Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Trial's Over, But the Book Has a Fresh Start

I meant to post yesterday and I didn't because I fell back into a slump yesterday - a PTSD of sorts - and while I knew what I wanted to say, I just didn't want to say it.

Let me back up.

For those of you who are new to the blog - or to my life- since last December, the short story is this: a very dear friend of mine from high school was killed, along with her son, in her home just a few miles from my own. She was shot by a 17 year old kid who came to steal less than $1000 of stuff from her six days before Christmas.

He was arrested only a day or two after the shootings, and has been sitting in jail awaiting trial until Monday. For a double murder trial which held nine other charges along with the two counts of capital murder, it was unbelievably short. Less than six hours long. And the verdict came the same day: guilty on nearly every account.

Charged as an adult, but unable to be given the death penalty because of his age at the time of the crime (federal law, I think), he still will spend the rest of his life in prison.

I went through a depression of sorts after the death of Jeanie. It came in waves that eventually grew further apart until I felt like I'd come back to some kind of even keel again.

Until I attended the trial. Before I even went in the courtroom, just sitting in the hall waiting, it was suddenly overwhelming again. The implications of someone walking into your house and shooting you... the loss of a friend who'd tremendously impacted my life... that moment... Do I need to tell you how many times I've closed my eyes to go to sleep and suddenly wondered what she thought at that moment, facing a gun, knowing her son was already dead? Do I need to say that everytime I let my mind go into that room, my heart is pounding, my eyes are swimming in tears.. I am terrified. And I am so incredibly lonely for a friend I'd only seen a few times in the last year.

And here is where my writing comes in.

Back in January I started a story that came out of my grief - a story that involved a murder, although the plot itself is not a crime or mystery book. It's mostly the story about unresolved issues and grief and forgiveness and loneliness. But I couldn't write. I had the story, but sitting to write that story, about that grief, was unbearable. I just couldn't choose to sit at the computer and face it every day, and so I put it away.

Until this summer, when my own emotions about Jeanie's death weren't deep waves anymore, and I felt like I could write it. It's been going good. Slow, but good. And I've been dancing around the harder scenes, like the murder and the immediate grief afterwards. I figured I'd do it eventually, but for now, the surrounding story needs to be told, too.

I chose to write in 3rd person. I think it gave it some distance from me, which helped.

But on Monday, sitting in the corridor waiting for the bailiff to open the doors and invite us in, I felt the loss of my friend overwhelmingly again, and I took out my notebook and started writing the scene I'd been dancing around. It poured out, faster than my pen could get it on paper, everything I was feeling through the eyes of my protagonist. And it came out through her eyes: first person, present tense.

I haven't wanted to stop writing since. Suddenly, allowing myself to be there, was exactly what the story needed - and I needed as well. It isn't even remotely autobiographical. The plot itself has nothing to do with high school friends, but it is about death, and about dealing with it - and sometimes not dealing with it. It's something that I might have written about before Jeanie's death, but not powerfully because I didn't really know it.

And now I do.

So the writing is going like a house-a-fire, traditional pen and paper, so I have no idea how many words, but going well, and easy. I haven't tried to go back and rewrite what I've already written and revise it to first person, but I don't think it will be that hard of work. The story has always been Kat's to tell, and even though I wrote in third person initially, it was always in her voice. But to give her full control of the story - I think she really wanted that, and I was just afraid to let her have it because who knows what she'll drag me through to tell it.

But I... well... I am a little melancholy again. Tears are closer to the surface than they've been the last few months. My heart hurts a little more distinctly. But this time it feels something more like a healing. At least that's what I'm hoping.


  1. Heidi,
    I'm sorry for your loss, I grieve with you as the unexpected loss of a good friend is never easy.

    However-you bring tears to my eyes to see how you have handled it with writing. And how eventually, that writing has shown you something new, a new perspective, a new way to heal. Bravo to you!

    I hope you keep working on it, even when it hurts, because you are right, sometimes those tears/hurting are for the reason of healing.

    Best Wishes

  2. What a terrible thing. I am so sorry.

    I am impressed that you are turning something so negative into something positive by channeling your grief into your writing. I hope the experience helps to dull the pain.

  3. I remember you talking about your friend's death and I'm glad the trial has brought you some resolution (or at least that a jury convicted him).

  4. I'm sorry you had to lose a friend. Reading this makes me feel like my problems and grievances are nothing compared to others.

    Hopefully you can push through the pain and finish the book.

  5. Thank you all. I thought last night when I wrote this I would feel better today, but today I feel like I am drowning in it even more. So I'm waiting for it to go away. It will.

    I'm not sure whether the writing will end up being better for this, or only be a cathartic mess. Time will tell.

    The nice thing is that the book is so unlike the reality that the majority doesn't feel like I'm living in that moment. It feels like someone else's life.

    And I know how the story turns out. :)

  6. Im so sorry. Horrific for her. And such a devestating loss. heal thorugh your writing. It will change your life and others.

  7. Heidi,
    I´m so sorry. I knew that you were grieving the loss of a dear friend, but I had no idea how she died. What a senseless, horrible crime and it is totally understandable that you would be rocked by this for a long time. I´m glad that you are finding a productive outlet for all that you are feeling. When our work is dedicated to those we love, it can only make it richer and more beautiful.