Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dear America

The book idea I had called, Where Grace Abounds: True Stories from Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers, or my “pregnancy center book” was on the shelf. But writing went on. I continued to sell magazine articles and submit to compilation books.

Then September 11th, 2001, happened.

In the weeks following I kept thinking of all the things I would like to tell folks in the aftermath…like why I still believe in a good God even when bad things happen. And what I’ve learned about getting through the grief of losing a loved one. And about the differences between Muslims and Christians and what they believe about God and Jesus. And about how we can know God through the story told in the Bible. And there was more.

I’d write a letter, I thought, if I had anyone to send it to.

I mentioned this idea off-handedly in an e-mail to a friend who directs a writer’s conference. She e-mailed back and said, “If you’ll write it, I’ll publish it.”

What?! I was floored.

“Uh… Okay,” I told her, and I was off and running. I wanted my letter to America to be short and easy to read. And it was—65 pages. The writing went quickly.

Marlene Bagnull, director of the Colorado and Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conferences and owner of the small publisher Ampelos Press, edited it and typeset it and found Jo Hardesty to create my cover. I had an ISBN and bar code and I was set!

Did I get an advance? No.

Would I get royalties? No.

I paid for the editing and typesetting and cover and the ISBN and the bar code and the printing…

Hmm. Well, I guess that’s okay. I would also keep all the proceeds from the book sales, right? Yes.

I guess this was a “self-publishing” project. Not sure I really understood that up front. But, well…okay.

(Looking back I cannot believe I didn’t have anything in writing. No contract. Nothing that said this is what each person involved will do and this is how much it will cost. I’m normally a real stickler for getting it writing. My goodness! What happened here?! The only answer I can give is that I didn’t know enough to even know what questions to ask or what to ask for (like a contract). I had heard someone say she would publish my book, I had a publisher, and away we went! She did a good job, I think. I didn't get taken or anything like that. But I don’t really think I understood at the time how on my own I really was. Anyway…)

Six months to the day after September 11th, on March 11, 2002, I picked up my books, Dear America: A Letter of Comfort and Hope to a Grieving Nation, from the printer.

I had my first book in my hands.

How thrilling! How frightening.

One question nagged me: Uh oh. Now what?

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