At this point in my writing life I haven’t attended any writers’ conferences except a local annual one called The Write Stuff, which is run by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, so my experience with them is limited. However, after attending several Write Stuff conferences I have learned that they emphasize helping writers to establish a profitable writing career. They include workshops on the craft of writing as well, but even those seem to concentrate on writing that will sell. The whole idea of writing seems to be sales. That’s important, of course, if someone wants to make a living, or at least supplement their income, by writing. The workshops are about getting published, establishing a brand, creating websites and Facebook pages, and convincing readers to follow you online. The featured speakers are people who have written dozens of books and seem to think that is a commendable attribute. This is all well and good for writers who are young enough to have at least ten or fifteen years to devote to getting started in a writing career that features an extensive book list. I don’t.
Although I have been writing all my life, I have come late to the publishing party. My goal, therefore, is not to launch a writing career, but to realize what it is that I must write, and get it done. I need to get it all down on paper or screen before it is too late. Everything that I have ever wanted to write is bubbling up inside me and screaming to be heard. I have to face the fact that I will simply not live long enough to write it all down. Having gotten a late start, for me a lifelong writing career is going to be a short one. I’ve got to sift though all of the ideas and titles and paragraphs and pages I’ve accumulated, narrow them down to the essence of what I need to say, and say it fast. Yes, I do regret not having started this process forty years ago. There are lots of reasons why, and I know them all too well. But that was then and this is now. And so I have begun a very short writing career that I hope will be remarkable - not profitable in dollars and cents, but rewarding in the satisfaction that I will literally have the last word. I hope that I will still be writing on the last day of my life, and that someone will still want to read what I wrote long after.
It’s hard for me to believe that March 2018 marks the third anniversary of the publication of BEV: The Invisible Sister, which came a year after Bev’s death in February of 2015. Just before my book release I established this website to provide me with a public entity. Within this website is my blog, which I’ve been using primarily to report on my book signings and promotions. It’s time for that to change - it needs to be more than that. But one of the reasons that I haven’t written in this blog is that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say here.
BEV is a memoir centered around my intellectually disabled sister. My main purpose in writing the book was to come to terms with how my family and I dealt with her disability. There was so much I didn’t know about the whys and wherefores of her being sent to live at Pennhurst State School and Hospital as a child. A cloud of guilt and fear and shame hung over me when I thought about how we had let her become invisible, a shadow who lived in some sort of limbo between two worlds. I needed to understand how that happened and how that affected me personally. I had never been able to move beyond looking at my sister Bev through the eyes of a frightened child. I was a prisoner of my memories. Writing BEV was a breath of fresh air that blew through the past and let the truth shine through. It is said that the truth will set you free, and it does. Once I found out the truth I could let go of the guilt and let myself love Bev as a whole person in the here and now, not in the past.
BEV was a once in a lifetime book, and I will never write anything like it again. But now that I have written it, I want to keep writing. During the eight years I spent working on BEV, writing became a part of my life that I don’t want to let go. And so, I would like to use this blog to write about writing and creativity and late blooming. Though I will always be glad to talk about Bev and the book I wrote about her, I don’t want to do that in this space. I want to explore what I found in the process of writing her story. By writing that book I opened the door to my self expression. I became fearless in expressing myself and believing in what I have to say. Through my writing I hope to become true to myself and my own heart. I promise that what I write here will always be true.