"Cathy, you can do everything you want to do in life, but just not at the same time"
- Wisdom from my mother, Nancy
Act One: Dreams in the Making
I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved words and expressing them as a kid in classroom writing assignments, on the stage in musicals and as a Mom in preschool newsletters. You would have thought I would follow the journalism or Kid Lit track in college, but when the time came to decide what my post high school life would look like, my father had a different take. He didn't feel a four year college was necessary for me, that the best thing I could become was an executive secretary. So I lived at home and settled into a 2 year business administration track at Mass Bay. I did well but still was not sure what the long-term picture looked like.
Scott and I - 1981
Act Two: Wife, Mom Entrepreneur
I married young at 22 and soon began having a family. This changed everything. It was important to me to be a stay at home mother, and so I did. I was creative in choosing the part time jobs I could do at home when the kids were young. I was a bit of an entrepreneur back in the 90's having several business out of my home: cake decorator, seamstress and licensed day care provider. I loved every second of those years. Though the desire to write was always percolating in the back of my mind, I did not have the energy or time to pursue it back then. Life took precedence.
L-R: Scott, Jared, Me and Mark
Act 3: Building My Skill Set
As the kids headed off to school, I found a bit more freedom to work outside the home. I dabbled in many things acquiring helpful new skills, having a lot of fun and interesting experiences.
-Working in the bridal department of Fabric Place helping DIY'ers pick out lace, satin and beading for their gowns.
-As a Bakery on the Common opening manager, working a 4 am-1pm shift so I could be home when school got out. EXHAUSTING!
-As a fashion labeling designer at a major retailer, with the perk of travel to Hong Kong and London
-As a Director of Religious Ed getting involved in over 30 service projects with teens
-As a Receptionist at a spa- Oooo, how I loved the etherial music, aromatherapy and quiet environment.
"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Act 4: Back to the words, at last.
Then finally, a few years ago, a job opened up in the editorial department of Charlesbridge Publishing. They needed an admin to support five editors. I savored every minute being immersed at last, in words and all things picture book. Working with other people's books, my hunger to work on my own books grew. I felt like the cobbler's son who was immersed in making other people's shoes and longed for a pair of his own.
Act 5: Life intervenes- A change of hats
When my mother grew ill and was heading to Hospice care, I knew I needed reluctantly to leave Charlesbridge and care for her. So for the next couple years, I managed her medical care from many states away with the help of my siblings. Picture book ideas were set aside and instead, my writing filled many journals where I could process the challenges and end each day with three good things scribbled down. My writing became my road to sanity.
My beautiful mother, Nancy and I
Act: 6 Reclaiming Cathy
When my mom passed last year, saying goodbye and settling her estate was job one. My creativity was sapped and drowned out with greif. I slowly began to attend webinars when the pandemic hit and started rediscovering who Cathy was again, word by precious word. With the unending help of my beautiful daughter and illustrator, Erica Leigh, I had the courage to take on self publishing my first picture book, "Forever Home." Holding that first copy in my hands and sharing it with her was amazing. I started to believe that I was really a writer.
Me and my talented illustrator and daughter, Erica Leigh
Act 7: Getting Out There
Yesterday, a part of a dream that I only imagined, happened. Erica Leigh and I were invited to be guests on the wonderful new podcast, ACT 2, YOUR ON! If you had told me back in the 90's that I would one day publish a picture book, my daughter Erica Leigh would illustrate it and her baby sitter across the street when she was young would be interviewing us... I would have said you were crazy! The team at A2YO was so professional and made us feel so comfortable. During the taping Erica and I got to share some behind the scenes stories of our journey with "Forever Home." The challenges, the joys and everything in between. For the first time in my life, I really felt like I was an author. The road I took to get there may have been very winding with many hills to climb, but it all fell in place. I cannot recall being so happy, and as fully myself as I was yesterday. It was a welcome and desperately needed feeling.
The talented A2YO team: Kate M. Leavey, Rhonda Garvin Conaway and Linda Corwin Tighe Illustrator Erica Leigh and I
Act2, Your On! is an amazing podcast meant for those considering reinvention in their lives with great advice and experiences shared by a breadth of people who have done just that.
I am a regular listener and have garnered many of their "golden nuggets."
Our episode will air on March 28th. I am so excited to share our podcast with you very soon, and will be posting the link across my social media as we get closer. I hope you will check out one of the most joy-filled days of my life:).
My next Act: Write, Share and Query
This month, I am participating in author Tara Lazar's "StoryStorm", which provides inspirational blogs each day and challenges you to come up with 30 new ideas for picture books in 30 days. Today, day 29, I have 29 new ideas, many I can't wait to write! I have already written two new first drafts and revised another manuscript and am actively seeking an agent. Momentum is the name of the game this month. It turns out, the forks I took in the road to get here, prepared me for this great next writing next act. I am blessed!
And Mom, you were right... I didn't get to do it all at the same time,
but I finally got to be where I wanted to be.