Birth of a Book: A 20-Year Odyssey

Updated: Jul 5

If life is a journey, hopes and wishes are what guide our steps and carry us forward. Some wishes are small and easy to fulfill, like a walk in a park or satisfying the craving for a special dish, while others may be giant, ambitious leaps ahead, taking months or years to accomplish, such as finding a life partner, or finishing a college degree.

And, then there are lifetime dreams that we try hard to fulfill and don't want to let go of, even though we don't know whether or not we can ever reach our goals. Sometimes, we grow so desperate that we secretly ask for help by making a wish on a puffy roadside dandelion, or the first star our eyes spot twinkling in the night sky.

For the last 20 years, my biggest wish has been to write a book and find the right publisher for it. After plodding along for a seemingly endless amount of time, I finally arrived at my summit, signing a contract with Guernica Editions to publish my historical memoir, "Once Our Lives."

It all started about two decades ago when I lost both of my beloved parents within the period of two years. As I grieved over their passing, I thought again and again about the extraordinary lives they had lived, taking them from a wooden shack in a Shanghai shantytown to a medieval fortress in China's wild west, from years of poverty and famine in the desert to the treacherous waters of the Cultural Revolution.

It suddenly occurred to me that I should not allow their life stories to perish with them, for they are testimony to human endurance and could inspire others struggling with crises, bringing them much-needed hope and courage during difficult times.

I started to carry a notebook everywhere and wrote down whatever I could whenever I had a moment. Soon, I accumulated a pile of hand-written notes filled with colorful stories, eerie adventures, and historical events, many of which I saw unfold in front of me as a child, and others that my mother privately shared with me, often late at night in bed, when the two of us were alone.

Writing a book may be a daunting task, but finding the right publisher was even more challenging. Every time I grew despondent, I turned to F. Scott Fitzgerald for inspiration, remembering how he famously pasted rejection letters for "The Great Gatsby" all over his bedroom wall until one day, he got an offer to have it published.

I didn't know that bringing "Once Our Lives" into the world would be a 20-year-long odyssey. But, I did know that if I kept working at it, I might inch my way toward making that dream come true. Even so, I know that this is not the end of my literary journey, only the turning of a page in the telling of one person's story. Remember to hold fast to your hopes and wishes, and you may end up writing a whole new chapter in your own life.

Reflections From The East Column:

By Qin Sun Stubis

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