Last year, I was very excited to hear that my memoir, It Rains In February, was a finalist in the 2014 Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards in Category 6: Adults Non-fiction! This means that it made it into the top 15 of all the book entries in its category. It has taken me quite some time to get around to adding the award seal to my book cover, but it is finally done.
Here is the feedback I received from the book award readers:
Title: It Rains In February
Author: Leila Summers
Star Rating: 5 stars
Number of Readers: 31
Writing Style 9/10
‘I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing is excellent and it covers the difficult time during and after a partner’s death. Although I often felt she should be much tougher with her husband, it was still an insightful read. I’d recommend it to anybody who had lost a loved one.’ Female reader, aged 54
‘I think anybody who can write about such terrible events must have great courage.’ Male reader, aged 52
‘I liked the unusual setting very much the author described it well. But that is secondary to the journey she and her family went on as she dealt with her husband’s sickness and death. Well written and thought provoking.’ Female reader, aged 61
‘A frustrating book to read as I wanted the characters to act differently than they did. But this is a memoir and this is the way it happened. I enjoyed it.’ Female reader, aged 48
Of the 31 readers:
25 thought the cover was good or excellent.
27 would read another book by this author.
9 thought the setting was the best part of the book.
22 thought the honesty of the author was the best part.
‘An insightful and powerfully written memoir. Highly recommended.’ The Wishing Shelf Awards
I recently returned from a wonderful writing retreat at a retreat center about two hours from where I live. I had been told that it was beautiful, but I did not know how magical the place really was until I got there. It consists of several cottages scattered around one large property, surrounded by majestic gardens filled with flowers, little statues, a labyrinth and several meditation spaces. I ate breakfast and dinner at the restaurant every day and the rest of the time, I wrote on the little veranda of my cottage. When I needed a break, I would take a walk around the gardens and explore. After almost a whole year of not finding or making the time to write, I reveled in the space and beauty and by the end of the week, I had a first rough draft of my second memoir.
I arrived back home to my electricity having been cut off as my rental house owner had neglected to pay the bill for several months, even though I had been paying him my share regularly. Thankfully this was sorted out by my dear mother who had been staying in the house with the girls while I was away.
On Sunday morning, I decided to stay in bed and recreate my writing retreat in my own home. My garden is gorgeous too, I love my house and there is no real reason why I can’t make my life as beautiful at home as it was on my retreat. Of course there is the housework and the cooking and the homeschooling and my work, but I have decided to carve out a little piece of each day to continue my writing. I will try to get into the habit of doing this in bed every morning for at least an hour before getting up to start my day. That way there will be no distractions.
During my writing retreat, I also had some major personal realizations which I’ve added into my book and I now look forward to seeing the happy ending unfold. I also hope to go back to the beautiful country retreat early next year to get another chunk of writing done.
I woke up on the first day of the year and decided to start out as I aim to continue. I remembered (as hung over as I may or may not have been) to smile at myself and say, “Good morning beautiful! Today is a wonderful day.” This has become subconsciously habitual for me, put into place with only a couple of weeks of conscious practice.
I then had my usual cup of coffee in bed brought to me by my lovely daughter, and instead of jumping up and running into my day as has become my pattern over the last few months, I reverted to my previous and more peaceful morning routine. I stared out of my French doors at the hundreds of tiny yellow dandelions scattered across the grass, I watched the red feathered blooms of the bottle brush tree dance in the wind, I looked to see if the lemon trees had started bearing fruit, and I became mesmorized by the patterns that the clouds paint on the sky. I read a little bit from one of the non-fiction books next to my bed, and then I began to write. Writing in bed in the morning, before the hussle and bussle of the day, has always worked for me. Whether it is a blog post, an article, a new workshop, a piece for my next book or simply a journal entry; writing just flows in my quiet contemplative morning time. I love to write in between pauses of beautiful scenery outside my bedroom door, sips of outstanding coffee made in my new coffee machine, the gentle sounds of birds, and the comforting weight of my animal friends snuggled in and around my legs.
All this, I miss when I long-jump into my day, not to mention the pearls of wisdom that arrive in the quite reflective time. This is how I always started my days in the country, until a few months ago, when life seemed to get too busy to just sit around in bed all morning. How much I missed by giving up this precious time and what a wonderful reminder to never give it up again. It only takes an hour or so. I have designed my life so that there are only two mornings a week that I have early commitments – meditation class and intuitive art class – and I am happy to give up my morning ritual on these days. But not on the other mornings. There is nothing so important as to miss out on my ‘me’ time.
And so, dear friends, you may just see me around on this blog a little more often. I love to write down my thoughts, but because I have been writing my second book (albeit very slowly), I have not wanted to duplicate by writing on this blog. In the meantime, I have missed all of you and stopped doing something that I love. So here I am again!
I plan on having a wonderful, magic, beautiful, abundant and joyous year. And I wish the same for each and every one of you.
Grace Peterson, friend and author of REACHING–A Memoir, invited me to participate in this blog hop and answer four questions about my writing process. I haven’t blogged anything in quite some time and so I am grateful for this opportunity. I invite you to visit Grace’s blog and check out her memoir on Amazon. What a fascinating story she has to tell!
1. What am I working on?
My one goal this year is to work on my second memoir, a follow on from my first book, and the story of my journey from grief to grace. I can’t tell you much more about it at this time as the book is still a work in progress, much like myself. I find that writing is similar to sculpture, or any other art form. You begin with a blank page, an open canvas or a block of wood, and as you continue, even the artist herself is amazed at what emerges from the bareness. It will certainly be a lighter read than my first book, It Rains In February, which covers the story of my husband’s suicide.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
No story in and of itself is unique. Yet there is only one person who can tell a particular story, their story, in their own voice, and that is what makes each work unique.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I am a storyteller by nature and telling real-life stories is a part of my life. A friend once laughed as she remarked on how I could formulate a simple trip to the grocery store into an interesting story. My writing journey began by journaling my way through pain and grief, which ultimately transformed into my first published book. Writing is a voyage of self-discovery for me and I wonder now how I ever managed without it. Writing has become my form of healing. I write to try and make sense of the inexplicable. I write to put my memories on paper, for my children. I try to do what every writer aspires to, and that is to evoke strong emotions within a reader. I write from the heart and share my stories in the hope that it will not only bring me clarity, but may also provide entertainment, insight and inspiration to others. I write to give hope in a world where there often isn’t any. Stories connect us all and give us a reason to believe that the impossible can be possible.
4. How does my writing process work?
Stories swim around my head all day, every day. Unfortunately, not all of them make their way onto paper. In one moment to the next, a whole story can disappear as my thoughts stray to the shopping list or some other task that requires my attention. I try to make it a priority to scribble down even just one snippet of a thought, in the hope that the memory will return to me later when I have time to sit down and concentrate. I do not write in consecutive order or linear time. I write what comes into my mind or heart. A feeling, a smell, a reminder, a look from a stranger, a dream, or a song on the radio that stirs up a memory.
Books, however, do not write themselves and it is vital to set aside regular dedicated writing slots where there are no other distractions. For me, this happens at night time after the rest of the world has settled down. This is not necessarily the time when inspiration flows, so I’ll often use this opportunity to look at my random notes and attempt to continue the thought process. It also helps me to have some goals in place. This year I have committed to write something every day, even if it is only one sentence. And I have a goal to finish my current book by the end of this year. I have discovered a nifty writing tool, Scrivener, which I am using to create my new book.
* * *
Leila Summers is a storyteller, writer and personal coach with a love for all things creative and human. She lives in South Africa with her two daughters and animal friends. Leila published her first book, It Rains in February: A Wife’s Memoir of Love and Loss, in 2011 and is currently working on her second memoir.
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What readers are saying…
"I just finished your book and loved it. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was beautifully written and was difficult for me to put down!" ~ Kimmie
"Your book was beautiful! My heart ached with you all the way! I cried so much that my head hearts! Lol. Thank you for sharing your journey....you are a beautiful soul. Love to you and your girls." ~ Jannette
"Your book struck a personal cord with me. Thank you for making me see I am not the only one. Best wishes to you and your girls." ~ Tabitha
"Brilliant writing. Heart rending subject. Emotions expressed superbly. Too sad! Loved your descriptions; 'rain falling like sheets of glass...', 'syllables dropping at my feet.....' and many, many more. Five stars!" ~ June
“I didn't want your book to come to an end; yet, I did, as I knew it would be a new beginning for you. Your words, no matter what pain may lie behind them, are so beautifully strung together. I can't thank you enough for pushing yourself to write your story, very REMARKABLE story, for so many to love and learn from.” ~ Allison
“Your book has every emotion possible. The love you have for Stuart is unconditional and not found often. I admire your strength as a women wife and mother. God bless you and your girls each day. Thanks for sharing your story!” ~ Bridgette
“Just read your book, couldn't put it down. God bless you and your girls and for loving Stuart the way you did. I truly believe he is at peace. My best wishes to you all... you have touched a piece of my heart xx” ~ Lydia
"Have just finished your very moving and beautifully written memoir. I wish you and your daughters much happiness for the future. Thanks to you your girls will have good memories of their beloved father together with an understanding of his battle with depression." ~ Nicola
"You are a very brave and compassionate woman and I'm so glad you told your story. It has also helped me on my healing journey and it will help so many others too. Thank you so much for sharing and for your beautiful writing. I will be recommending it to many people and hope to read more of your writing in the future." ~ Kae
"AMAZING BOOK! I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN! Thank you for sharing your deepest self and your incredible journey. You are a true inspiration. I will tell everybody I know what a MUST read this book. You are a gifted writer, and I look forward to your next book." ~ Maryanne
"I just finished your incredible book! THANK YOU FOR sharing your pain. The story is incredible a true example of unconditional love." ~ Myra
"I took a whim and downloaded your book on my kindle. I had no idea what it was about or who you were. And let me tell you, i am so glad that i did. this was one of the most moving, loving, heartbreaking and amazing books i have ever read. I couldn't stop reading it and refused to do so until it was finished. What a moving story, and thank you for sharing it." ~ Beth