The people in my close circle know what it has taken me to get to tomorrow’s book launch. (See below for details!)
My heart reaches out to those who live with, or love, a memoirist. It’s a long and demanding process, but once the book is ready for readers, there’s plenty to celebrate.
But there’s so much to learn from the journey and I don’t think we talk about that enough.
So I am going to try to remedy this in an effort to highlight something that matters a lot to me, which I’ll get to in a moment.
To that end, I offer you a timeline of the events that led to this book release:
Spring 1997: engaged in a conversation at my 20thhigh school reunion that opened up a long-buried wound
Spring 1999: published a newspaper essay about the accident
Summer 1999: recorded a radio essay on public radio on the subject
Spring 2006: published a second newspaper essay on the subject
Fall 2012: wrote a terrible poem about it
Winter 2013: sent out essay submissions to lit pubs
Fall 2015: told a story on stage about it
Spring 2016: discovered the book’s structure
Winter 2017: shared drafts with a writing coach and beta readers
Summer 2018: secured an agent
Winter 2019: parted ways with the agent; revision began
Spring 2019: began revision #3
Summer 2019: revision #4, revamped proposal
Fall 2019: told another version on stage and began revision #5
Winter 2020: revision #6, began work with an EMDR therapist
Spring 2020: final revision (#7), sent proposals to independent publishers, rejected by 37
Summer 2020: request from three publishers to see manuscript, contracted with Shanti Arts
Spring 2021: book release!
If you do the math you’ll see that it took 30 years. Three decades to get this book out into the world.
See all of those variations? Newspaper columns. Radio essay. Poem. Essay. Story for stage.
Notice those twists and turns? Rejections from lit pubs. Parting ways with the agent. Handling more rejections. Finding a therapist.
And all of those revisions? Seven altogether, apropos given the title of the book.
My point can be summarized in the words of British statesman, Philip Stanhope, who wrote, whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.
I often hear my writing students fretting about how much time it takes to get a good draft of an idea onto the page. As if writing can be compared to the efficiency of an assembly line! Art making takes as long as it takes because the process is about making meaning from life, which is messy.
On paper, the process might appear daunting. But if there is something you want to say, need to say, or want to make sense of, taking your fingers to keys or pens to paper allows a kind of deep concentration – a form of meditation on the subject – that can take you there. It takes time. But that time is a tool. Time made my book better.
The work can be arduous. But in addition to the pages bound two beautiful covers, the act of writing, rewriting, stepping away, revising, and writing again – can be life changing. Worth doing.
Register for the free virtual book launch hosted by Bookends & Beginnings Bookstore at noon (CST) on May 6, 2021.
Pre-order the book!
Video of yours truly, reading the prologue (three minutes.)
See the book trailer below (one minute).