Well, it's the last day of the year 2013 and I kind of feel like I've been avoiding this post. Not because I don't want to write it, but because I know myself very well, and I know I will probably end up a blubbering mess by the time this post is over. So this is your warning: If you're a hot emotional mess like me - grab your tissues. Or just brace yourself.
This year a lot happened. I mean, a lot happens every year, but this year was different. This year was full of so many firsts - it feels like a whole new life in a way. I did things I never in a million years thought I was talented enough to do and made it through situations that I thought might break me. But here I am. Sitting here on the last day of this amazing year - alive, healthy, a heart full of love, and what feels like a million more friends and family than when this year started.
TOP FIVE MOMENTS OF 2013
I've bolded the important sentences for you guys who will skip all my rambling.
#1. SEEING MY HUSBAND AFTER A YEAR AWAY FROM HIM. Most of you know this story, so I will just go over the cliff notes version of it. My husband is in the Army and was stationed in Korea for a little over a year. Opportunities for him to come home or me to visit were scars and when they were possible, the plane ticket expense was not. It was hard. It sucked. I was lonely. I was tired. At times I was nervous. But you know what made it all worth it? That moment when he came off the plane and I saw him and I ran to him all dramatic-like. Yeah...just kidding. That didn't happen. I ended up going to the wrong gate exit thingy and missed him completely. I stood there waiting with my sign like the excited wife I was watching person after person pass by me. Now, it was 11PM at night, so it's not like the place was packed. And people kept smiling at me and I kept smiling at them and inside I was like WHERE THE FUCK IS HE!? Until, I called him and attempted not to panic and he told me he was already in baggage claim. Sigh. So I ran down the stairs and that is when I has my movie moment of running awkwardly to him while trying to hold my sign and tackle him. Que the ugly tears and the death drip I had on him and it was perfect. He made it! I made it! We made it! It's one thing to spend a few months away from your spouse, but a year is a long time. It's work. It's the choice you make to say we're going to do this together and make things work. I'm glad he stuck by me during that time.
#2. HOLY SHIT. I WROTE A BOOK. AND PUBLISHED IT. AND PEOPLE READ IT. AND LIKED IT. About this time last year, I met a wonderful person named Tess Watson and I mentioned how I wanted to start blogging again, and she was a blogger and encouraged me to actually do it. So I did. For a good long...two months. But sometime during those our first conversations she asked me if I ever thought about writing a book. My response was I had, but I didn't have any real stories to tell. Then I tried to pimp my blog, and my first stranger asked me the same question. And then my family and friends kind of started asking me it, too. So I thought, shoot, maybe I can write something. Even if it's just my friends who read it. Now, this is before I even KNEW about the Indie and Self-publishing world. I remember when Tina Reber got picked up and she announced her publishing deal, and I thought, how strange. I just read her book on my Kindle - why is she announcing she's getting published when she's already published by a company. I mean, I bought her book on my Kindle. It's legit. I laugh at this now, but I just didn't know then. I thought all these wonderful free and 99c books I was reading were just underrated and awesomely cheap big publisher books. Anyway, back to writing a book. I sat down and I remember my very first idea. It was about a girl who is in an accident, and someone is shouting at her to open her blue eyes. And when she does, a man is so happy to see her. But she doesn't know this man. Anyway, that idea was short lived, but that scene did make it into Promise Me This, anyway. Well, I wrote the first few chapters of Promise Me This(which was then titled Second Chances), and sent it to Tess and I'll never forget what she sent back. "First drafts aren't supposed to be this good." And I remember how awesome that felt. It wasn't that I thought I was this awesomely talented and amazing writer who was going to blow everyone out of the water. It just meant to me, I may actually be able to write a book. I mean, she couldn't just been trying to make me feel better(JK. Tess. Love you!) but it worked. So I kept writing. And stayed up night after night. And I hit 10K words. TEN THOUSAND. That was almost a whole book right? My goal to finish PMT was 30K words. LOL. That was what I thought was considered a novel. I remember when I hit 30K words and was struck with the realization that holy crap. I have over half the story to tell still! IT'S GOING TO BE HARRY POTTER LONG. Okay, so that didn't happen. But I still got 80K-ish words. Close enough, right? The next person I sent my unfinished draft to was my mom, because she's always been my biggest fan. And she read it and she came back with an opportunity I will never get to repay her for. She told me that if I finished the book, she would take care of everything I needed to publish it myself. This was two blessings for one because for one thing, I tend to start a lot of crap and never finish it. And two, I couldn't afford to self-publish. I don't know if you know this, but it's kind of expensive to publish a book. So yeah, if you have anyone to thank for PMT getting out there, it's the woman whose uterus housed me for nine months. Thanks, Mom! Anyway, after many long nights, lots of tears, thousands of hours of music listened to, many internal fights between myself and my characters which under any other profession I would be deemed insane, I finished. My goal was to publish before UtopYA - and I did. A week and a half before. I wrote and published Promise Me This in six months, while running a household alone and working a "normal" person job. I remember thinking that I was going to be a one work author. I was worried that no other stories would ever find their way to me. I felt like maybe this was just one of those things to check of my life list. Wrote a book. Check. Got it. But something amazing happened. People began sending me messages and emails and tweeting me and responding to something I created. They connected with my characters that had become such a huge part of my life. They fell in love right along side Charlie and Jhett. They wanted to punch Charlie's mom in the face and smack some sense into Ginger(Don't worry! I did, too!) and they wanted MORE. YOU GUYS told me this wasn't just something I did - it was something I was doing and going to continue to do until my characters stop talking to me. In the past six months, in addition to Promise Me Forever and the third Promise Me book, three more book/series ideas have wiggled their way into my brain. This is my life now. This is my job. And I love it.
#3. MY FAMILY EXPANDED ALL OVER THE WORLD. Here's another thing no one tells you when you write a book. Things are different now when you want to contact the author. I remember this book I had when I was younger, Letters to ET, and in the back it said if you wanted to write your own letter to ET to mail in a letter. I remember writing one, although I don't know if it was ever mailed. But now - there's Facebook, Twatter, email, Amazon, Goodreads, Google+, BLOGS - a whole big wide ocean of ways to tell authors HEY I LOVED THIS! and even HEY! YOUR BOOK SUCKED BALLS(don't do that. That's not nice. There's nicer ways to say this.). And for me, something happened when people started reaching out to me. I made friends. And before you say, "But Sarah. Those are just internet friends. They're not 'real'." I'm going to stop you and say....Go tell someone who cares. Because I happen to have internet friends I "met" when I was 15(I even have one from when I was 11!) and guess who are STILL friends? Guess who has attended weddings and birthdays? Internet friends. So my internet friends ARE my real friends. The readers, the bloggers, the authors. Everyone I met this year has become a part of my family and I feel really blessed because of that. I know that at any given moment I can pop onto Facebook or Twitter and SOMEONE is there to talk to. That's really cool to know you're never really alone. And what makes it so much more awesome is we all love books! And reading! And no one thinks I'm crazy when I talk about fictional characters like they're REAL. YAY for my friends being crazy, too. Or normal. I think we're pretty normal.
#4. I FOUND SISTERS I NEVER KNEW I HAD. This kind of goes with the extended family thing, but it's more than that to me. Writing isn't something you can really do as a group. I mean, you CAN, but it's not like working retail where you can do your job but still hold conversations with people. When you write - it's just you and the words. But there's a lot of in between stuff that happens when you're a writer, and for that, you need people in your life who understand what that means. I think I really lucked out because I found a group of people who do understand and who also accept me, love me, make me laugh, encourage me, teach me new things, and listen to me when I go all ranty pants. Funny thing, is this little group has kind of been an evolution of friendship. A weird little journey that somehow, all of us ended up under the same Facebook chat and there hasn't been a quiet moment since. Remember how I mentioned Tess? Well, she and I were friends, and she was friends with Michele G. Miller, and we all started a group chat on Facebook to talk about an event the three of us were attending. Michele also happen to be writing her debut novel(Never Let You Fall. Have you read it? You really should!), which came out a month before mine. Soon, that chat was an open discussion about anything and everything. The three of us became instant friends and soon I discovered how much in common I had with both of them and we all decided to go to UtopYA(yeah. I'll get there) together and I got to meet them for the first time! Well, during UtopYA, we also met Starla Huchton and C.L. Foster. We didn't spend the most time together during that weekend, but we met, and that was important because when UtopYA ended, that is when our friendship really began. I remember one night Chele and I announced we were doing writing sprints on Twitter and asked who wanted to join in. Starla and Christy wanted in, and so did Mindy Hayes! I happened to go to Middle School with her but she was a year ahead of me and we just never really crossed too many paths with each other. But she saw my name on an event list a few months before and we started chatting! She was a Indie author now, too! So she joins in these sprints with us, too. Now it's Starla, Christy, Michele, Mindy, Tess, and I and were doing authorly writerly things in this now open group Facebook chat and again - something happened. Somewhere down the line of us just working, we all became friends and I'd say partners, too. It's funny to me to know that this open Facebook chat, which if you go an hour or two without checking may have over 500 missed messages on a good day, is a home to me. It's safe. Never once have I worried this group of fellow authors and my now friends would judge me or make me feel bad. We all are very different(and sometimes very similar) people and we DO disagree on things. But that hasn't stopped anyone from saying how they feel or what they think of something. These people, some of whom haven't met, have traveled to spend holiday's together. It's magical. Our group name gets changed at random to the weirdest and funniest things...most of which is only funny to us. But I love it. I couldn't ask for a more talented and amazing group of people to surround myself with. Thank you ladies. #FierceFive #Troublemakers
#5. UTOPYA. Have you heard of this event? If you haven't, you need to figure your life out right now. Anyway, I'm going to include this whole weekend, even though some of it wasn't directly UtopYA related. So this weekend started off pretty magical to say this least. My husband got to come home just in time to see PMT release, which like I said released right before UtopYA. During this time I also had my very first signing EVER. I remember thinking how crazy I must be to do a signing a week after my release and how happy I would be if ONE person knew who I was. It was insane. PEOPLE KNEW ME. And not in the like people-were-crowding-and-shoving-to-see-me kind of way. But people DID come up to say hi TO ME. And knew MY NAME. I pretty much shit myself. That was the coolest thing ever. I READ YOUR BOOK. CAN I BUY ONE AND YOU SIGN IT? I'm not sure what I really thought that night would be like, because I was surprised by this questions every time someone asked it(in reality...it was like eight people. But to me. That was like THE WHOLE WORLD). I remember when someone said "Hey! I saw this cover! I loved it!" I wanted to jump up and hug her. Someone I didn't know saw my cover. Crazysauce, man. That one night totally made every struggle over PMT worth it. And there was a lot. Ask my editor, Stacey. I almost killed her. Probably on more than one occasion. That night I also got to meet Tess and Michele in person. In which, I think I made the whole room nervous because I jumped up and screamed at the top of my lungs and tackled hugged them. You'll learn how normal this is at UtopYA once you attend. Anyway, in an effort to NOT make this section anymore of a book than it already is. I'll try and keep this short and sweet. UtopYA made me believe I was doing something right. I didn't need to be a NYT #1 Best Seller(But shit, that doesn't mean I wouldn't love to be) to feel like I belonged. I already did, just because I loved books and to read. That's what brought me to this journey and that's what fuels everything I do. I walked into the conference room for the first time on Friday, and people said Hi to me that I'd never met. I knew them from seeing them around Facebook, but I was welcomed! I was a spaz and probably stuck my tongue out and waved back. This moment is one I won't ever forget: I walk in, wave like a spaz, sit down, freak outs with my hubby. I get told Amy Bartol is walking my way. I look up. She is in front of me. She gives me a hug. She wanted to say hi and introduce herself in person. HOLY FUCKING FAN GIRL. Here's the thing though...when else could that happen? When else can your favorite author walk up to you and say hi and give you a hug? Let me think. Only at UtopYA. (Thank you, Amy, for that by the way. It just confirms that you are truly the same amazing person that you are on Facebook, in real life, too.) The weekend continued and I got to spend it with my husband and my girls, Tess and Chele and her hubby, too. I met a ton of people who are now my friends. I attended panels and soaked up everything I could to take home with me and apply it to my work. I came out of my shell and battled every single ounce of social anxiety and made myself BE myself. And I had a blast. I remember walking away from that trip and saying "Next year, I'm going to be on a panel. Next year, I'm going to get nominated for an award." So, maybe that is a little selfish thinking, but hey! One of those things have happened! I DID get asked to be on panel this next year!!! So, maybe that second part can still happen!!
So, I feel like I rambled enough. Originally this list was going to have ten moments, but I talk a lot...so there's only five. I still can't believe this year was real. It DID have it's struggles and moments when I felt like giving up. But, I made it in one piece. And next year it's on people. I'm coming for you 2014. WATCH OUT.