On January 1st, my husband Zach and I joined many of you in introspection about the past year as we plotted the twelve months ahead of us. Here are a few of my thoughts:
Writing About Grief and Loss
2014 was not my favorite year. I am still experiencing the fresh loss of my beloved cat, Sting. I adopted Sting from a shelter when he was the one-pound runt of his litter. At the time, I was a heartbroken 22-year-old, still raw from the end of a long-term relationship. I can’t count the number of tears I shed into the soft coat of that sweet gray cat in the almost 18 years that we had together, but I do know that Sting healed me. His memory and our friendship heals me now. I will write more about Sting later, likely with the help of my friend Jessica Handler’s book Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss. I asked Jessica once, “When should people read and use your book–when they’re in the throes of mourning, or after time has passed?” Jessica advised that it was good to put some distance between you and your loss before entering “the crucible.” So many people struggle with loss around the holidays and at year’s end. If you are trying to find a creative way to deal with loss or transitions, I hope you’ll find Jessica’s book. I believe everyone has an opportunity to transform grief and other life lessons into beauty. Not to mention that Braving the Fire is a damn fine book on the craft of writing from one of the most gifted writers I know.
Since August 2012, I have been a part-time graduate student and full-time publicist and marketing consultant. While I have enjoyed my return to school, straddling both worlds has been challenging. I’ve excelled in a few things, and failed at even more. I haven’t been able to devote as much time to my family, friends and taking care of myself because school and work have been my priorities. Last spring Zach and I decided I should lighten my work commitments in order to finish school in 2014. That meant powering through summer school classes and only accepting a few new projects and clients through the fall. Despite my best efforts, I could not fulfill all my graduation requirements last year. I wrapped up the bulk of my coursework in December, but still have one class and a thesis left. Initially, I was disappointed and embarrassed that I wasn’t going to graduate in December. As I sit here clutching the strong threads of my sanity, I know I made the right decision. I have a wonderful peer who has agreed to be my fellow thesis slayer this year, and with a lot of hard work ahead of us, we’ll both graduate with our master’s degrees in English in May.
I am working to revive and grow my business, Alison Law Communications, in 2015. I started my own business seven years ago because I wanted to serve clients in different industries and tackle a wider variety of projects. Since 2011, I’ve been really focused on helping authors connect to their readers and communities through publicity, marketing and social media. I’ve learned so much from the relationships I’ve developed with traditionally published authors, in-house book publicists and marketing managers, editors, book festival organizers, university and small press publishers, and prospective self-published writers. I can’t wait to put what I’ve learned to work for my clients and friends.
So what does all of this mean for Southern Spines? People have asked me before: “What is Southern Spines–is it a book blog, a website or something else?” First of all, there’s really no difference between a blog and a website, in my opinion. Even huge corporate websites are operating on the WordPress platform, the website tool I recommend to my clients. The term “blog” just seems a little more personal in nature than the word “website.” I do not recommend starting a book blog, website or any other major project the month before you start graduate school. That’s what I did when I began Southern Spines in 2012. My goal at the time was to build an online publication or magazine. I had wonderful contributors, interview subjects and artists who took a chance on me and contributed their time and talents–for little or no pay–in order to produce quality content about southern writers, songwriters and poets. I just didn’t have the extra juice beyond school, work and personal commitments to make that happen. If you really want to see an example of someone who has done this well, check out Deep South Magazine. Editor Erin Bass continues to amaze me with all the quality content she and her team create at her site and across the various Deep South social media platforms.
I have considered abandoning Southern Spines a few different times when I grew frustrated with my inability to produce fresh content. I’m so behind on reading and sharing books; I published my last post here in early October. Inevitably though, I’ll receive an email or message from someone saying that she bought a book that I recommended here and stayed up all night reading it. Really, that’s enough for me to continue contributing here. The other reason is that I love this creative outlet and the community I have built through the site and social media. Yes, I will continue to promote books here from authors who are also my friends and/or clients. That’s a blogger’s prerogative. If I don’t enjoy a book, you won’t read about it here because I don’t post negative reviews. (I’ll save the why for another post.) I also will continue to share personal posts like this one because I am a human being who wants to connect with you from the other side of your computer or smartphone screen. Sometimes the best way to accomplish connection is by writing about the hard stuff that we all face, even if it makes you feel like a narcissistic drama queen or an overexposed failure.
This introspection makes me grateful for the lessons of last year and hopeful for the future. Cheers to a fantastic new year for all of us.