WARNING: This post is longish. I blame it on other people’s dedications.
Picture it. The bazillionth revision of what will be your debut book has been handed in and approved. Illustrations are complete. Layout is in process. And your editor knocks on your email door again to say she still needs your acknowledgments and dedication. Easy peasy, you think. Until you face a new blank email screen and type the word “acknowledgments,” because that’s sure to be the hardest section to write, right? You get a little misty at the memory of all those glorious people who have lifted you and your work up over the years. In flowery gratitude, you name every person who has Ever seen any version of your book, including that writer who joined your critique group for 7 minutes, five years ago. Your list becomes a novella, so you concoct different criteria to whittle it down. Every name you delete makes you anxious because you worry about hurting feelings. You experience your first panic attack. Then you realize that you forgot to acknowledge your family, your agent, your editor, a research source, your favorite librarian, your illustrator, your publisher, your neighbor, that friend you abandoned during your senior trip, your hair stylist, the office supply guy, your therapist. You develop a nervous twitch as you systematically cut precious people from your acknowledgments. When you’ve finally squeezed your beloveds and beholdens into the teeny tiny space designated by your editor, you pat yourself on the back. The hard part is done, right?
You type the word Dedication. Then the Jaws theme song dun-dun-dun-duns in your mind. How will you word this dedication? The permanence and profundity of these few words hits you. I mean, come on, the dedication is the star of its own page. Like a forever literary tattoo! You begin to question EVERYTHING about your pre-planned dedication. Should it be heartfelt? Should it be funny? Should it be poetic? If you dedicate the book to your spouse, will your kids and parents feel left out? If you dedicate it to your parents, will your spouse and kids feel left out? If you dedicate it to one kid, will the other feel like you’ve chosen a favorite? If you dedicate it to your dog, will you be committed? If, if, if, if! You think about the theme and tone of your book and the person(s) who inspired the tale until a lightning bolt strikes and you know. You just know. For argument’s sake, let’s say you decide to dedicate your book featuring a horse to your mother because she’s the one who nurtured your love of horses and paid for all those years of horse show entry fees and show sheen. Without her influence, you wouldn’t have been drawn to your book’s subject. Done! But, wait! Should the dedication address your mother’s proper name? You text your eldest son, “hey, do you think Grandma would be okay with me listing her name in the dedication, or should I just say Mom? You know how private she is.” Eldest son doesn’t respond. Your telephone rings. It’s your mother who mentions receiving a confusing text from you. Oops! “And, by the way,” she says, “your book should be dedicated to your husband and kids because they’ve supported you.” UGH! You decide to never try to surprise someone with a dedication again.
Back to “your” predicament and the many choices ahead.
To Mom, who…….
For Mom because……
You survey your friends with various dedication options. Yes, you’ve become THAT person! Though there is a consensus, you decide your friends are all crazy. You choose a different option and send it to your editor. Then you change your mind and ask your editor to change the dedication three times. Your dedication is profound—flowery, even. But you can’t seem to nail the sentiment. In the eleventh hour, you decide that flowery and complex doesn’t feel right. You send a fourth note to your editor, telling her that you want to make one absolutely final change to a much-simplified dedication. Your editor tells you this is the last change you can make. THANK GOODNESS!
Out of curiosity, you scroll the internet and scour your book shelves to find evidence of other writers who have experienced dedication-neurosis, or brilliance.
You decide that your next dedication will be “To Everyone!”
Donna Janell Bowman is the author of the upcoming picture book biographies, STEP RIGHT UP! THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY (Lee and Low Books, fall 2016,) EN GARDE! ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S DUELING WORDS (Peachtree, 2018) and KING OF THE TIGHTROPE: WHEN THE GREAT BLONDIN RULED NIAGARA (Peachtree, 2019,) She lives and writes in Central Texas