A Memoirist’s Extra Layers of Gratitude

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It didn’t matter how many times I took a crack at the acknowledgements for Caged Eyes, the note felt distressingly inadequate. There simply wasn’t enough space to convey the magnitude of my appreciation for the many, many people who played a part in my story becoming a memoir.

Book publishing is a team sport. And memoir? It’s even more so.

I’m immensely proud that Caged Eyes will be the first traditionally published memoir about military sexual assault, but the reality is that without the dozens of people who have come into my life at just the right moment, this book wouldn’t exist.

For instance…

The book’s protagonists: before Caged Eyes could become a memoir, it needed heroes. After all, I had to survive my story before I could write about it. I wouldn’t have lived – and I mean that literally – if it weren’t for the commanders and instructors at the Air Force Academy who did the right thing, the classmates who supported and befriended me, the doctors who went above and beyond to help me become well, and a sister who stood by my side through it all.

Writing classmates and groups: as I grew as a writer, I shared more and more of this story with fellow writers in workshops and in my long-standing writers’ group. If it hadn’t been for their encouragement and empathy, I wouldn’t have been able to trust that I could ever share my truth safely.

The perfect publishing team: I didn’t need just an agent, I needed a perfect agent. One who empathized but still treated me as an author, and one who understood my message and believed in its potential to reach an audience. Then I needed an editor of the same quality, and a publicist. I’m grateful every single day that I trust (there’s that word again!) the team helping to put this book into the world. They “get” my memoir and me, and they are sensitive to the challenges of publicizing my story.

Circles and circles of friends: I don’t just have an inner circle of supportive friendships; I have rings upon rings. I can’t imagine being more buoyed by my network of friendships. And now, I even have my fellow writers on the Debutante Ball. It seems like every direction I turn, I have people rooting for me and for the success of this story. How could I face putting my story into the world without them? I couldn’t.

Survivors and memoirists who have come before me: Perhaps I’m even most thankful for the authors who have run this trail ahead of me. Authors like Maya Angelou, Alice Sebold, Sue William Silverman, Lidia Yucknavitch – and so, so many more! Their tenacity, honesty, and willingness to be vulnerable makes it possible for me to emulate those qualities, too. I can only tell my story because they had the strength to tell theirs first.

I have approximately 734 fears about publishing my story. But I have about that many people lifting me up, too.  I don’t know for sure what it will feel like for Caged Eyes to launch into the world on February 7th, but I do know that no matter what, I will have a long line of cheerleaders and supporters. I’m grateful indeed.

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Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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