Friday, April 27, 2012

Writing From Personal Experience by Carol Moncado

Writing From Personal Experience
by Carol Moncado

This year has been a doozy for me. Purely random stuff all happening in the course of three months. But I promise I won't post the really scary pictures.

First, a diagnosis of skin cancer. The least bad kind of cancer ever. But still.

And on my nose.

So, off to a special kind of dermatologist for a Mohs procedure to remove the cancer. It worked. He did a great job. But he couldn't close the hole in the office. So I spent the next five days with a crater in my nose. A plastic surgeon knocked me out and fixed it.

That's when I woke up with numb eyelids.

And thirty stitches in my nose.
My eyelids were numb.
I'd never had numb eyelids before.
The nurse said something and I answered but didn't know if I actually made any sense. She answered back so it must have. I thought it had something to do with
being in pain.
All's well. Healing. Scar is barely noticeable.

And then, the first week in April, the Bell's Palsy hits. The right half of my face? Paralyzed. I wore a bright pink eye patch to church. On Easter Sunday.

She was wearing an eye patch.
At church.
On Easter.
A pink eye patch.
It might have been what drew my attention to her, but it wasn't what kept it. She stood there, singing along with the praise and worship band, her hands raised. Worshiping her Maker with abandon. But only half of her face worked. The whole thing lit up but only half of it moved. The half with the eye patch seemed to be paralyzed, but it didn't bother her.
It's only in the last couple of days that I've been able to close my right eye independently from my left. I wore the eye patches for a couple weeks [including while teaching at the local community college]. I still have to wear the sleep mask at night. But my smile is mostly back. That's always good.

So last week, I went in for a follow-up with the guy who did the Mohs. I was editing while I waited. [How? I print out a hard copy to work on.] He asked what I was doing. Told him I was editing a manuscript where the heroine had skin cancer. On her nose. He thought it was great and wants a copy when it comes out [it's gonna. Eventually ;)]. Then he decided to laser the scar on my nose. So it'll be 20% less noticeable. Once it heals.

It wasn't until after he started that I remembered my plans for the weekend. Kathleen Y'Barbo Turner at our local ACFW group and two birthday parties. /sigh/ Pictures. I probably scared the poor gals who were at our meeting for the first time... My doctor was happy it can still make it into the manuscript though.

It's healed quickly, and I think I'm finally ready to get fully back into my responsibilities everywhere, but yesterday, when I stopped by my favorite Panera to pick up a gift card, I learned something that absolutely broke my heart.

A couple months ago, Travis [one of the shift managers] informed me that I needed to name a character after him. And so Travis-with-the-faux-hawk was born. He's the hero in one of my latest manuscripts. He has a teenage daughter whose mother abandoned her with him days after birth. And now Mom is back.
I flopped into the recliner and ran my hands over my face until my fingers furrowed rows in my faux-hawk. The one that made the kids think I was way cooler than I really was.

But Travis won't ever see his name in print. Because Saturday night, he was in a car accident. And Sunday morning, at age 22, he left this life - leaving behind the love of his life and two small children.
I'm deeply saddened by news of Travis' passing. To some that may not make sense. He was 'just' a shift manager at the Panera I frequent. But to me, he was the nice guy who helped make my favorite foods, let me get my drink cup early and pay for it later so I could get a snack at a discount, who laughed with me over a complete God-incident and always had a ready smile for everyone. One of the other manuscripts I planned to work on this year is about a widow. I didn't have details about her yet, but now I know. A widow with young children a few years after a senseless tragedy.
Twenty-two is too young to be a widow.
Bethany Sheer knew this with absolute certainty.
And even though twenty-two had passed her three years earlier – along with her husband, the love of her life and the father of her two children – she remembered all too clearly what the pain tearing through the heart of the young woman on the news felt like.
Someday, I hope to be able to share Travis-with-the-faux-hawk with his family. To let them know that he touched my life, even if I didn't know him well.

What about you? What personal experiences have you taken and used in your writing?

Oh and that pic below? That's me without scars on my nose and my entire face working properly ;).

When she's not writing about her imaginary friends,Carol Moncado is hanging out with her husband and four kids in the big yard of her southwest Missouri home, teaching American Government at a community college, reading, or watching NCIS. She's a member of ACFW and RWA, on the steering committee for Pentalk Community, and the editor-in-chief of the Pentalk Community Blog. She is a founding member and current facilitator for the MozArks ACFW group. Her first publishing credit is an essay released in the Christmas anthology Celebrating Christmas with Memories, Poetry and Good Food (December 2011, Hidden Brook Press). She took first place in the 2011 SVRWA GOTCHA! Contest, finaled in the 2012 NTRWA Great Expectations Contest and is a 2012 Genesis Semi-finalist. To follow the continuing saga that is her life
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