Monday, June 23, 2014

Spotlighting Justine Cerrigone Szot - Share Her Journey

Blog post
I want to thank Caitlyn for having me as her guest today.
When she asked me to be on her blog I felt that I needed to explain what has transpired and how certain life events have affected my writing career.

After six years of writing and three years of publishing my writing has taken a drastic shift. Between 2011 and 2014 I'd released fifteen, erotica romance novellas.

Being a writer often entails us having to battle two worlds. The world we create in our head, and the real one that is in constant motion around us. As with any craft, whether you're an artist, musician, or a writer, what happens in our personal world greatly affects the material we produce and at what quality and rate we can produce it. 

When my husband, Mike was diagnosed with AML Leukemia back in March of 2012 my writing went through several changes. Since his death in August of 2013 it is still going through yet another transition, just as my life is without my husband.

Some of these alterations have been difficult to deal with. Having real life confront my writing with various challenges became a great source of panic, fear and despair.

As writers we balance two worlds. With fiction we juggle plots, themes and multiple personalities. I have created many versatile characters, each with their own, individual voice. They've had the power to distract me, interrupt social situations, and keep me bound and chained to my computer. They've also had the ability to cause insomnia, as well as much confusion. They've made me happy, sad, and frustrated. My relentless determination has kept me driven to provide a resolution for each and every one of them.

When my husband, Mike became ill, my fiction world was interrupted, draped with a black curtain I couldn't see through. My characters and their lives were at a standstill, drifting on a raft, further and further away from the shore of my story telling.

Suddenly my life, along with these catastrophic events forced me to look at my own reality, and attempt to create or manipulate a solution, but this was a resolution I couldn't control or predict.
My thoughts and my voice, along with the events in my life began to scream with an ear-piercing reality, overriding all of the voices of my characters and the fictitious world that I'd created. My fiction world became silenced. Real life was taunting me as my uncertain future loomed. The urge to express my feelings, my heart aches and pain became an annoying stalker I wasn't sure I could or should give my attention to.

As certain circumstances surrounding my husband's illness and my future became alarmingly apparent, my writing started drifting down another path.

I've only ever dabbled in poetry because I had to, an assignment for school that I would stumble through. As my husband's health deteriorated and he slipped away I found myself writing poetry, pieces that reflected the dim days of my widowhood and how inept people were at dealing with death. Through my writing I found myself asking why when a crisis struck people couldn't unite? I experienced great division following Mike's death.

I began to blog about my life changing events. One of my best posts was titled "Death does not warrant Drama."  Drama, where death is concerned, is most often misplaced grief. This type of behavior leads to family wars. Battles that consist of fighting over money, and objects, as well as the arrangements of the deceased.  It's emotionally devastating for the grief stricken.
Through being a cancer care giver for my husband, and observing how others had chosen to handle his death led to the idea for my memoir series.

 My journey into widowhood has been a multifaceted experience, one dominated by pain, loneliness, and the often inappropriate reactions and opinions of others while adjusting to my new status.
By this time my fiction production had stopped cold, dying a slow death, just as my husband, Mike had. I'd even gone as far as confessing to my dear friend, and fellow author, Loc Glin that it might all be 'over.'  My life as a writer had been taken away from me, corroded by my husband’s Leukemia. I'd sent Loc an email, telling her that I'd reached the end of the line, no longer able to create, listen and converse with my characters. My fictitious planet had spun out of control, and was now unreachable. 
Loc didn't just email, she called me promptly right after the email had gone through.

"Listen to the voices that are there...don't ignore them. They have something to say."
Her guidance, that one statement was the birth of my journey into the nonfiction world. I grabbed onto my angst, making peace with my devastating circumstances.

"You have so much to share," she'd insisted. "Once a writer, always a writer. I hate to tell you this, Justine, but it'll never be over." Her laughter over the line warmed me, renewing my spirit. Loc had crawled inside my head, embracing the plethora of emotions that came with losing a loved one. "Just sit down and see what happens. Something is bound to come."

Real life came at me like an avalanche I couldn't stop. It flowed. My thoughts and ideas were snowballing.  They required no plot, and no outline. God had already made the outline. I just needed to get the words out and down as I rode on the coattails of my emotions.

All it takes is the power of one person, and one action to change a course. My pain and loss became my production, fueling a memoir series that now consists of three books.

 I give credit to Loc today for her unyielding friendship, love and support. My first release in the series- titled- "Leukemia, My Husband, and Me: A Turbulent Triangle" is a title she created. I give her full credit in giving me free rein and a much needed prompt to get me back at my desk and get busy. My second book in the series is titled- "What Lies Behind." The second book goes into how people handle death and the many behaviors the grief stricken are forced to deal with. My third, and last book in the series, titled, "Widow's Walk addresses the many changes and adjustments of becoming a widow. 

Widow’s Walk will be released on July 8th through JK Publications.
Please visit my website below that consists of my nonfiction works. This website is dedicated to my husband, Mike and reflects our battle with his AML leukemia.

Partial proceeds are being donated to The Miller Keystone Blood Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Without the vital dedication of both blood and platelet donors Mike would've never been sustained for as long as he was.

In closing I'd like to add that my fiction writing is making a slow comeback. I had a release through Evernight Publications, titled- "All In" last winter.

Through the devastation of my husband's illness and death I've learned, as Loc stated, "Once a writer, always a writer.”

As writers we can write about many things. It may not always be a fictitious story. It could be an article, a poem or just a blog post. No matter what type of piece it is, it is still writing. I may not be spinning an erotica romance at the moment, but I am still writing. That thought alone gives me great comfort. I know my husband; Mike would want me to continue my writing career.  Mike was there for me when my career began, always encouraging me to press on despite my rejections early on. 
I'm sure I'll give my fiction world another look in the future. As a writer I'll know when the time is right. I'm confident that those voices will ring once again, coloring my imagination with a vibrancy I can't ignore.

Thank you for having me today, Caitlyn. It's been a pleasure.

JC Szot- fiction works

JC Cerrigone/ Nonfiction works


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