In my “other life,” the one that doesn’t include the hands-on creation of my own prose, I construct books for other authors through my book production company, Full Circle Press LLC.
I have met and worked with some amazing people over the years and have proudly produced a wide variety of books from novels to memoirs to non-fiction that ranges all over the map.
But on a personal level, I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a book that moved me like Feel Me Brave by Jessica Stout and Walter Horak.
This book, as they will both tell you, should not be published. Not that it’s a bad read. It isn’t. The words and poetry are riveting in their stark beauty.
It’s because its subject matter is so hard to bear. Feel Me Brave is about a little boy, Jessica’s son and Walter’s grandson, who died of cancer just after he turned three years old. (Cue the tissues. Even writing this makes me cry.)
Feel Me Brave started as a blog on Caring Bridge, written by Jessica, as a way to tell her friends and family what was going on with little Ryland. At some point, Walter (who is a sculptor) spontaneously began writing poetry as a way to cope. Writing is good that way.
In the best tradition of word-of-mouth, Jessica and Walter found me through a friend who knows of my book production habit and must think well of me because he trusted that I would give Feel Me Brave the respect it deserves. I hope I have earned his continued trust.
I’ve never wept while typesetting a book before, and I get teary just making the small corrections we have left to do. I cannot imagine the footsteps in their journey.
The last time we met, I asked Jessica and Walter if they would allow me to talk about Feel Me Brave online because the sense of hope in their book is so strong.
Hope when they lost a beloved child, an event that all too often crushes families? Yes, because the bonds among these folks are so strong, they are almost visible to the eye.
That’s the hope they hold out, that our commitment to one another is strong enough for us to endure together.
I’m going to share snippets of Feel Me Brave over the next few days, starting with one of Walter’s poems called “Touch.” It was written approximately six months after Ryland’s diagnosis when the little guy had been through radiation and had started some further treatments.