Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cancer Fog

Erica Here:

This past Sunday, I attended the monthly meeting of the ACFW MN NICE chapter. I love this group! I leave there recharged and refreshed, with my writer-heart full. At the January meeting, I ran into a fellow writer whom I hadn't seen for a few months. We have also attended a monthly critique and writing group in the Twin Cities, but owing to one thing or another, I haven't been able to attend for what seems like forever!

Some of our MN NICE members on a field trip where we
learned about gangsters in St. Paul during the 1920's-30's.

Which meant I hadn't seen Chawna since before my husband was diagnosed with cancer. She was sweet and kind to ask how I was doing, and I quickly responded that we were doing fine, that my husband had recovered from surgery, that he was taking his medication (albeit with some grumbling), and that we were good.

To which she asked again, "But how are you doing?"

It's so easy to answer, "I'm fine." But I knew Chawna wasn't going to settle for that. Her question reminded me of something that had been going on during that time, and I relayed it to her, because as a writer, she would understand.

When my husband was first diagnosed, Cancer Fog hit my brain. Writing fiction seemed an impossibility. I couldn't think beyond doctors and diagnoses and decisions about things I never wanted to discuss.

But I was on deadline. I needed to finish a novella. So I forced myself to sit down and write.

However, when I did, I couldn't remember what I'd written the day before, couldn't remember where I was going with this scene. I felt I was wandering in a fog, trying to hold myself together and finish this project, wondering if it made any sense at all. I usually have great clarity when I write, am immersed in the project, and have a hard time pulling out of my fictional world to return to reality. Not so this time.

Thankfully, I made my deadline, though this was the most difficult novella I have ever written. And I began the wait for edits. Word trickled back that other authors had received their edits, but weeks passed and nothing for me. I worried and wondered, and I waited. (While I waited, I wrote a proposal for a new story and submitted it, and I began work on another project.)

And as time passed after turning in the manuscript, I was able to focus better, to put words into sentences, to create stories. As things settled down, I was able to write with more ease again. Huge relief!

And yet, what about my novella, Win, Place, or Show? I really wanted to ask for it back so I could read it with a clearer mind and heart and try to polish its rough spots. To explain to the editor that I had been under great stress and that it might not be ready...

By this time, seven of the nine authors had received their edits. I was trying to mentally prepare myself for mine...and then, they arrived. I sat and stared at my inbox. I didn't want to let my fellow authors in the collection down, and I didn't want to let my agent and publishing house down...but I couldn't even remember writing some parts of the story...Oh, stop fretting and open the email!

I was grateful to see that the project had been given to JoAnne Simmons, one of my favorite editors on the planet. She is above all kind, so I knew she would be gentle with my little disaster of a novella.

But when I opened the document, much to my surprise, beyond a few typos and forgotten words (I tend to leave out some words when I'm typing quickly) and one minor question at the end that needed a few words of explanation...the novella was complete, coherent, and accepted as is.

I was stunned...and happy...and humbled. Because I know it was a blessing from God, that He had been present in the writing, helping me when I couldn't help myself.

This last six months has been hard, I won't lie. For some writers, their writing is an escape from their real lives. For me, my writing is an extension of my real life. The veil between my actual and fictional worlds is thin. To write a novella on the heels of my life being turned upside down, I needed God's peace and strength...and He gifted me with both.

My novella, Win, Place, or Show, will appear in the Of Rags and Riches Novella Collection this July alongside novellas by Gabrielle, Jaime, and Anne...and some other fabulous writers. All the stories I've had published go on a special shelf together in my office, and I am flooded with gratitude and good memories when I look at them...but I have a feeling that this novella collection will be a reminder of the Goodness of God every time I look at it.

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Question for you...When has God shown up in a big way in your life?


  1. Thank you for sharing! What a blessing that was and reminder that God cares for the little things in our lives, too. I can't wait to read this collection since all you wonderful ladies are in it!

    1. Thank you, Susan. I'm eager for this collection to get into readers' hands! :)

  2. Loved reading this, Erica! Funny how there are those moments that separate time, so to speak. I think the defining moment for me when I felt God's presence like never before was when my dad passed away almost exactly 19 years ago. There were so many ways I could see that God orchestrated even little details. It wasn't until after my dad passed away that I changed my view of God as not only God, but Father.

    1. That's beautiful! I'm glad you have that memory.

  3. What a wonderful reminder of God's love even in the small things. I'm looking forward to this book especially because all four of you are in it!
    Life sometimes gets in the way of what we want to do. My husband and I are both dealing with aging parents. His dad is in assisted living under Hospice care. My mom is in rehab with no idea at the moment what happens when she is discharged. I've had many restless nights over this but I know God is there and he loves us.

    1. Prayers for you as you face these hard decisions. I know you are a blessing to your aging parents, and that God will give you the strength you need.


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