The Best Story

Isn’t there a quote somewhere about the best stories are the ones that you live? Ok, maybe I’m making that up, but most likely I just combined two quotes I know into one. Whatever it is, I have a story.

This story of long distance love, immigration battles to be together, rare cancer destroying it all. It’s a hell of a story, the kind you cannot make up. When I tell strangers about my story, I get that look of “you have to be shitting me!”. Eloquent, I know. But this story is all mine, or was all ours.

I needed a good story. I have wanted to become a journalist/writer since 8th grade when I was mentored by an amazing english teacher (you know who you are) and began writing with my best friend Jozlyn with a little book called “The Big and Small of it All”. Witty for 13 huh? It was a book of poetry containing mostly quirky, weird poetry that 13 year olds write. It included such titles as “cows”. You can just imagine! We dreamed of backpacking Europe, travelling the country together, and amazingly, for our senior trip at 18, we drove to California and back in my little Saturn and began my love affair with the great American road trip.

ANYWAYS, In high school, I was one of the senior editors for our school newspaper. Jozlyn and I again teamed up and were able to secure a personal study opposite our band/chorus days all year to work on the paper. That meant sneaking out to breakfast “meetings” to discuss the paper layout, writing opinionated articles on the things of the time, covering sports & music events. It was loads of fun, and through it, another great teacher mentored my writing.

I applied to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois just outside of Chicago. My parents drove me there the summer before my senior year to check it out, and of course, I fell in love with the campus that sat on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was pricey, yes, SUPER PRICEY, but it was one of the top schools for journalism. For me, it was NWU or NOTHING. I applied to Penn State University, York campus, as a backup, and good thing I did, for I did not get into Northwestern. I was devastated. My SAT scoresbrought down my A/B grade average and that was that. So I went to PSU, York, which felt just like high school, and gave up my passion of writing thinking my passion was really music (I did play baritone, tuba, piano & bass guitar, so that must be it, right?).

I only began writing again in 2007. Off and on I would write some poetry in the 5 year interim, but mostly, nothing. I just gave it up. I did not have a good enough story. If I would try and come up with the great novel, it failed miserably mostly because my self-diagnosed ADD would get me off track and within 20 pages my story was done.

So I began writing freelance for It was a great way to get back into the journalistic style of writing that I seemed to excel at, without a huge commitment. And I even made a few bucks, even better. But still, there wasn’t a huge story. By this point, I was married, and had gone through immigration, so I certainly had much to rant about on that particular subject, but nothing more. I wasn’t well versed in much of anything. I certainly loved lots of things, but that was that. Not much passion in any story.

But now? Give me a cancer or grief topic, and man, you’d better expect fire in the words, or at least I hope it comes off that way. We all have stories, we all have life events that give us that great motivation to write or talk about the subject with a zest for justice. I am just sad that my best story, came from someone’s death. That’s life though.

Locally, Shawn Smucker is giving me the opportunity to sit on a panel called “The Art in Tragedy” at the Fireside Writer’s Conference this fall. We’ll be discussing how we write about tragedy and deal with it in words, but again, all of us sitting on this panel will be there because our tragic stories brought us back to writing.

I am glad I’m inspired by my tragedy-that instead of it shutting me down, it has given me a new voice. But it is also quite sad that my new voice, is the voice of grief, of sarcoma awareness. I just hope some good comes out of all this.

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