One year ago, I became a published author. Dirty Words on Clean Skin, my journey from fearful news junkie to activist, detailed the revolting media treatment Hillary Clinton and other politically inconvenient women received in 2008 and beyond. Notwithstanding the teeth gnashing involved in reliving those events, bringing this effort to fruition has been the adventure of my life. Since I was honored to have this wonderful blog as my launching pad, I’d like to share some of that adventure with you.
This is what the process of writing Dirty Words felt like:
And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
First things first. To be accurate, one year ago, I became a self-published author. No matter the quality of the writing or value of the subject matter, no literary agent would take it on. Were they afraid to call mainstream media out on the carpet for their grotesque sexism and one-sided reporting? Did they really believe there was no market for the way women are still treated in this country?
Every part of me screamed that it was necessary to release the book through traditional channels. While generating significant interest, in the end, too many changes were demanded. Agents insisted that anything personal be taken out of the book, but what I had to offer went beyond reportage. It was necessary that the reader be with us in the trenches since pundits’ foul behavior and their ensuing revisionist history had an effect on millions that cannot be underestimated. Many books and essays were released pushing the “it was all Hillary’s fault” mantra. The idea that the truth of these events would be buried without so much as a whimper was unconscionable. Since Dirty Words proved that domestic abuse played out on a national level, the choice to tell this story in a non-traditional manner meant going my own way.
Literary agents also said it was too late for this book and no one would care — unless Hillary planned to run again. They were right insofar as this has not been an easy sell. But guess what? Hillary Clinton’s popularity is through the roof, she is doing much to remain in the public eye and her energy shows no sign of waning. To the surprise of naysayers in the literati, she is looking pretty good to run in 2016, although it would be foolish to imagine the fight won’t be just as tough. So, no, it is never too late to talk about the treatment of 52% of the population.
I remained terrified of pushing the snowball up the hill without the backing or street cred of a publisher. In the fall of 2011, the finished book was ready. I handed it to my best friend of 30 years, an apolitical and deadly honest person who I thought would be bored to tears. Her reaction was quite the opposite. Seeing that I was dragging my feet on taking the next step, she urged me forward. Her words will stay with me forever:
“You wrote a book about this brilliant woman who the media told to sit down and shut up. How long are you going to wait for someone to give you permission to have your voice?”
Six months later, I launched my book on this wonderful site. I cannot thank each of you enough, especially the lovely Miss Uppity, for cradling this effort and giving me so much support. But the moments before and after were not without their real life drama. At the end of January 2012, my mother collapsed. With her in and out of hospitals and skilled nursing for the months that followed, I almost abandoned putting the whole project out altogether. I’m sure many have had the experience of family crises pushing their own goals to the back burner. I made the decision to be there for her and myself at the same time.
In March, when I had the proof copy, I raced to the hospital to put the book in Mom’s hands, since it is dedicated to her. She needed to know that I had finished what I started. Once it started selling and her health was a bit better, I went back for my daily visit and read her a few paragraphs. With her charming Italian accent, Mom stuck her elbows out and said “Fly, fly. Spread your wings and fly.”
She must have been channeling. I’d never heard her say anything like that.
While I made some early mistakes in marketing, I found great publicists who got me on every imaginable radio outlet. TV, predictably was harder. I am now often introduced and regarded as an expert on all things Hillary and all things sexist! And due to the support of another amazing blogger on this site, my book is on the curriculum at Pasadena City College. I love going to speak to the students there. A young man said to me, “Well I’m not a feminist but…” I stopped him and we had the following exchange:
Me: Do you believe a woman is equal to a man?
Me: Do you believe women should get equal pay for equal work?
Me: Do believe there should be an end to violence against women?
Me: Congratulations. You’re a feminist.
Dirty Words on Clean Skin has spent 16 weeks as #1 on Women in Politics books on Amazon.
It was a nice ego boost to see my name above Christiane Amanpour’s. She must have looked at the stats and thought – who the hell is Anita Finlay! While that may not make the book a best-seller by traditional standards, it has sold far more than the vast majority of self-published works (with the exception of Fifty Shades of Grey, of course. Maybe there’s a future for me in chick-porn, but I doubt it…)
The book has also sold more than quite a few traditionally published books but, more important, I’ve been able, via radio, to get this message out to millions of people. It is something I continue to do, both as an ongoing commentator on America’s Radio News Network and The Jerry Doyle Show (#3 in syndication in the country). I’ve been invited to write for a number of different sites and am now a regular contributor at a large, independent news site, Epic Times, which has its official launch soon.
Five years ago, I blogged under a pseudonym. Considering that I had spent so much of my life terrified to let anyone know my opinion, to be so public is a sea change that had to be seen to be believed. As I wrote, “Watching Hillary stand up taught me to stand up.”
Support and respect has come from some unexpected places. Good things can happen when you walk into the lion’s den. 2012 was a fierce year. I grew up and out of my old container. Perhaps dealing with my mother’s failing health the entire time helped the courage quotient since her situation became the scary part, making me less afraid to sign my name to what I thought was risky work.
Sometimes, I’ll listen back to an mp3 of a radio interview and I am bloody shocked at my own outspokenness. I like that I have learned to speak out. I’m still wobbly sometimes. But I do it.
The best news is that Mom is well enough that she just asked for a large print version of the book so she can finally read it. She gets to enjoy me being a loudmouth, too.
Her life experience is what inspired me to write Dirty Words on Clean Skin in the first place. It is only fitting that the new book I am working on be about our journey together — and that’ll be a hoot, I promise you!
Having long made my living as an actor, I still managed to get a few gigs last year, but I feel such a pull into this new world that the idea of getting a radio show and reaching out to others, to get past limiting messages that keep otherwise likeminded people divided, is much more where my sensibilities are today. I am working on it.
All of that started here.
For a trip down memory lane, click here: Anita Finlay Press Kit 4 12 2013
As a thank you, last Christmas I got a great response when I offered two signed books for the price of one. In honor of Mother’s Day, I am offering that same special from now through the end of May. If you know of anyone who would be interested, just mention Uppity Woman and write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be taken care of! Feel free to pass the word along. I’d like to make this as affordable for people to read as possible.
Please know that I hold each of you in my heart for every kind word and generous gesture on your part. I will always appreciate you for taking my virtual hand and jumping into the deep end of the pool with me.
By the way…what kinds of topics would you like to see a book tackle, whether social or political, familial, personal or professional?
If you could blow the lid off anything, what would it be? Inquiring minds want to know…
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