This is a bit of a departure for Author! Author! But it’s a fascinating story about the untimely death of a teenager and how freelance writer Stan Taylor got involved in helping the family publish a book about their son.
Stan is a former teacher and currently writes science articles covering a broad range of topics. He also writes articles related to religion and theology. Stan is experienced with Desk Top Publishing and has done a lot of editing and proofreading for clients.
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On June 23, 2010 Bency Thomas heard a noise from her 17 year-old son’s bedroom. When she entered Tom’s room, she found him lying partly on the treadmill and partly on the floor. He had suffered an aneurysm. Tom died in his mother’s arms.
Live Like Tom was published as a tribute to Tom’s life. The chapters span his early years in Thiruvalla in the state of Kerala, India, then move to Kuwait, Dubai, Lebanon, Istanbul and finally where the family settled in Cairo, Egypt. (The moves were dependent on where his father was working.) Each of the chapters were written by Tom’s mother and father, Bency and Zac.
A colleague in the Professional Writer’s Association of Canada first posted this memorial book opportunity on the PWAC-biz list in July, 2010. I responded and received the contact information. After meeting with Tom’s mother and members of his family, I agreed to proceed. My role was to collate and proofread all the written material, get as many pictures as I could from Tom’s parents and friends (who wrote testimonials), then send all the material to the copy editor, Anjana Das who worked for a German publishing company in Cairo, Egypt.
I sense that you have an emotional attachment to this book and Tom’s parents. How does this affect you as a writer doing a job when your heartstrings are pulled?
I learned many years ago as an Anglican priest to detach myself from tragic events so that I could function intelligently and do my job. I gave the eulogy at my parents’ funerals even though they died seven years apart.
I feel more of an emotional bond now that the book is finished. I’ve kept in touch with Tom’s parents and many of Tom’s friends by email and Facebook. This is significant due to the recent, on-going events in Egypt. I empathize with Tom’s parents at the loss of their child. I cannot even begin to comprehend how they must feel. My brother lost his son in a car accident. My sister lost her son in a motorcycle accident. My sister-in-law lost her daughter due to a blot clot. And yet with the loss of these three young people and the devastating effects it has had on their parents, all I can do is empathize and offer my compassion.
If someone wanted to do a project like this, what would you recommend? Any insights or suggestions?
I would recommend the following:
- Get as much information about the person as possible prior to the meeting so you can go in with a rough outline of what they might want.
- During the initial meeting, get more information about the person and who to contact to get additional info from a different perspective.
- Get a clear picture of exactly what you are responsible for.
- Determine a timeline.
- Insure that all parties in the project meet the deadlines.
The book is not only a legacy to his life, but also it seems that Tom is continuing to do “good works” after his death by helping to raise funds for a charity. Comments?
The book truly is a work of art and a celebration of Tom’s life. Initially, I thought the book was going to be published and people would have to pay for it to obtain a copy. The parents decided to have it printed at their own expense and give copies to Tom’s relatives and friends. It is only recently that I learned from Bency (Tom’s mother) that they are going to make an e-book and sell it. The money raised will go to a charity designated by the parents. I think this is a fantastic idea.
Anything else you’d like readers to know?
I took on this project assuming I knew what I was doing and that I had charged a respectable fee for my services. I quickly realized what I didn’t know. For example: Facebook. All of Tom’s friends (and Tom before his death) communicated on Facebook—by times into the wee hours of the morning. I learned a lot from their photos and exchange of files but first I had to learn how to use Facebook.
I suggested a layout format based upon my 10 years as editor, layout and printer of Knights of Columbus Newsletters. The parents thought about my suggestion, but wanted a hard copy coffee table book with pictures on one page and words on the opposite page.
As I said, it turned out to be a work of art. It was also an invaluable learning experience. I have tears in my eyes as I write this.
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If you have any questions for Stan, simply click on Comments and fire away!
Welcome! This is where I occasionally pluck and post recent Stories or put notices of upcoming Workshops, such as memoir or travel writing. Author! Author! is a by-weekly series of interviews with authors about the writing life, and getting published. Anything else lands in Odds & Sods. Enjoy your visit and come back often. Better yet, subscribe!