It was an ordinary Thursday night—shuffling around, pre-cutting fruit and veggies to place in small containers, and laying out clothes. We were doing all of our normal prep to be able to take minimal physical actions the following morning, so that we could start work and school on time. My email haptic made its non-soothing bamboo click. I glanced at my phone and saw that IT had arrived! My long-awaited (who-will-be-the-one-to-come-through-and-write-this?) Foreword was complete and ready for my eyes.
I have never before written a book and therefore have never asked someone to write a Foreword (for said unwritten book). At first, I went for a famous name—someone who represented my childhood ocean fandom. I sent 10 to every one of this person’s public relations’ department’s emails. They gave me two kernels and I was picking out multiple toppings for the huge bowl of popcorn that was in my imagination. It all fell flat. I was discouraged. I eventually asked myself if I still really wanted this person to write it, should they ever get back to me. My gut said “no, not really” (do you use quotations on statements made by your gut?) and some new ideas came to me. I started to better understand the motivational rejection posts I read on Instagram. It is true how closed doors lead to open ones—sometimes with even better interior decorating.
Long story short, I realized choosing someone to write a Foreword, for me, was not about a famous name to boost book sales (though I get that). It is about finding the right person to set the tone, prime the audience, and give the essence of what you are about to read. He or she may or may not be famous.
I wanted someone who had been on expeditions, was intimate with museums, had a deep appreciation for science, was experienced in raising children, would fall in love with the book, and perhaps most importantly—would write back to me themselves.
I had long admired the work of Dr. Richard Pyle, Ichthyologist at the world-renowned Bishop Museum on O‘ahu. I had learned of his work on rebreathers (for deep SCUBA diving) and identification of new bizarre fish in the Twilight Zone when I lived and worked in Maui. Having recently watched his TED Talk, I thought he was the perfect person to write the Foreword. When he wrote back with enthusiasm to my ask, I knew he was the one.
Now back to that ordinary Thursday night. Five minutes after reading the Foreword (I admittedly had the Whale Rider soundtrack playing while doing so), I heard a truck pull up in front of the house. It was a UPS package. My husband had ordered me a mug with the book cover on it. Naturally it stated, “Foreword by Dr. Richard Pyle.” The timing was uncanny.
I announced to my son that he was going to have the best bedtime story yet. Trying to avoid a spoiler alert, Richard Pyle opens the Foreword with a wonderful, underwater adventure. As I was making a tea in my new mug, my son had gone upstairs and set up a bonfire circle in my room, using stuffed campfire props.
As I read the Foreword out loud for the first time, sipping my tea with pride at the work that went into that little image on the mug, I knew that I might never top this particular bedtime story full of real-life adventure, purpose, and meaning.