They Only Eat Their Husbands
I just turned in the final edits on my manuscript to my editor, and he told me that the next time I see my personal story it will be a book, an object that women can hold in their hands, store on their shelves, or download to their Kindles. This journey started after I returned from my solo backpacking trip around the world, more than 11 years ago. In 2000, I edited a series of emails about my travels into a newspaper series, called "World Wide Wanderer." It appeared in The Rocky Mountain News and Santa Fe New Mexican.
I spent the next six years trying to find time to turn my transformative experience into a book. I began writing about my nine years in Alaska, where I ended up in a series of destructive relationships with alcoholics. and the year I ran away from that life to trek around the world in search of recovery. Working that first year as a newspaper and TV reporter, I didn't have much time to write. Then, I spent the next five years as a writer and producer for shows on HGTV, Food Network, and the Discovery Health Channel. For those jobs I traveled so much, and worked such long hours, that I still found little time or energy to write anything beyond a few travel articles here and there. When six years went by, and I was still only 50 to 100 pages into my memoir, I decided I needed to make a sacrifice.
I gave up TV production and become a part-time freelance writer and ghost writer. My husband and I watched our already limited household income drop by a third. But I was so much happier, and we had so much more time together, that every time I suggested maybe I should go back to production, he said, "No way!"
Within a year, by 2006, I had written about 1000 pages. OK, so now I'd gone too far the other way. "No one is going to buy a book that weighs more than their head," I said. As I spent the next year submitting my book proposal to agents, I kept trimming the book, until it was down to about 400 pages. In 2007 I found an agent, and he hit all of the big publishing houses. After one exciting nibble, they all turned us down, and we amicably parted ways. In 2008, I began submitting to small publishers. After a couple of dozen rejections, I went to a literary festival in 2009, where I met with an editor of a tiny one-man press. I was so confident that this would be another rejection that it was the most relaxed I've ever been in an interview. But that's not what convinced him to publish my book. He'd read most of it the night before, and he loved it. He told me he had a thing for stories about "The Lost American." He said," I'm prepared to offer you a contract today."
It was all I could do not to leap across the space between us and cover him with kisses - or possibly something less ladylike. But I held myself under control, tried to ask calm questions, and told him "I'd think about it." When I stepped outside I called my husband and squealed into my cell phone like a cheerleader, "I'm getting published!"
That was more than a year ago. A few months later, my editor tore his cornea. He dropped a book on his eye while lying in bed reading. I know, it's so ironic that it's hard not to laugh, and I did laugh after his eye started healing. But then he tore it again, not once, not twice, but at least three times. He delayed production on several books, then he cut a few authors loose. A couple of authors walked away from him, angry and frustrated over the delays and uncertainties. Through it all, he stuck with me, and I stuck with him. Still, for the past year I felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But the next sound you'll hear will not be a shoe dropping, it will be the thud of a shipment of books arriving on my doorstep, for my party in Denver on November 5. That night, some 100 friends, colleagues, and I will celebrate the release of "They Only Eat Their Husbands: A Memoir of Alaskan Love, World Travel, and the Power of Running Away."
So now maybe you're thinking, "Wow. Eleven years." But this journey started even longer ago than that. It started 21 years ago, after a lover threatened to shoot me, and I ran away to Alaska. Or, if I think about it, it really started 47 years ago, when my father started a series of divorces, and my mother started a series of disappearances that would send me bouncing from household to household: from step-parents, to grandparents, to random people. I believe that's why I grew up with the desire to bounce from place to place, always wandering, always running away. For years, unfamiliarity always felt more comfortable than familiarity. And it was a great way to avoid abandonment. Maybe running away wasn't the best habit at first, but along the way it taught me things, and in the end it saved me.
I hope my story inspires other women to have the courage to run away from those people, places, and things that threaten to destroy them, and to run toward those things that will serve their souls. I hope it inspires women who have long let their lives be dictated by the whims, the dysfunction, or even the violence of others... to stand up and do something for themselves, and not apologize for it. Even if the risks are high, I believe it's worth it. As Americans like to say: freedom is not free.
This is not just a book about recovery, it's about discovery. I have found myself reflected in the world around me. The world is a big place with a lot of people. And I hope I've grown into a bigger person for having gone out to meet it.
If you'd like to share my journey with me, you can now order your copy of "They Only Eat Their Husbands" at: