A Book Book

The other day my friend, Fritz, posted an unexpected and very kind review of the book I wrote last winter. It said this: 

Thank you for sharing your book, "The Accidental Pastor" with us. Finished it in one sitting. I laughed and cried, but mostly I nodded my head in wonder. May the courage, compassion, honesty and love depicted in the stories of the people and experiences that have helped shape and shepherd you, serve as a guiding light for those who make the fortunate choice to read "The Accidental Pastor".

The creation of the book was a funny thing for me. Forever and ever I had imagined publishing a book. I dreamed of seeing my stories bound by a cover and sitting on a shelf in a bookstore or a library. Then I would walk into a bookstore or a library and see the gajillions of books there and think to myself, "Bah, the world doesn't need my book."

Which would be like thinking you want to have a kid, then looking around and seeing that the world was full of kids and thinking, "Aw hell, it's been done; who cares if I have a kid or not?"

Kind of.

I tried for a while to find someone, a publisher or an editor, who might be interested in my stories, but I think all those book people are really busy because they never got back to me. I decided not to give up. I decided to make it myself. I had a vision for how the book should look, only it was impossible, given budgetary and book design software constraints, to really create the book the way I wanted it to be and feel. I kind of had to settle for "OK." I will admit here and now that I wasn't crazy about the book when it was born. 

I was however, amazed by its reception. I was amazed that people bought it. I was amazed that people came to my readings. I am amazed that people are still asking for it today. I took it out of circulation a few months ago for a couple of simple reasons: it's ridiculously expensive to self-publish, unless you purchase in large quantity, in which case you either then become a full-time bookseller, or you have lots of kindling for the long Vermont winter. And because, for me, the project was complete. I felt I had done the thing: made the book, sold enough copies and saw it on display in a bookstore. Mission accomplished. 

Lately some strange new things have been tugging at my heart, though. I can feel the fall air creeping into our summer and angels of change are swooping through the house.

A song came to me in a dream one morning recently and it inspired me to learn to play the piano. It happened like this: someone was singing in my dream. I woke up and when I went back to sleep he was still singing, so I got up and wrote the words down, but there was no melody and I don't know anything about melody anyway. I had no idea how the song sounded. It was a poem, really. Then I found myself humming something one day. I found an app that could translate my humming to notes and then Brett taught me how to play those notes on the piano. 

I don't understand any of that, but it sure is fun.

Back to the book. 

Coco came home just before she left for Martha's Vineyard with this terrific story about how she and her dad had run into Aunty Jan at the nail salon. Quelle surprise! We have been trying to get together with Aunty Jan all summer. Sometimes the great universe becomes tired of our human foibles and gets the job done for us. 

Coco told me that Jan and her dad talked about my writing. I guess they said nice things about my writing. Then she said this: "You should write a book. Not your stories, but a book book."

Me: "You mean like a real book?"
She: "Yes! An actual book."
Me: "You mean like ... fiction?"
She: "Yes! A story!"

I absolutely love that she thinks of books that way. That a real book is real because it's a made-up story.

The funny thing was that I had been thinking about fiction writing recently; I had started keeping track of book ideas. I saw this quote from Shel Silverstein: "If there is a book you want to read but isn't written yet, write it." Then the book kind of started writing itself while I was driving to Stowe on Saturday to marry Michael and Ana. I get a lot of good writing done in the car, something about the motion, I guess. It's called The Urn Thief and it's the story of a preacher who lives in a house across the street from a cemetery.

And no, it's not about me. At all. It's a book book. Amen.