My Mother's Secret(19)
Author:J. L. Witterick


    Brian Goldstein read the initial draft of the story when it was only about ten pages long and provided me with an enthusiastic response that encouraged me to proceed further.

    From there, I ventured to have Richard Self read it, who told me that he could see exactly what was happening through my words and that the story had an inspirational feel to it like the classic Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Well, that provided me with quite the lift. His fourteen-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, read it and liked it too, so now I had some confidence about the range and reach of the story.

    I was fortunate to then have Jack Gluckman leave me a voice mail saying that he had just read the book and to give him a call immediately. He said, “Honestly, when you asked me to read your book, I thought, okay, I’ll read a few pages to be polite, but you’re not a writer, so how good could it be? You know, I couldn’t put it down and read it all in one go with tears in my eyes when I finished. Thank you for sharing it with me.” It just doesn’t get much better than that.

    He then asked me if it would be all right to pass it on to friends of his who were from the publishing industry. You guessed it; my answer was “Absolutely.”

    One veteran of the industry said it was too short and was not interested in proceeding further. Howard Wells, however, a twenty-year veteran of the industry who is now retired, said to me, “This is authentic and reads like poetry.” For Howard those words are as good as it gets.

    “Not too short?” I asked.

    He said, “Have you read The Little Prince?”

    Okay, that’s about as short a book as you can get, and yes, I have read and loved it! It works on so many levels.

    Howard followed up with, “I read more books in a month than most people read in a year, so trust me when I say I like it.”

    Hey, who wants to argue with that?

    The lesson I have learned is that a positive response cannot only motivate but lead to even greater achievement than initially thought possible. I sharpened my iPad and kept going.

    Elayne Freeman, a librarian with a special interest in Holocaust literature for young adults, read the book in fine detail. Being an expert on both the Holocaust and of that time period, she was able to provide me with specific suggestions to make it more credible. I welcomed every word and proceeded to rewrite.

    Next, I dropped off a copy for Arnold Noyek, who is a creative thinker, a leading educator, and an innovator in global health. He is greatly admired for his vision and his peace initiatives in the Middle East. I couldn’t believe his response. He read it that night and called me right away. I could feel his energy bouncing off the walls.

    Now Arnold has more energy than just about anyone I know, but he says things like, “Jen, this is brilliant and I see great possibilities for this book to promote peace and understanding.”

    He also sends me an e-mail: “This manuscript has great adaptability as a curriculum tool for teaching ethics, values, and the ultimate commitment to living a life where human concerns for engaging in tolerance, kindness, and doing the right thing trumps all.”

    Wow, do these words turn me on or what? Arnold makes me want to make the book even better, and so I pursue more research and fill in details on dates and time lines that give the story more authenticity.

    About now, I remember that Lori Lothian is a law professor and a great editor, so I call and ask if she will have a look. She graciously reads the book not once but multiple times and suggests that I pay attention to providing subtle details that add realism to the story. Her suggestions make the story come together like a well-planned meal where not only is the food pleasing, but the dishes and napkins all match too.

    Every time I think the story has reached its destination and cannot possibly be improved, fate sends me someone to take it one level higher. At times, it feels that there is a greater force at work.

    Lori has two nephews—Owen, twelve, and Branton, fifteen—who read it and love it too. Owen says it’s going to be a New York Times bestseller and then runs out of the car to knock on a tree (wood). This story makes me laugh and endears me to these boys, whom I have met only once.

    By now, I am thinking the book is pretty much finished. Sitting at my desk and reflecting on what a journey it has all been, I see it—a quote that is typed out and sitting upright in a plastic stand that a friend of mine, Tony Hamblin, gave me years ago as a reminder of how I should live my life. It talks about how our biggest regrets are not what we did, but what we did not do. It was so perfect for where I was at that moment, and also what the story is about. That is why I decided to end the story with this quote.

    After the manuscript was completed, I asked some other people to read it. Their responses, touching and inspirational, were humbling. You can see their words at the beginning of the book.

    Finally, the passage from manuscript to book was only possible with the wisdom and advice of a wonderful man . . . Alan Bower, and the team at iUniverse.

    Thank you for letting me share this voyage with you. It was filled with the kindness of so many.

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