After a significant life experience, people often say, “I should write a book about that someday!” Does “someday” ever come, and is there a limit on the time to do so?
My article, “The Gift That Keeps On Giving,” was published in this very column back in 1991. Afterward, I felt determined to write about my first liver transplant (not my last transplant, as it would turn out), but when life led me to become a single parent to three young daughters, the project sat on the back burner.
I kept myself well-equipped with excuses to put off any literary efforts. Any parent will tell you about the litany of constant activities — we regularly piled into our blue 1988 Ford Aerostar to scurry from event to event.
Plus, writing a book takes a lot of work. Even if I could wrest enough time away from taking my girls to school, going to work, or taking night classes at Parkland College, how would an obscure field worker from Illinois Power Company (later Ameren) interest a publisher in a memoir about organ transplants and single fatherhood? My late Uncle Don worked around this same problem back in the day by self-publishing his own book. He contracted a printer and paid them to prepare and print a moderate run of books he hoped he might be able to sell. In contrast, if you are Stephen King and wrote a book even with a dubious title like “Grandma’s Spittoon,” publishers would line up to pay you a large advance, prepare, print, and market it based on your name alone.
Over the years, my obstacle with writing came down to whether I wanted to write about the fictitious granny and her dipping snuff or my growing life story … adding more organ transplants and romance debacles. Just imagine having a dating situation where you eventually have to disclose a complicated health history and explain why you have scars that look like a post-mortem autopsy. Not a good selling point! However fair, the complications more often than not inevitably led to the dreaded “Dear John” email or text. Still, I had a high pain threshold for relationships, and surely, someone would adopt this lost cause someday.
My break came in 2009 at the Regent Ballroom in Savoy, where I met a Filipina gal named Lynne. Her natural dance moves intrigued me immediately, and while cool to my initial overtures we were married in 2013.
With my daughters grown and now having a loving wife and partner, I started to see my retirement creeping up. When fate forced me into yet another health crisis, I had to leave the workplace a few years earlier than planned. With time on my hands, my wife on board, and no more excuses, I would at long last write a book. What really set things in motion was encouragement from my dear friend Fred Olds, a children’s book author. His editor agreed to act as a writing coach for me.
Many years had passed since my Uncle Don’s foray into self-publishing, and the publishing industry underwent a major shift. Sure, the major publishers still hold a large part of the market, but self-publishing, eBooks, and print-on-demand becoming more accessible to authors than ever means you no longer have to offer your firstborn child to a publisher just to persuade them to take a look at your manuscript. The age of independent authors has started!
Margo Dill, my developmental editor, recommended I find someone to help with the self-publishing process. After a long search with a lot of false starts, I turned to my tech-savvy daughters, who helped me locate a California-based contractor named Robert Henry (Right Hand Publishing), a freelancer that specializes in helping authors and small publishers navigate the modern world of self-publishing.
I knew I needed some assistance, but I didn’t realize there are about 882 more things required to finish a book! After all this time, on Feb. 25, 2023, we announced on social media that my long-procrastinated project came to fruition. Thanks to all of my friends and the professionals that helped me along the way, my book “Planets, Transplants, and Autocorrect” has reached “Best Seller” status in many categories on Amazon since launch. Maybe procrastination can lead to better results in some cases. But more importantly, it is never too late to work on that thing you have been putting off!