Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, June 11, 2007

All Things Considered: Guest Blog--Michele Holmes

Nearly six years ago, I moved from San Jose, CA to Spanish Fork, UT. As we were moving in, a wonderful lady across the street invited me to her weekly critique group. Not having attended a critique group before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Turns out I had stumbled onto a brilliant group of women that have helped me immensely over the years with my writing as well as becoming good friends. (In my acknowledgments over the years, I have affectionately referred to them as The Women of Wednesday Night.) Since that time, two members of the group have been published by Covenant, and everyone has published either books or articles or both.

One of the women in the group was a fantastic writer by the name of Michele Holmes. Michele writes romances. She sees if she can make me blush and I see if I can gross her out with the strange things I write. (We both succeed on occasion.) Michele's focus had always been on the national market, but we finally convinced her to give the LDS market a shot with a novel she had written titled, "Counting Stars."

Several months went by after she submitted it, and I happened to find out it was about to be accepted. I thought it would be way cool to have the whole group on the phone when she got the call. So we arranged a little get together at a LUW event, where Covenant's managing editor would call Michelle and give her the news. It all worked out just the way I'd planned, except that the editor ended up not being available, Michele couldn't come to the event, and I accidentally included her on an e-mail planning everything.

Well I guess I better stick to writing, and leave the event planning to someone else. But the good news in "Counting Stars" is now on the shelves. I asked Michele to write a little bit about what the last week has been like. As always, Michele sent more than I expected, which (also as always) was perfect. Please help me welcome Michele to the world of published authors--again.

Jeffrey S Savage

Michele Holmes

Let me begin by saying how excited I was when Jeff invited me to guest blog with the froggers. I've been a fan of the frog blog for some time now, and it has gotten to the point of addiction so that when someone misses his/her turn, it completely throws off my day.

Because of its vast popularity, myself and a few other LDS writers decided to get our own planet going. Since the cute frog was already taken and we couldn't think of any animal we particularly wanted to represent us, we decided to go with shoes. With Annette Lyon and her brilliant husband leading the way, Writers in Heels was formed.

So far it has been a lot of fun. Annette Lyon, Heather B. Moore, Janette Rallison, Josi Kilpack, Julie Wright, LuAnn Brobst Staheli, Tristi Pinkston, and Precision Editing Group are contributors. We're not as organized as the froggers---no one has an assigned day; we all kind of blog at will---but you'll find great writing advice as well as a lot of humor. For someone visiting the first time, may I suggest reading Janette Rallison's post about headless ducks and kissing scenes, or Josi Kilpack's post titled, "Beer Run." Just make sure you've used the bathroom recently before you start reading.

Today Jeff asked if I would write a bit about my experience with my first-ever booksigning this past Saturday. My novel, Counting Stars, hit bookstores last Monday, and last week should have been a crazy frenzy of marketing. It wasn't. As huge a deal as getting my first book published was and is, a few other things happened that put everything completely into perspective.

Last week, somewhere between taking my two oldest children to have oral surgery and caring for them afterward, and getting in a car accident that totaled our Honda, I had a chance to finally open a couple of days worth of mail. Nestled among the usual bills was a report from radiology at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. It seemed the mammogram I'd had a week earlier didn't look so good, and I needed to come back for additional testing.

Upon reading this, I did not immediately panic. After all, I'd been down this road before. I've been having mammograms since I was in my early twenties, and I've been referred for ultrasounds before and even had a lump removed. Each time all was well. As it would be this time, I reassured myself. But silently, I was worried. I'm not in my twenties anymore but am very close to the age my maternal grandmother was when she discovered she had breast cancer.

I tried to put that thought out of my mind as I visited bookstores, signed books and met with store managers last week. All of those were things I'd dreamed of doing for a very long time, but instead of completely enjoying the experience, I kept wondering if I'd be around to do it again in a year or so.

Friday came, and the butterflies I had about Saturday's book signing were significantly overshadowed by the nervousness I felt as I sat in the waiting room at the Women's Center at UVRMC. When you go in for a routine mammogram, you are in and out rather quickly. The radiology report comes to you in the mail, and other than the discomfort of the actual procedure, it is really no big deal. When you come in for a follow up, it is a bit different.

I was sitting in a tiny waiting room with a few other women, all of us clutching our hospital gowns closed as we awaited our turn and the results that would either send us on for an ultrasound or biopsy or send us home relieved. I am not usually the type to chat with strangers, but something about the vulnerability of our situation made me feel an instant bond with these other women. While waiting I spent several minutes talking with one lady who was there to get an ultrasound---she'd already had a follow up mammogram that didn't look good.

Eventually she was called back to ultrasound, and I went in for my repeat mammogram. When I was back in the waiting room, again waiting, the woman I'd talked with earlier walked quickly by, hurrying to the dressing room area. The stricken look on her face said everything. And though I'd only spoken with her a few minutes, I thought of the children she'd told me about, the grandchildren she had, her husband who was waiting outside. Though I didn't really know her that well, I wanted to jump up and give her a hug and tell her that everything would be okay---even though it might not.

Instead, I sat frozen in my chair wondering what my own fate was going to be. A few minutes later I found out that all was indeed well again---in my world anyway. I was free to go home, free from the threat of breast cancer once more. Relieved as I was, I couldn't help thinking about the other woman I'd met. I saw her husband outside, and I wondered what she was going to say to him. What would I say to my husband if I had terrible news like that to deliver?

A few years ago, a friend of mine passed away from breast cancer, leaving behind a husband and four young children. She was my age. Two of my grandmothers had this terrible disease; one of them died from it. My neighbor---a woman younger than me---has had breast cancer for six years. She gets chemotherapy every Monday and is then very ill until the middle of the week. Just when she feels better, it's time to go in for another treatment. There are no other options if she wants to continue to be around to take care of her two little boys.

Thinking about all of this as I walked to my car, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. The sky was suddenly bluer, the mountains greener, the world an exquisite, wonderful place that I was privileged to remain in. At home the fact that my children's rooms were all disasters didn't really matter. I'd be around---and healthy---to help clean them up next week.

On Saturday, as I signed books and greeted customers, my discomfort in such a situation seemed like no big deal at all. I tried to enjoy the experience as much as possible. I followed Jeff's advice and stayed out of the chair and walked around the store. I sold a couple of other people's books, and I even sold a few of mine. Family, friends and neighbors showed up to support me. I passed out chocolate bars to thank them and struggled to figure out what to write in books that I signed. The store manager made my day when she told me she'd read Counting Stars and loved it. Again, I was flooded with gratitude that my book was published, people seemed to be liking it, and I was going to be around to read the reviews and write the sequel. All things considered---and I'd spent a lot of time considering many things over the past week---it was a great experience.

I don't know why I was the one spared a cancer diagnosis last week; I don't know why I walked away from the car accident with only a kink in my neck. I don't know why exactly I've received a lot of the blessings that I have in my life. But I am grateful for them, and included in that, I am grateful for my ability to write. It has been a long, difficult, and frustrating road, but from here on out, I intend to try and enjoy every minute of it.

Life is too short and too fragile to do otherwise.


At 6/11/2007 8:55 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Great post, great book, and welcome to the publishing world, Michele! It's about time the rest of the world got to read you and see your talent.

I just luv yer guts.

At 6/11/2007 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That nasty, unpredictable, unrelenting, indiscriminate angel of death. Why must mortality be so fragile?

At 6/11/2007 11:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your book. That's so exciting. I actually sat by you at one of the classes at the Storymakers Conference (I think it was during Tristi's presentation on voice).

I'm glad all turned out well for your mammogram. I really appreciated your post because I tend to worry about things, especially health things, and sometimes forget to enjoy the moment because I'm so caught up in worrying about something. Thanks for the reminder.

I look forward to reading your book.

Rebecca Talley

At 6/12/2007 12:39 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Fantastic post, Michele! And I'm so grateful to hear that all is well with your health.

Did you see that Tristi Pinkston gave Counting Stars a fantastic review on And when I was in Seagull Book the other day, the clerk recommended your book to me, telling me how she enjoyed it.

At 6/12/2007 10:23 AM, Blogger Michele Holmes said...

Thanks, Annette, Stephanie and Rebecca. And Rebecca I remember you from Tristi's class. How is your writing going? I hope you're getting a lot more done than I am these days;)

At 6/12/2007 10:44 AM, Anonymous kerry blair said...

What a lovely, touching post, Michele -- and exactly what I needed this morning. Thank you so much! (And thanks, Jeff. I have NOT forgotten you!)

I've ordered your book, Michele, and can't wait for it to arrive. Lucky people at your signings! You may not remember, but we met in Provo last January. Your graciousness and kind words were truly the highlight of my day! It will be a joy to watch your Stars ascend!

At 6/12/2007 3:32 PM, Blogger Michele Holmes said...

Of course I remember meeting you last January. Though I think of you more as the lady responsible for me almost breaking my arm---when I nearly fell off my treadmill laughing while I read your book. Oh to write a character like Chaiya . . .

I also remember you as the kind soul who helped me our with a few of the issues in CS that have to do with Iraq. Check the acknowledgments page . . . you might find a name you recognize.

Thanks again.

At 6/12/2007 5:10 PM, Blogger Josi said...

Congrats, Michelle, on . . . everything. you've had a couple intense months.

I just got your book in the mail today, pulled it out right before I checked to see what Jeff was talking about today. Great timing! Can't wait to read it!



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