A couple of years ago, an idea came into my mind about what I could write about. The idea was born out of this blog that I have been plugging away at for nearly four years. My initial thought was, "Why don't I compile my blog posts, maybe clean them up a little bit, and publish an anthology of my blog posts?" I quickly dismissed the idea because if somebody can just go to www.andersonedtech.net, why would they bother to buy a copy of a book when they could get everything for free? I decided that any idea that I would have needed to be an original idea. So the idea of writing anything for publication was put on the back burner for the time being.
Fast forward to the fall of 2017. I helped put together the Silver State Technology Conference with my CUE-Nevada colleagues (an incredible group of educators and leaders, I am a lucky man to be able to get to work with them on a regular basis). At this conference, a gentleman by the name of Dr. Randall Sampson was there. Over the course of the two days of the conference, we learned a lot about each other, including how we had both played college football for the same head coach, Doug Sams, just at different times and at different universities (Randall played at Fairmont State in West Virginia while I played at Northern Michigan University). I also had the opportunity to pick his brain about the writing and publication process of his book, Welcome to the Grind! How Educators Achieve Exponential Results. During our conversations, I mentioned to him how I wanted to write a book, but how I had moved on from my original idea and was working on another idea that was more of a memoir of my experiences in education. Randall told me to keep in touch and to share my ideas with him and that he would do whatever he could to assist me in the process in the future.
I had set one of my goals for 2017 as writing a book. It didn't happen. I set that goal again for 2018, and again, it didn't happen. It wasn't that I didn't want to, obviously, but finding the time to do it was tough, not to mention some career and personal issues that I was experiencing throughout that time and a move from Las Vegas to Reno. This year when I thought about my goals, I decided that 2019 was probably not going to be the time to write a book either, so I didn't even address it. I figured that once I met some other goals and settled into a better routine, I would be able to set aside time to write.
At CUE19 in Palm Springs, I saw Randall yet again, and like always, it was a blast hanging out with him and talking about anything and everything. The subject of my book came up, to which I responded that I had refined my idea and now I just needed to find time to write it. I also saw Sarah Thomas, the founder of Edumatch and their publishing wing, Edumatch Publishing. I mentioned to her that I had been tossing about an idea but still hadn't written anything, but she told me to keep in touch because she liked the idea that I had and that she would love to look into it further once I had refined it and began the writing process.
However, the person that probably had the biggest influence on me at CUE19 regarding writing a book was Brent Coley. Brent had recently published his book, Stories of EDUInfluence. At various points throughout the weekend, I asked him a few questions about his process and the publishing process and got some really great info, but I need to know more. So I contacted Brent via Voxer and asked if we could do a video chat for a few minutes so I could pick his brain about everything. Because Brent is one of the most giving and gracious people on the planet, not only did he agree, but he took over an hour out of a Saturday to answer every question that I had about everything. It was at this point in late March that I decided to get going with my outline and start writing my book.
My first step was to outline the premise of my book and how I wanted to set it up. I turned to my tried and true friend, Google Keep, to get the process going. I created a note that had ideas for my title, a basic outline, themes and potential titles for chapters, and other ideas. Then, I dove in. I opened up a new Google Doc, created a header and footer that simply said, "DRAFT" in big, bold letters, and started typing. I didn't set aside specific times to write, I wrote when I had time and when I had the itch to write. I didn't have a specific thing I wanted to write each time. Sometimes I would write for five minutes, sometimes I would write for an hour. Either way, over the course of about two months, I got about three or four chapters written, or in the case of my document, about 60 pages in a standard 12 point font, double spaced.
Very early on, I realized that my book was going to be a first-person story. However, since I am most likely not that interesting of a person, I knew that it was going to need to be more than an autobiography. There had to be a theme that tied people back to their careers in education, even if I could tell a compelling story. I decided that the theme of my book was going to be a story of times in which I have been a risktaker in my life and the results of those experiences. This wasn't going to be simply a story of my successes, I needed to tell the tough stories as well and deep dive into times where my risks made me fall on my face and look and feel rather foolish. And without giving too much away, there were going to be some stories and risks that were going to be very hard to write about and were going to conjure up some demons and feelings that were hard to cope with at the time and revisiting in order to get them down into words. But I knew that if I was going to write a compelling story that was going to inspire people to become risk-takers themselves, I knew I was going to need to dig deep into the depths of my soul.
In late May, I submitted my idea and what I had for a draft to EduMatch Publishing. I explained my vision for the book, my intended audience of educators, the book's format, etc., and received a response back that the publishing team would review my proposal and get back with me soon. A few days later, I got my response: they were interested in my idea, but there were a few things that I needed to address in my draft before they would make a decision. A few edits and additions, I resubmitted my draft and "forgot about it", finishing off my school year, getting into the groove of the first few weeks of summer vacation, and pecking away at the draft a little bit more when I made time to write. I figured the best thing to do was not to worry about any decision on my draft but to try to avoid thinking about it and hope for the best.
Just after the 4th of July, I received a message from the publisher's panel that was reviewing my proposal. After careful consideration, the team decided that they liked my idea enough to offer me a publishing contract! To say that I was stunned and ecstatic is an understatement. But what it also did was give me some motivation to finish my draft. I likened the contract offer to the finish line of a race. If you go out for a run with no set goal or distance in mind, you may not have the motivation to try very hard to achieve a personal distance or speed record. However, with a set distance in mind, such as a half marathon (a distance that I have personally run on a few occasions), it gives you something to shoot for and the motivation to strive for personal bests. The book contract was my finish line. Now I had reason to set aside time to write on a regular basis, not just "when I felt like it" or "when an idea came into my head."
Over the course of the next week and a half, I made time every day to write. Sometimes it was early in the morning. Sometimes, it was afternoon. Sometimes, it was into the night hours. Or in one case, it was ALL NIGHT! One Saturday evening, I was struggling to fall asleep, so I got out of bed around 10:30 and got behind my keyboard with the intention of writing for a bit, hopefully, to tire myself out and get back to bed. The next thing I knew, it was about 4:30 AM! Knowing I had somewhere to be at 8:30, four hours later, I put on some coffee and went for a quick walk, determined to write for the next few hours since sleep at that juncture was going to be almost pointless. It was during this writing session that I wrote the most difficult chapter of the book. It makes me wonder how that chapter would have turned out had I written it at another time or had broken up the writing into several sessions instead of the marathon all-night session in which it was written.
As of this writing, I do not have a release date for the book. It has made it through its first round of edits and it is currently in the focus group state where a handful of people have read through the draft and will provide feedback on what they like, what they believe can be improved, and what really stood out to them in the draft. From here, I'll make a few more edits before it moves on to the official editor. In the meantime, other details are getting attention, such as cover design, my bio for the back cover, design of the script, and other items that one typically doesn't give too much thought to when looking at a book.
What I will reveal is that my working title for the book is To The Edge: Successes & Failures Through Risk-Taking. My goal is that those that read my book will analyze my life story and glean inspiration to take risks that perhaps they wouldn't have taken before. If I can inspire one person to try something crazy, then my words have done their job. So in the coming weeks and months, watch for my story to be released through Edumatch Publishing. Following my social media feeds (@AndersonEdTech on Twitter, @andersonedtech on Instagram, and my book Instagram, @totheedgeedu, plus #ToTheEdgeEDU) will be the best way to stay up to date on the book's progress. I cannot wait to share this story with you!
Until next time...