Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why it is hard to tell the truth in my memoir

 (NOTE: I added this post to Joy in this Journey's life: unmasked linky. Read more here.)

Most of you know I recently completed a memoir and am now querying agents for representation.

So far no one's bitten. I have received a handful of polite rejections regarding my project. I suspect I will continue to get rejections for a while. There are just too many aspiring writers trying to get their work in print. Some agents claim over 100 new query letters hit their inbox every day. EVERY DAY! And so I trudge on, do my research, send the queries, and continue to work on my craft.

But I have a confession: sometimes when I get a rejection, I breathe a slight little sigh of relief. It's not that I love rejection ( I mean, come on, I was in Junior High once). It's not because I want to tell one more person in my life that I have spent over three years writing a book and it seems that no one, as of yet, wants to read it.

I breathe a slight little sigh of relief because of fear. I made a commitment to the story and to God to tell the whole truth about those first years of Polly's life. In memoir, (as in life) its a no-no to lie. When I got serious about writing our story, I knew that I would have to be real about everything that happened after Polly was born. As a missionary and pastor's wife, my response to having a child with Down syndrome was much less than Christian. The bottom of my faith easily fell out. I got depressed. I stopped showering. I drank too much Chardonnay. I struggled to love my baby.

Do I really want people to read all of that?

To tell the truth, the answer is no. I don't want people to read the whole story because I am afraid of what they will think of me. I would rather hide the hard parts of my life and let them think that I scooped up my child with special needs and said a prayer of thanksgiving for her life and moved on. I would rather them think that I am always a woman of faith, worthy of the call to be a child of God.

But Flannery O'Conner says the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.

I would also add that truth loses its power when altered.

Even though I am afraid, I realize that my story isn't worth telling if not told in its entirety. The very essence of my memoir's power (if there is any) is brokenness. The fact that God came in and rebuilt me and my faith and my relationship with my baby after I fell apart is the real story. The redemptive story. And I am convinced the very thing people need to hear to truly get a clear, non-superficial, non-judgmental idea of Jesus.

I used to think of redemption as a one time thing. I believed in Jesus when I was sixteen years old. His payment for my sins on the cross equaled a done deal. I still believe this. It is the very core of my beliefs.

But I also believe that we are all a work in progress. There is a continual need for everyday redemption. The kind of redemption that heals a mother's heart. The kind that sets a person back up on the wagon after he has fallen off, that helps someone apologize to her kids for freaking out over spilled milk, or causes a shoplifter to put the bra in her purse back on the shelf in Target. A redemption that showed me that the child I was afraid to mother was the exact child I needed to reach depths of joy and wonder otherwise unknown in my life.

So I will keep putting myself out there. If my memoir publishes one day, not everyone will like it. There will be criticism (well deserved, I should add). There will probably even be disappointment. But most importantly, there will be the truth of everyday redemption and unexpected beauty, displayed in the birth of a child with slanted eyes and the widest smile on the planet.

And I think, that's enough.

Life: Unmasked

39 comments:

  1. As always, your writing is refreshing this morning, Gillian. I adore your transparency. I treasure it. I want more of it!

    Yes, people, it is OKAY to be real. It IS okay to admit you don't always act as others would expect you to or how you wish you had. Leaving yourself out there, exposed and vulnerable takes way more courage than listening to those "tight-lipped, afraid to tell the truth for fear of rejection" voices in your head. Let the guards down, all. Be real.

    And please, please do what it takes to remove the risk when others venture to do the same. When others are transparent with you, don't leave them hanging! If you don't speak up, you might as well be saying, "Oh! Really? Well, I never struggle like that." Give them a hug, tell them you have done or felt a similar way, and cling to Christ together. He is all we need. We are NOT sufficient. But praise God that He is!

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  2. Thank you! I'm desiring to write about my special needs girl too and how deep my joy is (and the pain too). Keep pursueing your writing!

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    1. Happy to hear it, Hopeful! Do you have a blog I can follow?

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  3. Beautiful. I love it all but the last sentence is incredible.

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  4. I will buy your book when it is published. I greatly enjoy your writing. The ability to be so transparent and live in the truth - along with the redemptive nature of our Christian walk is a treasure!

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    1. Thank you so much, Amy. I'll put it in my book proposal. For sure one sale :). Thanks for posting.

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  5. I think many of us will buy your book! And who wants to read something if the truth is not told!

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  6. Father God,
    If there is someone out there reading this who has the ability to publish Gillian's memoir, I pray that you would use this to touch their heart- to see how absolutely necessary this message is. I don't believe for a second that you took Gillian through this process without the intention of using it for your glory. So, please God- in the midst of the highs and lows for Gillian, I pray that you would bless her and that her book would be published. And thank you for Gillian!

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    1. Thank you so much for the prayer. xo

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  7. Hi Gillian,
    Thanks for answering my question about Polly and no I never did receive an email from you.

    Good for you writing a book about your trials that takes obedience and courage. I know God will reward you for this. :)

    Have you thought about self publishing? I know a lady that will be writing a book about her life and she knows right now before even starting that no publisher will touch it because it is just too far out there. So she, when completed will be self publishing. Kimberly is her name and this is her blog http://mining4diamonds.blogspot.com She is an amazing lady who I am sure would chat with you over ideas.

    She Speak's http://shespeaksconference.com sounds like a great conference to go to in order to promote yourself and your book. Check it out you if you haven't already.

    I will remember to pray for you and your book.

    Blessings,
    <><

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    1. Thanks for the info. I'll check her out :).

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  8. Hey, Gillian. We were missionaries in Ukraine (Vinnitsa) for 9 years. Just came back to the states 6 years ago. I have written a fictional novel, and my publisher is Accent Digital Publishing in Redding, CA (where Bethel Church is: ibethel.org). Morgan and Shirley Fisher go there. They are wonderful Christian people. You could contact them about publishing: accentdigitalpublishing.com Also, if you want to self-publish, you can do it on the internet through Lulu. Aaron McMahon (also from Bethel Church) has written a GREAT guide for this, called "How to Write a Book." You can find it on-line. I took his in-person sessions from which he wrote the book. He takes you all the way to publishing on-line, which is what he does. I mean, you can actually down-load your own file into Lulu, and they will print you up only one book if you want, for like $10 (and the cost gets cheaper the more you print). And, you can have people actually buy your book through them, so you do not have to handle any books yourself, or have a huge supply of them on hand (which costs $$$). If you are still in Ukraine, this could be a great fit for you. Anyway, do not be discouraged. There are ways to work this out and I'm sure God is guiding you through the process. Much love to you and your family as you serve Him and tell your story. In Christ, Luanne Mohr

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    1. Thank you so much for your comments and suggestions, Louanne. I will definitely look into it. :)

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  9. There has to be someone out there interested in publishing your book because there are so many of us interested in reading it. Keep the faith. Someone will realize a good story when they see it. Good luck, Gillian.

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  10. That whole last paragraph is amazing! Amazing. I can't wait to read your book..no matter how it gets published!

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  11. I have always appreciated and been inspired by your honesty! I think truth does lose it's power when altered and there is so much power in your experience and story (just the little that I know of it. ;)

    I've been meaning to tell you that you are one of the reasons I hesitated before moving forward with adoption. I'm so glad I hesitated. I needed to be fully surrendered to accept ANY child in ANY condition with ANY outcome. I needed the sobering realization that is your story. I needed to know that I might have to learn to love our child. I needed to be prepared that the road will be very long and doesn't end with gotcha day. I still don't know if I'm ready. But I know I am more prepared than I would have been had you hid the struggles and the joy.
    Thank you so much for your transparency! Huge blessings to you and for this book! Can't wait to read it.

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    1. Wow, Tara, thanks for sharing those kind words with me. I am encouraged! Blessings!

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  12. Hi there! I found your site through my friend, Krista. I'm a pw with special needs children as well. My oldest, with autism, will be 17 soon. I have your blog bookmarked, and am anxious now to read your book as well. This may have already been mentioned, but have you considered self-publishing? Regardless, I'm glad I found your blog. :-)

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    1. Hi Ramona! Nice to meet you. Looking forward to hearing more about you and your family.

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  13. Thanks for your transparency, Gillian. I think the stories that do the best job glorifying God are the ones that don't sugarcoat all the ways we fall short. When your book gets published and I get my copy (note that I said WHEN!) :), I won't be expecting to read about your perfection but about HIS perfection and redemption, as they have been demonstrated in your life and the lives of your family.

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    1. Thank you Shannon. Look forward to reading more from you.

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  14. So hard, Gillian, to put ourselves out there when not everyone will love it. Rest in Christ and that you are His first and foremost. Easier said than done though, right? Thanks for your honesty in this. More of us feel this way than we will ever know.

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    1. Good reminder, Sarah. Thanks. Appreciated your blog post today.

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  15. Gillian, We are always a work in progress. I love the idea of your book. I want very much to write one too. If you get too many rejection letters, you should consider self publishing on ebooks. It is not quite the same as a print book, but it is a way to publish your work and get it out there to those who need to read it. I think you are amazing. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement Patty Ann.

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  16. Gillian, you sound like me as I was going through the journey of writing my book. I did not want to really be out there for everyone to see me, criticism, etc. etc., but God gave me a message and I had to act on it.

    I enjoyed your post today; it brought back so many memories of my journey. Don’t give up regardless of the number of rejection letters. Consider self-publishing, there are many good publishers. I did and you know what? God provided everything every step of the way. He’s awesome isn’t He?

    Do not let the message He gave you lie dormant. Be encouraged in Christ.

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    1. Thank you so much for the encouragment, Maribeth.

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  17. Yeah, it's scary to put yourself out there. But you'll be surprised how many people need to hear all the gritty details.

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    1. True, I know it helps me to know not everyone has it together.

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  18. I would also add that truth loses its power when altered.
    This is so true. I'm in the midst of having a testimony/speech edited for a certain group and they kept wanting to change it to be more dramatic, until it wasn't true anymore and I had to back off.

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    1. Hard, isn't it Shanda? Every time I speak about that time in my life I am tempted to omit some of the story. But then, it is no longer my story. God bless.

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  19. Hi Gillian! So excited about having found your blog...I have a 2yr old son with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome and have found myself a little battle-weary lately (spiritually speaking) so it's very reassuring knowing others have been "there" before and conquered! Would be thrilled to read your memoirs...even if it is via an e-book! Like Travis said, sometimes people NEED to hear it all! It takes great strength, ironically, to reveal just how vulnerable and fragile we are.

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