What Writers Dream Of


Friday was a bittersweet day.

The arrival of the first box of books, like real, live books, y’all, was due at my publisher’s office any minute.  She told me she’d call the minute the shipment arrived. I tried not to think about it. I tried to remain focused on the pressing matters at hand, finalizing the last few tweaks on a video project for a corporate client:  prison nurses — the irony is just too rich sometimes.

Of course the other thing that really had me distracted was the thought of my sister-in-law racing to a hospital in Taos, New Mexico, some two and a half hours from her home in Albuquerque not knowing as she was driving up just how bad my little brother would be when she arrived. She’d gotten a call from the ER at the community hospital in Taos informing her that he had suffered a stroke, the second one he’s had in just over two years, the first one when he was only fifty-two. He’s been in rehab, you see. Checked himself into a residential, 30-day program to, in his words, “save his life.” Once and for all, he said, he wanted to throw that goddamn monkey of addiction off his back and try to regain his self-respect. We were all encouraging and praying for him. Instead, he had a stroke — brought on in all likelihood by insufficiently trained doctors and nurses who changed all his medications in  haste and didn’t listen to what the patient was telling them. When he complained of a blinding headache, even while his blood pressure was steadily rising, they declined his requests for any pain medication or anything, accusing him of just being an addict trying to game the system.  He had a stroke. 

Thinking about this is unbearable. A person has to ingest information like this in small bites, lest your heart rip out of your chest or your head explode. As I’m trying to help my sister-in-law get to the facts, mostly just accompanying her via phone on the terror ride to the hospital, I get an email. “BOOKS HAVE ARRIVED!” 

Life is like this sometimes. Some little glimmer of good news which gets balled up in the bad. Well, in our family, it seems to happen often and frankly, there’s not always a nugget of sunshine in the muck.  But if any of us were looking for yet another example of the importance of  moving forward with our own dreams, this just screams out the truth.

We must. We simply must.

As soon as I could, I went and picked up my book. It was surreal.  My publisher ceremoniously made me sit on her white porch swing, “okay, sit down,” she said and went inside and came out with my book. It has my name on it. Inside are stories about my life, some of them intimate. But also inside are stories about my brothers — the whole passle of them. We have a book.

Within an hour, I’d been lucky enough to round up some friends, (on a Friday, last minute no less! Imagine that!!!) and my youngest son Sean joined us. (the other three are strewn across the country) Having a big, handsome young man, who you are lucky enough to call your son, come up and kiss you on the lips and scoop you up in a bear hug saying, “I’m so proud of you, Mom,” like in public!, well, what else in my life could I ever want ? I looked around the table at the faces of a bunch of people I love. I am amazed at my good fortune. My friend Steve even sold a book to the cocktail waitress! She asked me to sign it. Felt funny and kinda cool at the same time. I bought a round later with my book profits. I felt happy.

In the quiet moments back home, sitting in the same chair I’ve stumbled out to on many a morning, holding my coffee cup like a sacramental chalice after long nights of writing, slugging down black coffee, waiting for my drug of choice to kick in, this, my favorite chair, from which I’ve second-guessed myself a thousand times, I rubbed the cover. I opened the book and fanned through the pages, with paragraphs and punctuation, once bland bits of data on an inanimate technological slate, I saw the words come to life. I ran my fingers over the words, you can feel them.  You can feel the impressions of the letters on the page. I scanned for paragraphs about my mother, my brother Don, my brother Garrett,  alive. They’re alive again. 

And so is my little brother Jay. He’s hanging tough, doing better.  Early indications are that this stroke was less severe than the last one. I can’t wait to hand him the book. Libby and I are hitting the road this week for my first-ever book signing, back in my old hometown, Albuquerque. Glad I’ll have my wing dog with me. 


****You can now pre-order the print book on Amazon as well. It will ship as soon as the distributor gets them to Amazon.****

**** SAVE THE DATE:  St. Louis book signing, Monday, October 29th, Subterranean Books on Delmar, 7:00 P.M. ****

Libby’s been on the phone a lot lately.











She’s been a bit more discriminating in her choice in doggie biscuits too…











About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. Michael Baugh says:

    Awesome! I, too, am so proud of you.

  2. Benny/Sue brown says:

    WOW, we are so-o happy for you! Must be a little like giving birth, a part of yourself only separate now. On it’s own! Can’t wait to order ours, wish it wasn’t 10 hours to Albuquerque to get it autographed, hope to see you closer to us soon.
    Love cousins Benny & Sue

  3. Sorry about your brother and so happy for your book in hand. Love that picture of you handed Libby a biscuit. Now it’s time readers “sit pretty” for your book. Congratulations.

  4. Thanks for bravely sharing your journey: the good, the bad, the horrifying & the heroic. Your story has inspired so many. That book looks good on you!

  5. From one writer to another, one dog lover to another, one friend to another…You Did It!!! Enjoy the moment. Congratulations.

  6. The dream lives on, Jean Ellen. Our family is very proud of you and your hard work. I can’t wait to see you.