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January 11th, 2007 – Kali VanBaale

It’s Thursday, and it’s raining outside. The wind lashes sleet against my office window where I’m working on my second novel about a farm wife with a secret. I have only recently started working on this book, and I think it might be good. I think I might try to get an agent when it’s finished.

My oldest son is at school. He’s a first grader. My youngest son is six, and at preschool for the morning. He recently lost his first tooth. My house is quiet but for the tapping sound of the sleet.

In nine days, I will turn 32.

Last October, I published my first book. I should feel elated, but I don’t. Instead, I feel impatient that success hasn’t magically appeared overnight. I’m afraid that the book is failing and everyone secretly hates it. I’m stressed that I’m not doing enough to get it into the hands of readers. I’m frustrated that everything in my life isn’t coming together in perfect alignment, and that I don’t know how to properly use a semi-colon.

I don’t yet know that I have far more setbacks than triumphs ahead of me, but it’s the setbacks that will toughen me up and make me work harder and better, not the triumphs.

In nine months, I will finally meet my daughter.

She’s in an orphanage in Pune, India, on the other side of the world. But today, she’s just a photograph on my desk where I work. A picture of a tiny one-year-old brown girl with beautiful eyes. She’s just a mountain of paperwork I keep in a crate in the corner of my office. Today, she’s still just an idea I’ve carried in my mind for over a year.

I constantly worry about how she’ll adjust. I worry that we’re missing precious time with her. I worry that she won’t bond. I worry that I won’t bond.

My list of worries is infinite.

I don’t yet know that when I finally meet her in the orphanage in Pune, she will fling herself into my arms, crying and clinging to my neck with a ferociousness I’ve never felt from a child, and I will close my eyes and whisper into her ear, “It’s you. It was always you.”

In nine years, I will finally publish that book about the farm wife with a secret.

It will take me nine years. But I do not know that yet, as I work in my office. I don’t know that I will indeed get an agent for that book, and then lose her. I don’t know that I’ll revise and rewrite that book over twenty times, and that it will be rejected over forty before I finally sell and publish it.

Today, I don’t yet know how much I still have to learn, and that I’m just at the beginning, not the destination. I don’t yet know that I’ll go back to school a thousand miles away to a state I’ve never visited, where I’ll learn, and write, and learn and write some more, and meet strangers from all over the world who I’ll grow to love like family. I’ll travel, and teach, and give speeches, and I’ll finally get a new agent and publish that book about the farm wife with a secret.

And I still won’t know how to properly use a semi-colon.

But I don’t know any of this yet.

Today, on this rainy January morning, I’m simply working, typing one word at a time, listening to the tapping of the sleet on my window.


Kali VanBaale is the author of the novels The Good Divide and The Space Between. She is the recipient of an American Book Award, the Independent Publisher’s silver medal for fiction, the Fred Bonnie Memorial First Novel Award, and an Iowa Arts Council major artist grant. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Numéro Cinq, Nowhere Magazine, The Milo Review, Northwind Literary, Poets&Writers, The Writer and several anthologies. Kali holds an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a faculty member of the Lindenwood University MFA Creative Writing Program. She lives outside Des Moines with her family.

Kali urges you to learn more about Holt International Children's Services, an organization that provides critical care and support to orphaned and vulnerable children. They lead the global community in finding families for children who need them and offer pre- and post-adoption support and resources they need to thrive. Visit

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