Sharing her story
SheKnows: What prompted you to upload the diaper-changing video to CNN?
Sarah: I saw that they were asking for stories from families dealing with disabilities, and it just struck me as something I needed to do. I can’t really explain it further than that… I just felt like somebody might be encouraged by my story. A producer called the next day, and two days after I uploaded my video, Ethan and I were the top story on CNN.com.
SheKnows: How did your book deal come about?
Sarah: A friend told my mom about a contest being held on Ann Voskamp’s blog. The winner would be awarded a scholarship to a speakers and writers conference in North Carolina later that year, and they both encouraged me to write a blog post to enter into this contest. The conference is called She Speaks. There were over 300 entries, a panel selected the top 10 blog posts, and then one of the 10 was selected using a random number generator. My entry was the winner.
I was selecting which workshops I wanted to attend at the conference, and signed up for a meeting with an agent named Blythe Daniel. I thought these were informal meetings, and I’d always thought about writing a book, so I thought I’d go in, talk about my story, and ask if there was even a market for it, how to proceed, and so on.
About two weeks out from the conference, I started receiving correspondence about this meeting. To my horror, I realized this was a formal appointment. They expected a proposal, sample chapters, and for me to pitch my book. You know, the book that didn’t exist? After debating whether I should just cancel the appointment, I figured I’d just go ahead and go for the sake of experience.
I downloaded Michael Hyatt’s ebook on writing book proposals, followed it to the letter and wrote two sample chapters — all in two weeks. I presented all this to the agent, who signed me a couple months later, and less than a year later I had the pleasure (anxiety?) of choosing between the two wonderful publishing houses to make me an offer. In the end, I chose Abingdon Press. I am finishing my book now, and it is scheduled to release in hardback September of 2013.
SheKnows: How integral has your family’s support been while you’ve been penning your book?
Sarah: Well, my family’s faith in me is a tremendous motivator. I haven’t let any of them read the latest version, but they are all excited and are willing to help in any way they can. Adam has definitely sacrificed the most, allowing me to retreat to my office in the afternoons to write, while he gets toddler duty.
I wouldn’t even be here if my mom hadn’t gently nudged me to enter that contest, and both my parents have helped me sort through quite a few of my childhood memories, as well as navigate these new worlds of publishing and self-employment.
My loved ones give me the drive to roll out of bed before 5 almost every day just to get some words down before Ethan’s up around 6. Knowing these people believe in me, in what I’m doing and will do, helps me believe in myself. It’s a confidence I’ve never had. I like it.
What her future holds
SheKnows: What’s next for Sarah?
Sarah: I would like to fill my calendar with more speaking engagements. I usually speak to Christian organizations, but also have done college graduations and high school engagements. I want to do more of it, because, while I love to write and will never stop, there is something more you can communicate eye to eye.
When I go somewhere to present, I often get a little emotional and have to kick my heels off and wipe a tear away with my foot. I think when people see something like that in person or spend time with me after hearing the whole story, it makes disabilities more approachable. It makes people like us less of a “them.” I talk a lot about learning to be vulnerable, and in person, I can communicate that completely differently than in text.
After this book is finished, I’d love to start another. I am a writer, and I want to keep working at it. Writing this book is the most freeing, validating, therapeutic thing I’ve ever done. I’m hooked.
SheKnows: And what advice would you give a mom who feels “I can’t”?
Sarah: I joke that I’m the anti-inspirational speaker… OK, here’s what I’ve learned. In my life, I can say I can’t about a lot of things, and it’s true. We all have limits. We’d love to think that anything’s possible if we try hard enough, but I didn’t find any joy thinking that way. I only ended up feeling like a failure, because I thought all the things I couldn’t do were my fault… because I didn’t try hard enough.
Sometimes a creative solution to a problem would just come to me, but it’s not because I eventually “tried” it into existence. If you say you can’t, you may be right. My question is, do you need to? Is there a way to get around it and still reach your goal? (Usually!) And the ever-difficult, can someone else? We want to be supermoms and do it all, but humans are community creatures. No person should have to face life alone. We are here to help each other, and if you can’t, that’s OK. Give someone else the joy of being a help to you.
I can’t reach stuff on the top shelf at the grocery store. I just can’t. But I can do two other things! I can ask someone for help, or I can use our local grocery store’s online ordering system and skip the asking. There is always a way, even when “you can’t.”