A New Book Baby? More like a Foster Child

My book baby, In the Garden of Life and Death ~ A Mother and Daughter Walk, turns four this year, so not really a baby anymore.  Like parents of a toddler are often asked, ‘So, any plans for a sibling?’, writers are often queried, ‘What are you working on now?’ Both questions stem from a good place, real love and interest. Or so I hope.

For me – and it just happened again this week – the question gives me a little boost. It means the person believes in me as a writer and is eagerly waiting to meet the next little book baby. Well, the second baby is ‘in the oven’ – the hot mess of querying and looking for a home. Gestation periods for books are unpredictable. But I have a current work-in-progress . . . sort of.

Here she is. But she’s not really mine. I’m fostering her. My parish, St. Anne Catholic Church, in Rock Hill, SC will be celebrating her centennial in 2019 and I’ve been asked to compile her history into a book – including narrative, photos and recipes. My spare bedroom is now the parish archives.

One piece of research that came to me was a booklet of St. Anne’s history. I had mixed feelings even before I read it. It would be great to pick up where this left off, three-fourths of my work done! But I also didn’t want to be confined. Wearing a jacket makes me claustrophobic, how could I fit my vision of what the book should be if I had to work in the context of what was already researched and printed in this 8.5 x 11 page folded in half, stapled-together, booklet?

I glanced at the first page or two and was immediately overwhelmed by the small print, the denseness of the words on the page, the academic feel. I put it away and started in the research I’d have to do anyway.

Research included interviewing parishioners who have been in this church over 50 years. They remember the priest who was transferred to Texas but returned every year on his motorcycle and made a point to visit all the families. There were less than 50 at the time. They laughed and pulled out photos of the talent shows that raised money for the current building, our fourth place of worship in our 100 years.

I’ve lingered over scrapbooks, the pages so old they literally flake and disintegrate in my fingers. They are filled with photos and news clippings of summer camp, of the year the KKK burned a cross on our school property because we were integrated – the first in our state, of our International Festival – a weekend of some of the best food and entertainment from close to 20 countries. That’s how diverse our parish of over 1900 families is.
Those were the stories I wanted to tell, but was afraid I’d step on the toes of the historian before me. Over the weekend I finally waded through that booklet. It’s history, yet few stories. It lists the minutia of weekly collections through the years, chronicles a continuing census of births, sacraments and deaths, and glosses over the struggle of finding the piece of property where we finally built our church.

I have to admit, reading those pages was like opening a door. While I’ll use much of the information, I feel I can raise this little foster child of a book the way I’d hoped. I’ll fill her with the stories, the people, the ups and downs of what history is all about.

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2 Responses to A New Book Baby? More like a Foster Child

  1. Beautifully written, Kim. What an incredible responsibility and just as incredible an honor to chronicle the stories of the parish’s families. Wow! I love how you’ve made this project yours and yet made it truly the congregation’s project, too–family by family. There’s a lot of love going into this book. I’d say you’re both the book baby’s midwife (of the individual stories) and it’s mother (as the author’s voice, historian, and organizer of the work). You’re bringing a bundle of love into the arms of so many parishioners. They chose wisely when they asked you to be the book baby’s mom, but I’m sure they already know that. Bravo!

  2. Beth ~ how sweet you are! Thank you. It is definitely a labor of love. I’m enjoying the research and finding these little nuggets. There have been so many ‘Wow!’ moments. I’ve gotten to meet some interesting, funny, faithful people I would have never met otherwise. ~Kim

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