On Thursday Sue received her copy of The Price of Stones audio book. It’s an attractively packaged eight CD set of the unabridged text read by Richard Allen. Needless to say, we ripped off the shrink wrap and started listening.
As Richard read Sue’s personal introduction in that lush voice of his, I looked over to find Sue hunched over her desk. “Is something wrong?” She looked up and I saw tears streaming down her cheeks. Those of you who know Sue know that she does not cry easily.
“It’s just so… wonderful,” she choked.
In that moment I understood. This project was always more than a book to her. She offered to ghost write the story on spec (English is not Jackson’s first language, though he speaks it well, and he is used to writing grants, not books), then used a chunk of our limited savings to travel to Uganda where she met the children who benefit from the school Jackson has built.
From that point there was no turning away. She worked furiously through the first draft and sent it to our agent, who said she would have problems marketing it. It needed a different approach. Devastated, Sue rethought the story, laid it out differently, moving to a more chronological telling of the fore story and relocating some of the flashbacks from Jackson’s youth. Almost a year later, she had version two ready to go.
This time, I was the fly in her ointment, insisting she revise page after page to sharpen the prose and images. If this book was going to sell, it needed to be better than “good”. After some sulking, she diligently revised, often exceeding my recommendations.
She sent off the revision to our agent, who promptly sold it to Viking a week later. The editor (and what a great editor Carolyn Carlson is!) requested some “minor” changes that required Sue cut a chapter from the opening, move another chapter, rewrite a third, and come up with a new ending chapter, all in a month.
Sue did it. All this time, the pressure had been mounting inside her. She had felt responsible to Jackson for years, now she felt also responsible for the book’s success. If she failed here, she was failing not only Jackson and the publisher, but those incredible children.
Hearing her words read back from a CD by a very talented narrator, the dam came crashing down. Sue could finally release. She had done her part. She could honestly say to herself, “Yes, I did what I set out to do.”
I got her a tissue, then hugged her while she dabbed her face and blew her nose. If the book does nothing else, it has granted me this special moment with the woman I love.
Life is good.
P.S. The audio book is also good, though we’ve only heard a few chapters so far. We’re out of Kleenex.