“I’ve always wanted to be a dad,” Lane Polak said. He always wanted to be a writer and a poet, too. And it turns out the intersection of those career paths made for a remarkable crossroad in Lane’s life.
During his senior year at UAH, Lane and some friends were pursuing a regimen of extra-curricular writing exercises.
“It’s silly,” Lane remembered. “We were our own little Dead Poets Society. We’d meet at my friend’s house and prepare something … read it and talk about it … critique one another. Just to sharpen our skills.”
Eventually those exercises began to take on themes — like the time Lane suggested they all try writing children’s literature.
Lane had been a fan of Shel Silverstein since childhood, learning at the master’s knee countless lessons in what it takes to craft smart stories and poetry for kids. His writing buddies realized Lane was onto something.
“This is really good,” they told him. They had liked his other writing, but they told him that this — writing for children — just seemed to fit his personality.
So Lane began to pursue writing children’s poetry in earnest, polishing his material in open-mic readings at Lowe Mill’s MonkeySpeak. Those audiences may have been adults, but they were instructive in honing an important aspect of his work.
“I wanted to be able to connect with children, but I also wanted it to be fun for their parents to read.” Lane said. “I wanted to break up some of the monotony of that bedtime routine.”
The Self-Publishing Journey
Lane’s style and portfolio developed over the course of seven years, culminating in his first book, “Back World,” which acquainted him with self-publishing, something he calls a journey that is “difficult in itself.”
Working with the book’s illustrator, Heather Legge-Click — her illustrations are incredible, by the way — Lane soon learned there were a lot of things he would have to figure out.
“I’d be on a path, and then I’d have to take a tangent because I would learn something else,” Lane said. “And then I’d have to follow up on that thing and fix it, and then come back to where my original plan was.”
Asked for a quick rundown of the details he had to manage in preparing “Back World,” Lane ticked off a remarkable list of minutiae, easily proving that old adage true: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
“I did the design in the template, then Heather did the illustrations. The housekeeping stuff — getting an ISBN number for my barcode,” Lane said, recounting the details, “choosing a platform — everyone has their own shtik. I ended up using Kindle Direct Publishing.”
As an on-demand publisher, Kindle Direct requires very little money up front, and no minimum number of books for publication.
“(That) made me speculate what the quality was going to look like — that was another hang up.”
Fortunately, the quality of a test book turned out to be fantastic.
“That helped me to start moving forward,” Lane explained. “I spent three weeks just tweaking margins and bleeds, fitting into their criteria. They wouldn’t allow me to publish if something bled into the margin the wrong way.”
Lane was especially motivated to finish the book as his wife, Emily, was expecting their first child in March. Emily is a 9th grade English teacher and food blogger, so her parental leave time would be limited. In the opening days of 2019, Lane says, Emily and their coming child were his biggest motivators.
“(Emily) challenged me to finish it,” Lane said. “(She told me), ‘The baby’s coming in March, so you’ve got two and a half months to finish this thing.’”
And finish it he did. “Back World” had already appeared on Amazon a solid 41 days before Emily gave birth to August Finn Polak on March 26, 2019.
“An Absolute Blast”
Getting his book ready for publication was an intense process, with a steep learning curve replete with crippling anxiety and panic attacks. But nothing prepared him for the rush of emotion he experienced when August was born.
“I have always had this desire to be a dad,” Lane reiterated. But when he expressed to others that he was terrified by the prospect of fatherhood, they assumed it was some manifestation of a young man’s selfishness — a reluctance to step up to the responsibilities of adulthood.
“But it wasn’t like that,” he said. “I wanted to be able to experience everything that this child was going to experience, and I also want to be able to take care of my bride. And that brought up all kinds of contemplations on mortality and control and all this other stuff.”
Despite his fears, now three weeks into his new life as a father, Lane describes parenthood as ”an absolute blast.”
“I love being a dad,” Lane said. “I’ve never felt so much love before, not just for my child, but for my bride. It’s really cool how well we complement each other and how well we are able to act as a team. Because we have to take of ourselves so we can take care of this thing that can’t take care of itself.”
In short — Lane Polak, published author, is smitten.
“Everyone told me that parenthood was going to change my life — telling me like it was this negative connotation, like your life is over.” Lane said. “We’re fresh-off-the-boat parents, and I’m like, ‘This doesn’t seem anything at all like what anyone was telling me. It’s better.’ “
“I love just looking at him and just being lost,” he continued. “I’m not thinking about what my next meal is. And it’s sweet because I feel like he looks at us in the same way. It’s this look of awe like, ‘I can’t believe that you guys created me.’ ”
Lane is pretty sure his poetry contributed to his appreciation for his role as a father. And he knows for certain parenthood will contribute to his life as a poet.
“I had no idea what was residing in my heart. Somehow … it just kind of crept out. Now that I know that these (emotions) exist and can happen any time to a child or an adult, it inspires me to express that in a way that anyone can understand.”
With the turn of every “Back World” page, we’re pretty sure you’ll be smiling as much as we did. It really is a book for children — and adults — of all ages!