At Last!

I’ve been working on a serious blog entry for a week now, but the topic inflames me so strongly that it’s been hard to pull together. I will finish it and get it posted soon; today, though, I’m just going to write about last Sunday’s book launch.

Being a teacher always called to me; it was the second most important part of my life after family, and sometimes [when grades were due, when research papers piled up on my desk…], it even displaced family as a priority! Long before I finished teaching, I knew I wanted to capture the stories from my years in the classroom. I wanted them to be more permanent than mere dinner party storytelling.

It took me seven years and the support of a good writing group to really pull my stories together. It took my writing group to help me define my audience, and a specific member of my group to help me create the structure I ended up using. Often life got in the way, but I remained determined.   

When my first real copy arrived, I wept. I had already published two textbooks about writing with computers when they were new to schools along with dozens of articles. None of those compared to seeing this book in print. It’s so personal to me.

And on Sunday I had the privilege of seeing and hearing from former students, a blessing in its own right. Some I’ve been in touch with, so I was less surprised when they came or ordered the book from me. Others offered wondrous surprises. A young woman I hadn’t seen since her mid 90s graduation brought in her creative writing portfolio with my notes and grade of A+. I had encouraged her to submit one of the poems for the graduation program, and it was chosen. She told me on Sunday that that had been a turning point for her, that my encouragement and having her poem chosen had mattered so much. I had no idea… Other former students surprised me with flattering Facebook comments. That’s the thing about teaching — you often don’t know. 

I’m surprised at how many years have passed since I left the classroom for retirement, but my teaching experiences remain a fundamental part of my identity. I am so grateful for them and for the relationships that teaching allowed. I’ve finally told my “tales out of school,” and I know how lucky I’ve been.

The Roller Coaster Ride of Publishing a Book

I started this blog almost five years ago because I kept hearing how essential it was for authors, especially nonfiction authors, to have a platform. The writing consultant Jane Friedman defines platform as “an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.” While agents and publishers also consider previously published work and speaking engagements, most people focus on their reach through their websites and social media, including blogs and newsletters.

So in March of 2017, this blog was born. I was deeply engaged in writing my teaching memoir, and I wanted to define and grow an audience for it. Little did I know it would take me so long to finish the book and get it published!

At last the time has come. And I have learned so much along the way:

  • Although I had already published two writing textbooks and dozens of articles, I had no idea how hard this book would be to write.
  • Joining a writing group and having critical friends read your work is essential. Of course, you have to be willing to consider feedback with an open mind!
  • Memoirs offer an additional challenge: the limitations of memory. Finding documentation helps whenever possible, and I spent oodles of time going through old teaching files and letters.
  • Determining your audience is critical. My writing group pushed me to define mine more clearly, and that altered the direction I took.
  • Dialogue and sensory details bring a book to life. There’s a reason that writing teachers always insist on “Show, Don’t Tell.”
  • Outside readers also help catch jargon and assumptions about what a reader already knows.
  • Editing the manuscript grows ever more difficult with subsequent re-readings. You tend to see what you meant, and it grows harder to catch errors.
  • Drafting the manuscript is barely the beginning. Finding a publisher, choosing a cover, doing the marketing, and even providing shelf talker text for bookstores [that’s those little handwritten notes that bookstores place by chosen books] takes time and energy.
  • I will be disappointed if no one buys the book – though many have already offered! – but fundamentally I chose to write it for myself. It gave me some closure to a career in education that I loved until I didn’t, that I miss sometimes. It gave me a chance to archive these stories and gain a sweeping overview of my experience.

On March 6, 2022, I will host a book launch at our local public library. I can’t wait!

Note: If you are interested in a purchasing a copy , you can contact me directly for a signed copy or purchase online from after 3.1.22.