When we left Vermont for Abu Dhabi in August 2014, I knew I’d come home with a book about the experience. Perhaps something funny about being a middle-aged, menopausal American woman in the Middle East.
I returned in June 2015 with a whole other story. Funny in parts, but mostly dead serious. Living in Abu Dhabi changed my life, maybe even saved my life.
Being in the company of Muslims and the Bedouin people inspired me to stop drinking alcohol, and believe me, I needed to do so. During my first few months in Abu Dhabi, the only thing I prayed for was happy hour to come quick. Forget any threats of terror, I was by far my own worst enemy.
When I decided it was time to change my self-destructive ways, I relied upon skills from my swimming career — concentration and determination — to win out over wine and vodka. The first few months were a crazy journey unto themselves, including a taste of hell in the paradise known as the Seychelles. I’ve since realized there is no finish line in this particular race. And the only thing I know for sure is that a region of the world that confounds most Americans brought me clarity. Thank you Abu Dhabi, the U.A.E. and the Middle East.
Home in Vermont, I devoted 10 months to writing about my lifelong experience with liquids. The 50,000 words comprising “TANKED” tell the story of a former champion swimmer who likes to drink a lot, and likes to find herself in foreign territory — Kenya, Tanzania, South Korea, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, Jordan, Egypt, India and Oman. She often winds up in some pretty extraordinary, even scary, situations.
But she doesn’t literally find herself until she goes dry in the Arabian Desert. The agonizing and ongoing transformation is her greatest victory.
In May 2016, I delivered to this manuscript to my agent Priya Doraswamy, who was delighted to find that I had poured my heart and soul in the story. Telling all the difficult truths, including the horrendous murder of a friend in Seoul, in great detail. She quickly sent TANKED to her top contacts in publishing.
And guess what?
At 9:31 p.m. on July 13, I signed a contract with Grand Harbor Press, an imprint of Amazon, to publish TANKED in hardcover, paperback, audio book and e-book forms. I’ll be working with Acquisitions Editor Erin Calligan Mooney to get the book in tip-top shape for release in April 2017. How perfectly apropos that the word “Harbor” is part of the publishing company’s name.
TANKED is my grown-up trophy. I trained as hard for this book as I ever did in the pool, getting up every day at 4 a.m. to write for four hours before going to work. It would have been easier to stay in bed on Vermont’s darkest and coldest mornings, but I felt driven to prevail.
Sometimes I was so excited for the alarm to go off in the wee hours that I couldn’t fall asleep — beyond eager to start pouring coffee and commence writing. A 180-degree shift from my former pattern of waiting all day for 5 p.m. so I could start drinking and then write. Not to mention the literal 130-degrees shift in temperature from very hot Abu Dhabi to very cold Vermont.
I do like extremes it seems, even sober. TANKED concludes in Iceland where I came to realize that I’d actually found anchor by giving up alcohol.
I wish my father, who taught me to swim in various bodies of water and to seek truth through great travel adventures, was alive to witness this success. Many of his words still linger in my head, especially one of the final sentences I ever heard him utter. He’d been watching National Geographic on the television at his memory care facility, when he turned to me and said:
It’s funny how things turn out.