Sorry for the delay. Terry has had a couple of those protracted low-energy phases which will be familiar to many strokees. Looking back on these last weeks, though, it’s not surprising! A lot has been going on.
During our first few months of getting to know each other, Gill sent me numerous interesting, exciting and, most of all, funny letters. I discovered she had always made up stories. She published teaching materials, collaborated on a textbook and wrote most of her first novel while still working. Life together got better and better, in spite of, or because of, the various hurdles placed in our way. Even my stroke in 2013 made us stronger. Gill’s writing continued after leaving work which she combined with being my carer/don’t carer, depending on mood or muse.
One day she asked me how I would feel if she wrote about stroke and the road to recovery. This would be a novel based on our actual experiences, but adding invented characters and family to illustrate how others react and are affected by stroke. It had never occurred to me that I would star in one of her books, so I, modestly, insisted on a name change for the hero and ‘Joe Faber and the Optimists’ was born.
It took years to arrive at this title. It started as Insult to the Brain, then The Stroke that Joe had, then the idea of Optimists came to the fore. It’s an anatomy of optimism, with all its virtues and pitfalls. All the characters are made up, including Joe Faber, but the stroke, and the experience of rehab, are based on Terry’s, They share the same humour.
Optimism is one of the greatest qualities to have in family and friends, especially in the early months when you still feel shock, fear and confusion. Watching the book grow, and making contributions, felt very raw, at times, but replaying the events had a tremendously cathartic effect and helped me realise how much things have improved and how good it is to be alive. We made a pact soon after the stroke that we would face the bad times together and look for every positive or amusing thing along the way. There are down times, but happy and funny are still winning. We hope the book will help others in similar situations, or anyone who enjoys a deeply moving but highly amusing read. Cry a little, laugh a lot and seize every opportunity to feel, or cope, better. The aim of our book is to amuse, inform and explain our experiences and, if none of these situations apply, just offer a really good read.
Joe has, at last, been let loose on the world and, so far, response and reviews have been super.
Over the years it took to write Joe Faber and the Optimists, Terry developed great editing skills! We self-published as an ebook last May. People loved Terry’s Foreword. Many readers wanted a paperback, which meant getting to grips with typesetting / page design and so on, not to mention the multiple frustrations of launching a book during a pandemic. Our wonderful local bookshop (Winstone’s, Sherborne) was open again and gave us window space and a brilliant welcome. The actual launch event took place via Zoom. This meant that distant family and friends could all be there, literally from Shetland to Somerset. Sadly, one person not well enough to join us was the very dear writing friend, Pippa, who first encouraged me to pursue the project. I remember how she laughed her head off at a piece about hoarding urinals in hospital: ‘I want this book to be published, so I can read it to my sister, who had a stroke.’ That was all the encouragement we needed.