This is a guest post by Jody Lamb, author of the middle-grade novel Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool. Jody enjoys writing stories for people young in age and at heart. She is a passionate advocate for kids with alcoholic loved ones, and she hopes her books generate greater discussion and awareness about coping with the effects of loves ones’ alcoholism. I discovered Jody through this inspiring guest post, and I instantly fell in love with her adorably sweet blog, which brightens my day and boosts my confidence every time I read it.
There was a schoolhouse, a post office, a florist and every other staple thing in the elaborate village I’d created for my tiny toy animals in my parents’ basement.
Every day, I hurried through my homework for more time to write screenplays for the animals to act out. I could solve problems for the animal families the way I wished I could for my own family. It shooed away the worry clouds that followed me throughout the day.
Alcoholism is a major problem for several of my loved ones in my large family. Growing up, I felt the detrimental effects of it very early on, and I thought this problem was unique to my family. In college, I absorbed books and research on alcoholism, addiction and its impact on families like a sponge. I discovered that alcoholism is extremely common — an estimated 10 to 25 percent of kids in the U.S. have at least one alcohol-addicted parent.
I also learned that there is little outreach and education about alcoholism for kids. That bothered me.
In high school, grownups had told me I couldn’t earn a living writing creatively, so I stopped writing stories. By 26, I had earned a degree in journalism and quickly moved up the corporate ladder in marketing and PR, but I enjoyed little satisfaction in the work. Someone told me I’d have to settle for life as it was because that’s what you do at that age. Get married already. Keep climbing the corporate ladder. Gear up for the next 30 years of your life. That’s what everyone does….
But I was missing something. I missed me, the real me.
I studied many grownups around me. They’re full of regrets and give up on dreams. They ignore their inner compass and their purpose. They are stupid.
I didn’t want to be that kind of grownup, but I’d never felt so lost about changing my life. I had a bona-fide quarter-life crisis. I was depressed with a pasted-on smile.
One day, I read all of my childhood diaries and cried over the grand plans I’d had for life in grownup land. I realized, Little kid me would be so disappointed!
The next day I enrolled in a creative writing course at my local community college.
I started writing again. It was as fun as I remembered.
Quickly came my first draft of a middle-grade (tween) novel manuscript — a coming-of-age story about a twelve-year-old’s step-by-step plan to make seventh grade awesome that’s derailed as she copes with and helps her depressed, alcoholic mother in a tiny lakeside town.
Writing the story was cathartic. I felt like me again, for the first time in more than a decade. My relationship with my alcoholic loved ones dramatically improved. I began taking better care of myself. I smiled. A lot.
Writing again helped me find my inner compass and my drive to help young people coping with the effects of loved ones’ alcoholism. I hope to inspire at least one kid the way I wish someone had for me.
I kept working on the novel, giving a lot of my non-working time to learning how to write better for kids. Two years and four drafts later, I mustered up my courage and sent it out.
The big publishers told me it may have been easily published before the age of vampires and wizards, but the world today is different. They told me to change it.
After 30 rejections from agents and editors, a publisher finally liked the story and believed in me. Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool is now available and I’m absolutely thrilled.
The way nothing else or anyone could have, writing changed — perhaps even saved — my life.
If a kid ever says to me, “Hey, thanks for this,” well, those words alone will be infinitely more meaningful to me than 40 years of success in the business world.
How has writing impacted your life? I’d love to hear about it.
Thank you, Jody, for sharing your story!
Think Jody’s efforts will do a lot of good? Support her and keep in touch through Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. Have a tween (or tween-at-heart) in your life? Get them a copy of Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool at Amazon or BN.com or your local bookseller.
Featured image courtesy of Kheel Center (Creative Commons)