“Writing with Friends,” a guest post by N. West Moss

Soon I’ll be going on my own writers’ retreat, so I invited my friend, N. West Moss, to tell us about her recent writing trip to Florida.

I just got back from a great writing retreat.

What made it so great? Well, it was in Key West, where I was visiting an old college friend who’s also a writer. The people you choose to go on retreat with are vitally important to the success of the retreat. Here, I was with a serious writer who wanted to write as much as I did.

I once went on a writing retreat that was a disaster because I invited someone who had different goals than I did. She wanted to socialize, and I wanted to write like crazy. She got mad at me for going back to my bedroom so I could more work done, and the retreat tanked. I felt guilty, tried to entertain her (unsuccessfully), didn’t get much writing done, and our budding friendship stalled and never recovered.

This time in Key West was heaven, though. I was with a friend I’ve known for over thirty years, so I am relaxed around him. I don’t have to dress up. I don’t have to be anyone but who I am, and that kind of relaxation is great for creative pursuits. He’s also a serious, professional writer, who (unlike me) writes for TV. What we have in common, writing-wise, is that we both had several projects with looming deadlines, so we were equally motivated to put in the hours needed to get real, tangible work done.

Every morning around 7am, one of us would text the other and ask, “Ready for coffee?” We’d meet at the Starbucks on Duvall, and then walk back to his place together, chatting and caffeinating. His computer was set up at one end of his dining room table, and I’d set up my laptop and my stack of index cards at the other end. We’d chat a bit, and then get to the writing, and we’d both write for a few hours  before one of us might say, “I need coffee,” or, “I need a walk,” or, “I can’t figure out this scene.” We’d take a small break together, walking around the block and talking about the work, and then we’d get back to it. That’s how the day would go, with hours and hours of writing punctuated by coffee or a walk around the block. In the evenings we’d do something fun – go out to dinner or to a movie, or to a friend’s porch for cocktails.

Why was this better for me than writing at home? Well, I do most of my writing at home, but home for me is full of distractions. There’s the chair covered with cat hair that needs to be cleaned, and the pile of mail to be sorted. Everywhere I look is a chore or an obligation. When the writing gets difficult (which is often), I’ll choose to vacuum or clean the vegetable crisper rather than face the complex problems in my 300-page Work-in-Progress. Being on foreign turf means I am not thinking about anything but the writing all day long, for 7 or 8 hours at a stretch.

I crave this dedicated writing time, and I suspect that most writers do, and while I do apply and attend formal writing residencies whenever possible, I now try to have as many of these do-it-yourself writing retreats as I’m able to every year.

West (N. West Moss) will be at a month-long residency in Scotland during the summer of 2023, and will be Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone’s Library in Wales for a month in the fall. Her most recent book, Flesh and Blood: Reflections on Infertility, Family, and Creating a Bountiful Life (Algonquin 2021) was drafted at a friend’s house in Holland. She can be reached on Instagram @NWestMoss or via email at scoutandhuck@gmail.com.

On not self-rejecting…

Photo: Shakespeare Unleashed, edited by James Aquilone for Monstrous Books and Crystal Lake Publishing, which I submitted to AND THEY LET ME IN!

It’s mid March, the sun is shining, I’m in a relatively good mood, and I’m thinking about self-rejecting–or, more accurately, NOT self-rejecting.

I hear a lot, and I used to say sometimes, “I’m not going to bother submitting to that. I’ll never get in.” Now I’m like, “How do YOU know? You aren’t the editor. Submit that story!” (Or poem or essay or manuscript.)

Have you ever submitted a story to a submissions call that seemed like it was MADE for your story? Like they were a perfect match–everything the editors wanted, your story had? And then, your story got rejected anyway? And you were thinking, WTF, I gave you everything! Yeah. I think we’ve all been there.

So here’s the thing: IT WORKS THE OTHER WAY AROUND, TOO.

You might think your piece isn’t “good enough,” or that it doesn’t quite fit a theme, or does in a WAY, but not in all the ways. Maybe you think the editor has a pronounced different style or aesthetic.

But. Like. What if your piece is just the variety they need? What if they don’t have that narrative arc or subject or theme in any of the other stories they chose?

Jenny Kiefer, author of That Wretched Valley (Quirk Books, 2024) and owner of the popular Kentucky horror bookshop Butcher Cabin Books, has gotten several publications with just that line of though. “Honestly most of my acceptances have been things where I just sent a story to a market I didn’t think would like it. I’ve experienced rejections more when I’ve thought it was perfect for the place I submitted to. I was recently accepted to F&SF for a body horror story–I would have never thought they would like it, but I submitted anyway.”

Especially if there is no submission fee (and whoa should I write a post just about submission fees), SEND IT. There is, for real, no risk. And, see blog post about #100rejections for why we should be trying to send out enough submissions to rack up 100 Rs by the end of the year, be they form or personal.

Rae Knowles, whose novel The Stradivarius will be out soon with Brigid’s Gate Press, knows this, too. “There was a pro-pay call that I knew was getting a ton of submissions,” she said. “It was outside of my usual genre, and I wrote a story, tweaked it, tweaked it, and tweaked it some more. I stressed so much, feeling it had NO chance of being accepted, but on one of the last days of the submission window, decided to send it in. To my SHOCK, it was accepted. Lesson learned, never self-reject!”

Author and editor Alexis DuBon keeps a hand over the mouth of her inner critic:

“Try to think about whose voice it is telling you your story doesn’t work,” she recommended. “Is it your own? Or is the reason you’re hesitant something other than ‘Yeah, this story about biblically accurate angels probably doesn’t fit this call about swamp monsters.’ We bring a lot of baggage into decisions where it doesn’t belong.”

Waylon Jordan, author, horror journalist, and EIC of Off Limits Press, talks over his self-rejection impulses; he drowns them out. “I don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell myself, ‘You have just as much right to submit your story as anyone else.’ I see authors invited to calls and talk myself out or submitting because I’m not ‘in their league.’ The imposter syndrome is alive and well and I deal with it all the time. The other thing I have to tell myself is: I’m not Stephen King (or whoever famous author your want to insert). I can’t do what he does. But you know what? He can’t do what I can. Someone wants to read what I can give them.”

Author Katherine Silva (The Wild Oblivion series) picks what she submits to carefully–if she needs to get other things done, or needs to take time for herself, she’ll skip a sub call. So, ask yourself: Are you self-rejecting because of a low-self-esteem day, or, do you just have other things that need to come first?

Zach Rosenberg, author of the forthcoming Hungers As Old As This Land, gives himself a pep talk: “This is a story only you can tell and it should be told.”

Also, related to the topic self-rejection, remember that if you burn yourself out or get too discouraged by a particularly rough R (or a volley of them), and you decide to QUIT writing altogether, you are self-rejecting from the entire world of publishing.

Kiefer has a way to manage that feedback–because yes, you will get more rejections than acceptances. That’s just reality. But, if you don’t want to see those Rs every day, do what she does:

“What did help [with rejections] though was to set up a separate author email address, so I could control how much I saw. At one point I even had a friend who would monitor it and only tell me good news so I could submit without having to see the waves of rejections.”

Final decisions on publication come down to the EIC or a small team. So, it’s not like the industry voted on your work. It’s one person’s subjective decision, in most cases. And subjectivity could mean anything: maybe they’re sick of zombies or whatever tropes your narrative features. Maybe they already have something similar for that issue or anthology. Maybe they just–and this sucks, but it’s also OKAY–didn’t’ like your story enough to put it in.

But someone else will.

Unless you don’t send it to them because you self-reject.

I guess what it comes down to is this, which I said to more than one struggling writing friend: Does writing (and everything that comes with the process–drafing and revision and feedbacking and submissions and rejections) bring you more pain or more joy?

If it’s the first one, go ahead and quit. Life is short. Find something you like better.

But if it’s the second one…


Book Launch!

The day is here–and like most long-anticipated events, ot came on slowly and then all at once. I have a book in the world. It’s real. It exists. People are ordering it. (You can too: click here!)

Stephen King says, in On Writing, that publishing books requires talent, desire, ambition, and luck.


He’s right. And I’m a lucky gal.

The collection only exists because, by chance, I saw a submission call from Mausoleum Press for their 2022 chapbook contest. I realized I had enough poems to form a little collection, and sent it in. While I didn’t win the contest, the editors wrote to me to say I made their shortlist (that’s like a final round, to some degree), which was very kind and also encouraging. I thought, why not send it to some other presses?

And I sent it to something like ten of them. Not long after I did, the publisher at Alien Buddha Press wrote back to me to say he’d like to publish it. When I opened that email I went into a kind of elation-panic. I was so happy that I was short-circuiting (I do that a lot, emotionally). I didn’t know what to DO.

But, luck gave me many wonderful friends in the writing community, and they guided me through what to say and send to whom, and in what order (I had to notify the other presses that I’d had an offer, give them a chance to make one or cut me loose, all while assuring Alien Buddha Press that I was excited and eager to get back to them). All was taken care of in a week or a bit more, and I signed a contract with ABP!

More luck: I’d come across the lovely cover art of Chad Lutzke, and it turns out that a cover I liked was available.

More luck: Every single person I asked to read an early copy of the collection and write me a blurb said yes. So I ended up with something like eleven or twelve blurbs that make me want to cry, they’re so kind.

More luck: The publisher at ABP just happens to be endlessly patient, and worked through lots of formatting questions and adjustments with me.

More luck: I have lots of supportive friends and family members, and as soon as they could, many of them ordered a copy. One friend ordered five copies!

Thank you to each and every person who has made these fabulous things happen for me, and who has cheered me on throughout the process (especially Joel). You all are my good luck.

OMG I’m Writing a Novel

Photo of shark by freepik.com

During NaNoWriMo 2022, I wrote 20,000 words of absolute crap. But for the first time, I took an idea that had been swirling around my brain for a year and put some of it down on paper (the screen).

In December, I returned to an almost-finished novella and revised/edited/proofread hard, getting that sent out before the year’s final clock struck Done. Which meant that in 2023, I was ready to focus almost entirely on that pile-of-shit novel draft. (And Mae Murray’s goal-setting workshop in early January was great!) I got to work. I revised. I deleted (I deleted SO MUCH). I rewrote. I made note cards, which ended up being so helpful.

I signed up for a little writing retreat at the campus where I teach (thank you, Dawn!), and made quick progress. By the time that retreat ended, I had 70-ish pages of worthwhile draft. Not final, but promising.

Then, in an online horror group (sorry can’t share that, it’s Top Secret), I asked if anyone would novel-buddy with me. Because asking someone to slog through your novel draft with you is a HUGE ask–so someone else asking you to do the same makes the whole thing less heavy, and you don’t have to give anyone your first-born child, or in my case, your beloved chubby beagle. It’s a bartering of slogging. And I got a novel buddy! (Thank you, CO!)

To my utter amazement, he LIKED WHAT I HAD. He said it was interesting, engaging, and that the pacing worked. In fact, after he read the chunk I sent him (about 50 pages), his only suggestions were additions and expansions–which was wonderful, because the thing with novels is that you need a lot of words in them, and that can be tricky (you wouldn’t think it would be tricky for me–most of the time I can’t shut the fork up). I added a short scene near the beginning and expanded two others. Then I moved forward, revised some more, and I can’t wait to send him the next chunk–but, I want to hit 100 pages of decent material before I do. Then I will be at roughly the halfway point with the manuscript–I will end up with something like a 60k-word novel. It will not be a 400-pager–I’m a Chatty Cathy, but not that chatty.

In Mae’s workshop on Jan. 6, I wrote out a timeline–goal months by which I would have so many chapters done, because at that time, I thought I would try to get the novel done (a spiffy draft to send out to publishers for consideration) by the end of the year.

Now I have moved up those goals. I want to finish this sucker by the end of the summer. And I think I will actually do it. And that thought has had me floating around for a week.

I’m writing a novel.

I’m writing a novel.

I’m writing a novel.

(And it’s the first of a trilogy.)

“I want this story to linger,” an interview with Jewish horror author Zachary Rosenberg

Zachary Roseberg is the author of Hungers as Old as this Land (Brigid’s Gate Press, May 2023), The Long Shalom (Off Limits Press, forthcoming); and a contributing author to Seize the Press‘s January 2023 issue as well as upcoming issues of The Deadlands, Dark Matter Magazine, the Shakespeare Unleashed anthology (Monstrous Books, Crystal Lake Publishing), and so much more. Here, he talks about his own brand of horror and why it’s so important to be part of a community.

Q: Tell us about your brand of horror. What are the vibes your stories create? How are you honoring your own culture and history? What do you want your readers to be haunted by long after they’ve finished reading the last line?

A: I think at this point, my biggest claim to a brand would be Jewish horror specifically. Not every story deals with Jewish lore or history, but a lot of them still have Jewish characters or inspirations. I like my stories to have a vibe of weirdness and steadily unfolding horror or drama. As far as my own culture and history goes, I love incorporating openly Jewish characters and folklore, making sure it’s represented in a unique and interesting light. Really, haunting impressions are important as well…I want this story to linger. Either the dread of what they’ve experienced and imagined, or the dread of how “this happened.”

Q: Your writing philosophy sounds simple: “Keep writing.” But it’s not that easy. What have you done to improve your craft and build your skills? What advice would you give to other writers?

A: Truly, it isn’t that simple. Really, what’s worked best for me is twofold: Not only writing, but reading. Read authors you admire, read people acclaimed, read everything in between. Having ideas is great, but you have to train yourself to express them in prose. Listening to critique and feedback is incredibly important, and never assume that you have it right the first time. Learning how to pace a story and build tension, as well as involving a reader early, are positively key.

Q: You are a known member of the horror writers’ community. What are the ways you participate in that community? What do you give to it, and what do you get from it? Why is it so important to foster genuine friendships with other writers?

A: Interaction is a chief way. It’s a pretty friendly community to just join and chat with people about books. I personally love to review things, promote others’ works, be supportive, and give feedback and readings for others. Writing is a solitary thing, and it’s up to us to make a community for one another, after all.

Q: What are you working on now, and what can readers expect from you soon? Where can folks get their hands on your work? What are you excited about? 

A: I’m so excited to get more stories into the world, and to have a great writing year! I’ve got a lot upcoming: the Shakespeare Unleashed anthology, Seize the Press‘s January issue, forthcoming issues of The Deadlands and Dark Matter Magazine, and several books, especially my debut horror Western Hungers as Old as this Land, along with my pulp horror at Off Limits Press, The Long Shalom!

Zach will also be a panelist on “The Rise of Indie Horror” segment of SFF Addicts Podcast’s TBRCon2023 moderated by Tim Meyer (@SFFAddictsPod), streaming live here on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. EST.

Hard Work Works (thank you 2022!)

This is basically a “part two” to my recent “Failing at NaNoWriMo & Winning at Rejections” post.

This year (2022) has been pretty incredible. I’ve met dozens of cool writers, joined writers’ groups, and I’ve gotten more acceptances than I have in several past years combined. What made this magic? I worked my ASS off.

Which is really good news. That there is nothing ethereal or fate based that leads to writing success. Just good old-fashioned sweat and tears. And that also means there are no shortcuts (at least not for most folks).

Success is relative, I know. And people take different paths to the same or similar places. Mine went like this:

-Joined the Horror Writers Association in early 2022 (March?) after earning an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Etched Onyx Winter Contest. That story, “A Bargain at Twice the Price,” (a ghost story) earned enough that I qualified to join the HWA as an Affiliate Member.

-After joining, figured “What the hell? I’ll go to StokerCon” (May). I knew no one. I mean no one. But I had the best time there, and met so many wonderful people, from big-name authors like Brian Keene to other people like me, struggling to find a path.

-Was so inspired by StokerCon—the people and the presentations and the panels—that I decided on the way home to quit my second job as the managing editor of Leapfrog Press. I deserved time to write, and my writing deserved my time and attention. This realization hit me with a stunning clarity at about midnight on the plane from Atlanta to Buffalo.

-Wrote. Wrote and wrote and wrote. I produced so much new content in 2022, especially over the summer, when I was finishing up with Leapfrog and before the fall semester started (I teach at SUNY Fredonia).

-But I didn’t just write. I joined a workshop with other writers in the horror community who ended up with me the same way folks end up owning cats—I was dumb and hungry; they were kind. I started another workshop with a few people I’d met at StokerCon. I workshopped with other students from Lindsay Merbaum’s independent studies (we are her happy little cult members). And I continued to workshop with my friends from grad school. Outside of those groups, I also beta read for people who needed it and joined social media groups of people with similar goals. I learned so much from those other writers, by reading their work, getting feedback on my own stuff, and sharing our successes and challenges.

-Took every chance I got for affordable independent education. With Lindsay, I learned about Feminist Horror and Queer Speculative Realism, and more recently, witches. I’ll be taking another independent study with her in 2023 on ghosts. (If you are interested in joining us, let me know and I’ll connect you with Lindsay.) I paid for a few developmental editing sessions with an awesome writer and friend. I took workshops through Defunkt Magazine’s Litfest. And I went to other one-off virtual workshops and panel discussions I found through Event Brite.

-Along with all that, I submitted a ton, too. My goal for 2020 was #100rejections. That meant I’d have to submit over 100 times, because I had to factor in the likelihood of a few acceptances. I just hit 150 submissions, with about a ten percent acceptance rate. I sailed past 100 rejections. A friend called submitting work “sending tiny missives of hope out into the universe,” and that’s exactly what it feels like.

-Finished my manuscript of speculative and slipstream stories—you can call it quiet horror or eerie horror or feminist horror or dark fiction. It’s a collection of 13 stories, and I’m currently trying to find a home for it. Some of those stories patiently waited to be revised for ten years. I’m so glad I kept my faith in them.

-I also put together a poetry chapbook manuscript, after being surprised I had enough poems to do so. (I’m primarily a fiction writer.) But I saw a chapbook contest being advertised by Mausoleum Press, and I took a chance. My poetry made their shortlist, but did not ultimately get selected. Getting that far, though, told me my poems had merit. That was further proved by Nocturne Magazine nominating my poem “Still Love” for a Pushcart Prize. The second press that got my poetry manuscript said it came close. Then I got an acceptance! More on that when I have details to share.

-There were so many “firsts” for me in 2022. In addition to being nominated for the Pushcart Prize, I was nominated for a teaching award at work. I was invited to be a part of an upcoming anthology-magazine hybrid (and my story was accepted). I was invited to be a guest on a podcast (still in the works, so no details right now). I made it into a dream anthology that I thought was such a longshot (Shakespeare Unleashed). And of course, there’s the to-be-published poetry collection that I’m so happy about.

-Oh! And I started and abandoned a novella, then started another novella that I’m happy with (and still need to finish), and the novel notes I mentioned before from my first NaNoWriMo.

I’ve got big hopes for 2023. I hope to get my collection picked up. I hope to finish my novella (spicy ghosty gothic), “Forgive Us Our Trespasses.” I hope to make lots of progress on the novel I tried to start during NaNoWriMo.

And I hope I will get another #100rejections.

Happy Writing to you all!

Failing at NaNoWriMo & Winning at Rejections

Pic from memeshappen.

This year, because I am susceptible to peer pressure and I just love saying yes to things, I participated in NaNoWriMo.

I was off to a great start early in the month—racking up the daily word counts, writing scenes, figuring out characters, going hard at the cannibalism, etc.

But then I hit a wall, and I never got through it or around it. I spent a few minutes every day writing crap and then worse crap, because if I couldn’t hit 50k words, I was at least going to open that document and type into it every day.

And I did! I have 20k words that I did not have at the start of the month. I mean, at least half of those words can be deleted and never mentioned again, but I have SOMETHING where before I had nothing. My protagonist, Beth, is alive. She doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing, but she EXISTS. I know her voice. I know (most of) her origin story. And when I can bear to open that document again (in February? Maybe?) I will get back to her and figure some things out.

So my verdict as a NaNo newbie is this: Do it if you want to, as long as you won’t be mad at yourself/give up/despair at the end of the month if you don’t hit that 50k wordcount goal. (I will be doing it again next year—maybe working on the same novel! Maybe writing more terrible terrible crap!) It’s fun to connect with other writers who are also NaNo-ing, whether you’re celebrating wins or encouraging each other or just sort of crying together because what’s in your head won’t come out on the computer screen. Yay community!

In other writing news, things are pretty wonderful.

In 2022, so far, I’ve submitted to journals/magazines/presses/podcasts/agents/etc. 152 times. That’s a mix of short stories, poems, essays, a short story collection manuscript, and a poetry chapbook manuscript.

I’ve gotten 13 acceptances, which I’m so grateful for. Big thanks to:

50-Word Stories for publishing “Not Yet,” and for naming it Story of the Week;

The podcast Terrify Me! with Antony Frost, for reading my short essay “Meeting Nancy” on the show;

50-Word Stories, again, for publishing “Emissaries,” and for naming it Story of the Week;

Defunkt Magazine, for publishing “Falling to Pieces,” in their “Anatomy” issue, and for their continued awesomeness as friends;

Nocturne Magazine for publishing “Still Love” and for stunning me with a Pushcart Prize nomination (I will be forever grateful);

Monstrous Books and Crystal Lake Publishing for accepting “No Rest Nor Relief For You With Me Dead” for the upcoming anthology Shakespeare Unleashed (I screamed when I opened that email);

Black Hare Press (Australia) for publishing “I Take” and “Ghost-Knocking” in their Nom Nom Halloween drabble anthology;

Hearth & Coffin for publishing “Research Cycle” in their “Creature Feature” issue;

Ravens Quoth Press for accepting “Wanted” for their upcoming Psythur 1 anthology;

CultureCult Press for publishing “Rest for the Wicked” in HAUS: Anthology of Haunted House Stories;

Diet Milk Magazine for accepting “Dare You” for their Gothic Advent Calendar “In the Bleak Midwinter;”

And to someone who is working on a not-yet-announced project who invited me to submit and then accepted my story (I will holler about that when I can!).

Thanks, too, to all the editors who sent me a dozen-plus kind and encouraging rejections this year (including two for the poetry chapbook). While there’s disappointment for me in those, there is also a lot of hope, and I take them as a sign of good things to come.

I’ve already hit my #100rejections goal, and I’ll sail past it by the time all the responses come in for 2022 submissions. (Thank you to my 100 Rejections buddies and to everyone in all my writing groups for celebrating those Rs with me!)

I have so much more to say about this year, but one long, gushing blog post is enough for now.

“Still Love”

Published in Nocturne Horror Literary Magazine, Issue 2, Fall 2022


When my left hand turned to stone—
whorled gray marble smooth
as a promise, fingers fused in a cold clenched fist
too heavy for my husband to hold
he just switched sides, he loved me
still, we stayed connected
at the movies, the farmers market, shadows
melting into one wide shadow
stretching across the sun-dried pavement.

Visit Nocturne to keep reading!

“Dear Editor, thank you for considering…”

(Image: www.freepik.com)

I have 42 submissions out.

I want to say something about Schrodinger’s cat here, but I’m shit at anything to do with math or science, and would probably screw it up. My point is that I have 42 unknowns floating in the universe. They could get accepted, rejected, or languish in an abandoned email folder.

(Running total for the year is 70-something, with a handful of acceptances. Your girl can take rejection.)

All I want to do is write and revise, or chat with my writer friends about writing and revising, or read cool books. Every sub call sparks an idea, several of which I actually try to draft because I’m finally making time for it. I stay up late, ignore other obligations, and put off chores. I work with a mentor, enroll in classes and workshops, and have applied for a poetry scholarship. I have one story ready to go on the first, and another under construction for a different sub call.

And ideas for 4-5 book-length manuscripts, that I’ll write fuck-knows-when.

(This week, I’ve spent head time with a monster in a hotel, two women flirting over a fresh corpse, an amorous portrait, an Irish sea creature, and other creeps, I guess making me the biggest creep of the bunch.)

I hope there’s quality in all this quantity.

My “become a writer” game plan has three prongs. 1. Write and submit so damn much that by laws of probability, some stuff has to get accepted. 2. Write so much that my craft improves bit by bit. 3. Don’t stop.

Submitting work to magazines and anthologies is a demonstration of hope and stubbornness (and once or twice for me, spite). At this point, stubborness is in the lead.

Go, stubborness, go.

On Becoming a Writer and Learning To Be Vulnerable: Guest post by Carol Weis  

Carol Weis is the author of the memoir, STUMBLING HOME: Life Before and After That Last Drink, published by Heliotrope Books in NYC. She also wrote the Simon & Schuster picture book, When the Cows Got Loose, and the poetry chapbook, DIVORCE PAPERS. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, AARP, Independent, Salon, ESPN, Guideposts, Cosmo, and numerous other venues and has been read as commentary on NPR.

Unlike many of my writing peers, I never dreamed of being a writer. I mean, I barely made it through college. As a former actor, professional cook and baker, I seemed to have a penchant for creative pursuits, but becoming a writer was never one I considered. Then I got sober. And found I had so much I needed to say. Words in the form of primitive poetry started making their way onto whatever scrap of paper was available. And upon mastering the art of revision, I soon had enough decent poems to submit for a chapbook. 

After unearthing some of my childhood trauma in therapy, I started writing children’s books to appease that ever-present three-year-old still squirming inside of me, the one who was abandoned by a mom sick with tuberculosis for a painfully long time. Her constant need for attention dominated my life and called the shots for many years. 

Writing kid’s books seemed to assuage some of her long-ignored angst. 

At least for awhile.

But when I realized there was always an addicted character showing up in my middle grade and young adult manuscripts, I sensed I needed to shift gears and write about myself. In an achingly honest way. At first, it came in the form of  journaling, and since my daughter had reached her teen years and our fights were more frequent and ferocious, I suggested she journal with me, which turned into a mother/daughter memoir project that still seeks a publisher. And thanks to my daughter’s incessant prodding, after years of telling my wild stories at family reunions and other gatherings, I started a memoir of my own, having no idea where it would take me. So frantic to get down all the memories as they rushed in, I finished the first draft in four months, something I would never advise anyone to do. 

I wrote mostly from my bed, which at the time I called my office. The vulnerability I felt from the words and scenes that poured forth made me want to hide forever beneath the covers. During that time, my body broke out in a vicious rash, with my legs, arms, and back erupting in what I surmised was the rage I felt from the writing. Exposing things I had buried for years. Things I’d even hidden from myself. It got to the point, I only wanted to take walks at night, so I wouldn’t run into any of my neighbors or friends who knew about my book project. I hadn’t felt that kind of vulnerability since I was a kid, or since I first got sober. 

I was writing the same way the memoirists that I loved to read wrote. In a way that made me connect with what they were saying, that took me to the pit of my darkest self. In a way that helped me let go of some of the shame I carried for so many years. In a way that made me feel a lot less alone. And as I wrote for those painful four months, and revised those equally painful four years, I hoped my words would do the same for others. Because making ourselves vulnerable on the page does just that.  

And after all, isn’t that the reason we write? 

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