(This piece originally appeared in the Orange County Register Aug. 22. Reprinted by permission.)
All the clichés come to mind. The runner crosses the finish line, a ribbon billows from either side of her chest. A mountain climber smiles for a picture at the summit. A painter, who after applying his last stroke, steps back to see the completed artwork.
My finish line is close; my mountain peak is in view. For me it’s holding my book in my hands. For two years I have been working on self-publishing My Laundry Museum & Other Messy Gifts of Motherhood, a collection of essays originating from my “Mom’s Voice” columns in the Orange County Register.
The process has been exhilarating, scary and filled with obstacles. When I first started on this journey, I set up a meeting with the owner of the paper I used to write for. I prepared a little PowerPoint presentation to show him, sharing my goal, asking if he would like to be involved.
“Who told you this was good?” he asked. Following up with, “How do you know it will sell?” I didn’t want to be rude and point out that the contents of the book were already appearing in his paper each week, but I did make a gentle allusion, to which he replied, “Just because it’s good as a column, doesn’t mean it’s good as a book.”
And then his final zinger, “How would you feel if you only sold one copy?” My response was from the heart, “I would feel great because this is a passion project for me, a personal goal.” (Did he just miss the PowerPoint?) “Just to hold the book in my hands will make me very happy,” I explained.
The meeting concluded. His words of wisdom: find someone who is “real” to tell me if my work is good or not, figure out if I have something that will sell, and before that, don’t assume anyone will help me.
I walked out of his office with a “thank you” and a smile. I got in my car, pulled onto the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach and cried all the way back to Costa Mesa. My tears were not because I believed anything he told me, but because I wasn’t prepared for the shadow of doubt he attempted to cast over my dream. I cried simply because he hurt my feelings
I knew I wouldn’t take any of his advice. I believed in my goal and would proceed.
And proceed is exactly what I did. One thing I did right the following two years was surround myself with a group of the most wonderful, positive and talented people I knew. I built a team. At the center of the team were my loyal readers who support me each week.
I remember the day my friend Marrie, a brilliant writer, sat with me. My work was spread all over my dining room table as she began to help me find a shape to the book, looking for the thread that connected the pieces, ditching ones that didn’t belong. From there we went through multiple rounds of edits. She helped me to sharpen my work and improve my craft in unexpected ways.
My friend Shannon, a phenomenal photographer, came over one day with her camera equipment and helped make my visions of the cover photo materialize. My brother-in-law Kevin, a gifted graphic artist, took the photo and worked with me to finish the cover. I learned how to get my work copyrighted, how to get an ISBN number and barcode for the back. Frank was the guy who took my Word documents, waved a magic wand and designed the inside of the book, always giving me the final say. One never thinks that the decision of where to put page numbers will be a tough one, but it is.
I chose my paper for the pages the way someone chooses a wedding dress; I knew I wanted off-white and a certain weight – not flimsy.
Next week, the machines will be running, the words closest to my heart will be spit onto the papers that will be cut and bound. I will hold the book in my hands. The shadow of doubt forever gone.
Stay tuned for information about my book release party this fall.
— Jill Fales
Jill Fales writes the weekly “Mom’s Voice” column for The Orange County Register. My Laundry Museum & Other Messy Gifts of Motherhood, published through Greyden Press, is her first book.