Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dirty Little Secrets

I was recently privileged to be a guest on The Polka Dot Banner's Authors Blog.  The Polka Dot Banner is a website for authors – an author's gathering place, if you will.  Check it out sometime at  The guest blogging consisted of an initial post followed by a one day Q&A.  Below is a slightly edited version of the initial post.





What is it about secrets that make them so appealing?  It must have something to do with the inherent mystique that, by their very nature, is infused in them.  I actually have a theory about secrets: If you want something to remain a secret – are you ready? here it comes – do NOT tell anybody!


For me, I really don't have many secrets.  My life is an open book – literally.  The Ones That Got Away – A Dating Memoir chronicles 40 years of my life in, what some have deemed, wince-inducing candor.  For possible reasons why I'm so open and frank, see Diff'rent Strokes post of 6-21-09. 


So, what was the biggest secret with my book?  Well, the book itself, actually.


I think it was Aristotle who claimed one's life would not be complete if not for accomplishing three things:  build a house (did it), raise a child (I say hundreds of 'em in Sunday school count) and write a book (done).  Seriously, though… Write a book?  Really?  How about that?  See, the thing is, all of us have a story to tell – it may not always be the most interesting story, but it's ours and if we can tell it in an entertaining fashion then, why not? 


This is how my book began:  the idea popped into my head, then my opening sentence, which was followed quickly by the title, and then my closing sentence came to mind; after which, almost immediately, the entire 'meat' (read: beefcake – pun absolutely intentional) fell into place like dominos.  I was on fire.  I couldn't wait to get home to begin writing.  And write I did – I banged out the first three chapters as if they were writing themselves.  After that I wrote here and there, whenever I had some unfettered downtime (that's my favorite kind of downtime, by the way); then I'd go back over what I wrote – rereading it, altering it, tweaking it.


In 10 months I completed my story – and here's the thing: no one knew.  No one.  I never told anybody what I was doing.  It was a secret – but in many ways, it was much more – it was like my secret lover. 


There'd be times I couldn't wait to get home just to change out a particular word with one that was more suitable – one that really nailed what I was trying to convey.  As I've previously quoted, Mark Twain once said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."  I couldn't agree more.  When hiking, I'd be consumed with thoughts surrounding whatever – or whoever – I was writing about – just as a lover consumes one's thoughts.  Other times, I'd daydream and reflect on recently written passages as if I'd just lived the experiences for the first time – I fell in love, I laughed with friends, I was living life to the fullest.  And for whatever reason, I didn't tell a soul.  For nearly four years I kept my deep, dark secret all to myself. 


After finally deciding to publish my book, the time came to reveal this secret to my family – to my poor, unsuspecting family – who, at the mere mention of an impending announcement regarding a special project I'd been working on, began to throw out their best intuitive guesses:  "You're becoming a spiritual leader," my brother declared.  His mother-in-law quickly chimed in, "Are you buying a timeshare in Sedona?"  My own mother threw her hat in the ring with this mind bender, "You're adopting a baby!"  Well, certainly no question remains about where I get my creativity from.


I have to tell you that when I informed them that I'd written a book, it sort of fell on deaf ears.  I looked around at faces yielding little to no reaction until finally my 8-year-old niece said, "A book?  Am I in it?"  As I nodded yes, she enthusiastically did the truck driver pull-down and bellowed, "Alright!"  That actually broke the silence as if a horn really did sound, and then the questions began:  A book?  My goodness, what's it about?  When did you write it?  Has it been published?  Where do we get it? 


I answered all the rapid-fire questions and then they asked, "But… how did you do all that stuff?"  Well, not without some key people, that's for sure; one of which is none other than The Polka Dot Banner's own Jamie Saloff.  Without her help, The Ones That Got Away – A Dating Memoir would still be nothing more than a Microsoft Word document in a three-ring binder. 


In the world of publishing, writing is actually the easy part – there is so much more that goes into making a story a book and I simply could not have done it without Jamie.  I write in pencil (getting my story into a Word doc is about as high-tech as I get); I am not computer savvy; I cannot text; I'm not on Facebook; I do not Twitter.  All that technical stuff is just geek – that's must have been a slip – Greek to me.  But Jamie is a genius – an absolute genius – and with her help my big, fat, juicy secret became a bona fide book.  A book in which one reviewer said, "It's like delighting in your best friend's dirty details without having to divulge your own!" 


You have your own details, though – don't you?  You have your own ideas.  So, what's up?  Why haven't you written your story yet?  You don't have to build a house or raise a child first; but you do have to start.  Many people have asked me for advice on how to write a book and I tell them all the same thing – write!  Don't worry about initially writing anything good, coherent or cohesive – just write.  It's much easier to fix something than to create something.  So pick up that pencil and get some words down – perhaps you have some secret you'd like to share with the world…


Write on!

 - M. Hill