"I figure when some people hate you, you’re doing something right."
— Steph Curry, SF Warrior MVP
Self-publishing my book was much tougher than writing it, and getting it out there for people to see that it exists – plugging it – has been a real learning experience.
The first thing I learned is that not everybody I write about likes to be written about. They may see the past differently, or don’t want to be reminded of those times. My own wife tells me not to write about her...oops, sorry sweetheart.
My ex-wife said I made her seem like a slut. I should tell her to mellow out, those were the Sixties, the era of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. I mean, I was just trying to tell my story of why I left Milwaukee and headed to California. She has also said, more than once, “You’re welcome.”
Then there’s an old friend who became a raving drunk and told me the story of how AA saved his life. I wrote it, and when he read it he said, “What happens in AA stays in AA.” That’s the last email I got from him.
In fact, I read the piece at my local writers group and one member was on his side, saying that she was also an alcoholic, but thanks to AA she has been sober for twenty-three years. I felt like saying, “Bummer,” but I think my response was something like, “I don’t really care about AA’s philosophy.”
She got up and stormed out, causing her husband, who was sitting next to me to say, “Oh-oh, I think she’s pissed.” I apologized to her later, but I didn’t mean it.
Oh sure, I also got compliments, but as much as I love praise and appreciate those who did read it and tell me they liked it, the negatives seem to bother me more than they should. Maybe that’s one reason I’m writing this?
Another friend from the good old days was disappointed because I didn’t seek redemption like my old raving drunk friend did through AA. She was referring to how I treated the mother of my children by shooting and eating one of her puppies. Did I really do that? I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out.
The one that hurt the most was when my oldest sister said she was “extremely upset” that I wrote about her family. I felt like saying, “Well, I’m extremely upset that you’re extremely upset!” But I apologized, and haven’t heard from her or any of her family members since.
I should point out that I’ve always been the Black Sheep of the family, and to admit in my memoir to drug use and what a bad boy I was back in the day was bound to have repercussions. Maybe I should have written about myself in the third person and called it a novel?
I also learned not to ask anyone if they’ve read the book. If they haven’t they feel backed into a corner, giving me some lame excuse, but if they’ve read it and liked it they will usually tell me without my asking. I learned that no response is better than a negative one.
Another surprise was when two old friends I offered my book to didn’t want it. They both had a similar response, looking at it and saying, “I don’t really read,” and handing it back to me. It seemed like an honest response, but it really surprised me, and I felt like saying, “Dude, you can’t be serious!”
Probably one of the toughest to take was when a member of my Hawaii Writers Guild wrote on a piece I shared with the group in one of our weekly reads, “This may sound harsh, but what makes you think that everything you write is interesting.”
Ouch! This actually made me face up to the fact that maybe I’m a boring guy after all? My wife would probably agree with that, but she’s biased because she knows me so well...there I go again. Before I start weeping, let me give a few examples of the kind of feedback I really like.
I returned to Willits in the fall of 2017 just days before my book came out. This of course helped sell books in the hometown I had spent half my life. Many of my old friends were either mentioned in the book or knew others in the book.
Thanks to Louis Rohlicek, who wrote a review in the Willits Weekly, my reading at the Willits Library attracted other local authors and old friends, some I hadn’t seen in years. That was definitely a high point for me and a big plug for my book. It even spiked sales at the local bookstore.
Bruce Anderson wrote this about the first story in the book: “Great piece, Jim. Really good. Your account of arriving in San Francisco in the teeth of the flowerchild-ism is the best I’ve ever read.”
Shirley Ching wrote: “Wow, I really enjoyed your stories! You clearly make your point, with lots of witty humor in between. Thanks for sharing some of your life’s angst.”
Kathleen Roberts wrote: “I liked your book :) It caused discussion and that’s what a good book does.”
And recently I noticed that Nick Hoppe writes a weekly column for the SF Chronicle, so I couldn’t help but wonder if he was the son of Art Hoppe, the longtime SF columnist from the Sixties, Seventies and beyond, so I asked him in an email. Then before sending it, I attached my story about meeting Art Hoppe at a party in SF back in 1970. Here’s his response.
“Thanks for sending the story, Jim. I enjoyed it immensely. Art Hoppe is indeed my dad—you captured him well, especially his wonderful laugh. He was the best, and definitely not a snob. Thanks for the memories, much appreciated. Nick.”
And this does not include the four 5 star reviews on Amazon.com. Go to Flashbacks: A Memoir and check it out.