As I sit here, typing this post at quite literally the last moment, (this blog goes up as soon as I finish typing it and figure out how to post it to the site) I am still not sure what to say about being a woman that writes sci-fi and fantasy. But I can tell you what it is like in my personal experience to be a writer. And I just happen to be a woman, so woo hoo!
The thing that I do, maybe not the best but definitely the most, is I Mom. I am a mom first. Four boys. Which keeps me busy on any given day, anyway. These boys of mine like to eat, and drink, and play video games, and watch YouTube, and have very recently gotten into playing Dungeons and Dragons. We play it as a family. And so I need to feed them, at least once a day (we are working on independence in eating, like making sandwiches and stuff, with the youngest at this point. He is 8.)
And this past week has been a stressful one because the youngest was diagnosed with influenza A and has been home sick. We also had a snow day yesterday, so that made chaos at the house too.
BUT if it wasn’t for my youngest child, and my life as his mom, I would most likely not be published. Ever. I am a writer, at all, because of him.
Here is my big old back story about why I was never going to be a writer. A lot of women I know have been in abusive relationships. Men too, but as I am a woman and this is my experience, it is what it is. I was in an emotionally and psychologically, and sexually abusive one. The biggest thing that happened to me, that impacted me, revolved around my writing.
This guy threw my writing away. My journals, my stories. And the ones that he didn’t throw away, he edited. Secretly. I still have a copy of a journal of mine in which he literally crossed out what I wrote and wrote a different version of the events. And even though the writing was his and not mine, he told me I did it. Writing, for me, had always been personal and mine. If I wanted someone to read it, I gave it to them. Never before had I felt that my writing had been so violated. It was like a piece of my soul, torn out. And I stopped. I stopped writing, not trusting that my innermost private thoughts were for my eyes alone, anymore. It broke me. For a long time.
I got rid of him, eventually, but the other damage he had done took a long time and lots of therapy. But I still couldn’t write. I had lost confidence in it and in me. I spent ten years not writing, and I felt like a piece of me was missing. Because it was. I had always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first book, “Just Me and My Mom” like the Mercer Mayer books, when I was young. Creative writing had always been an escape for me that I didn’t have anymore.
BUT that changed.
On August 31, 2012 My world stopped spinning for a bit. My youngest son (who is now 8 and besides the flu, healthy) was diagnosed with Pre B cell ALL leukemia. My baby had cancer. He turned 3, three days later. In the hospital.
I started to write about it. All the things I was feeling, the terror, the sorrow, everything. And it felt right. Not good, because the content was painful. But it felt like coming home again.
Peter Dudar, my friend and mentor, sent me a link to a horror anthology. I wrote a story, but I also submitted a personal essay about my son’s diagnosis. It was accepted. It was my first anthology acceptance and it benefited the National Children’s Cancer Society.
After hearing my son had cancer, which was the most terrifying thing that I could imagine, I no longer was afraid for my writing to be out in the world. Or that someone may reject it. I wrote our experiences so that other families could know that they weren’t alone. I wrote to get out the emotions I had, to spell it out for the world. I wrote to help get funding for childhood cancer research for kids like mine. I wrote because it was something that I hadn’t seen much information on, having thought that pediatric cancer was rare. It isn’t and I really wanted people to know that. And that the treatment was a planned three and a half years. (it ended up being closer to three, but still…)
I kept writing. I kept submitting my stories. Fiction stories. And I had some accepted. To date, I have been published in six anthologies and I am still going. All my publications have been in the horror genre, but last year I finished my “baby.” I finished writing a high fantasy novel and am in the process of edits. I am also working on an Urban Fantasy/ epic fantasy/sci fi/ghost novel . And I have a mystery novel written and am working on edits for that.
I have been called a “horror hag” during women in horror month. I have gotten into some big kablooeys during Women in Horror Month. Several years, in fact. But none of that scares me anymore. I just keep writing. When my 8 year old isn’t playing on my computer, anyway.
*Note. I do not recommend waiting for a cancer diagnosis or something like that to clear you of your fear of putting your work out there. Just do it. Every “no” response to a submission is just a sign that you are working and writing. That you submitted it in the first place. And that is something to be proud of. Don’t let ANYONE steal your words from you. I spent too long living like that and wasted ten good writing years.
April Hawks lives in a small Maine town with her husband, four boys, two bunnies and a Tomato. She writes a bunch of different genres, but she just finished her “baby” a fantasy novel and is revising it before she sends it out of the nest. April is a frequent and often obnoxious facebook poster and is on twitter and Instagram as well. Find more of her work on her Amazon Page.