In 2012, when I moved across the country and into the home I’d grown up in, I had no idea I would someday write a book about the “year” I spent with my mother. But a few months later, at a writing retreat on Washington’s Whidbey Island, a seed was planted. It took ten years, including several more retreats, a year of weekly Zoom writing circles during the Pandemic, and many drafts, to arrive in this year of publication.
September 23 . 2023
It’s three weeks from the first anniversary of Pub Day. What a year it has been. This weekend I attended the Pacific NW Writers’ Association annual conference. In 2019, my manuscript was a finalist for the unpublished works award in memoir/nonfiction. It was the first of many awards the eventual book would be a finalist or winner in. It didn’t place in the top three that year (and interestingly, the pages the nomination was based on didn’t end up in the book!), but I felt like a winner just to be in the mix. This weekend, Mother Lode was one of five finalists for the Nancy Pearl Best Book Award (memoir/nonfiction). Again it didn’t win, but I am over the moon to be a finalist. It has won three gold medals in other book awards and placed in four more. I could not be more gratified by the recognition.
May 18 . 2023
It’s been seven months since the publication of Mother Lode. So much has happened! It’s won five awards, including the latest, this week: a gold IPPY from Independent Publisher’s Book Awards. There has been an outpouring from friends and friends of friends and strangers expressing gratitude for an honest book about caregiving that has made them feel seen. I’ve been on podcasts, given book talks, and led workshops about aspects of family caregiving (all things I never thought I would be comfortable doing). Readers are telling friends, gifting books, and asking their libraries to order it. Together we are spreading the word: family caregivers are the backbone of elder care in this country and it needs to be acknowledged at the highest levels of government. It can’t be sustained; legislation needs to be enacted to support families and our aging society.
November 5 . 2022
Launch celebration day! My extravaganza at HUBBUB was a success, with about 50 enthusiastic attendees, food and drink straight from the book and my mother’s food fetishes, readings and giveaways, and good conversation. The preorder campaign and the online and in-person launches have been my focus for so long. Now a reboot and focus shift, always hard.
October 25 . 2022
It seems my 750 copy print order was a miscalculation. Inventory in the warehouse is “low” a week after pub day. I’ve had to reorder Print on Demand so backorders can be filled and there will be inventory for holiday gifting. It’s an expensive proposition, but it’s the only way to have inventory quickly. I went ahead and placed an additional offset order too, available in January. I guess it’s a good problem! I hope it turns out to be so a year from now, when I will have to pay to warehouse overstock.
October 18 . 2022
What an amazing day. It’s been two full cycles of the seasons since I began the process of publishing my manuscript. The pub date was set (then changed) one year ago. I have learned a lot, made new friends of sister authors, watched many webinars, read beaucoup marketing blogs, and filled notebooks and computer memory with lists and timelines. And now the best part: I get to share this story with the world. My heartful hope is that the book (and this website) will help others navigate their own caregiving journeys, and perhaps their own old age with their own daughters, sons, and partners. That’s what’s next: supporting this book in the world.
October 5 . 2022
Those who preordered are getting their books from vendors! It’s still two weeks until Pub Day; apparently the supply chain was not an issue this go round. Although many have read the manuscript and the advance reader copies, all at my request, it feels very strange—and a little frightening—to know that anyone who wants to, known to me or not, will be out there reading my words and my story. May it walk in the light.
September 19 . 2022
There has been a lot of waiting since I finished my edits to the ARC. Well, not idle, for sure; I’ve been planning and executing ways to support my book in the world. Some call that marketing, I like support. I have a street team that is awesome.
But this happened this week: my three (so far) cartons of books arrived from the printer! What an amazing feeling to hold my own book in my hands. After the ARC, I thought it would be anticlimatic, but it wasn’t! It isn’t. And now, what a privilege to support the real thing and the story it carries about mothers and daughters and caregiving and honoring our elder wisdom keepers, into the world.
June 1 . 2022
My Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) came today! I unboxed them (on Zoom with my writing circle) and toasted the milestone with wine in one of my mother’s 1943 wedding gift glasses. (She would be appalled, but hopefully not by the book.) A week later, I have proofed the whole book (no longer a manuscript) for the last time, and sent fifty-eight changes and corrections to my publication manager. 😳 There will always be changes, with every reading, but there comes a point when it has to be abandoned and accepted as it is. There is no such thing as perfection either in writing or in caregiving.
May 12 . 2022
Ten days ago I got my “First Pages” and returned the designed pages with 83 corrections and changes (see May 1 below). In short order, I got “Second Pages, ” which I returned with four corrections that were missed in layout. I approved “Third Pages.” I also sent copy for the back cover. Next up is full cover approval (front/back/spine ), then it goes to printing of the ARC (advance reader copy). My quick turn-around of each step has gotten production back on schedule up to now. Hopefully I will have a printed draft copy of an actual BOOK in my hands at the end of the month!
May 1 . 2022
My “first pages” (first draft of designed pages) have been returned to my publication manager with eighty-three changes/corrections. About half were errors introduced in lay-out, or design requests; the rest were author elective changes. Next up: my manager will “quickly review” my specifically formatted corrections list and return it to layout. Then I will get “second pages.” What a process this is!
April 8 . 2022
My manuscript has gone to the page designer! The schedule is a little behind, but it’s on its way. Here is the very lovely note I got late yesterday from my publication manager:
I just finished reading your book! What a touching chronicle of your time with your mother. You have a talent for description, and I was always astounded by the way you describe the PNW. I particularly enjoyed how realistic and raw your voice is—you don’t pull punches, and this gives your writing a genuine truth that I know many readers will relate to. I’m honored to work on this book with you!
March 1 . 2022
It feels uneasy sharing ordinary life here—ordinary compared to what’s happening across the world. Life should be altered everywhere, as it has been in Ukraine. Though my heart is hurting, a couple things happened this week on the path to publication. First, this new website went live over the weekend! And yesterday, my proofread manuscript was returned to me for review. Now I have to read—aloud—the whole thing myself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it first page to last. It’s the second to last chance to make changes. I completed the task and returned it on Tuesday. And now we wait. Next step is page design, and then I will get it back for another look.
February 21 . 2022
Whereas: I rarely wear makeup.
Whereas: I have to get a headshot.
Therefore: I have to buy makeup.
To date, this has been the most stressful thing about publishing a book. But my sister offered to join me at Sephora today. It wasn’t so terrible after all. Now, can I put it on? I’ve been watching videos.
February 7 . 2022
My memoir has a cover! The design team at She Writes Press sent me ten possibilities a couple weeks ago. I wasn’t crazy about any of them (except maybe for one, that no one I asked liked). I asked the team to work with one of the others.
Today I got seven variations on the theme. One of them grabbed me right away. Deep breath. It’s like naming a child. You say yes, and then that’s it. No going back. I made the pick. Of course there were doubts, but now I love it. A lot of life with Mama was about groceries (you’ll see when you read the book!). The question: is that bag of produce—and me along with it—slipping down beyond my reach, or rising from the depths to victory?
January 21 . 2022
My publication date has been moved up! From November 15 to October 18. Ask for what you want. Sometimes you get it. Now I can launch during National Caregivers Month! These months will go so fast.
January 11 . 2022
I sent my manuscript to my project manager at She Writes Press today! It’s not my turn for proofreading yet, not until next month, but it’s been ready for months. I always was ahead of schedule with writing projects. So they have it when they are ready for it.
November 23 . 2021
A huge marker today on the path to publication of my memoir: a decision on its title! She Writes Press, who knows the industry far better than I do (one big advantage of a hybrid press over self publishing), has only recently begun reserving the right to change author’s titles. I’ve been waiting on tenterhooks to hear if mine was going to be altered, and last week I did. The very good news was they like my main title (yay! I was very attached to it after twelve years), but didn’t think my subtitle said enough. (Plus I had two, because there are two main story lines and I didn’t know which to choose. It kind of said TOO much!) I didn’t care for their suggestion, so I spent the weekend playing with alternatives. The publisher sent me some more, I sent her some. She liked two of them, I picked one. Then, at the last minute, I thought of a tweak. I heard back this morning. She “really loved” that one, and we have a title! Now the cover artist team will start the next really big step. So exciting!
Oh! The title is Mother Lode: Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver. What do you think? If you saw it on a shelf, would you pick it up? What would draw you?
November 15 . 2021
One year from today is the official publication date—Pub Day—of my memoir. The working title is Mother Lode: Finding Myself in My Mother’s House—a Memoir of Caregiving. It’s the story of the nearly four and a half years I spent as primary caregiver for my mother in my childhood home. The writing and publication path has been, and continues to be, a journey—the hiking equivalent of trekking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.
It began nine years ago this month, when on what truly was an uncharacteristic last minute decision and splurge, I signed up for a week-long writing retreat—Self as the Source of the Story (SAS) with Christina Baldwin, who has become my mentor and my friend—on Washington’s Whidbey Island. It changed the trajectory of my life. In that supportive environment, I was convinced this story was important, that I could write it, and I could do it while I was living it.
Several SAS alumni retreats and many drafts later, I submitted my manuscript to She Writes Press for publication consideration, and it was accepted. And now, even more drafts later, here I am. It will be published on the tenth anniversary of the precipitous-turned-auspicious retreat decision; and one decade after my move across the country and into my mother’s house.
The story is done, but the path to publication has barely left Mexico. I hope you will join me here as I navigate this unlikely journey to becoming a published author, and end up just south of Canada—home.