My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography

Cover A-page-001Please comment on the book as a whole here. The Twelve Steps for Growing Deep Community are posted separately. Please comment on them there.

4 thoughts on “My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography”

  1. From David Marshall:

    I’ve read enough of your book today to know that I recommend that you publish it to a wider audience sometime in the next twelve months, but I believe it needs a fair amount of manuscript shaping. It’s a great read, but the BIG IDEA of the book gets lot in the current structure. I would like to see more of a narrative arc as well, knowing full well that real life does not always create the kind of dramatic arc that fiction does. It should feel like a cohesive story, not a disjointed story. I also think you need to reduce it by about 100 to 150 pages in order to reach a wider market. If the goal is for the reader to know everything about you, then all the information you have included in this first version is relevant, but if the goal is to inspire your readers to search and find deep community in their own lives, then I think some of your chapters are extraneous. To reach a wider audience with a more focused message, I think you can safely delete these chapters: … But I am just giving you a glimpse of the manuscript review I intend to do for you during the month of August, and will certainly have ready by September 15 as you requested.

    Meanwhile, I would like you to consider publishing the the next edition of your book as an Open Book Editions title. This would officially bring you into the BK author community, you will be invited to join the BK Authors Cooperative, which is a wonderful writers community, and as an OBE author, you would be qualified to attend our annual BK Authors Retreat, which I know you would love. If you signed on in the next few weeks, you could probably still get a place at the upcoming BK Authors Retreat to be held in the Los Altos Hills in early November. My dad, Gene Marshall, who is also an OBE author through The Road from Empire to Eco-Democracy, is planned to attend from his home outside Dallas. I think you two would have a lot to talk about. Anyway, if you are interested in publishing with OBE, I can put you in touch with Johanna Vondeling, our VP of Business Development and International Sales. She runs the OBE partnerships with iUniverse, which is an Author Solutions/Penguin company.

  2. From Bob Anschuetz:

    Thanks for cluing me in on David Marshall’s appraisal of your book. It very much coincides with my own impression that the book, in effect, has two parts: one your life story, as told in the form of discreet segments, each with its own archetypal theme; the other an extended essay on the importance of “deep community” as a basis for effective social activism. My own suggestion to achieve greater unity, or cohesion, in the book would be, as I wrote in an earlier email, to offer a rationale in your Preface, and in a new “bridging” chapter, for how your search for deep community is directly related to your life story.

    I think David’s preliminary choice of chapters that might be eliminated is a good one, but I wonder about his suggestion that you create a “narrative arc” for your story that elevates it from “disjointed” to “cohesive.” Such cohesiveness is, I agree, an ideal for autobiographies and biographies, as well as for novels. But I think it might require a degree of revision for thematic and chronological progressivity that is tantamount to rewriting the book. For my own part, I found your “archetypal” organization, in which each theme is played out, in turn, to its end point in your life, as rather charming. Moreover, I know from samples of your writing that such segmentation seems to represent the way you look at life and even the way you make your points–focusing sharply on one aspect at a time. I also have another support for your approach. Remember your mentioning in your book how much you were impressed years ago by Gay Allen’s biography of “Waldo” Emerson? Based on that implicit recommendation, I’ve been reading this biography, and have found it also to be organized as a succession of chapters all of which develop a discreet spiritual theme. Each chapter does, however, start out with some explicit narrative or thematic connection to the conclusion of the preceding chapter.

    Because David is a responsible actor in the book business, he almost certainly knows better than I do what it will take to make your book both impactful and a successful seller. I know you’ll want to be guided by the manuscript review he will provide you. For now, my own notion is that, to give your book greater cohesion without having to substantially REWRITE it, these more modest changes can take you a long way:

    1) A more intelligible title.

    2) An explicit statement in the Preface of how your life experience led you to community organizing, the search for “deep community,” and the conviction that “deep community” is also the bedrock of effective social activism.

    3) An additional chapter bridging the “life story” chapters of your book with the efforts you describe to find, build, and promote activist groups based on “deep community.”

    4) Deletions of the chapters indicated by David.

    5) Explicit tie-ins at the beginning of each chapter with the conclusion of the preceding one, and insertions of year-dates at regular intervals throughout the book to keep the reader oriented to the period of your life in which the activities you describe are taking place.

  3. From Wade Hudson:

    After reflecting on David’s comments, my current inclination is to seek co-authors for another, more focused book. The working title is What We Want: A Commitment to Compassion. The idea is that the co-authors would collectively write the opening chapter, a declaration, and individually write chapters elaborating on why they affirm that declaration. The declaration might invite readers to endorse the declaration, commit to certain initial actions, and pledge to participate in one or more larger projects if and when enough participation is elicited to launch those projects. My current draft of the declaration begins, “Chances are, you want what most people want. We want to:…”

    1. From Freddi Fredrickson:

      First view, this (coauthor) seems to take away from the “autobiography” .

      I hated reading “and then Gerry drunk himself to death”. Have no edits on it, but it seems a little COLD, even tho it might be the truth.

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