One year ago, I became a published author.
DIRTY WORDS ON CLEAN SKIN detailed my journey from fearful news junkie to outspoken activist. The disturbing parallels between my own mother’s life and the misogynistic media treatment of Hillary Clinton and other politically inconvenient women in 2008 motivated me to take action. Notwithstanding the teeth gnashing involved in reliving those events, bringing this effort to fruition has been the adventure of my life.
This is what the process of writing DIRTY WORDS felt like:
To be accurate, one year ago I became a self-published author.
It was not by choice.
Every part of me screamed that DIRTY WORDS ON CLEAN SKIN needed to be released through traditional channels. While it generated significant interest, in the end, too many changes were demanded. Agents insisted that anything personal be taken out of the book. But the story I wanted and needed to tell was more than mere reportage about the election. It was my view from the trenches — pundits’ foul behavior and the revisionist history they later espoused affected millions of men and women, not just in the voting booth, but in their daily interactions with each other.
Of the many books and essays released after the election, all pointed to the flaws of Hillary Clinton, yet none spelled out the lasting effects media bias and sexism had on us out here on the ground. DIRTY WORDS proved that in 2008, domestic abuse played out on a national level.
Though terrified of pushing the snowball up the hill without the backing or street cred of a publisher, I had to choose between not telling the story I knew to be true or telling my story in a non-traditional manner.
In the fall of 2011, after working with a consulting editor and getting generous feedback from the wonderful Linda Anselmi, the finished book was ready.
I handed it to my best friend of 30 years, an apolitical and deadly honest person who I thought would be bored to tears. Her reaction was quite the opposite. Seeing that I was dragging my feet on taking the next step, she urged me forward. Her words will stay with me forever:
“You wrote a book about this brilliant woman who the media told to sit down and shut up. How long are you going to wait for someone to give you permission to have your voice?”
Then in January of 2012, my mother collapsed. With her in and out of hospitals and skilled nursing for the months that followed, I almost abandoned putting the whole project out altogether. It wasn’t the first time a family crisis made me put my own goals on the back burner, so I made the decision to be there for her and myself at the same time.
In March, when I had the proof copy, I raced to the hospital to put the book in Mom’s hands, since it is dedicated to her. She needed to know that I had finished what I started. I knew Mom would enjoy hearing my description of her and I read these paragraphs aloud:
“Her impish sense of humor stood in sharp contrast to her contempt for life’s inequities. She voiced her opinions with a raised brow capped by a brisk hand gesture for added emphasis. Such judgments were in the main directed toward those who didn’t pull their weight. She had no time for excuses.
No matter what you needed of my mother, she would always chirp, “No problem!” The job was done before you asked a second time. You could tell her to meet you anywhere. After three buses, four trains and a pack mule, you’d reach the mountaintop only to find her there ahead of you, smiling her party smile, smoking a cigarette and looking stylish. She looked like Saks’ Fifth Avenue on a Woolworth budget. If you dressed her in a burlap sack, she’d find a belt and make it work. Anyone who met my mom referred to her as “the Countess.” She was stunning and quietly charmed the crap out of everybody.”
With her lilting Italian accent, Mom repeated back a few words that had made her smile. Then she stuck her elbows out and gestured with her hands, “Fly, fly. Spread your wings and fly.”
She must have been channeling.
The book did take flight. And so did I.
While I made some early mistakes in marketing, I found wonderful publicists who got me on every imaginable radio outlet. TV, predictably, was harder. DIRTY WORDS ON CLEAN SKIN may not be a best-seller by traditional standards, but it has sold far more than the vast majority of self-published works, spending 16 weeks as #1 on Women in Politics books on Amazon. (It was a nice ego boost to see my name above Christiane Amanpour’s. She must have looked at the stats and thought – who the hell is Anita Finlay!)
Five years ago, I blogged under a pseudonym. Considering that I had spent so much of my life terrified to let anyone know my opinion, to be so public is a sea change that had to be seen to be believed. As I wrote, “Watching Hillary stand up taught me to stand up.”
Support and respect has come from some unexpected places. Good things can happen when you walk into the lion’s den. 2012 was a fierce year. I grew up and out of my old container. Perhaps dealing with my mother’s failing health throughout this journey helped my courage quotient, since her situation became the only scary part.
I am now a commentator on America’s Radio News Network and The Jerry Doyle Show (#3 in syndication in the country). I write for numerous blog sites and have been made a regular contributor to the independent news site, Epic Times, which has its official launch soon.
The best news is that Mom is well enough that she just asked for a large print version of the book so she can finally read it. She gets to enjoy me being a loudmouth, too.
My mom has long been my hero. Her life experience is what inspired me to write DIRTY WORDS ON CLEAN SKIN in the first place. It is only fitting that the new book I am writing is about our journey together — and that’ll be a hoot, I promise you!
To mothers and journeys!