I just want to say thanks again to all who came last Wednesday night to celebrate the release of Porcelain Keys with me. A lot of people traveled from far away and made sacrifices to be there, and I want them to know how much it meant to me to have them there.
I was pretty nervous in the days leading up to the event. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m not too fond of speaking in public or being the center of attention. But having so many friends and family there to support me put me at ease, and I got through my remarks with only a couple minor hiccups.
There are some who missed my remarks who wanted me to post them, so here is the Reader's Digest version. I basically told my publication story (very similar to the first post on this blog), but added a few more details, like how my husband encouraged me to take writing classes:
"After I’d written about 45,000 words, which is almost half of the length of my completed book, I finally let my husband read some of it. He said some nice things, then very gently suggested that I take some writing classes."
[Haha. Yes, everyone laughed at this]
"I know that sounds terrible, but really his honesty was a great help. He could have said that it was wonderful and told me that I should hurry up and finish it and send it out to agents and publishers. But he could see how much the story meant to me, how much writing meant to me, and he wanted me to succeed.
"So I signed up for a writing class. I started reading books on writing and studying novels like textbooks. The more I learned, the more I realized how much my writing could be improved. And after another few months, I shared a new scene with my husband. This time, he said, ‘Wow, Sarah. I could totally see your character. I really felt for her. I loved the way you described those details. I knew you could do it.’
"So thank you, Keith, for praising my efforts and encouraging me to continue. For never asking why it was taking so long to finish, and never questioning why I had to write that chapter over again, and again, and again."
I also went into a little more detail about the challenges of writing my first novel while mothering three small children:
"With three kids under the age of 4, I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it was to fit in quality writing time. Between feedings and diapers and Geotrax, I thought about these characters and their story, and made notes everywhere. Life was chaotic back then, and my method of taking notes reflected that. So many scenes of this story were first recorded on the back of an envelope, or a sacrament meeting program, or even a torn off cereal box lid. On the nights I had enough energy to stay up late, I would type those notes and add to them until my eyes couldn’t stay open any longer."
And overcoming the hurdle of cancer:
"In July 2009...I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was an aggressive type, and from the words and expressions of my doctors, I wasn’t sure if I would live long enough to finish this book. It was one of the least of my concerns though. I had a husband and three small kids who needed me, and the thought of leaving them behind was heartbreaking. But there was also a place inside me that grieved for my dashed dreams of finishing and publishing this story.
"Through chemo and radiation and surgeries, I thought about this story. But with the mental fog that came with chemo, I didn’t trust myself enough to write anything other than updates on my cancer blog. I remember sitting in my office the day before going in for a major surgery, and opening up the story on my computer. At the time it was very rough, and I knew how it would end, but I hadn’t yet written out the ending in a way that would make sense to anyone but me. The surgery I was going to have the next day was a long, complex one, and I knew that any number of things could go wrong. I remember thinking, if I don’t wake up tomorrow, no one will know how this story ends. No one will know these characters that I love so much. And the thought felt so tragic to me."
And then of course, I tried to be all inspirational:
"After that, I had a sense of urgency to finish this story. I learned that life is short. That we never really know how much time we have left. So if we want to create something to leave behind, now is the time to create it.
If I can do it, you can do it.
We all have something inside of us—call it a dream, or an idea, or a goal. I know the dreams of some of you. Others I don’t know. But I do know that we all have the potential to succeed at whatever it is we’re here to do.
We all have something that we think about in our quiet moments when there is no one there to tell us that we’re not good enough, or smart enough, or talented enough. But I’m here today to tell you that when we shut out the discouraging messages of the world, and instead focus on that voice inside of us telling us who we really are, and who we have the capacity to become, we free ourselves to grow into that person. And I say grow, because it’s a continual process that takes time and effort. We have to work hard, be patient, learn from failure, and don’t give up. Because dreams don’t just come to us—we have to go to them, and sometimes fight a long, hard battle to win them."
After my remarks, I gave out and received lots of hugs, then I was shooed over to the King’s English where I sat at a table and signed books (sometimes while holding a boy in my lap) for my wonderful guests.
I smiled so much that my cheeks hurt by the end of the night. I was surrounded by so many people, I didn’t even notice my boys wrestling on the floor in the children’s section (until later when one of them started kicking his shoes off into a bookshelf and a bookshop employee told him to stop).
After that, we cleaned up, handed out surplus food, and went home. It was a beautiful night, thanks to all of you!