“A Real Writer”
And I want to hug you into me, bury you in the only place where I know you’ll be safe, so I can birth you out in every word and breath and love and beat, as long as you’re There and I’m Here. Keep you alive on my fireweed breeze.
-Fireweed Breeze from Lamentations of The Sea
An ongoing gray continues to hang over the island, we’re going on almost two months of constant gray and rain- the locals all say nobody’s seen anything like this. I’m wearing frilly, wispy lavender shorts and an “I Miss Summer Camp” t-shirt today in an invitation for sunshine to return.
Admittedly, it’s still fairly warm out- this is Kauai, and I’ll take a gray day on this island over a gray day anywhere else in a heart beat.
Despite the gray of the skies this week, I’ve had a sunny week inside. I found out on Tuesday that Lamentations of The Sea was given a Silver Nautilus Award in the category of Grief & Loss. I cried for about 10 whole minutes before I could do anything else when I first received the news.
It’s very hard to work your way up from the bottom as a writer. The first time I had an essay accepted by elephant journal back in 2013 I felt like I had finally become “A Real Writer!” I had no idea that there would be many rejections that would follow and that getting a piece published doesn’t equate with connecting with others, gaining readers, or having writing opportunities show up on your door step.
Only hard work will do that. Especially when you don’t have contacts or connections and you’re a no name who is trying to make a name.
I’ve been working on making that name bit by bit. I kept at it with the writing, submitted to where and what felt good and learned that getting a “no” is better than that feeling you get when you don’t try at all and are left wondering “what if?”
My first book was a poetry book; a collection of works I’d written on my poetry blog, sunshine in winter. The project was special to my heart, because it was inspired during the heaviest bits of my grief over Brent, and it was the first sunlight and true excitement I had felt in months.
It gave me something solid to focus on; I had this over whelming urge to pour love and joy back out into the world after a period slashed and diced and dashed with grief. Writing freebird fridays helped me learn how to write a book. It helped me to find a publishing home at Golden Dragonfly Press.
It helped me have realistic expectations about book sales (apparently just like publishing an article, publishing a book also doesn’t equate with gaining readers or having people buy it). It helped me learn the ropes, learn not to take it so personal, learn to just keep chipping away and believing in my own vision of self.
It helped me find the courage to write Lamentations of The Sea and tell my grief story over Brent through 111 passages composed of poetry, essays, prose, and reflections.
When Lamentations came out in 2017, I expected it to do better than my first book, due to the nature of the topic, and it did. It was well received by friends and family and their friends. But it didn’t seem to go too much further than that. I did my best to promote it, but admittedly I am not a good promoter.
I hate marketing myself and feeling like I’m pushing my work on others. I’ve actually had to work on finding a better balance where I have learned that when it feels good in my heart than I need to share. Because my writing and my work is part of who I am too, and it’s okay to own who you are.
I did send in several review copies to magazines I thought would be interested right after publication, but I never received a response. I did a huge giveaway on goodreads and spent several hundred dollars marketing and giving away copies of the books in the hopes I might at least get a few good reviews. I never did.
I always felt this book had more mileage and more acreage to go. If for no other reason than I felt I had addressed and shone light on grief in a way that often isn’t. I wrote this book in the dark of my grief; it follows my journey that first year and all the complicated emotions, dynamic feelings, and unfathomable reaches of loss.
I changed perspectives throughout each of the passages, sometimes the poet, sometimes the personal reflection, sometimes the spiritual teacher, sometimes the psychologist- always from the heart.
By now, I speak grief quite well. Not because I want to or ever set out to, but by the nature of losing Brent and writing this book. Learning grief’s amorphous language- which I will be learning the rest of my life, because it constantly changes- is what helped me realize there are so many tiers to grief.
The tier I am channeling to write these words of reflection is so organized and writer-y and different than the one that got tapped into earlier today when I saw a picture my mom posted of Brent and I. We were so young and sweet and looked identical in feature.
I wanted to dive into that picture- just for a day and be those kids again. Protect Brent. Return to such a pure place of innocence and hope and imagination.
And in that moment I’m the girl who wrote Fireweed Breeze back in July 2016; still hugging him into me and birthing him out in every word, breath, love, and beat.
Because Brent is still There. And I am Here. Doing the best I can to make sense of all that happened since, to turn my spiritual experiences with him after his death into new words, to find myself on the island of Kauai, to fully embrace and embody my life.
To make a name for myself as a teacher and a grief speaker and an author. Knowing that somebody else saw the value in my work, and it was finally recognized as having value on a greater level.
I’ve been in this world of writing long enough to know that this isn’t an arrival. But it is a respite and rest-stop along the way. And it’s a damn good start.