For the past month I have been editing through three years of transcripts, refining the stories for A Peace of My Mind’s next book. That stack of binders in the photo needs to whittle down to about 80 pages of text and I’ve been making steady progress every day. The gems of wisdom abound, but there won’t be room for all of them in the pages, so there is a long process of decisions and judgments to be made.
For the past six months, I’ve been talking with a publisher who made an offer on the book. My first book was self-published and there are a lot of reasons why having a publisher this time around is appealing, including marketing support, broad distribution, and production costs.
Any time you work with a publisher, it means you have to negotiate elements of tone and style. You get perks, but you give up a little control as well.
This was a faith-based publisher, which was a good fit for me. Although A Peace of My Mind is not a project about religion, often when people talk about peace, their values and their faith come into play, regardless of their tradition. And my own faith is a part of the reason why this project is important to me.
They sell in secular markets, but unfortunately, in order to fit the book into the Christian marketplace, the publisher felt they needed to remove any references to sexual identity in the stories. We talked…we negotiated…but at the end of the day, I needed to walk away.
When I interview people, they place a great deal of trust in me. They share personal stories and vulnerable moments and I assure them they will be treated fairly. I take that responsibility seriously, and if someone’s identity is centered in being gay or lesbian, it’s not up to me to whitewash that out of their story.
A Peace of My Mind is about hearing people’s stories. It is about recognizing the humanity in others even if we disagree with them. It is a project that is rooted in reserving judgment and simply listening. And if that makes you uncomfortable…that’s ok.
It’s good to be uncomfortable. We need to encounter opinions that are different from our own. That’s when we stretch and grow and build compassion for people who might not be just like us.
When we reduce our understanding of peace to what is comfortable and easy, we have missed the point, and as much as I wanted a publisher…I needed to remain true to that core belief of the project.
It’s hard to walk away from a publisher. Even when you know it’s the right thing to do…it’s hard. I’m not sure what the next step will be. I’m stubborn. I’m eternally optimistic. I’ll keep looking for a publisher and I’ll talk with more agents. I will steadfastly continue to believe in the power of stories to bridge differences and move us toward positive social change.
Tonight is winter solstice. It’s the longest night of the year, and indeed, in many ways, the world feels dark these days. But the light always returns. When we go to bed this evening, we know the sun will rise again. The days will get longer. New life will be born.
“You can cut all the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring.” – Pablo Neruda