Journey to 1994

I just realized it’s been one full year since I committed to writing my first book, y’all! It’s my first first draft-aversary. I would go on to realize (okay, be told by my editor) that my first draft was actually a glorified outline, like the dots a surgeon makes on one’s face before, you know, pumping some unwanted thigh fat into one’s jowls. I’d then make another first draft that more closely resembled the finished product. Live and learn.

Anyways, I want to celebrate my surgeon dots, if only for the fact that they contributed to the proverbial jowls I have today. My second book is coming out in six days (pre-order here), and I’m starting the third today.

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surgeon dots!

Who’d a thunk it?

Well, the short answer is “I did,” but I thought it would be more fun to talk about this journey through a story. I want to tell you about young Deena the wannabe writer, so I’m going to take you back to 1994.

Picture it: central Florida, steeped in grunge, hotly anticipating the arrival of the Spice Girls. All is well in the world.

Then, Nancy Kerrigan is attacked at the Olympics, O.J. Simpson gets arrested, and Kurt Cobain dies. Youths were angsty. It was violent. Gangsta rap was in full effect, and Tupac and Biggie would be murdered just two years later.

It was an intense time, y’all. I didn’t fully understand said intensity for far more years than I care to admit, but it was actually a pretty scary time to grow up. I was rocking my frizzy hair and beginning to delve into the magical world of terra cotta lipstick, blissfully immune to what was actually happening in the world, but I was a happy child. I couldn’t master pogs and my tamagotchi died at the hands of my mother, but none of that mattered.

I had my writing.

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Lisa Frank – brilliant artist

It started as a secret, something I’d just halfheartedly begin in a Lisa Frank notebook and then stash in the suitcase under my bed. I wrote happy stories with rich description, painstakingly describing characters’ wardrobe choices from head to toe and creating a diverse cast of friends that would’ve made a Real World casting agent squeal with glee.

The plots were fun and unwieldy, like a roller coaster that may start in central Florida and then suddenly a character wins a sweepstakes to Hawaii which morphs into a “whodunnit” that must be solved before the volcano erupts and then suddenly there’s a showcase back home so we have to get to that and now we have to beat the competing team or we’ll lose all of our street cred.

You get the picture – they didn’t make much sense. I didn’t have the attention span to stick to a single story line, but I somehow filled up 10-15 notebooks with these stories.

I adored it, y’all. My creativity knew no bounds, and I looked for every single avenue I could to express myself through my writing. I even got some validation what I won some creative writing contest that year in school! It was pretty cool, but I know what the other students were thinking. They were all, “Look, it’s shy little Deena on our school TV channel. Weird. Maybe there’s more to a person than her Pogs skills or lack thereof?”

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Pogs – my nightmare at recess

It was cool to be recognized, but more importantly it was the first moment I thought, “Huh. People might actually like to read what I write.”


I expanded my creativity as a child, moving beyond writing to nail art, making my own jewelry, and even crafting my eyebrows into a look I call “twin caterpillars,” due to their tiny length but sizeable girth. Through the years, though, I always found my way back to writing. And when I graduated at the single worst time to get a paying job in journalism, I always knew I’d find my way back to my passion.

So, yeah, flash forward a couple of decades and here we are! I can’t wait to share my second book with you all in just 6 days. Even though my Pogs game is still lacking, I think I have something of value to offer to this world. Onto book three….


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