Thankful

I’m late on the draw here, but I wanted to repost the Thanksgiving piece that Ayden Morgan featured on her blog. Thank you, Ayden!

In order to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, Ayden Morgen came up with the idea for a blog series about writers who are thankful even through adversity. Thank you, Ayden, for giving me the opportunity to participate.

So, I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s something I haven’t declared openly, and feel more than tentative about publicly announcing now. I think the time has come, though, for me to be honest. I hope that, in doing so, I can grow as a person and perhaps inspire others to grow as well.

Before I reveal my deep, dark secrets, I’ll tell you a little bit more about myself. My name is Elizabeth Roderick. I’m a mother of a beautiful daughter, who is almost twelve. I was a paralegal for about fifteen years, and a working musician for even longer.

About two years ago, we moved to California for my husband’s tenure-track job as a biochemistry professor. The move separated me from my bands and my job, and I was left at loose ends. So, I began to write.

I don’t know how I failed to discover this before, but I love to write. In the couple years since I began, I’ve penned twelve fiction novels for young adults and adults, as well as numerous short stories and autobiographical vignettes. My first published novel, an LGBT erotic crime thriller entitled Love or Money, will come out on January 12, 2016 through Limitless Publications.

Love or Money is a book about a young woman named Riel who is forced to run drugs for her corrupt brother-in-law, and ends up going to prison for it. After her release, she reenters a world in which she’s an outcast: a convicted felon, an outlaw, untrustworthy. No one will give her a second chance, or an honest job. She’s stuck in a hole from which she feels there’s no escape, and her only option is to go back to work for the brother-in-law who landed her in trouble in the first place.
Despite these obstacles, Riel is determined to make an honest life. She wants to escape the gang culture, go to college, and perhaps find happiness with her true love—as long as she can convince him to take the honest path, as well.

So, regarding my dirty secret. I, like Riel, am a convicted felon. Back in 1999, I was convicted of delivery of heroin, and was sent to prison. So, all the stuff I write about in Love or Money, the prison and gang culture, the serious difficulties with reintegrating into polite society—I didn’t learn about that stuff from T.V.

To say I’m thankful for my “escape” from the world of prison, gangs, and drugs, would be an immense understatement. But, in reality, one never truly escapes one’s past. It drags behind you like a peacock’s tail, heavy and hindering and nowhere near as pretty. Though my conviction was sixteen years ago and I’ve had zero legal troubles since—have in fact recently been able to vacate the felony conviction—I figure some readers are still making sure their firewalls and anti-virus software are intact, that I haven’t hacked into their computer and discovered where they live so that I can come steal their wallets.

I’m used to this reaction. In fact, I’ve lived the last sixteen years in fear of it.

I’m lucky enough to have a college diploma, Spanish language, and typing skills, as well as family that supported me. These benefits enabled me to get a good job and pass as a reputable citizen after my release. However, I’ve lost jobs, loans, volunteer positions, friends, and rental houses because of my criminal history. I’ve been hauled out of the car and subjected to demeaning and frightening treatment by law enforcement, for the less-than-serious offense of going 30 in a 25 zone. I’ve had to put on a good act, so that no cop, employer or landlord would ever ask that dreaded question, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”

Again, I know some of you are saying to yourselves that this is no more than I deserve for breaking the law. I’m not here to disabuse you of that notion. What I’m trying to convince you of —and even more, to convince others in my position of—is that rehabilitation is possible for addicts, felons, and anybody that puts their effort towards it.

When I started writing, a funny thing happened with me. I realized that, at long last, I’d discovered something that didn’t reject me for my past mistakes. Quite the opposite. Writing has given me an opportunity to take a second look at my past and forgive myself for it, even make something beautiful and meaningful of it. When I write about a character who is dealing with poverty, abuse, addiction, mental health issues, and legal troubles, I’m able to identify with them, and root for them. I’m able to see that they’re a good person with a lot of potential, despite and even because of it all. I mean, you always root for the main character, right? So, in understanding my characters, I’ve learned to better understand myself.

I’m hoping readers will also identify and root for my heroines and heroes. I’m hoping my books might cause them to take a look at themselves, or at someone they know, and decide they’re worthy of a second chance. At the very least, I hope I’ll be able to entertain people with good stories, and be an example of an ex-con and recovering addict who has moved on and done something productive.

So, I’m not just thankful that I’ve been able to build a good, stable, honest life. I’m also incredibly thankful I have the desire to write, that I have something that makes me feel good about myself, and that might potentially make others feel good about themselves. I’m thankful that Limitless gave me a chance at being an author, at starting a career that will accept me for who I am, not for who I pretend to be out of fear.

Thank you, also, to Ayden for the opportunity to write this post.

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