31 August 2008

My Experiences Writing a Book- One Year Later

My Experiences Writing a Book- One Year Later

I was first asked to consider writing a book several years ago by the Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). In 1995, our daughter Rachel had been one of the sickest babies who had ever been treated at our large metropolitan hospital. She had been born 4 months early and had rallied from her deathbed 14 ounces to be finally be discharged 9 months later.

Because I was a clinical psychologist on faculty at the medical school and my wife Susan was a registered nurse, the neonatologist thought that writing a story about what happened to a child once believed born too early to survive would provide information and comfort to those facing similar situations and choices.

As a professor, my time was devoted to teaching, clinical work and writing scientific papers documenting our research on the human brain and conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. I simply was too busy to take on this type of project. However, it was something that Shahnaz had said to me, “You and your wife once dreamed of a perfect biological family and yet you have to remarkable children who should know just how special they are to their parents”. Indeed, Rachel was a child that most thought would never survive and struggled with mild cerebral palsy as well as hearing and vision loss. Amy was born in China, on the other side of the world, not knowing how much a family in Florida wanted to bring her home.

I set aside several months and worked on a manuscript, talking with my wife, pouring over documents and reading notes that I had written to myself over the years. When I had completed the first several chapters, I showed it to a friend and colleague in the medical school who had a small publishing company. With his encouragement and the support of my wife Susan, a book took shape.

When the book For the Love of Rachel: A Father’s Story was officially released in September of 2007, there was considerable interest on the medical campus where I worked. I had over 85 scientific articles
and book chapters, but people were curious about the more intimate side of our lives. People started purchasing the book from the Publisher’s website, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. My first reading drew a standing room crowd of 100-120 people at Books & Books where I did my first reading and all of the copies in the store were sold out. There was also the unexpected honor of winning Reader Views 2007 Inspirational Book of the Year as well as overall 2007 Non-Fiction Book of the Years.

As the book gained increasing popularity, I was invited to many book signing parties and gave talks at fundraising events for the March of Dimes and United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida. What was even more wonderful, was the many e-mails and letters that I received from people who could relate to a number of aspects of the book whether it was the courtship of my beautiful wife Susan, the heroic struggles of an infant that could fit in the palm of ones hand, how a young couple dealt with infertility, prematurity and tests of faith, the challenges of special needs or the fantastic voyage to China to adopt a child. What I learned from this correspondence was the silent heroism evidenced each day by parents with and without special needs children, their struggles to navigate an increasingly difficult healthcare system. Each one of these individuals had a unique story to tell…

One year since writing this book, I have become more involved with the March of Dimes and recently became involved as a board member of United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida and support candidates that are cognizant of the struggles of families and our scared obligation to insure a better future for our children. Words matter… however actions matter even more.

For all of you who have dreamed of writing, whether you go with a large or small publishing house or self-publish, your work (fiction or non-fiction) is a unique reflection of your soul. While at times frustrating, writing engenders magic and creativity within us. The experience is liberating and in my case cathartic.

Whether your words are read by millions or whether it touches the hearts of but a few, a book or a written article is a unique expression and gift offered up by you. I highly recommend the experience…

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