Sunday, December 4, 2011


I try to avoid talking about work on here too much. Getting "dooced" is the fear of every blogger, even when they're saying innocuous things. But I was having trouble all day Friday with a story that I really want to be good and meaningful, and I thought maybe writing from the heart would help when it comes time to wrap it up and write it like a feature story tomorrow.

On Tuesday afternoon, I got a call from an area resident who had written a book and was wondering if the paper would be interested in covering it. I said sure. I've done quite a few similar stories. The fact that people can self-publish for much less money has led to an explosion of people making their authorial dreams come true, which is cool. It used to be that in order to ever see your work in print, it either had to be judged marketable by a large publisher, or you had to have enough cash to afford old-school self-publishing, where you assumed all of the risk (the chief one being spending thousands of dollars on books that would molder in your garage until your descendents threw them out after your death) and reaped (generally meager) rewards yourself.

Now, someone wants your book, and your e-publishers make them one. And in my two years at the paper, I've interviewed a variety of area residents who have taken advantage of this new way to make their voices heard. There was the man who wrote a memoir of his father, a well-known OB-GYN in the area, after his own days as a doctor. There was the fascinating woman who homeschooled her children because she didn't think public schools provided enough experiences, and was trying to position her children's book as the next Flat Stanley. There was the artist and all-around neat old man who wrote a historical fiction novel about the earliest days of this area.

So I met with the woman with interest. She was older than I expected her to be, and in the course of the conversation, I learned that she had a college-age grandchild and had retired in 1988. She got inspired to write her book when her own children were young, and went to summer camp. Since then, she's worked at it on and off, throughout the changes in her life. She's seen those children grow up, get married, move away and have children of their own. Since she started writing, computers went from the provenance of NASA to being carried around by everyone, the country flipped from Republican to Democrat and back again several times, the Cold War ended and the War on Terror began. Some people would have said that society has changed so much that a mystery novel written for her children would hold no appeal for today's children.

But she kept going. Whether her breaks from the book lasted two weeks, two months, or upwards of two years, she never gave up on it. I think a lot of people, when pressed, will confess to having something like this in their lives. The quilt they started for the baby that's now in first grade. The dollhouse kit they bought with babysitting money that's half-built and has survived multiple moves. Or even, the novel they started ages ago. I think most people view them as a failure, but meeting this author has given me a new way to look at it: that they're just successes that haven't happened yet. Because her book is now complete, and now available for purchase.

She's definitely inspiring. She probably won't make a lot of money off of these books, but she has had her say. She felt that she had something to share with the world, an idea that would motivate children to read. She felt that she had the power to make them laugh, make them think, give them something to respond to. And I'm sure that more than a few children will respond this way. I haven't read her book. I don't know how a critic would judge it. I don't know if a major publishing house would say that they could market it. But the fact that she never gave up on it, throughout all of the changes her life brought her, from being a working mom of young children, to an empty-nester, to a retiree and a grandmother -- it can't help but inspire. So I encourage anyone reading this to take what's left of their Sunday and dig out an old project of theirs, or even just knock a small one off their to-do list. It's never too late.