How a Memoir Transforms Lives By Robert Jacoby and John Robinette
Our book, Never Stop Dancing: A Memoir, is actually three stories: it’s John’s story of losing his wife Amy, killed instantly in a pedestrian traffic accident, and left alone to raise their two young sons; it’s Robert’s story, of being John’s friend during that terrible first year; and it’s the story of two men in conversation. Peeling back layers of life to see what’s underneath.
Certainly, writing this book changed our lives. It started with the year we spent together, over eight different occasions, capturing our discussions on John’s grief, loss, and eventual recovery. Stories of love, and regret, and learning to live a new life. After that came the (sometimes arduous) process of working with book editors to transform John’s stream-of-consciousness material into a memoir format then to add Robert’s material of “looking back” at that first year. More transformational moments took place while we worked separately and together on the manuscript. Finally, it was time to present the book to readers.
Little did we know how our story would become the readers’ stories. How could we? It’s hard to know how much impact if any, we have on other people. But we’re learning.
Each reader is unique, of course, and hearing their stories in response to reading “Never Stop Dancing” has been both remarkable and humbling. Reviewers write of new-found understanding for a grieving relative or friend. People at our in-person events open up to us with stories of their own struggles with grief, or loss, or friendship in the face of both.
It should be self-evident: this truth that we are all suffering. For whatever reasons, though, we seem to require a spark, some catalyst, a reassurance perhaps, that it is safe for us to be vulnerable and reveal our suffering to someone else. And these confessions, of sorts, human to human, offer a cleansing; or, perhaps, they provide clarity into our shared humanity and that we are more alike than we are different. John experienced this first-hand after Amy died. And now we both experience this phenomenon.
While we didn’t set out to create this specific opportunity for others to share their grief stories, we did hope something meaningful would emerge.
Now that our book is out, we are witnessing its transformative effects in other people’s lives.
After the death of his wife Amy Polk, John began journaling on his blog Hole in the Sun about his journey and has contributed to Elephant Journal.
John has a B.S. and M.S. in Management Science and spent the first 25 years of his career as a software engineer, IT professional, and project manager. After Amy’s death, he shifted his focus towards helping people be more successful and find more joy in their careers.
When he is not writing, John is an organizational development and leadership coach with the Center for Leadership and Organizational Change at the University of Maryland. He is also a principal at V-Teamwork, a company using immersive virtual game simulations to build trust and accelerate collaboration in teams.
John is remarried and lives in Takoma Park with his current wife, his sons Adam and Bryan, and three rescue pets.
During his career, he has been an editor and writer for newspapers, healthcare magazines, health facilities, and health-related websites. In 2012 he received his Master of Information Management at the iSchool, University of Maryland, where he focused on developing the Website Governance Modeling Tool. His most recent position was as a web governance consultant with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy.