Pensacola News Journal Feature

Local author inks book deal and shares her struggle

In the midst of marital struggles, and through the suggestion of a counselor, Dawn Quarles began keeping an elaborate journal.

Several years later, the stories and feelings documented in her journal would become a memoir of her struggles, fears and mistakes titled “Aprils and Decembers.”

Quarles grew up in Milton. She married young, traveled while she could, went to college, divorced, and returned to Pensacola in 1995. One year later, she met Bob, and the two were married by 1999. In 2004, she accepted a teaching position at Pace High School, where she teaches politics.

Bob and Quarles had a son, Ben. In 2008, Quarles and her husband experienced difficulties in their marriage and Bob became sick with the flu. He was never quite able to kick the illness. Despite counseling, the two divorced in 2009.

Bob committed suicide the following year.

“I think he knew he was never going to get well again,” Quarles said. “At the time he died, my son was 9 and I was worried he would only remember the bad stuff, so I started writing down our good stories.”

Quarles was concerned about the mental health of her son, and how he would develop and process memories about his family and early childhood.

The journal that housed the stories Quarles hoped to pass on to her son also became a grief journal.

“You start to piece the missing parts of the last 15 years together, and it became this enormously long, complicated journey,” she said.

Quarles decided to make pieces of the book into a memoir for friends, family and herself.

She sent various portions and copies of her story to more than 75 publishers.

“You have to look through which publishers accept first-time authors — which ones will take memoirs — and then go through the remaining list and find out what they want from you,” Quarles said.

A small publisher in Texas, Black Rose Publishing, picked up the book. It was released Dec. 10.

The local support has been tremendous, Quarles said. Several books clubs in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have chosen to read “Aprils and Decembers,” and have asked Quarles to attend their final discussions.

“You don’t usually get to meet the author of the book you just read,” Ashley Murray said. Murray is part of a book club in Santa Rosa County with 10 other women. The group plans to gather on Jan. 12 to meet Quarles and discuss the book.

“The main thing I took away from the book was how raw and honest it was,” Murray said. “I don’t know that I could be that honest with myself, and really take ownership of all the details, good and bad.”

Murray noted the vulnerability she imagined Quarles experiencing after releasing such personal details.

“She said things that would be hard to admit to yourself, much less thousands of people,” Murray said. “And she really wanted to create a legacy for her son, Ben, for him to know her for who she really is — good and bad.”

As much as the story is about relationships and struggles, it is vastly about parenting and the lasting impressions mothers and fathers leave on their children.

“The process of documenting and remembering has really helped me heal,” she said.

Quarles will do a public book reading and signing at Barnes & Noble on Airport Boulevard on Jan. 23.

“We like to bring in local authors, so the customers can get a feel for the area,” said Laura Ferrer, community and business development manager. “You get to meet these different characters, and they are right here in our city.”

To get a copy:

“Aprils and Decembers” is available online at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Smashbooks

Hard copies will be available at Barnes & Noble in Pensacola on Jan. 23 book signing

For more information, visit dawnquarles.com.

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