2016: A Year in the Life


Doctor Who: Because wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.

This past year didn't turn out the way I expected it to. Then again, I guess it never really does--nor is it supposed to, if I want to be honest with myself and acknowledge a fact of life. But looking back at 2016, I'm surprised at just how much surprised me... 2016 was a painful year. It's also been my proudest. Past lessons I was too stubborn to learn before rose to the surface again, and I finally had to face all that had changed--how I've changed--these many years since I've been sick. I'm not the same person I was at the beginning of this year, that much is certain. Maybe none of us are. But I've also learned to embrace that, building upon these changes to create a future for myself when even my future seemed in doubt. I can't articulate everything I want to say. I promise you, I'm trying. But I'm a mix of emotions (and lots of brain fog, thank you, Lyme!) as I prepare for the new year: relief at finally moving on from this roller coaster of a year, sad at all the loss and painful transitions that resided here, and grateful for unexpected opportunities stemming from hard work and determination--a fighting spirit and will to create.

Tonight, I'll embark on a journey of self-reflection to help me sort through these emotions and what exactly this year has meant in terms of personal growth on what has become my favorite day of the year. For the past five years, I've practiced the art of self-care on New Years Eve, indulging in my favorite things and some quiet reflection to help clear the cobwebs and set the tone for the year to come. It began with notes in a jar--quotes, musings, and moments of gratitude scrawled on tiny slips of paper and stuffed into the empty ice bucket on my wine rack until New Years Eve, where I would read them and place them in an actual jar until the next year. Three years' worth of notes reside in that jar. Three years' worth of healing. When I bought my daily planner at the beginning of this year--a beautiful Moleskin featuring The Little Prince--I set the intention of writing down my daily routines to help guide me through the physical recovery from my Lyme relapse. But little by little, I began to write more. The planner turned into a journal of sorts, a replacement for all those ice bucket notes: daily reflections, quotes, poetry, and other musings filled the pages. It's been the highlight of every morning--a moment of peace among the chaos of life. Tonight, I'll one again gather my favorite things and snuggle with my dogs, reading through the past 365 days that have been a roller coaster of both pain and pride. There have been big events that have changed life, that have changed me--some which I've talked about here and across social media and some I've kept private--but there, tucked in the pages of that planner, rests every moment in between. And so, as I prepare to dive deeper into this year's personal reflections tonight and set intentions for the year to come tomorrow, I'm looking back at all that's changed professionally in 2016 now--at all I'd expected, all I'd worked for, and all the things that I never saw coming...

January 2016:

" Excited to share my plans for 2016 with sneak peeks of my upcoming books... Along with kicking Lyme Disease's ass and getting back to work, I'm focusing my energy in the new year on creating: fiction, blog posts, journaling, and free resources for authors. This also includes bringing on more clients to Brown Beagle Books, continuing to build relationships with the local writing community, and working with friends to help them create and bring their passion projects to life."

BOOKS:

THE LAST LETTER is a fictionalized account of my experiences with Lyme Disease and follows 15-year-old Amelia Lenelli as she struggles to shape her own identity while a chronic illness threatens to tear her world apart. This book is finished and is currently being considered for representation with literary agents (!). If that falls through, I'll be self-publishing it through Brown Beagle Books with a release date this summer. Stay tuned for news on this one...

ASHES IN AUTUMN is the second novella in the seasons series, which began with Annie and "Gold in the Days of Summer." This new book follows the reclusive Vietnam war veteran during the autumn of 1969--10 years before his appearance in the first book. I'll be publishing all four books in this series through Brown Beagle Books with an anticipated release date for "Ashes in Autumn" in Fall 2016.

Two books! One year! Yep...A little crazy.

EAST OF EVERYWHERE is my new novel, a work-in-progress I'm extremely psyched about. This book follows seventeen-year-old Janie Gallagher, an orphan who tries to find her way back to her brother, her best friend, and the only place she's ever really called home. On her journey, she finds her way to a small town where she meets a group of misfit characters, including a lonely widow, a boy in a boxcar, and a dog named Panda. This book has been pure fun to write and is a mishmash of all my favorite sources of inspiration. I'll be working on first rewrites this spring, with an anticipated release date sometime next year (2017). "

I shared this on Facebook at the beginning of 2016, hoping that setting a plan for the year would help push me forward in creating a positive and purposeful future for myself. But I don't think I ever expected most of it to come to fruition. In fact, if I want to be really honest, I'm still in disbelief that this year was so productive at all, especially considering how infuriatingly slow my recovery has been. So while I haven't kicked Lyme's ass yet, I have happily accomplished many of these goals--with a few surprises along the way. The Last Letter: A Novel For the second time in my life, writing helped to save my life and push me towards recovery. While I'd had loftier goals for this book and my career, particularly with agent representation and a traditional publishing deal, the path to getting there never sat well with me. I liked the creative control of producing my own work when every other part of my life seemed out of control. I liked being able to tell my story in exactly the way I wanted to tell it, exactly as it needed to be told. I liked knowing the book would be available relatively quickly and that it could reach the people who needed it. And so, I listened to my intuition and made the decision to pull my queries and remain with indie publishing, building my business along with it. It's a decision I'm so proud of, one of which I've never felt more certain. In July, I set the plan in motion for the release of the book. Little by little, day by day, I plugged away at the editing, the marketing, the copy-writing, and working with my cover and interior designers. There were days when I couldn't understand the words I was reading, my neurological symptoms were so bad. There were days I couldn't get out of bed, the fatigue so disabling. But this book, knowing what it could become and how it could help people, gave me a reason to fight for those little pockets of time--hours, minutes--where I felt well enough. During the summer, I filmed a series of videos with my friend Star Bunner (Star Films) as part of a Lyme Disease Awareness campaign in conjunction with the release of The Last Letter. The video series was a new and exciting (if somewhat terrifying) way for me to be more visible in my advocacy and share the complexities and emotional impact of living with Lyme through reading excerpts from the book. The videos are available for viewing here: The Last Letter. Look for more videos on living with Lyme Disease in 2017. On September 20, three days before my 33rd birthday, I released The Last Letter into the world. For all it took to get there, it's been one of the proudest moments of my year--and certainly my life. Order your copy on Amazon, B&N, or from the Brown Beagle Books bookstore! The Last Letter Links:

Official Book Page Official Press Release

Book Release Announcement (Blog) A Novel on Life with Lyme (Living Grace Blog Author Interview)

Lyme Ninja Radio Interview (Coming 2017)

Works In Progress

Clearly I was overly ambitious in thinking I could publish two novels in 2016...Which is why my next two books, Ashes in Autumn and East of Everywhere, are slated for 2017! (I know. Believe me, I know...). Stay tuned for more details in my 2017 goals post, coming this week!

Brown Beagle Books

One of my goals for 2016 was to continue building my business with a series of free resources for authors. In early December, I released the first in the series: Choosing Your Publishing Path--a free thirty-page guide to traditional and self-publishing to help the author embark on their best path to success. Choosing Your Publishing Path is available for download on the Brown Beagle Books website. Look for more resources in 2017.

Lyme Advocacy

I've often talked about how writing is my passion, but Lyme Disease is my purpose. Truly, my experiences with Lyme have ignited a spark in me over the years that has helped me stand up for myself and others in the face of such a debilitating illness. While I often write about the politics and science of Lyme across social media as part of educating and building awareness for it, it's highlighting the emotional toll--the isolation, the loneliness, the irrational guilt for being chronically ill--that I'm particularly passionate about. Which is why I remain so grateful for the opportunities this year in which I've been able to use my writing, my voice, and advocate a little louder. In late September, I had the privilege of writing my first essay for Global Lyme Alliance's #MyLymeLife series in a piece on Lyme and loneliness. GLA is an incredible organization helping to fund world-class Lyme research and bringing awareness to the general public, run by some of the nicest people to boot. I've since become a regular contributor to their blog and look forward to continuing to write for them. Global Lyme Alliance Essays:

Dream Like New (Lyme & Loneliness) Trauma and Lyme Disease

In October, I became a contributor for The Mighty, a community for "real people facing real challenges." Below is a list of my featured posts relating to Lyme Disease and chronic illness, often cross-posted from this blog. New content to this blog and The Mighty to come in the new year. The Mighty Essays:

When I Realize What I've Lost Because of Lyme Disease I'm Casting A Light on the Shadow of My Lyme Disease When I Decided Not To Share the Holidays with Lyme Keeping Your Fighting Spirit in the Face of a Lyme Relapse

In addition to contributing to GLA and The Mighty, I created a Facebook community in which to heal from the emotional toll of living with Chronic Lyme Disease. Lost in the Lymelight (and its Twitter sister, @lymebrave) is a place in which I share Lyme-related articles, inspirational quotes, The Last Letter news, and pieces of my own recovery story.

That's the crazy coaster of a ride my professional life took me on in 2016. I'd set my goals, but as there have been so many setbacks, I never expected to accomplish so many of them or to have such unexpected opportunities, these blessings in disguise. This past year has been a mix of professional pride and personal pain, but it's in looking back and seeing what I was capable of in the face of illness this year that makes me eager to see what the next has in store. So goodbye, 2016. I'm grateful for your lessons. And hello, 2017. I'm looking forward to your new year.

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