I'm proud to share how I coached Melinda on her memoir, Driving Home Naked: And Other Misadventures of a Country Veterinarian
Dr. Melinda McCall and Candace Coakley at the book launch for Driving Home Naked
How did you first connect?
Melinda was referred to me through Author Accelerator and She Writes Press. She submitted her manuscript to SWP and was placed on the coaching track. The team at Author Accelerator matched us because they knew I was an animal lover and specialized in memoir.
How do you know when a client is a good match?
I love championing strong writers who are ready to share meaningful life lessons through a memoir. When I read her initial draft, I was blown away by her witty voice and positive outlook on life. Melinda's tales about her experiences as a large animal veterinarian exuded personality and grit, and were laugh-out-loud hilarious. Her authenticity and passion for sharing her work and life shined; I couldn’t wait to guide her on her writing journey.
What did the process entail?
I completed a developmental edit on Melinda’s draft and suggested she transform her stories into a memoir about her successful career as a large animal veterinarian. After being told, “it’s not woman’s work” and encountering many other roadblocks, she was eager to reflect on her life and make meaning of her experiences. Together, we identified the throughline and narrative arc of her stories and honed a theme based on the grit and commitment it takes to be a woman in a male-dominated profession.
How long did it take?
Initially, I proposed a five-month coaching package. Melinda was concerned that, as a single mother with a demanding job operating her mobile veterinary practice, she'd have minimal writing time; we agreed on a ten-month package with more time between deadlines. Through our intensive work together, Melinda transformed 28,000 words of “stories” into an 88,000-word memoir.
What tools did you use to get to the end result?
We worked through Blueprint for a Memoir to flesh out her ideas and clarify her central argument that being a large animal veterinarian is more than a career – it’s a calling. Other themes emerged, including the importance of birth and death throughout her life and career. We examined her arc of change to illustrate how she, as the protagonist, changed from the beginning to the end of the story. We developed characters and ensured the force of opposition was strong with ample tension and conflict.
Melinda mastered the Inside Outline, a tool to ensure that the stories had a clear sense of narrative drive, that each chapter drove forward to the next, and that the chapters made sense in relation to one another. Melinda affectionately refers to the Inside Outline as a lifesaver and jokes that she incorporates the idea of “scene and point/what happened and why it matters” into other aspects of her life.
What are you most proud of in this coaching relationship?
I am thrilled about the endorsements we secured for the memoir. Blurbs from Temple Grandin, Courtney Maum, Jennifer S. Holland, and other respected authors are a testament to the quality of Melinda’s writing.
What was your favorite part of the process?
I love supporting strong women determined to make the world a better place. Melinda and I grew close during our work together. We bonded over animals, music, and motherhood. We shared playlists and even created one for her memoir. Check it out on Spotify.
When I read a paragraph in her manuscript about how it’s impossible for her not to befriend her clients, Melinda’s philosophy resonated with my own approach to book coaching. I realized that book coaching is also more than a career, it’s a calling. Here’s the excerpt from her memoir:
“One of my veterinary mentors warned me, “Don’t become friends with your clients or your employees.” I always thought that sounded so impersonal and, quite frankly, kind of mean. How do you even do that when your career is your life? I’d been living and working in this community for nearly five years now with no family closer than four hours away. My clients and co-workers had become like family to me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
I also feel strongly that respecting and appreciating the people you work with is essential. When you’re working so closely with someone’s life story, you get to know each other on a profoundly personal level. I enjoy building meaningful relationships that deepen my clients’ stories and teach me about life. I believe this level of authentic communication is critical to success.
Did you continue to support Melinda after her memoir was sent to print?
Yes, I love being involved with clients throughout their entire book journey, from idea to publication and beyond. Since I have a marketing background, I put together a marketing and publicity plan for Melinda. I hired two publishing interns from Emerson College to create Melinda's author website, manage her social media, and develop her newsletters. I planned a launch event at a local organic farm in the Boston area. It was terrific to meet Melinda (and her sweet daughter) in person after working together for two years. I also moderated the event. It was a success with over one hundred people attending and buying lots of books. I'm proud to report that Driving Home Naked has sold 3,000 copies in its first month of publication.