My printed manuscript sits beside me. The plan— one more read through to see how the story holds up after its recent word manicure. I’ve never felt more pleased with the shape of this story, but can’t bring myself to begin.


Good question. Life is full of whys and specific ones have been niggling at me for months.

The first kicked off on the anniversary of my son’s death. Suicide. Why? My head understands. Heart protests. This year’s obsession was in the how? How did he use the gun? Did he place it at his temple or in his mouth? Why is this important? If the gun was at his temple that would indicate— to me— that he might’ve had reservations. There might’ve been a way to convince him to get the professional help he needed. Of course, it would also send me in a downward spiral of why, oh, why didn’t I try harder to get through to him, help him, save him. If he placed the gun in his mouth, then I’d know he was clear— clear in the same way I was clear not so long ago— he needed the pain to stop. I’ll never know the how. The death certificate doesn’t provide details. The autopsy report would. But do I really want to know?

Probably not because I’m fat. Don’t bother scratching your head. There is no connection between how my son died and the tightness of my jeans. But feeling fat is an obsession with no expiration date for me. And it doesn’t like to be out of the spotlight too long.

Why? Don’t know but I added it to the topics for next week’s therapy session.

Niggle two— Notes from the Toolbox. Ever since the third round of revisions ended and the cutting phase began these posts have been harder to write. Why? Fear #1— Without an active goal, i.e. completing the revision, what was there to write about? Why would anyone want to read about my upcoming struggle to craft the perfect query? Was the revision battle interesting to anyone other than me? Fear #2— Is my grapple to find a focus for each week’s post wrapped up in social pressure to develop a podcast since they’ve skyrocketed as the hot form of connection thanks to the pandemic lockdown? Probably. I’ve always felt late to the party in every area of my life. Fear #3— Are my posts too personal? Are Notes from the Toolbox not gaining off-the-charts traction because the content is confessional rather than nuts and bolts educational to the writing community? Possibly. Or do I need a better strategy to position the Notes in this everchanging demanding virtual world? Definitely. And so, what are you going to do about that? Nothing.

Why? Because my manuscript needs the final spit polish and the synopsis and query need to be crafted and sent to my ideal agents, so I can slide back into the memoir while researching the historical that’s been breathing hot and heavy for months.

Which brings me to two tidbits of note. Author Keith Cronin wished me well in crafting my pitch and offered this advice— “Always try to answer the unspoken question ‘why should they care?’ in describing Kaitlyn and her plight.”

A few days later, author Kerri Maher chatted with me about writing historical fiction— bless her heart. She said all her writing begins with a question that drives the research. In the case of The Girl in White Gloves: Why did Grace Kelly marry and stay married to Prince Rainier III? The Kennedy Debutante: Why was ‘Kick’ Kennedy driven to marry someone her family didn’t approve of? In her upcoming novel The Paris Bookseller: Why does Sylvia Beach decide not to reopen Shakespeare and Company at the end of WWII?

Why, oh why?

Why did I write Kaitlyn’s story?— To stay alive. Why did I continue to rewrite, even after seventy-three rejections?— To heal my heart and soul. Why am I so proud of Kaitlyn’s story?— Because Kaitlyn discovered how to forgive herself and accept the love she deserves, and forgiveness doesn’t come easy after years of beating yourself up.

Why am I going to begin the read through?

Because this book is the great work of my life. Kaitlyn’s transformation paved the way for my own. And as Colson Whitehead says…

If it’s true for me, it must be true for at least one other person…and if there’s one person there’s a dozen, and then why not a thousand.