Everyone’s life is full of missteps and mistakes, but while most people try to forget their less-than-stellar moments, Amy Lyle decided to put her foibles on full blast.
In her recently released self-published book, “The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures,” the Atlanta-based comedian and aspiring screenwriter documents several decades of stumbling through life.
“I live with four teenagers and they attend a good public high school in Forsyth. There is this immense pressure to have straight A’s and be the best. I think that is important but…they don’t see all the rejection and hard work,” said Lyle.
While she stops short of imposing on her children all the hard life lessons she learned growing up with her divorced dad in Appalachia, Lyle thought it would be a good service to her children and plenty of other people to know that no one is always winning at life.
The idea to write a book was inspired by another of Lyle’s struggles.
Lyle had been trying to sell her comedic screenplay which she describes as “Bridesmaids meets Bad Moms,” when she finally landed a conversation with an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles.”He says, ‘I am not going to represent you. You are nobody. You don’t know anyone and you don’t have any money,'” said Lyle.
He was serious, but he also gave her some advice. He told her she had to get on the map by writing a blog or book. When she asked him what she should write about, he said, “Write what you know and he hangs up on me,” Lyle said.
So she decided to write a book of failures and publish it herself, since there was no time to lose. To publicize it, she organized a book launch of more than 300 women who came together to support her project will also getting door prizes like CoolSculpting treatments and original artwork donated by Lyle’s friends.
It was an incredible coming together of women from a range of backgrounds, she said, something Lyle didn’t necessarily see when she was a child growing up in the homogeneous town of Marietta, Ohio. “It was literally factory workers and it was a small town and people were just trying to survive,” she said.
Her parents divorced when she was 11 and while her mom moved to Atlanta with her late sister, Lyle stayed put in Ohio with her dad. Both of her parents were hard workers and they didn’t sugarcoat life. “I wanted to break out of there and I wanted to make my parents proud,” Lyle said.
But of course, the road out-of-town can get pretty rocky, and Lyle documents many of her biggest stumbles in her book.
The mistakes started early, like the school research project in the early 1980s in which she passionately argued for the U.S. government to help free Rhodesia from British rule a few years after the country had already gained freedom in a civil war and renamed itself Zimbabwe. It seemed the encyclopedias at her local library were 20 years out of date.
Lyle also shares stories about her family, including the sad story of the death of her older sister and niece in a tragic car accident in 2013.
She also talks about divorce, dating, remarrying and blending households. She talks about her kids, who are humiliated, yet proud at the role they are playing in her work. And in some of her stories, she namechecks Atlanta institutions like Georgia Tech (her husband’s alma mater;) JeJu, the 24-hour traditional Korean Spa in Duluth and ALTA, The Atlanta Lawn and Tennis Association League.
The whole process of writing a memoir can be cathartic — Lyle said sharing her failures is like a weight being lifted — but when she can leave readers with the same feeling, it is all the more rewarding, she said.
Lyle said she has heard from women who were going through divorces, or medical issues or other situations, who have said her book helped them life feel just a bit lighter, if only for a moment.
Sometimes Lyle’s woes inspire women share their own ridiculous stories, like the women who chimed in after reading Lyle’s tale about the love affair that ended after an ex-girlfriend got drunk, climbed through the doggie door and was warmly by Lyle’s soon-to-be ex-boyfriend.
“In real life you are just surviving and trying to get through the next day and it pulls on your marriage and your work,” she said. Stories that tell the truth about real life are resonating with women everywhere.
So while Lyle continues to battle the traditional channels to get her movie made, she is enjoying the non-traditional success that has come from publishing her own book and engaging the people who offer their support.
“I wanted (readers) to see that even our most regrettable moments somehow will be useful,” she said.