What I learned from writing my first book
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever write a book—let alone a memoir. However, when I moved alone to Rome, Italy many years ago, my instincts told me to keep a daily diary because one day I would use it in some form. So yes indeed: I wrote in my journal every day for the almost three years I lived abroad. When I decided to pursue my book I relied upon my diaries to supplement my memories and help transport me back to the various experiences I had living in Rome.
The key reason I attempted to write about my time living abroad, was largely due to my relationship with an octogenarian named Grace. She became one of the most important people in my life after the devastating death of my brother, and she not only urged me to write my memoir, but took an active part as my one woman “focus group.” From the outset Grace encouraged me to show her my writing. I was terrified she might think I was a terrible writer and to not continue writing. To my astonishment and joy, she really liked my writing samples that I showed her.
Grace was well read and in tune with current events; she was also a sage judge of people and understanding human nature.Grace’s feedback gave me the confidence and courage to show her my initial submissions and I was elated when she believed readers would identify with what I was writing about, and would be inspired by my candid take of how I pursued a dream, despite all the obstacles we all face. Because of Grace, I was able to follow, what turned out to become, my passion for writing.
Haven taken classes on how to write a memoir, I was able to appreciate how difficult it is to show what you want to say and not always merely tell. I struggled with the show don’t tell for a long time and then found a wonderful and tough- editor who helped me develop my story. It took me two years to complete my memoir, A Place Called Grace. After countless edits, I eventually learned how to push further than I ever thought possible, digging deeply into my soul.
Now that the book is out,I have to acknowledge myself for having the tenacity to not give up but rather forge deeply into my personal life, writing about my successes and disappointments, feelings of rejection and abandonment and a longing for connection. The greatest surprise was how cathartic writing my book has been, and how it has introduced me to many new friends who have told me they too have gone through similar feelings and challenges.
Perhaps the most significant comments I received from strangers and friends alike who had read my memoir were the ones that said my book helped to get them through a terrible time in their life. They told me that my memoir transported them into my world for a time so they were able to get away from their own worries. To me that is the finest complement I could have ever asked for.
Grace was correct. Many people could relate. I am excited to now be thinking about working on my follow-up book. Only this time dear Grace is supporting me from heaven. Thank you for walking down this path with me, Grace. You are in my heart forever.
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