I’m two years into my self-publishing journey, and as I’ve talked about exhaustively here, it’s a whirlwind of writing, editing, promoting, and–hopefully–selling books. But there’s another fun angle that keeps developing for me in new and unexpected ways: writing with other people.
For years, my mom has had a journal and a box of letters detailing her solo trip to Europe in 1969. A couple of years ago, she gave it to me with the idea that I might be able to “turn it into something interesting.” And I tried. I read the first third of the diary, organized the letters she wrote to my grandparents and received from them in chronological order, flagged them with post-it notes that had the appropriate dates on them (with the idea that I’d read them at the right intervals as I read the journal and compare what was happening in her diary versus what she was willing to disclose to my grandparents), and tried to decide whether it should be straight memoir-style writing, or if I could somehow morph it into a fictional tale that would bring in the excitement of being in London and traveling around Europe during one of the most interesting times in recent memory.
But it wasn’t working for me. I was pumped to get started, and then…I went back to my own projects. My mom asked about it occasionally, and I always told her that I “wasn’t in the right frame of mind” for it yet. Until this year, when I decided to give it all back to her and encourage her to tell her own story. We booked a weekend at the beach over Spring Break in April, brought all of her writings and the photo albums that went along with that time in her life, and started to pour over her words, thinking about the possibilities. And she got excited. For the first time in years, I saw my mom passionate about something that really grabbed her attention, and (of course) I patted myself on the back for bringing someone else into the fold, watching from the sidelines as she fell down the rabbit hole and spent hours and hours typing, dreaming, and thinking.
And it went faster than I thought it would. By June, she had the entire journal and all of her letters typed up in a Google doc, and she was ready to step back from the project and take a breather. Our original goal had been for her to have it drafted, edited, titled, finalized, and publishable by 2019, which would be the 50th anniversary of her trip, but I think she’s actually going to be ready by next year. (In her mind this is the perfect timing to start building momentum and promoting it in advance of the 50th anniversary…she’s got visions of morning television shows, radio interviews, and perhaps a world-wide tour, because–why not?) And I’m really, really happy for her. Every step of a project is a new and thrilling one, but the feeling of a completed first draft is a particularly happy sensation.
When I see her today, she’s going to have several hundred pages run off for me to start poring over, and I can’t wait to fall back into her adventure, reading about my twenty-year-old mother as she falls in and out of love in Spain, tries to navigate friendships, relationships, and international travel, and casts her surprisingly wise words into a future that she couldn’t possibly have dreamed of at twenty. And, speaking of first drafts, I just finished my own first draft of the fourth full-length novel in my Christmas Key series this week, so I’ve got plenty of editing on my hands to last until I go back to work in a month!
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