That’s right! Lisa Oltmans has published her memoir, See You Now: A Memoir of Shane’s Triumph Over SMA, and I’m delighted to welcome her here to share her story with you.
Her guest post today will inspire you in two ways:
(1) You’ll be moved by her faith and endurance in what she describes as “a story of survival against all odds,” and
(2) you’ll be motivated by Lisa’s tenacity in finishing her memoir and publishing it—she’s actually holding her book in her hands! Isn’t that what you want to do, too?
Below she shares specifics about organizing, writing, editing, and publishing—as well as working through her grief, which many of us must also do in writing our own stories. You’ll be inspired by the good tips Lisa offers.
On my birthday, February 28, I read Linda’s blog about holding your own book in your hands. I knew what that felt like! And I wanted to let her know how much her Spiritual Memoirs 101 had not only inspired me, but led me to go forward and self-publish my own memoir, See You Now: A Memoir of Shane’s Triumph over SMA.
In 1989, my only son was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at the tender age of six weeks. The doctors predicted he would die before the age of two. The only Scripture that reached out to pull me back to earth was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Through prayer and a daily walk of faith, my husband and I raised our son to adulthood. I felt that Shane’s story, a story of survival against all odds, had to be written for the young families just receiving such a diagnosis and for anyone in a caregiving role for a family member.
Writing the memoir of my son's life was an act of love. Although I could have written this book in any order, I felt that keeping the chapters in chronological order presented my son's life for others who are in the middle of their own battles.
I used my journals and blogs to get started. I took a large loose-leaf notebook and made dividers for each section representing a year of Shane’s life. I scrapbooked in photos, clippings, ticket stubs, notes, and miscellaneous items to jog my memory. I made a spreadsheet with a row for each chapter and columns for the name of the chapter, year, Shane’s age, Shane’s school grade, chapter summary, important events, our employers, teachers, and nurses. Each year has an associated Bible verse because our relationship with Jesus is the catalyst that made my son’s life possible.
Using my outline, I worked through my grief, year by year. It was not an easy process, but it was a cathartic and healing process. I had my moments of doubt. I started over a few times, and it took five years for me to complete my son’s story.
I used my spreadsheet to keep track of what I had written and what I still needed to write. I color-coded them with a highlighter, red for writing in process, yellow for editing, and green for completed.
To write, I picked a chapter and imagined myself time travelling, using the mementos and photos to jog my memory. Some revived memories were so sharp and painful that I had to skip them to write later.
Filling in the spreadsheet with green highlighter, I printed each chapter after I wrote it on my computer. I placed them in my loose leaf notebook. I found having the printed pages helped encourage me to keep working.
I knew that editing was an important process. After I finished a set of chapters, I sent them to a dear friend who taught English for over twenty years. She marked the edits I needed to polish the book, and she asked for clarification when I was not clear about some things.
For publishing, I researched all the possible methods to get Shane’s story out into the world. At my age, waiting for an agent and a publisher was too time-consuming. Shane taught me that life is short, and it is best lived in action and not in waiting. An e-book can be published free of charge, so first I published Shane's story as an e-book on Smashwords.
I titled the book, See You Now, which was one of Shane’s favorite sayings. He would never let anyone say, “See you later.” Even at a young age, he lived in the moment. My cover was designed by a professional graphic artist for a reasonable charge.
To publish the book as a paperback, I used Amazon’s CreateSpace. It was very exciting to hold a real copy of the book, review it, and then approve it for print.
I’ve received feedback from other families, and Shane’s story has encouraged them in the middle of their own battles. His example has inspired these families to make the effort and help their children get out into the world every day.
I know some of you have such stories of encouragement to share as well. I encourage you to organize your memories and get your story into print. The light of Christ changed our story from one of tragedy to one of triumph.
The world needs these stories, and these examples of how faith changes everything. God is always faithful to those who call out to him in faith for help. Start my friends, and write. It is worth every second.
Special thanks to Linda for encouraging us all!
And thank you, Lisa, for inspiring us as well! May God use your memoir, See You Now: A Memoir of Shane's Triumph Over SMA, to help many in their own struggles.
Have you published your memoir?
If so, let us know!
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