I was able to do a few things while in battle. I taught at Storymakers and was asked back again this year. I wrote my first historical romance when I was invited to contribute to this lovely anthology:
|Isn't it beautiful? My story is Christmas at Canterwood. All the stories are a treasure.|
I truly enjoyed writing this story and have been asked to write another Regency due this summer. More research!
I rewrote and finished a contemporary romance I had shelved (Hold On Forever), and just submitted it to my publisher two weeks ago. I'll learn within a couple of months if they like it or not. Guys, this was HUGE. I honestly questioned whether or not I had it in me anymore. I guess I do. Watch for more news on that.
AND my friend, Suzanne Gale, urged me with all the urging of an accountability partner bestie who thinks she knows what's best for me (and she usually does) to apply for the Writing Excuses Writing Retreat CRUISE scholarship. Putting the packet together alone was good for me. I almost didn't do it. So much bad was happening in life, on top of the physical pain. Nonetheless, Suzy persisted. Writing the personal essay was healing. Gathering the letters of recommendation from friends was assuring. Choosing my writing samples was hard, but it forced me to take a look at words I'd written and remember that I'd done this before, this writing thing, and I was pretty good at it.
If you follow me on IG (kristalynnej), you know the basic, miraculous, I'm-still-in-shock outcome of that application. Here are the mini-story graphics I made to share it.
Hello?! I'm going on a WRITING CRUISE. I'll be saying that a lot between now and September.
I also thought I'd post my Personal Essay here. I'm a little scared to do that, because, hey, it's personal, heh. But it's also my writing. And apparently it's good writing. And this is my writing blog.
So here. With love.
I drowned once. At least, I should have. I was almost three years old and remember it like looking through dimpled glass. Or maybe water.
Our apartment complex had a swimming pool. In Renton, Washington where it rained and rained, we had a swimming pool. The sun did come out, though, and the pool filled with tenants, noisy, joyful. My mom found an open lounge chair and settled herself with a towel and a magazine. I had a cup.
I don’t know if the cup was mine or if I’d found it lying somewhere and had claimed it, but I crouched at the edge of the pool, surrounded by splashing and shouts and laughter, and gripped it with both hands, dipped it in the water, poured it out, dipped it again. Watching water fill and pour in the sunlight.
At the deep end.
A boy came, not much older than I was, ripped the cup from my hands and pushed me in.
I remember the small gasp of air and surprise I took before hitting tepid water and slipping beneath. I remember not struggling. Surely someone saw me. Surely my mom, or the legs kicking around me attached to people, surely someone saw. The boy would tell someone.
But I floated midway between top and bottom, looking. Hoping. Sinking in muted sound and blue.
Fear blossomed—a feeling, a knowledge that being invisible here meant danger, and no one saw me.
A kick. A panic.
Wait, I heard. Just wait.
My eyes were drawn to the shallow end across the pool. A splash of bubbles exploded beneath the surface and emerging from them, a woman with long, dark hair trailing behind her like a mermaid swimming toward me.
I recognized her. She lived on my floor. Her waist-long brown hair was always worn down and shiny, and she smiled at me whenever she saw me in the hall as I hid behind my mom’s legs.
She swam straight for me. Between half-submerged bodies and surface-swimmers across the length of the pool. Straight for me.
Wait. Just wait.
As she neared, I reached my arms out to her. She reached back, folding her own around my body and pushing me up, up, out of the water and to the ledge where hands grabbed me and pulled me and placed me with my mom who squeezed and squeezed and squeezed me.
I don’t remember coughing or choking or crying. Just blinking water from my eyes. The story is I fell asleep within minutes.
I’m asking myself why I’ve shared this memory as part of my essay. It came to mind when you asked, “What makes you unique?” I’ve had other brushes with death. But this memory—this is my first memory. Of life.
Over the past five years my family and I have been hit by wave after wave, breakers of trial pushing us under, and as we swim up, reach the surface, think we can grab a breath, another crashing blow hits and under we go again. And through all of this, I nearly lost my writing. I could not escape physical pain far enough into my imagination, could not write romance when pummeled by pornography and infidelity, could not face making up conflict when so much already filled my reality, could not write happy endings when I wasn’t sure they existed. Injury. Illness. Addiction. Loss. Death. I would stare at my laptop screen. After four published novels, three published novellas, and five more unpublished novels in nine years, my passion was drowning in fear. My words.
Wait, I kept hearing. Just wait.
And one morning only a few weeks ago I woke up, ideas like bubbles rising around me in water. Words came like arms around me, pushing me up and I don’t know what will happen and I still fear the next wave, and I’m still in pain, but my words are coming.
And in considering this memory and what it means to me, and what it means to this essay and this entry and the writing still inside me, maybe it is this:
We are not meant to be invisible here.