Monday, January 8, 2018

The Eagle Has (Almost) Landed

Apollo 11 Moon Landing
I was ten years old when astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made their historical Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. It happened on a Sunday, between morning and evening church services, which is fortunate because had it been a few hours earlier or later, I'd have missed it. Moon landing or not, nobody in our house ever got to skip church unless they were sick. And by sick you either had to have a fever over 100 degrees or throw up, both rather hard to fake. 

I know this because I tried many times to fool my parents so I could stay home to watch Wonderful World of Disney. One time I went so far as to eat pickles and ice cream, then let my sister spin me around in a plastic sledding saucer because The Wizard of Oz was going to be on. It didn't work, other than to make me queasy for the next couple hours which, of course, I spent at church. As if the upset stomach wasn't  torture enough, I still had to listen to my peers going on and on about the amazing movie at school the next day.

Not only were the astronauts kind enough to land on the moon at three in the afternoon, but they waited to take their moon walk until after evening services let out. I raced across the street and gathered around our black-and-white set with my parents and six siblings. I knew this was a big deal. Not just because we'd read about it in our Weekly Reader or because I was allowed to stay up past my nine o'clock bedtime. It was a big deal because my parents usually spent Sunday evenings lingering over coffee and pastries with one or two of the deacons and their wives, but on this night they came straight home after the last Amen.

My dad wasn't too keen on the whole space exploration thing. He believed that if the good Lord wanted us to walk on the moon he would've put us there in the first place. I don't recall much about what I saw on TV that night other than the squeals and shushing between my siblings as the big event unfolded. What I remember most is laying in bed afterward, worrying about those two men up there so far away. How the heck they were supposed to make it all the way back home? What if a whale swallowed their tiny pod when it crashed into the sea, just like the one that swallowed Jonah in the Bible, perhaps punishment for going against the laws of God?

Of course they did land safely and the rest is history, but I remain fascinated by the idea of we humans having the ambition to send a spaceship to the moon. Nearly fifty years later I realize every grand idea starts with a small spark of imagination. For some, it's the idea of planting a flag on the moon. For others, it's merely planting one word in front of the other, day after day after livelong day. Y'all are my rocket fuel. And when that book finally hits the shelf? That's my eagle landing. That's my flag. One small step for a woman. One giant leap of faith.

What about you? Where were you when Apollo 11 landed?* What small steps are you taking to launch YOUR dreams? 

*For those of you born too late, ask your parents. ;) 


Only 106 more days until THIS I KNOW launches. Now available for Pre-order Online or at your favorite indie bookstore.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Writing Season

Eldonna Edwards
A little before midnight on the very last day of 2017, I emailed the revised manuscript for my next book to the publisher. As the document whooshed its way toward New York, I felt a little thrilled and a little lost. Having been totally immersed in editing this story for the last two months, the realization that I was finally done was both liberating and terrifying. My first thought was, it good enough? That thought was immediately followed by, now what?

People often ask writers where they get their ideas. The obvious answer is that we get them from life, from our experiences, and from the what-ifs that hit us in the shower or the grocery store or while driving. (All places, by the way, where you are least able to write them down.) But beyond the spark of ideas there needs to be an inner voice nudging us to tell a story. Not just the story we want to write, the one we must write.

The idea for my debut novel was gifted on a platter, nay, a silver-plated communion plate. As the daughter of a rural evangelical minister, I teethed on the back of church pews. I  think I always knew I'd someday write this book. 

From the Author Notes in THIS I KNOW:  

Every story begins with "What if...?" and here's where truth and fiction part ways. What if my dad had been a bit of a tyrant rather than the loving, compassionate, imperfect man that he was? What if instead of a rebellious teen with a wild imagination, one of his children was born with something that challenged his deeply-held convictions? 

And from there, a story about a clairvoyant preacher's daughter who comes of age in the 1960's Midwest took hold.

My next book, the one I just sent off to the publisher, was borne of a lifelong fascination with the cultural revolution. Having grown up just a beat behind the peaceniks and flower children, I missed out on Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury and the idealist generation of hippies who turned on, tuned in and dropped out. I used to fantasize about living in a commune, learning from enlightened masters, and living off the land. In writing my next book, I turned those imaginings into the story of a young boy who grqapples with invisible loyalties as he comes of age among a ragtag group of offbeat characters who live at the Saffron Freedom Community in Northern California. There's a guru, a midwife, a Vietnam deserter, a surfer, a yoga enthusiast, a tarot card reader and a runaway teen, among others. All that's missing is Ken Kesey's bus.

Now that the first book is about to launch and the next one is written, I've discovered that the ecstasy of accomplishment is sometimes encased in a thin shell of panic. Unlike the first two novels, book number three hasn't burst forth from my consciousness, screaming for attention. I have a few ideas germinating but they're just tiny seeds. I guess you could say it's the winter of my creative cycle. But the thing about seasons is that they change, and I have to trust that those riotous roots are conjuring up a hell of a good story. In the meantime, I'm pretty excited about the one that's about ready to be born. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Womb for Two

Quote about twins and birth and pregnancy

Growing up in my tiny hometown of New Era, Michigan, my two very best friends were identical twin girls. Wendy and Lili looked almost exactly alike but their personalities were quite distinct. I remember I felt really lucky having not one, but two bffs. I figured if one of them ever tired of climbing trees with me the other would always be available for jump rope or hopscotch or playing on the monkey bars. 

This assumption made sense in principle but what usually happened was that the twins would both tire of me at the same time, preferring each other's company over mine. As much as I wanted to believe I was their very best friend, that honor was reserved for each other.

Although I've never given birth to twins, in my debut novel, THIS I KNOW, I was able to draw on my personal experience when writing about Grace and her twin, Isaac. Unlike my childhood friends, the characters aren't identical twins but they share a bond that begins in the womb. I tried to imagine what it might be like for these tiny humans in those final moments before birth.  

From the Prologue of THIS I KNOW:

I’m spooning my Other, my belly to his back. I love the way his body feels against mine. Although we’ve changed positions many times, we always come back to this. Over the last few months our warm-water pool has slowly transformed into a room with soft walls shaped like us. Now we’re squeezed so snugly together I sometimes forget where I leave off and he begins. From the time we joined each other in the darkness we’ve felt as one, exchanging thoughts merely by thinking them. If a question forms in my mind, he answers. We know each other as well as we know ourselves...

Having grown up with six siblings, I tend to enjoy stories about families, especially those set in small towns where everyone knows everyone else. I created the fictional setting of Cherry Hill, Michigan to reflect the small lakeside towns I remember from my childhood. In some way, I think we all ache for that sense of belonging, the collective nourishment of community--perhaps stemming from that first primordial connection to our mothers. In my case, between my dad's church and my immediate family, we had a built-in village that grew every time my parents produced another child. No twins, but we share a  loving bond that continues well into our adult lives.

Writing a book is not all that much different than pregnancy, albeit it a rather long one. It takes me about nine months between the spark of an idea and the full swell of a story--what I call the conjuring phase. After that there's lots of revising and editing (active labor!) and then, good lord willin' and the creek don't rise, the publisher loves it and a book is born. My book baby will make its entry into the world on April 24, 2018. I can hardly wait to hold her in my hands. 

"In THIS I KNOW, Eldonna Edwards has crafted a compelling allegorical tale about the fear of otherness in this coming-of-age tale set in the late 1960's and early 1970's in Midwestern America. Readers of all ages will find an unlikely hero in 11-year-old Grace Marie Carter, who was born with a type of clairvoyance she calls the "Knowing" - as she bravely forges her own path in a world that is constantly trying to silence her voice." --Amy Impellizzeri, award-winning author of THE TRUTH ABOUT THEA

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Embracing the Monkey

Several years ago while studying massage therapy, I decided to commit to a meditation practice. I guess you could say I dabbled in meditation, because my many attempts to tame what the instructor referred to as "Monkey Mind" were a complete failure. No matter how long I sat or how many times I "noticed my thoughts" or pretended the thought was just a leaf passing by in a stream, I'd end up wondering where that leaf was going and I'd follow it. I'd follow it over rapids and to the bank and then who or what might be on the bank and speaking of the bank, did I deposit my last check? Was I overdrawn? I'd open one eye to sneak a peek at the clock. Is the bank still open?

This, my friends, is what it's like to live with an untamed mind that simultaneously moves in multiple directions; a Dr. Seuss many-geared thingamabob with thisorthats and flufferbloots beeping and blooping around this pinball machine in my head. My teachers used to call people like me scatterbrained but my thoughts are anything but scattered. They're organized into unique slots on many levels, like a hi-rise condo with compartments for everything from household chores to driving to managing my massage business to storing ideas for the next blog post or novel. Where most people visit one resident of the condo at a time, it's like I have multiple versions of myself shaking hands with everyone concurrently. 

Meditation was not a complete failure because it gifted me with a fresh perspective on self-realization. Monkey Mind isn't a fault, it's an asset. (Just ask any successful multi-tasking waitress.) What I learned from observing my crazy thought process was to respect it rather than shame it. Thinking is a form of meditation. Walking and dancing are moving meditations. And for me, writing is a creative meditation where the zen-like flow of words enables me to become one with my most inspired self, allowing my thoughts to branch off in several directions like those "choose your own adventure" books my kids used to read.

Today, my young protagonist in THIS I KNOW would likely be diagnosed with ADHD. Grace Carter is a daydreamer with lots of questions not only about how the world works, but why it exists and her purpose in it. People close to Grace try to tame her wild mind. Curiosity often results in her getting into trouble. But her unrelenting inquisitiveness also results in discovering answers to some of her questions. And writing this book was a wonderful opportunity to follow that leaf with Grace to its many possible destinations.

My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24, 2018. Follow me on Good Reads to be updated about future giveaways and blog posts. You can also pre-order my book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before Donating a Kidney

Photo Credit: Perfect Strangers
Seven years ago I walked down a hospital corridor thinking I was about to change someone's life. I had no idea then just how much it would change my own. By the time I was waking up back in my room, my former left kidney was already being transplanted into a stranger's body. I assumed the surgery would be  the end of my donation journey. Turns out it was only the beginning.

Since that day, I've written a memoir, was featured in a documentary, have traveled the US speaking about living donation, and became a moderator of Facebook support groups for over 20,000 kidney donors, recipients and their families. The number one question I'm asked is why? which I attempted to answer in this post and in my book, LOST IN TRANSPLANTATION. The second most common question I get asked is, "What did you wish you'd known before donating?" The answer is long, so I made it into a Top Ten list.

1. No matter how many times you try to explain, people won't understand why you'd give a kidney to someone you don't know. Or even someone you DO.

When I try to explain why I donated a kidney I get some crazy looks. My best answer is simply because I became aware of a need and knew I had the good health and the means to help fill that need. Yes, I understood the risks. But after being on the receiving end of a benevolent ripple of goodness many times myself, I wanted to throw in my own pebble.

2. Be prepared for things that might go wrong, physically and emotionally.

Stuff happens. In my case, my friend who planned to drive me to the hospital had car trouble. Then my own car overheated on the way to the surgery center, so my ex-husband ended up driving me  all the way to San Francisco! Be sure to have a back-up,and a back-up to the back up. 

Every surgery entails risks, and it's paramount that you're fully informed of possible complications.  Beyond the physical, you need to consider how you'll feel if your recipient's body rejects your kidney, or worse, he or she dies. Once that organ is out of your body, it's no longer yours. Bless it, bless your recipient and their family, and bless yourself. You did a good thing and no matter the outcome, most certainly inspired others along the way.

3. People will want to help. Let them.

I think most donors are the type of people who are better at helping than accepting help. This is not the time to be a superhero. I wish I'd done a better job of asking friends to make meals or give me rides. I remain very grateful to those who popped in to bring me treats, wash my hair, or just check in.

4. The caffeine headache is worse than the incision pain.

A note to coffee drinkers; I ended up with a whopper of a headache because they wouldn't let me have my drug of choice: caffeine. You also might suffer from gas pain in your shoulders due to the surgeon inflating your abdomen to work around your internal organs. Walking helps to, erm, expel the errant gas bubbles. (Confession: I had someone sneak me a latte on Day Three and shazam! The headache disappeared.)

5. Yoga pants, Wet Wipes and Milk of Magnesia will be your new best friends.

Comfy clothes are best post-surgery, including a button-up shirt so you don't have to lift your arms. Baby wipes are a godsend for a quick "bath" until you can take a proper shower. Also, you won't be able to poop for like three days. God bless whoever invented Milk of Mag. You saved me.

6. You Must Give yourself time to heal.

I went back to work at our busy spa three weeks after surgery. I probably should have waited another week at least. You'll tire easily. You might be weepy. Be gentle with yourself. It can take six months to the affects of anesthesia to fully leave your body. Most transplant centers will follow you for a year after donation but you'll be required to monitor your own health after that. (I continue to advocate for lifetime Medicare benefits for living donors, something that we can all probably agree on.) 

Bonus: I lost 30 pounds after donating; they just fell off. I call that instant karma! :)

7. You will meet some incredible people.

I had no idea my personal community would grow to include thousands--yes thousands--of new friends and acquaintances who were eager to celebrate my story and share their own. I've heard from readers as far away as Africa, and Skyped into Q&A sessions with kidney groups on the opposite coast. I've met doctors, nurses, dialysis techs, transplant coordinators, recipients, donors, and people who are still waiting for a transplant that have made me swell with admiration for their determination and courage. My world has expanded one-hundred fold with gratitude for every single person I've "met" as a result of donating. You will go forward from your donation with a greater sense of purpose and deeper meaning in your life. 

8. You will wish you could grow another kidney to give away.

I figured I'd be "one and done" as they say, but once I healed up all I could think about were the 120,000 people still on that waiting list. I became a walking, talking billboard for living donation, speaking to anyone who'd stand still long enough to hear (or read) my story. In the time it took me to finish this post, fifteen people have died in the US alone because they didn't receive a life-saving organ in time. Think about that.

9. You will reject the word "hero."

Because you've seen the real heroes, the people who get up every single day to spend another 4-6 hours on dialysis, and their exhausted families and caretakers. Donating a kidney is a big deal, yes, but you will likely go on and live a normal life. Kidney disease is forever. Even those fortunate enough to receive a transplant will take a ton of daily medications and live with the ongoing fear of organ rejection or other complications.

10. Life with one kidney is pretty similar to life with two kidneys, but it will never be the same. 

And for that, you will be forever grateful

To celebrate the seventh anniversary of my kidney's adventure in a new body, I'm giving away three copies of my memoir on Goodreads. Good luck to everyone! 

Beautifully rendered story of triumphant generosity
"Part memoir, part philosophy, part how-to guide for the altruistic organ donor -- it's an unconventional read by an unconventional woman. Ellie's story is compelling and heartfelt -- and her quirky humor, pink-tipped pigtails and transparent love light up every page. I read it in two sittings and emerged feeling cleansed, inspired and grateful. Ellie describes herself as agnostic, but I couldn't help hearing the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: This is my body, given for you...." ~~Kathleen Adams, Author & Founder/Director of Center for Journal Therapy 

Beautifully written...hugely compelling page-turner. Edwards skillfully weaves a tale proving that fact is often stranger than fiction. Again and again Edwards' skill as a writer demonstrates what a gifted wordsmith can do with a nearly-unbelievable series of real life events. She is imminently vulnerable and refreshingly relatable, which makes her story that much more readable--and the be the change that Edwards was after, may very well be what happens to the reader after finishing her book." Tom Franciskovich, Publisher; SLOLIFE Magazine

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Magical Thinking

intuition, clairvoyance, psychic
Have you ever thought about someone and within minutes you hear from them and you're immediately convinced  your thoughts triggered the contact? Or maybe you have a ritual that's often worked for you, and if you skip it, you believe the outcome will surely be jinxed. According to an article in Scientific American, magical thinking is the belief that "an object, action or circumstance not logically related to a course of events can influence its outcome." Basically, they're talking about superstition, things like kissing the dice, knocking on wood and avoiding black cats. Or believing you somehow caused something to happen (or not happen) just by thinking about it.

Here's mine. (Don't laugh.) I'm not a religious person, but every time I fly I say these words in my head as we lift off the runway: Angels, angels all around, easy up and gently down. I picture all my departed loved ones--parents and grandparents, my sister Anita, my beloved Aunt Ruth--surrounding the plane and protecting everyone in it. Silly, right? But I do it. Every. Single. Time. Okay go ahead and laugh. But I know some of you are going to steal it, and that's okay too.

Grace, my  protagonist in THIS I KNOW is clairvoyant, something she calls the Knowing. She senses things that are about to happen and can sometimes read the past. Grace describes her psychic abilities like this:

I know things, such as when the telephone’s going to ring. Sometimes I hear and see things, too. Like the red bulge inside the back of Hope’s head that no one else sees or the lilies under the snow that I can smell long before they bloom. And that I really do hear my brother’s voice. We talk to each other all the time.

Young Grace doesn't entirely understand her gift and after angrily wishing harm upon someone, feels responsible for anything bad that might happen to that person. It isn't until she matures and her gift deepens that she comes to understand that knowing things and making them happen are  not the same. One is intuition, the other is merely superstition. One belief is powerful, the other potentially robs us of our power. 

What about you? Do you believe in divine (or mortal) synchronicity? Do you have any odd or unique rituals that bring you comfort or assurance? 


My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24, 2018. Follow me on Good Reads to be updated about future giveaways and blog posts. You can also pre-order my book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.

"A heartfelt and beautifully crafted debut about an eleven-year-old girl struggling to find her place in the world. THIS I KNOW shines, thanks to narrator Grace, one of the most authentic child characters I've come across in a long time. Don't miss this one." ~~Lesley Kagen, New York Times bestselling author of THE MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Southern Comfort

I've always felt a little sorry for friends who grew up as an only child. Raised in a large family, I was rarely more than an arm's length from my nearest sibling. I also enjoyed a built-in gaggle of playmates through my dad's church. But what I didn't have, and envied in others, were close aunts and uncles. My mother had one sister who we saw on rare occasions. My dad's family lived in Missouri.

I remember the first time I met my Aunt Ruth, who came to visit when my mom was pregnant with my brother. She smiled a lot and spoke real slow in her honey-like southern accent. When she called me sweet pea, I thought I'd melt on the spot. Aunt Ruth was married to my Uncle Cecil,  a petite, white-haired man who played the harmonica and guitar at the same time. They were devoutly religious yet loving and playful. When Aunt Ruth hugged you, it was like her heart soaked up all your troubles and replaced them with giggles. My Midwestern people are known for being kind. But there's a deep-down warmth to Southern women that feels rooted in utter affection.

I'll admit to channeling a bit of my Aunt Ruth when I drew my protagonist's beloved Aunt Pearl. Young Grace's family is in turmoil when Rev. Carter's sister travels from Mississippi to lend a hand. From the moment Aunt Pearl steps off the bus in her flowered slippers, Grace finally feels as though she has a confidant, an adult who is on her side for once.

Aunt Pearl is round like Daddy but not much taller than me. She rocks back and forth when she walks, which makes her slippers lean to the outside. She takes the black rubbered stairs one at a time, saying, “Lordy, Lordy,” as if it’ll take a miracle to get to the bottom step. As soon as she hits the sidewalk she looks at me and grins, her front gold tooth sparkling like a little star. 

“Come here, shoog,” she says, and opens her arms. 

What about you? Did you have a favorite aunt or uncle, a mentor who stood up for you and who honored your individuality? Drop your answer in the comments or just to say hi. :)


My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24, 2018. Follow me on Good Reads to be updated about future giveaways and blog posts. You can also pre-order my book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.

"A heartfelt and beautifully crafted debut about an eleven-year-old girl struggling to find her place in the world. THIS I KNOW shines, thanks to narrator Grace, one of the most authentic child characters I've come across in a long time. Don't miss this one."  Lesley Kagen, New York Times bestselling author of THE MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY.