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The Adventure of Writing a Memoir – When All Balls Drop

When you see the word ‘adventure,’ you probably think of action, travel, and the outdoors. You don’t naturally think of writing. However, I beg to defer. 

I define adventure as something new, challenging, and perhaps frightening. In almost all cases, it’s all consuming. Deciding to do it and then executing it despite the fear is what makes it an adventure. And, writing a memoir has been an adventure to say the least.

My debut memoir, When All Balls Drop, started as journal entries. I know it doesn’t sound that adventurous, but it was my way of navigating all that occurred after a life-altering tree accident in New York’s Hudson River Valley. I broke my neck in that accident. Also, I discovered that my husband had been living a double life. And, if the one-two sucker punch wasn’t enough, I lost my high-powered career in the travel industry. In the fall of 2009, I lost everything that I held dear.

Through losing everything, I turned to writing a journal. The entries were therapeutic for me. At the time, I didn’t know that I would later transform those pages into a memoir.  In fact, nearly a year and a half after my accident, Heidi_Siefkas_at_top_of_the_world_Torres_del_Paine_Patagoniathe seed for When All Balls Drop was planted on a hike through Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile (shown right). Phase One of the Adventure: I accepted the challenge.

Then severe procrastination set in. A total of three years passed with no progress on the book while I explored Alaska, Hawaii, and Cuba. However, while in living Kauai in 2013,  I finally said, “I need to shit OR get off the pot.” I resolved to complete my book and release it to coincide with the fifth anniversary (9/27/14) of the very accident that sparked my life-change. I finally took action. For the first month, I did Phase Two of the Adventure: research. I reread my handwritten journal entries and selected a publisher.

All of February and March, I was in Phase Three of the Adventure: writing. In little over two months, I produced my first draft, writing at least two vignettes a day. Without the buffers of sedatives, painkillers, and therapists, it was utterly painful reliving my experience. I had no idea that it would throw me into an almost Cybil like response to my ex’s betrayal or the sheer fear I had about my recovery. Those that have written a book before or live with a writer who has know that this is accurate. For those that haven’t experienced it, you will walk closer to insanity’s ledge than ever before while writing, needing to get away. It was wise that I had an impending deadline of a month long work trip to New Zealand and Australia, which gave me reason to turn in my first draft and separate myself from my book.

Upon my return, I was thrust into Phase Four of the Adventure: feedback. The first round of feedback was humbling to say the least. I needed everything: more color, description, dialogue, and humor. Yikes, it seemed as if I had to write a whole other book. As if I didn’t have enough work ahead of me, then a family emergency called.

Back in South Florida was Phase Five of the Adventure: rewrite and submit second draft. I was at the bedside of my father who as a result of heart surgery had suffered mild stroke. As I sat in the ICU, feelings of my own hospital experience were rekindled.  Once again in a hospital, this time not the patient, I polished my first vignettes adding sounds and vivid description of the surroundings that were blurred from my personal experience. When my father progressed with his homecoming and continued rehabilitation out of the hospital, I revisited portions of my bittersweet return home.  After turning in my second draft with more humor, color, and dialogue, my luck turned. The feedback was positive.

One month prior to my publishing date, I entered the Final Phase: sign on the dotted line. I thought it would be simple, but I immediately panicked.  When the contract came to release my debut memoir to world, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more, I freaked out. Once I sign, this book is going to be real. Am I ready to air my dirty laundry to the world? 

By reading my memoir one last time, I removed myself of any doubt about the book and signed the contract. I knew that the book would inspire others to conquer their health scares, relationship hurdles, and/or whatever else life would serve. That was nearly nine months ago. Since I have received emails and reviews from readers around the world of its inspiration. Plus, the adventure of writing a memoir continues as a screenplay has been written in L.A. for its transition into film.

In 2014, writing and publishing a memoir was something new, challenging, and frightening. It was all consuming. Deciding to do it despite the fear made it my adventure. And, I decided to do it again, not because it was easy, but because I had more story to tell. Since ringing in 2015, I have been going through the same phases with similar trials and adult temper tantrums as the first book. However, I’m proud to say that the sequel is currently in its final phase. With New Eyes will be releAuthor_Heidi_Siefkas_of_When_All_Balls_Dropased this September.

Member post by Heidi Siefkas, an author and adventurer. Although originally from small-town Wisconsin, she calls many places home, including Kauai and South Florida. Heidi is author of When All Balls Drop (Sept 2014) and With New Eyes (Sept 2015). She is currently writing her third book, Cubicle to Cuba, which features a humorous collection of stories about her travels to Cuba, Peru, New Zealand, Italy, and more. Learn more about Heidi and her books at www.heidisiefkas.com.