So I entered a writing contest with encouragement from my Instructors as Writers Group in October. And I won second place. This was a shock to me since I entered on a whim, and the book was only half-way finished. Guidelines suggested it be 2/3 complete, but now that I look back, it was really only half-way there.
The book is a tale I’ve had in my head for years, but one that I was scared to face. It consisted of inspiration from J.D. Salinger’s, Catcher in the Rye, Patrick Jone’s, Things Change, and even a little Margaret Atwood poetry. But what truly inspired the characters were three people from my past who never realized they touched my life in such an awe-inspiring way. These three people could not have been more different: a young teen skater boy from the West side of the state, a teenage girl who would have been labeled as white trash in her hometown, an older adolescent male from a family of six that graduated years ahead of me, and all three of them comprise a single character in my book, All About Jane.
What was so terrifying was telling the story I wanted to share, but also being respectful to these three people, who at the time, suffered so very much without me even realizing it. I was a naive teen. I didn’t comprehend until much later that people had issues hidden behind closed doors that were not talked about in the nineties. Now we have grown more accustomed to discussing things such as drug use, depression, and suicide. We have also grown more accustomed to blaming bullying for teen suicide when that is only a single factor in a life full of desperate pain.
When I was notified that I won this writing contest I was in a state of shock that someone besides my family saw me as an author, pride in that epiphany, gratitude for my ladies in the Instructors as Writers group who have pushed me farther than I ever imagined, and then…panic. Could I be true to those who inspired this tale while still honoring the nature of a ‘good’ story and entertain? Would people from my very small hometown recognize certain characters and not be able to separate fiction from truth? Would my students, my babies, and my family recognize how necessary this was to write, or just see it as a good story? Would people judge me: a teacher, a mother, and above all, a Christian for writing something this haunting? Would those who see themselves in my book as characters call me out? These questions plagued me for months until I made myself finish the story (it helped that the deadline was looming, too).
And once it was completed, it felt wonderful. A few people who are near and dear to me helped edit the piece, and I received inspiring phone calls from who else, but my mom. She understood. She asked all the right questions and gave me feedback I needed to push the send button with my very first young adult novel attached. She calmed my fears. She also is the one who helped create me, fearful and wonderful.
Reflecting on this last month, well into my third trimester with baby number three, I can only compare my journey with All About Jane to pregnancy. There are times in the journey that are full of excitement and great joy, combined with utter despair and doubt. Motherhood can be as fear inducing as sending a piece of yourself off to a publisher; you are creating something so wonderful, yet something you always want to protect, all the while realizing it’s not possible to shield forever. Mothers and authors embrace fear on a consistent basis and I am so blessed to have looked from both perspectives this last month and be content with making what I deem, wonderful creations.
All About Jane will be available in May from MANA publishing. You can read more here, or find out about their current poetry contest that I urge you to enter, even if it is scary.