In my early forties, I began noticing an almost supernatural glow on the faces of certain friends when they talked about a new project or work they felt passionate about. Work where their gifts and the needs of the world were aligned.
Truth be told, I envied them—I wanted to glow too.
I had left a toxic work environment as a corporate lawyer in my late twenties, and between birthing and raising two sons I'd been searching for the right fit career path.
After my kids left for college, I finally found that path.
I put a stake in the ground and claimed my call as a writer. I set aside time to write. Went to writers conferences. Joined a writing group. Hired a book coach—and later trained to become one myself.
I finished one manuscript and started another.
And in the process, my life changed, in more ways than one.
Nearly a decade after saying "I am a writer"—something I had known my whole life but had been afraid to say out loud—I...
Like he would wear a made-to-order seersucker tuxedo to a black tie wedding.
And in that very dapper seersucker tuxedo, Byron asked me about my book.
What's happening with your book?
When's it coming out?
Where can I buy it?
But Byron isn't just a good friend; he's also a board member of a nonprofit independent press that focuses on Southern authors and stories. He knows a thing or two about publishing.
After I told him that I was "this close"—I was holding my thumb and forefinger a half inch apart—to being offered a publishing contract by a university press, he asked me how many copies I expected the press to print in their first run.
A question I frankly hadn't even thought about. A question I now know to research and ask about when I...
The email from the university press I'd been waiting for all summer was finally here.
I scanned the email:
Both readers recommend publication.
After 4+ years and I don't know how many drafts, it looks like my memoir has found a home.
It's not a done deal yet—there's still a couple of approvals left to go and one more semi-substantial revision to address the very helpful comments from the peer reviewers—but I think this thing is going to happen.
I'll shout it from the rooftops once I have a publication date—but I'm not going to wait to celebrate.
This is a big f**ing milestone!
When I thought no one would care about my story.
When It felt too hard to revisit...
I am so sorry for the delay in responding to you! But I love your essay and I’d be happy to publish this on TODAY.com.
Have you already placed it elsewhere? Please let me know if it’s still available.
"Holy shit!" I screamed at my sister from the passenger seat of the car.
The editor emailed two days later to say that my essay had been one of their top performing pieces all week, with over 250,000 views.
I won't deny it: the 15 minutes of fame have been a blast.
Subaru has reached out—as has a reality TV producer! Don't worry, I'm not planning to be the next Real Housewife, although the new face of Subaru might not be a bad gig.
But more important than the 15 minutes of fame is that I've taken my writing to a new level. I'm more confident. I'm less afraid of putting...
Have you ever been brought to your knees by 300-400 words?
Truth be told, I have.
Ahh ... the dreaded query letter. A three-paragraph email sent to an agent or editor with a single purpose: to entice them to read your book proposal or manuscript.
The first time I queried agents for Graveyard of Safe Choices, my memoir about reclaiming myself at midlife, was in the winter of 2021. I had set a deadline for myself to have queries sent before I turned 60.
I met my deadline. Hooray!
But my queries were met with form rejections or silence. A sign that the query was NOT working—no one, apparently, wanted to read more.
I went back to revise the query—and ultimately the manuscript.
You see, an unsuccessful query isn't always just about the query: often it reveals problems with the manuscript.
When your query is fuzzy and vague, it can indicate that you really don't know what your book is about.
The road to publication can be long, as I've shared in a recent post.
It also can be filled with rejection and never-to-be-answered queries.
And then there are those moments like my client Sarah had the other day. I won't tell you too much about her book—yet—as there are more steps on its path to publication.
But an OMG!!! email is a time to celebrate.
As soon as I read Sarah's "OMG! Can you call me?" email, I picked up the phone and seconds later I was on the verge of (happy) tears.
A dream agent had offered her representation.
He GOT her book. WHY it was important for women. Why it was important NOW.
And the book proposal that got this agent's attention?
"It's one of the best I've ever read," the agent told Sarah.
I can't lie—that comment was the icing on the cake.
My clients and I work hard—often for many months—on these proposals—which are documents that make the business case for their book.
When I connect with a friend I haven't seen in a while or a new acquaintance who knows I've written a memoir, inevitably I will be asked a variation on one of these questions:
What's happening with your book?
When can I buy your book?
When's your book coming out?
Most people can't imagine why it's TAKING ME SO DAMN LONG TO WRITE AND PUBLISH MY BOOK!
Truth be told, when I started this memoir journey 4+ years ago, I had no idea it would take this long either!
A few months ago, I blogged about my memoir journey:
Here’s the big picture based on data from 2019:
What GENERATION reads the most books?
The answer may surprise you. It's MILLENNIALS, those born between 1981-1996, followed closely by baby boomers.
As the parent of two millennials, this surprised me! All the handwringing my peers and I did, worried that “technology” would be the end of reading.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT GENERATIONS READING?
Gen Z: humor, Millennials: health and wellness books, Gen X: crafts and hobbies, Baby Boomers: cookbooks, and the Silent Generation: biographies and memoirs.
WHAT DO YOU READ?
If you are someone who is thinking about writing a book, may I state the obvious? You need to be reading in the genre that you are planning to write in. If you’re...