Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Update-- The Long Version!

I have had so much to tell you about the book, 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!

And another:

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.

54 comments:

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I'm sitting here with tears running down my face....of course you want Jack.... ((HUGS)) Your strength has been our rock and your words are an inspiration to all who have been blessed to read them.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Of course you do! I can't wait to read the book and share it with those I know. Blessings to you Anna and thank you for being here!

ashley said...

Thank you for sharing the process, Anna. I can't wait to read the book! Lots of love to you and your family.

~Ashley in Austin

Ann Imig said...

This made me cry. Of course you want Jack, and I love that you are holding the exciting and the devastating, the heartbreak and the hope all at once and all with us--as you have from the beginning.

I'm so relieved you have the book, and that the world will soon have it. I'm so sorry you can't have Jack. He made you a mom, he also made you an author. He's a wonderful boy.

Jen G. said...

Crying tears for you, sweet friend. I want Jack for you.

Lisa said...

I can't WAIT to read your book. And I do think the September date is a God-wink (I love that). Congratulations. Bittersweet. Jack will live on in the hearts of so many people. xoxo

Joyce said...

Tears! Nothing in this life can fill our loss. I know you would throw it all away, in a heart beat, to have Jack back. You, however, dug deep to find the courage to move forward and write your story, and it has brought healing to so many. I am looking forward reading your book and sharing it with others.
Much love,
Joyce

Mary in Seattle said...

Wish you could have Jack. Sending love and hugs to all the Whistons and Donaldsons.

Jana said...

One of the reasons I love reading your stuff, Anna, is because you don't try to sugarcoat. It is what it is what it is. Yes, having a book published is an amazingly fantastic accomplishment! But by finishing this post out with " But I want Jack" keeps it all in perspective. Thank you for being REAL. Love from Texas.

ScrappinLita said...

Tears! Thank you so much for putting yourself out there. I look forward to owning your book. God's blessings to you and yours.

aspeckledtrout.blogspot.com said...

I love you.

Ann Woodruff said...

We all want Jack for you....you are courageous to take this journey anyway.

Thoughts for the day said...

Would love to read your book and promote it too, on my blog.

Lexilooo said...

This is so lovely, and I will certainly be reading this book!

Stimey said...

This is all so complex and hard. I wish you so many congratulations on your book. I imagine that it will be beautiful and helpful and I am so excited to read it. But, yes, Jack. Of course you want Jack. Love you.

Janet F said...

Can't wait to read it, yet I'm so sorry you had to write it...

Bridget McCarthy said...

((hug))
So incredibly proud of you!

Jill Quarles said...

You have already helped me. Thank you! xoxo

Jill Quarles said...

You have already helped me. Thank you! XOXO

bernthis said...

Well, you know how I feel about the book. I will do whatever I can to help.

Alison said...

I love you, and I'm SO proud of you. Truly. Thank you for allowing me (and so many others) to be part of the process for this amazing book to come into fruition. xo

Margaret E said...

I too am sitting here with tears on my face. You always seem to capture the exact feeling. Today was one of those days when I was tired of parenting three teenage boys, and just wanting to put my head down or throw my hands up or better yet, throw something at the wall. Then I read the post and I was reminded, as I always am, of how blessed I am. I bet Jack is so proud of you, that your love for him and for Margaret lives on in your words and the way you share them with all of us. I wish you could have him back to. I hope when you hold your beautiful book in your hands you can feel his love and hear his message, all things are possible, even living in a world without Jack in it. I am sure your book will be a message of hope to parents trying to find their way out of those bleak, endless first days of grief. Bless you Anna and Jack and Margaret and Tim and Shadow. I look forward to the book. Margaret

anymommy said...

Me too. I want Jack for you. I think RB is amazing. It ripped through me in a terrible and beautiful way. I can't wait to help promote it. And I don't know why this matters ... but we just yesterday took a new foster placement and he's the sweetest, most precious little thing with huge blue eyes. His birthday is September 9.

Michelle Polchow said...

My tears are for both the longing of our hearts for Jack, but also joy that the publishing world wisely recognized a wonderful author even before you wrote your book. As you mourn I pray you will continue to be richly blessed. <3
-Michelle

Melanie said...


I sat here with a huge pit in my stomach and unshed tears because as I read your post, my constant thought was how exciting it will be to share about Jack and share your heart through the grieving process but having Jack back would be so so much better.

And then you end it with you wanting Jack. Of course. That would be the ultimate gift ever.

Thank you for being so willing to do something like this - for being so honest and brave in sharing your experience so soon and for sharing Jack again with us. I love that we'll get to continue to remember and know about him and that we'll get to read the words of your heart.

Huge hugs to you.

Heather L. Kopp said...

Anna, it made me so happy to see this post! It's real. It's coming soon... It's so beautiful. Miss your voice, friend. Xo

Anonymous said...

It's odd to think that we're all -- and I mean EVERYone over the age of about 30 or 35 and MOST people below that -- in quite a bit of pain during any given day. I will do what I'm not supposed to do and say that your pain, Anna, has been greater than the average in the last couple years. (I know I'm not supposed to compare.)
But I think the point is that it hurts to be alive. It hurts A LOT. Not all the time, but with greater frequency than our culture likes to allow. And if we're not trying to help each other cope, then what are we doing? In a way, it's the only activity that matters. Sort of.

You've helped A LOT.

I know you feel weak, but as someone who also feels weak (me) and has NOT managed to keep going anyway (in a sense), I can't tell you how inspiring you are. When I see super-people in the news, it doesn't make me feel inspired, because I was never going to be that anyway. I'm WAY too thin-skinned and easily discouraged. When I see someone a little bit like me who manages to raise her daughter and produce a book out of her grief, THAT's when I feel, well maybe I can pick myself up too.

But not today. I'll try again tomorrow. ;)
E.

Momma Holmes said...

Thank you for the trip down memory lane, explaining your publishing journey. I cannot wait to read it and share it with a couple of mama's that have had children leave them too early, also.

teamaidan said...

Wow - huge congratulations and yes, of course you want Jack. This must be a whole mixed bag of emotions for you. Your story matters and will certainly help others.

Thank you for having the courage to write it.

Heather

Anonymous said...

All the blessings in the world to you and your family.
I can't wait to read your book.

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

I can't wait for September either. You have made something so beautiful out of something so terrible. I'm ready to review, Instagram, Pin, Tweet, whatever you need me to do. xo

Anonymous said...

When I read The Bridge: One terrible Night within an hour after you published it I was awestruck that anyone could write like this about this sort of thing who was not a professional writer. I thought that truly you just have written as a career because this was too good to come from an amateur. I have always since then felt that a book simply had to happen

Xoxo,

Annie

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

I'm so, so sorry that you had reason to write this book. I'm so very grateful that you wrote it, because there are some people who will be getting a copy of your book who lost a precious boy of their own last summer. Rare Bird will be a gift of understanding and, hopefully, comfort to them.
With tears here on Father's Day,
Karen

Noah's Mom said...

Thank-you for sharing the Book timeline and process. My heart aches for you to even have a reason to write it, but I am so thankful that you have made it through and can now share Jack's story and help other grieving parents. But I, too, wish you could have Jack instead. Sending love to you and your family.

Kara said...

I am new to your blog so I had no idea you were writing a book, but I will certainly be reading it when it comes out! Your story is heartbreaking and inspiring; to say that I admire your strength is an understatement. Thank you for your fearlessness.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

And I want Jack for you Anna!

ella said...

Surely I can think of at *least* 50 friends who would like to read your book - I'm starting that list now! xoxo

Anonymous said...

I want Jack too. I'm his absence, I'm going to enjoy your book. Best of luck with it

Kir said...

I cry every day, because every day I am reading this book..going back to certain chapters and wiping my eyes. I am grateful for your words, for Jack's story and for the tenderness, honesty and beauty with which you are telling not only his story, but the story of your family in having and lost him.

Anna, this book is such a gift to the world, just as Jack is. He is a gift to our world even now.

I want Jack for you. Of course I do, we all do. I want you to have what you want most. This book is such an incredible piece of him.

Love to you.

Alexandra Rosas said...

I am sorry for the road that led to this book. I am also grateful for the gift of your words, and I know, sadly, one mom, for whom your words will provide comfort and understanding. I am ordering books to keep on hand. Thank you for the way you write with honesty, push beyond your ego, and all the lessons you've learned. You are a testimony to the grandness and HUGENESS of God's power.

Mocadeaux said...

I surely feel that the September publishing date is another God wink, helping you navigate that impossible anniversary date. God bless.

Mariah Hechler said...

Congratulations!!! I am so proud of you!

JB & KC said...

Can't wait to read your book!!!
I know Jack is looking down on you from Heaven so excited about your accomplishment. I know its all hard for us to understand but "Everything happens for a reason" and "Everything will be ok" two phases I live by and God helps me. Hugs to you and your family.

Eliza said...

I want Jack for you, too. <3 What you have accomplished is amazing, and I can't wait to read. I can already imagine myself sitting at home crying big fat tears and feeling so much ADMIRATION and LOVE for you and your family and your own personal strength. You're amazing and thank you for sharing your journey so honestly, so that even maybe just one other person can feel less alone. <3

Lady Jennie said...

I'm particularly emotional today and sad about your immense loss. But I'm glad your book release is a couple short months away.

Anonymous said...

Ana,
I have an only son that was very hard for us to conceive. Since the day we found out were pregnat, this feeling of overwhelming happiness but in the same time, the fear to lose him, has never left me. I lost my sister in a tragic way when she was 20, and I was 19. I guess I haven't overcome that loss either.
Our son is 5 now, and the joy of our lives. I strive to live and be present every moment with him, because the reality is that life can take a different direction at any time for all of us. Since I heard your story, and the loss of beautiful Jack, I have been crying with your and your stories, feeling your deep pain and strugle to overcome such unbeareable loss. I admire you, and am grateful for your courage to open your heart this way. Your beautiful and honest writting help me to keep life in perspective and connected to my main purspose in life. I wish for you the day that you will not feel more this anguish, but the peaceful feeling that Jack is present with you, in a different way, and that nothing can't take that away from you. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

I know that you've become an expert on grief, inside and out, intellectually, literarily, emotionally, philosophically and of course experientially. Nevertheless I though you might be interested in this very beautiful TED talk about grief. It's very wonderful, but just a warning, it's not easy: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-Art-of-Saying-Goodbye-Isabel

E. (again)

Cynthia said...

I want Jack, tooooooo!

Bought a few advance copies...

Love you.

Tracy said...

I love you and hold you close in my heart daily. Honored you shared your words and journey and love with us. xoxo

Andrea Mowery said...

This was such a great picture into the process behind your book, Anna. Thank you for sharing. I can't help put feel like the timing of the publishing date is a God thing, to add another layer to your heartbreaking yet hopeful story.

Nicole Yontz said...

I was thinking of you the other day and thought it's been awhile since I checked out your site. To see this post I am overwhelmed with happiness for you. I am so proud of you for telling your story in this way. I cannot WAIT to get my hands on a copy. You are always in my prayers. :)

PS, in case you don't remember me I was the crazy hormonal miscarrying nutjob that was stalking you at BlogHer in NYC. I love that this is my claim to fame.

Kelly Pack said...

Anna, I would love to share info about your book! You are beautiful. I still want to write a book, it's just that darn execution part. Email me packx4 at yahoo; xoxo

Jenn said...

I just finished reading an ARC of the book. It is so amazing and powerful. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story.

NicoleR said...