Turning Lemons into Lemonade (Mary Strand)

This month at YA Outside the Lines, we’re SUPPOSED to talk about turning points, particularly in writing.

For me, a good day is when I don't talk about technical writing stuff. By that definition (although not by all definitions), almost all of my days are good days.

But a turning point is a decisive change, hopefully for the better.

So let's talk about life instead of technical writing stuff.

For me, turning points tend to come when everything sucks, and I decide to either throw out whatever I was doing or (if I can't) at least turn lemons into lemonade.

My biggest turning point in recent years was toward the end of 2022, when the Great Scooter Crash wrecked my right shoulder and arm. For weeks (months), I couldn't use that arm. No writing, no playing guitar, no physical activity. My only option was to turn lemons into lemonade.

It took a while. I was in ghastly pain, and I felt like my life was over.

Writing books was literally impossible. I couldn't type, and I definitely couldn't write anything funny, so I didn't even try.

We were already hard at work on my Golden Girl album. The first single ("Act As If") was scheduled to release two months after the crash, and the album itself was scheduled to release that June. But I couldn't pick up a guitar, let alone play it. My single release party was rescheduled for a month later, which offered only a slight hope that I'd be able to play guitar by then.

The only productive thing I could do was sing.

So we recorded my vocals on the remaining album tracks, postponing my guitar tracks for a few months. After two months or so, I started playing guitar, five ungodly painful minutes at a time. A mere week or two before my single release party with St. Dominic's Trio, I was maybe up to 15 minutes of guitar per day, and I spent them all on "Act As If."

The single release party happened. And I played guitar! But I had four more single releases to come, one each month, plus the album release, and it was all breathing down my neck. Luckily, I had already recorded my guitar tracks for the upcoming singles, but I still had to record my guitar for the last few songs. I was bumping hard up against deadlines. I considered postponing the album release, but I just couldn't: too much was already in place. So I recorded my final guitar tracks (even my one guitar solo on the album), and it took serious time, patience, and more retakes than I wanted to think about. But I gritted it out.

We made every deadline. (Hey, I'm a lawyer by training. I make deadlines.) And I love Golden Girl. And releasing my first album was a massive turning point in my life. But was it the sort of turning point that you find in books?

I think so?

The heroine (me) finds herself in the worst situation possible (the effective loss of my arm) and decides to make a change (drop everything else, since I couldn't do it anyway, and focus on the album) that is ultimately for the better (my album).

And then I had to do the same damn thing with writing books. I'm still working on that, but it finally looks like my books will live happily ever after, too.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her books and music at marystrand.com.


  1. This is so cool. There's almost ALWAYS a way to keep going when life throws you a busted shoulder. Did you find your vocals got better when singing was your only outlet?

    1. Yes and no! Ironically (or not), I also had a tooth implant done while working on the vocals, and I started singing in a gritty, more hardcore voice to mask what the implant was doing to my S's. I call it my mass-murderer voice, but it stuck, and now I sing that way on a lot of songs. It fits with my music, and I love it!

  2. Way to persevere. Imagine all the wimps left wailing in your dust.


Post a Comment