On September 12, 2015, my father would have been 85 years old. On September 8, it will be four months since he passed away. I miss him. I think of him all the time, just like I think of my mother all the time and it has been eight long years since I lost her. One of the things I miss the most is not being able to call them to tell them good news. That’s when I feel my grief the most.
Just a few weeks ago, on August 26th, I received a package in the mail: ten copies of a paperback book called Reflections: Ultra Short Personal Narratives collected by CoCo Harris. The minute I ripped upon that box, I immediately thought of my dad and how much I would have liked to get out my phone and call him to share my good news. An essay I wrote was included in that book. And, that essay is about a lesson my dad taught me many, many years ago.
Last Christmas, when both my daughters were home for the holidays, we talked about my desire to become a writer. I had been writing essays and personal narratives with the hopes of getting them published somewhere. I had sent a few off to contests and magazines but had not been successful in getting my foot in the door anywhere. We talked about different ways I could improve my skills as a writer as well as ways to improve my chances for publication. We decided I needed a platform of my own, so I created my own website, Cajun Girl in a Kilt, purchased my domain name, www.michelleardillo.com, and for my first entry, I selected a short essay I had written about my dog and his off and on difficulties of navigating the stairs in our house, “License to Carry”.
Knowing myself all too well, I knew I needed some sort of plan or goal to motivate me to continue writing and posting essays on my new website. So, I came up with the idea of “an essay a week for one year”. I mean, it worked for Julie Powell. She set out to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and she set herself a goal of doing it in one year and blogging about it as she cooked her way through it, one recipe at a time. She accomplished her goal and more. Her blog became a book and her book became a movie. And, she became a writer. I was inspired.
It is now September and I have been at it for eight months. I have posted an essay a week while teaching full-time, directing a middle school musical with a cast of 43 7th and 8th graders, coordinating 8th grade graduation, and, last but certainly not least, having my father become very ill and passing away. Through it all, I have never once considered that I would not post my weekly essay. To say I am goal-oriented is an understatement. I simply can’t quit something when I have truly set my mind to it. This I attribute to my father and his steadfast work ethic.
So, when I read about a small publishing company, Telling Our Stories Press, http://tellingourstoriespress.com/telling-our-stories-press-contributing-a, asking for submissions of ultra-short personal narratives where the writer reflects on a lesson learned, I knew mine would be about one of the many lessons I learned from my father. A story from my past popped into my head, a story featuring a legal document and my father’s advice that “honesty is the best policy”. I submitted my essay on May 19th, just days after his funeral. In June, I learned my essay had been selected for publication. And, on August 26th, my package arrived with my copies of the freshly printed book. Oh, how I would have liked to call and tell my mom and dad about it. They weren’t big readers, but I know they would have loved getting a copy of that book in the mail.
Anthologies of personal essays are not the kinds of books that typically fly off the shelves at Amazon’s mega-warehouse or at your local B&N, but I’m still very happy with this stepping stone toward my goal of becoming a writer. This short essay detailing a small fiasco of mine at my former job as a real estate paralegal
marks my first words in print. I’ve been fortunate to be a guest blogger twice on an author’s website, http://www.cindycallaghan.com/the-art-of-the-afternoon-tea-part-1-by-michelle-ardillo/, and then again on a website about reading that has a wide audience, https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/my-kingdom-for-a-lamp-by-michelle-blanchard-ardillo/. And, of course, this essay is #38 in my “essay a week for one year” so I am over half-way there and well on my way to accomplishing my goal. I have no idea where this “essay a week for one year” will lead me but I have enjoyed writing my weekly essays and I know my self-imposed weekly deadline has strengthened my writing skills as well as my discipline for writing.
For those of you out there who have been following me on this journey by reading my weekly essays, let me say thank you. Thank you for your comments, reflections, and encouragement. Thank you for sharing the link on your Facebook page or retweeting it. Thank you for casually mentioning in a conversation something you read in one of my essays and making me feel great. And, if you are so inclined, head over to Amazon and order a copy of “my book”. You’ll find my essay “You Can Handle the Truth” on page 46. Whatever you do, though, keep checking in to see what the Cajun Girl in a Kilt has written and where this journey of becoming a writer will take me. In the meantime, on September 12th I’ll go outside and sit on my porch, raise a glass of red wine, and say, “Happy Birthday, Daddy. Thanks for everything.”