If you're going to write a book, the thing to do is just write. Stop thinking about it. So I did. With the encouragement of attendees at the fall Wisconsin Writer's Association conference in October of 2015, I finally began to write my book.
I wrote it pretty much sequentially. I started my volunteering with seeing a small sentence on the back of a University monthly newsletter, back when I worked at Marquette. "Disaster volunteers needed at the local American Red Cross office." It sounded interesting, so I called to see what would be involved.
After starting the book with how I began, I wrote about my training. Then, I began to write about all of the single family and apartment fires I had been to in Milwaukee. I wrote about moving to Allenton, Wisconsin and helping to develop the disaster team in Washington County. Page after page, on I went, about everything that lead me to become a national disaster responder.
Are you falling asleep yet?
Finally, after a very long beginning, I started to write about my first disaster response of 9/11, where I went to the Washington, D.C. area and spent three weeks on the phone talking with people who've lost loved ones in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on the flight which crashed in Pennsylvania.
Back at the fall writer's conference, I had discovered there is a writer's group not too far from where I live. Sweet! Once a month the Moraine Writer's Group gets together to discuss and critique each other's works. It's amazing!! About two weeks before the group meets I email what I've written to all the group members. All the members do this. Then, we print and read what the members have written. We correct typos, grammar, and punctuation. And we provide our insightful comments about the works we have read. Once we get together in person, we take time to share what we think. It's a great way to provide critique and receive feedback about what we've written. So, if you plan on writing a book, get out and find a writer's group.
I go to my first meeting. There I learned that I love the word "that." I use that word over and over and over. I wasn't even aware that I used that word quite so much. Now, I'm finally at that point where I just can't stand that word. See what I mean. That's nine times I've used it in just this short paragraph. Thanks Moraine Writer's Group for helping me to conquer that particular writing problem.
I also had my good friend Elaine read my first stab at writing a book. Both she and the writer's group both let me know I had a good story, it's interesting, but I needed to get to the point. Does the reader really need to know all about my training? Do they really need to know about every single fire I ever responded to? There were hundreds of fires where I helped provide assistance. They all politely let me know to move on. If the book is going to be about 9/11, hurricane Katrina, and hurricane Sandy, then I need to tell those stories. So, I changed my first very lengthy chapter to a short one about how I began volunteering and what led me to become a national responder. Then, I jump right into the events of 9/11/2001 and how I was able to help and respond.
Everything possible that can be written about 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Sandy has already been written. Except my story. It is an opportunity for me to express my inner life, what I experienced. You know me: my exterior, what you see, and the words you hear me express. But now, it is important for me to finally share my inner journey with you. I want my grandchildren, and others, to really know what I experienced, what I accomplished, and maybe most importantly what I was feeling, not just what they see about who I am. My book will provide a glimpse into my inner thoughts and feelings about what I experienced, not just what you see on the outside of me.