In this brief post, I want to ruminate a bit on how it felt to have done this effort to write my mother’s life down. Writing a book takes a lot of effort and after a book is published, it is appropriate to spend some time thinking about what went into bringing it to completion.
My mother’s memoir, We Were Not Spoiled, had been five years in the writing and had gone in and out of my focus. When I started to interview my mother and write the text, she had been participatory—but by nature she was not introspective so it was often hard to get her to draw conclusions. I would often make one for her and she would respond something like, “Well, of course, I felt that way. Wouldn’t you!” But, left to herself, she did not produce any wrap up statements such as: “This is what I think it meant.”
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Mostly, because I was writing a number of other memoirs “for hire” during that time and my mother’s book was a gift that I wrote at night and on weekends, it took me that long to write and package. (By this way of writing, this is probably like many writers who participate in this blog and in the forum.) I didn’t relate to We Were Not Spoiled in a clear, definite way other than that it was a gift. It was not, and will not be, an income producer. Nor was it a book that felt like a literary book that I poured my ego into. No, it was a gift, to my mother and my family. Something I wanted to do to memorialize my mother for her family. That is what one wants after a book is published—at least I think so.
After publication, acknowledging a significant accomplishment
After a book is published, authors will sometimes feel a let down, judging that they have not produced the book they wanted to produce.
For me, having the book in hand has proven very satisfying. It is a significant accomplishment, and I have found myself proud to have produced it. I had already written about my two paternal grandparents each in a separate 45 page booklet, and now I also had the opportunity to include my maternal grandparents in We Were Not Spoiled.
The book was intended to portray the first 30 years of my mother’s life. “What are you going to write about?” she had asked incredulously when I proposed the project. Once I began to write, I quickly realized I wanted the book to also portray an era and a culture. So, I was very aware of placing her story in the context of the BIG PICTURE.
She was amazed when I handed her a 206-page book! Great pictures, too. Can you tell I feel the effort was well worth it! This is what I usually feel after a book is published!
Launching the book
In that context, I was asked to present a program (not quite a reading or a signing) that featured Business Boy to Business Man (my uncle’s memoir that was published in October) and We Were Not Spoiled. Obviously this involved a lot of compare and contrast. The program, several months after publication, was held at the University of Maine in Lewiston-Auburn and was sponsored by the Franco-American Collection there. About 50 people attended and a number of these bought a copy of the books. The discussion was lively—with many people sharing their experiences and memories of the times and the individuals.
I hope you will share with me how a book project of yours added up for you. I hope it was equally good. (Did you read the post by Maggie Roy on her memoir of her mother Aurore / My Franco-American Mother?)
For copies of We Were Not Spoiled.
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