Why write a book anyway?

My book lived inside me for decades. It wrote itself without much help from me and satisfied the banked fires within my memory with no need to release it onto pages. My heart and mind were telling my story to myself. Life kept me very busy, leaving little time for writing.

One night I woke from a deep sleep, a very angry child screaming in my head. A raging little girl demanded to know why I wasn’t telling her story. She stormed around in a fine state, beside herself, furious that I kept her locked up when release was her deepest need.

Okay! I’ll think about it in the morning!


I pulled on warm clothes, kicked the computer into start, and began to type. Four hours later, fifty pages had written themselves. I know. That is hard to believe, I know.  I know! And there they were, and as I read them  I knew my heart was free writing, and that this was very important.

Now I was hooked. I had no idea what to do with it, how to organize it, who could help.

One morning not much later, and one hundred pages more,  I was searching for a recipe. I admit to being computer stupid. While roaming, and not finding recipes, I stumbled onto Writing It Real, whose author is Sheila Bender.  Clueless, I read her website and knew something unexplainable was happening. Sheila is a poet, an editor, and a teacher. Editor? Really? Just what I needed!

I sent her my partial draft. She suggested a number of things, including a phone call. Organizing the material into a story with a story line was the first challenge. She suggested I enroll in her essay classes and write the segments as essays just to get control of the story.

I attended her conferences and gained exposure to Jack Hefron, and Meg Stiles, who teach with her at those events. The working group is small, largest being about 25 people. I learned with lightning speed, and before I knew it, valuable students were evaluating and helping with this work, just as I contributed to theirs.

Five years later, I had command of my memoir and authority over it. Finished now, and offered to agents, I have arrived at the hard part. Locating the right agent is like blind dating. So far, I’m not very good at it. I have a good query, and have gotten kind and helpful rejections, save for an approach to a Christian agency, who seems to have dismissed me out of hand, based on a simple question I asked, no query and no proposal sent. Shame on me, it turns out I exposed something that was hidden. Looky here, agents: don’t say you consider memoir when actually what you mean, you say now, is that you encourage the writing of memoir, but don’t represent them. What memoirist cares about your encouragement. Once written we’re out there, looking to sell a book.

Compared to this circus, writing was the easy part. Any writer in love with writing will tell you that the doing of it is what they live for.

Rejection was learned at an orphanage. No matter why a child is there, rejection is the right conclusion. So this exercise in rejection is nothing compared to having to leave Mama. A child does not care why. A child only wants Mama. Life without her is a long nightmare to which little compares. Four year olds can’t process all the good reasons why. More about that later. My orphanage was a good one. My mother’s motives were laudable. My nights were all about tears.

So here I am, navigating very difficult waters. Hey. I’ve only been in this soup since mid-August, and one agent requested my manuscript. Loved it but decided selling it would suck up all the time, air and space in the small agency. Likely they lacked the contacts needed to push it. But that is exquisite encouragement. Six others were glad I asked them, but thought it was “inappropriate” for their house. Nonetheless, they were kind and encouraging. Who knew?

What have I learned so far? This is a process. Car salesmen are better at this. There is an obvious reason many, many writers are happy to self publish, since writers have to do most of the work anyhow. Writers are by and large a gutsy group. I’m proud to be part of them.

I’d love to know what you think, and you can tell me right here! You who FB me to say you can’t wait for the book would be so helpful if you’d write that right here on my blog. If you twitter, promote me. And If I’m smart I’ll place pieces of similar work on my FB page so you get flavor, but posting excerpts from the book there is called PUBLISHING.  Good grief. Can’t do that.

So. Back to the beginning. Why write a book? This book begged me. It wrote big pieces of itself without my brain in gear. The bigger reason is that against tough odds, a little girl grew up to share her story in prisons, and in foreign countries, telling little boys and girls that their stop on the road of life is not permanently in an orphanage. That the grandmother in front of them survived what they are living and discovered who she could be if she let herself step above the heartache, the “why” question and rode the waves to this present shore. That triumph is possible against all odds, and in today’s world, my odds look less daunting than, say, life in the Middle East.

Lend me your thoughts.

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