After 18 months work drawing together the stories from the past 15 years, by April 2014 I had a manuscript of 90,000 words. Friends read it and said it was powerful material but heavy going. In the next six months a skilful editor cut almost 30,000 words and created a wonderful flow of one story to the next.
As the book took shape I contacted an agent in the UK who had been recommended to me. His response to my introductory letter was stark: ”Rwanda, another book on Rwanda…? Why do we need another book on Rwanda?”
I send him the draft of my book proposal and hoped that would convince him. “I’m sorry, but it’s too weak” he replied. “You’re going to have to do more to persuade me.” Dismayed, I sat quietly that next evening and pondered, until a thought formed in my mind: “Write a short piece of the kind that could go on the back cover of the book.” In a few minutes the words of a back-page blurb emerged. I sent it to the agent.
Next day his response surprised me: “I think your proposed title is a bit weak. What about something like “From Genocide to Generosity”?
Now we were both agreed, I liked the title – and he liked the book!
Here’s the back page blurb: Hatreds heal on Rwanda’s hills
Throwing caution to the wind at a dangerous time John Steward gathers a handful of Rwandans and together they dream of ways to heal the wounds of genocide and war.
The vibrancy of this group draws others into a radical circle for change, which silently spreads outwards. John makes nineteen return visits to Rwanda to support and mentor these local warriors for peace.
Now he reveals an inspiring story of some of the dozens of people who are being transformed from haters to healers, from bringers of violence to makers of peace. We meet those who suffered and lost so much, yet instead of darkness we hear of lightness and hopeful perspectives.
We are amazed at the efforts of Rwandan youth who channel their energy into constructive purposes, at prisoners set free by being truthful, at survivors who choose to forgive and let live.
While these Rwandans regain their energy for generous living, they challenge my complacency about how I relate to others. They ask me: Is this healing and change only for Rwandans? If this kind of personal shift can happen in Rwanda after such a horrible history, what is possible for me? After reading these stories can I still say, “I could never forgive”?
Let me know what you like about this approach.
Coming up: I’ll bring you up to date with the plans for publishing.