I'm working on getting a book my dad wrote 25 years ago published, with the help of a much older high school alum I haven't ever met in person, and the brother of our school's most famous alum, John Badham - the director of Saturday Night Fever and War Games.
A week or so ago, I open up an email from an alum of my high school. While packing for an upcoming move, he ran across a letter from years before from my dad, requesting information for a book Dad was writing on the history of my high school. My father had been a teacher at the school when I was young; in fact, I grew up on the campus of this school, now considered one of the top private schools in the country. The alum wondered if the book had ever been published and through mutual friends, contacted me.
For some reason, the whole round of emails is super friendly and it feels like I already know this guy, even at the same time I am learning that he is an accomplished doctor who has taught the history of medicine at an ivy league school, and his wife is a former dean at another ivy league school. They summer at their home in Italy and have an apartment on Central Park West. Yes, this is the type of person my school is famous for graduating, and I know a few people like this, but still it's odd to me that he's my new bestie.
We talk on the phone and it's weird how much we have in common even though he is so much older than me. He has connections to publishers and he wants to help get the book published. He is also connected to the daughter of the headmaster at the time I was a kid - a woman who has been involved with some major fundraising efforts recently - and so has the ties to the school that we need to get their support.
I decided to get my hands on a draft of the book before I speak to my dad, because dad is fading, and he has never gotten through the publish process - not just because that's a whole other skill set from writing, but also because I think my dad is not very open to the criticism that the process of getting published takes. And now, with him older, I'm not sure how he will take people taking over his baby, or whether he is capable of helping to finalize revisions, but I also think he is lonely and a project like this with people from the school he loved so much could be a lifeline.
I have never read the book, but I recall that dad had said he had completed it. I suspect that, like most of dad's writing, it is technically beautifully written but missing in the emotional connection and page turning plot movements that make writing really compelling. I also know that the founding of the school involved breaking a very strange will, which I read when I was in school, and that it could be a story that has broader interest than just the alumni.
A little internet sleuthing leads me to find that a historian in Birmingham wrote an article for the local historical society several years back based on the manuscript. This is Tom, John Badham's brother - not an alum of my school, but, apparently, a guy who just loves loves loves doing research. He recently helped rewrite a history book that is on its way to best seller status. Without much more information, he is volunteering to also help with the publishing process. His brother was on the board of the school for many years, so that connection is also valuable to the project.
And he found a draft!
So we are on our way and at any rate I'm meeting some cool people and getting into a fun project.