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“But anyone can begin. It was the part with all the promise, the potential, the things I loved. More and more, though, I was finding myself wanting to find out what happened in the end.”

Nearly five years ago, on a warm May morning, I sat in my bedroom without a goal, without inspiration, without even an inkling of an idea of where to start. I had only a longing — a desperate need — to find the spark that might ignite the passion for a craft I’d been missing so much. As the wind from the open windows breathed past the sheer curtains, lifting them up in a dance of fabric and air before falling again, something in my mind began to stir and an image began to form.

I imagined a laundry line, four rows of fabric billowing like the sails of ships or passing clouds or a wedding dress on a hot summer’s day; I imagined an ice cream truck turning the corner and neighborhood children running up to greet it, clutching nickles from their piggy banks in their tiny hands; I imagined sprinklers in the yards and buckets full of soapy water next to cars in the driveway and sounds from inside nearby kitchens sweeping through the open windows.

And then, I imagined Annie.

I saw her sneakers first, her body partially hidden by the sheets that almost skimmed the grass, and then I pictured her skinny legs outstretched on the ground and imagined the light touch of wet cotton passing over a young daydreamer as she sought shelter from the heat.

Then, her thoughts became my thoughts, her words became my words, and I began to write her story.

This was the beginning of what I thought would be a series of short stories posted to my blog; this, I’ve since realized, was the beginning of everything. As I wrote the next story, what would later become the eponymous second chapter of the book, the excitement, the passion, the inspiration I’d been hoping to find again only grew. What was emerging was something much more than a story — it was a whole world. What it was becoming was something more than Annie’s story — it was my own.

Pieces of truth laced through words of fiction, an innate penchant for nostalgia and the fear of growing up that had remained with me long into adulthood, the question of what it means to be caught in the throes of adolescence — that lingering place between being old enough to understand, but too young to fully grasp the meaning…

These were the philosophies that kept weaving their way through the heart of each chapter. This was the time and town of Annie’s youth, spinning and shifting and finally settling into place where the world could begin to breathe on its own. Annie whispered and shouted and never shut up, and I continued to tell her story while healing from my own and promised myself to never give up.

Here, finally, with the close of the book, is the culmination of five years of writing, research, revising, marketing…and hoping.

Here are the dreams and the wishes and the possibilities that have urged me onward since I was a little girl.

Here is the beginning; the beginning of this writer’s life.

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