“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay,” said the late Christopher Hitchens, noted author, journalist and witty intellectual. But in Luann R. Sackriders’s case, it didn’t and couldn’t stay inside. Sackrider, a former elementary school teacher and author of the book Live, Laugh and Love with Dementia says she believes it’s possible everyone has a book in them to share. After she and her husband moved from Hawaii to Colorado a few years ago, Sackrider was busy looking for a teaching job. During that time she had a nagging sense of “being called to do something really important.” She assumed that it would be in the classroom but her search wasn’t yielding results. She bided her time tor a year and a half as a math tutor until, just prior to her mother’s passing, it came to her that she was supposed to write a book. She recalls “For God to say, ‘You’re going to write a book’, I looked at him … well I didn’t really look at him but I was like are you kidding me? This is really not funny.” The result of that calling was a book recounting the joys and sorrows of a family caring for an aging mom suffering from Dementia and other significant health issues. Sackrider says it was an honor to realize that she was meant to write a book that might reach far more people than a small classroom of children, an honor and quite a task.
Quite a task because, according to Sackrider, “You really have to be passionate about the topic. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction you have to have the passion, time, patience and persistence” because the path is not easy. For example, Elementary school teachers usually teach all subjects including math, science, and language arts. “But if you had ever told me I was going to write a book I would have laughed,” Sackrider says because she was always more interested in the sciences. Just getting started can be very difficult but doing so was a big boost to Sackrider and helped her come up with the title and outline right away. Patience and persistence, she believes, will help overcome other issues such as writer’s block, accidentally losing a chapter, a lack of keyboarding or graphic design skills – all hurdles Sackrider encountered on the path to publication.
Writer’s block, according to Sackrider, just comes and goes. On her days off even with time to write, Sackrider would often just stare at the computer screen and not write at all. But she also recalls looking back at days when she was not blocked and think, “Wow, I don’t remember writing that, but that’s good!”
She admits that she is not a computer wizard and, as a result, lost an entire chapter of her book early in the writing process. She and her husband Pete solved that concern by purchasing a new computer and external hard drive for back up so she could consistently back up her work. Her keyboarding skills improved as she continued to peck away on a regular basis. Lacking graphic design skills was tackled by contracting the work out at a relatively small cost.
Probably the biggest challenge Sackrider states is that, “Nobody wants to recognize a first time writer, nobody wants to gamble.” Her brother-in-law, a member of several writers’ groups, encouraged her to begin sending out samples of the book in advance of its completion in order to try to generate interest from a publisher.
She noted that most potential publishers didn’t respond or even acknowledge receipt of her chapter manuscripts. This gave her a feeling of defeat even before finishing the book. Still her brother-in-law continued urging her to send out the samples. Writing and sending out chapters at the same time gave Sackrider a greater sense of urgency to figure out how to get the book published.
Sackrider became aware of several small home-based publishing businesses who were customers at the local bank where she worked part time. She began researching this option but eventually decided against that route. However, in the process she heard about a local company called Alpha Graphics.
Alpha is primarily a sign company but also advertises that they help with self-publishing. After Alpha determined that it would cost about $18.00 per copy, they suggested to her that this was too expensive and recommended Lulu, a less expensive online self-publishing and eBook company. She consulted with her brother-in-law who suggested that, if she was taking that approach, she should investigate a similar company called CreateSpace, owned by Amazon. Both companies offer done-for-you solutions-only printing the book when ordered, a concept that prevents authors from spending thousands of dollars with a traditional book publisher, only to end up with boxes of unsold books sitting in a basement or garage because there is no distribution channel.
When Sackrider learned that using CreateSpace meant that her book would be automatically available for purchase on Amazon, she settled on using them because that solved the distribution problem as well. So Alpha took her edited manuscript, photos and graphics and helped her upload the work to CreateSpace to be printed upon ordering.
The most expensive part of the process was getting legal advice. Telling the story meant talking about doctors, nurses, hospitals and nursing homes. No one is directly named and Sackrider has no desire to pursue any of them legally however, she says, “You don’t want to infringe on anyone, so anything you put out there should be looked at by a competent person with a legitimate law firm.” This was the biggest financial hurdle she had to overcome but one she firmly believes is essential for an author, particularly if the subject matter is non-fiction dealing with real people.
It was very satisfying for Sackrider to put her mother’s story in book form. She wrote it for non-professional care-givers who primarily tend to be family members with the hope that it enables just one of them to be better equipped to deal with this terrible disease. If this is the case, she says it will have been “worth the struggle.” Her advice to aspiring authors is to carve out the time, write when you feel passionate about the subject, get the support and understanding of your family, and above all, be persistent.