It’s 7:15 a.m. and I am sitting at our kitchen table with the windows open listening to the concert of the birds. I need to get a birdsong reference so I can imagine who I’m hearing as they are singing. So many different sounds this morning. I just saw my first hummingbird of the year as I was letting Arthur out. It is a glorious morning although storms are predicted for later. I’m going to try to get outside early to work in the gardens before the heat and/or rain comes. Mark and I spent most of the day outside yesterday, taking advantage of the break in the weather. He was on his mission to eradicate, exterminate and otherwise eliminate honeysuckle again. I just putzed around planting Lilies of the Valley, Sweet Woodruff and one Jacob’s Ladder.
On to the topic at hand.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I always had this vague notion of being a writer. I imagined Mary Ann Evans (George Elliot) or Jane Austen sitting in their parlors with a fountain pen and pot of ink scribbling away. I suppose that is why I went back to college, when I was 25-30 years older than the average student, to get a degree in English with a Written Communications minor.
For an assignment in a Feature Writing class I had to write an opinion piece and send it to a newspaper. As luck would have it I read a published opinion a few days later that inflamed my senses to the point where I told my husband, “I’m going to write a letter,” as I had threatened so many times times in the past. He just ignored me. I wrote the letter and e-mailed it in. Then I started sweating, Oh no, I thought, what if they print it? What will my friends and family members think of this opinion of mine? Will I start getting hate mail from strangers? Total panic.
The paper printed the op-ed piece in their column called “Your Voice.” I got accolades from my gay friends and silence from anyone who might have disagreed. Life went on.
The paper printed a couple more op-eds that I wrote and fired off, (always immediately regretting it and hoping they wouldn’t publish them). As another assignment for the Feature Writing class I had to send a query letter out about a feature story I had written for the class. Much to my amazement, St. Anthony Messenger responded positively and published my story, “Sister Mary Beth Peters: A Heart for the Poor.” I later sent them a story I had written after interviewing my parents about my sister Annie which they also published. You can find links to both of these on my Things I’ve Written page. That’s largely the sum-total of my publishing experience.
For a creative writing class I took a few years before she died, I wrote a collage of vignettes about my sister Annie. My teacher loved it. She suggested I revise it, make it the best I could, and then try to get it published. I made a couple of revisions and then shoved it in a file.
Back to the point. I’m sitting here with a finished book I felt compelled to write to turn off, or at least lower the volume of, the memories thrashing about in my mind after my sister Annie died. I pulled out the short story I had written a few years before and integrated it into the memoir. The whole time I was working, in my mind, I was doing it for Annie. It would be the only lasting imprint she left on this earth. I would be her voice.
Right now the finished memoir sits on my desk, a story waiting to be told and no one to listen.
The more information I sought about getting published and getting an agent and the likelihood of that happening anytime soon, the more discouraged I became. So I started to listen to the people online who were promoting self-publishing and I signed up for the Writer’s Digest University workshop: Successful Self-Publishing.
If you want to self-publish and you do nothing else, buy the book we’re using in the class: the Indie Author Guide—self-publishing strategies anyone can use.
For our second assignment we were to read chapter 1—Indie Authorship: An Introduction; chapter 10—Author Platform; and chapter 11—Promotion. As I read, I became more and more excited. I can do this, I thought. I can really do this. All those pesky questions about how do I publicize the memoir and even let people know about it are addressed in these chapters I just read. As I continued to read I became overwhelmed. There were so many ideas and suggestions. How would I ever do all of this?
The good thing about the workshop is that the moderating teacher helps us stay focused. He gives us worksheets to help us sort out in our own minds: What are our publishing goals—are we in it to make money or just to get readership? What are our personal skills—what are we able to do on our own and what will we need to hire out? Given our goals, what strategies should we be using to achieve them in terms of publishing, distribution and promotion? And all the while, the handy little paperback book we’re reading gives us suggestions and idea after idea of actual things we can do to make it all happen.
I’m encouraged. And I’m excited. And right now, I’m taking a first step and working on getting an author website up. Nora Roberts, move over.