On Sunday, Alex and I drove about three hours to spend the evening with our ‘Kenya family’ in Greeley, Colorado. These are the people that we worked with in Kenya at the Olooloitikoshi Girl’s Rescue Center. Here, I interviewed girls who have faced circumcision and early marriage, and I self-published their stories in my first book, In the Place of Many Zebras.
This is what brought us to Greeley. It was the second annual Saruni Dinner, a large fundraiser for the girl’s rescue center, and my book was set out with every place setting as a gift to the guests. I was also asked to come do a book signing at the dinner. I was thrilled to see these stories get into the hands of about 200 people who are already emotionally and/or financially invested in the girl’s rescue center in Kenya.
We ate and listened to the programs at the dinner. We saw videos from the girls in Kenya. We caught up with old friends, and swapped Kenya stories with new friends. At the end of the event, I was approached by many of the guests so that I could sign their copy of the book. And here, one of the most amazing things happened!
People kept thanking me for writing the book. I hadn’t anticipated thanks, and I wasn’t sure what to say. I settled on “You’re welcome,” and on thanking them for supporting the girl’s rescue center.
This was my first book: narrative non-fiction written on the touchy subjects of early marriage and female circumcision. Needless to say, I heard my own inner critic plenty during the writing process, probably more during the publishing process, and certainly the most when the book was out in the world and under the eyes of readers.
This critic asked many things: Do I, as a young journalist, have any place in the conversation about global women’s issues? Am I fully representing the truth of these stories? Am I telling these sensitive stories respectfully and tactfully? Are people even going to read this? Are people going to like the writing? Are people going to dislike the subject matter enough to do something? Is it too disturbing? Is self-publishing the best way to share the stories?
And on and on it went.
Don’t get me wrong, the inner critic is important! But it’s nice to have a break from that nagging voice sometimes.
Last night, with every thank you that I received, that inner critic was quieted. I quickly remembered why I wrote these stories. It was simply to share them. With all logistics, facts, research, and name-spellings quadruple checked, I accomplished that goal. And people were thanking me for that, for sharing, for putting a bit more information in their hands.
I never expected to be thanked for writing, even if people sometimes like the writing I do. Oddly enough, I never thought about the fact that the stories might be well-appreciated by people.
So, then I got to thinking, ‘Who are those writers that have informed me? Who are the ones that have put stories in my hands that I can’t get out of my head? Who are the writer’s that have shaped my perspectives?’
I need to thank them! And you should thank yours too 🙂