From Broken Rib to… Author?

     As I share in Stumble to Rise, “I broke a rib and bruised a few others after a bad fall into the unforgiving kitchen granite countertop. I was in pain and received doctors’ orders to rest and recoup for six weeks. After a couple of days playing with my phone and watching TV, I stationed myself in a recliner and “wrote” feverishly, talking the entire book into a Google Doc like my smart son suggested. I remembered how much I enjoyed the writing process, and I couldn’t stop. Maybe I could finish a book!”

     As I became obsessed with the process, my husband and son wondered if I would ever rejoin our normal family routine. “Mom’s writing again!” became a familiar refrain. I’ve always loved to write but hadn’t made it a priority since childhood.

    Once I shared my book enthusiasm, the support from those around me soared. My intelligent brother-in-law, Jerry, read the original cluttered version and carefully chose his words for an honest critique. I proved Ernest Hemingway’s quote, “The first draft of anything is shit.” I’m no Hemingway but that was certainly the case here. STR, as Jerry referred to it, continued morphing daily.

     I submitted the first chapter to an editor who would be, I expected, more focused on writing structure and mechanics. She complimented me on my writing style but I was craving more specific feedback. Since my story was so personal, I hoped to get an insider’s point of view. My sister, Laura, was a natural choice. She knew me since birth and was a trained and skilled language usage aficionado. As my dad’s primary caregiver, however, her time was limited. I greatly appreciated what she was doing for my father and was thrilled when she could dedicate even a few minutes at the end of her long days to edit a couple pages.

     Months were spent revisiting forgotten memories and improving my story telling and word choices. Finding better ways to structure a sentence or paint more vivid pictures became my daily purpose. When it felt disordered, I printed all the chapters, laid them out on my office floor and rearranged the entire flow of the book. My nephew’s talented photographer wife, Lauren, made everything seem real when she took my book cover photos. Now that I had an “author” picture, I could visualize this book coming to life. At that time, I also began discussing possible book cover ideas with my talented niece, Sarah. She has a degree in copy editing and helpfully drafted a few cover ideas to help narrow my vision.

     I was ready to start promoting and blogging about the upcoming book launch. After a few hours of unsuccessful and frustrating Word Press attempts, my skilled IT professional brother-in-law, Kevin, created my Stumble to Rise website.

     In the meantime, my book was continuing to expand as I had more time to dig even deeper. When I received a private Facebook message from a close high school friend, Kathy, who now lived on the East Coast and with whom I hadn’t directly communicated in years, I was surprised and delighted. She heard that I was writing a book and wondered if I had an editor. I did, but my editor was otherwise engaged with my dad‘s care. Kathy understood what my sister was dealing with since she had experienced the same Alzheimer’s nightmare with her mother. She wondered if she could help bridge the editing gap until my sister could dedicate more time to the book. She was a professional freelance ghostwriter/editor and I was amazed and overwhelmed! I was honored by her offer but didn’t want to pull it away from my sister if she was enjoying her editorial distraction. Laura agreed that she hadn’t been able to dedicate the time she had hoped and if my friend was willing to help, she understood that it might be best for everyone.

     Kathy tackled the first chapter. She offered insight and urged me to dig deeper. She believed there had to be more emotion surrounding the time of my MS diagnosis. So I went back to the beginning and delved into feelings I’d buried since 1995.

     Since then, Kathy has given her time and suggestions to improve and edit the entire book. Jerry had originally given his own valuable input but his days were occupied with managing a successful 1200-acre farm. Post-harvest, he jumped back in which now meant I was blessed with TWO editors. They were both concerned about stepping on the other’s toes but, in fact, it became a beautiful dance. As editing is ultimately an opinion-based venture, they, at times, had different suggestions. I valued both and ultimately made my own decisions.  During this process I’ve developed deeper bonds and appreciation for both of them. I knew that Jerry was a great writer but hadn’t appreciated the depths of his abilities until now. Writing and farming don’t usually go hand-in-hand but he’s quite the exception.

     Kathy and I have been reacquainted in a way that would never have been possible without STR and I am forever grateful for that. I have deep admiration and respect for the high caliber person she is.

     When I asked her opinion on a sketch I’d done of my recent cover design vision, she said she’d like to show it to a designer friend. I wondered who would be interested in giving feedback about my chicken scratch but welcomed any input. Shelby quickly contacted me with a mock-up of a potential cover based on my sketch. I was thrilled but still wondered who this mystery designer was. I uncovered that she was a friend of Kathy’s daughter who would soon be graduating with a degree in graphic design. I loved her image and with some additional tweaking, I knew it would be perfect! In addition, Shelby is thrilled to add this cover to her portfolio so it truly felt like fate that we were introduced. Fortunately, I now have support and suggestions from my new STR support tribe — a Facebook group of friends who are willing to give me feedback, help me spread the word and launch this book.

     What started with a clumsy broken rib STUMBLE has led to more than I could have imagined! The connections this book has created will be with me forever. This brings to mind a favorite quote by John Maxwell…

About Gina Whitlock Fletcher

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