Lisa Leoni

Romance writer and rad humanoid

The writing community got me through the worst year of my life

This past year was significantly shitty. On a scale of “I stubbed my toe” to “my nosehair is growing at lightning speed,” I’d say it was “I’ve had hiccups 24/7 for three months.”

The reason I’m here today with a smile on my face and joy in my heart is in large part to the writing community, and the friends I’ve made here. Starting with Pitch Wars.

Pull up a chair because I’m going to tell you a word vomitty story. May 2016, my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The same cancer that killed his (and my mom’s) mom. We don’t like that brand of cancer in our house one bit. I was in a rocky place, and I kept writing and writing until I finished my book. My parent’s pet died that month as well. Terrible month for our family.

Mid-July 2016, I learned of Pitch Wars. I had just finished my first complete book and some revisions. A social media manager by day, I took to Twitter to connect with other writers. And holy moly did I meet them. I met people to swap queries with, first chapters, brainstorm, commiserate, cheer each other up, talk about regular life stuff. This was ALL through #pitchwars and the #pitchwarriors Facebook group (and an adult romance group a few of us made). This community was EXACTLY what I needed to cope with caring for my terminally ill uncle (and my parents, who were also caring for him).

Meanwhile, my darling nugget of a dog took a turn for the worse and I realized I needed to put him down. I made the vet appointment for the day before I entered Pitch Wars. The community (and the contest) were the distraction I needed, and gave me focus instead of becoming a sobbing vegetable. The love, support and gifs got me through. Most of these folks didn’t know me, but they helped me more than I can ever explain.

I miss waking up to that face.

I didn’t get picked for Pitch Wars, but I got one hell of a community out of it. Sure, I was bummed, but that was just one bump on a long road. A road that also included my own three-year cancer remission scans (that ended up all clear, woop! My four-year scans are approaching as I write this. Gulp). Through Pitch Wars, Twitter, contests, CP matching events – I made more friends and CPs and built a network.

Labor Day 2016—my uncle died. I was devastated. My parents were devastated. My new writing friends (and CPs <3) were there for me. Strangers were there for me when I tweeted about my pain.

My uncle and I were adorbs a few decades ago.

In late October 2016, I realized an immediate family member was in the midst of a major manic episode due to bipolar disorder, which led to a psychotic break and hospitalization. Even as a writer, I don’t have the words to explain what last fall was like. I didn’t interact as much on Twitter because I was barely hanging on, but lurking gave me such an escape. To see people celebrating finishing books, signing with agents, publishing deals, new pets, getting out of bed in the morning—it helped so much. Seeing life continue as normal while mine felt like it was falling apart? Friends, it was amazing.

Eventually, my loved one got better (so much better!!!!!!!). I returned to the land of writing and Twitter early this year. I did further revisions on my book thanks to my incredible CPs and beta readers. I strengthened friendships and met new people. I made it back to an RWA national conference after a decade away. I made it through losing a job and a home to finding a better place to live (still working on that replacement second job).

I’m stronger and happier thanks to the people I’ve met through writing and the Pitch Wars community.

Part of why I wrote this way-too-long blog post is to encourage others to engage with the writing commmunity (whatever form that means for you). Right now, for many, that’s the Pitch Wars community on social media. Make friends, find CPs, use the amazing new Pitch Wars forum. Put yourself out there and remind yourself this doesn’t have to be a solitary journey. In fact, it shouldn’t be.

I also wanted to write this as a thank you to all the people (whether you realize it or not) who got me through this past year. Massive hugs to you!! Yes, you!

Here’s hoping this next year is better (and my cancer scans come back clear in a couple of weeks, eek!). If I can gather the funds, you’ll find me celebrating my five-year remission (the year they deem you cured) in Scotland.

Me at my favorite place in Scotland – Bostadh Beach.

2 Comments

  1. I’m so glad I met you and I would like to keep you in my pocket from now on and guard you fiercely from any badness. Thank you for being a wonderful friend.

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