This blog was featured on 09/21/2017
What Has to Happen For Me to Write a Book?
Written by
Iris Waichler
September 2017
Written by
Iris Waichler
September 2017

I need to start by saying that I have been a medical social worker for 40 years. That was how I viewed myself. That was my identity. The only writing I did was in hospital medical records. Until one day when I saw the family of my patient outside in the hall crying. I asked them what was wrong. I looked in the room and the medical resident was just taking a preliminary ekg to record his heart rate. They thought he was going to die because the resident had not explained what he was doing. They were too intimidated to ask him what was going on. It struck me at that moment how vulnerable they were. I also realized if they knew what questions to ask their anxiety and fear would be less.

That launched my role as a patient advocate. That was in 1986. I decided education and information can empower people in crisis. I spent about 3 months researching to see if there were any books addressing this. There were none. I was totally ignorant about writing and had no idea how to even find a publisher. One year later I had written Patient Power: How to Have a Say During Your Hospital Stay. The third publisher I contacted gave me a contract. I had no intention of writing another book.

 My daughter was born 17 years ago.  I had struggled with infertility for 3 years before I was lucky enough to have her. I promised myself if I was lucky enough to have a child I would help other people battling infertility in some meaningful way. I counseled people going through infertility but wanted to do more and reach more people. Again I blended my personal experience and professional expertise. My trips to the library to do research revealed that there were not any books that covered the areas I though were significant to focus on. I told my story and interviewed others who had chosen different paths on their infertility journeys. It was full of information and resources for people who wanted to build a family. Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Empower was born through these efforts.

It was tougher to find a publisher in 2005. The publishing world had changed. I mistakenly thought that since I had previously written a book it would be easier the second time around. In addition infertility was a topic that affected 7-10 million people. I got lucky and learned about one of the early Hybrid publishers when I was reading Brainchild Magazine. In the article she said she loved working with stay at home moms."They had important things to say but were not given the respect they deserved" according to her. She wanted their voices heard. I contacted her. She wanted to read my book. I couldn't believe it but she offered me a contract the next day.

One day I got an email from a woman in Shri Lanka. She wrote to thank me for writing my infertility book. She had infertility and was unable to talk to anyone about it. This woman was so isolated. She told me she wept while reading my book because she had felt so alone. My words made her realize she was not. I confess her words made me cry. It helped me understand the power of words. It was important to me to reflect on why I was writing and what ingredients had to be present to move me to write. The list included:

1. I wanted to write to help people in crisis.

2. I needed to write from both personal experience and professional expertise.

3. The social worker in me wanted to offer my readers support, resources, and information that give them the tools they needed to face this crisis and confront challenges that felt overwhelming at the time.

4. I belived that sharing a story in a unique way touching themes my readers could relate to would help them feel less alone.

5. My research had to show me that nothing previously written had said what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it. Unless I could come up with a unique way of telling a story there is no point in writing it. 

I became a freelance writer. This past 17 years I have written hundereds of articles on healthcare related themes for numerous publications. My role as a primary caregiver for my father grew as he aged and he developed medical problems. It became apparent as I spoke with friends and people I met that those of us in the sandwich generation were increasingly called upon to assume this role. It didn't take long to recognize the components were there for me to create another book. This was the most personal and challenging book I had written.

My father and family had to be on board. This was very personal. It was his life story and our family story. My book would be unique because it was in his words and mine. It would be part memoir, part How to/Self Help. He died as I was writing the book. I had to stop for 3 months just to grieve. It was too painful to think about him not being here. He had given me unconditional support. Several publishers told me this was a topic people don't care about. I knew they were wrong. 

I will always be grateful to Brooke Warner and She Writes Press for believing in my book, this topic, and me. It gives me great comfort in knowing his words and mine will continue to help other families and caregivers long after he is gone. 

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    Iris, this is a great post! So glad I got to meet you at Creative Coworking and to learn more about you with this post.