Butler says she’s been writing for as long as she can remember, with the aspiration of maybe one day publishing a book.

“Anyone who is a writer has that dream,” says Sloan.

That dream came true February 1, when Sloan’s book, every feeling is big, was published. It’s poetry and prose, covering deeply personal topics such as grief, addiction, loss, love, trauma, and domestic violence.

“It’s about my own experiences,” she shares. “It’s a culmination of the past three years of writing.”

The title was inspired by a friend’s reaction to reading the manuscript.

“Before hiring a professional proofreader, I had a few friends, who are also creative writing majors like me, skim it and see what they thought,” she says. “As they were reading through it, a few of them laughed, having lived through a lot of my break-ups and relationships. Then they would cry from the more painful stories, especially from my childhood. They would call me every time they read it, expressing that it was really emotionally taxing to read, and they felt as though they were living through the experience with me. One of them said, ‘I feel like every feeling is big.’ I thought that sounded like a good title because that’s really what it is. It’s very emotional and vulnerable poetry.”

While Sloan has been published in literary journals under a penname, it wasn’t until last month that she published under her actual name, crediting her late best friend, Becky, for giving her the courage to do so.

“Becky used to pester me relentlessly because she loved what work I would share with her, so she was always trying to figure out what my penname was, but I wouldn’t share it with anybody,” she explains. “It was a way for me to talk candidly about things without having to worry about feedback, the way others would receive it, or wonder if people would look at me differently. Long before she passed away, she made me promise that if she died before me, I would write the eulogy for her funeral. In August 2020, she died as a result of heroin addiction. As I was writing the eulogy, I got this overwhelming feeling that the only way to truly honor her life, and make sure that her death wasn’t in vain, was to do the one thing that she always wanted me to do, which was to share my writings with other people.”

Sloan says publishing her book has exceeded her wildest expectations.

“Everything that I could have hoped would happen, is happening,” she says.

Sloan was hoping even one person would read it.

“So far, I’ve sold just under 500 copies,” she says. “The average for independent publishers is about 250.”

Sloan.JPGSloan says best of all, it’s opened doors for her to have conversations about topics that are typically difficult to discuss.

“A number of people have reached out to me, especially about specific pieces,” she says. “I think it’s helped me to learn a lot more about my friends and coworkers. People have come into the Ladish Center to share their similar experiences with me, like being raised in an abusive household. I think it can be easy to forget the reasons why we all get into this field, to encourage people, have difficult conversations, and help others work through work through emotions. Connecting with people who have similar experiences is a big piece of healing from a lot of it.”

Sloan is currently working on a second book that dives deeper into her experiences and emotions. She expects it to be available in August.

“I’ve had to come to terms with how uncomfortable it is for me to receive feedback about my writing,” she says. “It’s been a really interesting experience having conversations with complete strangers about things that are very personal. I’m learning how to receive compliments, how to accept feedback with grace and with dignity. Being able to accept compliments doesn’t make me an egotistical person. I think a lot of that way of thinking was taught to me in childhood. I’m having to relive a lot. After all the therapy, a person still sits with their experiences.”

Sloan says if she could sum up in one word what her writings are about, it’s belonging.

“All of us are just trying to find belonging in a world that is riddled with uncertainty and where you have to endure a lot of challenges and find your way to the other end of them,” she shares. “As difficult as a lot of this is, I also have a lot of gratitude for the experiences. I think that the gratitude is reflected in the writings, because I have the knowledge that I love who I am today, and I understand that I wouldn’t be who I am had these things not happened. Without having survived these struggles, I don’t know that I would be as particularly compassionate or empathetic in a way that is useful, especially in a setting like Rogers.”

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