Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Very Special Giveaway

One of the most rewarding things about my years online with my Etsy shops and my blog, has been getting to know other like-minded artists and bloggers who I may or may not ever meet in real life.  One of those bloggers is JenJen Furer of Gotta Love Mom. We both participated in Thursday Sweet Treat, a weekly art submission around a specific subject chosen by Natasha Reilly of Creative Nachos. Although Thursday Sweet Treat has been disbanded, I have maintained friendships with many of the artists I met there.  

Over time, Jen and I corresponded off and on about her desire to write a book about her family's story. (More about the story later.)  As she began writing and it looked like her dream could become a reality, she agonized as to whether she should search out a publisher or self-publish the book.  "I did some research about literary agencies, writing query letters and what the market is like for non-fiction writers. Most of the submission guidelines asked if I have had speaking engagements, etc. I really wanted to approach a literary agent but was scared to do so. I wasn’t prepared for the rejection. The book is a labor of love and for it to be “turned down” – I wasn’t prepared for that."

Her husband encouraged her to self-publish, and apparently an article I sent her as well as her own diligent research into the subject helped her decide to publish it herself.  She asked me at one point if I could help her develop the cover art and I was happy to work with her. (Besides, that gave me the opportunity to read the manuscript before publication. Special!)  She went with CreateSpace, part of the Amazon group of companies.  I asked Jen what advice she would offer to someone who might be thinking of publishing their own book and here's part of what she said:

"If you believe that the best direction for your book is for you to self-publish, you should read more about authors who succeeded and those who failed. When you self-publish, ALL the work is under your control. It can get overwhelming at times. But if you decide to self-publish, I would start determining what self-publishing company to use, start reading the different options available for you to use in getting your book in the eBook format and/or the paperback format. Consider your budget. You can self-publish without spending anything (but you have to work on re-formatting your work, book cover design, etc.)  Creating the book is just one task. Marketing the book – a totally different story!"

So what is this labor of love that Jen pursued so relentlessly and worked so hard to accomplish? 

The book is called Out of Status and it was published last month. 


 It is the story of her family's journey from the Philippines to the United States to fulfill their dreams of a better life. Jen is the third child of six, and the only girl. She has beautifully and descriptively drawn the details of her life as a child in the Philippines, her sometimes humorous experiences as a newly arrived 20-year-old in America, and the painful story of her family's struggles with the immigration experience. After 20 years in America, and endless struggles to obtain legal status in the United States, her parents and brothers were suddenly and insensitively uprooted and deported back to the Philippines. Jen had married an American many years ago and has since become a citizen so she remains in the United States.

 It's hard to believe that this is Jen's first book. Quite frankly, I was blown away by it.  It's even more astounding when you consider that English is her second language. (Or, as her husband and children joke, she speaks badly in two languages and that language is her second language!) Nevertheless, her words are lyrical:

"There are days no matter how we steer to the right, our path leads us left.
And there are days no matter how hard we try to keep stepping forward,
Something just stubbornly pulls us back. And yet one day life surprises us. 
We didn't even have to step on the accelerator. The cruise control had already set the speed.

Every day, I just need to count my blessings; 
Every day, there's a reason to smile;
Every day, I just need to be patient.
Every time I feel like getting angry and upset,
I look outside and know that there is always something to be thankful for.
L'Chaim! (To life!)"

 As I worked with her on the final details of getting her e-book published and read chapter after chapter, I found myself getting worked up about what her family had endured, and anger with my government for not trying to solve the immigration issue in a humane way instead of just kicking the can down the road for political expediency.  I'm well aware that there are very strong feelings on both sides of the immigration issue. I also know that the old saying - before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes - still holds true. When you read Jen's story and don't  feel at least some compassion for what they went through to try and do the right thing, then you have a hard heart indeed. Her family sought what so many of us strived for. We are all immigrants, or children of immigrants, after all.

But whenever I expressed my feelings to Jen, she was quick to remind me that although the book talks about her family's struggles with immigration and deportation, the main message of the book revolves around deep faith, love, family values and aspirations.  Even though the story doesn't end exactly the way Jen and her family would have wished, it does end with a heartwarming and uplifting message of love and perseverance that resonates with me. Jen reaches out to all of us in her book's dedication:
 
"To those who have taken risks,
Who have endured the consequences,
Who have celebrated the victories of their choices,
Who are uncertain of what lies ahead,
Who persevere through the trials that life throws our way,
Who believe in kindness and virtue,
 I dedicate this book to us."

It's a heartbreakingly beautiful story.  I was very touched to receive my autographed copy from JenJen and to be mentioned in the acknowledgements.  Oh, about that cover art? Turns out Jen handled that as well - the cover sunrise photo is one of her own; I just helped with some of the technical details. 

I don't think Jen was prepared for the reaction she has received since the book was published - more than decent sales, incredibly positive reviews, requests for interviews, and some possible affiliations with non-profit, humanitarian, and academic groups.  She has been caught up in a breathless whirlwind for the last two months!

I only talk about wanting to write a book.  My friend Jen actually did it - and did it very well indeed!

To read more about Jen: www.amazon.com/author/jenfurer 

Here's where you can buy the Amazon paperback, the Kindle version, or the Barnes and Noble Nook version.
 
 Finally, did I mention "giveaway" up above?  Well, yes, I did!  Jen has very graciously offered a paperback copy of the book - AUTOGRAPHED, NO LESS - to one of my readers!  All you need to do is comment and let me know if you have signed up to follow Jen's blog and/or her Facebook page.  I'll use random number generator to pick the lucky person next week:

After 12 noon EDT, Thursday, April 5

12 comments:

  1. Following Jen's blog GFC Susan D & liked on facebook susand crochetaddict
    susand1408 at googlemail dot com
    (hope it's ok I come from england, uk as it doesn't say if it's international)

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  3. Sounds like a great memoir -- and if Felicia says it's good, it's good. I'll forward the link to friends and family. Good luck with it! Best, Larry

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  4. Sounds like an interesting book. I am always impressed when people have the courage to tell their stories.

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  5. liked on facebook
    gkuroda(at)gmail.com

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  6. I've "liked" her facebook page...sounds like an incredible story!

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  7. Stephanie G SciglianoApril 2, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Kudos to her for getting her first book published! It really sounds like a great read, and I appreciate you giving us the backstory and so many details.

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  8. Stephanie G SciglianoApril 2, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Kudos to her for getting her first book published! It really sounds like a great read, and I appreciate you giving us the backstory and so many details.

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  9. This book looks so interesting!! Memoirs are a personal favorite of mine.

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  10. This sounds like a fascinating story and, from your description of the book, Felicia, I already have a lot of questions! Yes, this is a controversial topic. I'd love to know more. I will go and do the blog and Facebook things as soon as I can... I have a lousy internet connection where I am right now...

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  11. I'm a fan!! Huge fan so I liked it on FB and everywhere else and I'm throwing my hat inthe ring YAY!!!!

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  12. follow her on fb as Robin Scott
    thanks for the giveaway; looks like a great book
    robinlscott4 at hotmail dot com

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