Written by Barbara Conrey
It took a death to get me to write Nowhere Near Goodbye. And the entire time I wrote, people kept dying, right up until the day my book released.
Of course, people are still dying, my writing a book didn’t stop anyone from dying, but I like to think it started conversations about brain tumors and female doctors who put their careers before their families.
Even dogs became a part of the conversation; there’s a subplot in Nowhere Near Goodbye regarding beagles and how they are the most common animal to be used in product testing laboratories simply because they are non-aggressive and trust humans to do right by them.
I had to incorporate that storyline into Nowhere Near Goodbye because I own a rescue beagle.
Experiences With Death
Between brain tumors in children, doctors who fail their families, and beagles so horribly mistreated in product testing laboratories that you want to throw up a little in your heart, it became apparent that I wasn’t afraid to tackle heavy subjects.
The first death that started me down this need to write a book was a friend’s granddaughter. She died when she was nine from a rare brain tumor, glioblastoma.
I’d never heard of it before, but I learned through my friend that this brain tumor mainly occurred in middle-aged men but somehow lodged in this young child’s brain. Unfair? Absolutely. Making the situation even harder to swallow, my friend’s son is a famous oncologist, yet he could do nothing to save his child. Not that he didn’t try.
It was an excruciating nine months of pain, disbelief, and denial for my friend and her family. And then, finally, acceptance. No. I take that back. There has been no acceptance. When I asked my friend if I could dedicate my book to her, she refused. She said the pain was still too real.
I watched my friend turn from vibrant and happy to a woman I barely recognized. She moved from the certainty that the child would recover to sorrow that covered her as if a blanket had been thrown over her head. Her hair turned white almost overnight; yes, that really happens. Lines appeared on her face that hadn’t been there before. I no longer heard her laugh or tell a joke. I no longer saw her smile. She turned quiet. Inward.
And while my friend grew quiet, I grew angry. I grew angry that my friend nearly shriveled up and died herself. I grew angry that her granddaughter, a beautiful little girl who hadn’t yet had a chance to live, had died. And for some odd reason, my anger turned into the need to write the story.
Not my friend’s story, but a story where this glioblastoma tumor didn’t win. Because in reality, it almost always won.
Knowing I Would Write
I didn’t know when I would write this story; it would be in the future because the present was filled with my ‘real’ career and taking care of my family. But I never lost sight of the need to write it: the only question was when.
Years went by. A lot of years. And when I retired, the first thing I did was begin. I wasn’t a stranger to writing: short stories, OP/ED pieces, essays. But a book would be an entirely new venture. I wasn’t worried.
I wrote, agonizing over a story that brought the pain of the event back to the forefront of my life. But I didn’t look away. Quietly, as if I held a deep, dark secret, I mentioned to friends that I was writing a book. I joined a writers organization. Made writer friends. Went to my first writer’s conference, where everyone talked about their WIP (Work In Progress). No matter where you go, acronyms will follow.
I thought I was ready for someone to read my work, and two of my new writer friends offered, let’s call them Wendy and Rachel, since those are their real names. I was excited and sick to my stomach all at the same time that my work would be seen.
I assumed Wendy and Rachel would give my manuscript top priority, and I’d hear back quickly. And, yes, I even imagined they would love my work and would offer words of praise. But then I went in the opposite direction when I didn’t hear back from them immediately; I assumed my writing was so dreadful they couldn’t bring themselves to face me.
And then I heard from Wendy and discovered my second assumption was closer to reality, although she didn’t hate it. She saw promise. But she didn’t mince words.
“It needs work. There’s really no story here.”
Finding My Story
She had more to say, but I think I shut down ten minutes into the conversation, nodding my head at all the appropriate times while her words floated over me. I thanked her and put my manuscript in a drawer. She could be wrong, I thought. She hadn’t published a book yet. Maybe she was wrong. I decided to wait and see what Rachel thought.
Rachel thought the same thing.
I was… devastated. For maybe a day. Then I decided I needed to do something about what these two women had to say. And don’t misunderstand, I knew they were right. Why I hadn’t figured that out on my own, I just can’t tell you. But once it was pointed out to me, I knew what I had to do.
I signed up for creative writing classes, I bought and read every craft book recommended to me. I talked to authors who were willing to share their thoughts and their knowledge. And I never gave up. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote.
That’s when I finally started to write the book that became Nowhere Near Goodbye. It wasn’t my friend’s story, but it was about a brain tumor, a little girl who died, and a doctor who gave up everything she loved to devote herself to finding a cure.
The book started from anger but moved through many stages to evolve into the story I needed to tell.
More From Barbara Conrey:
Web Site: http://www.barbaraconreyauthor.com
BookBub: Barbara Conrey Books – BookBub
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