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THE BIRTH OF A BOOK
bibliomaniac
What is it like to release your first book? Naseem Rakha considers the question.
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Naseem and The Crying Tree.....

One day before my novel – The Crying Tree – was born, I was home washing windows, planting flowers, sweeping, dusting. In other words, I was nesting: doing everything I could to get things in order before my baby’s birth. But unlike the day my son was born, once my book was out, it’d be on its own.

I remember how strange it felt when The Crying Tree first started making its rounds to publishers. The dance I’d done with my characters, the lives I’d drawn, touched, massaged, cried, and made love with were suddenly being held by people I did not know. I consider writing an intimate act. There is you, your paper, and an imaginary world scattered with bits and pieces of your psyche, beliefs, fears, prejudices, influences and experiences. Suddenly, all that was being both literally and figuratively peddled around Manhattan. I felt exposed and vulnerable, and utterly excited. Kind of like an exhibitionist – with a mask.

All writers want their work read, and I’m no different. I had very specific goals while writing The Crying Tree. I wanted the book to move people. I wanted it to get people to talk, yell, cry if need be. I wanted the characters to worm their way out of the page and into hearts and minds. And I wanted to pose very specific questions – what would happen if a mother of a murdered child forgave the killer? And what happens to the executor if he doesn’t want to do his job? These questions had been running through my mind ever since I covered my first execution. I was a political reporter for public radio and the assignment gave me access to people, places and scenes I’d never witnessed nor listened to before. It made me ask myself significant questions about the efficacy and effectiveness of our justice system. And, it made me wonder about the people that capital punishment affects. Not just death row inmates, but victim survivors, prison staff, and the outside public that, whether they admit it or not, are a party to an act of killing.

But more than anything, I wanted to look at this mysterious gift called forgiveness, and write something that would get people to ask themselves if they had the capacity to relinquish their own feelings of hate and anger. I must be honest, I oppose the death penalty. I see it as divisive, expensive, counterproductive, and inhumane. Still, if faced with the murder of a loved one, I don’t know if my rationale would stand up to my rage. I wanted to write a book that made me confront this inconsistency, and force me to look more deeply into the capacity of my own heart.

What I didn’t consider while writing The Crying Tree, is the responsibility this kind of story carries. Already, I have begun to receive letters from people telling me about their own experiences with loss. They tell me about the pain they’ve felt, the bitterness and angst. How years would go by in a blur of hate. How family members went to their death angry and vengeful. And then some tell me the other stories, the ones of the redemption and peace that came from forgiveness. Each letter, or in some cases grocery aisle talk, sidewalk chat, or even phone call, has moved me in ways I can not describe, and most assuredly in ways I had never anticipated while sitting in my house quietly dancing with my characters.

So as I cleaned on that day before the book release, I thought of those things – the responsibility, the fear, the hope, the dreams I had for my fledgling child. The Crying Tree came into the world this month, and I know it is a precocious child—prodding people to think and ask questions. And, like any expectant mom, I am both exhilarated and a bit overwhelmed. 

July, 2009  - First appeared online at Debutant Ball http://www.thedebutanteball.com/

Comments
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Postpartum Book Publishing Blues

Naseem:
And there is sadness in finishing a book, don't you think? As Truman Capote said, "Finishing a book is like you took a child out in the backyard and shot it."

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Awaiting that overwhelming feeling

Naseem,

I could relate well to your blog. However, only in writing, as I have yet to find an agent that will say anything but, "We thank you for thinking of us, however,,,,,..yadda yadda yadda." I have had several people (friends and relatives) read "Troubled Memories," and when they finished, asked me when the second book was coming out. I find myself now half-way through book number two and after a year of sending out the query letters and the 2 or 3 chapters the agents may or may not read, still hoping and still awaiting that day when someone finally says, "I'm interested...please send more."

In reading your blog posting, I found myself inspired to keep pushing and not give up. And I know that when the public finishes "troubled memories", they will be anxious to know what's coming next. I think of all of the soldiers coming home from the middle east and I know that they will be captivated. The audience is out there, somewhere, but like a parent wanting to show off her child, I find myself feeling like I'm walking across some empty frozen tundra, in search of people to show off to.

And so I drive on, reading as much as I can from other authors' experiences, and I just felt compelled to let you know that your blog held a lot of meaning for me. Be well, and keep driving forward.

Raymond