We have some local authors today on the blog who will talk about the memoir, Never Stop Dancing.
For those in the Washington, D.C., area, our memoirists will be at the 11th Annual Takoma Park Book Fair on Dec. 14, 2019. I encourage you to go.
If you can’t make it to the festival, you will have an opportunity to win a copy of the memoir if you live in the United States. But you’ll have to read this guest post and leave a comment by Dec. 19, 2019.
About the book:
Born of a year’s worth of candid interviews, Never Stop Dancing avoids clichéd takeaways about grief and healing to chart a deeper, thornier examination of loss and regret. Robert and John are transformed through their shared experience, too, emerging strengthened and with an abiding male friendship that cuts against the grain of pop-culture trends of quick fixes and easy answers. This memoir-in-conversation provides hard-won reassurances that one can and does go on after loss.
Without further ado, please welcome John and Robert:
Never Stop Dancing: A Memoir is an unusual book, not only in its subject matter but also in how it came to be. The book results from a collection of interviews captured after John’s wife, Amy, was killed in a pedestrian traffic accident April 29, 2010, on a street in Washington, D.C.
By 2010, we had been friends for about eight years and enjoyed deep and wide-ranging conversations over every imaginable subject. And so it was, in July, about two months after Amy’s death, Robert asked John to sit together and talk about, and record, John’s experiences as they unfolded. For John, as he describes it, sitting in conversation seemed a natural part of the grieving process.
We met on eight different occasions over the first year after Amy was killed. As the interviewer, Robert helped steer the conversations, which usually started and grew organically. He would ask John how he was doing or what was on his mind. Other times John wanted to talk about something specific.
Sometimes during the sessions, talking became too difficult, for John, for both of us, and we had to stop. The recorder was turned off, and we would take a break.
Sometimes we cried, other times we laughed. Can you believe that? Yes, sometimes we did laugh together. And that’s okay. We were two close friends talking, and even in something heavy like death and grief, we knew that it was okay to find things to laugh about.
Robert started work on the raw transcripts immediately, in the fall of 2010.
May 2011 is the earliest occurrence of Never Stop Dancing as a possible title in our email exchanges.
In August 2011, Robert sent John the first draft of the book, and its working title was After Amy. In October John wanted to write an Afterword, and he completed that a few days after New Year’s Day, 2012.
Throughout 2012 we revised the book and started sending it out to book agents. Robert had a very short introduction, and the book included some blog posts John had written interspersed; we included some back-and-forth of our conversations from our interview sessions to give it that “interview” feel, too.
During 2013 and 2014, we experienced more changes. John re-married (teaser: the origin story of this marriage is in the book), and the manuscript seemed to be idling. In May 2014, Robert reached out to his book editor, Robyn Russell, for help. It was her suggestion to us to choose to keep Robert entirely out of the book, or entirely in the book. Her vote was definitely in. We talked and decided quickly: Robert needed to be in the book. Robyn also suggested the seasonal divisions. Up to then we had chapter divisions that were a bit unwieldy. We also finally settled on the book title as Never Stop Dancing.
In February 2015, our second book editor took over for Robyn. This was her colleague, Jason Bucholz, who also happens to be a novelist. We worked with him until early 2017.
John and I both worked off of Robyn’s and then Jason’s suggested revisions. John trimmed about 20,000 words from the manuscript, and Robert had to add an entirely new Introduction, all of his introductory pieces for each season, and then more text pieces for our “breaks” during the interview sessions. It was challenging for Robert to go back in time to place himself in those interview sessions and re-live those moments. Every new read became a new trauma. As we worked through the revisions, John expressed similar feelings to the point where he now never again wants to read the first 50 pages.
In 2018, we started querying our lists of agents and publishers. We had some interest, but no takers.
In early 2019, we decided to do it ourselves. Proofreading the text with a professional editor, working with the book designer.
John and I started this project to document his journey through his grief experience and out into new life. At the beginning, we couldn’t know what that life would be. And here we are, these many years later, sharing our story with our readers: John’s story of his grief journey through that first year after losing Amy; Robert’s story of being John’s friend through that time; and the story of us together, two male friends, in deep conversation.
Thank you, John and Robert for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to write about this experience and relive it with each edit.
This post was previously published on savvyverseandwit.com
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