About 15 years ago (gulp, I'm getting old), I embarked on a journey that changed who I was and opened up the doors to a most unlikely passion. I went on my first mission trip to Minsk, Belarus with an organization called Student Venture. The second I stepped off the plane into that cold, gray land, I knew I would be back. I loved it immediately. I couldn't get enough of the language, the people or the culture. It truly changed my life and as soon as we returned, I began to prepare for the next year. I went to Kiev, Ukraine that next spring break and the one after that. When I graduated high school and got to college, I knew immediately that I wanted to minor in the Russian language.
My Junior year of college, I embarked on yet another journey into the land that felt just as much like home to me as the U.S. For four months, I was immersed in the culture. It was lonely and cold (really, bitterly cold) and at times frightening (foreign men are forward!). It was during this last trip that I became enamored with the stories of WWII veterans from the former Soviet Union, particularly the Ukrainian region. The loss of life in Ukraine during those years is staggering. Some estimates say that Ukraine alone lost up to 10,000,000 men, women and children. One woman, in particular, had a story so fascinating that I couldn't forget it. Her name was Maria Ivanovna and she was a laborer in a German prison camp for two years.
Upon coming home, I knew that I had to do something with Maria's story. I was officially declared a Professional Writing major and began a class that required us to write a novel over the course of a year. I began my novel based on Maria's story.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was still trying to figure how to make this book authentic when I got the fabulous opportunity to go back to Ukraine and tour the country interviewing veterans and survivors of prison camps. For one month, I hauled my pregnant behind (I was carrying Sloan) all over that country gathering material for what I thought would be a non-fiction book. I even had a publisher lined up. So exciting. But I came home, the publisher fell through and a few other things happened and once again, I was back at square one, only this time I had a lot more information to pull from. So I started my novel yet again. Well, it's a daunting task, writing a novel like this. I want to do it right and I struggle with self esteem, feeling like I'm not good enough a writer to tackle such a project. But, the story is stuck inside me and it's slightly crippling because until I get it out, it's hard to focus on anything else. So, I'm sharing with you, my blogging friends, that I am digging out that manuscrpit, cracking my knuckles and diving back in. And now that it's out there, I have to finish. I'm already 260 pages in. Some of those pages are great, brilliant even, but some of them are horribly attrocious (I'm thinking more are poorly written than are well written, but I'll edit when I finish). I don't know if I'll even publish this story, but I do know I have to write it. Thanks for listening. I won't write so much in my next post - promise!