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Being Published

February 20, 2017

Today Eric Dieterle, author of Where the Wind Dreams of Staying, shares what life has been like since the book's publication in October 2016. In his memoir, Dieterle reveals the events and experiences that shaped his search for a place he could call home. As his book advances between states, readers are further able to identify and connect with themselves through the storms of life. A big thanks to Eric for reflecting on the evolution of his writing life.

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In the five months since Where the Wind Dreams of Staying appeared on bookshelves, themes of isolation and connection have risen from the pages to play out in my post-memoir life. I should not be surprised, but I am.

It may be that I simply didn't know what to expect.

A week ago, I spoke on the phone with the chair of my thesis committee-- our first conversation in more than 30 years. He'd read the book, and wanted to congratulate me and tell me how much he enjoyed it. The workmanship impressed him. I told him how much it meant to me to hear that, for he was the professor who taught me so much about discipline and hard work at a time when I lacked much capacity for either.

Connections.

My mother wrote me a long letter, explaining what had been unexplained for decades, un-shrouding the mysteries cloaking my understanding of family history. My history. I would never have guessed the details of the story that now, even as I continue to process it, simply makes sense.

As I wrote the book, choosing carefully what to include and what to omit was more than merely a storytelling exercise. I wanted to balance disclosure with compassion-- for myself and for others-- and I feared rejection on more than just literary terms. I could imagine family, friends and coworkers recoiling, aghast that I had done this or said that, or appalled at the full spectrum of poor choices laid out before them. A lifetime of mistakes contained in 136 pages.

So far, compassion eclisped scorn. The column for sincere compliments contains a number of marks; the ledger of shame, regret and anxiety remains filled only with my own scribbling.

Still, I wince at the prospect of the recrimination I had so worried about when I wrote, and revised, and awaited publication. Because I never know what the next reaction might bring. If there is any reaction at all.

A few weeks ago, as I sat at a small table in the local iteration of a national bookstore chain, I decided to turn away from discouragement toward bemusement. Until that moment, I had not fully understood the capacity of people to not simply ignore someone, but to convince themselves that the periphery of their world simply did not exist. There I sat, next to a poster-sized cover of my book that was perched on a tripod stand, a stack of books in front of me, open to engaging all anonymous passers-by with a smile or even eye contact. Nothing. I was invisible. After about an hour of this, I decided that if I were ever to commit an offense that would cause law enforcement to pursue me, my best choice of escape would be to sit in a bookstore next to a poster of a book, inviting conversation or perhaps even a sale. No one would ever find me.

Isolation.

Please, I'm not complaining. I did sell six books that day-- four to the handful of people who attended my reading, and two at the table itself-- and I deepened my understanding of the human condition by observing those who so astutely managed not to observe me. So I'm a better person for it. A better writer.

As the weeks roll by, I'm mining the literary value of the highs and lows of post-publication experiences. Duality permeates the book: east and west sides of the Cascade mountains, interior and exterior landscapes, the promises of a spiritual realm and the pain of human endeavor. Each "fantastic book!" stands to counterpoint to the vacuum of non-response-- the non-stars, the non-reviews, the non-acknowledgement.

This is as it must be, and if something significant changes, I'll accept the new development as being part of the natural course of events in this writing life. Because honestly, I still have no idea what this writing life is, exactly.

As the author, I am merely the source of the lines. What lies between them-- and beneath them and in the margins-- may simply be empty, or is filled with what the reader experiences. Most of the time, I won't know either way.

Knowing the words are out there-- that needs to be enough for me.

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