The story of the other book
I did not expect to write this post so soon. In fact, I had almost no expectations of when or what year I would write this post. It is with great joy and still some surprise that I share with you that my third book is now published, titled What God Had Emptied: How I Found Hope After My Children’s Diagnoses.
This was the book I wrote in 2018, the book about which I told my counselor, “I think I am ready to write our story.” It tells the tale of two years, two positive pregnancy tests, two prenatal diagnoses, and two different outcomes.
In 2018, I gathered up the pieces of my heart scattered here and there, through emails, blog posts, journal scribblings, prayer books, collections of quotes and poetry that sustained me, and a eulogy. These I put in chronological order in a Word document and called it “raw material.” Then I began to connect the pieces of the narrative, filling in the blank spots, giving it flesh and blood where it warranted, making digestible the parts we would rather look away from.
I read The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith, The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman, The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo, and Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. By reviewing the books of other authors in the same genre, I learned about how memoir is regularly presented today and in Catholic publishing. I made the most of my time as a member of Hope Writers.
After many hours of editing, it was time to craft the book proposal. The document requires you to pour yourself in, and then start pitching. The rejection letters were encouraging and surprisingly positive. Through one, we began a conversation about presenting a devotional that drew from my experience. That book became Journey in Love: A Catholic Mother’s Prayers after Prenatal Diagnosis. The conversations that led to my June release, Peace in Pregnancy: An Expectant Mother’s Prayers After Prenatal Diagnosis, of which I already shared about here.
Meanwhile, the memoir waited. I decided to save up to self-publish. This is our story, and whether or not the market demands to hear it, I felt in my heart that it need to be on our table.
In June, around the same time my shipment of Peace in Pregnancy arrived unexpectedly after supply chain delays, I took a writer’s retreat.
It was in Hope Writers that I learned about this concept. One author they interviewed books a cruise to make her retreat, something that would take her far away, isolate her, and make her do the hard work. On my retreat, I booked two nights at Fallon Hotel in Columbia Historic State Park. With a copy of Peace in Pregnancy alongside me, I planned to reread the memoir, Peace in Pregnancy, and prepare two book proposals for the next project, a book on self-care while caregiving for one’s children and a literature-based devotional. Nothing came of the latter proposal. The former shaped up a bit, enough to convince me to keep at it.
On Friday morning I woke and worked in bed, a privilege I rarely possess at home with my littles. Without a plan, I opened the old proposal for the memoir. On my computer desktop, I had a list of publishers and their requirements. Half of them were crossed off until I got to Our Sunday Visitor. The other half I never contacted. En Route Books and Media was the next on the list. Their requirements for a proposal were ones I could meet at the moment. I sent the email.
Then, I went for coffee.
When I returned, there was an offer waiting for me. The contract followed. In a whirlwind I did not expect possible, we made agreements, edited, designed book covers, proofread, formatted, and now present What God Had Emptied: How I Found Hope After My Children’s Diagnoses.
This lengthy title begins with a fraction of a quote Mother Teresa wrote in a letter to her spiritual director, “There would come a time when God had filled what he had emptied.” This expression buoyed me up in the darkest of our dark days when it felt like all had been taken from us and we were alone.
We never could have imagined what good would come from those two years, but good has come. It is from this perspective that I write in this column so often. There is meaning to what is happening. We have a purpose. Be present in the moment to see what it has for you. You matter and what you do matters.