Some people might say that the best part of writing a book is typing the words THE END. Or that the most satisfying part is setting out on the journey and writing that first sentence. But for me, there is one stand out moment of pure joy and fulfillment; THE DEDICATION
For my first book, The Water Doctor’s Daughters, there was never any doubt about who I would name. A debut book is the culmination of so many years of life and learning. The greatest influence on most of us are our parents. In my case, my mother has always been my inspiration.
It was from my mother that I inherited a love of telling stories, the curiosity that drives every narrative non-fiction writer, and the humour to deal with all the vicissitudes an aspiring author faces. My biggest regret was that she was not alive to see the book published and to read my tribute.
Those writers whose parents are still alive can afford some levity. I especially enjoyed the humour of this dedication;
My second book was a travel memoir, All Along the River; Tales From the Thames. Although my mother has a strong presence in this book, again there was no hesitation about who it should be dedicated to; my husband Rob. Just seven words said it all. He accompanied me every step of the way along the Thames Path and was also my photographer.
Such is the emotion involved in dedications that it is all to easy to step over the line into embarrassing sentimentality. It is wise to run the words past an editor, lest you end up with something so cringe worthy it will make prospective readers close the covers.
My mother often read to her little brood; such comforting, magical times. However, I have no clear memory of her reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. My sister insists that she did, and I do recall trying to find a secret door in our old-fashioned wardrobe. I think it’s for this reason that the dedication on C.S. Lewis’s book strikes such a chord with me. It was written to his Goddaughter;
My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales. And by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather.
C. S. Lewis
I took the book down when I was in my fifties and was transported….not only to the kingdom of Narnia, but to my childhood and precious memories of being read to.
Lewis’ comment about books taking a long time to be published raises another issue. A writer’s circumstances can change radically between finished manuscript and the appearance of the work. An acquaintance of mine was barely able to look at her first novel, let alone market it. She had dedicated it to her husband of twenty years, who left her for another woman only weeks before it appeared. Worse still, with his blessing she had given up a high profile job to concentrate on her writing. The humiliation and sense of betrayal must have been overwhelming.
My work in progress is the biography of a bogus Tasmanian doctor. It will be dedicated to a shell-shocked, World War I soldier, for reasons too complicated to explain here.
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