It has most certainly been a journey. And a learning experience as well. A journey that began about six months after our wedding in March 2010 when the thought struck me that I might just want to write about how Alan and I got together again. I started writing some notes to myself on my computer about what had transpired in our lives up to that point, primarily concentrating on the theme of reuniting. I wrote about our 25th high school reunion and my thoughts really centered around what it meant to us to reunite with one another, of course, but also to connect with so many old friends. That is as far as I got then. I didn’t return to my notes until almost a year later when I determined that I did want to tell our story–the whole story about how Alan and I rekindled our romance, what had happened to both of is in the intervening 50 years and what our life is like today. I was hooked. I became a writer!
Although I was an English major in college, I was never totally enamored with the process of writing and even getting down to writing a paper was a major chore for me. In my work as a consultant I did publish many articles on work/life balance, but usually with the help of a publicist or writer. And I certainly never held the dream of becoming an author or writing a book. That wasn’t me. That wasn’t my skill set. So, when writing my memoir took hold and the publication of Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present became a reality, no one was more surprised than me. I became a writer! And the journey became one of learning about the self-publishing industry. Today we are a company–AV Publishing LLC.
My daughter, Leigh Vincola, is a writer. She has a master’s degree from Simmons College in writing; she has taught writing; and she has published some of her work. In fact, I have included a piece of hers as the Afterword in my book. She was instrumental in encouraging me to pursue my project and she offered the first assistance I sought to read my skeletal manuscript, critique it, and make suggestions. I think that was the point at which I felt I might, in fact, really be able to do this. I found myself going back to it on almost a daily basis–editing, re-reading, and adding to my growing memoir. Leigh helped with the overall structure, which was very critical. All of this took place during the time that Alan and I were hopscotching back and forth from Charleston to Martha’s Vineyard and Sarasota on a fairly regular basis. Our old Dell Inspiron laptop had bit the dust and we made the investment in a MacBook Pro and also decided at that time to use a Verizon broadband that would enable me to write wherever we were–including in the car–which seemed to be the place we found ourselves most often. So, Alan drove and I wrote. I wrote about our romance during our senior year in high school. I wrote all about Alan’s life when I wasn’t around during the ensuing 50 years, and I told my story too. I wrote about how our reunion began and the emails that preceded our first face-to-face meeting. I wrote about our new courtship, our new romance, and how we reunited with so many of our old friends from high school. I included all of the details of our engagement and our wedding and the planning of our 50th high school reunion. I even added details about our trips to Italy and described our experience securing dual citizenship. It flowed and it was fun. I didn’t labor over it at all. I wrote quickly and smoothly. I was amazed. And Alan couldn’t have been sweeter in the encouragement he has shown throughout the whole process. He listened as I read back to him and he was always able to add little bits here and there that I somehow had forgotten. His memory is so much better than mine. And he has encouraged and inspired me every step of the way by telling me that he is very proud of me for accomplishing this.
I felt that I had developed something which could work, but I needed help. By that time it was December of 2011, and I had been working in Microsoft Word on my MacPro. I knew that I needed to have others–beside Alan and me and my daughter–read what I had written. The first thing I did was print several copies of my manuscript and I asked friends and family members to read what I had come up with thus far. I called them my “first tier” of readers. The response was helpful. Although everyone loved what I had done and offered praise and encouragement, I got little in the way of detailed assistance. I realized then that I needed a professional editor. I was awake in the middle of the night one night and lay in bed with my Droid in hand reading articles on HuffPost (as I often do when I can’t sleep), and an add popped up for an editor named Nicole Bokat. I looked at her website and I sent her an email then and there. The next day we spoke on the phone and we talked business and I hired her as my editor. It wasn’t until March of 2012 that Nicole had the time to read my manuscript and edit it. I was committed. I had spent money. And some day this book was going to be published.
After Nicole edited the manuscript and I got all of the other feedback I sought, it took me a few months to rewrite, restructure, embellish, and enhance the entire manuscript. Leigh also helped once again, particularly with the structure of the book. It was beginning to really take shape and was greatly improved. With Nicole’s guidance I began the process of searching for a literary agent. I had, prior to that, spent a lot of time poking around the internet and had found many sites that could lead me to agents. I began making lists, after, that is, reviewing agent websites to determine if we might be a fit. I also made a phone call to Jim Levine, an old colleague of mine, who now owns an important literary agency in New York, Levine Greenburg Literary Agency. Lo and behold, he remembered me, took my call, and said that he would read my manuscript. That was totally amazing to me. He read it in one night (by this time it was almost 200 pages) and called me back the next morning. He decided to pass on it. He said in today’s market it would be hard to get my kind of story the attention I wanted. But, I think, the mere fact that he read it, gave me the impetus to continue–to move onward and see how I might interest others. So, I sent out query letters–lots and lots of query letters–maybe 150 in all. I got a few nice email responses, sometimes no response at all, but no takers. Only one agent kept me on a string for about six months. I received a great email from Emma Sweeney, of Emma Sweeney Agency, and she asked if she could have an exclusive for about a month. I was very excited, but Nicole had warned me of being held up in that way. It took much longer than a month with several back and forth emails between Emma and me. Then her assistant phoned me and said they would need to pass. Another few months went by and they asked if they could review it again! They ultimately passed on it, but it gave me more impetus to forge ahead. In the meantime I had continued sending out queries, but I also started looking at self-publishing and what that meant in today’s market.
My next blog will describe the second part of this journey and the decision to self-publish.