On a spring evening on May 22rd, 1844, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad announced that He was the bearer of a Divine Revelation whose aim was to prepare the world for “Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest,” a Messenger of God known as Baha’u’llah. Baha’is refer to Siyyid Ali-Muhammad by His title, the Bab, which is Arabic for “the Gate,” and that eventful evening is celebrated every year by Baha’is around the world.
1844: A New Book About Prophecy and the Baha’i Faith
I have never written a book but I think it’s a fantastic achievement. I was eager to hear from Eileen about the process of putting this book together and was grateful when she offered to share her thoughts and experiences. If you’re interested in self-publishing a Baha’i-inspired book, you might find her comments particularly helpful!
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
What in the world happened in 1844? It was a year of intense expectation and then disappointment in the West, and of intense searching and then Divine Revelation in the East.
Over a century later I was a late bloomer, so to speak––late to the Faith (declared in my mid-forties) and late to research and writing. But serving at the Baha’i World Centre for 16 years later in life was an incomparable education that defined the rest of my life. When I retired from the World Centre and settled in Burlington, Vermont, writing and editing beckoned me and another career path evolved.
Editing, research, and writing are lonely work. I have balanced this cerebral and lonely aspect of my life with a serious study of ballet and I dance with Ballet Vermont in its production of Farm to Ballet, a full-length classical ballet that portrays life on a Vermont farm from spring through autumn. The performances are given at various farm venues for large audiences and raise money for various agricultural and land conservation endeavors.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?
I was drawn to a study of Millerism because I am a descendant of the Millerites, the followers of William Miller who dated the literal return of Christ through Daniel 8:14: “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.” My maternal grandfather was an Advent Christian who believed that the return was imminent. The Advent Christian Church formed after the Great Disappointment of 1844, when Christ did not return as expected. My mother became a mainstream Protestant, but I remember her stories about the Adventist camp meetings of her childhood and the beliefs of her father. She was also a Bible student and passed that interest to me.
This book was almost an accident of circumstances because I had been working on a major project for a long time. However, I had written a series of articles about Millerism for the website “The Miller Prediction”, a feature film produced by Cyrus Parvini. Millerism was the religious phenomenon of the 1830s and 1840s that emerged in the northeast United States and Europe. It was part of what historians call the Second Great Awakening, a Protestant religious revival during the nineteenth century. A friend read the articles and said, “Eileen, you have a book here!” So I put the other project aside for a much needed rest and went to work on fleshing out the articles into this book, 1844: Convergence in Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i Faith.
Baha’i Blog: What was the process like to put this work together?
Most writers will admit that writing can be a masochistic slog. Overwhelming these feelings at times, though, is what I call “the tunnel,” a creative state of retreat, with soft music playing and the cats napping, when I feel happy, almost ecstatic, as I work and make breakthroughs in my research and writing. The essence or my writing process is vision––the final product and its contribution to teaching the Faith.
I was always striving for the balance between writing for Baha’is and for a general readership. My goal was to help Baha’is learn more about the Faith and to attract general readers to the Faith.
Every author must decide whether to search for a traditional publisher or to self-publish. I decided to self-publish. Today almost half of the books in the market place are self-published, and the number of self-published print books and ebooks surpassed one million in 2017, with nonfiction titles leading fiction.
Self-publishing involved hours of watching webinars to learn how to self-publish. (I recommend the Author Learning Center, and New Shelves with Amy Collins). Then one follows directions and goes through the process––obtain the copyright, buy the ISBNs, get your PCIP (the information on the back side of the title page), find an excellent editor and listen to him/her, submit the manuscript for Baha’i review (and pass the review), find an excellent graphic designer and interior designer, find author friends to provide short reviews for the back cover, obtain Mobi and epub versions for the ebook market, upload print and ebook versions to Amazon, and submit to other distributors. This is an abbreviated list of what it takes to self-publish. I’ll skip the hours of frustration I experienced during my self-publishing adventure.
However, I am preparing a talk with a PowerPoint presentation, “So You Want to Write a Baha’i Book? – Traditional and Self-Publishing Routes,” that I plan to present when I go on the road in 2019.
Baha’i Blog: What’s something that you learned during the process of putting this book together?
I learned to listen to moments of inspiration that come to every Baha’i who is serving the Faith. Nothing prepared me for the eventuality that, amazingly, 1844: Convergence in Prophecy went to market about the same time that the film The Gate did. Talk about divine synergy! This was a “convergence” that I never could have imagined that has promoted sales of my book.
My first market is the Baha’i niche market, and I am happy to report that the book is selling well on Amazon and in the Baha’i niche market. The second market is mass distribution, and I will soon place the book with a mass marketer to expand its availability.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away from this book?
I hope that Baha’is will not only learn more about their history but will also pass this book along to their friends.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Eileen, for sharing this with us! You can purchase ‘1844: Convergence of Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith’ here on Amazon.
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.