Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Blown Away and More Big News

 I have been overwhelmed in the very best way by the support and encouragement and BOOKS that have been purchased for this project. We hit our goal and have had over 100 books donated to the Craig Elementary School library. As of this moment, there are literally just three books left on the wish list that still have the blue button indicating they have not been purchased. I can hardly believe it. People in other countries called the store and sent in PayPal payments. Like, what a hassle. I'm just so unbelievably grateful.

I mean, I expected people to help us out, I really did, but I thought we'd get a trickle of orders, and I'd remind people just before her birthday, and we'd get some more. I hoped we'd meet our goal but I was also preparing myself to be happy with whatever number we got. The outpouring of support and the kind words--it's just been so wonderful. I can't thank people enough.

I've ordered sticker book plates that are so special (will share pics when they arrive). I have been so emotional about all of it. It feels really vulnerable to ask people to spend money in memory of my baby and it's so validating and affirming when they are actually willing to do it. It makes me see how loved Eliza would have been--how loved she is.

My friend Renel bought a book called I Can Do Hard Things and she wrote in the comment section a note to Eliza that made me cry: 

I love you Eliza. For my birthday this year I am buying a book I wish you were here to read. “I can do hard things”... Your mama does hard things. Living a life without you here is a very hard thing. I know you would be a force for good in this world. I miss your voice and the universe we lost when you died.

That is everything, isn't it? We lost a universe when we lost Eliza. And so I'm here, doing the hard thing of living a life without her, and doing my best to be a force for good. Above all, I'm so, so grateful to the friends and family and blog readers who bought a book to show their love. I write a lot of words, but I really don't have enough words to say how much that means to me.

When I posted on Instagram that we were 3 books shy of 100, my friend Kristin wrote this note on my Instagram account that also brought me to tears:

I never had any doubts. Whenever I think of Eliza, I think of the library she would have had, the one you would have built for her, a book here and there, slowly growing with her. Her little sisters enjoying them as they grew along with her. It's always been the way I think about her on her birthday. What a gift it is that you've shared this Eliza library with others. There are few things in the world I love more than discovering a name on the inside of a book cover. It feels like a connection to someone in a very special way. It's how the library was built at my girls' elementary school--every book has a name inside. A few hold my niece's name in them too. Thanks for letting us be a part of this. That was a lovely gift for us too.

One of the first things I bought for Eliza was a book. We were in Korea visiting my brother, and I bought a children's book written in both Korean and English. I wanted to tell her about that trip she took with us to the other side of the world. There are a handful of books we received as gifts at my baby showers that have her name written carefully inside the cover in Sharpie--not as a mark of hope or confidence, but written in there after she died and was born, claiming those books as hers because I needed evidence of her in my world.

And now here we are, almost 10 years later, filling up a library with over 100 books that have her name inside, and passing down Eliza's books to her little sisters. 

Gee doing a little light reading

Now I'm teary again! I am so grateful to everyone who has supported this library donation project and really grateful to everyone who has supported ME over the past ten years. It is no exaggeration to say I might not have survived without this blog, without the framework and the outlet for expressing my grief, without the connections and the feedback and the comments that kept me going. I can't even express how much I miss my Baby Duck, but I am also so grateful for these gifts that kept me going in her absence. I am blown away by the sense of community I'm feeling, which is huge, given how fractured and fragmented things have felt this year. Losing Eliza ripped away my sense of certainty and optimism, but I am still holding onto some faith in humanity--thanks to people like you reading this.

Oh... and did I mention there is more big news? 

Here is an announcement that I am making here but I am not ready to share on social media... 

I am planning to put out a book.

I've been mulling this over for years. I have gotten several emails over the years from people actually asking for this, which is incredibly sweet and flattering and makes me feel so good. A couple of years ago, I started looking into agents and publishers and what I discovered is that to publish nonfiction, they mostly want you to already have some kind of platform on social media.

Here's the thing, though: I don't want to be a public figure. I don't want to run social media like it's my job. I want to have private accounts, to accept followers I know, and to post photos of my toddler eating a hunk of cheese without second guessing whether it's the kind of content people want to see (of course it is, right? We're all here for the cheese content). I don't want strangers to DM me and criticize me/my kids/my parenting/my grief. I do not have thick enough skin for that nonsense.

So I started talking to a friend and fellow baby-loss mom about the process of self-publishing. I'll be honest: as someone who reads a lot and got my PhD in a profession that is known for the slogan "publish or perish" when it comes to academic publishing, my initial feelings about self-publishing were that it was a kind of failure. It was what you do when you can't really get published. But the thing about really getting published, especially nonfiction memoir books, is that it takes more than writing talent. It enormous effort, lots of rejection, and a willingness to market and brand yourself.

That last part is where I hit a wall. I don't want to sell my book. I don't want to market it or advertise it or ask people to pre-order it. I don't want to be a brand. I don't want that pressure. I just want to make it available. 

I've been told enough times that I believe it that my words have helped people. I know that writing them has helped me. I want to put it out there so that if there is someone doing a desperate search on Amazon for themselves or their best friend or their sister, my book could pop up. There are some really good books out there already, but I've learned that it's not really about telling a different story so much as it is about providing a different voice. My voice and my writing style resonate with some people (and undoubtedly miss the mark for others), so if my book is the one that helps in some small way, that is what I'm hoping for. 

I still love writing here, but blogging has changed so much and my energy is moving in a different direction than grief content these days (most days, anyway).

So, it's time. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it now. 

I have a manuscript drafted. I'm tweaking the end of it because DAMMIT conclusions are my Achilles' heel and how do you conclude a story that is ongoing anyway?

Once I've finished, I'm sending it off to my incredibly brilliant and generous friend Samantha, who has encouraged me in this process for the past TWO YEARS and then when I'm satisfied that we've caught 99% of the typos and I have a conclusion of some sort and I've put all the sweat and tears into it that it deserves, I'm going to self-publish it and put it out in the world. Amazon makes this process pretty easy. I'll make it available as an e-book and a paperback book (they'll print on demand, which is amazing) and price it so it's affordable and put it out there in the world. My goal is to have this done by the end of 2020.

So there you have it. It feels scary to put it out there, but there it is.

It would have never happened without this blog, without everyone who reads now or used to read or read once and commented. It just feels like the right thing to do.

*Hahahaha* insert crazy laugh here because while everything I just typed is 100% true, I am also TOTALLY FREAKING OUT! This is a HUGE deal! I can't believe I'm doing it! And yet, here we go.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Love & Eliza's Library Wish List

 I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that it will be ten years in December since Eliza died and was born and my entire life turned upside down. An entire decade of my life that I've been a bereaved mother. It was ten years ago that my life split between before and after, and here I am now. Still standing, still missing her, and living a life that I couldn't imagine would be possible in the early days and weeks after her death.

In the ten years since she was born, I've cried more than I did in the thirty years before she was born. But I've also laughed more than I could have believed. 

The thing that has gotten me through are the people who showed up. The friends who sat unflinching in my grief. The friends who flinched, and then came back and apologized. The friends I met because their babies died, too. The people who showed up to read this blog. 

Ten years feels big because double digits is big. It also feels like a grief milestone because it feels harder to talk about what comes after ten years. The grief doesn't go away, but I think it gets quieter.

I wanted to do something to mark ten years, to mark a decade without my Baby Duck. I wanted to find something that felt meaningful and important, that felt right for our family, that did something good, that would honor Eliza. In a way, I feel like I've been thinking about this for years. And I think I landed on it...

In honor of Eliza's tenth birthday, we are inviting our family and friends and blog readers and instagram community and basically our entire community of support to help us with a project. We have come up with an ambitious list of 100 books that we would like to donate to the library at the public elementary school where David works. It is a diverse and vibrant community that we have fallen in love with, and we want to ensure that the library reflects that. We have worked with the school librarian and selected our favorite titles to come up with a list of books to make reading fun, and to make sure that there is diverse representation.

We are inviting anyone who wants to help to purchase a book for the library through our favorite indie bookstore, The Novel Neighbor. We have partnered with them to make this happen, and while it would have been simple to create a wishlist you-know-where, I want to support independent bookstores and I'm so glad they were willing to work with us. They have created a wish list for us so you can see what has been purchased and what is still requested, and when you select "pick up in store" at check out, they will hold the book for us. We plan to pick them up in December, shortly after Eliza's birthday.

Each book will get a bookplate sticker that indicates that it was donated in memory of Eliza Taylor Duckworth, and then it will get placed in the library at Craig Elementary School.  

I know that it can be a hard season in what has been a hard year, and I'm nervous about this because it feels like a big ask. But if this blog has taught me anything, it's that every time I put myself out there and take a risk by being vulnerable, you people come through for me. So if you are able to make a donation, and you'd like to help us commemorate our sweet Baby Duck, I would be so grateful if you'd like to visit our wish list and donate a book to the library.

Thank you in advance for your help with this. And thank you for everything. For ten years of helping me hold it together and showing up when I was falling apart. For being a place of kindness and connection when I needed it most. And for remembering my Eliza, even ten years later. I am sending so much love, to all of you.