One night last month I dreamed I was pregnant. Since this would be an impossibility in my waking life, I had to wonder what it signified as a dream. Could I, I wondered at the time, perhaps, be pregnant with a book?
To date, I’ve given birth to one child and four books. And though the analogy is not unique to me, it’s certainly been apt in my experience: Being pregnant with a book is a lot like being pregnant with a baby. There’s the excitement of new life growing within, the anticipation of that beautiful new life’s emergence, the high hopes mingled with some normal concerns that build with every passing day.
In the past couple of years, since my last book, the historical novel Jamie’s Muse was born, whenever anyone asked me whether I was working on a new book, I’d answer swiftly and flatly, “No. I’m not pregnant with a book.” This usually ended that conversation.
But today my answer would be different. I’ve begun to feel a new book kicking inside of me. The seed was the happy discovery of a manuscript I’d thought I’d lost in my Documents file when my laptop was stolen four years ago. I found it, quite by chance last month, as an attachment to an e-mail I’d saved in Yahoo. I’ve since revised and edited that short manuscript and breathed new life into it. So now I can say, “Yes, I’m expecting….”
Last week I reached out to women I know who have given birth to both babies and books, for their thoughts on this books-as-babies analogy. I was curious to know what their own experiences have been. Here are excerpts from some of the generous responses I received:
“Much like writing a book, over many long days and nights,” writes memoirist and poet Catherine Marenghi, “you feel all the doubts and insecurities about this new creation you are bringing into the world. Am I good enough? Will I be a good author? Am I doing all the right things? Am I giving this new creation the right nourishment, omitting the unhealthy bits and focusing on all the things to make it good and strong? …
“But then, when that first box arrives full of neatly stacked printed books, it’s the second best feeling in the world – after holding your newborn in your arms. Everything is in that box. Your tears. Your sleepless nights. And you hope with all your heart your new baby will go out into the world and be met with love.” — Catherine Marenghi, author of the memoir Glad Farm and Breaking Bread: Poems (www.marenghi.com ).
Catherine is now pregnant with a new book she’s calling “Our Good Name,” a historical novel based on her Italian immigrant ancestors.
Author Cynthia Claus agrees: “Yes, yes, ‘birthing’ a book is exactly the correct verb. … You have an idea for a book, and it begins to grow inside of you. As you do your research, writing, re-writing, it takes shape and grows, like a fetus. Using an editor and book designer is like consulting an obstetrician who cautions you about certain behaviors, quiets your anxieties, makes suggestions about best practices.
“As you write chapter after chapter, the book looms larger and larger in your life with each passing day. It can weigh you down or buoy you up, all at the same time. And you are beginning to love it, as it is a part of you.” — Cynthia Claus, author of two published memoirs and the soon-to-be-born third, A Lifetime to Get Here: San Miguel de Allende (www.cynthiaclaus.com ). Also see my WOW interview with Cynthia of March 2, 2019.
After a twenty-year-long gestation with her catering memoir, Carol Durst-Wertheim proudly exclaims, “The stork arrived! Fed Ex delivered many boxes and there it was, real, tangible, and in my hands. I had given the world, with significant effort, a book. Now I take it out for social airing, I share it – not in the sandbox, but online. I am proud of it and eager to see how it fares on its own in the world.
“Perhaps I have a touch of post-partum” [Carol’s book was born last March], “but I must find ways to encourage its early steps and face independent judgment, to share it online, via social media, with those who will see it and understand all of what it took to create this, my baby.” – Carol G. Durst-Wertheim, PhD, author of Vignettes & Vinaigrettes: A Memoir of Catering Before Food Was Hot.
Find Carol on Facebook, and see my WOW review of Carol’s book of June 5, 2020.
“I could say publishing my first book was like a virgin birth because I never saw it coming,” writes award-winning historical novelist Anne Easter Smith. “The pregnancy lasted six years. … Books two, three, four, and five came and went fairly smoothly.
“However, my sixth was like having a breach birth! It was fraught with risk and anxiety that it wouldn’t be born at all because I lost my midwife (agent) during the process. But the joy and pride of holding that finished product for the first time is close to holding my newborn child for me.” – Anne Easter Smith, author of six historical novels, the most recent of which is This Son of York (www.anneeastersmith.com ). Also see my WOW profile of Anne dated October 12, 2019.
I can envision my new “baby” book when she’s born in the not-too-distant future: She’ll be slight, but healthy and happy. She’ll have a sunny yellow cover and a sunny disposition. She will, I hope, radiate love. I can’t say more now because I fear I’ll be tempting the fates. My due date will arrive in due time. We book-mothers must be patient.