“Three months ago, things seemed a little bleak. But to be honest, everything worked out in the best way possible.”
I said this to my friend, Ria, this weekend. She stopped me and said, “Christa, that’s what always happens to you. And I’m saying this to you, making sure you know and understand that whenever you hit tough times, it does work out. So don’t freak out. It is always going to be okay. Okay?”
A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I was stressed about my move. How was I going to see all my friends before I go? How was I going to get this place packed up? Which movers could meet my timeline for a good price? (To be fair, a few were a little annoyed with me that my timeline is rather tight, but hey, that’s finding an apartment in New York City. It’s a just-in-time market!)
Today, I got a quote for half of what I thought it would be. I am able to rent a small SUV to drive some things up to DC myself for nearly the same price as a compact car. My building in D.C. can accommodate my move date and my building in New York is very relaxed about move-ins (and doesn’t charge a fee either!) It really is all going to be okay. Really.
Yes, I have work to do. A lot of sorting, packing, and cleaning. I’m going to get to spend time with friends here in D.C. before I go. Dinners, happy hours, coffees, and walks. And then I’ll drive up to New York with little Phin. We’ll move into our new place and it will all be fine. Everything will be better than fine.
In the moment, it can be difficult to remember to keep a longer perspective. What’s right in front of it feel so urgent and pressing. And it is, but we’ll get through it the way we always get through it: one step, one moment at a time.
Moving brings up all kinds of fears and concerns. I’ve been facing a few this week: comparing quotes from movers, worrying about the actual packing, saying “see you soon” to friends I’ve gotten used to seeing all the time, and renting a car and packing it up to make the trek back to New York. Every time I would cross something off my list, I’d find that there were two more to-do items to replace it. I started to get nervous that I wouldn’t get everything done in time, that something would make my move impossible. It was keeping me awake and making my mind fuzzy.
I got home last night and took a deep breath. I’ve been here before, many times and not that long ago. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s move and begin again. And if something does come up, some wrinkle in my plan, I’ll invoke my favorite mantra: “I’ve got this and I’ll handle it.” The only way out is through.
As we lead up to the November 1st Pub Day for my novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, I’m writing a short novella that is a prequel. It will be completely free and available exclusively to people who sign up here: author Christa Avampato’s mailing list.
I’m going to deliver a chapter of it on the first of every month from June through October, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you. The June 1st installment will be from the first person perspective of Emerson’s mother, Nora, a world-renowned anthropologist well-known for her research on ancient cultures and languages.
Five years before my novel begins, Nora was found on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “We’ve never seen anything like it,” the NYPD’s spokesperson said. “Life has gone out of her with no explanation. It’s as if she just fell asleep on the steps of the museum and never woke up.” And with that, the police gave up their search for answers.
But Emerson didn’t. Her journey to discover the answers about her mother’s death takes her deep below the streets of New York City on a dangerous adventure into a secret world of books where the very existence of human imagination is at stake.
What was Nora doing at the museum? As someone who was loved and admired by so many, was there someone who would want to harm her? And why is there no discernible cause for her death?
Find out the secrets Nora was hiding, in life and in death, by signing up to receive the novella!
“I like stories where women save themselves.” ~Neil Gaiman
Screw patience. Do what makes you happy now. If someone asked me how I got to the point I am in my life now, as a person and as a writer, my answer would be “I’ve always been my own savior.” I’ve never expected anyone to fix anything or do anything for me. I don’t want or wait well. All I really know how to do is roll up my sleeves and get to work. Sometimes that work is with other people like my experience in theater, and sometimes that work is on my own like sitting down to write my book. Some call it feisty, others call it fiery, and I call it building a life I love.
Our time is so precious and so short. It flies by despite our efforts to slow it down. Every day matters. Don’t bottle yourself up or tell yourself , “Someday, I’ll do what I love.” Do it now. Some day is today, every day. I promised myself a long time ago that I wasn’t going to die with the music, or the books, still in me. I was going to live and write out loud. However improbable my book seemed, I was going to find a way to get it done. And I did. You will, too. Keep writing.
It’s official: I’m set to move back to New York City next month. There have been so many synchronicities in this move: from my friend, Ria, telling me not to feel pressured into taking what would have been a terrible apartment because I thought that was the only option to finding my new place completely by chance with a building manager willing to show it to me via a Whatsapp video call before turning around a lease overnight. It’s on the Upper West Side, my very favorite neighborhood in the world where so much of my history lives and breathes. I’ve got many preparations to make, much to be grateful for in D.C., and much to look forward to as I return to New York. I’ll be reflecting on all of that in the coming days, weeks, and months. For now, I’m just smiling and feeling so thankful for this journey.
Phineas and I are excited to visit all of our old haunts in Central Park, and spend time with our New York friends—human, canine, and feline! Phin’s particularly looking forward to Dachtoberfest this Fall when hundreds of dachshunds from all over the New York area congregate at Washington Square Park to celebrate their breed. (More on that later.) New York, here we come!
In New York City, I find inspiration on every corner. My novel is set on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and deep below the streets of New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, and the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History figure prominently into the story and serve as powerful settings for the events that unfold for Emerson and the other characters. This weekend, I walked through areas of the Upper West Side that inspired bits of dialogue and the actions of the story. I could feel them as I walked down those streets. I could see scenes play themselves out. Being a writer is the best virtual reality system there is—all of a sudden the world becomes a stage and you create every detail of the players who move through it. I wonder what stories are still waiting for me on those magical streets.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~Gandhi
Writers, you are leaving a legacy with every word you get down. Your words can change hearts and mind. Thy can connect you to people, and connect people to one another. If you write what you wish to see, you can then build it and inspire others to help you create that vision. You are brave to tell the world what you think and how you feel. So many people keep themselves and their thoughts locked away from others. I urge you now to tell your stories. There are people who need to hear them. There are people for whom your stories will help them get through a difficult time. Your work has value but only if you share it. Sharing is caring. Writing is giving. Care and give.
“It’s okay if you fall down and lose your spark. Just make sure that when you get back up, you rise as the whole damn fire.” ~Colette Werden
Our country is in turmoil now no matter where you sit on political spectrum. We go to bed thinking, “I can’t believe that happened today. Thank god we got through that.” And then we wake up to something even wilder than we experienced yesterday. And it’s happening every day. I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
Writers go through this roller coaster, too, and often. We’re humming along and then we get lost or confused or frustrated. We read something or think of a new idea that makes us believe we have to backtrack and go through the entire story again because this time, this time, we’ll get it right.
Here’s what happening in our country and in our writing: the act of creating is a maddening process. The act of governing, too, is maddening because democracy at its core is a creative act. While creating, we’re going to lose our way. It’s an inevitable part of the journey because while we know where we’ve been we really aren’t sure what comes next. The imagination is that dynamic.
What we can’t do is despair. Even though we may feel lost, our imaginations still work. Our democracy still works., and we often beat ourselves up as the cause.
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered [people] have torn down, [people] other-centered can build up.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I heard this quote yesterday at the Capital Area Food Bank’s Hunger and Health Summit. The excellent panel of nonprofit leaders and doctors explained that we may be on the doorstep of realizing as a society that healthy food is the most critical social determinant of health, that food is to our health what books are to our minds, what freedom is to our spirit. In these past weeks, I have been thinking about what I can do with the Breaking Bread Podcast to bring together my passions for food (particularly in terms of providing healthy food for those who are challenged with food insecurity), books, and meaningful conversation. If I toss all of that into the blender, there’s something there. I’m not sure exactly what it is just yet, but it’s starting to become clearer. I’m open to ideas and suggestions so if you’ve got ’em, fire away.
“There are always going to be skeptics. Prove them wrong.” ~Robert Kiyosaki
10 years ago this month, I made a pledge to write every day and it’s a pledge I’ve kept. Being a writer was the only thing I ever really wanted to be. I had a lot of people in my life who were very supportive of that path. But there were skeptics, some of them very loud. Once a close friend of mine told another close friend of mine that I was wasting my time trying to be a writer. I should just focus on my business career because that was something I was good at, and being a writer wasn’t. I was shocked and hurt. It stung. A lot. To be honest, it still stings all these years later. It shouldn’t, but it does.
On your path as a writer, wherever you might be right now, you may encounter similar people. And it may surprise you who those people turn out to be. Skepticism can really hurt, but it can also make you very strong. When my friend said that about me, I was upset and I decided right then and there that I was going to prove him wrong. I was going to keep writing every day and I was going to get good at it, very good at it.
And you know what I found? His opinion really didn’t have anything to do with my writing. I wasn’t writing for him. I was writing for the people I could help, and I was writing to bring myself joy. I love writing. I am intensely passionate about my craft, sharing my work, and inspiring others to write. It’s the work I’m meant to do.
The skeptics are always going to be there. Turn down the volume of their voices to zero. They aren’t for you and you aren’t for them. Send them on their way—in the opposite direction that you’re going. Move toward your own voice and your own writing.