Well, where do I start.
It feels strange writing this post. Partly because I haven’t written here in so long, partly because I have big news and don’t quite now how to share it. If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing for the last two years, I’m about to tell you, but getting to this point has been such a long journey, now we’re finally at the end (or in some ways, the beginning).
As you may have guessed from the title, I’ve finally finished a book, and it releases to the world today.
The interesting thing about this book is it wasn’t the book I was supposed to write. For years I’ve been working on a travel memoir which I’ve talked about many times on this blog and in my newsletter. I even completed a first draft a few years ago, but never managed to turn it into a piece of work I was proud of.
Then in 2019 my battle with TSW started. It upended my life so suddenly that everything instantly took a backseat to my healing. When people say life can change overnight, now I know what they mean – shit really can change just like that. From living the dream, to suddenly finding myself in a struggle where I thought I might never live a normal life again.
Of course, I didn’t realise this at the time. It was only after days and weeks and months that I started to understand I was in a battle that I might be fighting for a very long time. I found a TSW group on Facebook, which possibly (definitely) saved my life. I was in there every day, sharing my progress – what was working, what wasn’t, asking for help, sharing my pain. Sometimes, all I needed was to be able to tell people, I’m breaking, I’m crying every day. And for them to reply, that’s okay, I am too. I wrote stories to share, each step of the way; little triumphs I was making week after week, running 1km, 2kms, to the emotional news of my first marathon, and then my second.
Looking back now, I realise I wasn’t writing those stories for them, I was writing them for me. The emotional journey was so violent I couldn’t keep it in, but it was also too personal and upsetting to share with anyone I knew. Of course I didn’t suspect at the time that this little series of Facebook posts would eventually become the inspiration for a book, which is what I have in front of me today.
To be honest, the book practically wrote itself. Once the idea was born, I sat down to write and couldn’t get the words out fast enough. The rollercoaster of emotions vomited itself onto the screen amid recurring bouts of tears and laughter, and within a few months I had a draft. What I hadn’t yet learned was, that was the easy part. Writing a book and then turning into an actual book is a long (loooooong) and painful process that I wasn’t prepared for. There is a finality about a book that’s never existed with other things I’ve written, such as the stories on this blog. Usually, spelling mistakes are whatever and even months or years later, I just go in and rewrite things I don’t like and correct mistakes. The idea of having hundreds of copies of a book printed and then finding a typo, or a sentence I didn’t like and couldn’t change, haunted the perfectionist in me. This led to six months of reading the book every day, agonising over colons versus semicolons, italics versus no italics. Each reading I found myself adding new paragraphs and rearranging sentences, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be happy enough with it to publish. For those months, I spent endless hours sitting in carparks, waiting rooms, benches in the gym, reading the latest draft on my phone, trying to get paragraphs to sing the way I wanted.
Then came judgement day. Is it even worth publishing? I arranged a beta read. The final draft got sent to a few volunteers from my support group and a few old readers from the blog (thank you all, again!). Big sighs of relief and joy when the feedback came in and was so overwhelmingly positive. One reader, a close friend, tried her best to convince me it was good enough to shop around to publishers, but I knew that would be another drama I couldn’t handle, and that this story was too close to me to sell to anyone else. But it was the green light I needed, to tell me yes, the story was powerful for everyone, and deserved more than just a bunch of blog posts online – I needed to publish.
I hired a cover designer, editor and proofreader to finally help me get it into print. That was all another headache that lasted four or five months which I don’t really want to write about. If you follow many writers, you’ve probably read tons of posts of them talking (whining) about getting a book to print and how much of a pain in the ass it is. Well, I can now confirm that yes, it is a super pain in the ass. It was only a month ago that, after two long years, after finishing a final proof in the middle of the night at my dining table, I finally had a stack of paper in front of me that I could sign off and say, it’s ready!
Of course, it has all been worth it. I received the proof copies of the book last week and I’ve never felt so proud and grateful seeing the real thing in my hands. In our Facebook group we always talked about how we felt forgotten, that it was important for us to remember that our stories matter, even though our lives were becoming invisible while we were sick, and the world continued to pass us by. That feeling alone motivated me enough to get this story written, to ensure it lived forever in its own way, for the people who had been fighting alongside me, and those who would inevitably come after me.
Allow me to finally introduce you to my first published book. It is the memoir of the past two years of my life, battling a demon I never thought I’d beat – part healing memoir, part childhood memoir, part travel memoir – a story of reaching rock bottom, climbing your way black, the power of a dream, the power of family, of believing in the impossible, and of all the miracles that can happen when you find the strength to just take one more step. After all the places I’ve been and the things I’ve experienced in the blessed life I’ve had wandering the globe, this is the story I am most proud to share with you – a story that proves even in our darkest moments, we are more powerful than we could ever imagine. My new book is titled Iron Skin: A Memoir, and I’d be honoured for you to read it, love it, share it, gift it, and find your inspiration from it to conquer whatever life decides to put in front of you.
Thank you so much for being here. After ten years of writing stories of bus rides and noodles and hostel lounges, here is one that’s a little longer and a little more special. I hope you love it.
Iron Skin: A Memoir is available on Amazon in all major locales in paperback, hardcover and Kindle ebook versions. You can order directly at the links below.
Sending all my love and gratitude.