February 14, 2011
So, after I finalized my participant roster, talked with each woman, and set up some processes for the project, I began the meticulous work of collecting, organizing and editing the narratives. The skills I had honed in my consulting business—qualitative research, interviewing, report and grant writing, authorship and oral presentations, curriculum development—all served me well.
I gently but firmly shepherded each author into telling her life story, crafting and re-crafting each one to be accessible and interesting to a mainstream readership. I hired Max Regan, my literary midwife, who mentored and assisted me in the process of refining and editing the anthology, and after four years of concentrated effort it all came together in a cohesive package. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The hardest thing for the contributing authors—and I also wrote my own memoir for the anthology, so I knew—was beginning to write. So it took a great deal of effort to coax them into telling their tales, thus the gestational period for this book was longer than an elephant’s. Much longer. I had to comfort and cajole—just like we do at births—to help them let go and bring forth what needed to be born. I remember their comments, their insecurities, their complaints that, “I don’t have time for this.” But eventually each midwife went to that interior and solitary space where our memories live, and wrote her life story. In the end each woman expressed gratitude that she was pushed past her comfort level and that—after helping so many other women in the birthing process—she was able to give birth to herself. And that, they said, was a gift beyond compare.