You’ve been alone so long with your book – a memoir about thirty years of your life. Your obsessive and solitary pursuit. At last you call it done. You hand it to your publisher to take it from there. You worry whether your story is engaging enough, your characters believable enough, or your narrator insightful enough to keep readers reading.
But then UPS appears at your door with a box of Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs). Ten books formatted and bound, an ISBN number on the back and a beautifully designed cover on the front.
Your publisher says: We need blurbs for the back cover. (Blurb being the unfortunate term given for “a brief review of a book for promotional purposes.”) You know this is necessary. You know this is what every author must do before her book goes to press, but it feels almost impossible. You do it anyway. You send out your blurb requests to four published authors and five international development experts and hope that at least two of the nine will say yes.
Then you hold your breath.
Over the next three days, you wait to hear if there are any takers. By the end of the third day–to your astonishment–all nine people you’ve asked for a blurb have said yes. Stunned, you rush to the post office, and send off the nine ARCs priority mail. Then you leave for Portugal.
A memoir isn’t like other books. A memoir is your life exposed for all the world to see. It’s impossible not to take people’s reactions to it personally. You may have published one book a few years ago to good reviews but it was a book about somebody else. Not the same thing at all. You wish it didn’t matter so much to you. You wish you could be blasé about it, extract yourself and your feelings from the equation. Instead, you fret all the way to Lisbon. All that’s left now is to wait to hear from the nine. And hold your breath.
Within a week, the first blurb arrives from a former World Bank manager –- a woman you admire enormously. She writes that yours is a story of “guts, setbacks, love, misunderstandings, growth, and adventure.” Yes, you think, she got it. When the second blurb arrives, it’s from a novelist whose work you love. She writes that your memoir “reads like a good novel, a heroine’s journey of the first order.” You are delighted to learn that your story came alive for her. A few days later, you get two more blurbs. One calls your book “a poignant memoir . . . brilliantly written. . . “ The other calls it “a wonderful reminder of how the world changes one small step at a time.“
Over the next two weeks you read that your book is “an inspiring story of how one determined woman can make a difference” and that it is about “a woman who unleashed the power of women in international development. . . full of colorful episodes . . . pertinent to the state of the world today.” A well-known memoirist writes the your prose is “ rich in description and detail” and that he “couldn’t put it down!”
Finally you hear from a woman who you knew decades ago . . . a woman who joined the World Bank after you did, a former Resident Representative for Mali, who writes that your “charm and grit are palpable” and refers to your “unique experience” and “passion.” She thanks you for “enabling those who followed to move one step closer to a world where everyone’s voice counts.” This is the blurb that brings you to tears. You marvel at this excess of riches.
Finally, you begin to breathe.
Your writing continues to engage because it’s true, truthful, and the truth.
Thank you so much, Richard. Writing true isn’t always the easiest thing to do — but it’s the only way. It’s so good to have a reader like you . . . who appreciates this. Your support means the world to me.
Can’t wait to read your book, Jerri! So glad you got such positive reviews…
Hi Pat! Thanks so much for reading the blog . . . and for looking forward to reading the book. Yes, it made such a difference to the courage with which I take on this “shameless self-promotion” part of the process. I’ve been so grateful to the kind people who blurbed my book and found good things to say about it! I just heard from Fred Powell at Main Street Books that he’s received six boxes of the book which he is keeping for me until I get back to the U.S. end-December. But he says he’ll be glad to sell some before that!!
This is such a great response to what must be a well-written and interesting book of this part of your life. May you have every success with the sales.
Thank you so much for your encouragement, Vivienne! It’s a nerve-wracking time – knowing your book will be available for purchase in less than two weeks. But fingers and toes crossed — all will be well!
Can’t wait to read it! I believe all those ‘blurbs’ are true, and maybe even understated. You are an inspiration.
You, my dear, are an exceptional woman, and you’ve carved out an exceptional life. It’s hardly a surprise that you’ve crafted an exceptional book that lets us all in on the story. Can’t wait to see it on the shelves!
Dear Lois, you know the stories so well already, but thank you for your generous words and you eagerness to see the book on t he shelves. It’s taken a long time – as you know – and it feels very good to be nearing this “getting ready” and “getting set” part of the process. Nearing “Go!”
Ah Beverly, you are too kind! And I can’t wait for you to read it either! Thanks so much !
Coucou Jerri! Hier dans une librairie où j’allais acheter le livre du dernier Prix Goncourt attribué à un Sénégalais. Je me suis alors surprise à penser: “dans quelques semaines, le livre de Jerri sera à l’étalage dans des librairies Américaines ..”
Et bien sûr j’ai hâte d’y être, j’ai hâte que tous ceux qui te connaissent le dévorent avec la même émotion que moi, qu’ils en parlent autour d’eux et partagent ce mémoire si inspirant! Merci de l’avoir écrit, merci de ta sincérité, merci pour cette introspection que tu partages avec tes futurs lecteurs qui seront nombreux, tant chacun se sent concerné par ce qu’est la vie d’une femme faisant carrière dans une si grande institution, tout en étant une mère, une épouse, mais aussi une femme qui s’implique dans sa vie de famille “élargie “, en fille, soeur, tante… toujours aimante et présente ! Défi relevé avec brio, chère Jerri!
Ma chère amie,Tes propos sont beaucoup trop gentils. Tu connaisses aussi bien que moi toutes les histoires que j’écris dans ce livre! Et ton amitié et ton travail acharné ont rendu mon travail possible. Mon prochain blogpost portera sur . . . nous!! Merci pour tout et toujours.