It was mid-afternoon in the Sierra Nevada Mountains when the email arrived.
Three loads of laundry had been folded and tucked back into their rightful place. The kitchen floor glistened, still fresh from a serious mopping with Murphy's Oil Soap. Digital images stored in my computer held joy and wonder from a long holiday weekend of Fourth of July fireworks, mini golf and lake fun. The junior croquet set was stored in the garage. The marshmallows, carefully toasted over the Weber grill the night before, for S'mores were only a sticky memory.
Now it was time for some Auntie indulgence of a different kind. I glanced at my Blackberry as I walked briskly into the day spa, not wanting to be late for my appointment.The echo of laughter from my nieces and nephews was still making its way westward as the email subject line came into focus: Team Choice RESOLVE Award.
(For those of you who don't know, RESOLVE is the National Infertility Association and I am a notorious infertile woman capable of bringing out the worst in online commenters as evidenced in this New York Times feature.)
I instantly tensed. As conditioned as I have become for negative outcomes, this time I saw the literary equivalent of two pink lines:
On behalf of the RESOLVE Board of Directors and the entire RESOLVE family,I am pleased to inform you that Silent Sorority has been selected as the recipient of RESOLVE’s Team RESOLVE Choice Award for Best Book 2010. As you know, the 2010 Team RESOLVE Choice Award for Best Book was chosen by RESOLVE constituents all over the country. Nearly 2,000 people voted for the Team RESOLVE Choice Award nominees. We are thrilled your book was chosen.
You will be presented with this award at the Night of Hope on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at Guastavino’s in New York City, NY. We are planning for a full house for this very special night."
The notification could not have come at more apropos time or place. It came in the wake of a truly fun and un-angst-filled weekend — despite being baited many times over with phrases ranging from "as a mom" to "she's a mom friend" or "it's great to meet other dads... " Are parental modifiers now required by law? (More on that subject here in an article that ran on the Canadian wire service and in multiple metropolitan Canadian papers ... have I mentioned that I am not a mom?)
But, I digress. Back to Silent Sorority. Rewind with me to several years ago. Many of you were there with me reading along as I made progress in the wee, dark morning hours writing, editing and rewriting. How many sunrises and sunsets did I wonder if a book would ever emerge that anyone would care to read? The number of hours reliving and trying to make sense of our heartache and losses, and the balled up tissues filling the trash can in the mountain cottage guest room, soaked from quiet sobs, are too numerous to count.
Once I'd uncorked the emotions and put our experience down in words I found myself raw and tender all over again. As if adding insult to injury, a steady stream of rejections from agents and publishers arrived — sometimes hourly — in my inbox, pouring salt into a still fresh wound. The final agent rejection, after months of being strung along, hit me like a Mack truck:
"Fertility and infertility continue to be hot topics, but the subject is starting to feel well-trod, almost done to death..."
!!! So, the experience of having your heart ripped out still beating and stomped on by strangers and acquaintances alike while super-sized families get their own reality TV shows is apparently too Hannah Montana??
This award isn't for me — not by a long stretch. It's for the black sheep of the infertility community -- women who did not become mothers through the wonder of science, those who have been dismissed without a thought, for those who have experienced searing heartache both in the light of day and when the lights are off, for those who know what it means to push ahead even when the future looks unfamiliar. This is also a victory for indie authors who have been told their manuscripts are too niche.
While my wounds have healed, it wasn't so long ago that I remember gulping mountain air, grappling with how to find a way forward with life shattered by infertility losses and disenfranchised grief.
"Done to death?" Hardly. Our stories are only starting to be told. We're coming out of the shadows.
This is not an award in the conventional sense it's a recognition that women like me exist. There was no traditional publishing validation, but I have an inbox chock full of emails that validate in a much deeper way:
"You took our taboo lives and let us all know that we are not alone."
"Your book really has given me a new found strength in speaking out about my infertility, and I just wanted to say thanks. It is nice to know that there are 'more of us out there', and that someone if finally giving us a voice."
"I loved the book. I don't mind telling you that you have become a a role model to me."
Everyone, together now, "I get knocked down, but I get up again..."
Editor's note: You can read more about my Indie publishing experience here in an interview conducted by Victoria Mixon.