Today, I welcome Elizabeth Dudak, who is the author of What the Heck, Dec?!, a novel released by Orange Hat Publishing last March. Elizabeth shares on that moment of awareness and admission known to every closet wordsmith: the moment we finally say, out loud, “I am a writer.”
It is still odd for me to talk about writing so openly, but it is getting easier. When I first started telling people what I am, what I do, the word writer came out of me like a foreign language. I coughed up the word, sometimes choked on it. For a long time, I felt using the word writer to describe me was pretentious. It was like I was trying to call myself a supermodel. Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen were writers. Stephen King and Nora Roberts are writers. Me? I was Elizabeth Dudak – a wife, a mother, an employee and a writer hobbyist. Sure, I acknowledged writing columns for local newspapers. And I wasn’t shy to mention a published magazine article here and a widely circulated poem there. I took continuing education and online classes to learn about dialogue, character development, description and plots…something writers do. But a writer? Or, gulp, an author? Those were my dream descriptions of me and for some reason; I couldn’t apply them to my waking world.
As I neared the age fifty, I grew tired of just dreaming about being a writer. Sure, it was fun to imagine, but at some point I needed to wake up and make my reality. I had fewer years ahead of me than I did in back of me, thus I needed to quit thinking and start doing. It would be difficult to put myself and my words out there, yet living in regret would be torture.
In July of 2011, I had a lunch date with a friend of mine. She is one of those friends I don’t see too often, but when I do, we jump right into deep and fulfilling subjects of life. Who the current real housewife is of whatever godforsaken city never seems to enter our discussions. We are concerned more about life’s purpose and meaning. Sure, it can be exhausted but afterwards, I always feel like the world is a doable place.
During the course of our conversation on this particular July day, I discussed with my friend of the writing passion that burned inside me. I told her about the hours I spent bringing to life characters, settings, plots and dialogue. My words exploded out of me as I talked about my waking hours being invaded by my writing world and my need – my strong, overwhelming need – to release them into my laptop. I explained all the stories that already crowded my computer’s memory. And I admitted to my discomfort of being called a writer as I regurgitated wisdom a professor once dispersed to me – a wisdom that was finally sinking in….three years later. This professor told me, “If you write, you are a writer.” Finally, I looked at my friend and said… only it was more like a desperate question…. “Perhaps I am a writer?”
A comfortable silence fell between us as it often happens when we talk. We were both taking in what I had just finished spewing. After a few more minutes of quiet contemplation, my friend looked at me and said “Well, you have a choice. Your words can stay in your laptop, or they can go out into the universe for others to enjoy.” This was my writer’s eureka moment. I repeated the words slowly to myself not caring how I looked in a crowded restaurant. She was right. I could stay a laptop writer, or I could become a real, authentic writer. I could take the risk of letting everyone see my words, which I believe is the definition of an author – - a writer who, driven by her passion, takes a leap of faith and present her words to the universe.
Flash ahead ten months, and many, many, MANY rejection letters later, and I am at a book signing….my own book signing…with my publisher… my own publisher, Orange Hat. The words in my novel, the story of Marti Karnawski and Declan Reed, are out of my laptop and onto pages sandwiched between a vibrant yellow back and a front cover. The title, What the Heck, Dec?!, is in green and purple on the cover. And there, in blue lettering, above the titles, is the name of the author…the writer….Elizabeth Dudak. It is my name. Now, I can finally admit…without a cough or hiccup…I am a writer.
Elizabeth Dudak lives in a tiny suburb outside of Chicago, with her husband, Peter; children, Leah and Matthew; mutt, Jordan; and mini-zoo of critters. She was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago where she learned the love of writing and reading from her English-teacher father and bookworm mother. She has written opinion-oriented columns for local newspapers for over four years, and in her blog, Write Where I Belong, she writes on the ramblings of her active mind. What the Heck, Dec?! is Elizabeth’s first novel, and it is proof that she subscribes to the first rule of writing, which is to write what you know.
About the book:
Marti Karnawski is waiting in the front office of Noteah Middle School trying to land first her teaching position, not a man. Yet one casual glance at Declan Reed – the school’s droolicious social worker with bad boy looks and cocky attitude – and she can’t help but fall head over in heels in crush. The fact he returns her interest, despite the other woman on his arm, poses a problem. Marti spent a lifetime trying to forgive a philandering father and understanding a mother in constant denial. She will not be the other woman – not even for one Declan Reed. Now all she has to do is convince her heart.