History of the Book


How To Soften the Blow Came to Be

The summer of 2008, I spent ten days alone in a friend’s cabin.  On the fifth day, I began writing To Soften the Blow.  It poured out of me like water – so fast, yet I paused often, searching for the right vocabulary word.  I asked myself, “How did this feel exactly?” My forearms burned and tingled from the typing.  Each day at five AM I told myself to go to sleep – even though I wasn’t sleepy.  I could have written the whole book then and there, but alas, had to leave after five days and 89 pages, pages that remained virtually unchanged.  Slowing down to choose the precise word had paid off.

I knew I had to have a cabin.  I began searching, and in November I bought a houseboat, docking it at Lake Anna in Bumpass, Virginia.  That spring I painted its interior, planning to spend the whole summer writing.  But my best friend died, and that summer I experienced a sewage disaster on the boat and only got in 15 days of writing.  I ended the summer of 2009 at page 252.

I did not write again until June of 2010, when I wrote for six days on the boat.  I went to Australia in July and wrote for 15 days, leaving there at page 321.  I wrote another ten days on the boat in August and finished the book in October with 490 pages.

For the next year, I edited the book, whittling it down to 300 pages.  I did this every single weekend of the year, save five.  I hired my neighbor to keep me in fresh fruit and vegetables, I cooked a large pot of food on Thursday nights, went to bed at 7:30 each Friday after teaching twelve-year olds all week, woke up on Saturday to write twelve hours straight, and did the same on Sundays. The following summer, I went to Australia again, this time editing for 25 days.  Then, my sister Mary and I sacrificed a much-needed vacation to edit together.  Six hours a day, for ten days, she went through my book, ruthlessly slashing any hyperbole and excess.  I learned from her and I, too, slashed away.

I always say, “I wrote a story.  Mary made it a book.”

To Soften the Blow went electronically to kindle and nook in October 2011 and into print April 2012.  I did every step of the printing process myself.  I have never been so driven to do anything in my life.  While writing To Soften the Blow, I often got the idea, When I finish this, I will have done what I was put on earth to do.  I am not finished with life; I have much more to say.  But now I am free.

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