Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love, but I think I've been hesitant to go into the details, because to say it OUT LOUD will make it true, as in the train has left the station and there is no turning back. This is both exciting and nerve wracking. But here goes:
The book is finished!
Thank you for your patience as I've muddled my way through as a first-time author. Thank you for showing up again and again, and for encouraging me that not only was I up for the challenge, but that you would read whatever I wrote.
Publishing can be a slow process, so I hope I haven't worn you out over the past year and 1/2. Here's an inside glimpse at how it all went down:
Aug 2012: Contacted via email by an agent in New York to chat about possibly writing a book. I know, REALLY. We meet up during the annual mega-blogging convention BlogHer. At 11 months in, this is at the very lowest point in my grief journey. I feel fragile and incompetent, but when I meet with her I begin to think that writing a book could be a good thing, if for nothing else than to give me a reason to write, write, write and feel, feel, feel. It was a low-key, exploratory conversation that led me to seriously consider writing a book.
Oct 2012: Commit to writing a memoir, with Convergent Books as the publisher. Convergent is an imprint of Random House, and the decision that we'd be a good fit came after several heartfelt phone conversations. They have been sensitive and supportive since Day 1! Seriously, I felt cared about and nurtured through the whole process. We both acknowledged that writing a book so soon after a tragedy could present special challenges. We knew I wouldn't have the wisdom and the distance that might come 5, 10, or maybe 15 years out, but we saw value in this as well. Since my grief was still very much unfolding as I wrote, I was able to capture a real, raw picture of what early grief is like. I am so grateful they took a chance on me.
Jan 2012-Oct 2013: After 3 months of hemming and hawing, procrastinating, Googling "How to write a book" and coming up empty, cursing the fact that I hadn't taken writing classes in college (how much have I used this French minor anyway?), I set up shop in the back corner of Panera on my days off of work. It looked like: Grab a cup or three of Earl Gray. Cruise Facebook. Write. Let things bubble up. Write some more. Cry. Try to discover what THIS book is about, hmmm...seems like it's grief and God and hope... pare down to just that. Dump everything else I wrote in a folder to look at months or years down the road. Turn in the manuscript. Wonder, is it finished, or am I just tired?
Oct 2013-Sept 2014: Wrangle, wrangle, struggle with choosing the right title for the book. Settle on my all-time favorite Rare Bird, which was Margaret's very first suggestion, in, umm, October 2012, and was the overwhelming victor in our little survey here at An Inch of Gray. Laugh when the copy editor emails me after reading the manuscript, at that time temporarily titled Tenderness, "Um, has anyone considered titling this book Rare Bird?"
Wrangle, struggle over cover images. Fall in love with a gorgeous cover inspired by a Wonder-Filled Wednesday post about how all the stock photos in Michael's Craft Store looked just like my kids! Let the skillful editors work their magic. Ditch a couple of chapters that don't seem to fit in. Send out Advance Reader copies to people in the publishing world and to fellow bloggers who have expressed willingness to support the book through their blogs and social media. Come up with marketing and publicity strategies. Realize I should probably figure out how to use twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest... oh my!
It's interesting that one of the first things my agent, Rebecca, warned me about when we talked that day in NYC was that I'd have to be willing to still be immersed in the topic of the book years down the road, when it came time to promote it. I said, OF COURSE, because I couldn't see how a minute of my life could stray from thinking about losing Jack. Inconceivable. The truth is, a memoir is a snapshot of a particular time in a life, and by the time the book comes out in September, I won't be in the exact same place I was when I agreed to write it, when I turned in the completed manuscript, or even where I am today. It will be my pleasure to talk about it, because I feel that it represents something positive and hopefully helpful to have come out of something so awful, but not every minute of every day is consumed by grief now. Thank God.
That's interesting for me to consider. Maybe this is a little like how Angelina feels because I'm guessing she finished Maleficent a few years ago, and she and Brad have gone on to make like 18 more babies and 14 more films since then, but then she is interviewed by Vanity Fair about... the release of Maleficent. Yeah, I'm sure it's exactly like that, since my life is so very much like Brangelina's. Anyhoo....back to the book.
Where do blog readers fit in?
Well, first you MUST know this book would not have happened if it weren't for you, cheering me on and being brave enough to show up here day after day as I experienced the shock and pain of grief. Without your support, I could not have kept blogging, and therefore would never have been given the opportunity to write this book. At my most fragile state, I was able to accept a new and frightening challenge because YOU convinced me through emails and comments that our story somehow, in some way, made a difference in your life and could do the same for others. Thank you!
As we get closer to September, I'll let you know specific ways you can help launch the book, which will probably include: buying the book (for you and your 50 closest friends!) anywhere books are sold, telling people about the book, reading it in your wine, er, book clubs, posting a review on Amazon and Goodreads as quickly as possible, and any other ideas you/we drum up together! You'll probably be on Anna/Rare Bird overload for the month of September as we try to let as many people as possible know about the book, so thank you in advance for your patience.
A quick story:
When I first committed to writing the book, I took a look at the contract provided by the publisher, still wondering if I was strong enough to do it. The publication date listed on the contract, out of 365 possible days of the year, was March 18, Jack's birthday! I took that as a God wink and affirmation that this was a good decision.
Well, the book took longer than I thought, and the date was bumped to sometime in the fall. I recently found out the publishing date: September 9. That's just one day after the 3rd anniversary of Jack's accident. God wink? I don't know. Ugh. I hate September now. But I do know it will keep me busy at the most difficult time of the year for me, and I'll get share an awful lot about Jack!
When the boxes of Advance Reader Copies showed up on my doorstep, left by my adorable UPS man Danny, I didn't know what I was feeling. I used scissors to slowly slice through the tape of the top box, and there it was: an honest to God book with my name on the cover.
I'd heard of many authors breaking down in tears to see their work come to fruition like this. My eyes were dry. I stared into the box at the beautiful cover. I could smell that awesome new-book smell. I picked one of the beautiful books up and put it back down quickly. Yes, I was proud. Yes, I was so grateful for the chance to write and publish a book, something far more talented and deserving writers may not have had the opportunity to do, but truthfully, I wanted more.
I didn't want boxes of books. I wanted Jack.
Jack, who had been my sidekick for 12 years. Who understood me. Who made me a mom. I put the leash on Shadow and took her for a walk, so I could think. I knew that this book wouldn't have happened without Jack's accident. I knew I should be proud of what I'd been able to do, with God's help and your help, in my most wretched state. Deep down I knew that this book could provide something to help friends understand friends better, and for grievers to feel less alone. I knew it could give all of us a glimpse of a big, loving, mysterious God.
So, yes, I am excited about the book. And grateful. But I want Jack.