by Taffy Cannon
This is kind of an blog chain letter, wherein one writer answers a specific set of questions about a work-in-progress, and then tags five other writers to answer the same ten WIP questions on their blogs—and so on and so on until there aren’t any more writers left on the earth.
Of course I am a rebel by nature and so I have switched around the order of the questions to make them more to my liking. Also because this book is unlike anything I’ve written previously.
What is the working title of your book?
The Baby Boomer’s Guide to SibCare
Who or what inspired you to write this book? Where did the idea come from for the WIP?
Five years ago, my younger brother’s health, which had been problematic since a malignant brain tumor in 1994, took a serious nosedive. My sister and I were suddenly immersed in major issues and decisions related to his deteriorating health. She was in Seattle and I was in San Diego. Our brother, a former cop who lived alone with a minimal support system, was in Chicago and wanted to stay there.
We faced a lot of medical crises, bureaucracies, and financial messes. We made mistakes and followed false paths and spent a lot of time with our fingers in our ears, singing lalalalala very loudly. We learned to live by a maxim our mother, gone now for 41 years, used often: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
We had some great help from friends and relatives and even bureaucrats. We also were blessed with a true deus ex machina that changed everything in the family equation fairly early on. But most of the time we were banging around in the dark, trying to figure out what to do next. My mantra became: “Now what?”
I met other folks my age having similar sibling-related medical experiences and got some useful tips and advice from them. And I tried to find some kind of handbook about the particular joys and challenges of helping a sibling with a serious medical problem.
I came up empty.
My brother passed away last March. And I decided to write the book that I had looked for and couldn’t find.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The baby boomers are getting old, and when your body turns on you and you don’t have a strong local support system, the default is likely to be family.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote about what was happening quite a bit while it was going on, in narrative fashion. When I looked at this narrative, I realized there was a lot of practical material in there that could be very helpful to other people taking on medical bureaucracies, bill collectors, stubborn patients, unexpected crises, and sometimes other relatives as well. I decided to make it more accessible by putting it into handbook form.
Every family’s situation is different, and so is every sibling relationship, even within a single family. There are, however, common problems and challenges. My intention in The Baby Boomer’s Guide to SibCare is to point people in the right direction to find out more about how to meet their particular family needs.
I danced around getting started with the handbook itself for a while, writing bits and pieces here and there. I wrote outlines and arranged multi-colored Post-Its on pieces of foam board. I did some research and labeled a lot of file folders. In fact, I was researching studies of adult sibling relationships (Newsflash: there are precious few) when my brother went into his final decline.
Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
Since my agent handles only fiction, I anticipate working with a former agent who represents nonfiction.
What genre does your book come under?
Self-help, I guess. Health. Caregiving. It’s a hybrid.
Let’s see. Maintaining equanimity in the face of uncertainty. Standing up to unforeseen challenges. Laughing at adversity. Have I missed any clichés?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Ain’t none. See above.
There are certain similarities to books about taking care of aging parents, but the sibling relationship is really quite different from that. There is also a limited literature about siblings disabled from birth, a group with many overlapping elements.
Here’s why it’s different: Your siblings are the people you’re likely to know for the longest time in your life.
Your parents are around for the first part and with luck you’ll have a family of some sort with you during the middle-to-last parts. But your siblings march in lockstep beside you throughout your entire family history.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Ten thousand baby boomers become eligible for Medicare every single day. That’s a whole lot of people getting old at a very rapid rate, people who genuinely believed they would remain forever young.
Nobody’s been talking too much about the boomers for a while, but there plenty of us and we share an important collective history. We were young in a period when it sometimes seemed as if everything was changing at once. We caused or participated in in a lot of important societal movements, events, and changes—sometimes from more than one side. Vietnam, of course, is the classic generation-splitter.
But despite many differences, the baby boomers share a lot of common ground and have left an important cultural legacy. It all kind of blended together over time:
Rock and roll. Vietnam. Protest. Civil Rights. The Women’s Movement. The Sexual Revolution. Exercise for adults. Environmental Awareness.
And did I mention rock and roll?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
As a general rule self-help books don’t get made into movies, or even get development deals. And a lot of this material is drawn from personal experience, which means it’s about the Cannon family. It’s hard for me to picture us as anybody but us.
However, I would be satisfied to have Meryl Streep play me. She’s also a blonde baby boomer and I think she can get the accent.