Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What People Are Saying About FRAMES

"I found myself inhaling the pages of this book, surprised by the suspense and humanness of it all. Redemption hovers everywhere, not a sentimental redemption but a raw and real redemption. This book is well worth reading.”
Jerry Sittser, Professor of Theology, Whitworth University and author of A Grace Disguised and A Grace Revealed

Information on how to purchase FRAMES: a picture of death, drugs and forgiveness coming soon, right here. Email me at amy AT gregscheer DOT com to get on the mailing list.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Book

I wasn’t ready for this book when it first came to me. I had sat for hours and hours listening to a man talk about his wife's death and the only thought I had was if I wrote this book, it would be cheese. And I couldn't do cheese.

Kevin had been assigned to me. I'd been writing for his college's alumni magazine for years but was feeling swamped with other work, so I respectfully passed on this young widow's story. But the boss would not accept that answer, and offered me a raise I couldn't refuse. I called Kevin, we talked for an hour, I wrote an article. At the end of the process he offered up this: a feeling he'd had to do something more with his story, and would I be interested? We agreed to meet over a weekend and record the unabridged tale.

Mornings and afternoons, we'd sit and talk, recording his story in two, three hour intervals. I knew that Marilyn had died when a car crashed into hers at a toll station, but Kevin hadn't yet walked me through the time from the phone call to the hospital, where he'd sit alone with her body and say, "I'm sorry." And telling his toddler that Mommy's gone. Meeting the man who killed her. Hard, very hard to hear. And as a writer, difficult: this was a truly heartbreaking story, and yet those are the hardest to write well. 

Later that same weekend, I sat on the bed with my notes, planning out how I’d let Kevin down. And right about when I’d convinced myself to step away from this project, I was hit with the conviction not only that I needed to do this, but how to do this: I’d let Kevin, and the others, tell the story. Cheese would only come if I reworded things myself, so I wouldn’t even try. I'd always loved reading oral history, and yet the format of, say, Studs Terkel books always tired me out--one person tells their side, then the next, then the next. Instead of following that tradition, I would weave the firsthand accounts together to create the narrative, creating a poetic feel that better resembled a novel than a memoir.

For seven years, I organized and wrote when I could. I met with Rick, the driver who killed Marilyn. Kevin lent me Marilyn's journals. I watched the DVD of the funeral service. 

The scope of the project demanded uninterrupted work, which my schedule couldn’t always permit. I would pick it up and grow overwhelmed by what was asked of me, and yet each time I resumed, everything would flow. Piece by piece, the process would move forward.

I completed a full draft in October 2012, thanks to a push from Dave Eggers's 826michigan's Great Write-Off. A few trusted readers provided input, and last month I completed the final manuscript. Right now it's in production, as we're planning to self-publish through CreateSpace. Soon I'll be able to announce its release date. Too, the book is in the hands of two very respected writers who I hope will provide endorsements.

Seven years in the making, and yet I make no apologies. I was not ready for this book when it came to me. As I matured, the book matured--not because of me, but as if it was waiting for me to be ready. Even when I thought I was ready—in October, 2012—I had only just begun. The final rewrite was a heady one as I restructured sections for even more impact.

It’s hard to find a better word than overwhelming to describe reading Marilyn’s journals. A budding therapist, Marilyn felt life deeply and wrote much of it down. And then the pages go blank. All that life, those worries and prayers: to silence. The stark, empty page shattered me, perhaps even more so because I identified with so many of her fears, which weren’t written for my eyes. This privileged look into a life that ends so abruptly brought real gravity to an already somber project. 

And though I tried a couple times to "sell" the book, never has it turned me into a desperate writer. I'm very confident that the book speaks for itself, though a handful of publishers have disagreed. The book sits on the line between being too religious for some and not enough for others, but that's okay; life is rarely black and white, and I am comfortable in the gray. The book provides its own kind of messy redemption, and the world needs more of that.

I am grateful for the place this book has held in my life, and can hardly believe that soon, I'll be able to share that experience. Watch here for information on how to purchase the book, or email me at amy AT gregscheer DOT com to add your email to my mailing list.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I Lifted 60,000 Pounds Today

This morning, I dropped in at a new gym I've been enjoying only to discover it was One Thousand Reps Day: any exercise(s) you want, ten reps at the top of each minute. For 100 minutes.

And so I completed 500 deadlifts and about 450 Bulgarian bag halos (when the halos became taxing, I threw in some overhead presses). The math works out to more than 60,000 pounds, and yet I came out of this thinking not so much about my strength, but my endurance. The mental kind even more than the muscle. I've never had much of either, and though I never hit the wall today, I had to fight the demons of comfort, persistent as my children, asking me to please, please, promptly halt the suffering.

At 200 reps, the challenge seemed an impossibility. At 500 there was celebrating but a long road ahead. 700, more folks left. The music was turned down, the fans off, only the door open to the snow outside cooling down the room. We lifted to the bell and to the sound of our own bodies. Lose Yourself came on, and the music was turned back up:

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go

Losing ourselves, by 800, became the point. This was not a feat of strength but a test. What were we made of? We began to discuss this in half-minute intervals between lifts. The greater life lesson energized us, provided a distraction. And then one rest period, I remember, no one said a word. No crack about how sore we'd be tomorrow, nothing. The bell rang and we picked up the bars once again.

Around 970, the stress increased exponentially. I've always been like this--tell me there's ten seconds left, and I'll give up on the spot. My hands had developed such calluses that I could only deadlift with a finger hook--immensely more difficult, but the pain from a bearing down with a full grip was worse.

Nothing fancy to the big finish, just more of the same until we were done. And then we were. The three of us who had remained to the end congratulated each other, put away our bars, and left. I drove off as if from a church, still held in the contemplative spirit of what I'd just done. I'd had a similar experience previously at this gym, when once again I didn't know what I was in for, and showed up to be asked to perform three-minute kettlebell snatches with one arm. And then on to the other arm, for three minutes. You pause when you need to, but beyond this aspect of endurance I had never experienced anything quite like this. We were all facing a mirror, and I was in the front row. We'd lift without talking. You concentrate on form but mostly, if you're in the zone, you lose yourself in the moment. People all around you, lost as well. But the important thing is we were lost together.

And how am I doing now, seven hours later? If I stop moving, I can no longer move, but if I keep the parts revved up, I feel like one big muscle. I am not entirely sure I'll be able to get out of bed tomorrow morning with ease, but I will either push through the difficulty, or take an extra few minutes in bed to think. My body will remind me of both lessons I learned today.