It was fifteen years ago, when I sat across from my husband in Atlantic City. We chatted over a very greasy, breakfast buffet. “All you can eat” meant we had eaten a lot and after a weekend of romantic dinners and losing some money in the name of fun, we felt relaxed and tired. It was then the idea popped into my mind. “I want to write a teen book,” I uttered. “I think it is going to be about a girl who commits suicide and leaves notes for her classmates. It is these notes which unlock the reason why she ended her life.”
I have always loved writing but when I was a child, I wanted to be a professional football player. More specifically, a Dallas Cowboy. I loved their uniforms and I could play a pretty good game of touch football in the street. I didn’t realize that there are things girls just didn’t do. In many ways, I still don’t. I have never believed in limits. So, while I waited to become bigger and stronger to have a try-out with Dallas, I created stories in my mind.
I wrote when I felt excited or scared, and always returned to my pen and paper when life became both wonderful and overwhelming. Outside of school, I wrote long letters to my camp friend across the never-ending northeastern winters.
Then I fell in love – with Judy Blume.
I sat for hours devouring her books that spoke about painful emotions, worrisome thoughts and never before talked about stuff. She wrote about controversial topics that nobody else had been talking about. Stuff that I was both living through and hiding within myself.
I began to write about this difficult stuff, too. But it was my stuff. My entire fourth grade year of writing was filled up with tough experiences, coupled with lessons, insights and inspirational happy endings.
I went on to minor in creative writing in college, not caring where it would take me, just that writing made me feel alive. When my girls were little, I awoke each morning at 5 am to write. I cherished this time, sipping coffee, laptop in hand and connecting with my imagination. It was then I created a series of middle grade fiction called Crabby Gabby. Makes sense as my daughter’s name is Gabby. Yet, I did nothing with the books. Maybe I sent them to a few agents with no response and gave up? Maybe I got too busy driving to soccer practices and bake sales? Maybe it was not meant to be? But for whatever the reason, I found it funny when my daughter came home from babysitting this summer and told me the child had a book called, “Crabby Gabby.” That ship had sailed, and I had waved goodbye.
In between all this writing, I was being prepared for something greater (spoiler alert – we all are, we just need to get onto it). Yet, life had been throwing me lemons since childhood, one after the other, and I was growing tired of trying to make lemonade. There had to be something I was meant to do when I grew up, but I wasn’t getting to it.
I refused to give up.
I began delving into spiritual books, seeking answers as to why life seemed to challenge me so often. It was then that I began tossing the lemons onto paper. I wrote about the losses, traumas and challenges we all face in life. And as I wrote through some intense grief, I began to find my inspirational happy endings again.
I found success publishing parenting articles, short stories, and essays; but I was not yet playing for The Dallas Cowboys, nor was I the next Judy Blume. There was something more I was meant to do, but what was it? I wanted people to know that life was meant to be difficult, incredible, creative, hysterical, abysmal and amazing, and that I had seen, felt, experienced it all.
I felt as if the Universe was looking down upon me thinking, “I have given her all these ideas and she does not do ‘shit’ with them.” Probably not in those exact words, as I am fairly certain the Universe does not swear. Perhaps it was more like, “You need to give up playing for The Dallas Cowboys, but in exchange, I am going to help you put some of these wonderful ideas into action so you can fulfill your purpose on this glorious earth.”
It was then I met my now great friend and co-author, Berit Stover by accident. Or was it?
I believe we were always meant to become co-authors and working together feels so familiar and right. We come from different paths, each with our own talents and are guided to be present and attentive in bringing forward these messages to be shared. Berit and I complement each other in our strengths and have the patience and drive to put into action what is meant to be.
Our book, Living Beyond Fear: Sacred Letters from the Afterlife is unlike any other book written, and well worth the wait. I think Judy Blume would be proud that we speak to the truth, addressing challenges within all our life stories, while reminding us all of the always present inspiration, hope and love.
When we grow up, we change, but not everything. I still like football, but now my allegiance is to New York Giants and with every prayer, I ask, “Are you there God? It’s me, Beth.” I still believe anything is possible. I look for the miracles, the rainbows and the happy endings, knowing that fear, doubt, failures and obstacles are just as much a part of life as laughter and joy. We cannot avoid pain, but we can choose not to suffer.
When that great idea I had in Atlantic City came to life, the book, 13 Reasons Why was published. My husband later exclaimed to me, “That could have been your story!” I never wrote that story, but someone did. Someone took action because it was his story to write. Life had other plans for me, only it took some time to get there.
We often do not know what we are capable of, until suddenly we do.
Not that a girl won’t ever become a professional football player, because anything is possible, but it is not going to be me.