What began as a year of feeling lost and unfocused, transformed into an abundant oasis of inspiration, artistic grit and determination, translating into several new skills; ultimately culminating in the publishing of my first novel, “Cross.”
When I complained to my husband last August about having no direction in my life, he suggested I learn a new skill, so I took up graphic art and began painting my head off. He then suggested that I gift people with my note cards, books and greeting cards. At first I was disappointed with this notion, as “A Story Just For You,” IS a business after all, but the more I thought about it, the more freeing the idea became, and I LOVE giving gifts! With some guidance from my computer guru, (aka, Brad,) and many annoying moments of unwanted interruption (much to Brad’s dismay,) I began.
People had also suggested that I write a blog. At first I thought it was a rather narcissistic practice but quickly warmed up to that idea as well.
Then, a rather unexpected yet amazing thing happened; and perhaps I owe this all to Janice Gula Fedak, who put forth a Pay It Forward initiative on Facebook, last August, which read, “for the first five people who say, ‘I’m in,’ you will receive a surprise of some sort within the calendar year.” The caveat was that I in turn had to pay it forward to five other people. I jumped right in. It sounded like such fun surprising people with a gift! I couldn’t wait to get started!
Through that one initiative, I re-connected with Gary Dzugan, a dancing colleague from my Kalyna days, and Lilian and Oleh Perun, whom I first met in Argentina way back in 1972.
My friends Olena and Irene also said, “I’m in!” They were going to be tricky! Over the years, we’ve given each other just about everything you can imagine; cards, concert tickets, dinners, music, art . . . you name it; we’ve already exchanged it at some time or other.
At the same time this was all going on, I was also my usual retrospective self. I asked myself if I were to die tomorrow, what regrets would I have, and the first thing that popped into my head was, “CROSS.” Hmm, there was a thought! I hadn’t thought about him in years. As most of you know by now, I had begun Cross’s story over twenty years ago. Could I dare to think I could finish the story? Where would I even begin?
I hunted down my old manuscript that was little more than bits of paper filled with handwritten scrawls, some of which I couldn’t even make out anymore. Pages were filled with arrows pointing to other pages I couldn’t even find. There were entire paragraphs that had been scratched out. How would I ever make sense of it all?
Like an addict, I told myself, one hour at a time. I began sorting, reading, re-reading, and by January of the following year, I had all my old notes and basic storylines in my computer. Okay, so six months to just get the old stuff in, now what? Well, now it seemed that I had to actually finish the story, which meant researching . . . a lot! Some days, that’s all I did without writing a single word; but the words did come, and I wrote.
I have come to rely on prayer quite a bit over the last few years of my life, and so I prayed. I asked God to please help me finish the book, and the next morning, I knew where Cross was going. When I got stuck in a couple more places, I prayed again and was given further guidance.
I knew my goal for completing my pay it forward surprises was August, and I had already completed two of the four projects for my pay it forward inductees, but could I, would I finish CROSS? I kept at it every day, all day, and on July 12th, my baby was finally finished.
I won’t go through the arduous and laborious process I took editing, but needless to say, there were many longs hours spent editing. Brad, (my official editor) spent countless hours doing set up, checking open and closed quotes, while I did re-write after re-write, trying to get a sentence or paragraph, just right.
One of my most thrilling moments this year was presenting the first books to my pay it forward recipients, Irene, Olena, and my BFF, Debbie. My son, Matt, is already reading his, and my daughter Taylor and mother in law, Diana will receive theirs when I see them next week.
With great blessings comes great responsibility, and on that note, I would like to tell you a little about the group I will be donating half my proceeds to.
“BUILD-ON” is a tremendous organization supporting literacy and education in some of the poorest countries in the world; places such as Burkina Faso, Haiti, Mali, Malawi, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Senegal.
I believe that education is not only key to picking people up out of poverty, but it is also a means of alleviating economic distress, violence and crime, civic disengagement and more. According to Build-On, the statistics on illiteracy are staggering! Fifty-seven million children of primary school age have no classroom access at all.
There should be no one on this planet that cannot read and write, and Build-On’s motto is, “It’s not a charity, it’s a movement,” and one that I’m proud to say I will be supporting through the sales of Cross.
From the desert to an oasis. What a year it has been; acquiring new skills for my paintings, gifting others, writing a monthly blog, and accomplishing something that has turned out to be one of the greatest achievements of my life . . . CROSS.
So, where will this year take me? I haven’t decided yet.
Next week I will be travelling with my family, (myself, Brad, Taylor and Diana,) to visit my great grandparent’s homestead in Glenevis(50 miles north of Edmonton). From there, we’ll be taking the train through Jasper and Lake Louise, then on to Vancouver, after which I will re-assess as I always do.
I want to take this moment to thank all of my friends (new, old and recycled,) and family for supporting me through this tenuous, uncertain, amazing, incredible year; for caring enough to read my blog; for posting encouraging and thoughtful comments, and for sending positive and heartwarming messages.
To all those who are already reading Cross, I thank you! To all those who have already sent him abroad so that others might share in his amazing journey, I thank you. To all those who’ve shared in my excitement and joy, I thank you! To all those who have extended tremendous opportunities for me, I thank you.
Thank you also for helping me support literacy and education across the globe. As the adage says, and read in the style of my editor, <Open Quotes> one of us is a drop of water <comma> but together we are an ocean <ellipsis> <closed quotes>.