Let’s talk about Dear Ellie.
This week I spontaneously launched my first book. I say spontaneous, but really I’ve been working on it for 18 months. For 6 of those months I didn’t even know I was working on it, I was simply creating. I first self-published it through a company called Blurb and then realized that, despite their beautiful user-friendly software, their wholesale costs were just too high. It took me many months to find a new publisher and to learn that software. I landed on Createspace. Which was cheaper, but not at all user friendly. I poured hours into the program and editing process. My friend Karen helped me proofread. There were so many details my head spun so badly. There’s the nitty gritty details. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back to the beauty. Where did it even come from?
Well in the spring of 2016, right after our family relocated to the East, I did the sensible thing anyone does after moving across the country and I enrolled in a writer’s workshop. One of the sessions required me to write an article or blog of some sort with at specific reader in mind. Mine came out in the style of a letter. I still don’t know where the idea came from, it was just there inside of me.
Over the next couple months I kept writing letters. I wrote letters whenever I felt sad or confused or overwhelmed. They helped me process all the change, pain, and heartbreak from situations I’d walked through in the recent months and years. I sent them to people who were struggling with the same things. I read them back to myself when I needed reminded of the truth in them. At the same time, I bought my camera and found a lot of healing in capturing nature and exploring that realm of creativity.
And so the project was born.
One day, I had the idea of combining the letters with photographs that had a similar feel and putting them in a small, bedside-type book. I wanted it to be a book that I could read when I was feeling sad or confused or trying to remember what I told myself the last time I’d felt that way. I passed the idea on to a few friends, and they wanted the book, too. I printed a handful and passed them out. And that’s where the project stopped for a good six months.
And then, suddenly, it grew wings again.
I was in a meeting with a local shop about partnering with them with some of my art. I wasn’t planning on saying anything about my book but somehow I blurted it out part way through the meeting. The owner pulled up the preview online, fell in love with it, and asked me to be a featured author and sign books at their upcoming writer’s night. My jaw nearly hit the floor. I scrambled and got ready for the event.
The response overwhelmed me.
I watched strangers pick up my book and leaf through it, tears spilling down their faces in the middle of the shop. I listened as they read aloud their favorite parts, and I heard it like they heard it – hearing it for the first time. For logistical reasons, I knew I needed to republish it under a cheaper wholesale price, but for that night, I simply soaked it all in.
Since then, I’ve had others asked to do events featuring the book and still others asking for it to be more readily available. I launched it onto Amazon and suddenly it was out in the world… not without a little fear and trembling.
It is just. so. raw.
This book saved me on some of my darkest days. These letters were written from my soul to my soul on days when I had more questions than answers and I was searching for comfort from the pain I was feeling so deeply. Writing the letters was a way to get passed the pretense of trying to write for an audience and say things just the right way. I wrote them to myself, to a younger me, to a friend, to anyone who would hear them. I wrote them because I needed to hear the words. And now it’s out there, for others to hear…
Dear Ellie hasn’t been without it’s critiques.
As with any work of art, not everyone will understand it. This book was written from a very specific, fragile, inspired season of my life and it reflects just that. It isn’t where I am now but the words are still so beautiful to me. I hope they find the people who need to hear them, whatever season they are in.
I know it isn’t everyone’s flavor. And that’s okay.
I felt really apologetic about it for a long time and that kept me from publishing it fully over the last several months. It seemed too dramatic. Too undefined. Too something… To some, it isn’t spiritual at all. To others, it is completely spiritual. Not being about to tell the difference is probably the thing that frustrates some readers the most. And that is okay, too. I struggled with my faith so much over that time, and you’ll see that in the book. I didn’t stop believing in God. I still believed he was there with me, that he was the only thing keeping me alive. When I speak of the strength inside myself, much of that strength is Him, or placed there by Him, I just wasn’t always sure what to call it right then. Everything about religion was on the rocks for me. I’m still working out what I believe about humanity and being made in God’s image and all of that, but I think you’ll find that this book is full of hope and light and strength in the midst of the struggle – the greater things placed inside us that we cannot create on our own.
I’ve gained a lot of patience for my journey and grace for my seasons. Creators create from the place where they are at. I could never write this book again if I tried. It certainly reflects this time in my life. I hope you read it with grace and patience as well. I hope you find understanding and comfort in knowing that others have walked these trails and are walking them with you. I hope you feel the warm embrace of the words that are meant to bring healing.
I hope you see Ellie for who she is. I hope you welcome her well.