Wow, That’s Good Writing!

Recently I picked up my thesis book I wrote while completing my MFA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. It’s a YA novella that is both prose and poetry, so a little different format. The title It Chose Three came from the feeling I have when I think about my three sisters becoming legally blind at early ages due to a genetic disease that skipped me.

The book is autobiographical, but not an autobiography. The names and some of the scenarios are fictionalized to fit it into a more readable story, but the facts about my sisters having Stargardt Disease and their stories have not been fictionalized.

CeCe Bell, author of El Deafo, came to speak at Hollins one day while I was attending. I was inspired by her talk about how and why she created El Deafo the way she did and how it was based off her own experience of becoming nearly deaf from meningitis at a very young age. After her talk I waited in a very long line for her to sign a book for me. She had had a long night, and I was the last one in line, but I ventured to ask her if she thought it would be okay for me to try and represent my sisters’ stories in a similar way.

She showed genuine interest and asked me several questions about what happened and what Stargardt Disease was. The conversation is a little blurry in my mind, to be honest, because I was so self conscious about taking up even more of her long night. I remember her looking directly into my eyes and saying, “You need to tell your story.”

I thanked her for her time, walked out of the building as fast as I could, and cried in the night.

I was in my late twenties at the time. I am not saying at all that I was pushed aside or not supported during my childhood. My family made sure I had the support I needed, too. But I had never thought that I had a story to tell. I had never thought that anyone would want to listen. I never dared to think that I could potentially reach someone else in my situation if I did tell my story. The sibling’s story. The one who is normal.

CeCe Bell met me for lunch the summer of 2017 and continued to encourage me.

I graduated in 2018, so it’s only been a few years since I’ve picked up the book to work on. Over the past few nights, after tucking my daughter into bed, I’ve set myself up at my desk to read and edit.

And cry.

But good tears.

I came across this poem I wrote about my oldest sister’s story. I have to admit, I cried while I read it. And then I had a little self-congratulating pat on the back. Because it’s not that often when you come across something you wrote years ago and think, “Wow! That’s Good Writing!”

Perhaps you won’t think so. Perhaps it won’t hit you the same way it hits me. I hope it at least makes you think.

Danielle’s Story

First born.

First daughter.

First to perplex

the ophthalmologist.

Two years of


Two years of


Two years of


“Why can’t I see?”

First to force

the ophthalmologist

to discover what a

rare twist of DNA

could do.

While the coming

    of teenage years

and the going

    of childhood days

should have been

boys, make up, and music.

The first to understand

Her    search    for


would begin with

The    loss     of


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