Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s my favorite holiday. No gift buying. Just good food and good people. It’s a time when we all focus on what we are thankful for. What’s not to love about that?
I have long maintained that an attitude of gratitude is what we need to get along, And I think that attitude should be maintained all year round, not just on Thanksgiving day. There’s much in this life that we can be thankful for.
I’ve written a great deal about gratitude. So much, in fact, that I’ve published an anthology entitled, A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. It’s available on Amazon, and I guarantee you that I’ll be grateful if you purchase it! It would make a great gift for the ones you are most grateful for. (Especially if you do want to give someone a gift for cooking all that great food for you on the big day.)
Having said that, check out one of my favorite posts from the book, entitled Congratulations, You’re Alive! and know that I’m grateful for you, dear reader, every single day.
A friend of mine recently sent me a picture of her coffee table at her Montana cabin. At first I was a little confused. Then I noticed my book, right there, sharing pride of place with Gorillas in the Mist. Omigod. How flattering! I immediately posted that picture on my Facebook page.
That prompted another friend, in Kansas, to post a picture of my book in her reading pile, along with such intriguing books as Passage, The Only Bush I Trust Is my Own, The Martian, and Medieval Folklore. That caused another friend to chime in that my book is on her nightstand along with Selected Poems by Robert Frost, the Holy Bible, and The Complete Guide to Labyrinths.
I also happen to know that my book has made it as far as Australia, Singapore, Argentina, England, Canada, and Germany. It has developed a life of its own. My little book, all grown up, making new friends and visiting places I may never have a chance to go. That’s amazing to me.
As silly as it may sound, I’ve visited the one on the shelf of my local library more than once since it “moved in.” (Sadly, it’s always there. Never checked out. But I live in hope.) I like to see what books share its shelf. I like that it’s hanging out with books by Calvin Trillin and Rebecca Solnit.
(As a side note, holy cow, Now I have a call number! It’s 814.6 ABE. Should I get a tattoo? If so, where should I put it? Hmmm…)
I try to check out one of my book’s shelf-mates whenever I stop by to say hello. (It’s important to get to know your child’s friends.) Currently I’m reading I Think You’re Totally Wrong by David Shields and Caleb Powell. It’s very interesting, because it’s a conversation between two writers. Currently they are complaining that their loved ones rarely read what they write.
I find that comforting, because I happen to know that my very own sister, and some of my closest friends, haven’t gotten around to finishing my book. If you ask me, that’s akin to someone telling you that your newborn baby looks like a monkey. But now I won’t feel as insulted. Monkeys abound, apparently.
There comes a time in the creative process when you have to place your art in the hands of someone else. This happens with writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, and anyone else who forms something in his or her imagination and goes on to give it life. If you can conceive of something and make it real for others, and yet not become emotionally invested in it, you have no heart. I have yet to meet a heartless artist.
One of the best ways to feel immortal is to create something that will exist long after you’re gone. In that way, art is like procreation. In essence, your art is your baby.
Unfortunately, as a general rule, artists don’t get to spend years with their work before having to experience empty nest syndrome. I’m not simply talking about that moment when you sell your work and assume you’ll never see it again. I mean that point in the process where you have to rely on others. Editors, producers, managers, publicists, gallery owners. They all have a profound impact on the “life” of your “child.”
You are forced to loosen your grip. You have to accept the fact that you are no longer in complete control. Personally, I find this to be scary.
Once I had finished deciding what I wanted to have included in my first anthology, it then was handed over to the photographer, the editor, the cover designer… a whole host of people with their own unique visions of the final product. Yes, I still had influence. My opinions were sought out. And of course I had veto power. But relinquishing total control is extremely unsettling.
It took me quite some time to realize that that part of the process had plunged me into a low-grade depression. I wasn’t my best self at that point. And the irony is that I had total faith in my collaborators. I chose them because I respected their work. But it was still my baby that I was handing over. That is bound to have an emotional impact.
But like most parents, I’ve come to look upon my baby, now all grown up, and feel pride. I may not have any real control over the impact, or lack thereof, that my book has in the world anymore, but I really do feel that I built it on solid foundations. I gave it the best possible start. I watch it from a distance and I marvel.
If you have somehow managed to escape all my shameless self-promotion in recent months, here’s what you need to know: I wrote a book! A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude is available on Amazon.com in paperback form, and soon it will also be available as an e-book for Kindle, and Amy Sassenberg’s photos will be in color in that version! This is all very exciting for me. If you had asked me a year ago if this was to be in my future, I’d have laughed.
I have learned a lot from this experience. The biggest lesson is that it’s the readers who create the magic. I used to think authors were conjuring up amazing reading experiences, and because of that, I was in awe. But I was so incredibly wrong.
Yes, the writers do the writing, and the publishers do the publishing, but their work is lifeless and inanimate if there is no one out there to read it. A book without a reader may as well be a brick that one uses to prop open a door. An unread book gathers dust.
I am lucky in that I came to this avocation at a time in our history when reader’s feedback is easy and instantaneous. People e-mail me. They contact me on this blog. They comment in my Facebook group. They also leave much needed (and strongly encouraged) reviews on my Amazon page.
What this means is that I get to share in the magic that you, dear reader, make. I get to experience your reactions. I learn how you feel when you read the book. I discover that each reader has a different encounter with it, quite often one that I hadn’t anticipated. That’s because you are bringing your unique insights to the reading experience. That’s the ingredient that only you can provide.
I can never seem to adequately express just what that means to me. I read your reviews and your comments and I get all choked up. I get tears in my eyes. My heart feels like it swells. What a gift you have given me! Thank you so much!
This first book was about gratitude, but I had no idea just how grateful I would be for you. Thank you for giving my book life. Thank you for making my words have meaning.
Without further ado, I’ll leave you with some excerpts from my Amazon reviews, so you can see why this whole process has made me so emotional. Imagine getting compliments like these! I hope you’ll consider adding your review to their number!
“Barb is ALWAYS entertaining, and whether you agree with her or not, you will likely learn something every time you read her. She will inform, annoy, and inspire you. As a dedicated reader of her blog from the beginning, I have seen many sides of her, and watched her through grief and growth. This is her best, will make you a fan, lift your spirits, cause you to recognize things in yourself you could not articulate. She is real, she is smart, she is funny. You WILL laugh out loud at some point. You will learn SEVERAL interesting things that you did not know. And you will PONDER more than one entry for longer than you expected.” –Amazon Customer
“What a wonderful book. I keep it by my bedside so I can read a chapter before I go to bed. Since the focus of this volume is on gratitude, it’s the perfect way to get your head in the right space to go to sleep focusing on the good there is in this world. Barb is a gifted writer with keen insight into the world around her. This is a book you will keep for years. Timeless thoughts about things that matter – sometimes in big ways, sometimes subtly. It’s crazy. She makes me want to be a better person just by what she shares in her posts. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll marvel at her candor. And you’ll be really glad you bought this book.” – K. Reviews
“A wonderful read. I feel like I’m looking over Barb’s shoulder as her journey through life unfolds. Her take on situations we all encounter, often unconsciously, every day, took me from laughing to reflecting on how I might deal with the same situation. How hard it must have been to pull up roots and move 3100 miles to a place where you know no one? I’m not sure I could. I grew up on the wit and humor of Erma Bombeck and some of the posts in the book remind me of reading Erma’s wonderful writings.” –Firewalker
“This is just an introduction to the refreshingly honest world of a brave woman. As she takes you along on her journey of introspection, observation and acceptance, she challenges and inspires you to open your heart and mind. Whether you agree and identify with her insights and beliefs, or not, you can’t help but be uplifted by her commitment to them. She’s an open book worth reading and based on her prolific blog entries she has a lot more to gift us. Looking forward to see where else her journey will take us.” – Lyn