I have been telling stories since I was four-years-old, when I wrote my first "book." I dictated the tale to my mother, who transcribed it carefully word for word. I illustrated it myself and she stapled it all together. I carried it around with me for weeks afterward, intensely proud of my creation. When I began school, I lived for Fridays--creative writing day. We spent an hour writing whatever we wanted, and then had the opportunity to share our work with the class. As early as fifth grade, I was writing horror stories that starred my classmates. They loved listening to my increasingly dramatic and gory stories as much as I loved writing them. At the end of the week they were excited to find out which of them would escape to the end unscathed. God bless Mrs. Anderson for never suspecting me of being a burgeoning serial killer--at least not openly. She encouraged my imagination and let me carry on writing whatever I pleased. My love of the eerie and macabre has never diminished.
Writing crime articles was something I never envisioned myself doing. In truth, it's something I don't think I'm all that good at. I find comfort in fiction, bringing my dreams to life on the page with carefully chosen words. To me, the writing style exhibited in my Odyssey stories can be clunky. My earnestness and sincerity comes off as hokey. I only began writing "true crime" at my dear friend Shannon's request, and with his encouragement made the decision to share it with the world. Black Swan Books was only supposed to be about Shannon and his case, but it developed into something so much more.
Writing for Odyssey has opened so many doors to me, and has led me to cross paths with people that have changed my life. I have been honored by the trust my families have given me by allowing me to tell their stories. At times it was challenging and heartbreaking work. Working with families with murdered, missing, and wrongly convicted loved ones takes an emotional toll, and each of their stories has to be handled so carefully and delicately. I could not have accomplished half of what I did without my beloved editor, Kaitlyn Russell. She was there for me every time I was overwhelmed and consumed by doubt. There were many times I was close to quitting, and she encouraged me and reminded me that what I was doing was important. She had a way of editing my pieces that made the changes seem like they were still my voice--only better. Clearer. More professional. She was able to shape my work and leave intact the message that each of these families so desperately wanted to impart--that justice had not been served, that their voices have largely been unheard, that they were hurting and seeking answers. Kaitlyn has a gift, and she always reminded me of my own gifts as well.
This past week, Odyssey announced that they were restructuring. Kaitlyn was laid off, along with many others. At first I felt lost, but then I decided that this might be the sign I had spent the last few weeks searching for. I made the decision to end my relationship with Odyssey, as rewarding as it has been. I am thankful for the experience I have gained here and the friends I have made, but I feel that for me, a chapter is closing--and a greater one is about to begin. I have been wanting to focus on some other projects, including my novel, and this feels like the perfect time.
I have started a new site to feature my work, which you can find here. All of my Odyssey pieces will eventually be transferred to the blog section of my new site, and will be featured alongside my poetry, personal essays, and short stories. I will continue my work with the wrongly convicted and other victims of the justice system, but my pieces will published on my new site rather than here on Odyssey. I will be taking a break from accepting new cases while I update the site and focus on my new projects. I hope that all of you who have so faithfully followed my work here will continue to follow my work in the future. Your support and encouragement have made all the difference to me, and have been largely instrumental in my decision to make this next step. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
On to new adventures! Forward, always forward.