"I really think it's time for us to write our memoir," my sister told me over the phone in early 2019. "It can give a lot of hope to people who have endured family and spiritual trauma."
"You'll have to write it yourself," I said. "I have no creative energy."
I'd written 19 books in the previous 15 years, as well as numerous reviews, articles, short stories, and cancelled book projects. I was now working 50 hours a week as a logistics manager at Staples, commuting another 10 hours a week.
A few weeks later, though, I was up all night. Praying. Full of restless energy. Arguing with God.
And then the title came to me. American Leftovers.
I knew then we were going to do this somehow. It would be my 20th book, with tons of writing help from my sister, Heidi Wilson Messner, and lots of memories and accounts from our brother, Shaun Paul Wilson. The title described the feelings we still dealt with, after living overseas and coming home to America as children, feeling like we didn't belong, It also described the leftover feelings after our church fell apart and our dad, the pastor, ran off with a teenaged girl from the congregation. Considering our mother was a master of creating meals out of leftovers, the title also felt like an ode to our mom, who died in late 2008.
But how could three of us, living in Tennessee, California, and Washington, all get together to write this book? Were we willing to dive deeply into the past, full of both the good and the bad?
In June 2019, we converged for a hiking and camping trip in Olympic National Park, just Heidi, Shaun, and I. We spent ten days walking, talking, sorting through the past and defining our futures. It was a painful yet healing process, which we continued again in 2020 and 2021. Finally, in June of 2022, we had a fully edited manuscript and a publisher who wanted to help tell our story. We were thrilled! And a little scared.
Part coming-of-age story, part travel adventure, and part spiritual memoir, American Leftovers releases in late March/early April 2023. It has been nearly four years since the project started. It has involved mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical sweat and tears. It has been quite the journey. We believe it will encourage, challenge, and inspire others who have survived family, religion, and the American Dream.
It is really happening. We are putting it all out there.
And to think, it's all my sister's fault.