When an email with an attachment popped up on my computer screen, I snapped to attention. The message was from a New York book agent. I’d queried the woman about my memoir Getting Lost to Find Home two years ago. Having heard nothing, I’d written her off. Yet, the email’s subject line read, “contract attached.” Like a dog gazing up at a picnic table, I salivated. Was this agent making me an off I couldn’t refuse?
My index finger hovered above the attachment while my mind raced. Should I scrap my plans to self-publish? Was that wise? And was my attorney available to read the contract?
After a moment’s pause, I dialed a set of numbers, but they weren’t my lawyer’s. The computer guy answered. I asked him if the attachment was a scam.
He didn’t keep me in suspense. “Open that puppy, and I’ll spend hours cleaning up the mess. The address has been hacked.” Sadder and wiser, I deleted the email before my computer guy could hang up.
In the “good old days,” when the mail arrived by stagecoach, the cost of sending a letter was exorbitant and the inability to hack into someone’s communication was nonexistent. The system may have been inconvenient but the mail was seldom tampered with unless the carriage was hauling gold. Further back in history, cuneiform tablets offered an additional benefit. Given the time it took to stamp a nasty message into the wet clay, a person could repent and make a pot instead.
But back to my point. Convinced no agent wanted my book, my thoughts returned to the question of how to promote it. With or without an agent, all writers face the same challenge. Genius doesn’t get noticed unless there’s chatter. And, there’s no chatter unless the author dances naked in Times Square. And, maybe not even then.
The usual route to fame is to plead for book reviews, readings, television appearances, and guest shots on podcasts or YouTube. An alternative might be to hire trained squirrels to dance the can-can around the book’s cover on TikTok. Famous or known only to their mothers, writers climb the same rocky slope.
Though my memoir isn’t set to publish until November, my begging has begun. Like confetti, I’m offering advance reader copies (ARCs) to anyone in the writing world. A word to neophytes. Never send an arc without receiving permission. Otherwise, your book will end up unread in a landfill. On the other hand, if you get the nod and the reviewer likes your work, don’t be shy. Flaunt it!
That’s what I’m doing here. New York Times best-selling crime writer Rebecca Morris agreed to read my book and, though she is busy writing her own, she’s penned a full review. That makes her more than a generous person. It makes her a saint. Below are her remarks which I share with a grateful heart.
Review for Getting Lost to Find Home By Rebecca Morris
After Elizabeth Gilbert published Eat, Pray, Love (2007), and Cheryl Strayed wrote Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (2012) hundreds, maybe thousands of women wrote memoirs about finding themselves. They went to Antarctica, the Alaskan wild, and around the world to do it, the more remote the better.
A book that should be shelved with the best of them is Getting Lost to Find Home, by Caroline Miller. It is more poignant because it takes place in the 1960s English Midlands, with its post-war hardships, and Africa, where British rule is waning.
Miller, just out of college, is pursuing a British fiancé who finds numerous ways to stall marriage. While she waits, she teaches students in Englands (unable to understand their dialects) and in segregated Rhodesia, where her students catch insects in the air and eat them. At each teaching post, there is either no heat or too much heat.
Her experiences with her students, fellow teachers, and members of the many tribes she meets are told with a companionable self-deprecation.
Miller grew up to be the first Hispanic woman elected to office in Portland, Oregon, a strong advocate for citizen involvement in government and health care, and a prolific author and playwright.
The better-known memoirs stop in middle age. Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed became best-selling authors and their books were filmed. The poignancy of Getting Lost to Find Home is the coming-of-age story is told in the present tense by the author, now an elderly woman. Never married and with no children, she is the odd resident in her retirement center. She feels more like a stranger in a strange land than she ever did traveling. But, oh, the stories she can tell!