There are people reflecting all over the place - on Facebook, even in my mailbox that sits at the edge of my driveway. We get letters from friends and family, exuberantly shouting their accomplishments which include obtaining their third doctor's degree, incredible jobs with six-figure salaries and announcing their ump-teenth grandchild. They are proud, and rightly, they should be. However, since none of those broadcasts make my list, nevertheless, I am still proud of where I find myself on the last day of 2015.
It's not "Look at me" but "Look at how far I've come." I am not where I once was nor will I ever be at this point again. I am moving forward, adding to my list of triumphs, which to others may seem insignificant, but to me, monumental. I am making myself accountable for four of my best efforts this year. These feats make me proud. 1. I wrote a book and a publisher wanted it. I dare say I might not get to say this again, so I'm putting it right out front. I did it. I'm not sure how, but the words came, and so did the people; 2. I learned to shoot in manual mode, thus taking control of my photography which led me to my kick-ass 5DMarkiii (a.k.a. Kimsey); 3. I broke into a new travel market (my editorial complemented by Len's photography) with my first major international publication and million+ audience; and 4. I am realizing (albeit a continuing struggle) my place in this world - partner, employee, entrepreneur.
What makes you proud today?
It's the best Saturday postal delivery ever!
In a small brown box, six copies of North Georgia Moonshine arrived via my postman in his little red Jeep. The first copies to see the light of day. They were all mine.
Surely, I would rip open the box, but no. It was a slow, savoring process. Securely wrapped in brown paper was the dividend of my last year. I touched, and as any book lover will do, I smelled. Then, I turned to my favorite parts. True, there were sections I wrote because I had to, but then there were the sections I wrote because it was the natural story. The narratives that painted a picture of a man and his legacy. A memory. A history. A story. If pushed, I probably could recite the entire book; I can't count the times I have read the finished book in one sitting. However, my favorite sections still give me chills. As a writer, you know when you nail a line, when the words are balanced in order and time. I nailed quite a few. I still read and ask, "Did I write that? Man, that sounds good."
It was just about this time last year that I switched from low to high gear and began working night and day putting words on the page that would tell a man's life story. It was a real test. This time, no procrastinating would be possible for I had signed on the dotted line. I had to do what I had never done before - finish the book.
I interviewed scores of people, recorded thousands of hours of interviews (and then transcribed them all), read dozens of books, drove thousands of miles to find experts, scoured through archives and captured thousands of photographs - all in the hopes that each little tidbit would contribute to the final story. Some did. Some did not. To this day, evidence of work remains: a tower of books sit on the floor beside my desk, a crate of notes and rough drafts shoved underneath the far corner of my desk, hundreds of files remain on my hard drive. What do I do with them now?
I am proud of the story and the finished product. It was hard work, probably some of the hardest work I've ever done. I hope those involved will feel the same; if not, I still have to be proud of myself, happy with the chapters I wrote, the stories I told, the photographs I captured of a family whose story is fleeting. The story, both the good and bad parts, is complete. And that's all any writer can hope for - a complete story. I have come full circle, and I am a better person that I was a year ago. Not that I'm a better person, but I have fulfilled something that was nothing more than a dream before. I finished the book.
I am a writer; better yet, I am an author. I did it. Yes, Judy, you did it. Enjoy this moment.
And there you have it. The life of an author. In a nutshell. In all its glory.
It is now the next day. Len's last words to me this morning were "send! send! send!" I love my cheerleader.
The trash sits at the curb on Mayne, and I am looking at a completed document, making final changes, tweaks and corrections. By literary standards, 40K is not a major book, but by my standards, it might as well have been the Bible. I could never have imagined how exhausting this would be. I'm spent - just like mash! But unlike the mash, I'm not sure there will be another run. Today, I say no. Tomorrow, who knows?
Len read my book yesterday, for the first time. Instead of getting it in phrases and slices, he saw the entire picture. I sat at my desk in my office while he sat at his desk in his office. I heard him laugh, comment, sigh - that is my validation. That's the best review I will ever receive.
All in all, I'm proud of what I have created. Thankful for the opportunities along the way. For the past two years, I have been given the privilege to watch a family come together than had spent too much time apart. I heard stories that made my toes curl, my heart race and my mind spin. I recorded history - not only for the family - but for generations (including me!) who came from the North Georgia mountains. I cemented a time that I hope will not be lost. I am proud.
So, this part ends. Who knows what comes next? I'll let you know once the editor has her say.
With gratitude . . . . (SO much gratitude)!
Get all your ducks in a row before you get started. I've heard that advice from most writers in my life, and now, that's exactly what I'm trying to do. Get organized. Figure out a road map. Get fueled up. Then, write.
Getting fueled up means getting the facts. Digging and researching and letting your mind explode with all the tiny clues that lead up to the big reality. It's a process that if not followed, will lead to many blank stares and hollow pages. As an editor, I hate that; as a writer, I hate that more. I'm trying to avoid that and learn from those who excel at this process much more than I.
With that in mind, our first event - an evening with the Lovells at The Old Pal in Athens. Carlos (Master Distiller) and his brother Fred swept through the crowd like long-lost friends and converted many to whiskey drinkers. Lovell Bros. whiskey, that is. And never far from her father is Carlene, the woman he entrusted to make his life-long love a legal reality. There's lots more about their story in the book, so consider this a tease.
My discovery and point is this: that each new journey contributes to who I am as a writer. Each time my eyes burrow into newspapers and my ears attend interviews, the big picture is sharper. The people that I have met thus far on this journey are incredible and already, this is already proving to be one of my greatest undertakings. At the end, the content will not have changed me, but it will have definitely made me more cognizant. Knowledge is imminent, but so are the relationships. It's the people you meet along the way - the historians, the sources - that make the path to publishing so rewarding. As far as relationships go, I consider Carlene to be one of my latest and greatest - a sidekick and friend in the nick of time.
I explored the Clarkesville Library yesterday and met the amazing historian, Bill Raper. Six hours passed at the blink of an eye and that was only the tip of the iceberg. Not only is he sharing his personal stories and documented facts about this Habersham County, he's also providing me a look into my past. How wild?
So here we go. Today, UGA. Tomorrow, UNC. The next day, who knows. I look forward to meeting the liaisons from everywhere and adding them to my list of comrades who seek to preserve the past for the future.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.