I remember writing to Val about getting letters at boarding school. That was the first ‘Abbey Girls’ letter, and her response had me weeping with laughter as I realized how differently we saw things. We continued to write letters about the Abbey over the next few years. At one point one of us must have suggested putting them together in a book. And we did.
As if watching a series of images on a screen, I remember assembling the letters into a semi-coherent narrative, collating and revising, removing redundancy. We chose a title. We scoured old photo albums and boxes at home in Ireland, for images and memorabilia. These were scanned by both of us with greater or lesser success, and images sent by Dropbox or a mailed memory stick. There was a long drive to Columbus Ohio where Val was teaching, to agree on fonts and sizes and lay-out – pages spread over the king sized bed and a check list of things to be accomplished before I drove back. The husbands read a first draft and liked it. Guy suggested an introductory chapter which Val wrote. Amazingly, neither of us changed things that the other wrote, just occasionally suggested that the ‘tome’ could be altered slightly. I loved writing my last letter as much as my first. We agreed on a cover image, a back page, blurb, a photo of us. I spent hours in the Prairie Du Sac Library uploading files to Smashwords. How many programs did I learn? How many places I sought help when my frustration levels maxed out. But suddenly there was an e-book. What a fabulous achievement that was! We were elated. Next came the hassles with Amazon’s Create Space, finding Christine (meetings in coffee shops in Mount Horeb and New Glarus), and finally having a beautiful manuscript that could be sent to a real printing company. We became Laurence Gate Press, with a logo. When the boxes arrived, those beautiful, physical manifestations of our labors were like birthing a baby. I notified everyone for whom I had an e-mail address, and sending out orders was a joy. The letters to Irish publishers was an experience. Best of all, though, I found Desi Kenny. As Val recovered from breaking her foot in Mexico last January, we learned how to work with Weebly and make a website. She created bookmarks. After that there was the pure fun of reading for the audio book at Paradyme in February inbetween snow plow noise. Val came to do her part in June, and we had a completed audio book! But then cancer happened, and the next phase of working with ACX was delayed. Finally I had time to upload the files, but was sent back to the recording studios for two missing words: “The End”. We got the final notification that the audio book was released while I was in Canada with Val last week. I announced it on Facebook, updated the Weebly website, and closed the files.
It has been a remarkable personal journey. I have come to know myself better. It has brought me contentment, peace, and a sense of accomplishment that never came with research, teaching, publishing scientific articles, writing grants. I am immensely proud of both of us. As Tim reminds me: unless it is written down, nobody will know or remember.