As I sit here thinking about the fact that Just the Way You Are is now on sale, it is bittersweet and is making me reflect on some things. I have wanted to be an author since I was 9 years old, but people have not always been supportive of this goal. I began my first book when I was 12. I laugh at the writing quality now because it was written years prior to my taking any courses on the art of writing. I haven’t let anyone read it for that reason. Additionally, throughout the writing process, I was often criticized for the amount of time I spent writing it. Moreover, I told people snippets of the plot and became discouraged by how they laughed in response. I am writing this not to make people feel sorry for me, but to say that if it were not for the eldest of my baby sisters, Courtney Kick, I wouldn’t have written another book. Despite the fact that it was years ago, I can still remember telling her I had a second book idea, but wasn’t sure I should bother writing it. If she had not told me to do what I enjoy and not listen to the negativity around me I would not have written another book or taken the writing courses that made me the writer I am today.
In spite of support from Courtney and our mother, Kimberly Hughes, I experienced another roadblock in regards to writing when I started college. The Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation offered me support services during that time due to my disability. While I was, and will always be, grateful for the assistance from the bureau, the wind was knocked out of my sails a bit when I was told I should major in Communication instead of English because choosing such a major and trying to become an author likely would not be very profitable. I followed the advice of my counselor from the bureau, but also minored in English so I could take some of the writing courses that I really wanted to take. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because majoring in Communication led to me getting a job as a Communication Coordinator at a non-profit organization. While my experience at that non-profit was far from the typical first job experience, it was a blessing in disguise as well for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it showed me just how powerful of an advocacy tool writing can be. Secondly, it, in part, led to my decision to go to graduate school.
Graduate school was an experience in itself. By some miracle, I finished a little over a year ago. I know that some people reading this are going to laugh, but there was a point at which I seriously doubted that I was going to finish successfully. I lost some very important individuals in my life while working towards my Master of Arts Degree. People whom I still very much miss today. My grief, coupled with the difficulty of completing a Master’s thesis, was nearly too much to handle. Had it not been for the support of my mom, Courtney, and big brother, Josh Strong, as well as my boyfriend, Dylan Boot, I would never have finished successfully. Some of you might think I am being dramatic, but in all honesty, writing my thesis was so stressful that for a time after graduate school, I didn’t care if I ever wrote another word.
Life didn’t slow down at all after graduate school. My family as a whole experienced a great deal of changes and lost more very important members. Additionally, I reached a crossroads in my personal life and had to decide whether to live in a different state than my family. Ultimately, even though I knew it would bring on many more difficult changes, I took the leap. I am glad I did because even though I miss my family so very much it has been a fresh start for me. Furthermore, if it were not for Dylan, I would not have written Just the Way You Are. In the midst of my graduate and post graduate stress, Dylan continuously encouraged me to write and eventually publish my book. He genuinely seems to believe that it will make a difference, which makes me very hopeful and happy.
So why I am telling you all of this? It’s simple. People have been congratulating me since I starting the publishing process. I am humbled by all of the encouragement and support I have received throughout this process, but I want you to know that I haven’t done it all by myself and I believe that I could never have accomplished my goal as an author if It weren’t for those I have mentioned in this blog and the support I have received from my extended family and friends. As an ending to this blog, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement and ask that you all please continue to support me in my efforts to make Just the Way You Are a great success.