A New Year, A New Manuscript, Much Gratitude, and a Quiet Revolution

Today is my first writing day of 2014. I am both excited and nervous. The morning has gone well. I still like the characters who I started creating last winter, and I am still enthused by the premise of The Memory Boxes. The four elderly women have been “sitting” at the edge of my vision, and “hovering” over my left ear since the summer. They continue to be observant and irreverent, and as a result I often find myself taking note of situations that would otherwise have escaped “my own” eyes and ears.  Over these winter months, I plan to be at my keyboard each day telling their stories. As I get closer to the finish, I hope to begin my next writing adventure, and that is to create and upload  a podcast for each chapter. With a little help from technologically enlightened sons and friends, the first podcast will be available in the autumn. There! I have said it; now I am accountable!

The writing/publishing experience has been amazing. I am grateful to every one of you who has helped along the way. It has been a journey worth sharing.

In the summer of  2011, after having received kindly worded rejections from  five literary agents, I decided to “go over the transom” to a publisher, Inanna Publications with a query letter and a few chapters.  Luciana Ricciutelli, the editor -in-chief, expressed interest and suggested I send her the manuscript. I was both terrified and excited…..and because I have some OCD tendencies (!), I spent the next month at my keyboard doing one more top to bottom edit of Autumn’s Grace. It was the 13th full edit (curiously, I am not superstitious.)

In December I learned that one of the Inanna readers had loved it. And then in April 2012, miracle of miracles, I received a contract. The upside was that Autumn’s Grace would have a life beyond the confines of my computer; the downside (I am a worrier) was that I would be exposed as a dilettante…a science major who was attempting literary fiction and who did not know the first thing about metaphors and allegories.  We chose the cover in October…the fullness of autumn, which seemed fitting. Luciana’s note to me said: ” i came across the work of a magnificent canadian woman photographer — and …. i fell in love with one of her images, which i think really captures the spirit of your book.” I heartily agree. The art work is by Andrea Kollo. The title for her piece – “Soaking in The Light” – was a beautiful fit with the written images I had attempted to create. Readers of Autumn’s Grace will recall that toward the end, Max found comfort in the image of soaking in the sun-warmed energy of the rocks at his beloved lake.

Once the galleys arrived, the fact that I would soon have a book in my hands hit me like a bolt. For some reason, I kept thinking it might not happen. The only analogy I can draw is being pregnant, having prepared the baby’s room, completed birthing classes, and then realizing a few weeks before delivery that, while I knew how to safely carry a babe in utero, I had no idea how to be a parent. In the case of book marketing, I had no idea how to be a published author. Writing a manuscript was solitary; publishing was …well….public. People – readers – might expect something, or things, from me which I had no idea how to deliver on.

What I have discovered has exceeded my expectations. People I know have been genuinely pleased and excited. Friends (about 120) came out to the June launch at Hillfield Strathallan College. Luciana had brought 150 books to the event and sold all of them; She was delighted. I on the other hand was stunned for most of the evening. Once again it appears that I am very slow to grasp basic concepts, like: if people are invited to a party, they tend to come. While I had prepared to host about 120 guests, for some reason I expected less than half to really show up. There were points in the evening when I was speechless, and my brain was not working as I signed books. In fact, because I could not remember their names, I asked several good friends, “How do I spell your name?”!

Since the launch, life-long friends have hosted events for their neighbours, colleagues and friends to celebrate, and these experiences have been delightful. At these events, I can  genuinely ask, “How do I spell your name?” and not worry that I am having a TIA. I have been to two book clubs with a third one planned early in 2014. Attendees have been kind. They are curious about the process of story-telling; I have learned that I am happy to speak about something that I kept hidden away for so long.

I was thrilled to be working two different booths at Word on The Street in Toronto.  It gave me the opportunity to talk with other writers, and we did a very cool thing….we swapped books!

There are five women to whom I owe a great debt. The first is Diane Walsworth, who liked my writing and recommended I contact Inanna Publications. Diane helped me to “pick up the pen” after five rejections. The next four are Mary Davies, Janet Napper, Judith Hibberd and Lorine Besel – the authors of the “blurbs” on the back cover of Autumn’s Grace. When I am shopping for books, inevitably I turn over the book and read  what others of some note and credibility have said about the writing. These women responded within an incredibly short time frame, read the manuscript, caught some proofing errors and wrote lovely notes. I am eternally grateful for their goodwill and support.

And there are three men to whom I am grateful. They are Kenn, my husband, who reads everything I send out over the wires, and now that he is retired is relieving me of jobs like snow clearing this winter; Luc, our elder son who reliably  provides me with constructive comments and who adds books to my reading list; and Mathew, our younger son who helped me to set up this web-site on WordPress and who guides me though technological challenges.  I would be a less grounded woman without these men in my life.

Inanna Publications made a dream come true; Autumn’s Grace is available for the reading and the cover is beautiful! I am grateful to Luciana and her board of intrepid readers and decision-makers for their confidence in me; to Renée Knapp who publicizes events for the “stable” of Inanna authors; and to Brunswick Books for making the books available to retailers. It is a team effort and I am grateful for all that these amazing people do.

My final note of gratitude is to my readers. Many of you have been buying and/or recommending Autumn’s Grace for/to friends. Some of you have written notes and supplied reviews on various web-sites*. Thank you! Luciana says that the reviews and rankings help to sell books. I think that may be a good thing for the future of palliative care. If we can put Autumn’s Grace in the hands of more readers, perhaps we can create a quiet revolution to increase access, education and support. Imagine an end of life journey where families felt the kind of support that we currently offer to pregnancy, childbirth, and early child development! Would that it happens within my lifetime.

Until the next posting, thank you readers for being there. Your support keeps me writing about the things that worry me, and perversely, that makes me happy! If any of you would like to gather some friends for a signing/reading over the next year, on either coast or even in the middle of the continent, I am happy to entertain the prospect and will speak with my publisher.

* Web-sites where readers can post reviews (goodreads and the amazon web-sites are both in need of some love):