It may be fifteen years that Courage to Heal, a novel based heavily in fact, was released by Sunbelt Publications, but its history goes back farther than that. As an editor and writing coach I worked on the project with its author, Dr. Paul Bernstein, years earlier. The end result was excellent, but the story of the book’s journey to publication is fascinating. That story was first told in a 2013 post and is repeated below, with no changes. (With the 15th Anniversary Edition of Courage to Heal due out this year, Paul will present an online talk on Thursday, September 9th, at 10 a.m. PDT. The registration link is https://www.eventbrite.com/e/151102773463)
ALWAYS “ACKNOWLEDGE” YOUR WRITING COACH
So, why should you “acknowledge” your writing coach? (And why the heck is the word in quotes?) This is a story in two parts. The first is about Dr. Paul Bernstein, a passionate writer, long-time student, client, and good friend. Over the years, Paul—a head and neck surgeon with Kaiser Permanente, and now its medical director for the San Diego area—has written some solid medical thrillers, stories good enough to land top representation. But, as it goes in this business, no book deals were forthcoming.
Still, he persevered, and a couple years ago he switched gears to write a novel, Courage to Heal, which he workshopped with my read/critique group and later had me edit. The story, heavily steeped in fact, is about Dr. Sidney Garfield, the industrialist Henry Kaiser, and the birth of not only Kaiser Permanente but also of the HMO system as we know it. This strong effort (in my humble opinion) met with considerable resistance from literary agents, prompting Paul to publish it himself. With the support of Kaiser Permanente, sales for Courage to Heal were actually quite impressive.
Part two: enter Jennifer Redmond, [at the time] editor-in-chief at Sunbelt Publications, and one of the nicest people that I know in this business. Jennifer and I had crossed paths at a number of writers’ conferences during the past year, including the SCWC in February. A month after that conference, out of the blue, I received a note from Jennifer. She had picked up a book called Courage to Heal, had read it, and had thoroughly enjoyed it. In the “Acknowledgements” she noticed that Paul had given me “…credit for its creation” and asked if she could put me in touch with him. Hey, no problem!
The rest is history. Courage to Heal was published later that year. Dr. Paul Bernstein had his first “legitimate” publisher. It wouldn’t be his last.
Congratulations, Paul and Jennifer. As for the rest of you: always remember to “acknowledge” your writing coach.