Writing and Editing My First Book

Since 2018 I have blogged very little, but I have been writing! Writing so much, in fact, that I finished my first essay collection. It’s a coming-of-age memoir-in-essays about growing up poor in Ohio, to young adulthood in Detroit and Brooklyn. Through my essays and my experiences, I examine what love looks like, whether it’s from my supportive mother, my absent biological father, my steadfast stepdad, or eventually my husband and first daughter. 

After many beta readers, in 2019 I submitted my collection to an editor friend of mine, Chelsey Clammer, who I admire. She gave me my first round of professional edits, along with homework to develop my stories and characters. I listened to all of her suggestions and advice, honing, toning, paring down, and building up. Then I submitted and submitted (and submitted). 

Many publishers said the book wasn’t a good fit for their current slate, some showed serious interest but went in another direction, and many outright ghosted me. That’s the life of submitting. I kept my chin up and submitted more.

Then in April 2020, during the beginning stages of our pandemic, I received an email from Brandylane Publishers. They wanted to publish my book! I read the email at least ten times. Then I cried. Then I jumped up and down and cried some more. Then I ran outside barefoot and still in my pajamas (even though it was almost dinnertime because pandemic–who wears real clothes anymore?) where my husband was mowing the lawn. I flailed around so much that he turned off the mower and ran over to me, alarmed, checking me for wounds. Then I showed him the email. And then he gave me the biggest hug. 

It was a great day.

Since April, my collection has gone through several more edits to build, cut, and perfect. The team at Brandylane is a wonderful group of people, and I’m not sure any other publisher could have done so much magic with my words. I love each and every person I have “met” there, but especially my project manager. She’s been with me every step of the wild ride, cheering me on. My book is in the final proofing stage now, and soon it will head to design where I will choose my cover and interior font and layout. It’s scheduled to release in late 2021. The collection is titled, When Love Sticks Around, and I hope you’ll consider sticking around to read it.

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

A Day of Wins.

In many ways, today was the first stress-free day I’ve felt in a long time.  I finished my last day as an assistant and, as I was walking out of the office I smiled and took a deep breath, closing my eyes and inhaling deeply.  Maybe I did love that job, but I knew the timing wasn’t right.  I let the intoxicating smell of spring flowers fill my nose.

I felt so free.

Free to go home and focus on my kids, my family, my house and  my future as a writer.  It felt liberating beyond words.

I opened my eyes to find the most beautiful yellow and black swallowtail butterfly  soaring past me.  It was so close that I could have reached out and touched it’s delicate wings, but I didn’t.  Instead I watched it dart back, forth, up and down.  I smiled to myself knowing it was surely a sign that I’d made the right choice.  A sign that brighter, more beautiful things were on the horizon.

Then after returning home I got a message from an old friend who wanted to put something together for my book cover.

I was beside myself and beyond grateful for the offer.  So, I explained what I was thinking of and not even two hours later I am looking at the perfect cover for my book.

My book is finally REALLY coming together.  I have edited, re-edited and edited again.  I have let my peers read it and offer criticism.  I started establishing myself as a writer online and now, today, I received artwork for my cover.

I am over the moon.  Today was full of wins.

Thank you, Chris.

 

Wrapping up my Book.

For the last two years I have been working on a book, a memoir about dealing with my mom’s illness and death.  I  am so close to finishing that I can taste it, but somehow I still can’t believe I’ve put so much energy and effort into something.  I have almost given up on it, but I keep going back, chipping away at the story that is aching to get out of my head and onto paper.  It has been one hell of a ride, let me tell you.  I’ve learned so much about myself in this process – the good, the bad and the ugly.  I’ve learned to show more appreciation for the people around me whom I love and I’ve learned to love and accept myself, something that I was never very good at before.  It’s hard for me to believe that in the beginning I wasn’t even certain that I would make it this far with my writing.

Let me digress…

After my mom passed away from cancer complications I was in a very dark place.  I called it my funk, because that’s really what it felt like.  I didn’t want to go anywhere, do anything.  I hated when I laughed, or even smiled, because that meant maybe I was having a good time and I didn’t WANT to have a good time.  I wanted to be miserable and alone.  Maybe it was depression, who knows, but one day, several months after my mom had passed, I woke up and told myself to write about it.  I knew if I was able to get the feelings out of my head that I could begin to make sense of it all, so I wrote the first chapter.  I wrote it in an hour because it was literally bursting from my heart.  My fingers couldn’t type fast enough.

Then I reread the chapter so many times.  I read it and read it and read it, crying harder each time.  It felt oddly amazing to see my story in front of me in black and white.  It made me feel mildly better, so that’s when I decided “what the heck – I’ll write a book!” I thought I would just keep writing until I felt better, but that’s the thing about life – pain comes and goes.  So I kept writing, for two years.  I wrote through the pain and about the pain.  Some days I can’t write one word, but I keep trying because the more I write, the more I WANT to write and the more I write, the better I feel.  To this day there are so many stories in my head screaming to get out.

In June it will be two years since I started this painstaking, yet therapeutic, process and I still will not be finished.  I have 8 chapters to go, some of them will be the most difficult.  Once the book is finished will come the real fun – getting published.  I am already doing some legwork there, but I’m expecting it to be a challenge.  There is no lesson without a challenge.

Hopefully everyone here, my friends, my family and my supporters will be there cheering me on at the finish line – the Lord knows I may need it!