Writing the book impacted me by the sheer joy of immersing myself in Annalena’s story. I have been challenged in how much I am willing to give up, in my idea of what it looks like to love people and to be a good neighbor, in how I think about Jesus and how I choose to embody my faith convictions.
I believe a little bit deeper that I am loved. How did this come from writing a book? I called one of my sisters while on book tour, almost in tears. I told her I felt like such a fraud, fake, idiot, what was I even thinking in putting my creative work out there and asking people to buy it and respond to it…She said some loving, gentle things, and then basically told me to knock it off. “Are you having fun? Do you think maybe you’re good at this?” she asked. “You aren’t forcing people to read the book or come to your events. They come because you wrote a good book and because they either want to meet the author, or they love you and want to support you.”
It was positively mind-boggling to accept this. To believe it. And yet, how could I not? I felt so loved. So. Loved. It was such a powerful experience to meet people across the country and to reconnect with old friends. I can’t even put words to it, and I’m a writer. Y’all moved me to tears multiple times.
The book has not changed my life in remarkable ways. People often ask how it is selling and I say, it could always sell better (go get it here)! I don’t really know exactly. I do know that I broke even with how much I spent on the writing and research process. Which means I earned approximately $0.00 on my time spent writing, okay a little bit more but it gets complicated really quickly. That seems about average for authors. Maybe? Where on earth does the idea come from that writers are rolling in money? Sure, a few are. But the rest of us hope to break even and when we do, we’re thrilled. We aren’t in it for the money and certainly not the fame – which I do not have and do not want. We are in it for the work and the story and the delight and the compulsion.
The book has led to beautiful conversations with Somali Muslims, with American Christians, with French Muslims, with atheists…with people from any place and any religious background. It has opened up new friendships and connections and increased my belief that people are supportive, caring, and kind. Sometimes. But enough times that I will settle there in how I view “us.”
I had a couple of book events in Djibouti and hosted a giveaway for free copies. Many Djiboutians can’t afford the luxury of purchasing a hard cover book, or any book. It was with great joy that I totally rigged the drawings to make sure local readers won the free books and I’ve since heard from a few of them that they are powerfully moved by Annalena’s story.
One told me, “I want to love and serve the poor like Annalena did. She was motivated by her love for Jesus, and I want to live in a similar way.”
My own increased belief that I am loved, new friendships, inspiring a few people to care for the poor among them, and giving people a book they are glad to have read…these are some of the gifts and impacts of the book in this first year.