Writing My First Book

Want to know how it feels to have a dream, work really hard at it for a long time, and then have that dream come true?

It feels amazing.

I’ve wanted to write books since I was five. I know that because I have an illustrated flipbook I made in kindergarten that says: “When I grow up, I want to … write books.” Despite being an uber-responsible eldest child, I checked the box beside “creative writing” on a whim when filling out my university application form, and then reveled in five years of English literature seminars and fiction workshops with only the occasional panic attack at the thought of making a living post-graduation.

At age 24 I stumbled into a job in “corporate communications” and have sat at a computer for the eight years since. This career could have been a death sentence for my creative writing, and for awhile I did forget that I wanted to write books. Luckily, one day I was bored and depressed and asked Brock: “what’s my purpose in life?” and he said, “I thought it was writing.” And then I remembered.

So for the past two years I’ve been, once again, working on my writing. I started the Renaissance Women and this blog to motivate monthly posts. I found myself a wonderful mentor, Susan L. Scott, a writer and editor who sees themes and angles to my stories that I can then develop. And this year I started writing monthly columns about our life on the farm for The Winnipeg Review, an online literary magazine.

Island Grains: the project that gave me a book to write

Then, out of nowhere I got an email from New Society Publishers. They saw a need for a book about all the amazing local grain-growing projects in North America, and they wanted me to write it because Brock and I had created the Island Grains project. I slaved over two sample chapters, put together a proposal and eventually signed a contract for my first book deal.

I’ve been writing this book for a month.

And ohmigod, I am so meant to write books.

Sometimes my heart hurts because it feels so right.

And then I feel a bit guilty, because not everyone knows what they are “meant” to do, and because not everyone is lucky enough to have a husband who invents innovative projects like Island Grains that cause publishers to cold-call wannabe writers.

Today I realized (while drafting the book’s introduction) that I am writing in my own voice, for my own purpose, for the first time … ever? I’ve ghost-written for CEOs and government officials, and composed essays to impress my professors. I’ve written confident how-to articles for magazines. I write perky marketing pieces for our farm. But my book is mine — at least until the publishers get it in August — and I don’t have to write in someone else’s voice, or consider brand, or even try to craft a piece of fictional art that literati will appreciate. It’s a story about something I find interesting, and I get to tell it.

(Okay, I just realized that this blog is kinda the same thing. It’s mine to write as I wish. But it’s never inspired the heady feeling of freedom I get with my 60,000 word book.)

I can use the word “apocalypse” as much as I want to.

I can insert a side comment that I think is hilarious.

And, I can start a sentence with “and.”

One more wee story:

I had a panic attack last Sunday. My manuscript is due in 73 days, and I work full-time and commute three days a week: there isn’t a lot of time for me to write. Although weekends are my book-writing time, I committed to making food for a family dinner. I got back from the grocery store, felt a tsunami of guilt from not working on my book, and imploded.

After a good cry and a hug from Brock, I realized that my book is mine (despite the contract and the publisher’s expectations): this is the dream I’ve been working toward for decades, and it is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to be able to write books while also having a life that includes family dinners. So I calmed down, made the food and enjoyed the family time.

I am learning how to live as a writer.

Okay, now back to work.

[2013 update: the book is now available! We titled it Uprisings: A Hands-On Guide to the Community Grain Revolution. Check it out on the New Society Publishers website here. The book’s Facebook page is here if you want to chitter chat about grains and other revolutionary topics.]

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