Just a little under two years ago, I started Brave and Reckless in order to make an essay I had posted on Facebook, What Every Woman Knows, more readily available for sharing. A reaction piece to the infamous Trump “grab them by the pussy” video, I was just trying to process my feelings in a coherent and productive way. I was shocked when I started hearing from my Facebook community that they wanted to share it with their sisters, mothers, daughters, wives, and friends. This piece, which was so deeply personal to me, captured something universal.
Quite literally, writing that essay changed the course of my life. I became a newbie blogger, who became a more confident blogger, to a literary collective member, to a managing editor for several collectives, to the managing editor for a small independent publishing company. Yesterday I became a published poet with the release of my first book, Composition of a Woman, now available to readers around the globe.
I can’t begin to express how surreal it is to me that I have an Author’s Page on Amazon.com and another on Goodreads. Or what it was like to hold my book in my hands for the first time. Incredible! And pretty weird. In reading the interview I did with Jasper Kerkau of Sudden Denouement about my journey to Composition of a Woman, I realized that I wished that I had made two things much clearer. The first: although writing can be a very solitary activity, producing a high-quality book with a small independent press is anything but solitary. My beta readers, my editors, and my cover designer all shaped the book it became.
The second thing I should have mentioned is that the writing was the easy part. It was the editing that was really hard! I am a freelance editor myself and it was truly humbling to sit on the other side of the editing table. I wrote 450 (!!) pieces of writing between October of 2016 and July 1, 2018 that I considered for the book. My original manuscript for Composition of a Woman was 253 pages long. I had already rejected many of pieces of writing I really liked because they didn’t seem to fit. I was pretty happy with the manuscript as is. However, several of my beta readers gave me tough love and told me that it was trying to cover too much of my journey and that it was just simply too damn long- I was drowning them in words.
I went through two brutal rounds of editing to come up with a final manuscript that is 132 pages long. I moved whole sections to a second manuscript (The Myths of Girlhood), cut many of my favorites, tweaked quite a few of the pieces, rewrote another quite significantly, reorganized the sections, and over many hours came up with a pretty tight manuscript that was much, much better than what I originally had them read. Is it the project I originally envisioned? Hell, no. But it is a book that tells a very coherent story, using the best pieces to tell that story. The feedback from my beta readers was pivotal to me making the changes but I am the one who needed to sit with the feedback, let it percolate in my brain, and then look at the manuscript again with fresh eyes and do the hard work.
I have learned so much about writing, editing, and publishing over the last two years. But more importantly, I have learned so much about myself and what I am truly capable of with the encouragement, friendship, and support of my community of writers.
Thank you Jasper Kerkau, Georgia Park, Kindra M. Austin, Oldepunk, Stephen Fuller, Candice Louisa Daquin, Nicole Lyons, Mariah Voutilainen, Mitch Green, and my Sudden Denouement sisters and brothers for your faith in me and encouraging me to always dream big.