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Honoring My Mother’s Life Through Writing Vada’s Vittles

Vadas Vittles Book CoverI conceptually started writing Vada’s Vittles about 10 years ago when my sister and I decided we had a mother with a story that needed to be told. We had witnessed the transformation of a little, poor black girl who was given away at birth that morphed into an extraordinary mother who birthed her own little royal family. Over the years, she raised a village of people with the nourishments of her love, compassion, and delicious soul food. Her witty one-liners and sayings combined with her recipes became the book I wrote and named Vada’s Vittles.

After deciding the book title and the elements I wanted to capture, I began the story. It’s the true story of a woman and her family. This growing family opened their hearts and their homes to their friends and their extended families. They literally put their arms around generations of folks and the love and the food multiplied from the homeless to the famous.

The actual writing of the book didn’t occur for several years for several reasons. Working a full-time job, along with all other life demands, unfortunately relegated all projects to weekends or to the back burner. I worked at CVI from 2001 to 2006 providing instruction in the areas of: Keyboarding, Braille, Adult basic education and Activities of Daily Living. Later I eventually became an Assistive Technology instructor. I then worked a little over two years for Fulton County Schools as an itinerant Vision Teacher. In May 2008, I relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I still reside today. I accepted a supervisory position at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, California and remained employed until 2013.

In January 2013 my mother and I became seriously ill simultaneously. Nonetheless, with spiritual blessings and prayers, we fought through our illnesses to continue our life’s journey. For me, it was a wake up call that yelled, “finish the book!” So, In the Spring of 2013, I took permanent leave from my job as the Supervisor of the Living Skills Department at the VA Blind Rehab Center to focus on my wholeness and wellness. Shortly afterwards, I started researching all the particulars about actually writing a book, which was something I hadn’t previously done. The first thing I learned is how an author’s work gets published. I chose the self-publishing route and followed each step to completion. I won’t bore you with every little contractual detail, but I will share my formula for completing my manuscript.

As a writer does with an agent, I signed a contract; but it was with me. The contract I signed said I agree to complete Vada’s Vittles by November 11, 2013. I drafted the contract myself and signed it, as if I was a writer signing with an agent, and in essence, I was.

Picture of MillicentI devised an outline that included chapter names and headings. Then I began to write. I committed to writing one hour per day, before noon, six days a week. This totaled at least 20 typed pages per month. My goal was to eventually complete 100 typed pages which was more than enough to complete a book with less than 200 pages. My determination and discipline ruled me over the next several weeks, and the end was quickly in sight. The final chapter of my book entitled Vada’s Villagers is comprised of real narratives from the people who have had their own experiences at my mother’s kitchen table or somewhere in their crossed paths. I set the appropriate deadline to receive their writings, in keeping with my set deadline, and the entire manuscript was completed by August 30, which was well ahead of my goal. The remaining weeks gave me time to read and tweak the manuscript during the one hour per day outlined in my contract.

Writing my book as a visually impaired person was not too much of a challenge. I used my computer with screen reading software and submitted my manuscript electronically on-line. The challenge came from the publishing company and the web-based software program that they used. I had to log on to their website, review and edit the manuscript in a very precise way while following very specific directions. The review and edit process was not completely accessible with my screen reader. This is when my sighted sister jumped in and was a great help. She was also able to assist me with the book cover, photos and graphics. I trusted her judgement on what looked best and leaned on her recommendations.

Once and for all, for the last time and for real, I proofread and sent the completed manuscript of Vada’s Vittles to my publishing company. A copy editor contacted me within 30 days with comments and suggestions. After the book jacket was designed and the revision rounds were completed, Vada’s Vittles was finally ready for consumption.

For more information on Vada’s Vittles go to my website at www.millicentelainewilliams.com.

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