Birthing a Book
“Writers are the custodians of memory, and memories have a way of dying with their owner.”
William Zinsser wrote that in his book, Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past. That was a good reason to proceed with my book. It reminded me that my memories are uniquely my own, and they can’t accurately be told by a ghost writer, no matter how talented.
Consider the recent book Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space, written by the ABC correspondent Lynn Sherr. While a wonderful and well-written book, I fear it is not the book that Sally—my fellow astronaut, friend, and very private person—would have written herself. Yes, the author describes at length her achievements in many fields and her incredible contributions inspiring young girls to study science, but she also delves deeply into her personal life. I wish Sally had told us about herself in her own words.
When I realized my NASA days would soon end, I began to understand how my life was a product of an era: the options for women were changing rapidly.
I was the “custodian” of the memories of how one woman navigated those years. Mine was—and is—a story worth telling. Not knowing how I could ever craft the adventure into written form, I went on faith that even if the tale was scribbled on legal pads, then it would at least be told.
I began to spew forth onto the page what I found interesting, important, funny, historical, horrific, informative, or inspirational. What would my descendants in a galaxy far, far away want to know? My mother died when I was 28, and there remain untold questions, so many I was never able to ask her. After my father’s death, I discovered a narrative written or dictated by my great-great-grandfather in the late 1800s. Without those brief pages, I would never have known how he arrived in Tennessee or how he came to play an important role in the Civil War.
Producing a book is like having a baby. Whether planned or unexpected, it begins to grow until it feels huge and heavy. The whole production is daunting. Scary. The “mother” grows tired of all the physical and mental demands and is ready for it to come out. What will she do with it once it arrives? Is she up to the task? If she is lucky (as I have been), there will be people all along the way to help, encourage, and guide.
When you read this, the “baby” will have been born. It is beautiful and full of promise. It probably has unseen imperfections, and there will be those out there who will not find it as pretty as I do. Its future has not been revealed to me, not yet.
It will be available soon for you to “adopt” on my web site.
Stand by Houston…..three…two…one….
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