It feels like I’m in premature labor after a four-year gestation period. Contractions began last Monday when forty printed books were left on my doorstep one month earlier than expected via UPS delivery. The next day, BURNING WOMAN became available on Audible ahead of schedule. Although my official Amazon pub date is still June 21, 2022, my memoir is going out into the world. I am overjoyed, grateful, proud…and terrified…wondering how my creative child will be received. But first I need to hold her. I need to hear her voice. I need to experience my memoir as separate from myself.
I placed the heavy cardboard box on the coffee table in our living room and invited Tom to be part of an improvised ritual. No candles. No incense. Just me and Tom sitting quietly in what felt like sacred space. I cut the tape that secured the lid, and slowly opened it to reveal four images of the Burning Woman mask looking back at me as if they’d been waiting for this moment. I lifted one of my books out of the box and held it, feeling its weight and the smooth texture of the cover, opening to cream-colored pages and flipping to the color images of my art. It is beautiful.
I began reading that evening, listening for her writer’s voice in a way I imagined my readers would, curious about what was unfolding, not knowing what would happen next. My stories felt immediate and alive in a way that sometimes got lost in the writing, rewriting, and editing that are a necessary part of the craft. It was hard to put Burning Woman down. I cared about the woman who wrote this book. I cared about her story.
Two days later, on my thirty-minute commute to work, I listened to her speaking on Audible for the first time. You know how your recorded voice sounds different than the one you hear in your head when you’re talking? The experience was fascinating and mesmerizing. The voice was deep and mellow with a kind of texture like fine sandpaper. It was as if she was drawing me in, as if I was a child, holding me close so I wouldn’t miss any part of the story. When I pulled into my office parking lot I didn’t want it to stop.
Now that I have held her and heard her voice, I can let her go. I know she’s gonna be okay. She is strong and real and true to my vision. And I can “hold” her any time I miss the intimacy of our world when it was just me telling my story in the solitude of my writing studio. Burning Woman, Memoirs of an Elder, you have my blessing.