Confessions of a Diabetes Book Author

April 23, 2011By 4 Comments

So yeah, I wrote a pretty well known and brisk-selling book on raising a child with diabetes. It’s called “The Everything Parent’s Guide to  Childred with Juvenile Diabetes” (I know. Awkward title. I fought it and lost to the publisher. Alas.) and I have to be honest with you: I didn’t want to write it.

The story of how I came to write it, how it’s done and what, in the end, a gift it has been to me, is worth telling, I think. (Plus I have an almost constant guilty need to explain how I decided to write it.)

First, I want you to know that I have absolutely no problem with people who have a loved one or friend with diabetes or who have diabetes themselves who choose to make a living in the diabetes field. In fact, I so appreciate that they are willing to give yet another part of their lives to this crazy world (I mean – wouldn’t it be easier sometimes for them to disappear into a job for even a few hours, like I do with ski writing?) But for me, from day one, I knew one thing: I could never profit off my daughter’s disease.

And then a ski-writer friend dropped me a note. “A publisher is looking for a great writer to do a book on raising a child with diabetes. Moira: It has to be you.”

No. That was my immediate reaction. But that friend encouraged me to connect my agent with the publisher. So I did. Immediately, my agent, too, felt I was the perfect fit. But I told her my fears; actually you could almost call it my dread.

“I made a promise a long time ago I would never profit off Lauren’s disease. I just don’t think I can do it.”

Smart agent that she is, she sent along two or three resumes of other writers who were being considered for the book (which the publisher planned to launch large scale and market heavily). One had a section bragging about his ability to help “get little kids of insulin.” Another pointed to an article she wrote for a free on-line publication on tree bark and the cure (or something like that. I just remember wincing).

It was clear to be right away: These people were harmful. I had to write this book. But how to do so without compromising on my promise? I tossed and turned over it. And then, it hit me: What if I was to never touch a penny of the money made on the book? What if I asked the publisher to contract directly with a charity – in this case I chose the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation – to pay them directly for my books? I told my agent about my idea, and she promised to reach out to Adams Media. She was doubtful.

But they bit. And there I had my answer: I could write the book and still remain true to my promise (and help fund some research at the same time). And so, I was off and writing.

Writing it was a little bit like throwing up knowledge. For seven weeks or so, I sat at my computer day and night and just pounded it out. (Okay . . . there’s a little more to it than that. Like outlining. And the painful process of the Table of Contents development. And research. And fact checking.) But still, it felt like I was downloading most of it directly from my brain.

It’s amazing what PWD and the loved ones of them have stored in their brains. I like to say I can recite the carb count of every food on earth but I’ve no idea where I’m supposed to be at 3 p.m. today.

And then it was launched. The book started selling strong right away. First, it was in every big box bookstore in America. Second, it got great reviews in awesome places like childrenwithdiabetes.com. And so, it is a success.

The publisher is in the process of ordering a second edition so I can update it (man; a lot has changed in three years!)

But I have a confession to make: I have profited from the publication. Let me explain.

Earlier this year I did a speaking tour of Alabama for the JDRF. The JDRF purchased a whole bunch of the books (and the publisher sold them for just about printing cost; they’ve been wonderful about making it affordable to organizations like that). At each city, I would speak and then the JDRF had a “meet the writer” booth set up. Books were offered for free, with a basket for “suggested donation” to JDRF. Right away, I knew this was special. One of my first visitors to the booth was cradling a dog-eared copy of the book. “You saved me,” she said. “When I was alone and scared I found this book and you spoke to me like a friend. And you know what was the best thing you said? You said ‘It’s not going to be okay for a while. It’s fine to know that.’ You know: everyone around me was saying ‘It’s fine! It’s no big deal.’ Thank you for making me sane and showing me a light at the end of the tunnel.’”

I could not believe the gift I’d just been given. I stood up, hugged her and we both cried a little. Then she dropped a $50 bill into the basket. “Gosh,” I asked her. “Do you want another book? A newer one?”

“Oh, no,” she said. “This one is the one that helped me. Sign this one.”

Wow. It was the same all week: People telling me the basic advice in the book and the way I presented it helped them many times. I headed home after that tour feeling like I’d been paid $10 million to write the book.

So in the end, I’m glad that friend called me. I’m glad my agent pushed me (I’m pretty sure she faked those resumes, btw). I’m proud to be sending money to fund research.

But most of all: I’m finally okay with “profiting” off of all this. At least in this currency.

You can get the book on amazon.com or at most book stores. I got a bunch of frees and gave them away almost immediately. I purchase them for people all the time and am always willing to if you need one and cannot afford one. Second edition in about a year, I hope (publishing moves slowly). Then I’ll get a bunch more free ones to give away in an instant again.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Zacg says:

    I’ve told you before friend, wish I had it 11 years ago. Favorite part is still the part where you say that you can go into a house of a child with diabetes and find insulin in the butter compartment of the fridge. Very realistic and I recommend it with each ODST reply.

  2. Katie Wentworth-Mahoney says:

    OMG I have this book ! I love it ! it got me through so many dark times after my sons diagnosis, answered so may questions for me and stiil 1 1/2yrs after his diagnosis is on my bedside table…I turn to it often…such an easy read..

  3. Anne says:

    I love your book, and you! This was so helpful when Jeff was starting the pump, and when he was newly diagnosed. I kept it next to my bed too :). Can’t wait for the next edition!

  4. Katie says:

    I kind of miss the insulin in the butter compartment of our fridge…but I found a really old bottle of insulin in back of the jam the other day. Really old. like 3 years. Wish this had been out when B was diagnosed.

    In the new edition, you can write about teh boxes of expired test strips under the beds of teens.

    Good job again, Moira!

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