The Journey I Never Expected To Take

As a writer, I am obsessed with journeys. Sure, I love a good fictitious romp–I’ve been making up stories since I was young enough to string a sentence together. But it is in recent years–the years where I said goodbye to my marriage and started anew, anti-depressants in one hand, wine in the other–that I’ve become enamored with true stories written by real people. As I mentioned in my last post, these are the stories that have comforted me in my most difficult moments post divorce. These are the stories that have told me: Someone else has been where you are, and they made it out alive. These are the stories that have encouraged me to keep going.

I started this blog as a way to stop hiding behind my fiction, as a way to tell the true story of what happens when a romance novelist loses her happily ever after, and as a way to reach out to others who may be going through what I’m going through, and to let them know they are not alone.

At the New Year, when I wrote my last post, 37 Extraordinary Dreams ~ One Extraordinary YearI had it in my head that I needed to go do something extraordinary!, use it as a way to work through my grief, and write about it along the way. Much like Cheryl Strayed does in Wild and Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, I wanted to go somewhere exciting or do something huge to, once and for all, shed my wretched divorce baggage and move on with my life. But instead of coming up with one big journey to take, I came up with thirty-seven!

I have been hard at work on making many of my dreams a reality–I’ve spent two weeks in France (out of the four I promised myself), I’ve seen my books on the shelves of bookstores, I finished my screenplay, I’ve been dancing as much as my busy schedule will allow, and I can almost do the splits again!

What I didn’t realize when I made this list, though, is that I have already been on an extraordinary journey, one that is worthy of writing about. One that I hope will inspire others. One that I desperately want to tell.

So, logically, being the devious novelist that I am, I decided to hide all of that juiciness in a novel! See #15 on my list:

15. Write and publish my next novel: The Places That Were Ours

Oh, yes, The Places That Were Ours was going to be a novel based loosely…ahem…on the most intense, heartbreaking, passionate years of my life. I figured that if I can’t tie up my own love stories into neat little bows of happily ever after, at least I know my characters can!

So, I wrote the prologue and the first fifty pages, and I pitched the book to my agent and to my publisher as fiction. I went so far as to place my protagonist in a coma so that even she wouldn’t have to face her demons.

Talk about hiding behind my art.

But each time I opened up the document, I couldn’t write past the first few chapters. Something essential was missing. Something monumental…

Ahh, that pesky little thing I have been going to such lengths to avoid: The Truth.

And then, before I could take this book any further, my publisher turned it down. I wasn’t too distraught, though, because I knew somewhere deep down that I didn’t want to write this novel. I didn’t want to hide behind my characters’ questionable choices, their hidden desires, their passionate love affairs, their sweet triumphs and most embarrassing catastrophes.

I wanted to write about my own.

But as it often goes in life, I had to hit rock bottom before I could find the courage to do the thing I really wanted to do. And so, when my next major writing rejection came, I finally, finally, said–and please do excuse my French–fuck it. 

If this is the only story that is surging through my veins, keeping me up at night, begging to  bleed its ink onto the pages, then just write the damn story.

If the only thing that truly matters to me anymore is being purely, unabashedly, unapologetically me, then just write the damn story.

Otherwise, what am I doing here?

As a writer, it’s not my job to write fluff. It’s not my job to keep people happy. It’s my job to tell a story. A damn good story. And so, for better or for worse, wedded as I am to my craft, I have decided to write the story in my heart.

The story that is mine.

The story that is ours.

The Truth.

And so, it is with excitement, a little bit of trepidation, and mostly joy that I announce my next book:

Meet Me in Paris

One Romance Novelist’s Quest to Write Her Own Happily Ever After

What does a romance novelist do when she loses her own happily ever after? Take a lover and travel to Paris, obviously. Or at least this is what Juliette Sobanet did upon making the bold, heart-wrenching decision to divorce the man she had loved since she was a teenager. This is the story of the passionate love affair that ensued during the most devastating year of Sobanet’s life and how her star-crossed romance in the City of Light ultimately led to her undoing. Meet Me in Paris is a raw, powerful take on divorce and the daring choices that followed such a monumental loss from the pen of a writer who’d always believed in happy endings.

I’m close to 100 pages along this wild journey, and I’m loving it. As for a release date, I don’t know yet. But I do know that I am finally, truly, following my heart.

To take a quote from my favorite truth teller…

Anais Nin Fever of Creation Quote

 

37 Extraordinary Dreams ~ One Extraordinary Year

On Christmas Day, a close friend and I went to see the movie Wild at the theater. Based on the bestselling memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Wild chronicles Strayed’s inspiring journey from total and complete loss to healing and transformation through her solo voyage up the Pacific Coast Trail.

In her twenties, Strayed suffered the crippling loss of her mother, a devastating divorce, and ultimately hit rock bottom before she made the daring decision to hike over 1,000 miles–from the Mojave Desert in California all the way up to Washington State–all by herself.

The film is raw, honest, and so packed with emotion that I pretty much had tears rolling down my face from the moment she mailed in her divorce papers and hugged her husband goodbye, all the way through to her triumphant finish on the Bridge of the Gods.

Wild

I came home that night, ever more inspired to write the truth. The truth in this film was yet one more piece of my journey to healing–seeing that another woman can say goodbye to a husband she loves, lose everything, and ultimately keep on walking. She didn’t just keep walking, though. Through her grief, she did something extraordinary, and it was in walking this extraordinary journey that she worked through her losses, her heartbreaks, and ultimately found the person she most needed to know–herself.

And then, perhaps the best part of all–she wrote about this amazing journey and inspired countless other people to keep on walking. To do something extraordinary. To step away from the chaos and find yourself.

Eat Pray Love

Elizabeth Gilbert follows this same pattern in Eat, Pray, Love. A heart-wrenching divorce ultimately set her on a soul-searching voyage through Italy, India, and Indonesia. More than any other piece of literature, Gilbert’s memoir has given me comfort and reassurance that I would not only survive my divorce, but ultimately go on to thrive.

If these women hadn’t suffered great loss, they may never have taken these extraordinary journeys and in turn, they wouldn’t have written these incredible books which became films and have touched the lives and hearts of so many.

The losses, while painful, have turned into something absolutely beautiful. And not by accident. It happened because these women kick ass and weren’t afraid to lay their lives bare for the world to see.

After watching Wild, I went to bed that night thinking:

I want to do something extraordinary and write about it.

I want to use this journey to work through my losses, my heartbreaks, and lose the baggage.

And ultimately, I want to inspire.

The next day it came to me…I am going to make a list of 37 Extraordinary Dreams to complete in One Extraordinary Year, and I will write about it along the way here, on my Confessions blog.

Some of the dreams on my list are more along the lines of mini journeys that I know I need to take to continue healing. Some are writing specific, others are giving-oriented, and some are full-on thrills that I can’t wait to experience. Many are things I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and it’s about damn time.

All of them are extraordinary to me, no matter how big or how small.

Why 37? I have a thing with the number 37, and it feels like the perfect number to me for the awesome year ahead.

Will I write a book about it? I don’t know. If the journey is book-worthy, then yes. But since I’m starting now, I have yet to see what surprises await!

Without further ado, here is my personal list of…

37 Extraordinary Dreams in One Extraordinary Year

1. Do the splits (in both directions)
2. Spend one month in France
3. Volunteer at a children’s hospital
4. Go to a Pink concert
5. Finish my Sleeping with Paris screenplay
6. Sell my Sleeping with Paris screenplay
7. Swim with dolphins
8. See my books on the shelves of bookstores
9. Go to at least one dance class every week, all year
10. Write and publish Confessions of a City Girl: Washington D.C.
11. Write and publish Confessions of a City Girl: New York
12. Dance in a live performance on stage
13. Choreograph 7 complete dances and perform at least one of them
14. Visit all of my best friends at home in Ohio
15. Write and publish my next novel: The Places That Were Ours
16. Write and publish: Runaway Train to Paris
17. Co-write the book on my friend M. G.’s extraordinary life
18. Visit my parents in Ohio
19. Write my new screenplay, an R-rated comedy called The Divorcés
20. Ride the Orient Express Train in Europe
21. Sign my books in Italy
22. Spend time on a movie set
23. Meet Elizabeth Gilbert and thank her
24. Fully forgive myself for the end of my marriage
25. Become financially free
26. Leave at least $10 of Happy Money in random places every month
27. Give an anonymous monetary gift to three people in need
28. Set plans in motion for my “Divorce Angels” foundation that will assist women going through a divorce
29. Give a book signing and reading at NYU in Paris
30. Give my mom a new car
31. Fly in a hot air balloon over the Loire Valley in France
32. Unplug from all technology for one week
33. Spend a week writing in a cabin on a lake
34. Meet Jewel and thank her
35. Go ice skating with my love
36. Kiss my love in the rain
37. Kiss my love at the top of the Eiffel Tower

And voilà! There we have it!

Is this list ambitious? Yes! That’s the point.

This is my year to Dream Big, Take Action, and LIVE!

And when do I start?

Today!

She believed