The Back-Story of “BIRTHING A BOOK”

“Writing a book is like being pregnant without a due date.”  J.Kurtz (Quote from the upcoming May 2020 issue of my Her Voice article about writing a book.)

Northern Shores – Southern Borders by Jan Kurtz
Click the image to visit the CLC Bookstore or to purchase my book.

Conception:

The idea to write a book was conceived several decades ago. I began jotting notes and organizing my photos, journals, and musings. The Minnesota/Wisconsin cabin, flora, and fauna, nature stories got filed under “Sauerkraut” and the Spanish tales of study, travel, and culture fell under “Salsa.”

Gestation:

Not nine months, but years added to the creative materials.  Work with Central American refugees, translating for medical missions, local hospital calls, participating as an election observer in Mexico. . .   From patio gardens with climbing bougainvilleas in Granada’s Alhambra to visiting Guatemalan refugees living under blue tarps, digging garden plots, and latrines, my worldview grew and changed, adding developmental stages to my “book baby.”

After months of 5:00 a.m. writings, afternoons with Donna Salli, my book’s midwife, sending my draft to six nuns that Sister Mary wrangled to be Beta readers and compiling volumes of photos, I had a manuscript.  I was sadly incorrect in thinking the book was ready to be born.

Labor:

Editing. Each comma, each photo, each turn of phrase and translation. My eyes crossed; my teas brewed. I hired editors for content, for grammar, for guidance. Dear friend Lois volunteered to do the last read with her pencil poised over every sentence.

Naming the Baby:

The book name and an inviting cover are essential! Without a captivating title and attention-getting cover, no one will even pick your book off of the shelf or, on this day, click to check-out.

Sauerkraut and Salsa seemed a natural title to me, but no. “That sounds like a cookbook!” and “You’ll need a heck-of-a-subtitle to clarify. It’s catchy but misleading.”

Northern Shores – Southern Borders by Jan Kurtz
Click the book cover to visit the CLC Bookstore or to purchase my book

Northern Shores – Southern Borders: Revelations of a Bilingual Life is available at Central Lakes College Bookstore.

On my final trip out of the cabin last fall, I raised my eyes to the heavens and begged for a sign.  When I looked back at the road, I was passing a street called “Northern Shores.” A bonafide sign! Of course, Northern Shores – Southern Borders. I nearly ended up in the ditch!

Final check-up:

Meet the Borkenhagens of RiverPlace Press. Chip and Jean were the final “doctoring” team to see to the health of this production. Chip tried to work a cover for Sauerkraut and Salsa, title but hit a wall. It was time to give that up.  Northern Shores – Southern Borders flowed with the inclusion of my photo of Lake Julia – the center of my soul. Chip found the Spanish village and the results were stunning.

Jean and I spent hours at my kitchen table checking each comma and italics on non-English words. Chip edited photos and Jean painstakingly placed them and each word into the pages. Finally, the day came to send the manuscript to the “birthing room”, Bang Printing.

Ah, but, there is often a crescendo in birth stories.

A not so funny thing happened on the way to production.

The manuscript left for the printer in early March and I left for Wisconsin on Marcy 14th for a “four-day tour” (think Gilligan’s Island). Mom’s 94th birthday was March 17th and our small family planned to gather.

But not before an ominous whisper made it to the airwaves from far-away China. A virus, out of control. “Don’t visit our elders!” My son and family canceled. March 15th, calendars began to clear. No church, no luncheon, no visit to the local bookstores about sales. No toilet paper? I stayed on. And on.

Fast forward:

April 8:  Jean B. texted, “Books are ready to be picked up!”

They were all snuggled in their cardboard boxes.  How long does the virus last on cardboard!?!  How to distribute? Yes, mail two boxes to me.

Two days later, the UPS man dropped them at the front door and rushed back to his truck.  I put on plastic gloves, circled the boxes, took my spray bottle, and misted them with a mixture of Clorox and water. Is that what we do in the time of Covid-19?

I cut the cord and gingerly opened the box flaps. There, within, my beautiful books, all red and blue, softcover, letting out a birthing scream for air. I pulled out four and laid them on a T.V. tray, then sat six feet away! We stared. We took a picture, then moved the boxes to the garage.

Here we are, my books in quarantine with Mom and me! No book launch baby shower. All presentations on hiatus. None of the usual hoopla, but my creation had come into the world. We took out the Clorox wipes, cleaned the cover, let it dry then reverently, opened to the first page.

My book was officially “born.”

“Journey with this quintessential Spanish professor as she relates her adventures in bridging her own Northern Minnesota/Wisconsin culture and Latin America. Heart-warming, sometimes somber, always insightful – her perspective of the world is a true delight to read!”~Chip Borkenhagen

Mil gracias for your interest in languages, cultures, and my journey, which includes many of you!  And, thanks for your support of languages and cultures, a key to our local and global future. – Jan Kurtz

Northern Shores – Southern Borders: Revelations of a Bilingual Life is available at Central Lakes College Bookstore.

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