AJ’s Neighborhood: Release Postponed

Last week we made the decision to push back the release date on AJ’s Neighborhood. Here’s some of what happened:

When Amanda and I originally began discussing the book, I imagined a much shorter amount of time for her to complete the illustrations. If I had my way, the book would have come on in January 2021, but that was just unrealistic. After researching and talking with Amanda, we agreed to a schedule that was more realistic, but ultimately would have meant the book was coming out as soon as humanly possible.

Then in May, our printer/distributer, IngramSpark, announced that due to covid, they were increasing printing times for all books and said they also anticipated shipping delays. The said that printing hardcovers would not take 15 business days. A week later, they increased it to 25 business days.

More recently, in August, I had a very stressful month in which my husband was out of town for a week, leaving me to parent solo. This was followed by a couple of weeks of sickness and quarantine for everyone in my house. In the midst of this I was trying to get our galley copies of AJ’s Neighborhood out to be reviewed, while also preparing a sermon that I preached at my church at the end of the month. Basically, the whole month was CRAZY. Amanda was also very busy finishing her semester of grad school and then traveling. We had planned to have everything ready to start printing by September 1st, but there were still things that needed to be done, and we both we busy dealing with other things.

Then, I had some technical issues with our ISBN and login stuff for the IngramSpark website. It’s all boring but also meant delays beyond what we originally expected.

So a couple of weeks ago, I sat down and looked at the calendar. I looked at the new printing times we were dealing with, looked at how much work we still needed to finish the interior of the book, and looked at shipping costs and turn around times. There simply was no way to guarantee that any books would be shipped on time for the release event we have planned, and if books were shipped, there was no way to guarantee that everything would look the way it is supposed to.

So (after a meltdown) I talking things over with Amanda and the folks at India Street Press. We all agreed that we want the book to come out when it is as perfect as we can make it, and that it was worth it to push back the release date to make sure that can happen. The only negatives to delaying was that the book would not be available for holiday shopping, and also that my perfectionist brain would need to get over itself. That last one is also a positive.

So here we are. I was recently reminded by author Corie Skolnick that writers need to be the CEO of their career and it so true. I was in a prayer group recently where someone said they phrase, “Be a good boss to yourself.” Both those thoughts were echoing in my head as I tried to decide whether we should rush the book out or postpone. It helped to remember that as CEO, I am responsible for putting out a good product that we all can be proud of. And I realized that as being a good boss to myself meant realizing that the original time-tables were maybe overly optimistic, and that it would do no good to put me and Amanda through the stress of trying to meet them when I had the power to change it. So that’s what we did.

I know that ultimately, anyone out there who is anticipating this book is likely a friend or family member, so they will be happy and supportive of the book no matter when it comes out. We really have lost nothing in that sense. I also felt very vindicated to see that other well-known authors have announced their books being delayed until next summer for the same supply chain / covid delays that I am facing. If they can’t guarantee their books on time then who could?

A new release date will be announced soon–probably shortly after Amanda and I get our hands on our first proof and can evaluate where things are at.

In the meantime, we are finishing layout for AJ’s Neighborhood. I am still working on finishing my second book about international food (hopefully we can hear more about that soon). And looks like I will be preaching another sermon at my church in the near future. Plus I have Halloween costumes for the kids to make, and a 2nd birthday party for my daughter to plan.

Someone once asked me how I get everything done, the writing stuff and the mom stuff. The answer is: I DON’T! The house is not always cleaned. Sometimes the kids get too much screen time. Writing deadlines get missed. I know I can work on balancing things better, or being more organized, but this is life. As I am fond of saying to my husband, “I am just a human woman.” I can only be in one place at a time, and I can’t always do more than one thing at a time. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a human thing.

So we will wait a little longer for this book to come out, with all hope and confidence that it will be worth the wait.

AJ’s Neighborhood: The Backstory

AJ’s Neighborhood is inspired by my son and our neighborhood, obviously. We love our neighborhood, and we do take walks to the library all the time. And AJ does wear rainboots a lot despite us living in Southern California drought conditions. But there’s a lot more to the backstory of how I came to write this book.

I wrote AJ’s Neighborhood during the summer of 2020. Earlier in the year I had worked on another book with the hopes of self-publishing it, but that project stalled. However, the research and prep I did on that project made me feel that self-publishing something was achievable.

There was a big event that inspired the story in AJ’s Neighborhood. Early in 2020, before the pandemic, I was taking the kids out to meet up with friends. AJ was two at the time, and Jo was just a few months old. I told AJ to put his shoes on because it was time to go. And by shoes, I mean rainboots, because that is all he would wear then.

I went to get Jo only to find she had a majorly poopy diaper that I would need to deal with before we could get in the car. The thing is–we cloth diaper, so it takes a little bit of time to clean up after a poop. So while I am taking care of things, Jo is also screaming her head off. (She was and remains a top-level screamer.)

When I finally finish with the diaper and get Jo to get in the car, I can’t find AJ anywhere. I am looking in hampers, under beds, in the backyard. I figured out he must have gone out the front door and the baby’s screaming kept me from hearing the noise. Outside, I call his name up and down our street, and freak out our mail carrier. I am hoping he hasn’t tried to cross our busy street to try and make his way to the the fire station to see the engines.

Finally, I have no choice but to call the police. I’m almost hysterical at this point. But it’s only a moment before they tell me someone has found a little boy fitting the description I gave. They direct me to go around the block.

I dash around the corner to find AJ being corralled by a couple who saw him run by their house. They thought it was odd to see a child that small running by himself. Plus he’s wearing rainboots from some reason. They went outside, chatted with him and kept him from running any further while they called the police.

Later, when I had calmed down, I had a serious talk with AJ about not running around by himself. As we talked, I realized that even though he had only gone around the block, he had gotten himself totally lost. AJ has always had a thing for maps, so we made a little map of our neighborhood so he would have a better sense of direction should he get lost again.

That day that AJ got lost stayed in my mind for a while. As a parent, it was a terrible experience. But it quickly became a classic anecdote for our family. I am sure AJ will be sick of hearing about it before long. In the retelling, I was able to see past the scary parts into seeing something interesting, fun and inspiring. I hope I was able to put that feeling into the finished project. Only 2 more months, and you can tell me how I did.

(Also, after this we got these super handy child-proof door knob things because mama is not messing around.)