Sweet Baby Lover
Trent was my partner until he died, unexpectedly, at age 46. I loved him immensely and he adored me. After he died, my friends encouraged me to write out my grief. So I did, on a blog, because it was 2009 and I thought it would be cool to have a blog.
My plan was to make blog posts about my time with Trent until I ran out of things to say. Then I would quit. Every time a memory came to mind, I wrote a brief reminder about it on a post-it and stuck the post-it in a composition book. Yellow and orange post-it notes covered four pages.
When I had written the final story from the final post-it note, I stopped writing blog posts. I let the blog languish. But something didn’t feel right. The blog posts weren’t in chronological order, they were written in the order of whatever memory tugged at me when I sat down to write. Because the posts weren’t chronological, it wasn’t possible to read the story as it unfolded.
So, with a ream of printed posts, I headed to the hills of the Smokey Mountains. For two weeks, I lived in a tiny cabin where I rearranged the story order which revealed holes where stories should have been written but weren’t. Then I wrote the missing stories.
When I came home, I studied how to self-publish a book. I hired a developmental editor, then a line editor, then a copy editor. I hired a cover designer but saved the interior design of the book for myself. Then, on the anniversary of Trent’s birthday, I published it.
I’m proud of having written it and proud of the fact that when I brought it to a writer’s retreat, the NYT bestselling author who ran the retreat said, “This doesn’t look like a self-published book. It looks like a real book.”
I have no distance from this book. I can’t tell if it’s good or if it’s not. I’ve been asked to make an audiobook of it and haven’t been able to do that, at first because I didn’t want to revisit that time, and later because I wanted the audiobook to be in my voice. I didn’t know how to do that and didn’t know how to learn.
But, I’ve taken a podcasting workshop, I’ve learned how to record my own voice. Now I have to be willing to go back and spend time with the man I loved who is gone.
“[Sweet Baby Lover] is a love letter, a memoir,
a beautiful book about what it means to go on the journey of a lifetime.”
– Seth Godin, Author
I wrote this story for Trent. We had been together for maybe a year when he began to share bits of his past with me. He answered the question I wouldn’t let go of, “Why are there nights when you get out of bed and sleep on the floor, with your head under the bed?”
The story is told as a fable, and it’s based on Trent’s life. The house with the three large rocks is located in the aptly named city of Battle Creek, Michigan.
The story came to me all at once. I got out of bed one night and wrote half of it quickly, then finished it the second night. On the third night I read it to Trent. He listened closely, then asked if it would be okay to change one part. I said that it was fine, especially since it was his story. He told me what he wanted to change and how he wanted to change it. I made his change and it was perfect.
I read the story to Trent on several nights, in my place in Chicago and later, in our house in Newaygo. The pages became wrinkly and softened. But I wanted the story to be more than just sheets of paper, I wanted it to be a book you could hold in your hand. I wanted it to be an illustrated book, like a children’s book.
If I ever have spare money lying around, I will hire a graphic artist to redo the illustrations. If it was a big pile of money, I would seek to hire Kristina Swarner. For now, the book has what I painted on the back porch of our home in Newaygo. The pictures are functional but I don’t love them. However, I do love the story.
PS: In case you want to know what Trent wanted changed, he asked to replace the gun with a bow and arrow, Also, he was specific about where the arrow would hit. He wanted the arrow to pierce the eagle’s heart.
In the works…
I’ve always written non-fiction—this blog, my memoir, years of writing at work. But I wanted to try to write a novel. What have I learned so far? It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. And when I’m not banging my head against a wall, I’m having a blast.
The story is about a woman forced to decide if she will give up what she wants to get what she needs. It explores concepts of self and worth, aging and family relationships. I don’t want to say more than that until I have more to show for it.
If you’d like to be an early reviewer, tell me! I’m looking for feedback and would love to know what you think.