When I started writing my book, SHOW UP DEAD, it was NOT with the intention to raise funds to donate to the JDRF to support their efforts to find a cure for type 1 diabetes. But that’s what I wound up doing anyway. It seemed only fitting for a couple of reasons.
The heroine in SHOW UP DEAD, first “came” to me as a twenty-something, single woman named Zoe. She was a little flighty, a little goofy, lots of fun to write about.
I let the story flow freely for a little while, but then it dried up before it was finished. I didn’t even know who the murderer was. Do you have any idea how unsettling it is to be left hanging by your own imagination? It makes you kind of think those people who believe writers and artists are a little crazy might just have a point. But I digress.
It was only after I was inspired to change Zoe’s name to Peri, that the story started flowing again. Not only did the story flow, but as Peri fleshed out and became more real, I learned she was a very young, single mom, and her kid had type 1 diabetes.
At this point you might just be wondering if maybe it is true, that writers and artists are, indeed, a little nuts. But that’s the way it is with many fiction writers. If you ask us how we get our ideas, we often say the plots just “come” to us, that our characters “speak” to us. It’s as if a writer has little control over the story.
Which is kind of interesting when you think about how I, with seemingly no control, wrote a book about a woman who’s kid is type 1. It’s interesting because diabetes is a disease that’s all about control.
When CRAP happened one day and my daughter was airlifted to the ICU unit at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, control became the key word on everyone’s lips. The hospital staff had to get control of her body and make it do what it was supposed to do naturally. And I had to stay in control and pretend I was a fully functioning adult so that I could understand what was going on around me.
As soon as she was diagnosed with type 1, I asked how it could possibly have happened. The doctors had no idea. Her pancreas had “just quit,” they said. There was nothing I could have done to prevent it from happening. In other words, her acquiring the disease was entirely out of my control.
During the course of her 6-day stay at the hospital, we were blessed with a positive-thinking diabetes educator who was diagnosed with type 1 herself when she was a teen. She shared her motto with my daughter: “Diabetes does not control me. I control my diabetes.” It’s a wonderful, powerful phrase. But it’s also difficult to follow through on. Diabetes is a tough demon to wrestle with sometimes. Tough to control.
I wasn’t thinking of any of that as Peri’s story morphed and became clear to me. Eventually, I realized her hamartia (to use a Greek term my former English professors would be proud of), that is, her tragic flaw, is that she’s a control freak. She is hell bent on controlling every detail in her life, in her son’s life, in her cousin’s life, in her client’s livese . . . controlling it all so that everyone would be taken care of in the right way.
But life just doesn’t work that way. As much as we want things to be perfect, or at least just right, for our friends, kids, spouses, co-workers or the world in general, sometimes our attempts to interfere and control the situation does more harm than good. And Not only that, but if we let ourselves get too carried away, we forget to tend to our own selves, our own needs, and then we become unable to control anything. Which, hopefully Peri learned in this book. I guess we’ll see in the sequel, eh?