This is the post I’ve waited five years to write.
Scratch that. This is the post I’ve waited twenty years to write.
I’ve landed a two-book deal with HarperCollins Publishers. After five years, three novels, and a year of living in my parents’ kitchen — I am going to be a published author. It hasn’t fully hit me yet, I don’t think.
But I must be getting close to understanding the enormity of what this means for my life, because last night, Ross and I watched Signs and I cried. If you cry during an M. Night Shayamalan movie, you’ve got something emotional you need to address.
I don’t really know how we even started watching it, since I actually said “I want to watch something fun and nice” and Signs is neither of those things.
I didn’t like it when I was younger. My sisters would pick it on a movie night and I would groan and bargain and try and push for something, anything else.
But as I got older, I found it imprinted on me. When Graham, Mel Gibson’s character, talks to his brother and tells him that there are two types of people in the world – those who see signs and miracles and those who think everything is pure chance – I knew I wanted, more than anything, to be the type in the first group.
I wanted to believe that there was a reason for everything. I just didn’t know if I did.
After a while, I avoided that movie like I avoided religion, like I avoided church, like I avoided any talk of science or truth.
I was a young teenager, diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder. I was medicated and watched and I felt like a time bomb. I drove to churches in the middle of the night and sat by the doors, afraid to go in. I slept on our family trampoline just because the night sky scared me and I wanted to make myself look at it.
And with every year, I found myself pushed further from the idea that everything needed to have a point.
After all, what could my future mean? If everything was connected, then what kind of future could I be heading for?
Now, why am I talking about a Mel Gibson movie (and, despite my love for it, one that isn’t really considered one of his best?) in the middle of the blog post where I should be shrieking for joy about my book deal?
Because this book deal wouldn’t have happened without my scars, and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been lost in the woods so many times. It all came together.
I wrote a manuscript about a girl who had panic attacks. I wrote them soft, at first. Lighter. A G-rated version.
And I have people who love me, people who expect to see me, scars and all, who didn’t let me do that.
Jillian Denning, the first person to read it, told me to dig deeper. She called me out, and didn’t let me write the nice stuff. She told me to write stuff that I wouldn’t know how to write if I hadn’t curled up outside of churches in the rain. Stuff I wouldn’t know how to write if I hadn’t spent time looking at the fraying rug in my therapist’s office.
She, along with Hilary Miller and Brittany Sawrey, didn’t let me off the hook. They didn’t let me write anything other than sharp, cold truth. I wanted to write in magic marker and they pushed me to write with a scalpel.
And the result was strong enough to warrant an editor in New York to give my agent a call. It was enough to make my dreams come true.
I would’ve been a writer with or without a book deal. I know this. I didn’t need a book deal to justify myself, but I can look back and see how everything makes sense. Everything God was doing to lead me here.
This justifies all the times a teacher had to write “see me, please” written under the math section of my report card because I spent the class time writing stories in the margins of my notes.
It helps make sense of all those truancies on my attendance record because I skipped school to stalk the rows of books at Barnes & Nobles.
I couldn’t write the dark unless I’d lived in it.
It helps make sense of everything.
Now, this is all far from over. I have a LOT of work to do. And it all feels so surreal. Crying during Signs wasn’t the first time I’ve cried over this.
When I got the call from the editor at HarperCollins, I was walking through Target, looking for Tylenol.
I was in sweats, snot dripping down my face, and I had to have one of the most important conversations of my career. I went and sat down on the bench with the plastic Target dog – the one intended for children to play on – and tried not to sob as a woman I’d never seen face to face told me I was now going to be paid to do what I’d always done to keep my soul happy. I’m sure I looked insane and hey – shout out to the San Dimas Target folks for not calling security on me.
I’d honestly expected this blog post, should I ever be blessed enough to write it, would be just GIFs of Daryl Dixon doing kissy faces. Wait. What the hell, why not…
But it felt wrong to celebrate where I’ve landed without acknowledging the footprints I’ve left in the deepest, darkest parts of forests I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. It wouldn’t make sense to pop the cork on my (non-alcoholic) champagne without realizing that even the worst panic was teaching me how to swing away.