Adventures in book writing

I am writing from my favourite library in the city, staring out the large window at the grey and rainy day outside. I have been leaving the comfort of my home every day, exploring different spaces to write, and it seems the most obvious of them all, the library, really does beat any other option. No pressure to buy a beverage or overpriced pastry, several empty electrical outlets, and a general understanding that silence is golden. Not to mention, being surrounded by books, which makes for a pleasant atmosphere when attempting to write a book. Three cheers for libraries.

Although I have been writing every day, I have written very little, considering how quickly words tend to flow out of me. I’m finding it difficult to really tell “my story” as a proper story. To know where to start, what to include, what’s interesting and what’s a complete bore.

I also get a bit discouraged when I realize how many cancer memoirs are out there. It seems it’s extremely common for people with cancer, specifically women with breast cancer, to write a book about their experience. But what keeps me motivated are a few things:

A lot of these books aren’t written well. There, I said it. Sorry, but just because you had cancer does not mean you are now a writer.

A lot of these books are written like survival or “how-to” guides. How to get through chemo, how to tell your kids, etc. etc. And while that’s all great, I don’t see myself writing any such guide, or telling anyone how to deal with his/her cancer. All I want to do is simply tell a story. My story.

A lot of these books are written by older men and women. Even some of the ones I found by younger authors were still written by people older than I am.

A lot of these books seriously lack humour, and conversely, some are so lighthearted that to me, they don’t really show the full picture of what it is to live with cancer. There are lots of female-centered cancer memoirs that try to emulate a Sex and the City vibe. Cancer can be sexy! I kept my feisty, feminine spirit the whole time! Cancer has nothing on me! If you’ve been reading along, you will know that I am not that person… at all. Cancer is shit, especially when you’re a young adult, and I have no intention of shielding anyone from its realities. I think there’s a way to be dark, and truthful, and humourous. And I don’t believe there are too many people who have managed to do this.

And lastly, what I keep telling myself is this: My story is uniquely mine and no one else’s. It doesn’t matter if a million people have chronicled their disease. No one is me, inside my head. As much as there are many commonalities, we all experience life and its struggles very differently. What if JK Rowling had said to herself, “There have been too many books about wizards and magic, it’s all been done before.” You guys, we wouldn’t have Harry Potter. And a world without Harry Potter is just not a world I want to live in.

So, that’s my pep talk for the day. Maybe it will inspire you to do something you’re not sure you’ll be any good at. Or maybe it will just inspire you to buy my book, some day, a long time from now, when it is complete. And I’d be okay with that; if there’s anything you can infer from the fact that I am in a library, it’s that I’d welcome a little financial boost in my life. And then maybe instead of the one bagel I purchased, I would go wild and purchase two bagels. TWO BAGELS.

Dream big, friends.

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19 thoughts on “Adventures in book writing

  1. Steph, with all these fans posting their comments you have at least 100 books sold already and you know we will all tell our friends! Then you start the ‘promo’ tour with appearances on Ellen, Katie, The View, Steve Harvey… Oh, well maybe not Steve. I picture you stepping in and out of limousines in Canada, The States, Europe, Australia with your gorgeous red lipstick, glamour sunglasses and your sassy short hair! This must be your new ‘job’. Write On!!

    Kathy @ http://www.stoppingforgreenlights.com

  2. Steph, every since I started reading along with your journey I’ve been dreaming about the book. I knew the second I started reading that you would (if you could) one day turn this little ‘ol blog of yours into a book. I agree with the above comments – start with what you have. Your raw emotions, written in the heat of the moment and in the heart of the journey are so painful and true and real and that’s what is speaking to people. So don’t fix what ain’t broke. Take what you have, write some connective stuff, some intros and conclusions (can you conclude when you are still living it? I imagine that’ll be an interesting challenge), and send it off to the publishers. In my opinion, for whatever it’s worth – the book is already written :-) I can’t wait to buy it and read it again and gift it to those who will surely need it in the future.

  3. I’d read you even if you were writing about watching paint dry. You would make a humourous comment or share some deep insight or both, while sharing your thoughts in a highly readable and riveting way. Just like another person commented, I look through your blog to make sure I didn’t miss a post: I just can’t get enough of your observations on life and of the way you express them. So I’m giving you a huge thank you for your blog, and here’s to the book!

  4. You’ve already touched the lives of so many people through your blog. Your book will be amazing and reach even more people. Can’t wait to read it! You will do great things :)

  5. I can’t wait for your book! And for you to sign it, at a fancy book launch. Keep writing. You have a great and unique voice. And Charlie Brown is right – You can do it!

  6. Stephanie, writing is all about the story. Your story is unique. Despite all the other cancer stories out there, there is no other person more equipped to tell your story than you! You have been telling it wonderfully. I am an avid reader but only have a lifetime to read so refuse to waste time on poorly written stories. I intend to live a long time too. Yours is the only blog that has compelled me to go back to the first one you wrote. And read them all. Although you are way younger than me, you have an emotional maturity that is amazing. Please carry on telling it how it is, shitty bits and all. That’s how it is. Your perspective helps me deal with my own cancer lows and the highs that show up in between the dark troughs. You make me feel better when you are doing well and I cry with you in anger and frustration when the spiky weeds start pushing through just when all the colorful, sweet smelling flowers are starting to bloom. Lots of love and strength to you and your pen. I intend to be the first in line to buy your book. Make sure there are lots of copies! Xxx

  7. Stephanie, I think you have a good start to your book, Pass Me Another Cupcake. As I read each entry I laughed (out loud), shed a few tears, and if you can laugh and cry while reading a book or watching a movie then it gets two thumbs up! I enjoyed reading each entry. You really have a real talent. I wish your grade 5 teacher could take a little bit of the credit but all the credit goes to you.

    • Of all the comments I’ve received, this might be my favourite. Getting complimented by my grade 5 teacher – I think that’s as good as it gets! And as one of my very favourite teachers, I would say you definitely played a big role :)

  8. Not to mention the wonderful blog posts you’ve written over the past year or so. Put them together and you have a big chunk of your book done already! And yes, no-one can tell your story like you, and believe me, it is compelling. Taps into every emotion – yours and ours. Write on!

  9. I think you I told you this in your last post, but you have a gift for words. While everyone has a story, not everyone can write their story. Always always write for yourself and the rest will follow. Also, don’t forget you have a whole internet people out there in your corner ready to support you.

  10. haha, I didn’t see your mom’s comment until just now.
    So it looks like we agree, I guess you’ve now officially started your book!

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