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Doula of books
I am no longer the instructor, I am the mentor. We are now colleagues, aiding each other in the successful completion of our projects. Little in my life has been as satisfying as this journey.
-- Faith Sullivan

by Faith Sullivan


I am the doula of other women's books. True, I have birthed seven of my own, but there is almost as much joy in seeing another writer's "baby" born as there is in giving the push to one's own. Especially if you've been with the writer through the labor pains.

Sixteen years ago, I taught a six-session course in starting a novel - finding the strong push-off without which a writing project is unlikely to find completion. At the end of the sixth session, several in the class inquired whether I would repeat the course or teach a follow-up. At the time, I was wrapping up a novel of my own and told them, with regret, "No." With regret, because they were an unusual group of hard-working and talented writers.

At length, I told them, "I'll give it a try - if we can meet in my home, and if we can meet every two weeks instead of every week."

Sixteen years later, every other Wednesday morning, many of that original band are still pulling up to my messy, book-littered home, manuscripts in hand. We've seen the publication of short stories, novels, essays and memoir pieces.

A recent success from the group is Miriam Karmel's "Being Esther" published by Milkweed Editions. "Esther" is a deliciously funny and tender novel that has enchanted critics.

Can you imagine my pride and joy in being doula to such a fine baby?

I hear someone asking, "Isn't this writing by committee?" Not by a long shot. At every step, a Wednesday writer may disagree with or ignore the suggestions of the group. And they do disagree with and ignore, understanding that it is they who must finally be responsible for the work.

After 16 years with my Wednesday People, I am no longer the instructor, I am the mentor. We are now colleagues, aiding each other in the successful completion of our projects. Little in my life has been as satisfying as this journey.

For my money, there are no more fascinating, hard-working, vulnerable creatures on earth than writers. Every day, they lay their souls out there for public approval or rejection. In my next life I will own a hotel or apartment house for writers. The motto:

"Come, Work, Be Kind to One Another."

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To coin a cliché as a novelist and 16-year doula for my Wednesday People, I know this much: If you gotta write, honey, you gotta write.

Some call it a disease, some a madness. Ah, but I call it love.

Faith Sullivan lives in Minneapolis and has published seven novels, four of them set in the fictional town of Harvester, Minn., including a book-group favorite, "The Cape Ann." She published her first novel, "Repent, Lanny Merkel," in 1981. Currently, she's finishing up her eighth book, "Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse." Devoted to her readers, Sullivan estimates that she has visited more than 1,000 different book clubs to speak about her books.

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from a longer story published in the Minnesota Women's Press' sister publication, BookWomen, in the August/September 2013 issue.

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