Authors: Liesel Schmidt
Odelle Pearl Simms, Dellie for short, is a writer. A good one, in fact. Then out of the blue her own life hits a nasty plot turn she never saw coming. With her recent marriage in ruins, Dellie finds herself alone, with no idea how to move on. So when her friends and family insist she get away from it all, she packs her bags for a month-long stay with her Grandpa. With Grammie gone, he too is facing up to a new life on his own…
Returning to a town that is a haven of childhood memories, surrounded by long-lost family and finding inspiring new friends, this could be a chance for Dellie to discover who she really is. As old secrets are revealed, this trip could be just the thing that could save her and bring her right back to where she was always meant to be.
Coming Home to You
The Secrets of Us
Life Without You
lives in Pensacola, Florida, where she spends her time writing, drawing, and reading everything she can get her hands on. She is currently in the midst of concocting her next stories and spends most of her days as a busy freelance writer, trying to stay on top of deadlines and keeping the words straight! When she has a few free moments, Liesel plunks away at her blog, Finding Words (
), where she posts product reviews and offers her readers a peek at the inner musings of a writer finding creative ways to work through the inherent challenges of living a creative career.
Having harbored a passionate dread of writing assignments when she was in school, Liesel never imagined that she would ever make a living at putting words on paper, but life sometimes has a funny way of working out… When she’s not writing, reading, or drawing, Liesel likes to indulge her guilty pleasure of watching competition television shows like
. Follow her on Twitter at
I can’t offer enough thanks to the family who has always shown me such love and support. Thank you for believing in me, for inspiring me, for teaching me the most important lessons I’ve learned in life. Thank you for the faith you instilled in me and for showing me how to live in that faith. Thank you for being my prayer warriors and my champions, and for always reminding me that fear is worth fighting. You all inspire me so much, and for all of you, I will never have enough words to say thank you.
To Ricki Lindstrom, whose life sweetened those of everyone she knew. You will always be missed.
I was scribbling down the name of a website when I saw it, like an invitation meant especially for me. Details for a contest that one of my favorite magazines was running, a shot at writing something that millions of other people would read, right there on the pages of one of the best-known glossies in publication. A shot at having five minutes of fame and a few other perks: an all-expense-paid trip to New York City to the magazine’s headquarters; audience with a panel of agents and editors who could be career and life-altering in their abilities to get a writer’s name known; and a cash prize of three thousand dollars.
Granted, it was a long shot; and I’d run across numerous contests similar to this one before, all without feeling that I would have any words that fit the bill. But
one? This one seemed as though it had been designed just for me. Especially since it would cross one more thing off my bucket list—a list that I had written months before as a way to get my life back on track when it had come so dangerously off the rails. A list that had, in a way, become part of my saving grace when so much had been lost.
Take a Long Shot.
Annual Writing Contest:
Inspiring Women and the Ways They’ve Changed Us
Readers! Do you have a story to tell? Email us and tell us about a woman or a group of women who have particularly inspired your life in some way. How has knowing them changed you? How have they changed the people around them?
Submission guidelines swam before my eyes, barely penetrating my brain as a thousand thoughts and emotions tumbled through me.
Did I know any of those?
, I thought as I ran a finger over the surface of the pearl-covered pen in my hands, noticing the way the charm bracelet I wore seemed to dance happily as my arm moved.
Yes, I certainly do
More than any other piece I’d written so far, this was the story I was meant to tell; and in telling it, I hoped I would be able to send a message. That there was healing from grief; that there was love after loss; that there was strength and beauty in all of us, even when we felt at our weakest. I, like so many other women, had lived so long under the control of fear and let it overshadow me, let it reduce me to a point where I was nearly lost forever. It had taken the friendship of these women and the stories they had to tell to inspire me to reach for more, to take back the life I had been given and make it count.
Yes, I knew some very inspiring women. And I hoped that, in sharing their stories with others, I was passing on the gift that they had given me, speaking out to a world of readers who might need to hear that they, too, were strong, beautiful, and irreplaceable.
Six months earlier…
What do you write when your whole job is writing for a living, and you finally have time to do some creative writing? My brain seemed to be fried, firing on only three cylinders.
Actually, if I was honest, it was probably more likely only one. One whole cylinder to call my own.
Which is why, three hours after I sat down with my laptop to write, the cursor on the page was still winking at me from a pristinely white document and my Internet browsing history jumped around with manic randomness on sites that varied from discounted deals on Birkenstocks to how to ace a first date.
Not that I was in the market for either of those things right now, but still. Things to file away for future use.
And a total time suck.
If I’d been feeling a little more ambitious, I might have been trawling the Internet for ideas of articles to pitch some of my editors; but as I said, my brain was fried.
Maybe beyond fried.
And my ability to focus was decidedly absent.
Not that I didn’t love my work. I truly did, but there were moments of doubt when being a freelance writer in her early thirties seemed as nebulous a profession as being a quote-unquote consultant, and I felt like people thought my job was a joke and that I should grow up and do something more stable and responsible for a career.
So there I sat, staring silently at the screen as the cursed cursor blinked and winked at me, happily mocking my lack of both creativity and productivity.
I was a useless occupant of space, breathing air I had not earned, contributing nothing to the world around me.
The phone on the desk next to me started to vibrate and ring, scaring the absolute tar out of me. I hit the answer button and caught a glimpse of my sister’s name flashing across the screen.
“Yuh?” I said, my voice sounding out of practice and croaky. It had been a little too long since I’d actually put it to use by conversing with another human being.
“Nice greeting. You might want to work on the delivery,” came the reply, not missing a beat.
“And you might want to not be so judgy,” I shot back.
“I’m your sister. If I don’t tell you straight up how it is, who else will?”
“Mama would,” I said, not even having to waste a moment on thought.
A raspy bark of laughter came over the line. “Damn skippy,” she said.
I could picture her, my older sister, blonde and blue-eyed with high cheekbones and dewy skin that would make even the most-skilled dermatologist scratch his head in wonderment. I had no idea what her secret was, but it was definitely working for her.
“So what are you doing today?” Charlie asked, breaking into my random thought trajectory.
I frowned at my blank computer screen.
“Working,” I lied.
“Naturally,” she said flatly. “You’re always working, Dellie. You need a break,” Charlie insisted. “A
I could feel my eyebrows knitting together. A break? I didn’t have time for a break. I didn’t have
for a break. How the heck was I supposed to have a break?
“A break?” I repeated dumbly.
“Yes, a break. As in, a
“And just how do you propose this so-called
might happen, Charlie? I have too many things to do and no money to fund any kind of vacation. You know that.” I could hear the frustration edging into my voice.
Yes, I wanted a break. I
wanted a break, but there were all those other ugly bits of reality to deal with. There were deadlines to meet, emails to send, bills to pay.
“Mike and I…” she started, but I interrupted.
Mike, by the way?” I asked, hoping she might drop the issue.
“Fine,” she replied, sounding slightly puzzled and caught off guard. “Mike is just fine. But seriously, Dellie, we’re both worried about you. And I know that Mom and Dad are, too. After everything that happened last year—”
I felt tears start to sting my eyes. “Yeah, everything that happened last year,” I said quietly.
“Last year was a hell of a year, Dellie. And you need some time. You never got to take any time, and we worry about you.”
“I know,” I whispered, unsure that she could actually hear me on the other end.
“We worry about you a lot,” she said again, this time with more emphasis.
I worried, too. About more things than I could count.
I worried about them worrying about me.
I worried about work and whether I would have enough to cover the bills.
I even worried when I
When was I ever going to get a real break from worrying?
Maybe when you stop breathing
, I heard a little voice in my head taunt.
“I know you do,” I repeated, wishing I could just flip a switch and change things. “I don’t mean to make any of you worry.”
“We only worry because we love you. You know that, right?”
I nodded. “Yes,” I said, knowing that the nodding wouldn’t exactly be effective over the phone. “And I love you, too.” I took a deep breath.
Time to talk about something else.
“So what’s new at the Jackson house today?” I asked, hoping she would take the bait this time.
“Not much. I have to go to the hardware store later to look at some paint samples for the dining room, but right now I’m doing laundry,” she said. “Lots and lots of laundry. The amount of laundry that little people generate boggles the mind. I literally run at least one load every day!” She laughed, and I could hear the breathlessness creep in, a sign that she was pushing it a bit too hard. “When it was just Mike and me, laundry happened every few days. But now?