About four years ago, I decided that I wanted to write a non- fiction book. I have a graduate degree in social work and no one in my family is an author, so I knew that would be embarking onto a path without a formal guide. What I discovered during this four year journey (my book, A Widow's Guide to Healing was published November 3, 2015) from the moment I set my first intention of wanting to help other widows heal through a narrative style book to the actual launch date is in itself a completely different book.
There were missteps on my part. I was green and it showed. Even a well-established person in the book industry told me so. She went to far as to say, "I knew you were on the learning curve, but I didn't know you were at the bottom of it. "
However, I was very fortunate along the way and I met some very generous people and developed some very gorgeous friendships. To my surprise more than one publisher expressed interest in the book proposal, somewhat of a rarity for a niche book, like mine, coming from a first-time author.
Here are ten things ( in no particular order) I learned along the way:
1. Blog posts can be very valuable. One of the smartest things I did was become a blogger for the Huffington Post. I knew no one at Huffington. I did a blind entry (literally emailed them this essay) and they featured it. I received an email from their editor asking if I would like to blog for them. I would not get paid for this, but I immediately replied "yes". And let me tell you the doors that this opened were and still are unbounded. I got some harsh criticism from other writers/ authors telling me that I was "selling- out" on the industry as a whole for writing for "free", but what I received as a result is priceless. Eventually, some very well known people read my Huffington Post pieces, and this lead to some paid opportunities. It also led to establishing some valuable connections.
2. Take chances and write about things outside the scope of your book. I was interested in the Weightless Project, a healthy living program support by The Chopra Foundation. I replied to a tweet that Dr. Deepak Chopra did, and I said that I wanted to write about it for the Huffington Post (link here to Your Caloric Footprint). Within minutes someone replied and emailed me. I had absolutely no idea that it was Dr. Chopra himself emailing me. It actually took me a few weeks to figure out that I was exchanging emails with him. One thing led to another and Poonacha Machaiah, the Creator of the Weightless Project, actually set up a meeting with Deepak and I.
In Dr. Chopra's New York City office, I did not tell Dr. Chopra about my book project. Eventually, a friendship grew out of this initial meeting. And it led to this generous cover blurb.
3. Follow your gut. Although, at times, I was walking along on a dark path with no end in sight, I knew that the interviews I was doing with widows (for the book) was the right way to approach this research. Many asked why I just didn't write about myself and then include expert advice from professionals as this would have been easier than trying to find widows to share their stories. I believe very strongly in the power of the narrative, and I knew that if one widow could find someone in "A Widow's Guide to Healing" that she could relate to that she would feel less alone. I also believe that the collective wisdom from widows is powerful and this can't be gleaned in any other way, but from doing interviews.
4. Relationships matter. Dr. Chopra taught me this lesson. In other words, it is important to try and establish professional relationships and friendships with others and not just talk about business.
5. Passion can't be outsourced. I had no idea until I started this process that people do have ghost writers and they don't have to give credit to those people on the cover of their book. I understand that some people have a story to tell and lack the ability to write a book, but don't forget about your passion. Try to engage in it as much as possible. I love to write and many things that I write, I will never publish.
6. Face time is valuable. Connecting with people in person can give you an edge. In many circumstances, this meant that I flew to New York City or Boston and met for coffee with others instead of doing emails or phone calls. People remember you and I find that both of you are likely to open up in ways that do not happen over a telephone call.
7. I was responsible for obtaining book blurbs. With the exception of the one blurb from, Kathryn Craft, I was personally responsible for getting the ten other blurbs. I asked a few other well-known authors and they said this is standard practice.
8. In the same light, I was responsible for getting over ninety percent of my interviews for the book. One of my proudest accomplishments is connecting with Katie Couric. No one assisted with this process. I reached out to her on social media, and it led to a phone call and this interview. She also shared a bit about my book link in her weekly newsletter. She wrote, "Kristin Meekhof who lost her husband at 33 years old, wrote a moving and thoughtful book about becoming a widow at such a young age. I feel a real connection with Kristin, and wish this book existed when I lost my husband Jay at 41."
9. People come and go. The people that you first talk with at your publishing house may or may not be there when your book launches. I've asked other authors, and they've had everyone from their editor to the PR person leave.
10. Gratitude is listed last here, but it is the number one important reason, I believe, that I was able to reach the goal of publication. Gratitude led to this interview that American Greetings did with me. In one tweet I replied to a post they did about gratitude and it led to this thank list.
Gratitude is the golden thread that led to unbounded possibilities. Many beautiful people and opportunities came to me within the past four years, and I know it is because of gratitude.
Next month, I will write part two and include more items to this post.
Kristin Meekhof is a licensed master's level social worker. She is speaker, writer, author of the book: "A Widow's Guide to Healing: Gentle Support and Advice for the First 5 Years." . She can be reached via her website.