It's My Book Birthday

I took my first writing class over fifteen years ago. The teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center read my first tentative paragraphs and told me I might have a novel. And, being the naïve new writer that I was, I believed her. I wrote a first, terrible novel.

But then, as I practiced and learned more, I began to write a few true stories. These were stories about my memories of my childhood as an only child of a single mom. Stories of my first return visit to Colombia to meet my father. Stories of the early days of the romance with my husband. These were stories I didn’t think anyone else would be interested in. But readers were. And, slowly, I realized I might have a book. Not a novel. A memoir.

It felt like I was groping in the dark, this writing a memoir. I was learning how to write while also figuring out how to structure what was first a collection of essays then a narrative memoir. I got lots of help along the way from my mentors and fellow mentees in the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series; funding from several Minnesota State Arts Board grants and from the Jerome Foundation; consistent, harsh, and loving feedback from writing groups. And little by little, a book formed. In 2012, the manuscript was a finalist for the Bakeless Literary Prize from the Bread Loaf Writing Center. I was on my way.

But then the manuscript stalled out. “Memoir is hard,” the agents and editors told me. And finally, I admitted defeat. I surrendered the book, piled all the drafts in a box, and shoved them under the bed.

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So, it feels like nothing short of a miracle that Erik Anderson, editor at University of Minnesota Press, wanted to publish this book. I’m so grateful to the Press and the wonderful people there, including Heather Skinner, publicist extraordinaire, for bringing this book into the world.