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The Courage to Set Yourself Free

“I had a breakdown tonight. A thousand different feelings whirling within me, gathering strength over these past few weeks until they erupted in a torrent of emotion. Finally expelled, I could unravel them, inspect them, study them.

And then...I began to understand them.

I channeled that energy into novel #4, finally recognizing my character's struggle as something I've long buried within myself. After two years of drafting this book, she'll finally have her conclusion.

And maybe, maybe...

I'll have mine.”

I wrote the above post back in September 2017. For a second, I was confused by the timeline, as The Last Letter was released in 2016, and Lilac in Winter came through in a three-week flurry of pure clarity and non-stop writing in February 2017. Novel #4 is clearly East of Everywhere (published in 2021), but was it really so long ago that these characters and this town were born?

Yet, there it was in my emails as far back as 2015: Janie’s first appearance in little notes for a novel about an orphaned girl, her baby brother, a dog named Panda, and their journey home.

I had set that writing aside to let it marinate, adding scenes here and there over the course of the years. It would be another four years until it was completely finished, polished, and ready to publish.

East of Everywhere was a tough book to write, not just because of the research involved or the fact that the woven timelines stretched my capabilities as a writer but because Janie’s story forced me to dive deeper into the emotional realm than I’d been before.

There were scenes I didn’t want to write, afraid of the depths they were asking me to go. They were scenes I had to write—for the story, for Janie, for me. Those scenes are some of the most raw and emotionally vulnerable writing to date.

They’re also my favorite.

Writing is and always will be the safe haven in which I explore myself and my emotions, these characters granting me an outlet through their own personal stories to help me understand my own.

Writing takes courage. It’s takes courage because to look at your pain, your joy, yourself—even housed in fiction—takes courage. It takes courage to excavate the many layers, to drill down into the depths of yourself, to bring that to the surface and spill it onto the page.

It’s here that you free yourself from yourself.


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