Self-Publishing workshop – Assignment #1

I first told you about the workshop I was taking in my April 30th post, Successful Self-Publishing—A Writer’s Digest University Workshop. This is an WD online workshop designed with weekly assignments that are reviewed and commented on by an instructor, in this case, Mark Spencer.

You can see the course description and outline here.

The first assignment, A Self-Publisher is still a Publisher, emphasized the need to approach self-publishing as a business or project with a plan which includes the following elements—setting goals and milestones, determining a schedule and budget, writing the book, preparing the book for publication, producing the book, distributing the book, promoting the book,  and tracking the book. This first assignment was to write a 750 to 1500-word description of my book project.

Assignment #1

 How do you say good-bye to a disabled sister who is dying?

I tiptoe back to Annie’s bedroom and peek in the door. She stirs and opens her eyes. I walk to her side, lean over the railing of her hospital bed, and gently press my forehead to hers. Annie’s eyes are a large soft brown blur through the tears filling my own. “I love you, Sweetheart,” I whisper. Annie smiles and makes soft vocal noises. “Yes. Yes,” I say. “I hear you. I know you love me too . . . ”

My sister Annie was born a year after me with severe brain damage. She couldn’t walk or talk. She required the care of an infant, which my parents provided for her for 51 years until she died August 16, 2009. 

Dancing in Heaven—a sister’s memoir is an inspirational story about Annie’s life, death, and her significance in the lives of those who loved her. The finished manuscript is 53,000 words, 212 pages and contains family photographs.

The formatted book will measure 6 inches by 9 inches and be printed on white. The cover graphic is being designed by my son who is an industrial designer and aspiring illustrator. It will show an empty wheelchair, or a wheelchair holding only a small stuffed animal.

At this point, I plan to use the print-on-demand method of publishing as well as e-books.

I have all the bases covered on Tools of the Trade (computer software and photography proficiencies) through course work I recently took at a local college, volunteer web-editing work, and my photography hobby.

I have a Facebook page, a fledgling blog (Random Thoughts from Midlife) with a small following that I began in January, and a second blog I am developing about developmental disabilities. I am unemployed and available to travel and promote my book as needed. I may find avenues to promote the book through county boards of MRDD, Special Olympics, Hospice or end of life organizations, and Christian bookstores.

According to the website PubMed Health, mental retardation directly affects about 1 – 3 % of the population. Dancing in Heaven’s target audience is family members, friends, caregivers and just interested or concerned acquaintances of those individuals who have mental retardation. It will likely also appeal to individuals who are, or who care about others who are, disabled in some other way.

People were always curious about my sister Annie. Those who were brave or forward enough to ask wanted to know: What was wrong with her? How did it happen? Could she talk? Did she know who we were? Could she understand what we were saying?

In Dancing in Heaven, I answer these and other unspoken questions in my portrayal of Annie’s life and death, and what she meant to those of us who loved her.

As Annie approached the end of her life I had to examine my own faith and beliefs about, or hopes for, an afterlife. Because I share these hopes and concerns of what an afterlife means for a person as disabled as Annie, Dancing in Heaven’s target audience also includes individuals who are interested in faith and life after death and will appeal to those who purchase and read stories with a Christian or spiritual significance.

Dancing in Heaven is a window into my family’s world of living with a severely disabled family member. It is a story not only about loss, but also about pure love.  It’s about compassion, empathy, commitment, devotion, hope, disappointment and acceptance. But more importantly, it is a testimony to the basic value of human life and how we learn from and love each other . . .

“Most people might wonder what anyone could say about a life like Annie’s. After all, Annie never spoke a word or took a step, so how significant could her life possibly have been? The fact is that Annie had an extremely meaningful life—a life full of giving and receiving love.  Annie was like a beacon of light.  She did not need words or actions to touch the hearts of everyone who knew her,” (From Annie’s Eulogy by her sister).

She filled our lives with smiles, and radiated light and love every day of her life.

And now she’s dancing in heaven.

Read Assignment #2

8 thoughts on “Self-Publishing workshop – Assignment #1”

  1. thank you. my aunt was born with sever brain damage. she lived for 23 years. amazing for that time period. I can understand and I know my mother could to. namaste.:)

    1. When Annie was born in 1958, the doctors told my parents her life-expectancy was about 7 or 8 years. She lived to be 51 and was considered something of a miracle.

  2. Thank you for saying that.

    I had a nephew named Jacob who was born with serious disabilities, and wasn’t expected to live more then a few days. He made it to his third year.

  3. Thank you for this very valuable, and insightful post, especially since self-publishing has more than crossed my mind. For all those who keep saying “you should write a book,” they should read what you’ve just written.

    there’s more to writing a book…than just writing a book…hugmamma. 😉

    1. It’s not as much work as you think. Sometime, as with myself, it’s getting bogged down with the writing, but what not to write.

      I think you could write a 1000 pagers about your sister. It wouldn’t be hard; I’m sure you have the memories of her, and it would be a nice tribute to the both of you.

  4. The book is a healing place for you and family. I wish you all the luck in the world.


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