Season of Change

If you ask me, Fall is the most beautiful time of year. The leaves are changing colors, setting fire to the world. The air is crisp, like biting into a harvest apple. Simply being outside fills me with joy – and makes me feel like anything is possible. Maybe that’s the reason I’m itching to make a few changes right now.

At the top of my list, I want to do a better job of examining and appreciating life. After all, that’s why Angie and I created this column: as a space for reflection and sharing. We joke that it’s “just between us,” but by publishing our words, we do hope to connect with people like you.

We started writing JBU in college, a time in our lives when everything felt fresh and exciting. Even then, we weren’t terribly prolific, but at least it felt easier to come up with interesting ideas. We were always exploring – both literally and figuratively.

Now, as we near 30, things seem more static. We have each settled into our own routines, and there isn’t always something new to talk about.

But not all stories have to be epic sagas like Game of Thrones, or impassioned soap operas like Grey’s Anatomy. Home life, work life, love life – these topics have been mined for centuries. It’s time for Angie and I to start digging.

To begin, I’ll bring everyone up to speed on my 2014 so far. It’s been a pretty exciting year for me.

In January, after years of writing and revising my novel, I was finally ready to search for a literary agent. I sent out “query letters” describing my story and myself, then I tried not to obsessively check my inbox. Eventually the responses rolled in – some negative, some positive, and some in between.

The best email came in April, from an agent who loved my book and wanted to speak with me on the phone. After talking with her for over an hour, I knew she was the perfect champion for me and my work. Partnering with her is a huge milestone in my writing journey, and hopefully a big step in the right direction for my career.

Then, in case you missed the announcement that was printed in an earlier edition of the newspaper, I got married in September. After nine years together, Andy and I tied the knot in a small outdoor ceremony, with the wind whispering through the trees around us. A couple weeks later, our parents hosted receptions in each of our hometowns so that we could celebrate with a larger group of family and friends. All three events were lovely, and a ton of fun. And like any wedding, there were ups and downs and little emergencies that are just funny anecdotes now.

That’s what I’ve been up to recently! Hopefully there are still more good happenings to come. Either way, you’ll be hearing from me and Angie again soon.

– Kristan


Last night I fell asleep imagining all the things I want in life. I pictured my future home, with granite countertops in the kitchen, the breakfast bar where I will work in the mornings, the sunlight filtering in through the windows. I pictured the big grassy backyard where my dog and kids will play. I pictured the book signings, the emails and phone calls with my agent and editor, the special shelf in my library for my own covers to be displayed.

It’s not easy for me to talk about these things, because I am a bit superstitious. I knock on wood after I make jokes, afraid to jinx the good things or foretell the bad. I believe there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and I do my best to stay on the right side of that line because I believe in karma.

But I subtitled my website ( “writing dreams into reality” because that’s what it’s about — what I’m about. I’m working hard to turn my dreams of being a writer into my reality. And I transform many of my “dreams” (ideas) into real, written-out stories. That’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was 9 years old, and I hope to do it until I’m 90.

Sometimes it’s a slog, let’s be honest. Sometimes I would rather be sleeping, or going out with friends, or eating a pint of ice cream on the sofa while watching Grey’s Anatomy. Sometimes my back hurts, or my wrists hurt, or my neck hurts, or my eyes hurt. Sometimes I can’t think of a single good word, much less a whole sentence. Sometimes I get so tired I could cry.

But it’s those times that my dreams matter most, and that’s why I’m sharing them now. As a reminder to myself that I’m working towards something tangible, even when everything seems out of my control and about as real as Tinkerbell. As a reminder to any of you who have dreams that you shouldn’t give up on them. Dreams are part of what make life worth living.

Did I think that by 24 I’d have found a wonderful man I want to marry? Or that I’d have the bestest, cutest dog in the whole world? That my friends and family would still be supporting, encouraging, and inspiring me every day? That I would have an editorial team interested in my stories?

No, once upon a time, those were just “silly dreams.” But now here I am, and here they are. And that’s how I know there’s more to come. That’s how I know that if I can dream it, I can achieve it.

And I will.

The uphill drive

For some reason, I often used to dream about driving. Specifically, about driving a stick shift. And even though nowadays you can order an automatic transmission on just about any car, those constant dreams were like subliminal messages. They convinced me that it was important to know how to drive a manual.

When I was sixteen, my dad promised that he would teach me both stick and automatic. When I was seventeen, I still didn’t know either one. Tired of being the only high school senior who always needed a chauffeur, I finally enrolled myself in a driver’s ed class. Two weeks later, I at least knew how to drive an automatic.

I didn’t learn how to drive stick until my boyfriend’s mom taught me on an old Jeep Wrangler last year. I quickly grasped the concepts—use the clutch to shift gears, don’t stall out, avoid steep hills—but the actual doing was much more difficult. I managed to drive several miles and get up to about 50 mph, but I also stalled out and slid downhill a bit, scaring the car behind me.

But regardless of those difficulties, I fulfilled my dream. I now possess the skill to drive a stick shift. All that’s left is practice.

Writing, my other big dream, is the same way. Since age 9, I’ve known that I want to be a novelist. So I worked hard in school, got a degree in creative writing, and switched from a full-time to a part-time job in order to write more. At 23, I have the skills I need to be a writer. All that’s left is the practice.

And just like driving stick, I find myself having to constantly shift gears, not stall out, and brave the hills. Which of course is easier said than done. Every day is filled with chores and distractions—the dog, the dishes, the internet. Even when I can find time to focus, there’s that dreaded “writer’s block.” And when I do finally work my way out of a block, writing is still an uphill battle. Sure, on a good day I can knock out 1,500 words, but that still leaves roughly 78,500 more to make a novel.

Of course, most goals in life are like that. You might want to be a teacher or a lawyer, a musician or a parent, a doctor or an actor. No matter what your dream is, you will encounter distractions that force you to shift gears, moments where you stall out, and hills that seem impossible to climb. The key is to keep driving yourself forward, no matter how rough the road gets. Because anyone can learn the skills, but it’s the people with dedication and perseverance who achieve their dreams.