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Debut novel is dream come true for this mom

As I send my book baby into the world, I know I couldn’t have done it alone 

Erin Stewart, right, with Marius Woodward, a burn survivor.
Provided by Erin Stewart

Among writers, there is an expression we sometimes use to refer to the books that we launch into the world. We call them our book babies.

As both a mother and an author, I totally believe this analogy holds up because:

  1. We spend months/years/a lifetime nurturing this little, vulnerable thing we’ve created.
  2. Then, we send it out into the big, bad world where people bully them on the playground or leave scathing reviews on Goodreads.
  3. And then, even though it’s been kind of a roller coaster and some days we question all our life choices because we’re not really sure we know what we’re doing, we decide it’s a good idea to create another one.

Next week, my first book baby comes out into the world. I am having all the emotions about this momentous milestone. I am in turns elated and terrified, proud and battling imposter syndrome, unable to sleep at night and totally exhausted during the day. So yes, kind of exactly like being a mom.

“Scars Like Wings” took me a year and a half to write. The book tells the story of Ava, a 16-year-old burn survivor heading back to school a year after the fire. She fears no one will ever see her as anything but the burned girl, and she must choose if she’s going to stay angry and isolated or let people in and let the friends by her side help her fly.

I love this book and the journey I had to go on to create it. As I am about to send my baby into the world, here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

• My voice matters: Oftentimes in the trenches of motherhood, we focus so much on our children’s future, our children’s dream, our children’s voices, that we forget to listen to our own. In the past few years, I’ve realized that yes, I am a mom, but I am also a million other things. And my thoughts, and my words, matter to the world.

• You can’t have it all at the same time: Being an author and a mother is rough. When I spend time with my book and not my kids, I have mom guilt. When I play with my kids instead of working on my book, I have author guilt. It is never-ending. I’ve had to make my peace with this. I can’t be everything to everyone all at the same time. So some weeks, I’m in drafting or revision mode, and my husband takes over at home. We eat a lot of takeout. We ignore the mess. Other times, I put the book aside and focus on the moment with my children. That’s what balance looks like in our home.

• We need each other: I believe, more than ever, that no one can obtain their dreams alone. I know I couldn’t. I could not have written this book without the burn survivors who shared their stories with me so I could write this story. I could not have juggled motherhood and authorhood without my friends who took my kids while I wrote, or without the writer friends who rallied me on every step of the way.

And really, this idea of needing people and letting them into our lives is the lesson I keep learning over and over again as a writer, a mother and a human.

When I started writing “Scars Like Wings,” I sat down with my friend, Marius Woodward, who was severely burned as a child. When I first met Marius 10 years earlier, he was only 8 years old. I expected to meet a victim. He had lived through unimaginable pain and dozens of surgeries. I knew his physical scars drew stares from strangers and cruel teasing from peers. How could he be anything but angry?

Instead, I met a smiling, vibrant young boy who wanted to show me his latest magic trick. Yes, Marius was burned. But he was also just a regular kid who loved card tricks and trampolines. I was immediately struck by Marius’ unwavering belief that he was so much more than his scars — so much more than his tragedy. I wondered, how does someone find this kind of strength in the face of so much pain?

For Marius, the answer was simple: He didn’t do it alone. When he wanted to give up, there was always someone there. A nurse. A friend. Someone helping him choose to live.

In “Scars Like Wings,” Ava’s story also begins with heartache, pain and loneliness. She doubts she’ll ever be “normal” again. But as she lets people in, she realizes she doesn’t have to face the pain alone. While her friends can’t fix her scars, they can find a new normal, together.

The journey of writing this book has taught me again and again that we don’t need to face life alone. Whether we are a new mom staring down postpartum depression, an older mom facing an empty nest, or somewhere in the middle just trying to get by, we need our tribe.

Without a doubt, this book — this dream — of mine would not exist without the people by my side.

To read more about “Scars Like Wings,” visit www.erinstewartbooks.com, or to preorder visit getunderlined.com/books/600225/scars-like-wings-by-erin-stewart/#popup-excerpt

From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, Erin Stewart discusses it all while her three children dive-bomb off the couch behind her.