Writer’s Wednesday Guestblogger Capri Smith On Writing Emotion

I met Capri Smith recently when Written Dreams made a donation to the Brenda Novak On-line Auction for Diabetes. I’ve asked her to blog today for two reasons.

1) That no matter what the odds are against you, there’s always a way to write if you’re determined to be published. Persistence is an important quality to have as a writer.

2) Writing from the heart shows through to your readers. If there’s no emotion, a story can be flat and uninspiring. If the writing gets deep into the emotion of the characters, the reader feels those emotions along with the character–living, breathing, feeling every moment. As an editor, my personal favorites are tear-jerker moments. If a writer can make me cry, she’s done her job right. 🙂

Capri Smith is a writer and secular homeschooling mother of four. Her youngest daughter, Keke, was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes in August, 2006. Since then, Capri has been a pioneer in the use of diabetic alert dogs. Their service dog, Teddy Bear, has kept Keke seizure free for over three years. A book that includes his story is due out in the near future. When Capri is not focusing on her kids, she can usually be found holed up in her bedroom typing out her thrillers. On her door hangs a sign – “Interruptions Tolerated for:  Fires, Profuse Bleeding, or Blood Sugar Issues Only.” Teddy Bear is the only one who complies. Visit Capri’s blog at http://www.caprismith.com/

I was acting in a movie, one of the star parts. In the scene that we were performing, I was the mom racing on crutches no less—behind a gurney that held a little blond girl. The nurses clutched the side-rails and bolted down the corridor in front of me.  A petite, pony-tailed nurse straddled the little girl, bagging her, and swaying as she rode along on the wild teacup ride towards the ICU. The floors we moved along were slick and the crutches that I was supposed to balance on slipped out from under me crashing me to the floor. I rolled and tried to get up, but this wasn’t really a movie, and up was very far away.

A month earlier, my daughter, Keke, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. T1 is very different from the diabetes of Paula Dean and Halle Berry. T1 is an around-the clock, never-give-up, no-holds-barred fight. And in that moment, the fight was life or death, and the doctors had prepared me for death to win. Keke was comatose.

I am a homeschooling mom and a thriller writer. I spend my days checking blood glucose numbers, teaching algebra, and writing scenes—like the one above that I lived through not so long ago. It’s not often that I actually write about diabetes. I take refuge in my writing and writing about the monster that stalks us gives me no respite from the constancy of the disease.

I do use my experiences in my fiction, though—panic, terror, impuissance, strain, exhaustion… I know these emotions so well. I can easily write how it feels to think you can lean on your highly intelligent spouse only to watch his brain abandon him, as he calls 911 and forgets his daughter’s name and age. Or to think that as a parent you are the strong one – but then your nine-year-old uses his hands to force fear-frozen legs into motion, sliding forward to save the day as the paramedics’ sirens wail closer.

It’s all fodder for my books—though I’d give almost anything to just be able to make it all up.

Writing and being the mom to a disabled child are roles that often stand in opposition. For me the biggest issue is the sleepless nights. It’s like being the mom to an infant who never grows big enough to sleep until morning. I check Keke’s blood frequently through the night. To miss a low could mean we’d lose her. We have a diabetes alert dog, Teddy Bear, who shares my vigilance. And often it’s his clickity-clacking in the halls that pulls me from my dreams.

Exhaustion makes me fall asleep in front of my computer. The imprint of my key board is impressed on my cheek as I type this. Sometimes I just can’t keep my eyes open. Other times, fatigue creates brain-fog that muffles already ambiguous words and awkward reasoning. But it doesn’t stop me from writing. Because I love writing. And because it’s mine.

I guess the other side of the coin is that sometimes I am excited–tapping out the perfect plot twist, my characters yelling at each other as they go fisticuffs in a fabulous brawl. Jazzed by the vivid scene, I am deep in my own world, then yanked back to reality when Teddy Bear comes to alert, or my daughter yells, “Mom, I need help.” It feels like someone is throwing a pail of water on the fire of my imagination. But I can use those feelings, too. I’ll just remember how the annoyance tightens my jaw and heats my blood, and then how quickly my body chills when I see the low number show up on her blood meter. How it actually feels to run hot then cold. As I type these words, I’m thinking that I actually have the perfect place to insert those feelings—a scene that I’ve been frustrated with…

My goal each day—whether writing from a place of inspiration or a place of sleep deprived, muddled confusion—is to write for six hours. Sometimes this comes at three in the morning, when Keke’s having a bad night. Sometimes I get to sit down at nine a.m. and type straight through lunch. I’ve learned to take everything day to day. And that’s okay, because what’s a day without writing?

Thank you, Capri, for sharing such intimate details of your life and showing us how precious every moment can be. You are an inspiration to moms/writers everywhere! We wish you all the best in the hopes of finding a cure!


4 thoughts to “Writer’s Wednesday Guestblogger Capri Smith On Writing Emotion”

  1. Capri, what a gorgeously written post! While I can’t imagine combating your specific set of struggles in trying to keep your daughter healthy and happy, I’m sure all writers can relate to being torn between duty to their real life and determination to put words on the page, and our very human aversion to ill feelings and our writerly glee at being able to dissect and exploit them to deepen our stories. Also, six hours a day devoted to writing? Color me envious! 😉

  2. Wow. Thanks Capri, for sharing with us. 6 hours a day writing. That’s awesome. Now I have something to aspire to. It’s so easy to let life boot your writing muse in the butt and leave her sitting on the curb. Keep writing!

    1. Yes…well the six hours is a goal. Imagine them punctuated with lots of kid noise, and Teddy Bear. When Teddy alerts he will bring a shoe and drop it by my bed to catch my attention (when Teddy alerts to my husband, he jumps on the bed and hits Hubby in the head with the shoe – Hubby’s hard of hearing). Sometimes I just want to get that one last thought down, and that’s when I get a pile of shoes. “Surely, if the tennis shoe didn’t work, her sandal or rain boot will do the trick!” I can almost hear Teddy thinking. Poor guy.

      How many hours do you all shoot for?

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