Author Kristy Woodson Harvey explains why she started writing
Welcome to our Parade.com Novel Advice Weekly Test Series in partnership with Friends & Fiction, an online community hosted by bestselling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey, Patti Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Monroe. Every Wednesday, you’ll receive a new life lesson essay from one of the writers, plus the chance to discuss them later that night on Facebook Live! Today, Kristy woodson harvey opens up about what inspired her to start writing.
Back-to-school races were practically a vacation in my childhood home. My mom and I waited for the sacred supply list to arrive in the mail and spent hours perusing the aisles of our office supply store for the perfect Lisa Frank folders and binders, choosing between the pencil box. rose and violet.
The first time a Labor Day went by, school started, and I wasn’t going back, I was 23 and working in finance despite my journalism degree and master’s degree in literature.
As the students returned to school that year, and I was not among them, it struck me how far I had strayed from this initial vision of the woman I would become. At 17 years old, after the publication of my inaugural article “Garden games” in my local newspaper, the Salisbury Post, I believed that I would tell the stories of real people, that I would change the world with my words. Somehow, however, I had found myself on a different path.
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So it was that day, confused because I knew I was not where I needed to be, that I came home and said to my husband something that I had been thinking about for a while. In our cozy historic living room of our first home together, I said, “I’m thinking of going back to UNC to get my PhD in English.
My husband put down his iPad, looking amused. “Is this really what you want to do?” “
He knew I was playing with the idea of writing a novel and avoided it so badly that I was considering devoting the next five years to something else. When I didn’t respond he said: “Someone must be published. It could just as well be you. “
I kept telling myself that I wasn’t good enough to compete. I was not good enough. And, come on, wasn’t it a little cliché to write a novel, something that anyone in the throes of a quarter-life crisis would do? More than anything, I think I was afraid of the failure that would inevitably come.
Yet that night, prompted by my husband’s amused certainty that I could do the things I was afraid of, I began to write my first manuscript. It wasn’t something I would ever share with the world, but it was a leap of faith, a signal that I was going to dive into an unknown universe and take what was given to me.
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I would like to say that I had such unwavering confidence in my life path that I believed in the impossible. I did not do it. But my husband did. At the time, it was something. That was all.
Three years later, I was blogging and writing as a full-time freelance, not convinced that one of the manuscripts I had completed during my off hours was “the only one.” And I knew what “one” felt because I had just given birth to the most beautiful bald, blue eyed baby boy. I was somewhat prepared for the idea that I would love him fully, for how everything in my life until then would seem totally insignificant to me in comparison. But I was not at all prepared for how much he would love me. How he would know me, how I seemed to be all he needed in the world.
The night we brought him home from the hospital, I had the idea of a book that seemed too painful, too scary and yet, in a way, inevitable. How can a mother separate from her child? I asked myself. What would have to happen in her life that made her feel like abandoning her baby was her only choice?
This is the question that finally brought me out of my fear of failure. Just as my husband’s lucid love reminded me that it was okay to pursue my dream, the fierce love I felt for my newborn son gave birth to a whole new journey.
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Later that night, ready for a feed, I began to write this woman’s story. Three years later it would become my first novel, Dear Caroline. It showed me that these impossible dreams are not impossible. You just have to find the courage to chase them away. And, if you can’t, you can borrow someone else’s courage, like I did. Even if you don’t hit your target, the joy of travel will likely take you to a wonderful place.
Only six years have passed since Dear Caroline was released, only nine since this baby came home from the hospital with us. And yet, everything has changed. My eighth and ninth novels will be out in the next six months, and this baby has just started fourth year.
The start of the school year is a happy and sad time like so many others, a time when I am proud of the person my son is becoming, but already crying that the baby he once was is. lost to me. But I learned an important lesson. Time flies, so we have to savor the little things, like that awesome rite of passage I once took with my own mother: buying school supplies.
My son and I spent over an hour last week browsing the aisles of Staples in search of the exact attributes that would make this year a smash hit. And, of course, we had to add some basic necessities for the little boys. An LED flashlight. A small screwdriver.
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When we got home, he took each number two yellow pencil and sharpened it to perfection in his electric pencil sharpener. He has high standards, something I already know will serve him well in his little life.
When he was done, he handed me each one, and I gathered them together like a bouquet, inhaling the scent of wood, paint and graphite which to me is as intoxicating as any. rose never was. Like flowers, these pencils were a sign of rebirth, a symbol of something new, an indication of wonderful things to come.
While my son was packing his school supplies in his backpack, I took a moment to savor this family vacation. Whether we go back to school or not, this time of year – like any other time, really – can always be a new beginning.
I took one of these pencils from my son’s stack and opened the first page of the extra notebook we got for me. As my pencil, still warm from the sharpener, flew across the page like my son, I started something new.
Next, can you make your own luck? Author Mary Alice Monroe thinks so, here’s why.
Friends and fiction is an online community, weekly live webcast and Podcast founded and hosted by bestselling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy woodson harvey, Patti Callahan Henry, and Marie-Alice Monroe, who have written over 90 novels between them and are published in over 30 languages. Watch them and their incredible guest authors live every Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on the Friends & Fiction Facebook group page or their Youtube channel. Follow them on Instagram and, for weekly updates, subscribe to their bulletin.
Kristy woodson harvey is USA TODAY’s bestselling author of eight novels, including Feels Like Falling, The Peachtree Bluff and Under the Southern Sky. His writing has appeared in numerous online and print publications, including Southern Living, Traditional Home, USA TODAY, and Domino. Winner of the Lucy Bramlette Patterson Award for Excellence in Creative Writing and a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, Kristy is co-creator and co-host of the weekly web show and Friends & Fiction podcast and blogs daily with her mother Beth. Woodson on Design Chic.