During my 38-year career as a freelance writer, I’ve given away many things. I’ve written and edited newsletters for several organizations, edited copy for beginning writers, given free workshops, spoken at national and local conferences. Giving is part of my life and I’m glad to do it.
A couple that lived behind me asked if I would help them get their daughter’s poems published. Their daughter was a park ranger, experienced hiker, mountain climber, photographer, and fire fighter. Sadly, she died suddenly of heart failure at the age of 28. The parents wanted to make their daughter’s poetry into a book for family members.
“Can you help us?” they asked.
I agreed and the couple delivered two scrapbooks of poetry to me. One contained typed poems and the other handwritten poems. As I read the poems I realized some were duplicates. Their daughter had changed a few words of some of the handwritten poems. “This is going to take me a few days,” I told the parents.
As so often happens with writing, one task led to another. First, I grouped the poems into categories. I corrected English errors and it was tedious work. Four or five poems were missing titles and I created titles from their daughter’s words. Finally, I wrote an introduction to the book and a page about the national park.
Since the parents weren’t familiar with publishing, I went on the Internet and found several publishers that deal with small press runs. I ordered a customer kit for them and contacted a graphic designer I’ve used many times. Meantime, the parents contacted a gift shop in the national park and asked if it would be willing to carry the book.
I thought the book was ready to submit to a publisher, but the graphic designer contacted me and said it was a bit short. “Do you have any photos?” he asked. The parents looked through trunks of items and found several photos that would work and emailed them to the designer. I found two poems I had missed and turned a paragraph of an essay into a poem. These additions changed the pagination and the designer had to lay out the book again.
By now, two weeks had passed, and my mind was a jumble of words, grammar, and design ideas. “You’ve really spent a lot of time on this,” my husband said.
Helping the bereaved parents took me back to the day my daughter died. I cried for the parents and their young daughter. I also shed some tears for myself. Thanks to the parents’ persistence, a talented graphic designer, and an independent publisher, a casual collection of poems became a beautiful book. I feel blessed to be part of it.