Dianne C. Braley

The Silence in the Sound
winner December 2022

Hey everyone. It’s New Years’ Eve morning, and I guess I want to say I’m reflecting on the past year and all that’s happened, but I stopped looking back on life a while ago. However, I’m considering taking a peek because I believe reflection brings growth but sticking around in it too long can also stunt it. I’m packing and planning for a trip in a few weeks as a big announcement regarding my book is coming up. I’m beyond excited, and shopping for clothes is always fun. It’s a weekend filled with balls, parties, and all sorts of events with some fantastic writers and readers who love them. I think I’m all set, but one night’s theme is Bollywood, and I’m nervous I won’t do this right—any help is appreciated.

Life is such an odd thing, and it’s such a strange feeling when you simultaneously have great things going on with something catastrophic. I consider myself an open book, sometimes to a fault (my brother would say), but some things, especially ones that are hard, I keep to myself but as I’ve learned to realize again in life over the last few months since my book launch the world has so many supportive and wonderful people, and they far surpass the few that are not. I had people I hadn’t seen in years come to support me, leave me beautiful reviews and messages, and cheer me on, which made my heart sing in ways I’m not sure they’d know. I’ve also met so many new friends and amazing folks in this journey that it made it easy to see who to let go of and that opened room for the right people, the ones who are genuinely happy for others, including me, and I could never be more grateful. So, in honor of them, I feel safe to share about the catastrophe. My mother has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She’s lived “a wonderful life,” she said, and has never been one for regrets. She has lived exactly how she wanted. She sees the beauty in everything, often much to my annoyance. She’s an oddball optimist and a shining light in a crew of melancholy mopes, and she has been the vibrant star that has kept us all from drowning in our darkness. Our light has dimmed, and we are treading water—lost and slowly sinking.

It’s a tough road, as many of you know, but it’s one day at a time. As I said, it’s odd sharing this and, in the same breath, “Hey, I won a Literary Titan Award for my book.” But life is strange, so I’ll roll with it and share it all. The holidays are a time to celebrate, but many are going through trying times, and I think it’s important to recognize that. Depression peaks during this season, so let’s all remember to be kind and open our hearts a little more. It feels good for someone like me who wears armor and carries a shield most days and, as I said, teeters on sinking into the black abyss. Being vulnerable, open, reaching out to others, and giving softens me and makes me feel deep, which we writers need; otherwise, the writing ain’t that good as far as I’m concerned, and listening to old 80s and 90s songs and reading old journals only takes me so far on the feeling train.

I was thinking the other day about how I started writing, as I’m asked this in nearly every interview or book talk. I often speak at events on growing up in the city in a blue-collar family where arts weren’t nurtured and terms like “job stability” and “need to put food on the table” were said. I usually pay tribute to my aunt Theresa, the sole artist in our family, and go on about how she inspired me when I was young. I completely forgot that my mother wrote a little. She started a book once, and I recalled reading a few pages. Then out of nowhere, I remembered a poem she wrote. Word for word, I still recalled it. She told me about it when I was a kid, and I loved it. She wrote it in seventh grade and could still recite it. It blew me away. I’d forgotten this, and it just popped into my head like it was yesterday, and I said it out loud as I cleaned my kitchen just before Christmas. She never titled it, but I did. Happy New Year!

by Jean Cabelus

As I woke up this morning, I saw a beautiful site.

The street was a carpet of diamonds.

The window a pane of ice.

I looked across the street,

And what did I see?

A roof of dancing fairies

And a cotton field of trees.