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  • Writer's pictureLisa

Move the Needle

When I was a little girl, I wrote stories on rough sheets of unlined construction paper my mother bought at Gibson’s Five and Dime store. After finishing my handwritten tales–with the sentences angling down the page like they were slipping away–I punched five holes on the left side of each piece of paper and strung my story together with yarn tied in neat little bows. These crude creations gave me a sense of satisfaction, which I assumed anyone who received my gift would share, so I wrapped the handmade books and gave them as Christmas and birthday presents, and sometimes just because.

My bookmaking continued through junior high school after I discovered blank, hardbound journals for cheap at a local stationery store. Inside, I handwrote novels, which meant my structure had to fit, and the story’s climax needed to heighten and resolve before I ran out of pages. I never gifted my hardbound novels, but instead, buried them in a drawer and then became embarrassed by them. Only one remains, deep within my basement in a box labeled “Childhood.”

Sometimes, the childhood obsessions come back around, reminding us that the passions of our younger years might provide clues about how we are wired. As it turns out, I still like to make books.

In adulthood, I experimented with this passion, once compiling a series of personal essays and publishing them on a platform called Blurb. I only ordered two copies, one for myself and another for my best friend, who appears in several of the essays. I wrapped the book and gave it to her for her birthday, of course, and slipped my copy safely between other published books on my home office shelf. Sending my Blurb book out into the wider world caused me to feel a buzzing ache along the back of my neck. The adage, sometimes attributed to Hemingway, that “there is nothing to writing–you just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein,” has always rung true for me. Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable and drained than writing. And yet, it’s been the one consistent skill that has never failed to bring me joy, but only once the writing is finished.

Last October, I completed a manuscript that will not hide in a basement box or be relegated to only two copies. This one is going out far and wide. I’ve decided it takes a certain audacity to write in the first place, and even more to bind a composite of sentences into a printed book and ask people to pay money for them. But it is also a privilege to have a story to tell, and the desire to write it.

My book is a memoir about starting and running a nonprofit called Rising Village, an eight-year adventure that ended in October 2021 when I handed the organization over to a new executive director. That little nonprofit and the people we served were inextricably linked with so many parts of my life, and leaving wasn’t easy. On one hand, I felt a loss of identity and purpose, but I also knew that the change brought an opportunity to sit back down at my computer and write. So, I did.

This time, making a book didn’t involve construction paper, yarn, or Blurb. My book will be published by Storia, a collaborative venture that takes books from initial idea to published product, and anything in between. Spending my time writing and making books is exactly where I want to be, but the self-promotion–not so much. That feels worse than Hemingway’s vein bleeding all over his typewriter. I’m great at marketing anything and anyone except myself, so bear with me.

Launch date for my book is set for March 15. The title is Move the Needle: A Nonprofit Founder’s Story of Seamstress Apprenticeships, Peddling Products, and the Need to Make a Difference. The proceeds will go to Rising Village Foundation, so my marketing endeavors are a plea for you to buy a book that will help a girl named Martha complete nursing college. She is a brilliant student in Rising Village’s Ghana program.

You are reading this blog post on my brushed-up website, and I have started a companion newsletter that will go out the first Friday of each month. As a former magazine editor, I love the idea of a regular publication, and my goal for the newsletter is to provide quality content that doesn’t waste your time. You can subscribe on the home page.

The landing page for my book is here, and once it is released, you can order directly from my website, or from your favorite online book source. It will be available in several formats: hardcover, paperback, and eBook.

If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, or if you have written one, I’d love to hear from you. It's a mountain to climb, and I think we should encourage one another. And if you are in the middle of a creative endeavor that feels daunting, I’d love to talk about that. It’s always helpful to know you’re not alone.

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