This time last year, my dear friend MaryRose Denton offered to take me out for dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant because she wanted to ask me something. That was unusual because she could have asked me anything at any time. But who was I to turn down a chance for free food and an evening with my friend?
As soon as we sat down, she ordered margaritas which piqued my curiosity even further. I was suspicious that she was trying to lower my inhibitions.
As we sat in the dark booth, drinking our slushy of lime and tequila, she told me about a book she had read by four French women. They had written about a common experience from their individual points of view. She wanted us to write a book in a similar style about our common experience. She looked at me across the chips and salsa, holding her breath. The moment froze while she waited for me to respond.
The Common Experience
Six months before this dinner, my oldest child–my 20 year old son–told us that he had gender dysphoria and wanted to change his gender to female. The impact of that news on me as a mother was profound, and it was an emotional and difficult process to work through.
One of the most poignant and helpful elements of my journey from grief to acceptance of my child’s transition as a transgender adult was that my friend, MaryRose, had already been through the experience with her son who had once been her daughter.
MaryRose has been my massage therapist for six years, and through our conversations held in the private confessional of the massage room, we formed a strong friendship based on love and mutual respect for what we hold in common as well as what we value differently. We commiserated with each other as my son and her daughter struggled through the social pitfalls of high school, as they were in the same class. Her daughter came out as transgender a little over a year after graduation, and their story unfolded slowly for me one massage at a time.
A year later, I sat in the same room and told MaryRose about my son, and I cried in her arms. At first she listened. Later she helped me climb some of the hurdles I faced and she led me to the answers to some of my questions.
So, here we were, staring at each other across the table with a proposal to write a book about what had been an intensely traumatic and private experience for my family hanging in the air. I laughed. I told her that she didn’t need to ply me with alcohol to get me to write about our experience because I had already had a similar idea! That evening, Love You Forever was brought to life.
The Writing Project Begins
We began enthusiastically with an outline and assigning ourselves a series of writing topics based on our experiences surrounding the ‘coming out’ and ‘transition’ phases of our childrens’ transgender experiences. We considered each assignment as a chapter in our future book and were so proud when, by the end of summer, we had finished three chapters.
Fall came, and as an elementary school teacher, my schedule was so busy that my time and energy for writing waned. Our work on the book stalled. That winter, a major health crisis resulted in my needing to leave my teaching position. During my recovery, I wanted to be productive at something, so I asked MaryRose if she wanted to resume work on the book. She was delighted to hear me ask! She had been waiting for me.
We quickly agreed that we would meet every Tuesday as our ‘writing day’. We also realized that we were stuck. The book hadn’t stalled just because of busy schedules or illness. Actually, we didn’t know what to write next.
We decided that it was time to find a publisher and get help from a professional. I had heard of Ingenium Books from having followed one of Boni’s past blogs, so we checked them out. We liked what they had to offer, but had a case of sticker-shock at their price list. When we investigated some of the bigger publishers who publish indie books, we found a package for a lot less and it seemed to offer the same services. Great, right?
We lasted with them for about two weeks. It was clear that we were being run through a gauntlet of reps around the world who were each assigned a step in our publishing process, none of which had any investment (or real interest) in our actual product. MaryRose and I crunched numbers again, justifying the upfront costs associated with Ingenium before we finally decided to do it.
Tuesdays are My Favorite
The experience of writing this book from that point has been so much fun! Boni and John are invested in the success of our book, in large part because they believe in the story we have to tell. Tuesdays have become my favorite day of the week. MaryRose shows up at my door with coffee, my dog goes crazy to see her, often we start the morning with a video chat meeting with the Wagner-Staffords who are on their boat in Mexico (while we are shivering in our damp northwest Washington weather), and then settle in to an afternoon of writing on an assignment that Boni has given us.
What has delighted me most about Boni’s work with us as a developmental editor is that first, she immediately became passionate about our subject and she understood our drive to get this story out to the world; and second, she was able to formulate a vision that transformed our ‘reporting’ style of the events to a deeper story about our entire experience of motherhood with a climactic point when our children came out as transgender. We are finishing our original manuscript now, and the story that emerged is powerful, dramatic and descriptive.
The Weather in Love You Forever
When I say descriptive, pay attention when you read Love You Forever, to what the weather was like in any given scene! It’s become a running joke that at every submission of every draft, it seems like Boni writes back in the margins, “Give more detail. What else was happening? What was the weather?” While we often tease Boni about what the weather is like during our meetings, her advice has improved our writing dramatically.
We are entering the next stage of publishing, and this is getting exciting! We have floated three different titles, and we think Love You Forever will be the final one. We have a vision for our book cover and Boni has created a mock-up for us to savor. Oh my. It’s getting so real! MaryRose will publish using her real name and I have chosen to use a pen name, a decision that was difficult to reconcile and will be explained as we publicize our work. Boni has outlined our marketing plan, which gives us enough work to do until what seems like the end of time.
Best of all, we are going to have a published book that we can hold in our hands or download to our Kindles late this fall. My lifelong dream of being an author has come true, and even better, the book I’ve written – Love You Forever – will be relevant and helpful to people who need support during a difficult time in their lives. I’m making a difference.
Stay tuned for more news about Love You Forever. There will be a cover reveal shortly, and more!