Something more interesting
Sitting in a waiting room recently, I read an article on Holly Rowe, an ESPN reporter who is undergoing treatment for cancer. She continues to work and carries on with her life. I can’t find the exact quote, but she said something like, “I don’t want cancer to be the most interesting thing about me.” And that stuck with me. I keep repeating it to myself when my mind becomes consumed with my state of affairs, or when I feel tempted to post a milestone on Instagram or even before I post to this blog.
So, to kind of pivot onto something hopefully more interesting—I wrote a book!
It’s a thriller, 70K words about, that I’ve been writing and pecking at since 2013 when it was just some scribbles on my laptop notepad. It's a story of a young woman in a shitty job in a stifling cubicle (gee, wonder who that was based on?) who starts reliving her childhood in lucid dreams and long, drawn out hallucinations. Except it’s an alternate childhood, or one that evokes scenes of a creepy ass crime that she’s either completely making up, or she's repressing because it was so damn terrifying.
The first drafts were terrifying(ly) bad; I had a friend have a look at it. I was bashful—mortified—actually, because I didn’t know the first thing about writing fiction, let alone a novel. And so this friend kindly read it and asked some pointed questions that led me to further drafts and several complete rewrites. Years and years I would work rabidly on it, then would put it away for a while, rinse and repeat. I was so embarrassed I didn’t tell anyone about it. Because I didn’t want to admit I wanted it to be a real thing.
But part of me must have, because during this time, while in grad school ostensibly learning about web development, I took a fiction workshop elective. It was semi-helpful, but also a little disheartening getting my work ripped apart by a bunch of 23 year olds. But a couple years later, for my final grad elective, I chose a memoir class, a 6-week intensive course that served as both an emotional dump and a crucial tightening-up/exorcism of some bad writing habits. I swear I’ve benefitted more from non-fiction and journalism courses (“omit needless words”) than navel-gazing creative writing workshops where everyone’s out for themselves and thinks they’re more creative and original than everyone else.
I realize I’m not omitting needless words here, so I’ll cut to the chase. I’ll hopefully have my book, “The Hollow,” on Amazon via Kindle by the beginning of next week. I’m sending out an email to close friends and I’ll also post the link here. If I can pay back the editing fees, and maybe a little extra to pay some hospital bills—that’d be freaking sweet.
I started a new Instagram, too, Nikki.Writes, where I can more freely talk about writing and try to plug the book and disassociate myself from my cancer life.
Of which I’ll say one last thing. My doc took my hands on Wednesday and looked me in the eyes intently and told me, "You're o-kay."
Do they train them to do that? I mentioned a couple healthcare professionals who’ve done/said this to me, and it seems a spur of the moment thing. I’d like to believe it’s a genuine, "Yes, you’re fucking okay, Nicole” message the universe is trying to convey. And another instance of this, maybe: While I was having convulsive back pains in the car the other night, tears streaming down in a poor-me moment, I looked up at the sky out my windshield, and eked out, “Dad, are you with me?” and I got home and my back pain had significantly eased up. Life is a crazy and beautiful thing.
Anyhooters—hope some of you will check out the book, which will be here, hopefully by Monday: www.nicolebarrell.com.
2/6/2017 11:37:55 am
Such exciting news! Can't wait to read it!
2/6/2017 01:59:43 pm
Thanks, Joanne! I am crazy and had my editor do one more once-over so it will likely be next week. (It's not going to win the Pulitzer anytime soon, but it was fun to write!)
Mary Ellen Aldrich
2/7/2017 12:47:06 pm
Ditto what Joanne said......keep us up to date❣
2/21/2017 10:46:02 pm
I have always admired the strong writing on your blog. Even though our treatments were on a similar timetable, and my dog is named Lily, it was always the writing that brought me back. I have been reading your book all day, and I'm thrilled to say I love it. I'm so happy to see you moving forward.
2/22/2017 08:20:05 pm
Pam you're so kind to say that and read my book. I'm so happy you like it! And love that you have a Lily, too!! The book has proved to be a wonderful distraction as I've had a rough time lately. So rough that I haven't been able to fully unleash my panicky thoughts, even on here. Adjusting, or trying to, and yes, moving on. good days and bad. Hope you are too. (And that your hair is filling in full force!!)
2/22/2017 11:40:14 pm
I understand about the rough times and the panic. I tend to keep the worst of it inside. And when treatment is over, it makes sense that we might feel the worst panic yet. Embrace as much healthy distraction as you can. It works. And yes, my hair is coming back with a vengeance!
2/23/2017 09:49:39 am
I am your biggest fan right now! I started the book after I put my kids to sleep last night. I passed out around quarter of 12 with a comfy scarf wrapped around my neck (I know… safety first) and my kindle in my lap. (I should probably look for that somewhere in the couch). Anyway, I can’t even concentrate at work today. All I can do is think about getting home and finishing The Hollow. I love how you incorporated your sarcasm in the details of the book. It makes it so relatable, easy to read, and brings the characters to life (which might I add are characteristically on point).
2/24/2017 10:28:36 am
Ah, thank you so much Megan!! You are incredibly kind to both read it and to say such nice things. As I sit in a waiting room reading your comment at Dana-Farber, you don't even know how welcome it is! PS should you be a book reviewer? I think so...
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