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Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Sammi Spizziri

Today we’re delighted to welcome another Omega, Sammi Spizziri, whose manuscript AFTER I BID YOU ADIEU is a 2019 Golden Heart finalist in the Young Adult Category

Sammi Spizziri lives in a small town in Illinois with her husband and baby girl. When she’s not lost in writing (or reading) a new book, she’s a stay-at-home mom who dabbles in accounting on the side. Boy bands, rec league volleyball, and chai tea lattes are a few of her favorite things.

Here’s a blurb for AFTER I BID YOU ADIEU:

Eighteen-year-old Evie wants to change the world through podcasts and not repeat her deceased mom’s mistake of settling for a hometown boy over her career. In an early college program at NYU, she’s on the perfect path to success. The only thing missing is her best friend and sort-of love interest from back home, Kace. But since he decided to skip college in favor of staying in Ridgeview for his mom, Evie’s done her best to forget about him. So when her dad’s heart attack requires her to return home for the summer, she’s not sure how to handle being face-to-face with Kace again—or her grief.

To make matters worse, her scholarship is threatened and she needs Kace’s help on a podcast to save it. She knows it’s not safe to get too close again or she’ll be tempted to stay, especially since he admitted his feelings for her before she left the first time. But as they spend time together, she soon finds herself admiring his small acts of kindness around town and appreciation for who she is over what she does, making her doubt why she’s leaving. Will Evie chase her dreams no matter the cost or learn how extraordinary ordinary can be?

Ooh! You’ve got podcasts and the lure of New York and anxiety about the future and family responsibility and best friends who might fall in love…very real stuff for teen readers!! And I love the idea that the boy is the one representing kind-heartedness and small-town-values! Very interesting dynamics going on!

Well, readers, it’s a lovely summer day outside, and my cottage hollyhocks are in bloom, so let’s all pull up some comfy-cushioned wicker chairs, pour tall glasses of iced tea, and let the local finches serenade us while I lob some questions Sammi’s way.

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Welcome, Sammi! Wonderful to have you with us! You’re our first Young Adult Finalist of the year. (It’s a favorite genre for me, since I teach high school and am always looking for good books to recommend!) Tell us a little about your Golden Heart book and the process of writing it.

The idea came when my husband and I attended an auction run by a local family, which fascinated me. At the same time, I was also struggling with the grief of miscarriages and infertility, so it all came together as a girl coming home to help with the family auction business the summer after her mom died. But as tough as suffering is, I wanted the story to be hopeful and show how the people around us have the power to lift us up when we let them. And even though we often think it takes something momentous to make a difference, small deeds are often the most impactful. It’s very much inspired by Mother Teresa’s quote, “We can do small things with great love.”

It’s been a really healing story for me to write, not only for the content, but also as something to invest in while waiting to adopt my daughter. And as I reflect on my plan to have kids earlier, I’m always struck by the fact that I not only wouldn’t have the experience that inspired this particular story if I’d gotten what I wanted on my own timeline but I wouldn’t have had the time to invest in learning the craft. It’s been a lesson in relinquishing control and realizing you never know where life will take you.

What a wonderful backstory to your story! I love the theme “the people around us have the power to lift us up when we let them.” It reminds me of a wonderful speech Maya Angelou once made, in which she encouraged her audience not to be too proud to let other people help when we need it—even if what we need at the moment is letting somebody else launder our embarrassingly ratty old underwear—because refusing to let others in “denies them a blessing.” And, yes, our writing can be so healing, helping us work through so many struggles in our lives. I’ll never forget the speech Eloisa James made at the RWA Nationals luncheon a few years ago, when she talked about how she transmuted her own personal grief and pain into moments in her stories. The payoff is there for readers, too, who can work through their own struggles by identifying with characters. Sigh. It’s a complicated and beautiful thing—but grounding stories in real emotion is what makes them so important and so valuable.

 Speaking of letting other people help: what people in your life most enable your writing? Who are your biggest supporters?

My husband has been my biggest cheerleader. He always makes sure I have time to write and is the one who encouraged me to enter contests, including the Golden Heart. I also can’t thank my parents enough for the way they’ve always believed in me and sacrificed to give me all the best opportunities to succeed. I’m also forever grateful for my friends, family, and critique partners who have given me feedback and support!

I’m thankful for my high school English teacher, whose creative writing unit inspired my first novel, and Bowling Green State University’s honors program for giving me the tools to complete my first draft. UW-Madison’s Write-by-the-Lake program gave me the resources to learn the craft, helped me believe in myself, and showed me how to find writers in my genre, which led to joining the RWA and YARWA. And of course, thanks to the RWA and all the chapters! I’ve been a finalist in five chapter contests, and each has reminded me to keep writing, even when I’m about to trash the whole thing because it feels impossible to get right!

Wow! If it takes a village, you’ve got an amazing village behind you! (Yay for the high school English teacher!!) What do you do to pay it forward? Do you participate in other ways in RWA?

I’m treasurer for the Young Adult chapter, YARWA, and am so thankful for all the support in that group! It’s because of YARWA that I first heard about all the RWA chapter contests and other writing contests and programs. I’m so happy to have a chance to give back, especially in a way that comes naturally to me as an accountant.

That’s awesome! Thanks for the work you do to keep that chapter thriving! And, of course, giving always brings unexpected rewards (yay! Good karma!!). Speaking of RWA, are you going to Nationals?

I am! I’ve never been before, but I’m so excited to meet the other Golden Heart finalists and writing friends I’ve only met virtually. Plus, it’s such a great opportunity to meet agents and editors and learn the craft!

Oh, it definitely is!! And getting to hang out with your Golden Heart sisters is an experience you’ll never forget! It’s been ten years since my first final, and it’s still a joyful thrill to get to see my fellow Rubies (and Firebirds and Unsinkables) at conference. We’ve seen each other through sooooo much.

 You’re clearly plugged in to the Romance community and have done so well in contests. What’s the best tip you can give other writers?

JUST WRITE. I spent two years stalling as I tried to outline the perfect story, fearing getting it wrong. When I finally finished the draft, I ripped it apart and then eventually set it aside indefinitely, so all that planning didn’t save it. In hindsight, the actual writing taught me so much more than the outlining, and I should have dived in sooner. I learned I can finish a book, which is huge when so many people set out to write one and never finish. I learned my writing strengths and weaknesses. And I learned my own writing process, which has made my second attempt far smoother.

Second, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I spent my entire academic career chasing perfection and thinking that was a good thing, but perfection doesn’t exist. Writing has forced me to be vulnerable, to break past this notion that I must have everything together to be loved, and to instead come to grips with the fact that I am not nor will I ever be perfect, and that’s good enough. It’s finding the courage to absorb criticism without feeling like it’s an attack at my self-worth and to not hold back because I’m too stuck on an idealistic standard I’ll never reach.

Also, I’d say to always look for the fruit in your writing. If I measured my success in terms of publication, I would have given up a long time ago, but it’s been so amazing to find community in places like Twitter and our Golden Heart class. Even if nothing else comes of writing, I’ve met amazing people and learned invaluable insights about myself that makes it all worth it. 

Yes, yes, yes, to ALL of that!!! We really do learn from the process, and there’s no shortcut around that. And there’s no such thing as perfection. We’ve got to let go of that obsession, or we’ll never bring our stories into the world. WHICH IS THE POINT, after all. What’s your favorite part about stories?

I’ve always loved seeing things tie together, both in life and in stories. I love seeing the aerial view, how all the ups and downs and seemingly random details come together to create something beautiful. It awes me every time.

**bites tongue to avoid bringing up plot problems in the finale to Game of Thrones yet again** I like that: “the aerial view.” We have to hack our way through the weeds and somehow stop now and then to see it all from above. What’s the line from Doctorow? “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” But it really, really helps to have a map in your mind while you’re doing it!!

 Okay, here’s a big-picture question for you: as a romance novelist, and as a human trying to make your way in a not-always-easy world: What’s your definition of love? In the romantic sense, what’s most important for a good relationship?

Love, to me, is self-sacrifice. It’s not a feeling, but an action. It’s not just about falling in love either because despite all the drama and tension so often portrayed in romantic stories, love is often the hardest when the excitement dies down and life sneaks in. It’s choosing the person over and over again, especially when you’d rather serve yourself first. It sounds cliché, but 1 Corinthians 13 is always a great reminder to me about how to love!

I had to go look that up. Oh, yes, those famous lines:  “Love is kind…love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love has no fear; it does not worry; love keeps no records of wrongs; never fails.” So beautiful. And hard. Sigh. Speaking of relationships–beyond being a writer, what’s going on in your life?

I just adopted a baby girl, which has been the best experience of my life. I’m so blessed to be a mom. It’s not always predictable or easy, but every day I look at her and am so grateful to get to love and raise her. She’s almost seven months now and I’m still in this spot between not quite believing she’s real and finding it impossible to remember a time before her.

Oh!!! My heart just melted!!! How wonderful. My baby girl is about to turn 21 just before Nationals (21 years, not months.) She’s been a miracle from the start, and the nature of the miracle keeps changing and growing, but I miss those snuggly, exhausting, when-am-I-ever-going-to-take-a-damn-shower early days. Congratulations!

I have a feeling you’ll have a really good question for our readers today. What would you like to ask them to get the conversation rolling?

When has life turned out differently than you expected? Did anything good come from it?

 

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Connect with Sammi Spizziri on Social Media:

Website:  https://sammispizziri.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/samsamiamam

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SammiSpizziriAuthor/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/70068337-sammi

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/samsamiamam/

 

 

36 responses to “Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Sammi Spizziri”

  1. Great blog, Sammi. I was inspired reading about your journey. You sound like an amazing human (without trying to sound amazing!) and I look forward to giving you a big hug at Nationals. Will this be your first time away from your baby girl or will you be bringing her with you? To your question … what turned out differently than I expected? Other than first book not selling? Hmmm. In my 20s I was convinced/dreamed about/was sure I was going to marry a handsome Brit one day and live in England. When I had the opportunity presented itself, it didn’t feel right and I said no. 28 years ago I married a man I met when I worked in D.C. and we have two great kids and live 15 minutes from where I grew up.

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    • Sammi Spizziri says:

      Thank you, Sheri! It’ll be the longest I’ve been away from my daughter and I’m terrified she’ll forget all about me while I’m gone lol. I love your story about marrying someone different than you expected. How beautiful that you’ve spent 28 years together! <3

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I love it, Sheri!! Reality turns out better than fantasy.

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  2. Kellie VanHorn says:

    Congratulations on your adoption, Sammi! I loved reading your story and how you were able to use a difficult season in your own life to reach out to others through your work. I can’t wait to meet you in NYC!

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  3. John Spizziri says:

    Hey- congratulations!!

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  4. Elisa Beatty says:

    Glad to have you this morning, Sammi!

    I don’t think I’ve ever done one of these interviews with quite so many quotations and allusions.

    Lots of thoughtfulness…and I’m eager to see how people answer your question.

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    • Sammi Spizziri says:

      Thank you for doing this, Elisa! I’m looking forward to hearing the answers as well. 🙂

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  5. Becke Turner says:

    What an inspiring story. Congratulations on your adoption. Children are a rare gift.

    When has life twisted for me? Ah, when has it remained static? LOL. I’m precisely where I need to be is my motto. Do I always think it’s great? Nope, but it makes me who I need to be. Plus, it’s easier to let life unfold. Pushing rarely works for me–but not for lack of me trying, really hard.

    Looking forward to the conference and saying hello to all my new Omega sisters face-to-face.

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    • Sammi Spizziri says:

      Thank you! Children definitely are a rare gift. And I love your motto: I’m precisely where I need to be. That’s a great reminder! Looking forward to meeting you at Nationals!

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Becke, it struck me a decade or so ago that when I was an adolescent, I assumed adulthood would be all about stability and sameness, and actually worried I might get bored.

      Ha! It turns out life continues to be tumultous and surprising, even working the same steady job for 19 years and living in the same little house with the same guy.

      Hard times come, and wonderful times come, and you keep questioning and rediscovering yourself.

      Which is, I think, a good thing.

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  6. Congratulations on your final, Sammi! I loved this interview. Your story sounds beautiful and I totally choked up when you were talking about your daughter. I love that idea of focusing on small acts of great love. Life throws so many unexpected things at you, but if we’re putting more love into the world, we’re on the right track. 🙂

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  7. Jilly Wood says:

    Congratulations on your adoption, Sammi, and on your GH final. I really enjoyed reading your post. After I Bid You Adieu and your own personal journey both sound wonderfully uplifting and positive.

    A turning point in my life? Not really in my personal life. I’m still married to the man I met on my first day at university a very , very long time ago–and hoping to stay that way for many years to come. In my professional life, definitely! Years ago I got passed over for a big promotion. At the time I was devastated. In the aftermath I left a company and a job I loved, with no idea what I would do next. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. A few months later I found a new job that kept me challenged and happy for the next decade. And when it was time to leave that role (to make time to write) I had the confidence to walk away trusting in myself and my husband to reinvent our lives. I’m so glad I did!

    Looking forward to NY (not long now!) and getting to know everyone in person.

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  8. Darynda Jones says:

    Great interview! Welcome, Sammi, and congrats! Your story sounds delish. Your personal story is just amazing and inspirational. See you at the GH Ceremony!!!

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  9. Fenley Grant says:

    First of all, congratulations on your GH final and on adopting your daughter! What a wonderful year for you. I can’t wait to meet you in NYC to congratulate you in person.

    When you are blessed to have a child (through whatever means), you have hopes and dreams for their futures. My ‘plans’ for my eldest child turned out differently than I expected. On his third birthday, we received his autism diagnosis. Plot twist for sure.

    We’re thankful he’s on the high end of the autism spectrum and he’s worked very hard in school and in therapies to be where he is today. While we’ve navigated some stormy seas (and will continue to do so), he’s currently attending the local community college (Major: Radio, Television, and Film) and he has a path for his future. We’ve even discussed co-writing a novel together. I couldn’t have foreseen this outcome 19 years ago when we received the diagnosis and I wouldn’t change the young man he is, but I would do anything to make his life easier.

    My family is my support and my cheerleading section and I’m blessed to have them. Enjoy this time with your family–babies grow up so fast.

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  10. Sammi Spizziri says:

    Thank you! Children definitely are a rare gift. And I love your motto: I’m precisely where I need to be. That’s a great reminder! Looking forward to meeting you at Nationals!

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  11. Oooooh, I cannot wait to read your book! It sounds right up my alley…

    I have to admit that, despite being very firmly in the “planner and listmaker” camp, not much in my life has turned out the way I thought it would — not that I’m complaining! I married a decade earlier than I expected, but he’s the perfect partner for me. I didn’t use the Master’s in Costume Design I fought to get, but found instead I’m well suited to life in Corporate America. And I certainly thought there’d be a LOT MORE dogs in my life, but… sadle… that “perfect partner” of mine limits me to having only two dogs at one time.

    *sigh*

    I can’t wait to meet you at Conference, Sammi. I’ll pat your hand whenever you get misty eyed over missing your little one. Or hand you a margarita. Whichever seems more appropriate at the moment.

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    • Sammi Spizziri says:

      Doen’t it always seem like planning should work out more than it actually does? Lol. But like you said, you’ve seemed to have found better things than your own plans!

      Perfect, I look forward to both the hand pats and margaritas. 🙂 See you in New York!

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I can attest from personal experience that Eileen is very good at both hand patting and passing out margaritas.

      And Eileen, two dogs is plenty. The real problem with your perfect hubby is he won’t allow any CATS.

      (For those who don’t know, Eileen is my sister. Her husband really is a most excellent human…except for the cat resistance, of course.)

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  12. Tracy Brody says:

    Congrats on your baby girl, Sammi! Sweet story. Things don’t always go as planned, but sometimes, especially if we’re patient, something better than we imagined comes along. May your daughter bring you much joy, laughter and love.

    As for what hasn’t gone as I expected, I’d have to say my publishing journey. But I am banking on it turning out better than I imagined with trusting God’s plan versus my own. 😉

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  13. Lisa Heartman says:

    What a great blog! Thank you for trusting us with your life story with a happy ending adoption. 🙂 Sure gives you faith that miracles happen every day. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and we are stronger for those experiences/lessons we learn along the way.

    When HASN’T life turned out different than expected? No matter how well you plan, life/fate/karma/God/whatever has the final say for sure. When I moved to AZ I had a 4-year plan. Work, grad school, get back to the east coast. Simple, right? Well, about a year in I met this guy that I became friends with and then we were more and then we were married. I’m in year 16 of my 4-year plan, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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    • Sammi Spizziri says:

      You are absolutely right! Miracles happen every day, and you never know how your life experience (especially the hard parts) will shape you in the future. I love that you’re in year 16 of your 4-year plan lol. Such an amazing example of the unexpected!

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  14. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Great interview, Sammi! Congrats on the Golden Heart final and your wee one — you are having the best year! Looking forward to meeting you in NYC.

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    • Sammi Spizziri says:

      Thank you, Janet! It’s been a wonderful year! 🙂 Looking forward to meeting you as well!

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  15. Jilly Wood says:

    Hi Sammi–I tried to leave this comment yesterday. Captcha ate it, and then prevented me from re-posting it because it showed up as a duplicate comment. Trying again today!

    Many congratulations on your adoption, and on your GH final. I really enjoyed reading your post. After I Bid You Adieu and your own personal journey both sound wonderfully uplifting and positive.

    A turning point in my life? Not really in my personal life. I’m still married to the man I met on my first day at university a very , very long time ago–and I hope to stay that way for many years to come. In my professional life, definitely! Years ago I got passed over for a big promotion. I was devastated. In the aftermath I left a company and a job I loved, with no idea what I would do next. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. A few months later I found a new job that kept me challenged and happy for the next decade. And when it was time to leave that role (to make time to write) I had the confidence to move on trusting in myself and my husband to reinvent our lives. I’m so glad I did!

    Looking forward to NY (not long now!) and getting to know everyone in person.

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    • Sammi Spizziri says:

      Thank you! I love that you were able to reinvent your life with new confidence. Sounds like not getting the promotion really impacted your life in so many ways!

      Yes, looking forward to meet you SOON in New York!

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  16. Anna Collins says:

    Hi Sammi – congrats on your baby girl. Loved reading your story!

    My whole life looks different than I’d have thought growing up. That’s what happens when you marry someone from across the globe and end up living in another country! 🙂 All good things though – minus being far away from my parents and sisters!

    See you at conference!

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    • Sammi Spizziri says:

      Thank you, Anna! I’m sure living in a different country has been fascinating! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures. 🙂

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