Pausing Soal: Letting Book-Making also Be Soul-Making

Her mother was just a sketch of fading white. “Please,” Soal said, putting her free hand out. “Come.”

“But I failed,” her mother whispered.

Soal shook her head, tears filling her eyes. “I cannot know,” she choked out. “I do not know what you are. But I do know that you are the one who first showed me that I was . . . unwhole.” She reached her hand out further. ”You are the one who taught me my name.” Her hand slid through her mother’s ghostly hand. “You are still someone to me.”

It took me some time to realize that I needed to let Soal simmer while I moved on to other projects. Soal had bloomed onto the page in a mere three months, with only four weeks of revisions to bind it into a cohesive whole. The journey of writing Soal was a breath-taking journey of words, images, and characters that drew from a place of intense vulnerability. But in the final revisions, the flow suddenly stopped. The last plot-holes refused to be stitched together.

But the interesting thing about writing is that the act is much more than book-making. It is, in the end, soul-making. It is learning to articulate what has been silent, learning to shift what has felt stagnant, and learning to step forward with new power.

I love the quote I included above from the final chapters of Soal. It was one of those moments where I was able to articulate my silence. Before Soal began to find herself, she had only known her mother through her sister’s sorrowful memories. The quote comes from a moment where Soal faces her mother with the unexpected relationship they had been building, with a new understanding of the healing their race needs, while still knowing what her sister’s sorrow has been.

For me, Soal wasn’t just about a girl finding independence. It was about a girl finding independence while also cradling compassion, hope, and reality. All together. She held them together within herself, within her people, and also within her own wounded family.

I will always be glad I wrote this book, even if it never finds its final revisions. It has been a vessel for the words I needed, an act of soul-making I will always celebrate.

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