Friday, July 13, 2012

My Journey

Any of you that have been following my blog know how I came up with the ideas to write the various books that I have written: Yassa was born of a 'what if?' question, The Abigale Chronicles are for my daughter, and The Indie Author's Guide was created to help those I saw in the most need.

But my life is what shaped me into the person that could write those books. Let's get real for a minute or two, shall we?

I grew up with scads of books. They were everywhere, all the time. My mother and my siblings were all readers, and our collection of books was huge. When I was little, my sisters were all in school and liked to play at teaching me. By age two, I knew my alphabet and could tell you which letters you showed me out of context. By age four, I could read passably well and by age five, I could tell what people around me were spelling aloud. I wrote my first story in Kindergarten.

I consumed books like they were my life-force. Once I started reading, I was lost to the world until the story came to an end. I took a book to bed with me every night and read myself to sleep. This dedication to reading got me a huge award in the third grade when I read over 300 books. When I started a new school year, the most exciting thing was being issued my reading book. They were always stuffed with stories that I hadn't read and I usually read through them in a day or two. I know, what a nerd.

But, oddly, I wasn't a nerd. I hung out with 'that' group of people. I made Cs on my report card unless I needed an A or B to pass the class. I always flew under the radar; never in trouble but never the shining star.

High school was boring me to tears so I dropped out. I got accepted into college at age fifteen and chose Commercial Art as my major. That lasted two months. I got my GED at age sixteen and swore off school.

As life progressed, I never lost my love of books though there was a very long dry spell where I didn't read much of anything because life got in the way and I was too busy living it.

I got married and had two kids. Then I got divorced. After that, married again and three more kids. Finally, another divorce. My second marriage drove me to do a number of things: read as an escape, go back to school, and start a business.

I dove back into my books to escape life. Everything in life sucked but what I could see, do, and experience in a book was limitless. Reading caused my Great Depression. Believe me when I tell you, there's nothing great about a Great Depression. I would read about this journey or that love or his success in a book and compare it to my own life. Down, down, down I would go into a spiral that caused me to pick up yet another book and repeat my cycle. I ended up seeking professional help because I was so depressed.

A wise man told me, "You need to change your life if you ever expect to feel better. No one else is going to do it for you. It's up to you. If you don't, this cycle won't ever be broken."

I reeled from his words, pondered, rolled them around, and took them to heart. Fall of that year saw me as an enrolled student. When I tested in, I was placed in Composition I for my first English class. My major? Secondary Education English & Theater. I signed up for twelve credit hours - full time.

Nervous as hell, I bought my backpack (that I used for all five years) and a number of notebooks and the pen (it's my lucky pen and I've had it since day one - read my story on book signing to see it debuted on my blog). On the first day of classes, I dropped my son off at Pre-K and headed out. I had no idea what to expect but was pleasantly surprised when I arrived and found I wasn't the oldest person in class. I developed the idea for Yassa at that time. Best of all, I was no longer depressed. I was doing something with myself and felt good about it.

Two years and over sixty credit hours later (I took over twenty credit hours a couple of semesters), I was forced to quit. I was pregnant with my daughter and found out I had a problem. They weren't sure how bad it was but my OBGYN watched me very closely throughout my pregnancy. I was in extreme pain and oftentimes found myself unable to move much at all.

Not one to sit around being bored, I enrolled in an online course and got a certification, while chained to my bed, in nine months with a program that's supposed to take two years. They couldn't ship my books fast enough. I was a certified bridal consultant. Yay! Huh?

I gave birth to my daughter and went in for a biopsy. When the results came back, it was a grim prognosis: I had pre-cancerous cells of a very aggressive form of the disease.

Treatment didn't go so well so I had to have surgery. At last, I was free of the dreaded disease!

I got a camera for Christmas that year and it launched my business. I'd always been fascinated by the photographs in the back of Discover magazine and would sit and look at them for hours at a time. I set out to learn everything I could about depth of field, shutter speed, and ISO. What I gained was a wealth of knowledge about all of the above topics and lighting. I consumed books on the subject and was rarely without a camera in my hand. I launched a portrait and wedding photography business and enjoyed wild success. See some of my photography work here.

When I began to offer albums as wedding package inclusions and as bonuses for senior portrait packages, I realized there was a lot I needed to learn about the printing process (bleed, gutter, CMYK - the dreaded subject). I looked through my previous college's brochure and found a Graphic Design program that delved into the printing world. What the hell? I signed up.

It took me three years to get through the program because I came back to school in the spring and it's designed for a fall start. What I gained by doing that was the ability to take classes that weren't required to complete my program. I already had sixty credit hours going in, and classes like life drawing, composition II, business management, and color theory were bonuses I indulged in. I was in heaven! My photography business hit the back burner (I refused to try and do that along with school because my grades and focus would have suffered) and I worked my butt off to maintain my 4.0 GPA. I developed a digital painting/drawing style that is totally unique to me and used it often in my projects.

Looking back, I realize the reason I took a lot of those classes was so I could keep writing. I wasn't the most creative in my class but my attention and skills were in the details and the briefs. I could polish like no other and write briefs that were concise and grammatically correct. I took on a tutoring job that fit between my classes and tutored Calculus, Composition I & II, and Graphic Design.

In 2011, I graduated Summa Cum Laude and as the graduating designer who had the honor of designing the cover for the commencement program. Yay!

Another wonderful surprise in 2011 was The Best Boyfriend in the World. He's changed my life in profound ways and given me the encouragement I needed to be my best.

My book was still begging to be written and I felt a lot more confident in my writing abilities. I had the skills I needed to create the interior and exterior of a book and had heard of the recent boom in self-publishing. I made a very difficult decision and dropped my photography business. I researched like mad and read every book I could get my hands on that concerned writing a novel, crafting a plotline, creating dialogue that didn't suck, and Genghis Khan. I re-wrote my prologue four times.

Finally, in January, 2012, I decided that the darned book wasn't going to finish itself so I sat down and banged it out. My relationship with Mike (TBBITW) shaped every scene in the book. When I say I couldn't have done it without him, that's the 100% truth. If you've read it, I know you understand how powerful it is.

Yassa went through five rounds of edits. I added scenes the first time, cut scenes the second time, removed filler words the third time, and edited for grammar the fourth time. For edit number five, I sent it out. There are still errors in the text here and there but nothing overwhelming. Those errors will be fixed as I read through the printed version and make my own notes.

I have since begun a series of chapter books for my daughter titled The Abigale Chronicles and I have written The Indie Author's Guide to: Building a Great Book. Best of all, I'm not depressed anymore. I'm doing things for me and my life. Without my journey, I wouldn't be where I am and I wouldn't be the person I have become. I appreciate life because I have been threatened with death.

I intend to add illustrations to my chapter books at some point. They will all be done by me because I find drawing to be as cathartic as writing. I don't just write for me, I write for you. I write to give you that escape we all so desperately need sometimes. I do hope you escape into my books now and again.

I hope you've all enjoyed my story. It's crazy, but it's my mad mad world! Now you know. I'm a writer, photographer, certified bridal consultant, and designer all wrapped into one tiny little package. Trust me, it's not that I don't know what I want to do, it's that I want to do everything. I thirst for knowledge in every form. I think all writers (and readers) are great students.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

4 comments:

  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing your story, it's very inspiring =)

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    1. Thanks, Heather. That was a difficult thing to write. It's always hard when you put your story out there. Thanks for the comment and taking the time to read my looooong post :)

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  2. Whew. Consider all this as prep work for becoming the writer you are. I am in awe.

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    1. I always chuckle when people say, "I wish I hadn't done this/that." It makes me wonder if they realize they needed to do it in order to learn a lesson. Thanks for the blog love!

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