This is Samantha Bolen in her bookstore in Victoria British Columbia. Bolen Books is a Victoria tradition.
My neurons have snapped for days. A cognitive and creative problem, an identity challenge, began last week when I met the owner of my favourite place to be in commercial Victoria, a bookstore named Bolen Books. Samantha Bolen had agreed to help me get started in my published writer’s life and I was excited to get her tips on how to put my best foot forward. I was all ears. After all, no one knows books like Samantha does. She’s been selling them and buying them since she was 11 years old and Bolen Books is one of the best indie bookstores in the country.
I passed her my printer's proof, bursting with pride about its look and feel. The cover is illustrated perfectly by my artist daughter Fiona, My story of caregiving is just the right length and has a font just the right size for a myopic boomer like me to read it without squinting. Samantha turned the book over thoughtfully and then startled me with her question, “how important is being a twin?”
I was frozen, not knowing how to respond. After all, Judi is one of the top five relationships in my life. We are clones. We were the twin team in this book. Sure, I held the pen. But there was no page that did not have her stamp somehow. My twin important? She’s very important.
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s your subtitle. Twin Daughters’ Caregiving Journey to the Edge of life.” She studied the author picture of the two of us gazing knowingly at each other, and smiled. She said that talking about twins would not do what I wanted it to do, not do the job of a subtitle, to convert browsers to buyers in the few seconds they take to decide if my story is their story too. Sure, there are twins everywhere. Samantha got that part. And the twin theme enriches the story of course. But there are just not enough readers interested in the twins angle to make the book title snag them. “You are narrowing your reader market if you lead with twins. I suggest you change the title.”
At first I was convinced that I must never do this. Judi is too important in my life and to this story. In fact, without her, there was no story, Still…Samantha’s thoughts nagged too. I had to listen to her expert advice. So by the time I was home, I knew that I would change the subtitle after all. But to what? And how would I decide? Then I had a brainwave. Why not ask my Facebook friends? I set out a post on my timeline and asked for their opinion. Which subtitle would get their vote?
Spoiler alert. The new title is: The Dwindling: A Daughter’s Caregiving Journey to the Edge of Life. Here’s how I got to that.
Only two people said to keep the title with the twins in it. One admitted her bias. “I’m a twin,” she said. Then there were nine others who were convinced it was a boomer book and said the title should say so. A whole lot of my friends refused to be confined to my options. Their theme was, “A Caregiving Journey to the Edge of Life.” They insisted it would be so much more inclusive to all different kinds of caregivers there are out there. I was almost persuaded. But there was a problem.
This is a book about unpaid family caregivers, not the ones who take home a pay check for their effort. There on Fiona’s cover were Judi and Janet, dressed the same red shirts as we loved to do all our lives as twins, looking at our dwindling parents, and clutching each other’s hand. Would some browsers think that we were the cleaners or the care aides at Acme Nursing Home in our red scrubs? Scratch that otherwise perfect idea.
Twenty two of my friends were sure that the daughter identity needed to be in the title. “It depends on your point of view,” my writer friend advised. “Are you writing as a daughter? If so, it is a no brainer.” She added that boomers are so full of themselves anyway that I didn’t need to add to that. And a young friend who just celebrated her 25th birthday on Facebook couldn’t agree more to kick the boomers out. That would cut her out of the caregiver tribe just by being a millennial. “And I expect to be caregiving for my mom eventually,” she added.
So there it is. Of course I’m a twin. And there’s no doubt I’m a boomer. But I lived the decade as a daughter and picked up my pen to write in that voice. So daughter it is.
I’ve not thought before of turning to my social media for help. But I’m glad I did. My Facebook friends are a pretty amazing bunch. And I hope many of them will be my readers too. They’ll know they had a part in the book.
The Dwindling: A Daughter’s Caregiving Journey to the Edge of Life is being released before the end of April. I can’t wait to start taking it to my readers and starting conversations about what quality looks like in end of life care. Caregivers sure know! And that’s a topic that concerns us all.
PS. Thanks, Samantha Bolen!
it's about the journey
Caregiving was my first and finest journey. Writing this book about it was the next. It lends support to other caregivers who say, "that happened to me too." I'm on another journey now, advocating for caregiving and an activist to bring on better ways of thriving as we age. It's all brought me purpose and meaning, Come along and get some of that too! I'd love to share your stories. Boldly speaking out about our experiences makes us all part of the change we want to see. So
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