Giving birth to book isn’t for wimps
The crazy idea of writing a book did not surface early. I had to wait until sanity abandoned me.
A devoted reader since I was a kid, I always thought that books were the result of brilliant minds, great imaginations, and writerly skills. Ordinary people like me didn’t write books.
But you know – you live long enough and a lot happens. Some of it is worth writing down. The book I’ve just published, Rounding Third, is named for where I am now in that long life – this autumn of my years.
There are seven very heavy boxes in my front hall. At my age, I do not get excited by very much. Opening the top box and holding my book was thrilling, absolutely amazing. Can this actual, real book be mine? It weighs almost 11 ounces. It has my name on it, my picture is on the back, and it’s filled with experiences that I lived. It contains eleven ounces of a phantasmagorical life and the whackadoodle ideas that tumbled around in my head – for years. They gradually spilled out on paper. Putting this book together has been a challenging way to stay young!
The cover is brightly colored, eye-catching for its whimsy. The headless, running woman in culottes who is rounding third base in her red high heels is no longer me. But she used to be.
Early on, an acquaintance commented, “But I’ve never seen you in red high heels, really high heels.”
I replied, “You’re right. I haven’t run in high heels since I was in my 40s. And since you and I did not meet until our 60s, you missed a whole generation of high kickin’.”
“Then why did you put red high heels on the cover?” she asked.
With great memories bubbling up, I smiled at her, “‘Cuz I really, really like them.”
I started writing occasionally for the Warren paper in 2004. As the years went on, the columns appeared biweekly, then weekly. Then a few years ago, I started writing in Jamestown and Dunkirk as well. I began to hear from a larger body of readers. And frankly, that’s really nice. It makes you feel as if some of those late nights and miserable edit sessions are worth it.
As the notebooks of columns grew thicker, I occasionally mused about putting some together in a book, but couldn’t imagine who would read it. Or why.
I’d always thought that the notebooks might get discovered some rainy day by great-grandchildren – who would proceed into a gigglefest.
Then I started hearing from some nice readers out there. Many who laughed with my incompetencies – seeing themselves. Some who shed a tear, and decided to share. Once in a while, there were questions about when the book would appear. I laughed it off for a long time, not feeling worthy or capable.
Then Covid showed up the second time and I was home from the hospital again. Down and out. Getting better takes time – which I finally decided was book time. Now or never.
Hey! How hard could it be? I have files with hundreds and hundreds of these dribblings.
Already written. Already published. I would only have to pick out my favorite 75 and slap them together under a cover. Right? Like I said, I wasn’t very capable.
It’s a long process. The process demands dedication and timing. And if you self-publish as I have, it requires an infusion of US dollars.
I never once thought of sending it to a publisher. I don’t have the number of years left that it takes to break through the pile of rejection slips. I am a writer from the hinterlands with essentially short stories – fun, warm, but nevertheless, hometown short stories.
I began by choosing eight ‘alpha readers” who volunteered to read, comment, and grade a hundred columns.
Then, with my newly vetted collection, my wallet, and a don’t-look-back-now attitude, I plunged. I hired a professional editor, a publishing consultant and a local illustrator. And we all put together, beginning last April, this 11-ounce miracle.
It does not lie in my arms wiggling its toes. It is not the gift to the world that my children are. But it is a lot better than a few of my report cards. I’ll accept that much satisfaction.
In this life, I was lucky. I didn’t get thrown out at first. And here I am, Rounding Third with a book in my hand.
Maybe I should buy some sneakers. Red ones.
Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.email@example.com