(Summerland--as imagined by Skyrose--isn't it lovely?!!)
So, the ringing in of a new decade got me thinking a lot about how I spent the last one, and I have to say, that if nothing else, it's been one of great change. Containing some of the hardest, most difficult hurdles I've ever faced, and yet those very same hurdles ended up providing not only great opportunity for learning and growth, but the chance to build something positive from them.
On the Millennium New Year's Eve, I was in Stockholm Sweden on a four day layover (I was working as a NYC based flight attendant back then), and a trip like that was pretty much the same as getting paid to vacation in a gorgeous (and cold!!) city. And, as I was still dating my soon-to-be husband, I took him along and we had an amazing time!
Fast forward to 2001, we got married in May, and by September, when 9/11 hit, I was suddenly faced with a 40% pay cut and the additional duty of performing early morning bomb checks. And as horrible and tragic as that day was, as much as that moment of watching those planes fly into the towers will forever be sealed in my mind, it also served as the impetus to finally stop talking about my dream of being a writer, and actually start, well, writing!
So, I dusted off the story I'd started nearly a decade before, finished it, sent it off to a slew of publishers (erroneously thinking I didn't need an agent--wrong!), only to get a slew of rejections for my efforts. And yet, as much as it hurt to be rejected by everyone, in the end it just made me try harder. I took classes, revised my manuscript over and over again, and by 2003 I had an agent, and by Feb 4, 2004 I was offered a two-book deal with St. Martin's Press!
But before we'd even finished celebrating, we were hit with tragedy as every member of my husband's immediate family was diagnosed with cancer within months of each other--including my husband.
By 2005, when my debut novel, FAKING 19, was released we'd already lost his mother, and a very, dear, old friend of mine (my first love!), suddenly passed away too. By the time my second book was released, my husband lost his twin brother, and by the time my third book was released, I was on the verge of losing my husband as well.
But, he pulled through, and what was truly the absolute darkest phase of my life, ultimately shifted into something else. And I soon realized that If I hadn't experienced that--if I hadn't gone through a grief so deep I could barely get off the couch--I wouldn't have been able to write Saving Zoe, Cruel Summer, or any of the books in The Immortals series. Those stories were a direct result of where I'd been and who I'd become because of it. Writing them helped me to make better sense of the world.
2009 has brought some amazing opportunities my way, and to say that I'm grateful hardly seems sufficient. And even though I have no idea what 2010 will bring--I can't wait to get started! If nothing else, I think I've finally learned that no matter how dire something may seem on the surface, if you go deep (very, very deep!), there's a message, an opportunity for growth, and maybe even a chance to turn it into something better.
The other night I watched "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (original version) on TV, and at the very end, in Charlie's "all is lost" moment, when Wonka tells him that he failed the test and to go away, Charlie reaches into his pocket and hands over the gum he'd taken earlier. Only to have Wonka look at him, eyes shining as he says:
"So shines a good dead in a weary world."
And then hands him the keys to the kingdom.
I hope you all shine just as bright (if not brighter!) in 2010!!