What a surreal feeling. The first read-through was just for me to get a sense of what the book looked like as a whole, and how everything flowed. It's amazing how you can write something, and then a few months later, kind of forget what you said. It took me almost a week in itself just to transcribe my handwritten pages from my travels (you can see the notebooks in the above photo) into the electronic document! I had written way more than I'd realized.

So many themes popped out at me, planted in there like tiny seeds by my subconscious without my even noticing while it was happening, so now I'm going to go back and spend some time developing them throughout. Battle, escape, water (emotion), innocence, secrets...

My first impression is holy shit, this story is intense. 

But then there are places where it just kind of seems like total drivel and I wonder why anyone would even bother reading this crap. I've never done anything this publicly before, so I'm sure that's just an anxious voice in the back of my head worrying me about what people will think. Fortunately, it's a fairly easy voice to shut up once I realize that it's not offering me any productive advice.

Regardless of whether the final product is received as total drivel or a relevant, impactful story to illuminate the realities of domestic violence and mental illness, I'm just really proud of myself for having done this at all. I get to tell my story! And I got to tell it to myself, too, which allowed me to see some connections that I hadn't made before, and will give me the continued strength and new tools to deal with the adversity that I still face today.

I've been reading a book that a friend recommended, Use Your Words by Kate Hopper, and one of the many things that has resonated with me is the idea of using humor to break up the heaviness. It can be such an effective way to help shift our perspectives or just allow a reprieve from the severeness of the issues we face, both in writing and in daily living. I never thought I'd be a humorous writer, and by no means is my story a comedy, but it's been fun working in the funny bits to lighten things up here and there.

I'll be spending the remaining few months sabbatical from work focusing on editing, repeatedly redrafting this beast until it feels polished enough to start querying agents and publishers. Since I did not receive the grant I had applied for, I'm forced to forego a professional editor at this stage. I just cannot afford one after watching my bank account drain away during this wonderful leave of absence. I like to joke that this is the best mid-life crisis I could have ever funded! Sure, I could be driving around in a brand new, shiny red sports car instead, but I'd probably just end up with a bunch of speeding tickets and much higher insurance. ;-)

Anyway, I digress. If I'm unsuccessful at acquiring an agent or publisher going into next year, then I intend to self-publish, and will definitely be hiring an editor. There is no way I will have spent all this time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears without making sure that the book is as good as it can be before releasing it to the public. That being said, I am hoping for a release date of sometime in 2016, but we shall see what the Universe decides.

I already have some pretty solid ideas for a second novel swirling around in my brain, and that is an exciting feeling for sure. All those dreams of becoming a writer when I was a little kid... who could have predicted that I'd one day write a book about the scary things I was experiencing back then?

This journey has been incredible!