Well, it’s done and I’m such a proud parent. I’ve birthed my book; not in nine months, but nine long years from conception to publication. Oh yes, nine long years of arduous labor, but the outcome was worth the pain. My baby has arrived and I’m euphoric as I strut around the house basking in the afterglow. The act of writing as someone once said is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration and I hate to sweat, but that’s what occurred as I navigated the publication process. Some days I felt like a drunken monkey as I coped with drafts, revisions, agent searches, and the nuances of contract signing when one finally took me on. One year turned into the next as my agent submitted my book numerous times, only for it to be rejected after a long wait. I revised, changed the focus, added material, and twisted in the wind as I tried to produce a saleable product to someone else’s specifications.
Finally, I took a step back and asked myself, “What are my expectations for this book?” I came to the realization that in the end it was my book and I would do it my way. As offspring are offshoots of their parents, so should a book reflect its creator. My goal for After Sybil was for it to be a book of which I could be proud. Also, that it would honor my friend of many years, Shirley Mason, aka Sybil. She had sixteen personalities and her story had already been told in a bestselling book by Flora Schreiber. I asked myself, “What can I possibly add to her story?” We all dream of producing a best seller and for some, like Ms. Schreiber, those dreams come true. As for me, my expectations were more realistic. I wanted to share what I knew about the lady who was arguably the most famous multiple of all time. I wanted her to be seen as a productive adult, a loyal friend, and a prolific artist with her own company. Ms. Schreiber ended her book with the integration of Shirley’s alternates in 1965. My book starts there and continues Shirley’s journey until death claimed her in 1998.
It was a grueling process from my book’s conception, through the labor, to imminent birth. As I approached the end, after nine years, I just wanted the darn thing out there. My agent had tried for four years, but main stream publishers want guaranteed return of profit from their investment in an author. I don’t blame them, but new authors have the odds stacked against them. At that point my agent had exhausted her leads and referred me to Infinity Press. It was a good choice in so many ways. From initial contact to publication was less than six months. It would have been sooner had I not been obsessive about my editing and proofing. What a relief it was when I gave the final push and submitted my last version. It was as perfect as I could make it and I was at peace with what I had produced.
Now, here I am, and as new parents do, I cuddle my baby, wrap it in my warm embrace, shower kisses on its cover, and show it off to others. In olden days I would have passed out cigars as the proud parent I am. But alas, at the same time, I am experiencing post partum book blues. I am starting to wonder if I shouldn’t produce a sibling, but I dread the process. Birthing a book is not an easy chore and should not be taken lightly. On the other hand, the joy is exquisite.
With degrees from Rio Grande and Ohio State, Nancy L. Preston was a teacher for many years in central Ohio. Now retired and a free lance writer with many published articles, she writes a monthly column for a national magazine. Warner Brothers interviewed her about her friendship with Shirley Mason and included that interview in their 30th anniversary DVD edition of the movie Sybil. Besides traveling, her husband and she enjoy spending time with their daughters and grandchildren. Dissociative Identity Disorder remains a primary interest of hers and she is in contact with many who live with it every day.
Image courtesy of Brandon Rittenhouse.