Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Maiden Voyage: An Author's First Publication

Someone asked me a few days ago about what I've been writing for the last three decades.  They'd read my Twitter memoir and the story of how I decided to become a writer when I was a child.  This person figured that even an unpublished author should have written a dozen manuscripts by now.
It's a reasonable enough assumption except that life is so rarely linear.

I have, indeed, written several thousand pages, but you will never get to see those “early manuscripts”. 
During my school years I wrote a moderate amount, mostly poetry and stories about wolves.
I majored in liberal arts and creative writing in college which, naturally, kept me writing.
Then, after college, I caught a major case of life.
I got side tracked and within a few years found a new passion; working in human services.  I worked in mental health, developmental disabilities, substance recovery and with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. I was head over heels in love with these jobs and the work was deeply rewarding; my enthusiasm for human services work easily rivaled my love of writing. Every single day, I knew that I was doing something that made life a little bit happier or better for the folks I served. And what amazing folks they were! People outside the field sometimes think I'm being disingenuous when I tell them that it was an honor to work with folks experiencing disabilities. Nope. Not a drop. I'm entirely sincere. If you want to meet people who have led interesting lives, are deeply courageous and reject superficiality, spend time with the chronically ill and disenfranchised.
Day after day, year after year, I was given teachers, some of them in the form of superb supervisors and colleagues, most in the form of my clients.
Why is it so difficult for writer's to gauge the quality of our own work? Maybe some find it easier than I do. I know I'm a good writer but I can never decide if I'm a good enough writer and this unanswered question has sent me into a tail spin more times than I care to think about. Not so with the work I did in human services. I'm by no means a miracle worker, I don't even have the education of a social worker, but I always felt a deep certainty, like a ship with good ballast, that I was more than good enough at helping people.  On the days that I made mistakes or errors in judgment, I always fell asleep knowing that in spite of my human flaws, I was making a palpable difference in the world.
Meanwhile, I was writing.  I wrote thousands of pages. I wrote treatment documents and progress notes and I did a dang fine job of it, too. Auditors and Medicaid employees praised my writing.  Reviewers at Yale praised my writing.  Supervisors praised my writing, though sometimes in exasperation because they would have gladly traded some of my writing talent for better time management skills.  Nonetheless, if you were looking for someone to interview a client, review assessments and develop a cohesive, person-centered plan of action that included achievable and measurable goals, objectives and interventions, I was your girl!  I am not the fastest writer and I'm nowhere near the most prolific but, by golly, I wrote dazzlingly beautiful treatment plans!

Now, though, I am finally writing for you.  Will the skills that I’ve honed over years of service provision and healthcare documentation add depth to my creative writing? Will I have what it takes to earn a paycheck as a self-published author? We have yet to see, you and I.  Now, you are my client, my supervisor, my reviewer and my auditor.  I can only do my best; offer to you what is in my soul and await your response.

Last night I uploaded my short Twitter memoir Head Buckets & Hashtags: An Alaskan Childhood In Tweets to Amazon Kindle.  I am giddy and thrilled and scared spitless.  You and I are shipmates and this is the maiden voyage of a newly built vessel.  Let’s see if we’re seaworthy, shall we?

If you would like to download my memoir, here's a link:

If you don’t have a Kindle and want to read Head Buckets & Hashtags on your computer, smart phone or tablet, here’s a link to a free application that you can download to make that happen:

I hope that you will give me feedback in the form of Amazon reviews, comments here and even tweets or email. If you appreciate what I’ve written, please recommend it to others.

By the way, my memoir is only $.99 now through next Wednesday, April 10th but the price will go up on April 11th!

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