Help Me Celebrate My 20 Year Writing Anniversary

 

Twenty years ago today, I put Meredith, my then-youngest child, on the school bus so she could start first grade. (Yes, that’s her above.)

She was VERY excited to go. Honestly, I was very excited for her to go, too. I loved that girl with all my heart, but she was what we call in the North Country, “a heller.” Not a mean-spirited kid, but one that was 100% energy 100% of the time. If she was awake, she needed my full attention or there would be trouble.

After the bus pulled away, all the other moms and the stay-at-home dad went to the pancake house to celebrate, as was our annual tradition on the first day of school.

I did not join them.

I went back to the house and wrote down the date in my journal: September 7, 1992. I wrote a promise to myself under the date: that I would focus my writing energies for the next five years on writing a children’s book that was good enough to be published. If I could not make that happen by September 7, 1997, I would quit writing and go to nursing school.

My first book was published in 1996. I never went to nursing school, much to my mother’s dismay. She was always suspicious of this “writing thing.”

I could never have predicted what would happen as a result of the promise I made myself that day. I’ve published seven picture books, three historical novels, five YA novels, and a middle grade series. I am working on five books right now. My career has gone places I didn’t even know existed.

Meredith has grown up, too. She earned a teaching degree and is working in software sales, waiting for school districts to start hiring again. She got married in May, and bought her first house in July.

 

Thirty years ago this month, my mother (seen reading to Meredith above) was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thanks to good doctors and health insurance, she survived for 27 years, though the disease dogged her repeatedly. I also have a cousin and aunt who wrestled with breast cancer. (The children’s literature world learned this week about Judy Blume’s breast cancer.)

In honor of her grandmother and as part of her ongoing journey toward her own health, Meredith has signed up for the Susan G. Koman 3 Day Walk for a Cure in Philadelphia, on October 5, 6, & 7. She will be walking twenty miles each day.

::puts hat in hand::

Would you please contribute to Meredith’s walk? Any amount is appreciated. Do in honor of someone who has had breast cancer. Do it for Judy. Do it to celebrate the power of bringing art into your life. Do it as part of a promise you make to yourself about your health or about your writing. Do it if you’ve enjoyed my books. Do it to celebrate what lies ahead.

Meredith writes: “The walk is special to me because I lost my grandmother over 3 years ago to breast cancer. She had breast cancer almost my entire life and was able to fight it for over 20 years. She has been such an inspiration to all of us, and continues to be with us daily as we need her love and guidance. I wish she could have physically been at my wedding and physically be able to see my children (in a few years!!). I’m walking for a cure so that my children don’t have to have the same loss of life with their grandmothers. I’m walking for a cure so that if the genes are in my body, I can get through the disease and live a life of 100+ years.”

Thank you for the last twenty years, my friends. Here’s to the next twenty!!

 

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11 Comments

  1. Jessy Patterson
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Laurie,

    As I read this, I am crying for so many reasons: your promise to yourself, your commitment, your struggles and triumphs, your losses; my own promises, struggles and triumphs, and losses. As always, you strike a chord.

    In 2009, I walked in the Michigan 3-Day. I walked for the women in my life and for the strangers who sat in a quiet waiting room wearing hospital gowns, waiting for their first mammogram or, like me, their first biopsy. I walked for hope. But most importantly, I walked for a dear friend–a mother and wife–who had lost the battle. She was 34 and had to leave her two children and husband. I walked those 60 miles with her memory in my heart. (Wiping tears.) My best wishes to Meredith as she takes the emotional journey in a 60-mile stretch. For me, it was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. (And yes, I’ve had a child!) :)

    Happy 20th Anniversary to you, Laurie! You cannot know the influence you’ve had on so many. For me, your words have been a treasure and a life line. I celebrate your writing anniversary by saying, “Thank you!” Thank you for making that promise to yourself and gifting us with your writing voice. I’m still listening and can’t wait to hear more.

    Cheers, congrats, and best wishes to you and Meredith!

    JP

  2. Posted September 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Dear Laurie,

    HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, and thank you for keeping that promise to yourself. Your novel SPEAK is still speaking to countless readers. I know this because I am one of them, and I introduce it to about 50+ developmental writing students each semester at the community college where I teach. It leads us to important conversations about everything from being an individual to the fact that no one deserves to be victimized. It has led me to discuss with students my own experience as a victim of abuse. Recently, someone described my debut novel (The Namesake, out January 18th from Merit Press) as “sort of like SPEAK with a male protagonist.” Of course we all like to make these elevator pitch connections, but what I think she meant was that it was well-written and handled a tough topic with humor. Whatever she meant exactly, it was a HUGE honor to be equated with an author whose work I have come to love. So, again, thank you for inspiration, for laughter and tears, and for sharing the story of your strong mom and amazing daughter. Clearly, awesomeness does not skip a generation in your family!

    All best,

    Steve

  3. Posted September 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Happy Writing Anniversary!

  4. Posted September 7, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    I wish you a very happy writing anniversary, and I can’t wait to keep reading your work for the next 20 years! I am especially grateful for the wondrous “Wintergirls,” which I sort of strongarmed my teenaged daughter into reading. And congratulations to Meredith for all her recent milestones, including her commitment to the Komen Walk. I’m coming up on my tenth year participating in the Avon Walk in New York, and it’s a sad fact that each year I’ve had at least one new person (friend, family, co-worker) to walk for. If we all keep raising money and putting one foot in front of the other, I’m convinced that a cure for breast cancer will be found in our lifetime.

  5. Jane Cothron
    Posted September 8, 2012 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    Wow–you’ve done all this in only twenty years? You are an inspiration. Thank you very much!

  6. Laurie Cleveland
    Posted September 8, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Laurie,

    Congratulations on 20 wonderful years of expression and sharing your insight, research and optimism with all of us. Your post brings tears to my eyes, because they are so eloquent and heartful. I think it is your genuine, down-to-earth manor that appeals to your readers. In honor of a family friend who survived breast cancer, I will be making a donation to Meredith’s walk.

    Perhaps when this”teaching gig” is over for me, I too will write. I’ve thought about it for years. I dream that my first title will be, Things I Learned in Lewis County or something like that. Until then, I will continue to enjoy your writing and share it with young people.

    Happy Anniversary!

  7. Laurie Cleveland
    Posted September 8, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    OMG, misuse of manor, manner : D

  8. Barbara Gayle
    Posted September 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    I love your pictures. You are an excellent photographer.
    I love what you have done with your writing, and I congratulate you on the anniversary.
    Didn’t have a chance to tell you: Speak has been beneficial for a step-granddaughter. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    I am in awe of Meredith and am glad to support her.

  9. Sheila Hennessey
    Posted September 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations, Laurie! The world is a better place with your books in it!
    XX
    Sheila

  10. Posted September 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    What an incredible story, Laurie. Your novels are inspiring, and I wish you the best of luck on this journey (to helping stop breast cancer and to future success in writing). You give the rest of us hope!

    Take care,
    Jennifer

  11. Gae Polisner
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    What a gorgeous post. I will be contributing today. And congrats on your amazing so-far career. I admire you.

    - gae

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