I was this close to being a published author. Last December I was invited to co-author a book with some incredible writers. Since I've shared about the project previously here on The Grit and many of you have expressed interest in its release, I've decided to try to update everyone rather than have a lot of individually awkward conversations as questions come streaming in down the road.
It was such an honor to be asked to be a part of this amazing collaboration, and the initial phone conversation moved quickly into signed contracts and scheduled deadlines. Each of us contributing authors were invited because of our unique story and journey. We were tasked with writing memoir-style about a moment that changed the course of our lives and the ways our stories have unfolded since then.
The publisher asked us to write from our hearts. To be candid. Honest. Real. I wrote and re-wrote for weeks. Months, even. My story is public, and I've shared about it countless times in writing and in person, but I was being called upon to dig deeper. To divulge more—of my heart, not details. The editing process was grueling and insightful, with countless revisions until the end result was a piece I was honestly in awe of.
The editorial team had drawn out of me what I didn't think was possible.
As always, I felt the risk in such bare-naked vulnerability, but I also felt strangely proud of and excited about my contribution. It truly was the product of an incredible group of people—publishers and editors alike—who believed in me and in my story.
A few weeks ago, I got to see my chapter transform from typed pages in a Word document into its actual layout in the book. Complete with artwork and page numbers, it seemed to come alive in a whole new way. We were getting close, making final tweaks days before going to print. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking all at the same time.
And then the carpet got pulled out from underneath it all.
While I was in Ethiopia, I got an email that the publisher's legal department suddenly had concerns.
Although my story had already been shared publicly, although I never mentioned my ex-husband or the other woman by name, although I've resumed my maiden name... they worried about liability. Emails flew back and forth in an attempt to find a workable solution to this crazy last-minute "problem".
Eventually the publisher sent me a revised version of my chapter that no longer included specific reference to an affair.
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.
This was no longer my story.
As I have since the beginning, I'd worked hard to share the painful parts of my journey in a way that still honored my ex-husband. I know my story isn't pretty, and the facts themselves are shockingly and devastatingly ugly. But I've always sought to tell my story in the most tactful and respectful way possible, explaining the facts but focusing more on my personal response and journey through them. This watered-down rendition seemed intent to protect my ex even from the truth itself.
With this now-required omission, I felt my chapter would need to be rewritten entirely. But I was told there wasn't time for that.
This was now the only version that was approved to go to print, and they needed me to sign off on it by the end of the day so it could be sent to the printer.
What was left was no longer a piece I was proud of or confident in. It felt untrue to myself, to my journey, to my voice...
Heartbroken, I bowed out of the project. And I felt the dream of being a published author run like water through my grasping fingers...
I don't understand how it came to this. I don't really get the liability concern when countless books get published all the time by those who've endured much worse at the hands of others. I can't fathom why concern was raised only days before the book went to print. I can't comprehend being invited to be a part of this project because of my story and then basically excluded from it because of it. It doesn't make sense to me, and it probably never will.
A few days out from it, I can honestly say I'm not bitter. Just disappointed.
I feel crazy-grateful for those who believed so strongly in me and in my story. They advocated loudly on my behalf from start to finish, and worked tirelessly to find a way for me to remain a part of the project.
I'm still thankful for the hard work of writing my chapter—the digging deep, the editing journey, the excruciating but extraordinary process of putting my heart on paper. That I don't regret at all. And I'll be better prepared for the next opportunity, whenever that may be.
I'm left with a stark reminder that more important than being a storyteller, I am a story-liver.
And I want to continue to live a story that honors God, that trusts Him no matter what, and that shouts how good He is.
Even in the wake of disappointment.