Monday, when I announced it was my birthday week, I never ever imagined I might get a book deal as a birthday present. I can’t share all the details just yet, but I did accept an offer on my novel the other night. The offer came out of the blue and I’m still stunned and overwhelmed and beyond grateful. For my friends who’ve been trying so hard in this business and waiting for luck to happen, I wish this same feeling for you because there’s nothing like the sense of validation that the stories you’ve needed to tell and the hard work and sacrifices you’ve made to tell those stories mattered.
I promise I’ll give you details very soon, but I will drop a hint about who’s taking my book. If you live in NYC, this is the building where my people work.
If you’re a LitPark regular, I know you’ve been missing Lance Reynald who’s been on hiatus from his monthly Reynald’s Rap. But today he’s going to do the honors and give the weekly wrap. Take it away, wondertwin:
When semantics won’t do.
This week in Litpark has been both difficult and inspiring. I have been greatly touched, comforted and influenced by the sharing I have seen from all of you.
Grief is very fresh with me right now. I lost my father to a heart attack on February 19th. Just a month ago, and I am just beginning to feel my own skin and see through the fog and numbness of the loss. I know that what I feel as some hope and future returning to my world is but the beginning of living with the sadness I still feel.
Grief is certainly not new to me. I’ve known loss before. At different points of my life. I lost my best friend to an overdose at the age of nineteen, a lover to suicide at twenty-three, my mother to cancer at thirty-two. Each time the experience was different, and each time I emerged feeling fundamentally changed. I am thirty-six years old and face the world knowing that four beings that have formed the capacity of my heart have left this world. A challenging notion, a sadness to live with.
I talk to them all often. Lately it seems daily. I wonder if they are together, I like to think that they are. I like to believe that they watch together, giving strength to one another’s hopes and dreams for me and watching out for the hopes and dreams I have for myself.
My Father’s passing dealt me the most fatal blow of grief I’ve ever felt. The greatest darkness and worst despair. Robin is very true in her comment that the loss of your parents brings you into the world of being an adult. I realized that I’d passed through a door, now fully accountable with no one left to answer to. I also realized there was no one left to call. Yes, I have my friends and loved ones. But, a parent is who you call for a certain acceptance, to share good news or to get advice when you need that sharing with someone that has invested a life in doing the best they know how to do for you. A relationship you are born into, not one you have made at all, not like the others.
The loss disrupted my balance, changed my world. I felt suicidal everyday for the first few weeks. I was certain I would never write again. But, more than anything I just wanted to get my Dad on the phone, ask him what I should do. Left with the dream that I know every grieving child is left with, the proverbial one more day.
I also went through a period of anger, with this thing that is grief. I keep company with my contemporaries, all wordsmiths. All those that know grief, in many forms. Yet, somehow we all find it impossible to put to words. I felt as though I was facing my grief with no warning whatsoever. Nothing I’d ever read or heard prepared me for a period that I’ve thought purgatory, hell on earth. We, writers, possess the skill to create entire lives and worlds making our experiences over and crafting with words, but”¦ I’d never seen words to prepare me for the feelings that this grief brought to me. I have to admit it, I felt a bit betrayed.
A couple of weeks in I got a note from another writer, a note I will always treasure. She too had lost her father, and offered these words:
…now that your father has passed over to the other side, lots of people are going to give lots of advice.
They’re going to tell you that in time everything will make sense, and that in time you will stop hurting. But this is not true – and that’s why it doesn’t help when they say it. There will never, from this day forward, be a day that is better because your father isn’t here. You will never stop missing him, this will never make sense. This will not be okay. That is the truth.
The other, bigger truth is that you will learn to manage your pain. You will learn how to take it down, as if off a shelf, and you will marvel at it, and when it’s time to go join the real world, you will be able to put back up on that shelf, where it will wait for you.
It is not a question of the pain dissolving, so much as re-arranging. You will be able to bear this. YOU WILL. But do not look to “move on.” You will always miss him. He will always miss you. I believe in a great hereafter, and I believe we will all be joined again one day. So I focus on that, and I wait too.
I hope this seems ok to say to you – from one human with a missing father to another. I don’t know why we will make it through the bizarre choreography of life, these insane turns of events – I just know that we will.
In the darkness and despair of what I was feeling, those words felt like the only true thing I’d heard in weeks. Another writer, another grieving child. A friend.
Words that spoke truth to the feelings I was having; giving me some hope that I would find a way out of my despair.
I am so very proud of all of you for having the love, courage and strength to share like you have this week. I’d also like to add that you have all managed to find the words that I thought had been missing from the world of literature just a month ago”¦ You are all the most beautifully gifted wordsmiths I’ve come across, I’m honored to share this space with you and my life is better because of you.
Wishing you all the peace and love you deserve!
I know I’m not the only one here who loves Lance, but since it’s my blog, I get to say it first. Thank you for what you wrote. And thank you to Noria, Carolyn, Grant, Betsy, Jim, Shelley and Aurelio for letting us know your moms and dads just a little bit.
And here’s to all of you who shared your birthdays:
A. S. King
me (Sunday I’ll be 40 – but if you knew my friends who’ve already turned 40 and 50 and 60, you’d understand why I’m not scared of big numbers. Besides, each day is the youngest we’ll ever be again, so we might as well enjoy it, eh?)
Gayle Brandeis (Gayle, you share a birthday with my friends, Mike and Ritchie. It’s a good day to be born.)
Carolyn Burns Bass
mikel k poet
Julie Ann Shapiro
See you Monday with some details.
Claire CameronMarch 23, 2007
Well wrapped Lance.
Happy nearly birthday Susan.
Robin SlickMarch 23, 2007
God, Lance, you made me cry. In a good way — so it’s totally cool.
Susan, what can I say? That’s one hell of a birthday present – and if you are the type of person who sets goals, like, a book pubbed before the “big birthday” — talk about waiting until the last minute! Ha!
The older I get, the more I believe in karma, and besides your incredible talent, I honestly believe that all of your hard work and kindness in supporting fellow writers is more a factor in your success than the luck we all discussed in a previous post here. You are so generous and so not all about me, me, me…anyway, I am absolutely thrilled for you.
LaurenBaratz-LogstedMarch 23, 2007
Great to see Lance, who has been missed – very eloquent.
Susan, I’m over the moon about your book deal.
amyMarch 23, 2007
What a bittersweet entry! But I almost wish you’d gotten your deal during the jealousy question week, because I can firmly say that while I’ve been jealous of some, I’m nothing but thrilled for you. Everyone here knows how much you deserve this.
Myfanwy CollinsMarch 23, 2007
Happy birthday and Happy, HAPPY news, Susan! Yay! 🙂
PaulaMarch 23, 2007
And Happy Birthday Weekend!
And my sympathy for the loss of your friends.
That is a lot of Big Life Stuff in such a short amount of time. It looks like an Aries can handle it, though.
Welcome back, Lance. That note you included is the best description of grief and loss I think I’ve ever read. On the other hand (said the Libra), “When Semantics Won’t Do” are the perfect four words to describe grief and loss.
I don’t mean to be insensitive, but my inbox at work is labeled “Queen of Death” (long-time obit writer getting a reputation she wasn’t necessarily out to get, but a good one, I suppose).
Even though I’ve had my own losses, I appreciate being able to read about other’s experiences with their losses, especially such eloquent and emotional accounts as what you folks wrote here this week. It is important to be reminded…
Lori OlivaMarch 23, 2007
Lance, I’ve kept you in my thoughts since Susan mentioned your loss several weeks ago. I am truly sorry.
Susan, I am so happy for you and can’t wait to hear more. Happy birthday!
Mary AkersMarch 23, 2007
Lance, you wrote so well about the loss of your father. I lost my father shortly after the birth of of my first child–seventeen years ago–and I still wept, reading your eloquent grief, reminding me of mine.
AurelioMarch 23, 2007
(A big friend-hug to you, Lance.)
HUGE congratulations, Susan.
JordanMarch 23, 2007
Sue, dear…it was only a matter of time before you sold one of your fabulous books. We all knew that. I can’t wait to find out more!!
teresaMarch 23, 2007
To Lance, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s cliche to say that but it is heartfelt and meaningful I think. My own dad died 8 years ago and after I finished making all of the arrangements, I stopped eating. Just like that, food had no meaning. Or maybe it was just fraught with too much meaning. He was dead and I was alive and it seemed not right that I should eat before he did. Except that he couldn’t anymore. It was a weird “respect for your elders” frame of kind of wrong-thiking that I went through. I guess some cultures make provisions (no pun intended) for that by having fasts and ritualized grieving. And I think those are valuable tools. I was stunned at how visceral my whole-body response was to his passing. I was prepared to be upset, I loved my dad a lot. I went to work,I was pleasant, I took care of all of my responsibilities, there was just this one little thing: I couldn’t eat, didn’t care to, didn’t need to, it was just that matter-of-fact. It took about five months to resolve that manifestation of grief into a less potentially damaging form. I lost 30 pounds in that time. I’d never had any food issues before then or since. I don’t have any advice, only some understanding of the immensity of emotions that death brings. I am so sorry, Lance, for your loss. -teresa
MeganMarch 23, 2007
Happy Birthday Susan. No, you’re not the only Aries, I too have a birthday lurking around the corner. I’m so happy for you and you’re book deal. Very much earned and extremely deserved.
You are a wonderful encouragement and a very positive force in this community. For this I, and I’m sure many others, are very grateful.
Lance, that was so beautiful and well written. It’s good to have you back, you were missed.
I think about you all the time.
Giving you both all my love.
Carolyn Burns BassMarch 23, 2007
Lance said: Each time the experience was different, and each time I emerged feeling fundamentally changed.
We are all Works in Progress, both authors and characters in our own lives. We are thrust into scenarios not of our choosingâ€”the death of a loved one, the destruction of a city from a hurricane, a war we do not believe in. Although we can’t change the events, we have power over our response. Iâ€™m encouraged by Lanceâ€™s frank admissions and am so glad the words are beginning to form.
Congratulations, Susan, on the book deal. We all knew this was going to happen. Iâ€™m bringing you chocolate in June.
Books, birthdays, babies. Yes!
Susan HendersonMarch 23, 2007
To anyone who sent me email in the last week, I know I know I know. I’m going to catch up today.
Lance – You have an amazing heart.
Claire – Thank you. I’m so excited YOUR book is out next month!
Robin – You are the sweetest, through the ups and downs you’ve been incredible.
Lauren – LAUREN!!!! Can I tell everyone it was your idea to send my book to that publishing house and that editor? I am forever grateful, and next time you’re in NY, I’m taking you out for a feast.
amy – You are awesome. Thank you.
Myf – I’m still thinking of your comment on the blog before about your parents and the baby you’re carrying. It made me cry, and then I forgot to post a response. I need to do that later.
Paula – I don’t know if it’s about being an Aries or it’s just me, but I love constant drama and constant challenges. I just don’t like being bored or waiting. I want to hear more about your obit job!
Lori – Thank you. I just sent you something but I’m not sure I sent it to the right place.
Mary – I loved what he wrote, too. I have maybe the opposite problem with grief. I still cry over pets I’ve lost, but I have never been able to cry for people.
Aurelio – You’ve been the best. It’s meant so much to me.
Jordan – I’ll give details on Monday. You’re very tied to this book because I wrote so much of it when I visited you and we had breakfast every morning before I locked myself away with a pen and empty notebook.
teresa – I like your dad just from hearing this story.
Megan – I’ve always fiercely liked other Aries so it’s no surprise to find you’re one, too. And I agree it’s great to have Lance back (but Lance, don’t take this as pressure to be back in full yet).
Carolyn – I’m so excited to finally be able to meet you and eat chocolate together!
Julie Ann ShapiroMarch 23, 2007
Congratulations! I’m so happy for you. What a wondeful surprise!!!
JulietMarch 23, 2007
Congratulations, Susan! The birthday gift you’ve received in regard to the contract will, in turn, become a gift to each of us as we savour your words.
Lance: You’ve said it all. You’ve shared raw, lived nakedness without shame. Thank you.
Julie Ann ShapiroMarch 23, 2007
Lance and everyone who’s suffered grief my heart goes out to you.
BetsyMarch 23, 2007
Sue, that is absolutely fantastic news. Congratulations to you. I can’t wait to hear more.
Lance, thanks so much for sharing this. I agree with everyone, I was very moved and choked up reading this, and I agree with those thoughts about grief, that has very much been my own experience. It doesn’t go away or get better – it gets – different.
LaurenBaratz-LogstedMarch 23, 2007
Sue, I think you just did. And this has made me happier than nearly anything else I’ve accomplished in publishing. Maybe I’ll become an agent.
Sarah RoundellMarch 23, 2007
Lance, I was so saddened to hear of the loss of your father and wished that I could have found the words to express that. Now that you’ve shared with us what your friend wrote you I know I never could have said it so perfectly. Thank you for such a personal and emotional weekly wrap.
Susan, Happy Birthday on Sunday and again congrats on the book deal.
And to everyone here at the park, I know it isn’t always easy to open up about our grief, so thank you for sharing your own stories of loss this week.
JimMarch 23, 2007
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Enjoy your birthday, and keep us posted on the book deal!
Susan HendersonMarch 24, 2007
Julie – Thank you. It doesn’t feel real yet.
Juliet – That’s the sweetest thing. Thank you.
Betsy – Thank you. Your book is still in my head so much, even though it’s been weeks now since I read it.
Lauren – Maybe I owe you 15%.
Sarah – Thanks! And I agree that Lance’s words and the note he posted from his friend are perfect.(I’m so glad to see you around – I miss you when you’re gone.)
Jim – I’m so proud to know all of you and grateful for the kind words (though I’m starting to feel embarrassed, for sure). Hope my good luck rubs off on the rest of you!
LaurenBaratz-LogstedMarch 24, 2007
Sue, you owe me nothing. I should be paying you for the kick I got out of all of this.
NicoleMarch 24, 2007
Lance and Susan – HUGS to both of you. (in support, and in joy)
I wonder if there is a correlation between being a writer and being a Scorpio?
Gail SiegelMarch 25, 2007
Oh, Happy Birthday Susan. I knew your day was right around Meredith’s, but I’ve AWOL this week — just back from Italy to celebrate her 18th. Have a lovely celebration tomorrow. You have huge milestones to celebrate. And if you’re any clue as to how Meredith’s signs will affect her, then I’ll allow myself pleasure over that. xxGail
Gayle BrandeisMarch 25, 2007
Congrats again, Susan, and happy, happy birthday! I hope you’ll celebrate wildly!
I’m an Aries, too–I’ll be 39 on April 14. 🙂
And Lance, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your process, and your beautiful words.
NathalieMarch 25, 2007
Happy birthday Susan and many many congratulations on the book deal (a perfect gift).
Moving wrap up.
The pain of loss really does not go away.I think we just get used to it, somehow. It flares like the pain of somebody who has lost a limb and still can feel its presence many years after the fact.
lance reynaldMarch 25, 2007
thanks to everyone who dropped in and offered even more words of support on this wrap.
all my best to all of you, with all my heart.
ellen meisterMarch 25, 2007
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SUE!!!!!!
AnnelieseMarch 25, 2007
I’m sorry Lance. I agree with all that that writer wrote you – grief sits in a box on a shelf, waiting for you. It comes and goes more often in the beginning than later on, but it has a way of showing up unexpected, still, thirty-seven years later for me. The image of the cat hanging onto the pole in that poster “Hang In There Baby!” always relates the feeling to visual for me.
Happy Birthday Susan! Thank you for putting together this very friendly literary community. You created a neighborhood – Mrs. Henderson’s Neighborhood!
Susan HendersonMarch 26, 2007
Thanks so much for the birthday wishes! I had ice cream cake for breakfast, wore the tiara my friend gave me through today’s soccer game, and I’m just about to get the book I’ve been reading and call it a night. I’ll see everyone tomorrow. xo