EXPRESS YOURSELF

Living the Dream at the Worst Time

I landed my first book contract in the middle of the hardest year of my life

Sarah Stankorb
Human Parts
Published in
9 min readAug 31, 2022

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A woman signing a contract with a ballpoint pen
Photo by Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash

I asked a friend how she was doing the other day. She told me, honestly, that professionally things had never been so good; personally, they were brutal. I’ve had essentially the same sort of year.

Last August, my father fell and broke his hip and suddenly my long-distance care coordination routine turned into an intense responsibility to secure good care for both my parents. Both had signs of dementia; my dad was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer this spring and died before we were able to get a good read on what was going on with his mind. There were two months in the midst of his decline and with hospitalizations for my mother when I could not work at all because every minute was filled with caring for and fighting for them. My mind was a mess, my daily to-do list shifted from interviews with sources to calls with Medicaid or doctors or pleading with their first two nursing homes to tend to their needs.

Looking back now, it’s all a flood of memory, but of course, it came a day at a time, as did the thrill of emails from my literary agent: an editor was reading my book proposal with interest. She let the others we’d pitched know, and I heard two more were interested. One asked to schedule a call, then another. The day I learned that I’d be getting an initial offer on what will be my first book, I was driving cross-state to visit my parents. (The most recent Covid lockdown had lifted.) I arrived, wanting to tell my mother that the goal I’d dreamed of since elementary school was looking like it would become a reality.

She didn’t know who I was. I reminded her. She forgot within minutes.

In December my book went to auction, which was less a bespectacled man with a gavel calling numbers and more a series of emails between editors and my agent. I assure you, I was not made rich. But the best deal happened to come from an editor I’d hoped to work with for years. I was thrilled.

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Sarah Stankorb
Human Parts

Sarah Stankorb has published with The Washington Post, Marie Claire, Glamour, O, and The Atlantic (among others). @sarahstankorb www.sarahstankorb.com