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  • kjmicciche

Grieving Through Art


Before I became an author, I wondered so much at how people did it. How do you come up with a 300+ page story about characters that aren’t even real? How do you have the discipline to sit down and write all that, from scratch? And, not just mechanically, but creatively as well – how do you have the ability to make it all come to life?

 

I’m in the process of drafting my third book. Well… actually, that depends on how you count. It’s actually my ninth book, but it will (probably) be the third one released for public consumption. We’ll see.

 

The manuscript is due to my editor on February 15th. We decided on this date back in August of last year, and, despite quite a few fits and starts, I finally really settled down to write the bulk of it this month. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? I’ve got about three major scenes left to go, and I’ve been drafting approximately 4,000 words (roughly 15 pages) a day, which is a lot by any author’s standards.

 

I’m typically kind of a pantser, but there comes a time in a manuscript’s life where you can see your way through the plot to the end. I hit that point early on for this book, so I’ve been able to fly through pages as a result. But the other reason I’ve been so in the zone is because of something my characters say to each other a couple of times in the story.

 

Fiction is just the truth, hiding in plain sight.

 

That could not be more accurate than in this book. I feel like a vulnerable, exposed nerve in many ways with this one. The apartment my MC lives in is the apartment I grew up in. I’m not even changing the address. The town where the love interest lives is the town my husband grew up in. All places are real places where I have eaten lovely meals, stayed on vacation, gone to school. Nothing is off limits in this one.

 

And the characters are real as well.

 

This manuscript has served to help me navigate an incredibly hard moment in my life. My mother is dying. She is 80 years old, and while there’s no specific diagnosis, no cancer eating away at her, I can see it. She lives alone, and often busies herself sitting in a dark apartment with the TV on for company. I am spending more and more of my time taking her to doctor’s appointments. I’ve had to start buying her groceries because she’s not eating well. She was certain she had colon cancer, so I took her for a colonoscopy, and managing the prep for it together was probably the most humiliating, emotionally scarring thing that has ever happened in our relationship. She has quaking tremors in her hands, and she can’t remember things in the context of conversation. (For example, she asked me three times in a ten minute period recently what year I graduated college.) She doesn’t want to move into assisted living or use the money she has to pay for any kind of help. So, as an only child with no father in the picture, her care falls on me. And I have lots of feelings about that, some which I can express openly, and others which I cannot. Suffice to say, my mother and I were close for most of my younger childhood. My father left when I was 16, and after that, our family was fractured permanently. Subsequently, what was once a pretty healthy relationship between me and my mother morphed into something quite different. So now, being at this stage in her life, carrying the weight of managing her care, I am struggling with the notion of regret. Not only for myself, but for her as well.

 

But thank goodness I have my writing, because it’s all coming out in my novel. This book, entitled My Side of the Story, is a romance at its core, but it’s also got a strong mother-daughter theme anchoring it, and it’s through these characters that I am handling my grief. Someone reading this blog might assume that the mother character in the story is my mother and I am the grown daughter, and that’s where you’d be wrong. In fact, I am in many ways the mother character here, and the creative part is imagining my real-life beautiful daughters all grown up. They, collectively, create the makeup of the MC, sprinkled in with bits of my younger self. In writing the relationship between Melody (the MC) and Birdie (the mom) on the page, I am healing all of the pieces that are broken in my own. I’m mourning the relationship that my mother and I failed to have in this life, and painting a picture of the relationship I strive to have with my girls.

 

It's been wonderful. It’s made me feel so grateful for the fact that with my kids, I still have time to be the best mom possible.

 

And time, really, is the greatest gift of all.



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