Becoming A Published Author – Chapter 36

Becoming A Published Author
Agony and Ecstasy of Writing a Book
By Evan and Lois Swensen
Chapter Thirty-Six
Alaska Wolff Pack
Margaret Wolff

Writing the story of my life was not a decision I made; it was something I had to do. I was blessed with such a remarkable family and friends that getting their lives down on paper was imperative. At first, I didn’t plan to get my book published; I just expected to print several copies for family and friends. To get started, I retired early—I was only 70—from a job I enjoyed. Then I waited several months before beginning; I was afraid I would discover that I couldn’t remember everything or the right words wouldn’t come. But, once I was brave enough to begin, there was no stopping.

I could write only on paper, so with pen in hand, I began. You should have seen my writing! More words were crossed out than there were left on the paper, and arrows were pointing everywhere. One quickly needed a road map to read it, as there were dozens of notes and symbols everywhere.

My daughter Shianne—who can spell—replied, “I can’t correct this! I can’t even read it!” She suggested that I at least try to write on the computer. What a difference! I want to use a different word—backspace and write the new word. I want to put something in another place—delete and rewrite it where I want it. I want to add or subtract something—easy. When I’m done, I’m done; I don’t have to type what I’ve written. It’s even readable!

My brother Jim placed all the pictures and captions at the beginning of each chapter. He suggested it would be easier for readers if I had a list of characters to look back to see just who Snuffy or somebody else is. I followed his suggestion, but I called it a list of heroes and heroines. Except for myself, that’s what they all are, every one of them. My husband lost his life-saving mine; later my son risked his life saving mine; my other son was murdered while coming to the aid of others, and it goes on and on. I could tell you heroic and wonderful things about all of them, but that would be another book. I regret that I couldn’t put all the heroes and heroines in my life in the book. All the wonderful absent people and the terrific people I’ve gotten to know since are always in my memory and heart.

My fears about not being able to remember were unfounded. When I began each new chapter, I had a very vague idea of only a few things I wanted to write. However, once I was at the computer and started, I was flooded with memories, thoughts, and feelings I hadn’t remembered in years. I became so immersed in the time and place I was writing about, that if asked the date, I might have answered something like June 1969. Usually, I know the current date and the day of the week that all birthdays and holidays will fall on, but then it was hard for me to come back to the present place and time. Writing my story was like reliving my life! I paused to bolster my defense before writing about the loss of my loved ones, but the continuing gratitude for the years that I’d had with them overshadowed my loss. I encourage everyone to write their autobiographies, then all the adventures, the fun and hilarity, the sad times, the relationships, the excitement and challenges are always there for you and your readers. It’s one of life’s greatest treasures!

Another reward people may receive while writing their autobiography is a strange connection to the people they’re writing about. Several times during writing, I paused to answer the telephone, and when I returned to the computer, I discovered that the caller was who I had been writing about when the phone rang. One of the times I was called to be informed that a dear friend (one of my heroines) was critically ill and in the hospital. When I returned, her name was the last word I had written. Another time I was writing about an unexpectedly eventful party my husband and I were giving for friends and the construction guys he was working with, just before we planned to leave so that we could live in the Alaska bush. One of the attending construction workers, who I hadn’t talked to in more than 40 years, happened to see my name in the telephone book, and he gave me a call. This happened often enough to make me hopeful that I would hear from others I had lost contact with, but unfortunately, I had no control over the connection. It would be even stranger to be contacted by fictitious story characters. That could be or may not be a good thing.

When my manuscript was complete, I printed a few copies. Since, by now, my daughter had a published book, I decided that I’d give it a try to get mine published too. The first two places I sent the manuscript to replied, “No, thank you.” The third place said they publish only Alaska fiction, but she kindly suggested that I try Publication Consultants. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I followed her suggestion! What an exciting adventure, and how incredible was the help I received! Publication Consultants not only got my manuscript ready, printed, and published at full speed, but they have directed and assisted me in every step of the marketing. They have been outstanding, from the delightful book-signing party in my home to all the book signings, webinars, advice, and so much more! I receive an accounting (and often a check) every month. My daughter’s experience with her publisher is the opposite, and now that she knows what a difference one’s publisher makes, she would never consider going with them again. I give Publication Consultants’ business card to every aspiring author I meet, and there have been many!

Since mine is a true story, there were no decisions about how the plot would proceed. My daughter writes fiction, but she does not have that much to say about her plots either. Once she gets started in the general direction, her stories take on a life of their own and take unexpected turns. She wasn’t given a choice about how her first novel would end, and she didn’t know what the ending would be until it ended. She was afraid that she might have to quit in the middle of her second novel if it had taken a direction that she couldn’t accept. I know how she feels—in my earlier writings that were fiction, I was carried along for the ride and was unsure of where we were going until we got there. I don’t think there is any writing that is totally fiction anyway. The story may never have happened, but I believe that the author’s experiences, personality, beliefs, and feelings are naturally incorporated. It’s like one’s child, they are always a part of their parents, and their parents are a part of them.

A reward that is greater than all monetary rewards is how a published book can reach out to people. Being an avid reader, I find that many characters from my favorite books have taken place in my thoughts and life. It gives me great pleasure to know that the people I love will take part in the lives of others. The people in my book are too unique to be forgotten! I like to put the business card (which Evan so generously had printed for me) inside the books I sell. It has my telephone number and email address, and I welcome every call and message. I want to meet and get to know as many people as possible. I’m pleased to have received calls and messages from so many places and have talked to so many people. I told one lady from Vermont that I would visit my son in Ohio, and she replied. “Oh, you mean Timber!” My daughter said that once someone she didn’t know told her, “You must be Shianne.” To receive a hug from someone you’ve just met because they have read your book is delightful!

In short, if you take the time to write your story, you won’t regret it. Every minute you spend in doing so pays in a magnitude of joy! If you’re fortunate enough to have Publication Consultants as your publisher, congratulations!

Evan, who lives in Anchorage, has 9 children, 25 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren. As a pilot, he has logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time in Alaska, in both wheel and float planes. He is a serious recreation hunter and fisherman, equally comfortable casting a flyrod or using bait, or lures. He has been published in many national magazines and is the author of four books.