The Halloween Milestone of a YA Writer

Well, if you insist, of course I'll let you cut my neck open!
This Halloween is a special anniversary for me. One year ago I went for a checkup with my rheumatologist, the fabulous Dr. William Shiel (one of the founders of In spite of my labwork coming back normal, I complained about my hair falling out. Perplexed, he decided to feel my thyroid. Lo and behold, he had struck gold!

Dr. Shiel found a huge nodule on my thyroid. A heaping walnut of mystery. A neck nugget. Damn it. At least there was now an explanation for the tight feelings I’d had in my neck. Thought it was just allergies, but aw heck, who would’ve known?

A week later, Dr. Shiel called to give me the results of bloodwork and an ultrasound. He was very concerned with the size of the nodule and was referring me to another doctor. I cried at my kitchen table after the call where, ironically, less than 30 minutes later I was told by the president of my publishing company that the magazine I edited was folding.

Neck nodule? Check! No job? Check!

The discovery of Nodule 0411 took me on a journey to labs, more ultrasounds, biopsies (bib-bob-see, as said in My Big Fat Greek Wedding). All the slicing and dicing of my nodule lead to a harrowing phone call from my newest doctor, an endocrinologist by the name of Dr. Barerra (another cool guy). Seemed he was concerned about a few patterns with the nodule, and that I was being referred STAT to an ENT.

That’s when I went on the wine diet, but we’ll save that story for another post!

The bugger had to come out and, quite possibly, my lymph nodes and other neck goodies they lovingly take during a neck dissection. Why I pictured a poor frog pinned to a wax block in biology is beyond me.

I later learned they thought it had a 50% or greater chance of being cancer and that’s why everything went down so quick.

So, from the time of Dr. Shiel’s Halloween discovery, until I had the nodule out on December 15, 2008, my life changed. It was during this period that my neighbor loaned me the loved and loathed Twilight. I did not want to read it. Pshh, I only read self-help books, especially ones about the thyroid. And so Twilight sat on my kitchen counter for two weeks before the apple hands called to me. It took 50-plus pages for me to actually want to continue reading it. And it put a bug in my ear that buzzed like the most devilish horse fly:

If she can write something like this, you can certainly write something as well.

That was all it took for me to start outlining my first book on the back of my hospital paperwork. I planned, plotted, and savored the details while I waited for a chest X-ray… counted the characters and wrote about their flaws before a blood draw… and thought about it all as the anesthesiologist put a mask on my face and told me to inhale a little O2 (we all know it’s not oxygen, folks).

Three days after surgery, and learning that the nodule was nothing but an annoying ball taking up space in my throat, I started writing. It was hard at first, because I was used to going to bed at 9:00 p.m., and night was my only time to really write. But the words spilled out and A Place In This Life was born. By June 30, I was ready to query and query I did, garnering several requests for partial and full manuscripts.

I didn’t wait for anything or anyone, and started SWELL at the beginning of July. It went faster, easier, and smoother than an SUV on an icy road. SWELL started making the rounds this month, and I look forward to finding it a home.

In retrospect, you never know what you’re going to see around the corner. If you’re faced with a health crisis, look deeper into why you’ve got it. It could be an opportunity to become the New Jan Brady staring you right in the face.


2 thoughts on “The Halloween Milestone of a YA Writer

    1. Yes! It was like the universe calling me.

      “Hello, Mrs. Duck? Yeah, it’s the Universe. Seems you’ve been ignoring what you’re REALLY supposed to do, so we’ve thrown you a double-whammy to make you get your butt in gear!”

      I may not be on a payroll right now, but my life is much richer.

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