Last Chapter of My Book’s Journey: The Doors Open and a Book is Published!

Posted by on Apr 20, 2012 in General | 8 comments

Of course, I'm going to use happy sunshine... what else?

As promised, the final installment (Catch up on Parts 1, 2, and 3)! Thank you for staying with me through the week and for the incredibly kind and supportive words about my journey. They mean more than you can imagine. This post is a little late. With all the excitement going on this week, it slipped my mind that I’d actually be away today. I’m with eight of my colleagues for a curriculum retreat this weekend. But I’m determined to finish the story, so here goes…


Please don’t hate me for quoting Oprah Winfrey, but she has a saying that has been true for me over and over and over again:

“When you find your authentic self, the doors simply open.”

What I’ve found is that when I’ve paid attention to my authentic self, when I’ve believed in myself, that’s when possibilities I never imagined occur. It happened to me time and time again when I decided to become a professor: An assistantship opened mid-year that shouldn’t have been possible. A part-time teaching post became unexpectedly available to give me experience before I left grad school. I landed a tenure-track post before I walked across the graduation stage.

Was this luck? I don’t believe so. I believe it was just affirmation from the universe telling me that I was finally moving in the right direction… and those doors opening to pave my way.

When I decided to believe in my own book project, the same uncanny things started to happen.

Remember I mentioned at the end of the last post that a phone call was coming to change everything? I’ll explain that now.

After my meeting with Don, I started to tell everyone about my goals of writing the student-professor communication book. I know myself. When I talk about something, I’ll do anything to not lose face. It’s a pride thing, ego thing, whatever… If I talk about something, I’m doing it!

A few days after telling one particular friend, she called me while I was on my way to work:

“Ellen, you have to turn on public radio!” she said. “There are these former book editors on now. They’re giving advice to people who are trying to get published. They just started the show.”

I immediately tuned in and there were Jen Worick and Kerry Colburn from The Business of Books giving insider advice about book publishing. The announcer came on and said, “We’re taking calls…”

Taking calls? Well, if that wasn’t the universe literally screaming out to me…

I made it to the college parking lot by then and my hands were shaking. Now I can speak in front of audiences of all sizes, but this was a whole different animal. I had not planned for this moment. I didn’t have a book. I didn’t even have a brain. But how could I not answer the universe? What in the hell was I going to say? What was I working on again?

I was the Very. Last. Caller. I said:

“I’m a college professor who has worked on other authors’ textbooks for years and I am finally ready to publish my own project. I am working on a twist on the college success genre—a book about student-professor communication. I’m wondering if I should approach an academic publisher or if it would be very difficult for me to go trade.”

The women told me that I should take my credentials and run to a publisher. They made it sound like I would be very appealing.

And then… fade to black. The show. Not me. Well, maybe me. I don’t know how I made it to class, but I think I did.

Here’s the punch list of what happened next:

-I went to Jen and Kerry’s first seminar series called Polish Your Proposal.

-I hired Jen and Kerry to personally mentor me through my book proposal process. I needed them to hold me accountable and teach me about the process because a) I know the places in my life where I am not an expert and this certainly counts as one of those places!; and b) with a full-time job and two little kids, I needed to be held accountable. I delayed my dream long enough!

-I sent out a boat-load of query letters to agents starting in February 2011. My agent Krista Goering got my concept and signed on in May 2011.

-I earned a sabbatical from my college to finish my book from September 2011 through December 2011

-When my sabbatical “officially” ended in December 2011, I did not yet have a publisher. I had a number of bites, but was told that “my topic was not widely marketable enough in the college success genre.” Can I digress for a minute? Straight up, I call total BS on that one.

I have reviewed the other college success guides out there in my book proposal. They devote maybe one to three chapters on the student-prof relationship, yet students deal with their professors every single day in college.

Students deserve to have a voice. Students deserve to know how to appropriately, professionally, and confidently use the right words to deal with the everyday issues that will inevitably arise during a college experience.

I had the dream to be the person to give the students those words when I wrote that list in my desk drawer.

I was Not. Giving. Up!

-In a “festival of lights” (or Festivus, if you’re a Seinfeld fan… like me!) miracle, mighty NorLights Press signed on to publish my book in December 2011.

On April 14th, my book, Say This, NOT That to Your Professor: 36 Talking Tips for College Success hit Amazon, Barnes and and is still reaching its other distribution channels as we speak.

As of this writing, earlier today, the book hit position #99 out of The Top #100 in College + Counseling Education (hey, I’ll take it!) on Amazon and I was thrilled to see it listed as a “Hot Release” in that same area.

I never really thought of how I’d close this miniseries. I just knew that I really needed to write it based on my mixed emotions when I held the proof copy of the book in my hand for the first time.

Am I elated that I have my own book out… finally… after all these years of dreaming about it?

Absolutely. It still doesn’t even feel real to me, but then again, the book has only been out less than one week. More than that, I’m thrilled that I have a chance to possibly impact even more students’ lives. I believe in the message of this book with my entire heart.

I will admit that I also feel a great deal of unexpected pain. I don’t think about my father all the time anymore. Many years have passed since he died. But my writing, more than anything else, was a dream that he shared with me. So, I feel his loss acutely right now. Amazing how grief can capsize you years after you believe you’ve gotten some management of it.

I’m also finding out how amazing it can feel when something you’ve wished for so, so, so long actually happens. I’m going to try to stay very present and revel in every single second.

I promised you a sneak peek into the book and I actually noticed that my publisher did a very, very thorough “Look Inside the Book” on Amazon that wasn’t there a couple of days ago. I’d love to hear your thoughts (and if you like what you see on Amazon, there’s even a little “Like” button you can click!). I’m starting a hashtag of #STNT (Say This, NOT That) to get social on Twitter or so students can ask questions. I’m going to share more on Monday as a bonus.

And we’re back to regularly scheduled programming on Tuesday!

Once again, abundant, abundant appreciation to you for coming on this journey with me this week.



In case you were wondering…

-The first husband went on to remarry. He was 10 years older, after all. I understand he met a wonderful woman and they had three beautiful children.

-My mother is alive, in her 60s. We have debriefed those difficult years and hearing her side as an adult helped me understand a little more about where she was coming from. She is very proud of me and I know that.

-Don Crawley is real–you saw his picture. Learn more about Don at

-Jen Worick and Kerry Colburn are both seasoned editors and nonfiction writers, themselves. Learn more about them at: I can’t say enough incredible things about them.

Signing off for real now!


  1. Ellen, this series is absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much. You are an inspiration.

    • Karen,
      I’m sorry for the delay in my response. I was away at a faculty retreat for the weekend and a little behind. But thank you so much. This series was really therapeutic for me to write and your words touched me so much!

  2. Ellen, I feel like I know you through your posts. I almost pumped a fist in the air when I got to the end of your story and was able to roam through your book on Amazon. As a professor, and a student, I absolutely believe your book is needed. And long overdue! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, Anissa

    • Hi, Anissa,
      I apologize for the delay in my response. I was away running a faculty retreat all weekend and saw the comments, but didn’t want to publish them without being able to respond. I really appreciate your words and I SO appreciate your taking a look at the book on Amazon! I realized when the book was officially out that it’s actually a little scary to be “out there” this way, but more than that, I know the information is needed. So, I’m riding on that idea instead :-) . Thank you for the validation and confirmation, which means the world to me! I look forward to our continued connection :-) . Ellen

  3. You know I am NOT one of those new age type of peeps that think everything happens for a reason. BUT, now and then, it does appear that way and your story sure fits the bill! I look forward to hearing of GREAT success with your book, Professor!

    • Hi, Bruce,
      I’d love to say that I’m not one of those new age peeps who thinks everything happens for a reason either, but you know? I have to say I’m starting to wonder. When my dad died, I remember being so angry, so confused about what “life’s plan” was (I’d say G-d’s plan, but that’s difficult for me). Now, years later, I see the whole situation very differently. My dad was a huge enabler. I was very, very irresponsible. I mean, my dad saw to it that I was married before he died and it was not a good situation for me, but he did what he thought was best so I was taken care of. I have wondered, had he lived, who would I have turned out to be? Would he have kept rescuing me? I hate to think that he needed to die so I could struggle and become who I am now, but maybe that was life’s plan. I just don’t know. I used to think about this a lot. And now, with the book coming out, I’ve become introspective once again, thinking about it further. Big hugs to you, Bruce. Thank you for all of your support, which hardly seems like enough sentiment. Ellen

  4. Great to see the conclusion to the story – or is it a new beginning? A wonderful example of perseverance and “right place/right time” events culminating in your book. It looks like you had a few timely “divine appointments” during the process.

    Congrats, Ellen.

    • Hi, Brian,

      I just wrote this whole small dissertation to Bruce regarding his comment about things happening for a reason. You know, I just don’t know. My students in Georgia used to say “G-d helps those who help themselves.” And then there’s my Oprah quote that I love so much. This may be kind of a silly analogy, but I’m a total plant killer. Every time we have, say, an herb starter, though, and I put it in the (meager) Seattle sun by my kitchen window, I notice how the plant will lean into where it’s given energy. I never even knew that plants did that. I just know that when I’ve put my energy into what is real and true for me, my true self, I suppose, that’s when things have worked out the best. And when I’ve turned away from those things, that’s when life has been really, really hard. The problem is that I haven’t always known how to tell the difference. I still find myself confused, particularly when cool projects come my way, which is why my book took so long to make its way out. But this is possibly how it was supposed to be? I don’t know. I guess we all struggle with those issues sometimes. I value you, Brian. I hope you know that. Ellen

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