Karen Moderow

Published May 14, 2018

Writing for Recovery

When it comes to writing a great story, one tip from author and blogger Karen Moderow is “what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.” Karen's Ten Commandments of Writing Fiction and many other articles are available online. There are two published inspirational books upon her shelf and currently she is working on her first novel, What Remains - a 1890s historical family saga set in a rural Texas community that draws from her own history and life.

Karen admits putting pen to paper became a way of coping with the emotional pain of a family tragedy. In 1996, her then eighteen-year-old son was in a car accident that left him with a permanent traumatic brain injury (TBI).

“One day my son was headed for college, and the next he was in a coma,” said Moderow.

She said anyone who has encountered brain injury knows, everything changes because it is a devastating condition that throws families into a long-term crisis and an uncertain future.

 “The scariest day was not the day of the accident, but the day we brought Michael home from the hospital,” Moderow said.

Karen explains that the task of caring for a person who often will never fully recover can be overwhelming, especially when heartbroken; she and her husband had to rely on faith, family and friends. Michael was hospitalized for six months and did extensive outpatient rehab for two years. The family was told he would never walk, talk or feed himself but, today Michael is able to live independently.

 “We had resources and that made a difference,” Moderow said. “My husband worked for UPS so we had insurance and the ability to hire caregivers.”

She said finding basic information about housing, transportation, caregiving and the medical implications of brain injury and its impact on the family can be extremely difficult and one day, she found herself asking “What about the people who have no resources?”

That was the aha-moment where she realized there was a way to connect families to the information and resources that had been so crucial to her and her son by starting a website.  Over time, this experience as a mom and writer gave her a unique voice to advocate for TBI.

Her website was one of few in existence on the subject in the 90's, and people came to rely on its resources. With support from UPS and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, many families got needed information from the Brain Injury Resource Foundation.

In April 2018, Karen was appointed to the President’s Commission for People with Intellectual Disabilities where she will continue her advocacy work. The Commission’s purpose is to identify the resources available to families and individuals who deal with the complex and multi-faceted challenges of brain injury.

For me, helping others was a big part of redeeming the tragedy of my son’s brain injury. I would never have had the skills to create the Brain Injury Foundation website were it not for the foundation in writing and literature I received at CSULB. My in was both practical and inspirational. Dr. May’s unorthodox often irreverent style of teaching taught me the connection between art and life. That was life changing.

I had long experienced the power of story, but at CSULB, I began to learn how to draw others into it. In class, we went on journeys to scary, often uncomfortable places and encountered meaning, even joy on the other side. I saw that a good writer will invite others to see delve below the surface of life experiences, to reflect on them and perhaps to change. 

My philosophy of writing has matured over the years but my conviction that writing changes us was impressed on me in my college years. I came away from CSULB wanting to be a writer. I was challenged by my teachers, inspired by my smart, gifted peers and wanted to be like them. It took me longer than most to get there, and the road different from the norm, but the ability to write continues to open doors for me. I will continue publishing my fiction and non-fiction work.

In the meantime, the Presidential Appointment will give me the opportunity to help families like mine on a National level. It’s a privilege and a responsibility I look forward to.