I just finished a huge project, editing a memoir and taking it all the way through the self-publishing process. It is not my book. It is the memoir of a remarkable 91-year-old former missionary to Congo, Martini Reimer Janz. Stargazer’s Children is available—today!—on Amazon. It was a labor of love all around.
It is what I think of as gokurosama work. Gokurosama is one of those terms unique to one language, in this case, Japanese, and untranslatable. Literally it means, “honorable suffering one,” but it is used to acknowledge difficult, worthy work. The “honorable suffering one” went to a great deal of trouble, it implies, and the results are appreciated. Thank you for your effort. It does not express sympathy or praise or even credit where credit is due so much as the recognition that appropriate effort is its own reward. That is how I feel about this project.
Martini’s remarkable memory, self-knowledge, humor, and humility produced more than 300 pages of a unique story, material definitely worth bringing to editorial perfection. Gokurosama to her! I can’t imagine the persistence it took to put her story together after all these years. Well, I can. I know that writing a book is beyond most of us, let alone a good one. This one is really good. I hope people will read and review this treasure. I am too close to it to review it at this point, so I will quote the back-cover blurbs:
Art and Martini Janz were among the last generation of American missionaries who went to Africa to do basic evangelism. Now, almost 70 years later, Martini writes the story. Stargazer’s Children merges Art and Martini’s call and preparation for ministry in Belgian Congo with the involvement of extended families in a small, ethnically homogeneous town in Manitoba, Canada, and the Janz family’s return to North America. She holds nothing back in telling the story as it unfolded through family disagreements, cultural misunderstandings, and evidence of God at work in her own life as well as in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo. Stargazer’s Children would be very useful to all those working and planning to work in other cultures, exhibiting the learning that can take place when the other culture is approached with respect and great love. —H. David Brandt, PhD, President Emeritus, George Fox University
Martini Janz’s honest self-assessment amid many struggles and learnings give Stargazer’s Children the quality and depth of a spiritual autobiography. This is a treasure waiting to be discovered! —Rod Hollinger-Janzen, Executive Coordinator, Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission
The details of the effort I applied to the project are not interesting to anyone but myself or perhaps other memoir editors or self-publishers. Suffice it to say that the whole process took many, many hours and involved learning to do a number of things I didn’t know how to do. I have years of editorial experience and a certain amount of computer and publishing savvy. I have edited other books and taken one through the self-publishing process—my own memoir, The Dream Matrix, exactly five years ago—but this one presented unique challenges. That is where gokurosama-ness comes in. I relished the challenges, even while tearing my hair.
A small example, from the last 24 hours of the production. Final step. I was attempting to upload the final, perfectly edited and formatted book—complete with cover and maps and photo section and author bio and acknowlegments and ISBN and table of contents matching the pagination of 49 chapters—into the publishing program. First I tried to save my perfectly formatted Word version as a PDF, but that changed the format in subtle ways. And then I tried uploading it directly from Word but that messed things up even more—sending some pictures scooting into odd places and making a book with 410 pages instead of 348. I definitely needed a good PDF. I tried sending my Mac Word doc to my husband’s PC and have him make a PDF, but it had the same problems as the one I tried to create on my Mac. Finally I discovered that saving it as PDF from the “print” menu on my Mac, rather than the “save as” menu, produced a clean PDF, identical to the Word version. Boom!
See? Boring details. But I did it, and learned something, and experienced a great deal of satisfaction in overcoming the challenge. But I will probably forget all this before I ever need to draw on it again.
Secretly, I relish solving problems, like taking a book through the publishing process, soup to nuts, or finding my way around Congolese airports. I have found in situations like this that my ego doesn’t demand credit or sympathy but only a certain acknowledgement that good work was done. Gokurosama. Don’t tell me I’m not good at this.