To Be Her Girl: A Novel

It’s spring 2016. I’m twenty-six and have recently moved back in with my mom, her boyfriend, and the two cats. I spend most of my time at the desk in the bedroom I first moved into at nine years old. The walls are a sage green, just as the walls at the apartment I left behind in Los Angeles were. I have, quite frankly, no idea what I’m doing.

My cousin is encouraging me to write a book, or a memoir to be exact. The screenplay I completed in the winter needs too much work and some distance from my mind. The poetry and short prose I’m writing is nothing but an exercise of creativity. Maybe, I think, there’s something to this book idea.

I begin to jot memories into a notebook—each page belonging to a different chapter of my strange life. I quickly discover, though, that this is something I’m not ready for. I don’t feel like I’ve earned it. So I decide to write a novel instead.

I begin on May 13, but progress is slow—almost non-existent—until the late fall, when suddenly I’m writing thousands of words a day, driving Mom and Gary crazy trekking up and down the stairs all night for another cup of tea. I work sometimes until seven in the morning.

I finish the first draft on January 8, 2017. As the days lead up to it, I know that’s when I’ll type that final period. The coincidence of it would be too much for the Universe to pass up. January 8 is important to me, and it’s important to the story. But this isn’t the place to share why.

Over the course of the next three and a half years, I return to that novel, between stretches of its absence, polishing it up and analyzing every word. I stress over every piece of punctuation, researching the rules and deciding which are worthy of breaking. I change things and then change them back, doubting my talent and wondering if writing is anything more than therapy.

Until finally, recently, I decide it is good enough.

The words, the novel, the story—they are good enough. So I have decided it is time to let go. Because the story of Callahan Thomas is too personal to continue to fret over; it is too engraved into my own. And if I’m going to move on with my life, I need to move on from hers.

So I introduce to you the story of Callahan Thomas, a writer who falls into an unhealthy obsession with the love of her life, and discovers the truth of who she is—and who she doesn’t want to be—along the way.


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