Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

My last week in my 30s

When I was a little girl, my parents always chose to wait until the 2nd week of December to put the tree up. My birthday is Dec. 7, and they wanted to make sure I didn’t feel like my birthday was absorbed by the holiday. I love Christmas, though! Waking up to a Christmas tree on my birthday is the best way to wake up. When I found out this was their reasoning, I put a stop to that quick. Now I have a tree before my birthday every year.

This year, I needed it. I wasn’t feeling too Christmasy, and when the hubby suggested we put the tree up, I was less than enthusiastic. I forced myself to do it, though. He put the tree up, I put on the Christmas music, then we both placed our favorite ornaments on the tree. It was exactly what I needed to get me out of my funk and remind me of what matters. Some of the ornaments are from his past life with his son and first wife. Some of mine are from my days as a single mom before I knew him. Some are ones we’ve bought together in the decade we’ve known and loved each other. All are memories that led us to this day, this hour, this moment when setting up a tree together is just a regular thing to do, but years ago it was unimaginable. This life, it’s perfect. Sure, there are times when I’m not myself, my expectations aren’t met, and things feel heavier than they should. However, I prayed for this life, and I got it. I got the man who loves me with his whole heart, the home that is always warm and bright, the writing nook to capture creativity, even the day job, the one that sometimes feels overwhelming as I chase my author dream – I prayed for it, and I’m blessed.

This is my last week of my 30s, a decade that has held the most growth and answered prayers of my life. My 20s were terrible, filled with abuse, divorce, child loss, poverty, uncertainty, and an identity crisis as I tried to figure out who I was and what I wanted. My 30s were made up of new love, new possibilities, new hopes, and the realization that my dreams were closer than I ever imagined. If my 30s were this great, I can only imagine what my 40s will bring. I’m excited. Bring it. 🎄

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Posted in Writing

Book-release hangover is real

Book-release hangover is real. Or maybe I should say vulnerability hangover. I go through it every single time I write or release a book. Writing it, editing it, tweaking it, gathering excitement about it, feeling so proud of it, releasing it to the world.

And then, the hangover.

I released Hope at the Crossroads on Oct. 24. It was a quiet release because my town was on fire. It didn’t feel right to tout something as trivial as a book when so many people lost their homes. So I quietly hit publish, and put it out there to anyone following me on social media. The next day, it was business as usual. I was too busy, too preoccupied, too everything else to worry about what happens next after releasing something I’d poured myself into for the better part of a year.

November came, and NaNoWriMo came with it. In the midst of midterms and prepping for finals, I wrote a book. The book took everything out of me, and now that it’s done, I’ve set it down and plan to forget about it until January.

But now that it’s over, I’ve got the hangover.

Here’s what that looks like. People have bought my book. Oh my God, they’re reading my book. Holy hell, they’re reading it! Do they like it? Does anyone like it? Why haven’t they left a review??? (Refresh.) They still haven’t left a review. Only 20 people bought it. 20. I know more than 20 people. Why did only 20 people buy it? Why aren’t 20 people leaving a review? Have they even read it? Oh God, they didn’t read it. They just bought it to be nice. They don’t even like to read. No one likes to read. Why am I writing if no one likes to read? Why am I even writing? I don’t know how to write. I think I lost the muse. I think I lost my talent. Did I ever have any talent? What is wrong with me???

Here’s how else that looks. I feel spun at all times, and even the smallest thing can send me over the edge. At the same time, I’m restless, and waiting for something to change. I want to do all things. I want to do NONE of the things. I’m having a hard time reading books right now because ALL OF THEM are better than mine. The comparison monster is alive and well, and it’s pouring jealousy all over me. I want to hide in my bed until the holidays are over. I’m frustrated that my books are ignored. I’m glad my books are ignored. I want to take back everything I’ve ever written. I question what I do, what I say, how I look, what I’ve done with my life, where I’m going, that I’m even admitting my crazy instead of being uber positive so you’ll buy my books. I’ve stopped caring. I care way too much.

Does that paint a clear enough picture? I swear, there needs to be a therapist who only deals with artists.

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson writes, “The ego is like a gravitational force field, built up over eons of fearful thinking, which draws us away from the love in our hearts. The ego is our mental power turned against ourselves.” And oh man, is this true.

I’m battling these feelings of ego and fear, something that happens with every book release, and every time I write a book. Now I’m battling the aftermath of both, and gearing up for another book release, while trying to keep my sanity as I try to get through finals. The book-hangover is real, and I’m gonna need some tomato juice and two aspirin.

Or maybe it’s a hair of the dog thing, and I just need to write another book.

Posted in Blog, Writing

PNSD: Post NaNoWriMo Stress Disorder

For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I broke all my own rules. I let the inner critic sit on my shoulder the whole time I wrote the story. I only plotted the first part of the story, leaving me fumbling as I tried to pants my way through the rest. I kept my social media running in the background, and turned to it whenever writing felt hard (read: every 5 minutes). I looked back on the story, and almost got stuck as I worried about what I’d written. I compared my rough draft to the final draft of my favorite novels.

This year’s NaNoWriMo was a mess. Still, I managed to finish. On Saturday, I had 3,500 words left to go, and I stalled the majority of the day as I did everything but write the story. But around 3 p.m., I finally sat down and began typing, taking a break only for dinner. At 9 p.m., I verified my word count and crossed the finish line with 51,622 words.

I’ve been lucky the past several years of NaNo-ing. Two years ago, I had a blast writing Loving the Wind, a book I hadn’t planned to publish. It was just supposed to be for fun, and I even live-wrote it by sharing my rough draft chapters with readers through Wattpad. That book practically wrote itself. Last year, I wrote Hope at the Crossroads, the sequel to The Road to Hope. I was so inspired by the story, that I immediately wrote the next book of the series in December.

NaNoWriMo has always been my jam, the thing I push on other aspiring novelists as a way to get their book written. I’ve done and won NaNoWriMo for 8 years now, including this one, and it’s what taught me to write fast.

But this year was just hard. I chose to write a book I’d been stalling on writing for years, the sequel to Come Here, Cupcake. My usual genre is Contemporary Fiction. This one is a magical realism novel, but can also be considered a Rom-Com (romantic comedy). I’m more into tear-jerking scenes, this one is a much more lighthearted read. For some reason, it’s easier for me to write about heavier topics than ones just for fun. I can’t tell you how many times I had to scrap what I was writing because the tone was getting too heavy, and this was supposed to be fun.

This was supposed to be fun.

This was anything but fun.

Can I even admit that as an author? Can I tell you this and still hope you’ll read this book when I’m done editing it? Writing was HELL this past month, pure hell. This book was hell. I dreaded writing every day, and I hate that I dreaded it. Aren’t I supposed to come to my writing desk every day, full of inspiration? Aren’t I supposed to be whimsical and filled with light every day I get to write? Let me tell you, I was anything but whimsical. When I didn’t have to leave the house, I wore leggings and a holey tank top, covered with an old, frayed granny robe, my teeth unbrushed and my hair in a messy topknot. I looked as good as my novel, and felt as good, too.

This was the month just after my hometown burned in devastating fires. It was the month after I released Hope at the Crossroads to a lukewarm crowd, my heart not even into it because I was so devastated by the fires. This was the month I’d hoped to knock out my reservations about even writing this book by just ripping off the Band-Aid and going on a 30-day word sprint. It was supposed to be a month of courage and creativity. Instead, it was a month of torture and bad prose.

But now, it’s done. The whole middle section needs to be reworked, contradicting details need to be edited, scenes need to be fleshed out, and at this point, there’s no reason to love the love interest. But I’m not editing until January, maybe later. For now, this novel and I are going to our own separate corners until we can learn to speak nicely to each other. Right now, everything feels too raw.

Right now, I think I’ll sleep for a month.

Posted in Blog, Faith

2018: My year of confidence

I should be writing in my novel right now. I have about 3,600 words to go before I reach the magical NaNoWriMo number of 50,000 (though there’s probably about 15,000 more words left of the story). But instead, I want to write here for a moment so I can share some things with you, and so I can document some things for me.

The New Year is coming up, and for many of us, that means making New Year’s Resolutions that will make our lives better. Of course, these rules are usually forgotten by February. At least, that’s the case for me.

2018

For the past few years, I’ve done away with resolutions. Instead, I dedicate my year to a word, and I let that be my focus. In 2016, my word was PERSEVERANCE. That year, I published two books, and I wrote two more. My freelance career took off, providing a nice second income that carried my book writing expense. I also started college. I let go of doubts and forged ahead, and it was the most productive year I’ve ever had. I sold more books than ever. I proved to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to, I just had to keep putting one put in front of the other.

But by the end of that year, I was just as exhausted as I was inspired. I knew I needed a new word, and I decided on the word community. But when I prayed on this, God told me this was not my word. He kept pushing me to trust him, and I kept pushing back. He finally revealed that my word was FAITH, and that I was to pray into this with a week-long fast.

Wait, what? No food for 7 days? Are you kidding me?

I eventually agreed, and planned to start Jan. 1. God had different plans, and made me sick as a dog in the last days of December. That’s when I heard His whisper. Do it now.

So I did. I lived on juiced fruits and vegetables for almost a week, then just vegetables during the last few days. It was an amazing experience. During that time, everything became so much clearer, and I realized that my word really was FAITH.

This past year was life-changing. I leaned back and let God lead. I stopped trying all these wacky things to sell my books, and instead talked with God a lot more. I relaxed.

Admittedly, my sales plummeted this year. This is a frustrating side effect, to be sure, but I knew this going in. I’m in this for the long haul, not in it to get rich quick. This past year has been about listening to God and leaning on Him, about coming back to center, about recognizing what’s important. I’ve also realized that my faith journey isn’t ending just because the year is. Rather, it’s an introduction.

Now that I’m nearing the New Year, a new word has surfaced. I’d asked God, once again, if my word was community, as I’d thought the year before. He quickly shot that one down, telling me instead that my word was CONFIDENCE. But this word has a separate meaning. It’s not exactly about appearing sure of myself to others. It’s more about knowing who I am, and WHOSE I am. Who am I trying to impress when I deny my feelings and remain meek? Whose opinion do I care about when I hide in the shadows or refuse to speak up? What is it that I’m trying to say in my stories, but holding back on for fear of offending others?

Confidence is saying what I mean and standing behind it. It’s about not censoring myself. It’s about writing books where the characters are messy, use foul language, and make mistake after mistake. It’s about being vulnerable. It’s about writing a blog post about faith and God, and publishing it here, on a blog that I sell books on, instead of putting it in my Faith Blog so non-believers won’t be offended. It’s knowing that some of you are going to turn away from this blog in disgust because your feelings about God don’t match mine, or because I’m not your version of a perfect Christian, and posting this anyway.

It’s about telling the truth, and that’s what I want to do this year. Tell the truth. Tell my truth, that being an author is both the best and worst decision I’ve ever made with my life. Tell my characters’ truths, that they do terrible things and suffer the consequences, and are completely human in every way.

I’m an author who loves Jesus, and says fuck, and allows my characters to be gritty and imperfect. I’m an author who has intense faith and debilitating doubts, sometimes in the same breath. I’m an author who doesn’t fit in with non-believers because of my faith, and I’m an author who doesn’t fit in with believers because I write sex scenes, cuss words, and drug use.

I’m me. And 2018 is my year to stop apologizing for it.

Expect a lot of truth from me in this New Year.

Posted in Blog

Happy Holidays! Check out these books, on sale for the holidays

Fiction2017

Hey everyone! I’m still around, but have been laying low as I wrap up the first draft of the sequel to Come Here, Cupcake. Spoiler alert, this may end up a trilogy. 🙂 I’m still thinking of a name for the story, but leaning toward the title Sweet Nothings. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I’ve reduced the price of several of my novels for easy gift giving. Right now, The Road to Hope is available on Kindle for $1.99. This is the first book in a 3-book series. As you remember, I published book 2, Hope at the Crossroads, in October, and the 3rd book, Hope for the Broken Girl publishes on February 5. Gift yourself a new Kindle read as you shop for everyone else these holidays.

Of course, paperback books are easier to wrap for the book lovers in your life, so here’s a list of the reduced sale books I have right now. Please note, sale prices on paperback may take a day or two to reflect. To ensure best price, add book to your cart, but don’t purchase until the price has lowered:

Road2HopeFontFinalThe Road to Hope, Hope series 1
Was 15.95, now 10.95
A contemporary fiction novel about two mothers, one a 35-year-old woman of a toddler, another a 16-year-old pregnant teen, who each experience an earth-shattering tragedy. When hope seems lost, a chance encounter between the two changes their lives forever.


Crossroads FINALHope at the Crossroads, Hope series 2
Was 15.95, now 9.95
Maddie has a second chance at life as a teen mother with a promising future and an exciting new romance. But when a face from her past comes back into her life, she has some hard decisions to make.


Cupcake Final FRONTCome Here, Cupcake
Was 15.95, now 12.95
A magical realism novel that combines magic, baking, and romance in delicious ways. This is the first in an upcoming series.

 


Loving the Wind
Was 15.95, now 12.95
A young adult fantasy novel based on the story of Peter Pan, but told from Tiger Lily’s point of view. Revisit Neverland and learn what happened before Wendy came to the island.

This is only a small sample of the books I have available. To see all of my books, visit crissilangwell.com/books. Happy reading!

Posted in Blog, Writing

Truth telling: Fear of success as an author

Last week at work, I was yelled at by a business I’d included in a newspaper article assignment. The woman on the other line called me out for not contacting them for proper information, which was true. Her voice continued to raise as she pointed her finger at everything I did wrong, and I didn’t fight her because everything she said was true. I’d written an entertaining article that ended up going gangbusters, much to my surprise, and this business was left to clean up the PR nightmare I’d unintentionally created for them by not verifying information. I felt genuinely bad, and I tried to apologize, promising a retraction. But then she hit me where it hurt.

“I see you’re a writer,” she told me. “I see you write things about how to be a writer. It would take nothing to put your name out there as someone who spreads bad information.” She let me know that if their company suffered from this article in any way, I was going down with them.

I was officially triggered. Every single fear I’ve ever had came crashing down on me, things I’ve felt all along, but now were staring me in the face. I’m not good enough. I don’t know what I’m doing. Who do I think I am? How dare I even believe I can keep playing this make-believe game of being a writer, both at work and in my personal life? I’m not educated enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m a total and complete hack.

This triggered barrage of fears at work has seeped into my work as an author. I’m not supposed to talk about this. Who says? I don’t know. I just know that most authors keep things light and friendly, presenting their books in these neat little packages as if they didn’t spend months or years before that bleeding at their keyboard and contemplating ending it all out of self-doubt. My favorite indie authors who are making a killing at this game are funny, personable, and confident. Not me, though. I’m a complete disaster. I’m a mess. I doubt myself constantly. The worst time of my life is always book launch time, because I’ve already predicted its failure before the book is even released.

But truthfully, it’s also a relief when the book doesn’t sell. It means there’s less of a chance for someone to discover the flaws I’ve included between the pages. I’m afraid any research I’ve done hasn’t been enough. Readers will discover I don’t know how to sail a boat, grow a garden, live on a pot farm, or watch a good friend die. I’ll get something wrong, and a reader will call me on it, and the book will be destroyed.

Making it in this writing game is all I want, and it scares me the most. It would be amazing to reach the point where I can live off the proceeds from my books. But what happens if someone smears my name, either by something I’ve done, or something I haven’t done? You’ve all seen the internet mobs that come flying with their pitchforks over someone who’s done something terrible. It would take nothing for a false rumor to be spread that way and ruin someone’s life. If I had a platform, it would be too easy for someone I’d rubbed raw to smear my name and ruin my career. This woman that called me on the article could potentially ruin me by letting everyone know that I have no idea what I’m talking about, that I love to spread fake news.

This woman isn’t even my biggest fear. It’s the readers. When I’m writing a book, I am free, for the most part, of any doubts I have. It’s just me and the characters, and we’re having a great time during the weeks I write their story. But as soon as the book is ready to publish, all my fears take over. The door opens, and I invite people in to read all the things that have been private for months. I’m left vulnerable as people I don’t know pick up my story and witness what I’ve created. Worse, people I know pick up the story. I feel judged, exposed, emotional, afraid. The days after a book release, I usually hide, unable to muster a social media post or say anything about the book because I’m so spent and nursing a nasty book launch hangover.

Then there’s the marketing part. I tell people I know how to write, but I don’t know how to market. That’s a partial lie. I know things I can do that will help drum up interest, but I don’t do them because of my fear of rejection. If I tell people about the book, they will ask what it’s about, and as I tell them, I can hear a little voice telling me they’re not interested, they’re just being polite, no one reads anymore, and so on. I worry more that I will gather their interest, and then, once they read the book, they’ll be left disappointed because I failed to live up to my hype.

And, of course, there’s that one fear I spoke of a few paragraphs ago—if I gather a lot of interest, there’s more potential for someone to realize I’m a hack. I’ve published 9 books so far. I should be so much better at this game. Instead, I’m worse—and my self-doubt is my biggest reason why.

I was listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast with India.Arie, who spoke about leaving the music industry for a time because she felt like she was losing herself to the commercial side and not keeping true to her own beliefs. Her obstacle was her feeling of inadequacy. When she was nominated for 7 Grammys, she was so overwhelmed she couldn’t handle it. When she didn’t win a single one, she was caught somewhere between feelings of failure and a sense of relief. I totally get her on this one. Then she told Oprah a realization she’d had just a few weeks earlier in a moment of self-doubt.

“What if Oprah decided she was too fat for TV?”

Whoa. Let’s chew on that for a second. Oprah wasn’t always OPRAH. She was once a radio station newscaster who found her calling in the talk show arena because she knew how to tell a story. But what if she had decided she couldn’t be seen in the public eye because she wasn’t thin enough, smart enough, or likable enough?

What if Steph Curry decided he wasn’t good enough at basketball?

What if Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (my obsession) felt like his life was too messy to create music?

What if Stephen King had successfully thrown away his manuscript for Carrie?

What if Jesus, Gandhi, Muhammad, Confucius, Buddha, or the Dalai Lama decided they didn’t know what they were talking about, and kept quiet because they were afraid someone would strongly disagree with them?

Earlier this year, I tattooed my favorite Bible verse on my arm: Be not afraid or discouraged. The Lord your God is with you. Joshua 1:9. Fear has been my driving force for so many years. It’s been my God. My focus this year has been on faith, and part of that journey is to let go of fear. Here we are in November, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. In many ways, I feel more afraid than ever. I wish for thick skin, and it’s ridiculously thin. I pretend I have callouses because I work at a newspaper and deal with ridicule on a daily basis. But I don’t have callouses, I have scars that keep reopening.

Not one person in this world is flawless. I’m just me, trying to figure out the world and where I fit in the story. I don’t have all the answers; I can’t even pretend that I do. But I do know that I can only own the things I can control. I can’t control how many people read my book, though I can do things to push it in their direction. I can’t control what people think about my book. But I can control what I write, and stay true to my beliefs as I write it. For that, I need to be clear on those beliefs. What’s my ultimate message? Each story incorporates something I’m grappling with in the time that I’m writing it. What have I learned from the story? What do I hope the reader will learn?

Finally, what’s my definition of success? I thought success was selling enough books so that I can be a full-time writer. However, this definition doesn’t make me happy. It feels shallow, and its broad definition makes the goal out of reach. But you know what makes me feel like I’ve fulfilled my purpose? When someone reaches out to me to say they found themselves in my story, that they felt less alone when they read it, that it reached a deep emotion inside they hadn’t even known was there. My definition of success is when a reader connects with the story I’ve told them, and I’ve changed them because of it.

That’s a definition I can live for.

There will always be critics in this world. I’m not done fearing them, but I’m trying to move away from that. The best I can do, the best any of us can do, is to remember we are all souls having a human experience. We are all connected in one way or another, even with our worst critics. What can we take from each experience? What should we leave behind. Most important, which voices in this world build us up and encourage us to be the best we can be? Those are the voices to focus on.

Posted in Blog, Hope Series

Just published! Hope at the Crossroads, Book 2 of the Hope series

Hope at the Crossroads is available now! 

Take a journey with Maddie, a teen mom figuring out life while raising her daughter Hope in the heart of Wine Country. Hope at the Crossroads is now available in print and Kindle on Amazon.

bit.ly/hopecrossroadskindle

This is Book 2 of the Hope series, a trilogy that began with The Road to Hope, and will finish with the release of Book 3, Hope for the Broken Girl, on Feb. 5.

Happy reading!

Posted in Blog, Hope Series, News & Events

My oops is your good news

hope trio_edited-1.jpg

I’ve made a publishing goof, and it might be in your favor. Here’s the details.

As a self-published author, every aspect of the publishing process is under my control. I format my own books. I hire my editor. I design my covers, or hire a designer to help me. I do my own marketing. I also say when and how the book will be published.

Earlier this month, I set up the pre-sale for Hope at the Crossroads, Book 2 of the Hope series. This book publishes this coming Tuesday, but it’s available for pre-sale now. Because I’ve already written the 3rd book in the series, Hope for the Broken Girl, I set that up for pre-sale now, too. The book is done, but it still needs to go through another editing session with me before I send it to my editor.

Here’s how the pre-sale button works for self-published authors. We can only set a pre-sale up three months in advance. So I set it for early January, and figured I’d change the date again every month or so.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. When I went in to change the date, I was told I could only move the publishing date out by 30 days, and then I was barred from using the pre-sale feature for one year.

Um, what?

After mulling this over, I’ve decided to take the hit. This means that when you finish reading Hope at the Crossroads, you only have to wait until FEBRUARY 5 to read Book 3 of the series.

This also means I’ll be going full speed ahead as I finalize the edits on this book and get it ready to release, not an easy task since NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and I’ll be whipping out another book next month. No worries, though, because I know I can do it.

So, long story long, Hope at the Crossroads publishes this coming Tuesday, and Hope for the Broken Girl is coming February 5!

Pre-order both at bit.ly/HopeSeriesKindle.

Posted in Blog

Hope at the Crossroads, coming Oct. 24

In less than one week, Hope at the Crossroads, Book 2 of the Hope series, will be available to read. This book has been a labor of love, continuing Maddie’s story as a young teen mom, which began in The Road to Hope. I’ve been excited about this release since last year. And yet, it feels strange to release a book now.

My county, Sonoma County, is going through a huge fire disaster, one where many people, including people I love, have lost their homes. My parents were evacuated when this first started last Monday, and were finally able to get back in their home 2 days ago. My aunt and uncle lost their home, but managed to save their pet. I know of at least a dozen people I went to school with who lost their homes, plus 9 coworkers, plus several people I’ve become friends with over the years. One person I met because he reads my books, and now his home is gone. Whole neighborhoods are gone. Iconic landmarks and businesses are gone. Shelters are full. The air is filled with smoke. My family is safe in Petaluma, just south of the fires, but we’re all on edge as we keep our eyes on the horizon, searching for a new fire we hope well never see.

My day job is working at a newspaper. From the moment I woke up and discovered what was happening, I’ve been immersed in this fire. It’s been all hands on deck in the newsroom as we work together to keep the public informed. The first two days were chaotic, as it wasn’t fully clear where the fire was and where it would show up next. Today is Day 10 of this fire disaster, and it feels like a blur.

This is why releasing a book and promoting it feels strange. But I’m not going to put this book on hold. It is still releasing next Tuesday, Oct. 24. It will just be a slightly quieter release than usual. Once we’ve moved past this fire disaster, I’ll crow about it a little more. 🙂

The Kindle version is available for pre-order now at bit.ly/hopecrossroadskindle. The print version will be available on Tuesday, and it will be available on all eReaders soon.

Stay safe, friends, and tell those you love how much they mean to you.

Love Crissi

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

Fire in Northern California

A firefighter monitors a flare of the Nuns fire in the Sonoma Valley, Oct. 11. (photo by Kent Porter / Press Democrat

I woke up Monday morning to the smell of smoke. It was faint, but strong enough that I kept searching for the source. I made my coffee, checking the burners on the stove to see if someone had left something on overnight. My dog stayed by my side, his nerves matching mine as the source of the smoky smell remained a mystery. As the coffee brewed, I checked notifications on my phone. That’s when I came across the text from my college saying classes were cancelled due to fires in area. Well, that explained the smoky smell. I grabbed my coffee and headed to my office. Before starting homework, I opened Facebook. That’s when I was met with post after post about the fire. My work, the Press Democrat newspaper in Santa Rosa, had a Facebook Live video going, taken from the Kaiser hospital in north Santa Rosa. The scene was apocalyptic. A whole mobile home park torched. The hospital had been evacuated. Fire everywhere. I thought it was just that part, but soon learned that the town was surrounded. People had been evacuated. I immediately thought of my parents, and found out that they had also been evacuated.

Santa Rosa was on fire.

The sheer magnitude of what was happening began to unfold over the next several hours. There were fires in Napa, Calistoga, Kenwood, Santa Rosa, Windsor, Mendocino… It felt impossible as the fire grew, popping up in new spots. I spent the morning keeping our newspaper’s social media up to date, wondering if I was even going to be able to make it into work. I didn’t know if the freeway was open, if it was jam packed with cars, if I would be driving into the fire, if my own house would burn down while I was away. I felt pulled to stay and protect my family, and to go to work to help keep the public updated on what was going on. Luckily, my husband stayed home, ready to leave with the kids and dog should anything happen. I was assured that the freeway was clear. So I set into work.

The sky in Santa Rosa was a deep black toward the fire. Where my work was, we were safe, but the smell of smoke was thick. Inside the building it was just as bad. I soon became noseblind to it (though my head and sinuses have yet to recover), and set to work. All hands were on deck as everyone pulled together to gather information. Let me tell you, information was confusing. No one knew were the fires all were, where they were headed, who was in danger…nothing. We did what we could, but it felt like the world was caving in around us as information kept pouring in. A whole subdivision was lost. Then another. Hundreds of home, demolished. Thousands of people evacuated. So many unsure where their loved ones were, afraid they were part of the growing number of lives lost.

PDfrontpageThat first day was organized chaos. Our team of journalists shone in the worst situation possible. Several had been up all night, awake since the fire broke and in the office to do their job. Some were evacuated and still at the office, unsure if they’d have a home to go back to when all was said and done. Stories poured in. Video and photos poured in. People came to our page for information, wondering if we knew anything about their specific house. I tried to answer every question sent our way. Some left me feeling helpless, others I was able to give answers. The answers weren’t always good.

We’re about to enter our 4th day of fires. Yesterday there seemed a small victory as firefighters attacked a section of the fire near my childhood home. They lit a backfire, sending an alarmingly large plume of smoke over southeast Santa Rosa. Before knowing what was happening, it seemed like things were over. But the firefighters appeared successful; this morning, everything in that fire’s path is still standing.

Still, it feels bleak as the fire fight continues. The whole town of Calistoga has now been evacuated. Half of Sonoma is evacuated. Santa Rosa is still burning, and containment is unclear. It’s been 0% for days. My parents haven’t seen their house since they left early Monday morning, but we’re assured it still stands thanks to vigilant firefighters fighting defense on the hills around the neighborhood. We have no idea what we’ll see when….if…they come back home.

In all this, our community has formed a solid bond. We’re all in this together. People are reaching out to strangers. Donations of food, supplies, money are pouring into evacuation centers. Our newsroom has been well taken care of as people send food in every day for our hardworking crew. Friends are opening their homes to those who have no home to stay in. My aunt lost her home as her neighborhood was wiped out. My friends with a one-year-old left home with only the clothes on their back, returning to mere ashes. At least 10 of my high school classmates have lost homes, and several very generous people from our class have worked tirelessly to gather money and supplies for them. One of these classmates who lost their home is a fire captain, and he’s continuing to save other people’s homes even though his home is gone.

Me, I live in Petaluma. We’re still okay, but told to be prepared in case the fire comes this way. With the high winds expected today, it’s possible. I don’t even want to think about it. I’ve been devoted to the news while at work, and unable to detach while I’m at home. I’m praying it will end soon, trying to combat feelings of helplessness, that it’s all hopeless. I know it’s not, but when will this end? I’m trying not to be angry as the world keeps going on while our community goes up in flames. I’m trying not absorb the chaos, the desperate need, the sheer danger. What happens next for the people who have no homes? Where will people go when the evacuation centers can no longer hold them? It feels like the end of the world. It seems weird to open up the New York Times and see stories that have nothing to do with the fires here in California. Everything seems trivial while we continue to burn. Why hasn’t the president stepped in? Why aren’t there more planes fighting this in the sky? Why is the fire still burning?

I pray that this nightmare ends soon.