Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why I Kept My Book Private for Three Years

Austin is a wonderful community with so many activities going on all of the time. People talk about its famous music scene (it's nickname is "The Music Capital of the World"). But there is so much more to Austin than just music. There is also great theater, fabulous museums, art in all mediums, educational events, superb restaurants — and an active and involved community of book readers and writers.

One year ago this month, I attended an annual event sponsored by the Texas Writers League of Austin: a Literary Agent Conference. This is a place where writers can come to meet literary agents and gain their wisdom about the book publishing industry. Up until that point, I had only spoken about my book to a very small group of ex-devotee friends. And I swore them all to secrecy for two years.

I had two reasons to stay silent about my book. One is, I did not want word of my book to reach the people at Barsana Dham (renamed Radha Madhav Dham after the criminal trial). I didn't want to give them a head's up that a potentially damaging book about the ashram and its gurus was in the works. Also, I believed they would start attacking me publicly, and I was still deeply in the recovery stages of leaving a cult. I could not have withstood the public bloodletting.

The second reason I did not talk to anyone about the book was embarrassment. Once I was out of the cult and breathing free air and seeing the world without the cult’s twisted filters, I was mortified that I had ever been in this cult in the first place. The stronger I became during my healing years, the worse I felt for having made such a horrible misstep in my life. I had denied myself all of the normal experiences and pleasures of living in the world as a human being, because I had believed a man who told me that I needed to give up those things to find God.

When I arrived at the Agent Conference last year in June, I knew that I now had to tell other people about my book. At first, I was tongue tied and awkward. I would relay a little bit of information to a fellow writer over coffee or lunch and wait for their horrified judgment of me.

But an interesting thing happened at that conference — no one judged me. They all thought I was smart for telling my story and they encouraged me to get it out there. They said the book would be both an interesting read and a cautionary tale for others. When I described my book to agents, they also did not judge me — they just wanted to know that it was a good story that other people would want to read.

After three days of support and encouragement from my fellow writers, I came away feeling much more confident about my book and its subject matter — and about myself. It took me one more year to publicly announce my book via this blog. But that timeframe was not due to irrational fear. It was due to practical circumstances. I was waiting for the ending of my book — which was the trial of Prakashanand Saraswati.

Little did I know what a stranger-than-fiction ending he would provide me!

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