Birthing My Book: Bringing Delight in Disorder to Life

Having conceived and nurtured a memoir for almost a year, only to have it soundly rejected, it felt much like a miscarriage. I went a year without writing a word. It was only when I enrolled in an intensive discipleship training program that I again started to bring words to life, or, more accurately, let the Word come to life by cultivating the soil of stories.

Still, I wasn’t ready to come back to my memoir. It was too personal, too painful, too raw. Instead, I moved onto fiction – drafting a trilogy of short stories – “Life,” “Liberty,” and “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  More than the quality of the narrative (which is still quite unfinished), the discipline of daily writing as I created characters, developed dialogue, and polished plot, gave me increasing confidence that I had a “way with words.”

Then a very tragic thing happened. A young man I had never met committed suicide. He was playing family board games one minute and the next he was in his room shooting himself. The young man’s name was Matthew, son of Rick Warren renowned pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling Purpose-Driven Life.

My initial reaction was to take to my bed. I didn’t get up for three days. I read what people within the church and outside of it were saying. Some of it trying to be nice and compassion. Some of it downright ugly and mean. Nearly all of it lacking a clear Biblical understanding of mental illness that would drive a person to suicide.

I decided I needed to re-write my memoir. I also knew I couldn’t do it alone. I shared the idea with Leanne Sype, a blogging friend and editor, to whom I had pitched my trilogy. Very soon, she became as passionate about the project as I did. With Leanne’s help, I worked through a second draft, and a third (and in some cases fourth and fifth). With Leanne’s guidance, I pitched it to an agent and went to a writer’s conference to see about pursuing conventional publishing.

We prayed for a clear sign and got it almost immediately. A resounding no. Undeterred, Leanne encouraged me to pursue self-publishing, helped me navigate around some shark-invested waters of vanity publishers. She introduced me to graphic artist Nicole Miller who also has a heart for the Lord and a distinct eye for graphic design. Soon, we had a book cover. Nicole then moved on to a video for our indiegogo campaign where we exceeded our goal.

Along came another young faithful servant, Christina Tarabochia, who took the text and shaped it into various formats uploaded at Smashwords (and soon, for Amazon and Barnes & Noble). Christina helped explain some of the technical aspects of getting our book in the hands of the readers and has been an invaluable resource.

Now that we have a downloadable e-book (soon to be in print), we are only entering another season of the larger “Delight in Disorder” mission. Over the past few days I have been contacted mental health and church leaders from across the country to help us spread the word — to bridge the distance between faith and mental illness. I’ve already received two speaking invitations and am building some very fruitful relationships.

Much has been done — Facebook author page, Twitter account (indy_tony), media kit, business card design, e-mail and phone contact) and much remains to be done (website upgrade, speaking engagements, reviews). I have no idea where God will lead now that the book has been birthed. I only pray I’ll do my part to be a faithful stewardship of the Word calling me to share divine delight in the disorder of the world.

Write your favorite scripture on a canvas for your dorm room. It fills up wall space and it will be a good encouragement.

Vanity and Validation

It’s been a blessedly busy week as I prepare for the imminent launching of our Delight in Disorder mission through the indiegogo.com campaign.  It has been very fruitful.  I was able to re-connect with two pastor friends who have asked to read my manuscript.  I went through a final self-edit of the text and sent my proposed revisions to my editor.  I started a Facebook Author page and had fun recruiting followers to “like” me with promises to unseat Ted Cruz (at 100 “likes”) and overthrow the government (at 200).

I’ve received a good deal of positive attention for my writing, my wit, my wisdom. But I hear the preacher from Ecclesiastes ringing in my ears – “… vanity of vanities! All is vanity”  I know that just as quickly as I was able to solicit 78 “likes” (and counting), they can all drift away.  Just like Jesus who went from the loud praise of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” to “Crucify him.” in one hellish holy week. Cheering crowds can become jeering mobs in less time than it takes to make instant pudding.

My editor – Leanne Sype  (a very wise woman for her tender years) commented on an earlier post that she was happy to see me having fun with all the attention.  But she cautioned me not to look to the “likes” for validation.  So true.

As much fun as I had stirring up a following last night, I experienced much more joy today as I went to visit some good friends – Mike and Kim – I hadn’t seen in almost a quarter century, and their daughters Ursula and Greta whom I had never met.  Over a lovely lunch of lamb burger and goat cheese cherry ice cream, we shared our passions, fond memories, hopes, and dreams.  Afterwards, Mike and I enjoyed a leisurely discussion of literature and he gave me a book I’m looking forward to reading.

Validation comes not from clicks on a keyboard (as nice as they are), but from relationships nurtured in faith and in love.

Thank you, Mike and Kim, for the good food and particularly for your faithful friendship.  May you be blessed as you are a blessing to me.

Friends forever

 from Michelle Cook

Letter to My Editor on “Delight in Disorder” progress

Leanne –

Lest ye wondered if I had wandered astray from “Delight in Disorder”, I thought I’d show you some provisional progress in preparing to proof (and re-write) –

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With a gift card from my sister and brother-in-law, I purchased a nice hole punch to plow through the 155 pages of the first draft and some colored gel pens (a different color each time I re-write a section), as well as…

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A 3-ring binder with a clear sleeve (for a title page cover) and 10-section dividers (for Intro, Prelude, 7 “rooms/chapters”, and an Epilogue.  The binder also has two pockets where I can keep printed copies of our editorial correspondence as well as receipts and other records.

Today’s goals:

1. Organize the first draft.

2. Punch out the holes,

3. Place it (in good and decent order) in the binder to begin the re-writing process.

4. Fasten a clasp to the folder so I can mark my place as I go through the draft.

Now, with Mitch McVicker serenading me in the background, I’m going to brew a pot of coffee and get to work.

See ya,
Tony

Post Script:  Here’s the first draft of my manuscript, bound and categorized in 10 sections, with a green gel pen just waiting to be picked up and applied carefully and prayerfully toward a second draft.

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And here’s a view of the binder from the front, with a green title page to represent a new beginning –

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Tomorrow’s goals:

1.  Begin re-writing meditations.

2.  Compose first drafts of chapter introductions.

A Day in The Life of the Unemployed

I will admit since being on disability, there have been days I’ve gotten next to nothing done.  Today was not one of them.

After a bowl of honey-nut cheerios and a banana, I filled a travel mug of coffee and set up a card table to start organizing my book Delight in Disorder: Meditations from a Bipolar Mind to prepare for the second draft.  As my editor, Leanne Sype, recommended I put the meditations into “rooms” of the “house” that is my bipolar mind.  I was hoping to come up with 7 (the number of completion), but wound up with 6 – “The Front Porch”, “The Family Room”, “The Living Room”, “The Basement”, “The Prayer Closet”, and “The Kitchen”.  I managed to complete the introduction for “The Front Porch” and arrange the meditations on it bef0re it was time for lunch.

I decided I wasn’t really hungry yet, so I packed a peanut butter-and-honey sandwich along with some tortilla chips and hummus and headed for Bloomington.  On the way I stopped at Best Buy to question a charge.  Evidently, my sister paid a $160 hard-drive warranty on my laptop.  So, if I get mad at something I read on another blog and slam the computer against the wall, I’m covered.

I went to the Monroe County Public Library hoping to download an audio book and do some work on-line.  I picked out Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.  I had trouble accessing the Internet and nobody at the library or on the Best Buy Geek Squad call-in line could fix it, so I abandoned the project and headed to the Scholars Inn Bakehouse to meet a pastor friend for coffee.

I got there early, filled up my travel mug with the House Blend then looked at the posters for something I might do this weekend.  I noticed that The Bloomington Storytelling Project was hosting an event called “In the Beginning” at the Bishop tomorrow night (April 26) from 8-10 p.m..  I thought I might just go.  Then I noticed at the bottom of the poster that storytellers were welcome.  I thought I might just tell a story.

I sat down at a table and started putting meditations in order within their respective rooms.  I was so engrossed in this project that I didn’t see my friend Dan pass by.  When I looked up at the clock, it was 15 minutes after the time we were set to meet, so I started to text him.  At the same time, he saw me and came over and invited me to his table.

We caught up on our lives since the last time we met for coffee (a couple months back).  He asked about my writing.  I asked about his church.   Dan is part of an effort currently called The Bloomington Project “to become a community of grace in the city of Bloomington in order to speak grace to the people of Bloomington.”  Dan is a very bright and compassionate man who has a heart for Christ and a desire to reach out to others.  We talked about many things and before we left Dan prayed for me and my family, for which I am grateful.

On the ride home, I made some calls.  It looks very good that the friend I had mentioned in earlier posts is pursuing valuable treatment and her housing needs are being met.  God has provided bountifully (through insurance coverage), such that the financial burden shouldn’t weigh heavily on her or others in the family.  Praise the Lord!

I also spoke to my Dad and it looks as though my step-mom will be coming home tomorrow (after having successful knee replacement surgery).  Dad celebrated by making a donation to his favorite cause – the casino.

I got back in time to pick up my brother-in-law and take him to the auto repair shop where he picked up his car.  I took my laptop to the in-house geek squad and it appeared as if he fixed it (though it still doesn’t work at home).

I had baked potato (actually, microwaved) with chili and cheese on top for supper.   We updated each other on our days and I asked if one of them might go with me to the Storytelling Event (to keep me awake on the drive home – 10 p.m. is almost passed my bedtime).

Now, I’m sitting here reflecting on my day, listening to John Prine singing “The Late John Garfield Blues”

John Prine

An old man sleeps with his conscience at night
Young kids sleep with their dreams
While the mentally ill sit perfectly still
And live through life’s in-betweens

What a day!  It doesn’t get much better than this.

(photo of John Prine from colleen onto I heard there was a secret chord)

Leanne Sype, Literary Structural Engineer

The difference between editing and proofreading
As some of you know, I am currently writing a book called Delight in Disorder: Meditations of a Bipolar Mind.  I recently established a relationship with Leanne Sype of Writings and Ruminations who has offered to serve as a beta-reader and (possibly) an editor for the project.  I just sent Leanne a completed first draft of the manuscript yesterday.  Today, I got a lengthy response.  She had read my first 31 pages and reviewed the e-mail responses I had given about the book.   Her response is absolutely lyrical –
     Your story is like a beautiful historic building–perhaps even think long-lost (precious) ancient ruins– that no one else has discovered. You are the only one who knows about this building and upon moving into it as it is, you have learned what every floor, every room, every structural beam, every wall is for and how they are relevant to the building. You know the story behind the building; you’ve studied it… the purpose of why it was built, what it was used for, who used to occupy it, and what happened to it. Now that you have lived in this building for many years and you know it… you are ready to reveal it to everyone. You are ready to invite everyone in to hear the story, admire the beauty in the details, to understand the history of this building. 
 
But, the building structure is unsafe for people to walk through let alone understand why it’s so important. It’s a beautiful building with rich history,  but the floors, the rooms, the structural beams, and the walls are not in working order. There’s holes in the walls, sunken floors, falling beams, cracks in the foundation threatening the overall strength… all effects of medication. But like with any historical building that needs renovation, there’s “good bones,” there are precious elements that have been preserved…
She goes on from there to provide an absolutely thorough, engaging, and on-the-spot analysis of the manuscript (as it currently stands).  I immediately responded to contract her services as editor and propose a working timeline with the goal of July for submission.
God is so good.  I feel like I’m back as a freshman in high school, a first-year tennis player bursting with enthusiasm and a fair amount of athletic ability but next-to-no knowledge of the game, connecting with a coach who believes in me and knows what steps I need to take to become a top-notch player.
Leanne, I can’t thank you enough.  I look forward to where God leads us in this project in the coming days, weeks, and months.  I trust the journey will be as gratifying as the destination.
(image above from Pen to Paper Communications website)