Chic Spotlight: Author, Mother, Widow, Annette Januzzi Wick

Chic Spotlight: Author, Mother, Widow, Annette Januzzi Wick

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Cincy Chic: Was your career on a writing/poetry path prior to I'll Be in the Car?
Annette Januzzi Wick: Looking back, writing, and the writing of I'll Be in the Car, was a natural progression in that it was something I had yet to try. I enjoyed creative writing in high school, penning the infamous superhero story about my alter ego, Netti Spaghetti and the Meatball Kid. In college, I took an English composition class where we were asked to develop an essay about someone who had inspired us. I picked Grandpa Januzzi, but what began as an excerpt about his life become an essay on how his death had impacted me and my family. That piece is now in I'll Be in the Car and remains not only a pivotal turn in my writing but in my views on death. I pursued a computer science career until I met my husband, Devin, opened a drive-thru espresso bar (Cincinnati’s first), then left for Oregon and motherhood. Once settled on the Oregon Coast, I began to write after Devin was diagnosed with leukemia.

Cincy Chic: Can you tell us how the idea for I'll Be in the Car came about?
Wick: The idea really began as a series of notes, lists and e-mails. When Devin was given his diagnosis, we were overwhelmed. It was a little like Physics class – we were in the midst of something we didn’t understand, so I took notes. As his condition fluctuated between relapse and remission, I soon began writing letters to my mother during a medical stay in Seattle and to Devin when it was difficult for us to communicate. At one point, I had prayed and asked God to send me a sign as how I could make the hurt a little less for those in our situation. Once I had amassed two years worth of notes, Devin and I both agreed our journey would be worth documenting for others.

Cincy Chic: Was it difficult to write something with such deep emotional ties?
Wick: As one does in school, I reviewed the notes, letters, journals often enough, added to them in order to understand what was happening. That was my way of intellectualizing the experience. During revision, I was amazed at how the mention of one small detail, e.g., the planting of cabbage around the hospital, could elicit emotions of dread or hope. We had been too busy to let ourselves feel for fear of losing focus. Each revision allowed me to access the deeper emotions around death, loss and the guilt of being left behind. Many nights, I stayed up reading my own words, not really believing this had happened, wondering, “who am I to have the strength to get through this?” When I completed the manuscript, I read through it once again, and felt a strange sorrow for the woman who had experienced this tragedy and an odd hope for this character’s life. That’s when I knew I was healed, because I could see this as a personal and universal experience.

Cincy Chic: What has I'll Be in the Car given you since you wrote it?
Wick: Strength and confidence. For so long, during Devin’s illness and afterwards, I felt lost because our lives had focused on him and his health. But I found the strength to stand on my own again, reclaiming my independence that I was known for as a child. I gained confidence as a woman, in asking for what I want in life and not waiting, for tomorrow I know it could disappear. The many rejection letters I received during my attempts to publish I'll Be in the Car did nothing to shake my belief that this was something I had to do. Prior to final editing, I met my new husband Mark, whose wife had also died of cancer. Mark assisted me with many changes. With that came the occasion to delve into my emotions and bring Mark and I close. Not only did we share this experience of cancer, caregiving and death, but since I was prone to keep emotions in check, my writing allowed him to get a glimpse of me from the other side. We were married last year and joined my son Davis with his girls Kaitlyn, Shannon and Cheryl. This, too, has been a gift for children whose parents have died, to know that they can find comfort in their lives. I say that though we’re not planning to add a child to the family, we are “giving birth” to joy.

Cincy Chic: What do you think your husband would say to you if he could talk to you today and see all that you've done?
Wick: Devin was the first to tell me, I could do anything I wanted to do. He, along with Davis, gave me a pen on Mother’s Day that I still use for my booksignings. Devin would have been first in line to buy my book, a glint in his blue eyes egging me on. He would have been surprised at how strong a woman I turned out to be, though he knew I was stubborn. Devin would have congratulated me on raising Davis, teaching him to play baseball and letting him know it was okay to show his emotions, all that comes with grief and loss and having fun. Lastly, he would be grateful that Mark and the girls are a part of our lives.

Cincy Chic: What would you like to tell other women out there going through something life-changing and traumatic?
Wick: I can recall my days in high school, hoping some day to make a difference in this world. I made a difference in Devin’s life and used my writing to do so for others. When I look around to consider art, literature, parks, non-profits, all those things that inspire me to be a better person, I see what has survived has done so because of someone’s passion. I would tell them to find their passion. That is how we all survive.