I’ve been sitting on something for a few weeks that I’ve been dying to tell you guys I am excited to finally share that not only am I a published author for the first time, the book is raising money for a good cause! Good news that also benefits someone else is always the very best news! My Scotland based short story entitled “A Cat for the Keeper” has been published in Hellcats Anthology. I’ll tell you all about how it happened but first the basics of this amazing project:
Hellcats is a charity collaboration of 69 stories. A group of authors, editors, proofers, marketers, cover designers all came together to donate their time and talents to this book. 100% of the proceeds will go to keeping an elderly woman from losing her home. To buy: It is only $6.99 on kindle (but you don’t need a Kindle to read it!) and the link to purchase is: https://books.to/hellcats.
If that link doesn’t redirect automatically to your country you can also just search the title. ￼Print copies are being proofed and will be ready soon, and I’m in Volume 2!
But go back for a second. Did you catch that part about all those strangers coming together for good? Faced with the thought of their own elderly parent, grandparent, friend, loved one being bullied out of their home and into homelessness, each and every one of them said not on my watch, how can I help? People are amazing, and inspiring!
If you have a little to spare, I would be so grateful if you bought a copy of this book to help us save Erada's home. You're absolutely allowed to skip ahead to my story, #65 "A Cat for the Keeper" by Lilly MacKenzie Hurd, I'm so excited and anxious to hear what you guys think of it! But do be sure to go back and read the other stories by these amazing authors! And if you like even one of the stories it would be wonderful if you wrote a review on Amazon which will help us keep our number one new release banner and intrigue more folks to buy And if you aren’t in a position to spend, sharing this post would help too!
Oh, and in case you didn't catch it I just shared an exciting thing there - my pen name It is important to me to maintain my connection with my adoptive family, and the love and pride I feel in being part of the Hurd family, while also incorporating the ties I have to Scotland through my biological ancestry through the MacKenzies.
Now, let me tell you all about what an unexpected journey this has been, and the lessons I’ve learned in what I know has been a pivotal moment in my life.
A couple months ago, I first saw this picture of an island crofter, from National Museum of Scotland posted by the lovey ladies at Stories of Scotland Podcast. He captivated me - don’t you just want to sit with him and chat? And scratch behind those kitty and doggo ears? While I thought I had forgotten about him, he had rooted himself deep in my subconscious. (Lesson 1: We have SO much kicking around in our minds that we aren’t aware of. Learn to dig in there and find it!)
Fast forward to August 2. My friend Kate sent me a message. Now Kate is the loveliest firecracker of a woman. And she was hugely impactful in season of my life when I was breaking free into the wild woman I am today. I was a dog groomer in Oregon at the time we met. I would groom her 6 rescue poodles in her home, then sit and chat after I was finished beautifying all the pooches. (The post groom peanut butter treat and belly rubs usually did the trick to make them my friends again!) I will be forever grateful to Kate for her wisdom and patience, and when she speaks I listen. (Lesson 2: pay attention to the people who help you find your authentic self - they deserve a place in your tribe.)
So back to her recent message - Kate had sent out a plea for help. Long story short, her brother's elderly mother-in-law, named Erada, is facing eviction if she can’t buy out her home. Now, Kate is a gifted and successful author, and she came up with the idea to unite authors around the world, across multiple genres to create an anthology of cat stories to raise money for Erada. Would I be interested in writing a short story and submitting it for consideration? By the 16th of August? Kate is special, she is a force for good. So anyone special to her is special to me, and I genuinely wanted to help. But I truly struggled with self doubt. I had never written a short story, I had never written fiction, I had never written in first person, and I barely had any time to make it all work. (Lesson 3: Focusing on the “I have nevers” will overwhelm you. Focus instead on “I’ll give it a go!”)
I hemmed and I hawed, and I chewed on this challenge in my mind for a week or so. A story started to take shape, around a Scottish lighthouse keeper who lived on an island with a cat. I “happened” to see the picture of the man and his kitten again and though oh! I’ll use him as my muse for my lighthouse keeper! Little did I know that he had been in my mind since the first time I saw him, and he leapt from my subconscious when Kate asked me to write a story. (See lesson 2!)
But I despaired. I couldn’t do it. My brain was getting in its own way by overthinking and shutting down by the barriers it perceived. And the lies it was telling my spirit that I didn’t have what it takes. I’m just a blogger. I’m not clever enough to come up with characters and a story and plot twists. Lies. But I was listening to those lies and a deep fog had settled into my brain. Brain fog is a dark place where creativity disappears if you don’t find ways to clear it up!
On August 12th that I had a chat with Kate and her editor Erin that changed everything. I had all these fears and misgivings. When it came down to it I just didn’t know how I was going to make it all work. But Erin is a mind magician. Just by chatting with me about what I was feeling, what my misgivings were, what was important to me about my story, something started happening. It was like a curtain had been lifted, and the light was flooding in on my mind. (Oh hey, like a lighthouse guiding me through my brain fog!) I had renewed motivation, and I got to work, submitting my 4400 word story. I wrote it in just a few days and breathed a huge sigh of relief when Kate told me the story was accepted into the anthology.
This brings me to Lesson 4: Be willing to bring in another perspective. I’m a very independent person, and I’m very happy that way. But the thing about independence is this: capable and confident as any one person might be, we are still just one person. How many times have I said we are not meant to be islands in this life, we are meant to be community, connected to one another! I had never worked with an editor before and wow, just wow. It wasn’t that I thought my story was perfect so why do I need another person’s perspective? (I thought it was bad actually, but there were those lies again…) I am just used to being a bit of an island when it comes to my writing. I have no problem bringing others in its research but if I do let someone else in during the creative process, its someone I trust deeply. Because lets face it, sharing something you created and asking for critique is a very vulnerable thing to do.
Lesson 5: Be vulnerable. If you’ve been following me for long, you know I’m willing to be vulnerable. I just needed to apply that to my creativity. Guess what! When you seek additional perspectives, you are still in the driver’s seat. You can take or leave whatever you get, use what is helpful to you and discard or file away the rest. You need to have thick skin, and not be defensive. Its not breaking news that all the people who have been great in their field had mentors, critics, confidants, cheerleaders. Don't be an island, have a team! And have the confidence to know what to put your foot down about and what to let go of. And as for vulnerability, I'm committing to that lesson by sharing this with you today. I won't lie I'm feeling scared to open myself up to so many people reading my first published short story. I do hope you like it
Lesson 6: Stop making excuses. When the dust settled on this and the book went live, I was left face to face with a pile of my own excuses that had no legs to stand on. I don’t have time. I’m not good at this. It won’t be thorough enough. I’m not the same league as these other writers. Alllll just legless excuses, sitting there looking embarrassed that they hadn’t managed to ruin this for me. Sure its important to be critical and practical. But holding myself accountable for these excuses has been key. I have shown myself what I’m capable of when I employ discipline, focus, and good time management.
I have experienced a huge creative shift through this experience, and I’m SO excited about it. I’m already working on a full book set around the characters in this short story, as well as a book of Scottish short stories, as well as my Pictish novel. They’re all swirling around in my brain, marinating, maybe they’re talking to each other, who knows but when they are ready to be on paper, they’ll be nicely ripened and seasoned.
And a cherry on top for being published is a little plug from Scottish author Peter May (The Lewis Trilogy etc). I first heard of Peter May when I picked up a copy of The Blackhouse at the Calanais Visitor’s Center in 2016. I wouldn’t have dreamed that 4 years later he would read my first published story and write me a one liner!
I need to get to work, so I’ll wrap this up. Its been a bit of a ramble session but I've got to run! Anyway I just wanted to share what I’ve learned in case any of you could benefit from these reminders I have had. Don’t get in your own way, don’t let your independence be a detriment, and DO GOOD when you can. Life can be so rewarding but we HAVE to grow, we have to apply ourselves, we have to be willing to be shaped and sharpened and softened and stretched and squished and just…..just be willing. Thats the moral of my part of this story - be willing
You can check out the Hellcats website (www.hellcatsanthology.com) for information on other authors, and other ways we are raising money for Erada such as merchandise, and a Go Fund Me page.
And this is a good place to read Kate's perspective of this whole amazing story: https://www.facebook.com/.../a.611452316.../627086847948753/