A year ago, I knew nothing of Jim Swain, not even his name. Today, my perceptions of life are forever broadened and deepened for meeting and working with him.
That is the beginning and the ending of my story in what has been the adventure of getting this book to print.
Now, for a bit of the middle …
We met this past spring through a mutual friend, and as an aside, John Ashton and I have been getting each other into all kinds of fun for 20 years or more. He is but one of the many people in my life to whom I am grateful.
Our first meeting: over coffee for Jim and root beer for me, I learned of his story, was presented with binders full of writings and letters and clippings, and was asked the question that remains with me still:
“Is my story any good?”
First and foremost, your story is your story, just as my story is my story. There is no good or bad, right or wrong. It is yours and it is precious.
To want to share your story is often more about you than about the story. It takes courage, determination, and trust … for it takes a community to share a story. There is the author, the people in the story, the people who give the author space and support to work on the story and when I say space, I mean the time, the quiet, the hours and days and months that it can take from first draft to final product. It takes an openness by the author to let another person … or people … make suggestions, edits, and observations. It takes a whole lot of work and more strength inside than you can imagine.
And it was in that meeting, as I sipped my root beer, that I knew there was nothing Jim couldn’t do when he put his mind to it.
And thank goodness for us all that he did.
Reading though his binders and assembling his manuscript, I was drawn not only into his story, but mine. I knew of the places to which he referred in his dark times. If I had met Jim then, what would I have seen? Not much … I would have not doubt crossed the street to get away from him. I would have been afraid, or dismissive, perhaps mildly sympathetic but fully detached. And I would have moved on with my day and my life unaware.
As his story took shape on paper, however, I was drawn in through his eyes. I walked in worlds of which I had only heard. Yet I found that below the physical layers that separated us – the year he was born, the circumstances of his life – we shared the same determination, optimism, and fears.
One morning as I prepared one of the final drafts for Jim’s review, I spread the printed pages on my table and asked my mother to help assemble them in a binder. When I returned, I found her immersed in Page 44 – she had been reading each page as she filled the binder and was drawn deeper in the story with every word. By the time I found her, she was moved by the story and nearly in tears. She felt like one of the children in that high school class, watching Jim be humiliated, feeling heartbroken and utterly powerless to stop it. I quickly showed her the ending, and she lit up. Good for him, she said, I’m so glad. And until those pages appeared on my table she had never heard of him but instantly, she felt joy at his success.
That is the beauty and the power of a book. It is there for me, for each of us, to read and reread to learn of one man’s story, and to learn more of ours.
Each of the books we have published has been a window to another world that draws us more deeply into our own. The series that I have written is another little boy who has spent years telling me his story, and only recently could I own that the story was mine as well. Authors Mary Sheehan and Alex MacInnis also shared their stories through the wonder of a child’s eyes and the challenges that shaped them into the people they are today.
I am proud as a publisher to be part of Jim’s journey. More importantly, I am proud as a person to have learned from his story.
Congratulations, Jim. What you have done here is awesome.
Jennifer Hatt is author of the Finding Maria series and partner in publishing company Marechal Media Inc.
To see more of Jim’s book and purchase on line, click here.