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Birthing a book

People compare writing a book to having a baby, and in many ways its the same. You pour a huge amount of yourself into a book, whether it’s an autobiography or an academic treatise on a rare insect from Guatemala.

But for me, the process of publishing my book, From School to Homeschool, has been in some ways uncomfortably unlike birth.

Suki and book

Me with my little newborn baby!

When you have a baby – those of you who are parents will remember – your body is flooded with happy hormones and despite the fact that your body may hurt and you’re getting very little sleep, you feel elated. You know that your baby is the most beautiful, wonderful baby ever birthed. And people stop you on the street to tell  you how beautiful and wonderful your baby is.

Between the heady days of writing a book and sending it out into the world, however, you lose any hormonal help you may have gotten. The editing process drags on and then you have to start marketing something you can’t even hold in your hands yet. You start to think:

“Is my baby really that beautiful, or did I somehow mislead my publisher?”

“Oh, I really should have given my baby brown eyes instead of blue!”

“Did I forget to give my baby a pleasant smile?”

“Why would anybody like a baby of mine, anyway?”

“How could I have thought that I’d be a good mommy to this baby?” (OK, I think I did think that one once or twice over the last 13 years of parenting, as well!)

The first thing that happened as the paper copies rolled off the press was contacting reviewers. My publisher’s publicity person rightly pointed out to me that they get a better response rate when the writer approaches reviewers she knows or has some sort of relationship with, so I started sending out e-mails. I suspect they were more professionally worded than this, but I remember these e-mails going something like this, “Please like my baby, please don’t treat her badly, please notice her friendly smile and not the big wart on her nose!”

Last week, I awoke with a start in the middle of the night. I realized with great certainty that I had forgotten to mention the website of one of the wonderful movers and shakers of the homeschooling world who agreed to review my book!

What is going to happen when she reads the book and sees that her wonderful website and her wonderful books aren’t mentioned? I thought, my heart pounding. I mentally composed an apologetic e-mail — “I can’t believe we got through the entire editing process without my realizing that I’d forgotten your website!” — and somehow got myself back to sleep.

Days later I remembered that midnight terror, and went to check my electronic copy of the book. There the website was, with appropriately encouraging words about the author’s contributions to the craft of homeschooling.

OK, so my baby is slightly less imperfect than I thought.

Of course, there will be people who don’t like my book, and I’m prepared for that. And there are people who for whatever reason don’t like me, and thus won’t like my book. I suppose I’m a little less prepared for that because I know that I’m way too concerned with whether people like me than I should be. And of course I’m completely prepared for the fact that my book isn’t for everyone: When people whose children are grown or gone, or people who never had any in the first place and are not into gifted education, say that they’re going to buy my book, I’m happy to say, “Only if you want to.” (I personally have a “thing” for owning books by people I know, but what started as one shelf of people that I know has overflown to books stashed all over the house, so perhaps that’s a “thing” I need to give up!)

So yes, publishing a book is like birthing a baby. I am terribly fond of my little orange-and-blue progeny and it was such a thrill to see her (why is she a she? I can’t answer that) after all those months of imagining what she’d look like.

But it’s also a period of growth for me, and growth, as any rapidly stretching teen can tell you, is not always comfortable.

Here’s to books, babies, and personal growth. None of the three is always a welcome force at any given time of a given day, but all are necessary for the continuation of intelligent life in our little corner of the universe.

Posted in Books, Parenting, Psychology, Writing.

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