Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hidden Agendas

My dad, who knows little about the Writer Life (other than the fact his daughter is always working) and who stopped inquiring 'how is the book coming?' about two years ago, finally asked, "So how much money are you going to make on this biography?"

"Dad, I couldn't tell you. I'll probably never be paid enough for the time and tears I've put into it."

He shook his head, having some small idea what the book has cost me. "I bet you won't do that again," he opined. He can't understand why someone would give up so much for so little.

Sometimes, neither can I, to be honest. I could have made an easier choice for my first book. There were some days (actually today is one of them!) when I thought there could not be a task more emotionally challenging than writing a biography on a living person. I was making a decent living as a freelance writer before I took last year off to write. It will take me many months to get my footing and find work again, so my personal and financial sacrifice to make this book a reality is significant.

No, it certainly wasn't illusions of grandeur or fame or wealth that spurred me on or even prompted me to tackle this project. So what was my agenda?

I have to say, this was one of the heart-projects. One of those things you know that you have to do, even though you don't know why or how you're going to do it or what will come of it.

Such is the power of story.

Some stories just have to be told. Mary Majka's is one of them.

Over a three year period, I had what I called, 'Thursdays with Mary', as we worked our way through the days of her 80 year old life. It was often painful for both of us. Many times I had to confront and reaffirm my reasons for continuing. Some days I ran away to sit by the shore and cry. But what I learned through the process is profound. I know the ripples (and aftershocks) created during these interviews will continue through my own life and lives of those who read the book.

It's hard not to measure our success by whether or not we reach our destination. But what about those little ripples we make as we journey along? Many ripples make a wave; waves travel long distances.

Who knows what shores they will reach? What people they will touch?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grace for Haiti

I cannot get the Haiti images and stories out of my mind.

A woman my age, pulled from the rubble after 7 days of entombment, singing praises and saying she had no doubt she would live. A 15-year-old teen, also encased for a week, listening to the cries of people dying below her, saying she wasn’t afraid. A mother, digging for three days for her baby...with her bare hands.

Such displays of faith and hope and strength humble me. I bow to these people and how they are teaching the world what it means to be alive. They do not sit by the sidelines, helplessly waiting for help to arrive. They are digging with their bare hands, caring for each other, sharing food, water and shelter, swallowing their tears to bury their dead.

Haiti's tragedy has brought the world together in the name of compassion to bear witness and respond to their loss. They have so little, yet they still live in a state of grace. How powerful is that?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Three Pounds, Seven Ounces

The day started out like every other. I peeled back the covers, touched my feet to the floor and did a couple yoga stretches to loosen my back and un-kink my neck. I was halfway to the bathroom when Callie-dog reminded me today was B-day.

I was delivering my Book manuscript to the publisher.

The Book.

Seven years ago, I first began the research. Last year, I took a sabbatical from work to complete the actual writing. The past three months, I fought panic on a daily basis. Nighttime brought sweats and silly nightmares about forgotten interviews. I agonized over a single word for hours. I became a cliché.

Then, suddenly, it was finished. Final weight on delivery: 3 lbs. 7 oz. It seemed rather small, considering the time and tears it cost to build it.

P, Callie-dog and I drove two hours to the publisher in Fredericton. It seemed surreal. Just another road trip. We stopped at a café and had breakfast just like normal people. Bacon. Hashbrowns. A bucket of coffee. Nothing healthy.

G. met us and accompanied us to the publisher's office, as she should, considering the boatloads of moral support, Kleenex and editorial advice she contributed through the passage of years. She knows the story as well as I do. P. snapped my photo before I went in...don't I look grinny-faced? I already feel more than 3 lbs. 7 oz. lighter.

The receptionist looked at me queerly when I asked if there were balloons or a band or fireworks.

"First time author", I said in explanation. She forced a very teeny smile. "Sorry," she said, offering none of the above.

What? Even the vet gives out a rub behind the ear and a couple dog cookies.

I set my little bundle gently on her desk. "Three pounds, seven ounces." I said, suddenly feeling separation anxiety, knowing a team would now been involved in my baby's development. "I looked up at her, "What happens now?"

"Oh, I just date stamp it and stick it on the editor's desk," she said, turning her attention back to her mail.

Rather anti-climatic for seven year's work and half a head of grey hair, don't you think? I thought at least I'd get a handshake or a slap on the back...

I sighed and shuffled off, shoulders slumped, chin to the floor.

Ah well...disappointment didn't last long. We stopped for a lunch celebration at Isaac's Way in Fredericton, where I giggled and wiggled and downed a frosty mug of Rickard's White in spite of the cold outside.

For a little bit of time, it felt like the world had just become the sunniest, biggest place.

For a little bit of time, I felt as light as a feather. Now the editing begins...