Oklahoma City state Rep. Sally Kern describes book writing process
Published: July 7th, 2011
“I never thought I would be writing a book,” Sally Kern says. The Oklahoma City Republican reflected, “When I was a child, in my imagination I occasionally dreamed of doing something like this, but not after I grew up.”
Things changed for her after portions of a speech she gave on January 10, 2008 – sharply critical of the gay rights movement and advocacy — became a worldwide YouTube sensation. Portions from her 20 minute-plus address became the basis for controversy that has never fully abated.
Her experiences after she wound up worldwide on the Internet “turned my thoughts in this direction, ultimately. That experience was unique in my life to that point. I went through something that doesn’t happen to most people. My husband began to say to me almost immediately, as he saw the controversy swirling, that I should write a book.”
At first, “I wasn’t so sure, because I thought the readership would only be my family and perhaps close friends.”
What she did not know was that her husband, Rev. Steve Kern (pastor of Olivet Baptist Church in west Oklahoma City) had called a journalist friend, then working at The Baptist Messenger (newspaper of Oklahoma’s Southern Baptist Convention). That man referred Rev. Kern to “a person in the book business we should contact.”
It was not long before the minister and his wife learned “that the issue had provoked millions of hits to stories about my comments. By August 2008, there were serious discussions. I became persuaded that if I could tell the story it would have a far-reaching appeal, the story of a politician who made critical comments about the homosexual movement, and then didn’t back down in the face of attacks.”
Believing then the story’s appeal would be limited, Kern remembers, “I still thought of it as a book from the viewpoint of a minister’s wife, a distilling of politics and the culture war. I began to set the story down on paper, laying out my background as a schoolteacher [at Northwest Classen High School]. I met at length with a writing adviser, and did that at length two times.”
Then, “I sat down at the keyboard and starting composing. It was most of what I did other than legislative work in October, November and December. Other than the absolute necessities for work and family, I was at home writing every chance I got.
“It just started coming out. I would finish a bunch of pages and give it to Steve. He would say, ‘This is good.’ I told him he was biased because he is my husband. Well, in December I had a finished but unpolished manuscript.”
It took awhile to find the right fit with a publisher, but Kern says none of the publishing houses sought to dissuade her from the project. She believes the long process (typical for first-time authors) was positive. She remembers:
“My agent ‘shopped’ the idea and the story around to publishers, had conversations at conferences for book sellers. Almost immediately one of the major publishers was interested for their new imprint. I worked with that first publisher for four or five months, and went through a lot of preliminaries. It went … ‘up the hill” as I described it. One board member killed it, so then it seemed like I was back at square one.”
Kern had come to embrace the project and was not discouraged, in spite of that first rejection.
While her husband was always convinced the book would find the right publisher and audience, “My thought for quite a while was that it would never be published, but at least I had laid out my side of the story. For awhile it seemed surreal to me that any publisher might print my story.
“We talked to another big publisher that treated it respectfully, but in the end replied, paraphrasing now, ‘Yeah, this is a story that needs to be told, but we won’t take it.’ Then there were brief discussions with several others.”
Her husband kept believing, her agent kept encouraging, and Kern kept at it.
She told CapitolBeatOK, “Ultimately, we settled in with Front Line, part of the Charisma House Book Group. I was impressed when their representative said, ‘if I can’t take a book like this, then we have no business being in business.’ It was by the early fall of 2010 that I signed a contract.”
Long days of writing and editing were not quite over for Kern, who recalls, “As we moved through the final months with the publisher, the book expanded somewhat, to address the entire culture war of our day. It grew a bit during this past winter of 2010-11. I fell into a routine where I proof-read chapters one at a time, usually on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.
“I signed off on the final version of everything in April or so. We made sure of all the citations and references. We got around to the pictures late in the process, and that was quite a little bit of work. We had to get approval from the sources for the photos, and releases in some cases from the people in photographs.”
Kern began to learn the economics of book publishing. Learning there was a chance she would see income from book sales was encouraging, but “it wasn’t about the money. I wanted to tell my story. I remember when the first galley [proof-reading copy] of the book came to me. I just sat there and held it for five minutes. I couldn’t’t believe it.”
When she discussed the book in a long interview, her first printed copies had just arrived. She said then, “I sat and read the whole thing this last weekend. They are working with me on a promotion schedule, on the travel I’ll need to do to promote it and sell it.”
She anticipates book signings, appearances on some cable television interview programs such DayStar (an Evangelical cable network based in Dallas) and Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN, now the world’s largest religious network), among others. She notes, “That schedule is still finalizing. I’ll touch base with a lot of churches, Republican women’s groups, and others.”
This week, Kern said, she has an interview with Alan Colmes on his nationwide radio program, and a session on American Family Radio. Later this month, she says Concerned Women for America will discuss the book with her.
She has appeared locally to discuss the book with former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys and former Attorney General Mike Turpen on their television program. This Sunday, a reporter for The Baptist Messenger will observe and report on her testimony at a local church.
Most comments about the book itself have been positive, she believes, but she knows critics will certainly get their chance to assess her, and the book.
The new author disclosed, “Right now, I’m a little overwhelmed with everything.”
The publisher, not Kern, came up with the book’s title: “The Stoning of Sally Kern.” The finished product is 214 pages, including references, photographs and an index, and is listed at $22.99.
The book includes (on pages 18-31) the entire text of the speech that brought her notoriety and acclaim, and ultimately led to the book itself.